Travel trip planning: Our RTW itinerary

The fun stuff!

Our RTW trip consists of three main parts: Southeast Asia, Europe, and America. Yeah, it is a lot to pack into six months, but that’s double the time we would’ve had if we’d tried to fit these trips into four weeks of annual leave over the three years.

Oh, and we’re chasing summer! Yeehaw! This pleases me no end, but I won’t tell you how much T hates the idea. I’ll confess I am a little afraid at to how he’s going to cope in the heat.

Travel route planning has been both incredibly fun AND extremely frustrating/stressful. Our flights dictate how long we have on each continent, but within that, countries and dates are mostly flexible – restricted slightly by visa duration and certain obligations, like volunteering assignments. Of course, I have rough outlines but we’ll really be going with the flow and seeing what happens on the road.


Travel, of course, is highly personal. I have a friend who doesn’t understand why anyone would want to visit western Europe (all her holidays are in the US or Australia). I have another friend who doesn’t see any appeal in southeast Asia (she is moving to Singapore soon however for work). I personally am not hugely interested in China, Nepal, India etc, although budget travelers and outdoorsy types – the majority of couchsurfers and RTW travelers it seems – adore those countries for the experience and the incredibly low costs.

When thinking about the best places in the world to travel, it really comes down to your interests. Our travel trip planning (well, really it’s been 99% me) has been about fitting in some of the best travel spots in the world in terms of profile and popularity. Guess I’m just not that original. We’re mainly interested in cities, though there will be some countryside/small town time as well, moreso for volunteering/homestaying.

Here’s the Google Map I’ve made, with the blue stops being sure or almost sure stops and yellow being more like wishful stops.


View RTW in a larger map

ASIA – May 10-June 20

Route: Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam (then back to Thailand to fly out of Bangkok).

We’ll be bussing around for the most part as trains are not common. I’m not sure how we’ll get back from Vietnam to Thailand – flights look expensive so land or boat travel is looking like the way to go.

Asia will be cheap, so a nice way to start the honeymoon without pinching pennies on every corner. Once we get to Europe and America, it’ll be budget backpacking/couchsurfing all the way.

UK/EUROPE – June 20- September 22

Route: London, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, (maybe a day in Switzerland), Italy, Greece, France, then back to London. We also have three days in Iceland after London.

We might try to make it to Ireland for a couple of days, and also, I’d like to visit Spain and Portugal but gosh, they’re so far away. Ditto Russia. Much as I want to see St Petersburg, visas are said to be a nightmare and also ridiculously expensive – hundreds each, from what I can tell.

The plan is to get a Eurail pass (there are discounts for those under 26 or travelling in groups of 2-5). Careful planning and strategic booking might make it cheaper to buy individual tickets as we go, but I think for flexibility and convenience, a pass will be our friend.

HOWEVER: I’m not sure how we’ll get to Greece; the ferry looks like a bit of a drawn out and painful journey, but again, flights are expensive. Looks like it will be cheapest to get to Athens from Rome. Anyone have any tips on travelling between Greece and Italy?

Where we’ll be on my birthday, I know not. Possibly Amsterdam, or somewhere in Germany?

We’re spending a week volunteering for food and accommodation at an English immersion programme in the Black Forest and I’m trying to line up a volunteering opportunity or two in Italy, as I’d really like to experience Italian culture first-hand.

We have a few people I hope to meet up with in the UK (Auckland friends) and Europe (people we met and hosted through Couchsurfing – a post coming up on that!) so if I have any readers in those countries, holler!

AMERICA/CANADA – September 22- November 5

Route: Very, very fluid. The rough plan is to spend a few days in NYC, then rent a car, drive up through to Montreal/Toronto if we can (anyone done this? I need to check on car rental policies), then back into the US (possibly to Chicago, though it’s quite far, or else around Niagara Falls and through New York) and cross from east to west. Then we fly home with an overnight stop in Tahiti.

Our exact route is flexible. Places we are definitely hitting are NYC, Boston, DC, New Orleans, Vegas, SF and LA.  (T turns 25 a few days after we land in NYC; I’m assuming that as long as we pick up a car after that, even if we actually make the booking before then, we won’t get slammed with underage penalties. Obviously I need to check on that.) We also met a really awesome couple from Vermont through Couchsurfing, so will probably pause through there on the way to Canada. You guys convinced me it’d be a shame not to visit Canada. (I’d really like to do Vancouver, Portland and Seattle, but just don’t think we’ll have time to make it all the way up the west coast as well.) And obviously, there’ll be other stops along the way too.

Anyone keen to meet up for a coffee, share tips and advice, show us around for an hour, offer us space on your floor, whatever, I’m open to all proposals. Thank you to all those who have reached out so far! I’ll send you guys emails this week – there’s a couple of you I am dead set on meeting in person :)

33 thoughts on “Travel trip planning: Our RTW itinerary

  1. If you need help getting around SE Asia (Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand) shoot me an email. I backpacked there for six weeks the summer of 2011 with my boyfriend doing the broke college student thing after we wrapped up our abroad studies. Bus routes, train itineraries, places to stay at, what’s a must see/underrated/overrated – I’d be happy to help! I absolutely loved my trip (minus the brush of tropical disease we encountered, but that’s a lesson to make sure all your vaccinations are updated before going off to exotic lands).

  2. I just want to add that your NY time falls around my birthday :) I am still so excited for you about this trip. Thanks for bringing us along with you during the planning process!

  3. if you make it to ottawa (we’re along the way from toronto to montreal), i’d love to meet up for a quick coffee! besides, it would be a shame not to stop in canada’s capital for even a few hours ;).

  4. I haven’t tried this myself, but I’ve heard about companies that need people to drive vehicles across the country. A quick search turned up this article: http://www.moneytalksnews.com/2011/07/25/how-to-drive-across-the-country-for-free/ It may be a way for you to cut costs for driving across the U.S. and/or Canada.

    Either way, driving from NY up through Niagara Falls and to Toronto is a great trip. It would likely be much more interesting than driving from NY across the US in the Great Lakes area. Unless you decide to head south and experience some of the southern US instead. But in the extreme heat and humidity of summer, I’m not sure you’d enjoy the delights of the southern states that much.

    Oh, and October is the BEST month to visit to Chicago, BTW. ;-) If you’re thinking of coming through Chicago, don’t be shy about getting in touch for a nice (and free) place to stay. (As long as you aren’t afraid of dogs.)

    1. We have one way driveaway/relocations here too and we considered doing it for the South Island. However, they are very short notice and of very short durations, so you’d need to be lucky and very flexible. We sucked it up and paid for a campervan last year and likely will have to do the same in the US, as I really doubt we’re going to get a free driveaway that lasts 4-5 weeks. Our only must see in the south is definitely New Orleans.

      I’m torn about Chicago – it will likely come down to time! If we do I’ll definitely get in touch (T loves dogs, I am indifferent).

      1. Chicago is great! Feel free to surf my couch when you’re here.
        Cambodia is amazing in everyday. I also like Vietnam and Thailand, but the old men/young girls in Bangkok grossed me out a bit.
        Chicago is on the way to New Orleans, as is Austin, TX on the way to LA.
        Get prepared to pay a lot for car insurance if you’re driving $30/day). Flying southwest or checking kayak.com may prove cheaper.
        Good luck! If you need any suggestions about Asia, Europe or the USA, feel free to email me.

  5. Oh wow that’s quite a plan, though since you have six months I’m sure you’ll be able to fit it all in. If you need any Thailand tips or recommendations, just holler! I definitely suggest visiting Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand. It was my favourite part, even more than the beaches in the south.

  6. We flew from Rome to Athens on our Eurotrip as it was the cheapest/fastest way to get there then from Athens to London to catch a connecting flight to Iceland. The National Archaeological Museum of Athens was a bit of a bust as the day we went half the rooms were closed and not open to public viewing. But other than that I loved Athens despite the oppressive heat.

    I actually celebrated my birthday in Amsterdam last year! Definitely take a canal boat tour if you can. I would have loved to rent a bicycle and just ride around the city but we left too soon.

    I will be in Iceland in September staying with a friend who lives there so we would be happy to show you around or meet up while we just happen to be in the same city! Let me know if you need any advice on Iceland.

  7. Wowzers! So exciting.

    Like Manda, I’ve also backpacked through South East Asia as a student studying abroad, and can give you my 2 cents on what I really enjoyed and what I thought was over rated.

    If you are driving one way, rentals will be more expensive (depends on the company, where you are coming from and going to). I’d suggest taking a bus or train from Montreal to Toronto, and it would probably be cheaper than a rental (depending on what they charge or one-way rentals). Having said that, I’m thrilled you’re stopping by Toronto. Let’s meet up for coffee/drinks/food. I”ll talk to my roomie and hopefully you can crash at our place, too!

  8. Wow – what an amazing sounding trip. Take me with you? Haha. If you do drive from Toronto to Chicago, let me know, you might be crossing to far from my part of the world.

  9. Yes please! Well, I live south of LA now but I can be in LA when you get there, and can definitely help with finding couchsurfing options (or my place if you want to come south). SO MUCH good food in LA. You will love it. I have a few in mind already. Cheap, especially by your NZ standards. Lots of places to see and things to do. Can’t wait!

  10. Ok, some suggestions for the U.S./Canada. The Canadian side of Niagara Falls is nicer (Horseshoe Falls) Toronto is LOVELY. NYC-Boston-D.C.-Chicago-DENVER (if you stop here I will show you around) New Orleans, Austin, Vegas, L.A. then San Francisco. It’s a lot but a great itinerary. Am super excited for you!!! What a wonderful way to start married life.

  11. OH, you totally should visit Vancouver! *sad face*
    Though from your itinerary, it looks like you’ll be hitting up North America right when Brian and I are travelling to Europe.

  12. Hiya, I’m a long time reader but haven’t commented much – just wanted to say your itinerary looks amazing!! What a fab thing to look forward to.

    I’ve lived on both the East coast (upstate NYC) and the west coast (Vancouver) of the Northern Americas and both have their pro’s and con’s. Yes you will be missing out on Vancouver, Seatlle and Portland which are lovely – but NYC and Toronto and Montreal are AMAZING as well!

    I’d echo the suggestion to fly from Athens to Rome. You only need a couple of days in Athens to see the sights and then I would get out of there – it’s a dirty dangerous city, only place in Europe that I haven’t felt safe. We did a ferry to Santorini from Athens (4ish hours) and it was great, and also did an overnight ferry to Crete which was a bit of fun too. The ferries are really their main industry – so I wouldn’t avoid them…BUT if there is an easier/cheaper/faster way by plane that fits into your itinerary – take that option! I travelled Greece for a month so if you need any tips just holler.

    Thanks for sharing your plans with us – very exciting!

  13. This all sounds incredible! I second what Leah said about Athens – it’s pretty awful (so sad, considering it’s the birthplace of modern civilisation, how uncivilised it is) – take a day to see the Agora and the Acropolis, and then head for the islands, which are far nicer! Santorini was my favourite, super-chilled and gorgeous.

    We have an NYC list kicking around somewhere that we did for friends – I’ll track it down and email it to you if you like. And if you’re keen for a coffee when you’re in town, I’m in!

  14. I’ve decided that I’m going to live vicariously through you while you travel, for real. And, if you happen to venture to my neck of the woods, you’re more than welcome to crash at my place, as long as you don’t mind my two crazy boys, baby and husband ;)

  15. Let me know when you are over in Malaysia! I would be happy to take you out for dinner on on a day trip on weekends, depending on your schedule.

    I know this is a totally strange stranger offer, but I believe in putting out your intention to the universe – here’s mine to you! :)

  16. this trip sounds awesome! Though I have to agree with those other comments about Athens.. I was in Rhodes (greek island) last summer, where I met an Australian women turned semi-greek, who warned us to go to the mainland, because there were too much dangerous stuff going on.. The economic downfall has been extremely tough on Greek. Have you though about visiting some greek Isles? they`re wonderful, and more touristfriendly:-) Crete is the largest island, with a lot of history!
    Also, Croatia is very popular as well, and easier to travel to from Italy.. just a suggestion!

  17. when you’re in LA, let me know! I’d love to meet up, and if you guys want to hit up Disneyland for the day, you’re more than welcome to stay with us! Oh and you have to do a tour of where the stars live! whenever i have visitors, they do that and it’s a lot of fun.

    as for how to get to greece from italy, flight would be the best option, but they have super cheap airlines over there, like ryan air, and there’s one more but i can’t remember the name. i flew from italy to london on one of those cheap airlines and it was like $50. you just can’t pick your seat

  18. Wow, incredibly envious of your 6 month world tour!! I loved Thailand, and Cambodia and Vietnam are on my bucket list for sure. Hope you have fun and can’t wait to see the pics!

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