21 flights in 100 days!

By the time we got to Dubai, we had completed 14 flights in 58 days!

We knew the routine and were getting really good at airport security as well as customs and immigration! Only 7 more flights left on this adventure!

Tip-sometimes the rules on what to remove while going through security are in another language and all the airport security screens are slightly different so watch what the locals are doing.

Example: no need to remove liquids in Vietnam but we had to remove shoes. Shoes stay on in Singapore but liquids come out.

Also, Vietnam and Cambodia did not let us go through immigration together as a family, we needed to go up one at a time. Dubai made us go together and Switzerland chastised us for waiting to go up one at a time because they didn’t want to have to “repeat all the same questions”. Geez.

We also had to check our 21 inch bags on the regional flights and my suitcase suffered greatly and got 2 big tears. I see the appeal of hard sided luggage if you are constantly checking bags rather than our usual carryon. Lesson learned!

Since I’m wide awake at 5am (jet lag!) I decided to make a list of airline, airport, food and lounge bests and worsts.

Yes, we’ve traveled business class almost the entire trip- I don’t think we could have done all this travel in coach, in this short timespan, without completely freaking out!

Best Airlines:

Singapore

Air New Zealand

Thai Airlines

Worst Airlines:

Angkor Air

Vietnam Airlines

Runner up: Air Canada

Best Airports:

Brisbane International

Singapore

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Queenstown, New Zealand

Portland, Oregon

Worst Airports:

Honolulu, Hawaii

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Upon landing in Vietnam, we waited 45 minutes to get our passport back and approved. We had all of the proper paperwork completed and approved in advance so we aren’t sure what the hold up was.

That airport, and the Vietnam Airlines counter lady, also charged us a mysterious and inexplainable $60 fee that could only be paid in crisp American dollars.

We knew we got ripped off and the lady pocketed the cash but we just wanted out of the airport at that point so I guess it was money well spent.

Worth mentioning:

Los Angeles

New York

Not from this current trip but LAX and JFK are dirty and gross airports and we avoid flying through them whenever possible

Best preflight check-in:

Air New Zealand in Auckland-The business lounge is completely separate from the regular checkin. Really amazing!

Photo credit: CPRW Fischer

Runner up: Swiss Air whisked us through the airport and the lines through Dubai. We felt like VIPs!

Best Plane Landing:

Queenstown, New Zealand- breathtaking views and incredible huge mountains. You can only fly in to their airport during the day currently but you never know when that might change.

Runner up: Zurich- the Alps!

Worst Landing:

Siem Reap, Cambodia-Small, old plane. Lots of turbulence despite the pilot telling us what a smooth flight we would have! I nearly had to break out the barf bag, which would would have been an airplane first for me!

Best Food on the Plane:

Singapore

Thai Airlines

Best Wines:

Swiss Air

Worst Food on the plane:

Swiss

Lufthansa

Best Airline Lounge Food:

Singapore

Best Amenities Kit:

Swiss Air- La Prairie lip balm and hand cream are amazing!

Best Safety Video:

Air New Zealand – not only are their videos good and entertaining but one of the featured male flight attendants in the video was actually our flight attendant!

*Runner up-Vietnam Airlines for the unintended comedy factor. It shows 2 seat mates that are very excited to smoke a cigarette and vape. They practically “cheers” their smoking paraphernalia until the “no smoking light” comes on and they sadly put their stuff away. We saw it on 3 flights and laughed every time!

Best Business Class Seats and Configurations:

Singapore -huge seats, great in seat storage and a makeup mirror!

Thai -similar to Singapore just scaled down a tad

Worst Business Class Seats:

Angkor – didn’t have any!

Vietnam- old planes, non functioning leg rests and the seat in front of us reclined so far back that I couldn’t get out to use the bathroom

Air Canada-same issues as Vietnam but not quite as old and no leg rests.

Best Airport Lounge:

Singapore

Auckland, New Zealand

Dubai

Worst Airport Lounge:

Bangkok, Thailand

Toronto-Air Canada – special mention- not only was the lounge fairly dirty but this was the only lounge where the check in lady was rude with a bad attitude.

Friendliest Customs and Immigration:

New Zealand

Australia

Singapore- the kids got candy

Most intimidating and unfriendly Customs and Immigration:

Vietnam

Switzerland

Odd Business Class Configurations:

Delta One Some rows in Business Class were facing backwards

Air New Zealand seats were angled in so you faced people across from you. Row A seats face the back of seats so these are more desirable.

Of course, you can look at the type of plane and seat configurations before you book. Sometimes though, the plane changes and you end up on something different.

There are lots of great websites that provide pics and reviews of seats and planes!

What airports do you enjoy or try to avoid?

Should you hire a tour operator for your vacation?

Maybe…

This is where you really need to do your research.

I prefer to book trips all on our own. We haven’t used tour companies to plan out the trips for us. This is because we like to be on our own and because we like to spend a minimum of 3-4 days in each city that we travel to. And, because we are pretty good at planning! But that isn’t for everyone…

You might consider booking a tour that will take care of everything for you. The tour operator may book your flights, coordinate your transportation, book your hotels, tell you where to eat, what cities to visit, plan activities and have local guides for attractions. Some people love traveling this way.  These tours might be especially good options for inexperienced travelers, people who want to visit many cities in a short period of time, single travelers or people who don’t enjoy the planning process.

The benefit with traveling with a group like this besides convenience,  is that you have their experience and their trusted local guides. Plus, they might be able to show you things that most tourists don’t see or know about.

I have read great things about certain tours and some of them look tempting to me.

Of course, there is Rick Steves, you might have heard of him! He has fantastic travel guide books with lots of terrific tips and advice and he includes interesting history of the various cities that he travels to. I’ve never taken one of his tours but I have taken his advice! In fact, on a trip to The Louvre in Paris, we probably saved an hour of waiting in line by using his tip on a little known side entrance. It was awesome! He has tours all over Europe and tours specifically for families.

I also follow Adventures with Sarah on Facebook.  She works with Rick Steves. I’ve really enjoyed looking at her posts on her trips to Italy as well as Thailand and Cambodia. She also gives great advice on packing light. Plus, she just looks like someone that would be really fun to hang out and have a glass of wine with!

I follow a luxury travel group and many members have said amazing things about Adventures by Disney. They have tours all over the world including South Africa, Australia, Peru, Ecuador, China, Italy, Spain, Greece, Iceland and North America, just to name a few.

If you are planning a trip to the Galapagos Islands, you might consider Metropolitan Touring -operating in the Galapagos since 1969. Their reviews are fabulous and the Galapagos is on my short list…hum?

Here is a link to Travel & Leisure’s Magazine’s article on the Best Tour Operators of 2017
http://www.travelandleisure.com/worlds-best/tour-operators

And another link to Conde Naste best of 2017
http://www.cntraveller.com/article/best-tour-operators-2017

And finally, there is a website called Stride Travel.  It’s like TripAdvisor but instead of hotel reviews, you can read hundreds of tour company reviews.

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How did we come up with this crazy idea to travel Around the World?

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It started small!

The idea for our trip of 10 countries in 100 days actually started as a much smaller idea for our next adventure. My husband and I were talking, over cocktails, (which is how all of our travel planning gets started!) and we were discussing where we wanted to go in 2018.

We have been going on an international trip almost every year for the last few years and loving it so we knew we wanted to go somewhere!

He said he wanted to go to SE Asia. I said that I would love to end up in Spain for our 20th wedding anniversary. And even though we wanted a predominately warm vacation, we agreed that we should return to New Zealand (during what would be their fall season) to tour the South Island. We also decided that if we were going to be in New Zealand, then we would only be a hop, skip and a jump from seeing my cousin and his family in Australia…and so on and so on and so on!

Well, next thing you know, we were ordering tons of travel books and mapping out possible routes around the world. I am an equal opportunity travel book lover! I don’t discriminate. I love DK Eyewitness Insider for their beautiful pictures. I love Rick Steves for his history and “best of” information. I love Lonely Planet even though I am not a young backpacker-it has great tips. I also love Foder’s and National Geographic.

We also ordered a couple of big, beautiful coffee table books filled with amazing pictures to inspire us. I really liked National Geographic Worlds Best Travel Experiences  and Lonely Planet The Travel Book . Another fun and popular book is Atlas Obscura -if you are looking for strange and different things to see all over the world, this book might just be for you!

 

We kept thinking maybe this was a really crazy idea but then we just kept coming back to the fact that the timing in our lives was actually perfect for a trip like this. So we went for it!

After a few months of talking and reading books and blogs and travel forums, we had a pretty good idea of our plan. Now we just needed to put our destinations into the Star Alliance Round the World website and see what happened. (we did look at a few other airline Round the World plans but Star Alliance ended up being the best match for what we wanted to do.) It took a few weeks of planning and reworking our itinerary to coordinate the locations that we wanted. We played around with dates and figured out how much time we wanted to spend in each location.

So, after multiple tries of mapping out our route, we had our plan! Holy smokes! Our crazy idea was becoming a reality!