Celebrating 50 Years - Our Trip Around the World

Old Jan 25th, 2020, 01:49 PM
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Celebrating 50 Years - Our Trip Around the World

Fifty years together is a journey worth celebrating in a big way, we decided. Contemplating a special trip to mark this milestone anniversary, we considered some European destinations we hadn't visited on previous vacations. We never tire of traveling to Europe and I had picked out a few interesting places on that continent for us to think about when Steve surprised me with his own "big idea". Why not travel around the world? New Zealand, with all its natural beauty, had always intrigued us, but New Zealand was such a long punishing flight away that we'd never seriously considered it. What if, however, we broke up that long flight to New Zealand with some stops along the way. Then, rather than backtracking home, we could just keep going, circling the world from east to west. Now that would be a true adventure befitting our fifty year journey together.

We have been American Airlines Advantage members for many years so we began our research for our trip with their OneWorld Explorer planning tool. Using this site, mapping out a trip around the world proved to be easier than one might think. Fairly soon, I had a rough idea of where we could logically go westward through four continents and what it might cost. After printing out a half inch stack of routes and pricing out the different itineraries, I came up with a trip that made sense for us. We did have to make some choices. Should we travel to Japan or Hong Kong, Sri Lanka or Qatar, Spain or Finland? One stipulation we made was to only book direct flights, thereby avoiding connections. This turned out to be a wise decision, as the only time we had a problem with any of our flights was on our trip home to Syracuse from Helsinki, connecting through Chicago. That flight to Syracuse was delayed for hours and almost cancelled. We have been stranded in Chicago many times over the years so this was nerve-racking for us, but ultimately we did take off for our final leg home.

Because I had done so much research ahead of time, when I finally did call the OneWorld customer service desk, booking and paying for our trip was a breeze. To be honest, I wasn't brave enough to do it all online, although that was an option. I needed the reassurance of the pleasant and professional sales representative at the other end of the phone line. She was really easy to work with and very helpful, making good suggestions, answering questions and taking care to book us the best seats she could find.

The itinerary we ultimately booked was as follows:

Syracuse to Chicago - American Eagle
Chicago to Honolulu - American Airlines
Honolulu to Osaka, Japan - Japan Airlines
Osaka to Tokyo - Surface Sector
Tokyo to Sydney, Australia - Japan Airlines
Sydney to Queenstown, NZ - Qantas
Queenstown to Christchurch, NZ - Surface Sector
Christchurch to Melbourne, Australia - Qantas Airways
Melbourne to Singapore - Qantas Airways
Singapore to Doha, Qatar - Qatar Airways
Doha to Prague, Czech Republic - Qatar Airways
Prague to Helsinki, Finland - Finnair
Helsinki to Chicago - Finnair
Chicago to Syracuse - American Eagle

All our flights were business class except our initial flight from Syracuse to Chicago, and both flights back and forth between Australia and New Zealand on Qantas. ( When we booked in December, 2018, for travel beginning in March, 2019, those business class seats were already sold out.) We've flown overseas to Europe many times, but except for a few unexpected upgrades many years ago, we have always flown economy class. We were used to long, cramped, very uncomfortable experiences, but it was worth it to us to get where we wanted to go. Therefore, when we settled into our business class seats on our flight from Chicago to Honolulu, we felt like we'd died and gone to heaven. The flight attendants kindly showed us all the bells and whistles of our wonderful business class spaces, from the lie flat adjustable seats to the handy storage cubbies, the cozy pillow and comforter set, the amenity kit and slippers, the entertainment system with the fancy headphones. Wow, just wow, was all we could say. And if we were impressed by American Airlines business class offerings, we were blown away by the lovely experiences we had on Japan Airlines, Qantas, Finnair, and especially Qatar Airways On Qatar Airways, the pillow was embossed with the words "Beautiful Destinations Often Lead to Everlasting Memories", and the flickering votive candle on our dinner tray seemed totally luxurious. And I'm not even mentioning the food and drink on all these flights which were so far above any airline food we had ever experienced on a plane before. Amazing. For all these reasons, these long 8, 9, or 10 hour flights never seemed onerous to us but rather relaxing and part of the adventure. Also, besides the flights themselves, business class made the whole experience of dealing with the airport logistics of arrivals and departures, security and luggage, check ins and all the rest, much less stressful, not to mention the wonderful business class lounges with their comfortable chairs and delicious buffets and drink bars. Business class lounges made waiting for a flight pleasant and relaxing. Bottom line, we are now thoroughly spoiled and will try to fly business class whenever possible.

We celebrated 5 decades of marriage by traveling for 5 weeks (plus a few days) and we could have kept going for much longer. Truthfully, I believe we can say we are as good a team on the road as we are together through life. It was a wonderful trip and we loved every place we visited. What memories we have, along with our hundreds of pictures, which still need editing. Hopefully, we will get to that one of these days. Also, I plan to eventually do a trip report for each portion of our trip under the appropriate forum. Hopefully, now that I have finally started reporting on this trip I won't let so much time elapse until I get to the next section.

I want to give a special mention to Gardyloo, whose detailed posts on round the world travel were so very helpful to me as I planned this trip. Thank you, Gardyloo.





Candace is online now  
Old Jan 25th, 2020, 09:44 PM
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What a fabulous trip!

Looking forward to your trip report(s)
janisj is offline  
Old Jan 26th, 2020, 04:52 AM
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Fly around the world, and the fly in the ointment is Syracuse. Living an hour to the north, I just shake my head in agreement. We often drive to Toronto or 'the big scary city' (NYC) for direct flights to save $ on tickets and avoid a connection.

Glad to hear you had a wonderful time, congrats on 50 years together.
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Old Jan 26th, 2020, 05:56 AM
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"we are as good a team on the road as we are together through life."

This says it all. What a wonderful experience. Thanks for sharing.
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Old Jan 26th, 2020, 06:44 AM
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Great experience. We did something very similar - 6 weeks flying around the world starting at DFW to England, Spain Italy, Africa, Mauritius, Honk Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Australia, Japan and Hawaii using a RTW ticket - most of our flights were in First Class - a great way to travel.

A little side anecdote - I kept a "travel log" and at the end of the trip noted that we spent 168 hours in either airports or airplanes - that came out to exactly 1 full week of our trip.
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Old Jan 26th, 2020, 07:49 AM
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Congratulations on the anniversary and the trip! I did three RTWs on One World airlines back when they had a good deal using FF miles, but I had much larger surface segments. I do so agree about business class - my 13 hours from Bangkok to London on Qantas was actually a pleasure.

Hope you do manage a TR.
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Old Jan 26th, 2020, 12:23 PM
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Thank you, janisj and schmerl, for your kind words.

Yes, bdokeefe, flying in and out of Syracuse can be complicated, especially since, as American Airlines frequent flyers, we so often have to connect through Chicago. A few years ago, coming home from Alaska, we were stranded in Chicago for 2 nights due to weather but at least we were able to find a hotel room. Many years ago, we were stuck in a plane on the tarmac during a snowstorm at O'Hare, waiting in line to takeoff. When the plane was finally returned to the gate sometime after midnight, we had no option but to spend the night in the airport. Not fun!

RoamsAround, now that we've gone east to west, we'd love to try a RTW trip the other way. The route you took sounds like one we would enjoy, even though it might require a good chunk of time spent getting from place to place.

Thursdaysd, Wow! RTW three times sounds amazing. I'll bet you've had some memorable experiences, traveling like you have throughout this wonderful world we live in. It seems to me that the more we see of the world, the more we want to see.
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Old Jan 26th, 2020, 01:33 PM
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I've actually done four, two in each direction, but the last one was mostly not on FF miles. The longest was ten months, all forward travel by train from Scotland to Saigon, so a very long open segment (on that award you only got one). I'm not up to that kind of travel these days, alas. Fortunately I have the journals, the photos and the blog posts (I didn't join Fodors until after the first two). I took early retirement so I could travel, and when I spent all of 2017 on the couch with the heating pad I was very glad I had.
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Old Jan 26th, 2020, 03:05 PM
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thursdaysd, we’re sorry to hear about the couch and the heating pad. It must take a lot to slow you down. Did you really travel from Scotland to Saigon by train? That must have been an adventure!
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Old Jan 26th, 2020, 04:08 PM
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Thanks. It was a wonderful trip! See:Rails Around the World 2004 -- Wilhelm's Words although I never finished the report. It was 17,000 miles by train in a forward direction, plus a bunch of detours. I had wanted to go through Central Asia but couldn't confirm that I could make the whole distance by train and wound up on the Trans-Mongolian route. I would love to do the Trans-Siberian in winter, although the trees were a lovely gold in Siberia in September.
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Old Jan 26th, 2020, 09:25 PM
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What a fun trip? I would love to read more details and be an armchair traveler for a while.
Waiting for long reports soon.

You traveled for 5 weeks, so wondering what month/season did you choose and why?
What was the very most amazing place you visited?
Also, if possible, can you share approximately how much you spent in 5 weeks, a rough estimate would be fine too.
You are inspiring some of us to think of such travel adventures for which a person has to be determined as well as in good health.
ileen is online now  
Old Jan 27th, 2020, 01:31 PM
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Ileen, we began our trip on March 3rd of last year and returned home on April 9th. Our anniversary is in February but we decided the weather in countries like Japan and the Czech Republic might be better in March, so we waited until a few weeks after our actual anniversary to begin traveling. Although we would have liked to travel for a longer period in order to allow ourselves more time in each location, obligations at home limited the number of weeks we could be away.

Honestly, the whole trip was amazing. Each place we traveled to was unique to us, with different highlights that stood out as special to that location. Day after day, no matter where we happened to be, we were treated to new and interesting sights and sounds, unfamiliar languages and customs, fascinating places offering unusual foods and shops full of tempting purchases. The whole experience was an adventure we never tired of, and we both agreed we had no favorites among all the places we visited. We truly loved them all.

In answer to your question about the cost of a trip like this, I can honestly say we didn't keep track of expenses beyond the initial cost of booking the RTW tickets. When we averaged it out, we calculated that our eight business class flights cost us less than $1,400 per person, which was obviously a pretty good savings. As for lodgings, I booked mostly mid-range accommodations, using a combination of hotels and Airbnbs. Our one splurge was The Fullerton Hotel in Singapore, which was well worth the extra money, we felt. Booking months ahead on the hotel's website, I got a pretty good deal which included a great room and their amazing buffet breakfast at no charge. As far as food, we are never big spenders when we travel. We saved quite a bit on this trip by cooking our own meals in our rentals. My husband loves to cook and we always find that shopping local markets and grocery stores can be part of the experience in a new location. Often, when staying in hotels, we will enjoy a special lunch and then are satisfied with a light dinner in our room. Booking tours is something we don't normally do while traveling, but this time it made sense for us if we wanted to see places like Milford Sound in New Zealand and the Great Ocean Road in Australia. The six tours we took cost anywhere from hundreds of dollars each to one that was free. All of them were well worth it. Other expenses we incurred were transportation to and from airports, trains in Japan, a rental car in New Zealand and metro tickets in various cities. All of this obviously added up but, as I said, we never bothered to figure out the grand total. The trip was priceless and we decided to leave it at that.

I hope I have answered your questions. I will try to give lots of additional information in my individual trip reports, starting at the beginning, from home to Chicago and on to Honolulu.
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Old Jan 27th, 2020, 02:53 PM
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Adding that the expenses for a long trip are, as for a short trip, a function of where you go and how much you have to/want to spend. My trips tend to the budget end, I could easily spend much more. Also, if I were home, I would be spending money on utilities, transport and food, so you can consider that some of the costs on the road are money you would be spending anyway (especially if you stay in apartments or apartment hotels and do some of your own cooking).
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Old Jan 27th, 2020, 03:17 PM
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Thanks for your reply and all the details and explanation. Seems that you really had a good experience and of course, the money was well spent as it will be a memorable trip for ever and ever.
Love to read more, so please keep writing.
Traveling the world is a dream for many. But obligations at home, the detailed planning and taking care of so many reservations etc. is quite a chore. Maybe your experience will help me decide to follow your path.
Did you keep a journal to note down all the information from the planning stage to the actual trip and during the various tours and experiences. Those notes will be so valuable since they will remind you of adventurous experiences too.
Have a great evening.
ileen is online now  
Old Jan 28th, 2020, 12:55 AM
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Congratulations to the both of you! I feel so happy while reading this. I wish I can find someone I can travel with and be with me for the rest of my life as well but right now, I enjoy traveling solo.
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Old Jan 28th, 2020, 07:09 AM
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thursdaysd, you certainly took the ultimate train trip. I can only imagine you what you got to see out those train windows over 17,000 miles of travel. And yes, I like the idea of factoring in our expenses at home while figuring out the cost of a trip. Like you say, what we are not spending on food in our own kitchen, we are spending instead on food while we travel. That helps the bottom line a little.

I am a pencil and paper kind of planner, ileen, and I also keep a journal while we travel. Keeping a journal helps pass the time while waiting in an airport or on a long flight, and it really makes writing a trip reports lots easier.

I am so glad you are enjoying my report, ammarairvine. Traveling with a companion like my husband is wonderful and I know how lucky I am. But I also understand that solo travel can be highly rewarding, and I give a lot of credit to those of you who are brave enough to do it.
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Old Jan 31st, 2020, 06:51 AM
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For anyone who is interested, I have started to post the first leg of our trip, labeled "Off to Honolulu via Chicago - Part 1 of Our Trip Around the World" under Illinois and Hawaii in the United States Forum.
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Old Jan 31st, 2020, 07:05 AM
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Oh good! Here's the link: Off to Honolulu via Chicago - Part 1 of Our Trip Around the World
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Old Jan 31st, 2020, 11:46 AM
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Thank you, thursdaysd, I couldn't figure out how to do that!
Candace is online now  
Old Jan 31st, 2020, 12:00 PM
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Just click on the URL at the top of your browser window to highlight it and do a copy and paste.
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