- Travel from continent to continent generally requires more time and money than a domestic vacation.
- However, if you plan your own layovers, take advantage of the International Date Line, and fly on small local airlines, multi-country trips can be more accessible than you think.
- Here are eight things you need to know if you’re planning a multi-country travel itinerary with limited funds and time off.
Scrolling through Instagram, I saw my friend post a picture grinning from Morocco. What? I’d seen her post from the Blue Lagoon in Iceland a few days before, and from London before that. At this point, stopovers in Iceland on the way to Europe are pretty common. But to see my friend hop to Africa after Europe? That’s another level of itinerary.
Multi-continent trips are more attainable now that there are travel resources to facilitate hitting several destinations. Airline alliances like OneWorld help you plan multi-continent trips, while the Kayak Explore feature allows you to pinpoint inexpensive flights to exotic destinations.
And there seems to be a growing interest in visiting more continents – Marriott’s 2014 travel attitudes survey found that 37% of millennials surveyed had been to all seven continents, compared to 17% of travellers age 35 and up.
Solaire Atallah, an office manager based in Atlanta, Georgia, is no stranger to customised, multi-continent travel. She recently orchestrated an itinerary that hit Asia, Australia, and Hawaii, all in a matter of 10 days. Atallah had to be at a conference in Honolulu by Memorial Day weekend, so she set out to plan her itinerary backwards from Hawaii on May 25.
Atallah left from Atlanta on May 17 and managed to hit three Thailand destinations – Bangkok, Phuket, and Ko Phi Phi – then head to Sydney, Australia, before circling back to Hawaii. She booked each leg separately, and most of the flights were in the $US100 and $US200 range, with the exception of New York City to Bangkok for $US499. To get home, she flew Phuket to Sydney ($US164), Sydney to Honolulu ($US244), Hawaii to Los Angeles ($US250), and then back to Atlanta from Los Angeles ($US160).
All told, Atallah spent about $US1,400 on flights, but because she tacked on a work conference, she was reimbursed for $US500, bringing her total to less than $US1,000.
Here are eight things you need to know if you’re planning a multi-continent trip with limited funds and days off:
1. Make your layovers work for you
If there’s a lesson to be learned from Atallah’s Thailand-Australia-Hawaii trip, it’s that sometimes you have to make your own itinerary, instead of letting an airline or booking site do it for you.
If you plug your eight desired destinations into Expedia, you might end up with a bargain, or you could wind up with an expensive flight with three stopovers. Instead, make the stopovers work for you by planning them yourself – that’s how Atallah was able to fit Australia into her itinerary.
“Most flights from Phuket to Honolulu had long layovers in other countries. So I decided to make my own layover,” Atallah said. That’s when she decided to add Sydney to the itinerary-between Phuket and Honolulu.
2. Use local travel services while abroad
You should also consider capitalising on local transport deals when travelling outside the US. Atallah’s flight from Bangkok to Phuket was $US46 on Thai Smile Airline. (If you’re not sure where to find good flights while abroad, Atallah usedVayama. I’ve also had good luck finding local flights throughKayak.)
And these deals aren’t just for flights; Atallah booked a two-hour ferry ride from Phuket to Ko Phi Phi for $US9.
3. Travel with someone on a similar budget to cut down lodging costs
Atallah was travelling with a close friend, who had similar travel goals and also needed to stick to a budget. Splitting their lodging equally helped lower costs and allowed them to splurge within their budget.
In Phuket, they stayed at the Wyndham Grand Kalim Bay for two nights in a suite, which came with a private infinity pool on the balcony. The total for two nights was $US221, which they split.
4. Learn to love time-zone benefits
This is an especially important lesson if you’re working with limited vacation days. Atallah had to be in Hawaii the morning of May 25. She took a non-stop flight out of Sydney at 4:25 p.m., but with the time difference, landed in Honolulu the same day at 6:00 a.m. If that’s not making the international date line work to your advantage, I don’t know what is.
5. Don’t write off destinations in the US
Adding a pit-stop in a US destination you’ve never seen is an economical way to boost your itinerary. If you’re going west, San Francisco or Los Angeles can be seamless additions to a flight plan.
When travelling abroad, it’s easy to forget that travellers come to the U.S. from all over the world for a reason. Atallah spent a day in Los Angeles when heading back to Atlanta from Hawaii, simply because it was a convenient way to break up the trip.
6. Stay with family and friends who are locals whenever possible
Atallah has cousins in Sydney, so they didn’t have to pay for lodging or even transportation from the airport while in Australia. Not only did this cut their spending, it also meant they had a built-in tour guide for Sydney. Hitting all the hot spots you’ve read about is a perfectly good way to see a city, but nothing beats a local showing you around.
7. If you’re on a tight timeline, embrace the red eye
Atallah was working with four destinations over the course of 10 days, so she wasn’t about to waste her sight-seeing time in transit. If you can sleep on planes, try to book all of your long flights overnight.
“All of our flights were red eyes, which allowed us to sleep on the flights rather than wasting day time flying. It also helped with jet lag, since we weren’t sleepy when we landed,” Atallah said.
8. Use major airports — and use your airline points to get to those airports
Atallah says she uses her credit card for everything, which makes it easy to rack up points. She then uses those points to get to larger airports to fly out of the country, because the international flights out of Atlanta (her home airport) tend to be too expensive. Her direct flight from Atlanta to JFK for this trip was $US98.
“I use points to fly to other popular but less expensive international airports in the states, and then buy my flights in and out of the country for almost a third of the price,” Atallah said.
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