Traveling Around the World
I’ve traveled around the world, in one itinerary, four times now. The first was when my eldest daughter was 10. We flew LA-Orlando-Paris-Dubai-Oman-Borobudur-Bali-Sydney-LA in two weeks. Then when my son was 10, we took two and a half weeks to travel LA-Copenhagen-Greenland-Seychelles-Abu Dhabi-Mumbai-Singapore-LA. Both were amazing, fast, fun trips, all about seeing some of the world’s coolest places in a short span of time – the opposite of how we usually travel.
RTW trip three was earlier this year we headed to Yao Noi, Thailand for my daughter’s winter break. It wasn’t about flying around the world – it simply worked out best to travel west to east the entire journey: LA-Doha-Phuket-Bangkok-Taipei-LA. Phuket/Yao Noi was our only real stop though.
Visiting the Seven Continents in One Year
That trip to Thailand was in mid-February, and at that point I had visited five continents in 2023. I started the year in Ushuaia, Argentina, sailed to Antarctica on January 1st, came back to the US, and then flew to Italy at the end of January. It popped into my head that I had a chance to see all seven continents in 2023, which I had never accomplished before. The last time I had a chance, in 2014, I never made it to Australia.
Fast forward to September. I needed to fly to Japan for the Adventure Travel World Summit. My pre-summit plans in Japan fell apart, so I had a few extra days to get there. I decided on a whim to travel to the conference via Africa and Australia to be able to visit every continent this year. It was 100% not traveling deeper, but I love spontaneous, crazy travel sometimes!
Booking My Around The World Trip
Booking everything was a challenge. This was a lot of flying and I wanted to travel as comfortably as possible while paying as little as possible. I was also flexible as to where in Africa and Australia I visited. I played with at least a dozen different African destinations, looking at the total travel time, and ease, of getting to them from LA, as well as award ticket availability. In the end I chose Zanzibar. This was slightly disappointing, as I kind of hoped to visit a new country, but I was able to get a free, award ticket on Qatar Airways from LA to Zanzibar via Doha, all in business class. Qatar Air has the best business class in the world – 15-hour flights are actually enjoyable! So Zanzibar it was.
From Zanzibar I looked at half a dozen Australian destinations, all of the usual suspects, and settled on Perth, which I hadn’t been to before. I booked Zanzibar to Doha in economy using points – it was a daytime flight so it didn’t make sense to use more points than necessary. And then I found a separate Doha-Perth business-class ticket on Qatar, again for points. So far so good – I’d be able to get from LA all the way to Perth, essentially for free.
That’s where my luck ran out. From Perth I needed to fly to Sapporo, Japan, and I couldn’t find any award tickets at all, and business-class tickets weren’t pricing reasonably. So I booked an inexpensive economy ticket on Singapore Air – Perth-Singapore-Nagoya-Sapporo.
Then from Sapporo back to LA, I once again couldn’t find an award ticket (despite A LOT of searching), but I was able to purchase a one-way business class ticket on EVA Air for a reasonable amount. Overall I’d be flying around the world in nine flights, five in business class and four in economy, with four paid for with points. Not perfect, but not too bad.
Now the highlights…
Flying to Doha
Right before my trip, a friend posted on Facebook that he had just seen the Northern Lights on his flight to Iceland. I had never (in 101 countries) seen the Northern Lights, so at the airport I asked the Qatar Airways rep if there were any seats on the left (north) side of the plane. He moved me to 1A. A few hours into my flight, I looked out and saw them! They only lasted for ten minutes or so, and the pilot never made an announcement, but they were incredible! Seriously, get a window seat on the left if you’re flying over northern Canada or Greenland September-March or so.
I had a 10-hour layover in Doha. Unfortunately this was on a Sunday afternoon/evening, when the museums in Doha were closed (I really like the city and especially the souk and museums). I therefore booked a room at the Oryx Hotel right in the middle of the airport. I slept for a few hours, worked out at the hotel’s gym, took a shower, explored the airport, and had a couple meals in the lounge. I highly recommend getting a room if you have a long layover and you don’t plan on heading into the city.
I first visited Zanzibar 20 years ago with friends. We split our time between Stone Town and a remote beach, did a spice tour, biked around and relaxed. This time, with only three days / two nights there, it didn’t make sense to stay far from the airport. I booked the Tembo House Hotel on the beach, where I had stayed my first trip. Best decision ever!
I took a taxi to the hotel and then checked into my room, one of their nicest suites, right on the beach. For two days I explored Zanzibar on my own, having breakfasts and dinners at the hotel and lunches in town. Absolutely loved the hotel, my room, and sunsets on the beach.
My final day I had to check out by 10am, but my flight to Doha wasn’t until 5pm. I booked a full-day tour with Explore Zanzi. Khamis and Abui met me at the hotel at 8am and took me on a walking tour of Stone Town for two hours. I had only explored the town by myself (or with friends) before, so this filled in the gaps, and I saw so much more. Loved the history too.
We then returned to the hotel, where I quickly changed, and we hopped in a boat right at the hotel. Fifteen minutes later we arrived at a sandbar at low tide. This was a gorgeous setting! I snorkeled and walked around the sandbar while they prepared a seafood barbeque lunch for me on the beach. Everything was amazing, but the octopus was the best I’ve ever had. Then when the tide started coming up a little too high, we boated back to the hotel, I changed for my flight, and they drove me to the airport. One of my favorite travel days ever!
Perth and Rottnest Island
Because of flight times, my two nights in Perth really translated to just one full day. I used that day to take a ferry to Rottnest Island, or Rotto as it’s referred to by Aussies.
I left my hotel (the Doubletree Perth Waterfront) at 8:10am, boarded the Rottnest Express ferry at the nearby Barrack Street Jetty at 8:15, and at 8:45 we departed for Rottnest Island. The boat ride took roughly an hour and a half each way, arriving at 10:15 and departing at 4pm. I had rented a bike in advance through the ferry company and received it just after disembarking.
Rottnest Island is an Aussie vacation destination, either camping or renting fairly rustic cabins. It’s pretty, with beaches, but really it’s all about the quokka – the native marsupial with no predators. Quokkas are technically all over the island, but they’ve gotten used to people, and getting people food (even though you’re not allowed to feed or touch them), and a lot of them hang out near the settlement – the area near the ferries with restaurants, coffee places and gift stores. I had lunch at the settlement, but mainly spent the day biking around the island, and I found quokkas several different places. If they were sleeping I didn’t approach them, and some hopped away as I got close, but at least half a dozen times I was able to lie on the ground with them for selfies – the ultimate (free) souvenir from Rotto. With 10,000+ quokkas on the island there were never too many people near any particular group, and I usually had them to myself.
It probably goes without saying, given the photos, but yes, this was just as fun and cool as you think it would be. Highly recommended if you’re anywhere near Perth!
From my hotel in Perth, I walked to the main train station and took the inexpensive train to the airport, and three flights later I arrived in Sapporo, Japan. I’ve been to Japan many times, but this was my first time in Hokkaido, in the far north.
I took the train from the Sapporo Airport to Sapporo’s central station, and walked to my hotel, the Tokyu Stay Sapporo Odori. I chose Odori as a base since it’s on the orange metro line, which was most convenient for the conference I attended. But it worked well as there’s a large pedestrian mall there, there are numerous ramen places (including Ramen Alley), and it was the location of Sapporo Autumn Fest, with hundreds of food stalls through most of September. I’ll base in Odori again when I return.
My first full day in Sapporo, before the start of the conference, I headed an hour outside of the city to Lake Shikotsu. It rained all day, which wasn’t ideal, but I still biked 20+ km, hiked through the famous Moss Corridor, kayaked on the lake and a tributary, had an amazing sushi lunch (with fish from the lake), and got a good feel for the area. Hokkaido is all about lakes and nature. If you’re heading to Japan, add it to your agenda after Tokyo and Kyoto. It’s a very different world, but still rooted in Japanese culture and customs.
During my week in Sapporo I also got to the Okurayama ski jump stadium, and I spent a morning exploring Maruyama Park and climbing Mount Maruyama. Maruyama Park was my absolute favorite place in the city – wonderful with forests, shrines and torii gates, and only three subway stops from Odori. My full blog post on Hokkaido and Sapporo is HERE.
Traveling Around the World to Visit Every Continent – The Numbers
Because of my business class tickets, my total around-the-world flight expenses were around $3,000. I could have reduced that considerably by flying in economy from Sapporo back to LA.
Tembo House Hotel in Zanzibar was $160/night. My day with Explore Zanzi was $165. The DoubleTree by Hilton Perth Waterfront was $195/night. The Rottnest Express ferry and bike rental were $85. The Tokyu Stay Sapporo Odori was $92/night. Meals and ground transportation weren’t expensive anywhere.
And parking at LAX was free since I had saved up enough points at The Parking Spot for a 14-day reservation. Loyalty pays everywhere, even with airport parking!
Around the World – Summary
I LOVED this around-the-world trip! It was my first crazy trip since the pandemic, and it was fun to experience three very different places on three continents in two weeks. Plus now I’ve visited every continent in one year – something that not a lot of people have done.
Zanzibar is magical, and inexpensive, and remarkably easy to reach and explore. Perth, with the Rottnest Island quokkas, is a bucket list destination. And Hokkaido was stunningly beautiful, with amazing food and still very Japanese. The ATWS conference lured me there, but it was a perfect destination for a quick RTW journey.
The Seven Continents – Your Turn
How many continents have you gotten to in a year? Do you agree with my Australian and African stops, or would you have chosen other destinations?