How I Booked an Around the World Trip for Under $1,600

Around the world map
Around the world map

6 weeks

6 Countries

7 flights

All for under 1,600 Canadian loonies.

And it could have been cheaper.


The Goal

An around the world trip has always been a dream of mine. It has always been something I have wanted to do, most likely because I loath backtracking. I had the 2014 Winter Olympics in mind as my excuse to start traveling extensively again. It seemed fitting as my first backpacking trip in 2006 began with an incredible time at the Turin Olympics. It was that trip that led me to my love for travel and writing about it. Then there was moving to Vancouver to work for and be apart of the 2010 Winter Olympics. It was nuts. So 2014 Sochi was always in the back of my mind as the perfect jumping off point for my around the world trip. Beyond that there were two countries in particular that had to be visited on this around the world trip – Turkey, and Thailand.

 

Turin and Vancouver Games
Good times in Torino and Vancouver

 

Then life happened.

 

Work, finances, and a lack of commitment kept us from focusing on the goal. To be fair, life in Vancouver is pretty fricken awesome so it is hard to pass on social events and side trips when you know you should be saving up your travel $$. We also started a little bag company called Körút. Originally it was thought as a means to generate income while on the road – Erin would sell bags online and manage that side while I took writing gigs and focused on this site – all while sipping fruity cocktails brought to us by monkey butlers in our beachfront hut on some tropical island you have never heard of. Yup, things were going to be easy. Well two years, four prototypes, and ZERO monkey butlers later we are no further along to that daydream.

In short, we just weren’t ready to leave our life for a year. We then shifted our goal to maybe going for a shorter trip now and a longer trip when ready.

 

Then Putin happened.

 

The Trans-Siberian railway was apart of my around the world trip goal since I learned about its existence. What better way to get from one continent to another and see some of the most remote and off beat places in the world along the way. My love for trains certainly aided in this. It would be great – Sochi Olympics then head up to St.Petersburg (a place I tried to get to in 2006) then on to Moscow and beyond via the worlds longest train service. Then Putin had to go and ruin my plans by being turbo conservative. Russia’s anit-gay laws came as a pretty big shock to me and the rest of the world and left us wondering:

Could we really go to Russia and support this kind of backwards thinking?

No. No we couldn’t. We put that trip to rest and moved on with life. Sigh.

 

Points vs. Cash

 

Originally this trip was to be covered by using points however originally, this trip was to be much longer. Over the last couple years I have saved and travel hacked my way to a level that could get me around the world nicely. Taking a year to travel around the world and having my major flights covered was a huge goal and achievement, and now it wasn’t going to happen. Feeling dejected and bummed about missing out on the Olympics and a big trip Erin reminded me about going to Turkey and Thailand and that we could still do that and a bigger trip when we are ready. In my mind I thought it didn’t make sense to blow all those points now and then when ready to travel again not have any points to use. That is when I started to break down what the flights would actually cost. What I found was very surprising.

 

From A to B via L,M,N,O,P

 

As I have mentioned before in an article on booking cheap flights, it pays to be flexible. How much so was a shock even to me. If you are flexible then it helps to look at your potential route as an equation. ie. I want to go from A to B. Everything else is a variable and X is the lowest price. With that in mind I started looking at the cheapest way to get to Turkey then to Thailand from the Pacific Northwest. Using Skyscanner.com I was able to search on the cheapest flights from European cities to Istanbul. After a few days of loosely looking I found a direct flight from Amsterdam for only $77. Sold. I then searched Kayak.com for the cheapest flight to Amsterdam and found a great flight through Iceland for only $446.

Leg 1

  • Seattle to Amsterdam (via Reykyavik) – $446
  • Amsterdam to Istanbul – $77

For Istanbul to Thailand I searched several connecting cities and found Cairo and Dubai offered the cheapest connections. We chose to go to Dubai because Erin has a friend there and Egypt has a travel advisory.

Leg 2

  • Istanbul to Dubai – $150
  • Dubai to Bangkok – $295

The last leg was the toughest to find and hardest pill to swallow. Vancouver to China is a common route and return flights can often be found for under $700. Because of this paying $780 one way just didn’t feel right. I was patient in booking this leg which paid off as I was able to find a flight out of HCMC for only $569. Getting to HCMC from Bangkok is a cheap discount airline hop.

Leg 3

  • Bangkok to HCMC – $60
  • HCMC to Vancouver – $569

Around the World Trip Total: $1,597

Around the world trip in pins!
Around the world trip in pins!

 

How Could I Not

 

Seeing this price was shocking. Flying to Ontario from Vancouver can cost close to $1000 so to go on an around the world trip for a little more seemed very reasonable. If I was to book an around the world trip ticket through an airline they would charge around $5,000 and up depending on the amount of stops you want. Booking through points would cost $500-$800 on taxes and fees + all of my points. This pushed me over the edge and into booking flights.

It also made me reconsider going to Sochi. From Istanbul it is only a short hop over the Black Sea that cost $90. That coupled with Putin’s backpedaling made 4 days in Sochi OK for us. Trans Siberian Train no. But going to Sochi to support my country’s athletes (and not politics) made this OK…or at least that is what we are telling ourselves.

 

 Check, recheck, then check some more.

Then check again.

Seriously. I obsessed about the routes and flight options. For a couple weeks I was looking at every possible route imaginable to make this around the world trip feasible.  Make no mistake, finding these flights took a lot of time. In summary here is how I did it:

  • I was flexible on dates and countries.
  • I looked at the cheapest way to get to Istanbul from major European cities
  • I looked at the cheapest way to get to Europe from North America
  • I looked at cheapest way to get to Thailand from Istanbul
  • I looked at cheapest way to get from Asia to Vancouver

More specifically:

  • I Used Skyscanner.com features that show cheapest option for week and month
  • I Used Skyscanner.com feature that shows cheapest flights from a selected location to anywhere
  • I Used Kayak.com to cross reference flight prices
  • I Searched flights as individual routes and as part of multi-city route (kayak.com)

It could have been cheaper

 

Surprisingly this was not the cheapest route. My route decision was swayed by wanting to go (or go back) to certain locations. Example:

 

  1. It would have been slightly cheaper to go to Istanbul via London however I had an urge to seek out the best shawarma I have ever had 8 years later.
  2. It would have been slightly cheaper to fly through Cairo on the way to Bangkok but with travel warnings out on Egypt we decided against it. For now.
  3. It would have been $90 cheaper to fly through Qatar on the way to Dubai and then again on the way to Bangkok. By the time I decided that this would be OK the price was gone.
  4. It would have been $200 cheaper if I booked exclusively through China Eastern Airlines from Dubai to Vancouver. This would have meant long layovers in the middle of nowhere China on an airline that has very poor reviews.
  5. I loved my time in Iceland and wanted to go back.
  6. It would have been $80 cheaper to fly from Bangkok to Vancouver with a looong layover in Manila.

 

If layovers and poorly rated airlines were not an issue the cheapest around the world path could have cost:

~$1,297

Insane.

But I digress…

In the end I booked the cheapest route with the best options for us. A good example is we paid a little more to fly out of HCMC but it is on Air China, a Star Alliance airline. Plus I loved Vietnam and am excited to get some pho and mystery street meat!

Saigon Street Meat
Saigon street meat, it’s what’s for breakfast.

In total with the added Sochi excursion and 5 commuter hops around Turkey (Five!) our itinerary looks like this:

  • 6 weeks.
  • 7 Countries.
  • 13 flights.

All for under $1,850

Not too shabby for my first around the world trip.


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  • Jessica Festa

    Great tips! I haven’t done a major around the world trip yet but would love to one day, maybe as a honeymoon. I also love how you touch on how you weren’t ready to leave your life the first time around. It shows how important it is to set yourself up for success before taking a risk. Thanks for the great read!

    -Jessie
    Jessie on a Journey

    • shaun_robertson

      Thanks Jess. Yes it was hard to pass on the longer trip but had to be done. I think this is a pretty good alternative without blowing all my points as well as keeping it cheap!

  • Aaron Kolle

    Glad you are making it to another Olympics Shaun! Should be a blast and yes it is about sport and not politics.

    • shaun_robertson

      Thanks Aaron. Still have mixed feelings about it but hopefully all will be good.

  • Phil Sampson

    $1,600!!! I paid that just to go to Europe last summer! Good read and thanks for sharing…even though it is a little late for me!

    • shaun_robertson

      Sorry to hear Phil. Next time!

  • Renuka Singh

    Wow! sounds amazing…. I am not really comfortable with the idea of around the world travel in one go. I want to travel bit by bit. But the way you managed, sounds incredible.

    • shaun_robertson

      Thanks Renuka. I would like to travel slow and it was my intention for this trip however I could not swing it now. I’m pretty happy with alternative!

  • Hey! We live in Bangkok. Let us know if you need any tips! Enjoy your trip 🙂

    • shaun_robertson

      Thanks Megan! Maybe tips on how to avoid protests! How are things there now?

      • The protests are only in certain areas and can be easily avoided. I’d suggest following @richardbarrow on twitter for the latest updates!

        • shaun_robertson

          Thanks Megan. I will check it out!

  • Harly Smith

    Shaun this looks awesome! And for $1,600!! I have payed that and more just going from Australia to the States. I will definitely checkout skyscanner!

    H

    • shaun_robertson

      Thanks Harly. Skyscanner is a great tool. You can setup daily price checks which makes searching that much easier.

  • Robert_Murphy44

    Looks like a great time Shaun – and for so little! Stay safe and happy travels!

    • shaun_robertson

      Thanks Robert! Will do!

  • Victor Scott

    Thanks for the tips Shaun and have a great trip! I look forward to following along.

    • shaun_robertson

      Thanks Victor, Can’t wait!

  • Christy Jane

    What a great trip! I have been following along since Turkey! Love the pictures!

    • shaun_robertson

      Thanks for following along Christy!

  • Lonnie Herbert

    Wow nice one!

    • shaun_robertson

      It was Lonnie!

  • Paul Marshman

    Just found this post — nice going! A lot of work booking your own flights for so many legs, though. I have another take on doing this. I had a travel agent do a RTW ticket for me 20 years ago. Cost: $2,000. Last year I looked at it again and found it’s still possible to do it that way for about the same price! Here are my findings (prices may have changed since last year): http://travellingboomer.com/around-the-world-in-80-days-lets-go/

    • shaun_robertson

      Thanks for the read and comment Paul! It was a lot of work but definitely paid off in the end. I did look into a RTW ticket but it was going to cost close to $5K! Piecing my flights together saved a lot in comparison. RTW tickets are a great option although they seem pretty restrictive in the amount of stop overs you can have. Are you planning on dong another RTW trip? Would be interested to hear how you make out!

  • Paul Marshman

    True, Shaun, RTW tickets can be restrictive, especially the bargain-priced ones. But I figure you can make a pretty full itinerary by adding a stop or two and taking side trips to countries next door to your destinations. It’s tempting to go around again, but I’m not sure I could take all the flying involved — the older I get, the more I hate it.

    • shaun_robertson

      There is the rub with travel Paul! Although I have to say out of the 15 or so flights we just took, only 2 were uncomfortable!

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