Around the World
Two years ago I went around the world with my 10-year-old daughter in two weeks. It was supposed to be a crazy one-time adventure – seven cities, six countries, four continents to max out summer vacation and visit a bunch of her favorite places.
Fast forward to this year. My son, now 10, mentioned Greenland, Mumbai and Singapore as possible destinations for his annual one-on-one trip with me. Given that I loved the RTW trip with my daughter, and that there were a few things I would have tweaked to do it even better, I quickly suggested turning it into an around-the-world trip. We have nothing but time during the summer, and it would be a chance for him to get away from his sisters for a while! Plus I love demonstrating to my kids how incredibly small the world is, yet how diverse it is – both physically and culturally. Only good things can come from the kids seeing as many places as possible and meeting as many people as possible.
We planned to make Greenland our first stop and Singapore our final stop. Greenland, however, isn’t overly easy to get to. We looked at various options, but really the only thing that would work was to fly first to Copenhagen, backtrack to Greenland, and then stop in Copenhagen again after Greenland. So our first three destinations were set – Copenhagen, Greenland, Copenhagen.
From there we added on the Seychelles. My son loves islands (he’s previously chosen Easter Island, the Maldives, and Palawan for his annual trips), and I liked the idea of going from the world’s largest island (Greenland) directly to the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean – different hemispheres and continents, and very different climates.
From the Seychelles my son wanted to go to Mumbai to visit Gandhi’s house, and the best flight option was via Abu Dhabi. Instead of simply connecting, we added Abu Dhabi as a stop. Then on to Mumbai and Singapore. Altogether we would be flying 31,164 miles and have 66.5 hours on planes. That’s 6,000 more miles and 14 more flight hours than my RTW trip with my daughter – mostly due to having to fly back to Greenland.
One of the things that didn’t work well two years ago was stopping in several destinations for one night each. So this trip we planned at least two nights everywhere, except Copenhagen – but we were only there to get to and from Greenland. The trip would be 18 days total.
I always use miles for free flights when I can. It’s more difficult to get good mileage tickets in the summer, but I found LA to Copenhagen and Singapore to LA (open-jaw) for 280,000 miles for Business Class.
Air Greenland graciously provided our round-trip tickets between Copenhagen and Narsarsuaq as we would be doing a campaign to promote South Greenland.
I purchased one-way tickets from Copenhagen to the Seychelles via Doha on Qatar Airways. Then we booked Seychelles-Abu Dhabi-Mumbai on Etihad, and Mumbai-Singapore on Singapore Airlines.
A couple years ago I wrote a post on planning an around-the-world trip, and talked a little about the RTW tickets that you can purchase through the major airline alliances. As with our first trip, that wouldn’t have worked. We knew where we wanted to go, and there’s no alliance that flies to all of our destinations. Open-jaw, one-way, and connecting tickets work far better and are less expensive – especially when you can use miles for some of the legs.
Packing was complicated given the low expected temperatures in Greenland and the very warm forecasts everywhere else. Our goal was to get by with two carry-on rolling duffels and two backpacks. And we did – sort of. We also brought several loaves of bread with us, as we would be making sandwiches everywhere as part of Oroweat‘s #SliceOfAdventure campaign, so we needed a fifth bag just for bread.
But we didn’t have five bags for long. Since we didn’t need our warm weather clothes in Greenland, we left a bag behind at the hotel in Copenhagen with half our clothes and most of the bread, and we only took to Greenland what we needed. Then when we returned to Copenhagen we shipped our Greenland clothes (warm jackets, fleeces, gloves, hats and long underwear) back to California. It was roughly $110 for shipping and worth every penny. The hotel handled everything.
Two years ago my daughter and I went around the world without ever checking a bag. Not this time though. Lufthansa let us carry everything on between LA and Copenhagen. Every other airline, though, required us to check bags. We never had an issue with lost or delayed luggage, but it was annoying having to wait in line to check things and then wait at baggage claim at every destination.
We flew from LA to Copenhagen, arriving around 2:30pm. We took a taxi to our hotel (71 Nyhavn), just to make things easy, but learned that the metro would have been sightly faster and much less expensive ($9 for two vs. $55 or so), so we didn’t make that mistake again. After check-in we wandered around a little, went out to dinner at our previous favorite restaurant there, and then met up with friends for ice cream.
The next morning my son (who doesn’t get jet lagged) was sleeping soundly but I was wide awake at 4am, so I walked around the city at sunrise and got some of my favorite photos of the entire trip. It’s always worth heading out for sunrise! We then packed up and departed for the airport at 9am for our 11:20am Air Greenland flight to Narsarsuaq. I think it took all of half an hour to walk to the metro station, travel to the airport, and get in line to check in – so easy. After check-in we had a quick breakfast at the airport and flew to Greenland.
So our one and only flight complication happened on our Copenhagen-Narsarsuaq flight. Low visibility in Narsarsuaq meant that we had to divert an hour and a half north to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. We got dinner, spent the night at the hotel connected to the airport, and then planned on heading to the nearby glacier the next day when Air Greenland told us that they could get us on a morning flight to Nuuk and on to Narsarsuaq. So we saw a little of central Greenland, and almost saw a lot more, but in the end the delay didn’t cost us anything. We were still able to fit in all of our South Greenland itinerary.
We landed in Narsarsuaq and hit the ground running, immediately taking a boat across the fjord to Qassiarsuk and then hiking much of the way to Tasiussaq. From there we slept on sheep farms, rode Icelandic ponies, kayaked among icebergs, took ATVs to fishing spots, caught fish, hiked a lot more, and got back to nature for five days. South Greenland is incredible – a very green (yes) landscape with sheep everywhere, dirt paths for roads, a vast boat/ferry infrastructure for moving people around, and amazing people. Life is slow. There’s always time for a conversation about little things.
One of the great things about Greenland is that there’s internet and cell connectivity but it’s slow and expensive, so there’s no reason at all not to travel unplugged while you’re there. For five days we stayed offline and lived in the moment, taking in all of the amazing scenery and meeting the other travelers living in the moment with us – mainly Danes. Other than the roundabout journey to get there, it was a perfect way to start an around the world trip! Highly recommended before everyone else discovers it. And yes, this is a very short synopsis of an extraordinary destination. My blog post on everything we did in South Greenland is here.
From Greenland we flew back to Copenhagen, getting in around midnight. We took the metro back to 71 Nyhavn, checked in and went to sleep. No early morning walk this time! I picked up the clothes we left behind at the hotel, pulled together all of our cold weather clothes, and handed them to the front desk in a duffel. They arranged the shipping back to California – which took all of three days. So nice traveling a lot lighter from that point forward.
We walked over to The Corner at 108 CPH, a small cafe owned by the folks behind Noma, and had coffee, juice and pastries. Then back to the hotel to pack and check out. After leaving our bags with the hotel, we met up with a friend for a little while and had street food for lunch near the hotel, and then headed back to the airport for our 5:40pm flight to Doha and then on to the Seychelles.
After two mediocre Qatar Airways flights, with a tortuous 2am connection in Doha (who plans these schedules? do they have kids?), we landed in Mahé in the Seychelles. We then transferred to the helipad and helicoptered 15 minutes to Félicité Island and the Six Senses Zil Pasyon. One of my favorite hotel arrivals ever! I wish helicopters fit into my budget more often!
We loved spending four days on a granite island in the middle of the Indian ocean. Basing out of our ridiculously large and amazing villa, we swam, hiked to secret beaches, relaxed a lot, kayaked, played chess, ping pong and frisbee for hours, and enjoyed island life. And Six Senses Zil Pasyon has a great kids program, which had my son planting a tree and mixing (non-alcoholic) drinks with the bartender. This was a splurge, but an an around-the-world trip was the best time to include it, since otherwise the travel time between California and the Seychelles is prohibitive.
As with Greenland, I have a separate blog post on our stay, including everything we did and everything we loved.
From Six Senses Zil Pasyon we took a boat to nearby Praslin Island, flew back to Mahé and connected to our Etihad flight to Abu Dhabi. Getting in at night, we took a taxi to the Rosewood Abu Dhabi and got dinner (Indian, highly recommended by hotel employees) in the attached luxury mall.
The next morning we headed to one of my top three favorite buildings in the world, the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. We arrived a little after it opened at 9am and had it largely to ourselves for an hour or so before it started getting more crowded and a lot hotter (Abu Dhabi in the summer is normally around 45c / 113f). So much fun showing it to my son, and a good reason to lay over in Abu Dhabi instead of Dubai, although you can do a day trip to the mosque from Dubai as well. Then we took a taxi to the largest indoor theme park in the world, Ferrari World, which had been recommended by several people. We didn’t enjoy it – at least not enough to justify the almost $200 it cost us to get in. The kids climbing area was great, and my son went back again and again, but a lot of the other rides weren’t available to him based on height, or they were uninteresting, or they were just…off, like the one where you soar over Italy. The video wasn’t seamless/immersive like at similar rides we’ve done before and never made us feel like we were flying. Overall disappointing.
We then took a taxi back to the Rosewood, went to a Greek restaurant in the mall for a very late lunch, and…ran into a friend of mine. Kind of mind-boggling that at the only other occupied table in a random Greek restaurant in a mall in Abu Dhabi at 3pm would be a guy I traveled around Tuscany with 10 years ago. What are the odds? Travel is so cool!
After some downtime we walked across the river to a less-fancy mall, got pizza for dinner, bought a football (my son had hated not having a ball to kick around), and walked back to the hotel. Then the next morning we packed up, left our bags with the bell staff, and took a taxi 10 minutes or so to the Louvre Abu Dhabi. We loved the Louvre – far smaller than its counterpart in Paris (we walked through the entire museum twice in an hour), but amazing architecturally, and the collection is excellent – including a Da Vinci, because you can’t have a Louvre without Da Vinci.
We taxied back to the hotel, picked up our bags and continued on to the airport for our flight to India.
In retrospect Mumbai probably wasn’t the best place to introduce my son to India. I had been to Mumbai before and enjoyed it, but it was after I had already fallen in love with India up north. Mumbai is overwhelming on a sensory level – from the traffic and constant honking to the crowds everywhere to the smells to the dichotomy between absolute poverty and ostentatious luxury. But my son had read several books on Gandhi and wanted to visit his house, and we love Indian food, and one of my favorite hotels anywhere – the Taj Mahal Palace – is there. So we added a stop for two nights / one day.
We definitely maxed out our one full day. I booked a tour with Reality Tours, and Bipin and a driver picked us up at our hotel at 8:30am. We visited Crawford Market, Dhobi Ghat (the largest open-air laundry in the world), Babu Amichand Panalal Jain Temple, Gandhi’s house and several parks and ghats. And we spent several hours walking through the Dharavi slums – where 700,000 people live in 2 square km. I had done a tour of the slums before and felt it was incredibly worthwhile. It’s amazing to see all of the the mini industries within the slums – cooking, ceramics, recycling, machinery, leather, and much more – and to realize how hard people work every day for so little money. My son hated it, mainly because of the overwhelming smells like burning paint. But I’m glad we did it. I’ll take my daughters through the slums as well when they visit Mumbai someday.
We ended our tour around 3:30 and returned to the hotel, where I finally took an official hotel tour, and then we swam for a couple of hours. Dinner was at Baghdadi, a hole-in-the-wall behind the hotel that we found on TripAdvisor. Excellent roti, biryani and fried chicken masala, all for a couple dollars.
In the morning we headed to the airport and flew to Singapore, 5 1/2 hours away. We landed at 8pm and were met at the plane by a Fullerton Bay Hotel rep who guided us to immigration and baggage claim and then to a waiting car. It’s one of my favorite places in the world to book airport transportation through the hotel! Maybe 15 minutes later we arrived at the hotel, checked in, admired our view for a while, and then walked over to Makansutra Gluttons Bay, a collection of street food stands a few minutes from the hotel. Singapore’s street food is always excellent.
The next day we ran through our standard Singapore itinerary – breakfast at Fullerton Bay Hotel, a walk to Chinatown and the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple (one of my favorite temples), a walk to Gardens by the Bay, more street food for lunch and dinner, swimming at the hotel, and Segway rentals. We always rent Segways near the Fullerton Hotel/Merlion and it’s one of my son’s favorite things anywhere. And compared to the chaos of Mumbai, my son was totally in his element ending our trip in clean, orderly Singapore!
Summary / Our Favorite Things
Once again, I loved traveling around the world with one of my kids. Everything worked out well flight-wise – once we got to South Greenland, we had no flight delays or issues the rest of the trip. Last time I said that we should have traveled east to west, and I would have this trip, except that we wanted to start in Greenland. Next time I mean it – we’re definitely going east to west! We’ll lose a day at the beginning but then get a few extra hours at every destination.
Our stops worked well. I loved the extremes – going from cool, rustic Greenland directly to the luxurious, balmy Seychelles, and then on to the deserts of the Middle East. And Mumbai and Singapore are as different as you can get for two major Asian cities – except that they both have excellent food!
A question I get a lot is: isn’t a trip like that exhausting? Honestly, it’s not. The key is to have more than one night at every destination so you’re not constantly at airports. We packed enough in at every stop that, when we left, it felt like we had been there far longer than we were. In addition to the above 18-day RTW my son and I flew to Russia for the World Cup and then back to LA in early July, and we flew from LA to Belgium three days after we got home from Singapore. All told he and I had probably 110 hours on planes in 32 days but it, no pun intended, flew by.
My son’s ten favorite things from our trip:
- Fishing in Greenland
- Driving an ATV in Greenland
- Riding Segways in Singapore
- Kayaking in Greenland
- Seeing the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi
- Helicoptering into Six Senses Zil Pasyon in the Seychelles
- Exploring Singapore’s Chinatown
- Having our own pool in the Seychelles
- Playing ping pong in Greenland and the Seychelles (with our portable net)
- Dining in India
My favorite things were:
- The overall adventure of traveling around the world in two and a half weeks, and the bonding that went along with it. I love one-on-one travels.
- Fishing and riding ATVs in Greenland
- The helicopter arrival into Six Senses Zil Pasyon
- Kayaking in both Greenland and the Seychelles
- Unplugging in Greenland
- The Sheikh Zayed Mosque
- Hiking in Greenland
- Walking around Copenhagen at sunrise
- Every meal in India
- Our hotels. Six Senses Zil Pasyon, Rosewood Abu Dhabi, the Taj Mahal Palace, and Fullerton Bay Hotel were all amazing.
When Oroweat Bread contacted me about its #SliceOfAdventure summer campaign, I suggested making sandwiches using Oroweat’s Organic breads at all of our stops. We’re a foodie family anyway, and I loved the idea of researching local ingredients and trying different things. Plus we were moving around a lot, and the sandwiches would be great for on-the-go snacks. The stories behind our sandwiches:
- When we arrived in Copenhagen we went to a small market near our hotel and asked the grocer for ideas. He suggested ox sausage and Danish cheese. We purchased those and crafted sandwiches with Oroweat Organic 22 Grains & Seeds, with local strawberries on the side. Excellent, and they tided us over until dinner!
- Our third day in Greenland we asked Ellen at Ilunnguujuk sheep farm hostel what she would suggest for a Greenlandic sandwich and she brought out reindeer, musk ox and lamb salami, thinly-sliced lamb, angelica (a local plant), peppers, cucumbers and cheese. I went with musk ox salami with cheese, peppers and angelica. My son chose reindeer salami, cucumber and peppers. And then I made a separate sandwich with just rhubarb jam, since I love rhubarb and don’t see it very often at home. Our bread of choice: Oroweat Organic 100% Whole Grain.
- Still in Greenland, we went fishing and found ourselves hungry well before dinner, so we crafted quick sandwiches with reindeer salami on Oroweat Organic 100% Whole Grain. Yes, my son quickly became addicted to reindeer salami!
- The Avocado in the Seychelles was delicious, so we went simple – avocado with sea salt on Oroweat Organic Rustic White bread for late morning snacks.
- In Abu Dhabi there’s hummus everywhere, so we walked to a grocery store near our hotel, bought hummus (with a few extra chick peas), and spread it on Oroweat Organic Rustic White bread. It worked perfectly!
- Years ago I saw that Singapore’s ice cream sandwiches were made with a block of ice cream placed into a slice of bread. So I wanted to make it happen! I took a slice of Oroweat’s Organic Rustic White to an ice cream cart near the historic Cavenagh Bridge and asked the seller to use my bread for the ice cream sandwich. No problem! I chose red bean ice cream – one of my favorite flavors, and I rarely see it in the US. It was great!
It’s possible to travel around the world on just about any budget. You can book one of the crazy $135,000 private jet trips, or spend as little as $2,000-$3,000 total, flying in coach and staying at less-expensive properties. This trip was in the middle of those extremes.
I always try to use miles to fly business class on overnight flights with kids. LA-Copenhagen/Singapore-LA was 140,000 miles each in business, or would have been 70,000 miles each in coach. But I’ve also priced the same open-jaw itinerary at as little as $533 – which is a great deal.
Copenhagen-Greenland round-trip was provided by Air Greenland, but would have cost $1,650 for the two of us. Copenhagen-Mahé on Qatar Airways was the biggest expense of the trip, at $1,747 for two coach seats. Our helicopter into Six Senses Zil Pasyon was $1,100. Air Seychelles from Prasin back to Mahé was $180. Mahé-Abu Dhabi-Mumbai on Etihad was $775 in coach. Mumbai-Singapore on Singapore Air was $390.
We didn’t spend a lot on local transportation. The taxi from the airport to our hotel in Copenhagen was $55, but subsequent airport trips on the metro were $9/trip. Boat transfers in Greenland are $30-60 per person. Taxis in Abu Dhabi and Mumbai are inexpensive – $8-10 to/from the airport in Mumbai and $10-20 or so for our lengthy rides in Abu Dhabi. Our full-day tour in Mumbai with Reality Tours was $150. In Singapore the Fullerton Bay Hotel provided us with airport transfers, and we walked everywhere else.
Our hotels in Greenland were $140-325 a night, including some meals and luggage transfers. 71 Nyhavn in Copenhagen was $312/night. Six Senses Zil Pasyon starts at $1,500/night, but there are deals where you can get free nights if you stay longer. The Rosewood Abu Dhabi was $328 for two nights. Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai was $904 for two nights, including breakfast. Rates at the Fullerton Bay Hotel start at $350/night or so.
Our stays in Greenland, the Seychelles and Singapore were hosted. We paid for everything else.
A Note on Insurance
We have a five-year medical repatriation policy through Medjet Assist, which covers my primary worry when traveling – getting us back home for medical care if anything happens. Beyond that I don’t think about insurance much – especially since I can cancel mileage tickets through United with no penalty. However, this trip had me rethinking insurance. We had a lot of one-way tickets and non-refundable hotel bookings, and given our issues getting to Greenland, we easily could have had problems coming back. If our Air Greenland flight back to Copenhagen had been delayed a day, it would have created all sorts of headaches, and expenses, for us. I’ve looked into World Nomads before, based on recommendations from friends. My next complicated trip I think I’ll go for coverage.
Now it’s your turn! Where would you go in 2-3 weeks if you were traveling around the world with your kids?