As posted on BootsnAll & Lonely Planet's ThornTree:
Greg and I are starting our 6+ month RTW trip in just over 2 months! We have not booked anything but are ready to commit to specific dates/flights/tours as necessary. We will be flying standby on DL to SYD. Overall trip is still very flexible at this point. We are in the process of getting all vaccinations but have not started on visas.
A little history: I was an international flight attendant for Delta for 7 years so have traveled extensively for work & pleasure. I have already been on extended trips (1-2 weeks+ each) to Beijing, Seoul, Mumbai, Rajasthan, New Delhi & Agra, Istanbul, Italy and Spain but have agreed to revisit some of these areas due to my boyfriend's desire to see them. We are both easy-going, physically fit, generally healthy, non-picky eaters. We have already traveled together to Eastern Europe and many places in the U.S. so I have few doubts about our ability to cope with the inherent ups & downs of long-term travel.
Together we have narrowed down the countries/regions we're most interested in seeing. We've both saved up a lot of money as well as have separate reserves for "reentry" and basically are hoping to travel until the $$$ runs out or we wear out! We plan to stay with friends, couch surf, or stay in private rooms in hostels or budget motels but will splurge as needed (e.g. for safaris, when sick, for a unique experience). After this first 6 months, we are planning to rest at home in the U.S. for a week or two, then head out again to South America for a few more months.
All that being said, here's our itinerary with some of my key questions listed at the end:
Date Duration (days) Country - City/Sights
01AUG 2 in transit BNA-ATL-LAX-SYD
03AUG 4 Australia - Sydney
Fly to Darwin; train/rental car through Northern Territory/South Australia
07AUG 14 Australia - Kakadu NP, Uluru, Kangaroo Island, Melbourne
Fly to Auckland; fly to Rotorua
22AUG 14 New Zealand - self drive/rail tour (via Auckland; Rotorua, Wellington, Christchurch, Queenstown)
Fly to SE Asia
05SEP 14 Laos: Louang Prabang, Vientiane; Vietnam: Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Mekong Delta; Cambodia: Phnom Penh, Angkor
Fly to Hong Kong
19SEP 5 China Hong Kong
24SEP 7 China Yangtze river cruise?
01OCT 5 China Beijing/Great Wall
Fly to Seoul
06OCT 5 Korea Seoul/DMZ
Fly to Tokyo
11OCT 4 Japan Tokyo
Train to Kyoto
15OCT 5 Japan Kyoto/Hiroshima
Fly to Delhi
20OCT 3 India - Delhi; Shatabdi Express train to Agra/Taj Mahal
23OCT 14 India - Varanasi? Kolkata?
Fly to Bangalore
06NOV 5 India - Kerala: Fort Cochin, backwaters by houseboat
Fly to Cape Town
11NOV 7 South Africa - Cape Town & vicinity; Blue Train? Kruger?
Fly to Dar es Salaam
18NOV 7 Tanzania - Dar es Salaam, Ngorongoro, Serengeti
25NOV 7 Kenya - Maasai Mara safari
Fly to Cairo
02DEC 10 Egypt - Cairo & Giza, Luxor, Nile River cruise, Abu Simbel
12DEC 5 Jordan - Amman, Jerash, Petra, Wadi Rum
17DEC 5 Israel - Jerusalem & historic/biblical sites
22DEC 8 Turkey - Istanbul ++
Fly to Italy
30DEC 20 Italy - 3 weeks by car/train
Fly to Spain
19JAN 7 Spain - Madrid & Barcelona
26JAN 7 Morocco - Marrakesh, Fes, Tangier, Rabat
02FEB in transit MAD-ATL-BNA
VISAS - Based on my research & previous experience, we need to get China, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Kenya & Tanzania in advance. Trying to decide if it's worth the money to use a visa processing company (like Travisa) as they charge $50 per person, per country. Otherwise we have to mail our passports to each embassy and hope to get them back with the approved visa.
ITINERARY - I know this is pretty ambitious. Any suggestions for trimming down (ie, any places you would skip for some reason or another?) or maybe substituting in some way?
TRANSPORTATION - This is probably what I'm most concerned about -- the cost & logistics of all those flights! Still need to inquire about a RTW-type ticket but afraid to get pigeonholed by too many set dates. At the same time, don't want to spend days on rickety bus/boat/trains... Which tickets do you think are critical to buy in advance, whether due to limited availability/high tourist season or to keep costs down? Are there any particular transit experiences/routes on our itinerary that you highly recommend?
ORGANIZED TOURS - We feel that some places justify an organized tour, although I prefer the smallest group size possible. These include Uluru, Yangtze river cruise, Tanzania & Kenya safaris, and possibly all of Egypt, Jordan, Israel & Turkey. Any thoughts or recommendations?
Many thanks in advance to everyone who responds. I am treating this like a (most enjoyable) full time job until we depart so can reply quickly to anyone who needs further information.