One thing I tend to do is research things online. Then research again. And follow up with more research. Obviously, you have to weed through a lot, but I look for patterns when people voice an opinion about where to go and how to go about it. There are certain places I have really wanted to go. And while 80 (technically, 84) days is a long time, there are certain factors I had to take into account when deciding where to go. First and foremost, I will be working as I travel. This means access to wifi. So, anything jungle-related or too remote would be out. Also, I have done the “If it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium” thing, where it’s two days here, two days there. A short trip is one thing, but three months is another. I wanted one short stay in a more exotic location, but the rest would be major cities as a base. I also knew that I wanted to end up in Philly around the holidays, which meant heading in a western direction.
As I have traveled many times solo, I really don’t mind going to places where I don’t speak the language. But I’ve always been ambivalent about Asia because not only is it a different language, it’s a different alphabet (is it even an alphabet?). But I knew that in the major cities, English was widely used, so I knew I had to include a couple of stops there. Australia would be a must, as would be Israel. I’ve always wanted to go to Greece and I’ve planned Spain a couple of times, only to change my itinerary due to time constraints.
So, I put together the itinerary of Cook Islands, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Israel, Greece, Spain, Philadelphia (and maybe a day in NYC), and back to Los Angeles. I really wanted to go to Egypt, which would also add another continent to my list of places, but not only did it add a lot to the cost but because there is so much to see outside Cairo, I would rather save it for another time when I wouldn’t be working and have freedom to move around the country a lot.
So the first step would be the plane travel. I looked at the Star Alliance as I mostly fly United and US Airways (why are we Americans saddled with such bad airlines?). The cost of their RTW (round the world) ticket was around $6000 for all economy. Next, I checked with a travel agency that specializes in RTW travel and they quoted me a lot less, but they do point to point tickets as opposed to Star Alliance, which is one ticket with several stops on their member airlines. Now, the Star Alliance ticket is an easier choice for travel should an issue come up or you want to change a flight. And had this been a longer trip where I would not be working and have freedom to make last minute changes, this would be a better option. But the point to point tickets, since I would pretty much have a fixed itinerary, seemed the better, and much cheaper option. But then, as I said I do often, I started to research my own flights. And by going to various airline sites, be it something like Expedia or individual airline sites, I found even cheaper flights. So not only did I save another $500 doing this myself, but I was able to have two of the legs in business class. It was a lot of legwork, but ultimately worth it.