One of the reasons why Tony and I decided that we weren’t going to buy RTW tickets is because we wanted the flexibility to travel at our own pace. Much to the annoyance of friends and family who wanted to plan short jaunts to visit us along the way, we also wanted the freedom to add or drop destinations based on feelings and/or finances (two very important things!) rather than being hemmed into a specific itinerary right from the get-go.
Still, I’m a planner at heart, so once we decided on the places we definitely wanted to try to visit on this trip, I figured I would sort out a route that would make some kind of logical sense and involve minimal backtracking and hopefully also limit the number of flights we would have to take. We wouldn’t be committed to the route, but if we got stuck, it would be something to fall back on. Also, because we knew we wanted to leave in August, I decided to figure out which direction of travel would likely maximize good weather while on our trip: I tried to factor in rainy seasons, as well as months that tend to be uncomfortably hot or cold in certain places. I also read this article over at Two Go RTW, about whether it’s best to travel East to West or vice versa. After juggling all of these factors, I came up with the itinerary that we posted here, which started with us kicking off in Japan and then making our way westward to get home. For months now, this has been the plan. On multiple occasions, we have almost purchased tickets to Tokyo.
So why am I having doubts now?
Honestly, it all started with this post over at L’Appel du Vide, in which Liz unveiled her upcoming plans to Iceland. Essentially her trip looks AMAZING—there are PUFFINS involved, y’all—and even though Iceland had never been on our itinerary (it seemed too far away from everything else… and also kind of cold), all of a sudden I felt like it was a place we should maybe try to squeeze in at the tail-end of our trip. But then, I started to think about how a few weeks back, during a fit of indecision, I had randomly been searching for flights to Europe and recalled seeing several stopping in Iceland that weren’t too pricey. If the price was right, maybe we should consider flipping everything upside down and start off by touching down in Reykjavik and then work our way East?
As it turns out, flying to Iceland in August from the United States is freakishly cheap.
Our original plan was to drive down to Austin, TX so that we could drop off our car with our friend, Mike, who will be caring for our car during our trip. From there we were going to fly to L.A. The cheapest tickets I’ve found for that leg run about $300 for the two of us. We’ve been eyeing some cheap tickets on Malaysia Air from L.A. to Tokyo that would cost us about $900, so all told we’re looking at spending about $1200 to get the two of us to Asia. Through our credit card, we’ve racked up $780 credit towards travel, so in reality we’d only have to pay about $420 to get the two of us to Asia. Not a bad deal!
BUT, based on my snooping today, I’ve discovered we can fly from Austin to Boston for $285. Then we can fly directly to Reykjavik for just $640!!! That’s $925, but when you subtract our credit card bonus, that winds up only being $145 out of pocket!
The cold hard money facts are this: It would cost us $420 to get to Asia, or $145 to get to Iceland. Essentially, that means we would be $275 richer at the start of our trip if we started in Europe and ended in Asia.
We have been going back and forth about what makes the most sense for us. Here are a few points we’ve been debating:
- If we start in raucous Asia, are we at a risk of finding the European leg of our trip a bit dry? Perhaps in terms of a progression of experiences, it would be best to save Asia for last.
- Asia is waaaaay cheaper than Europe, so we are of two minds as to the optimal placement of it in our itinerary:
- We know we can travel longer for less money once we’re in Asia, so even if we spent 2/3 of our budget in Europe, we could still do a lot in Asia with the “dregs” of a travel fund. Plus, by the time we made it to Japan, we’d know that whatever we had left we could just blow so that we could experience the country in style.
- After traveling for months in Asia, we’re likely going to experience extreme sticker shock once we hit even Eastern Europe, never mind Western Europe and the UK. Perhaps we’ll have loosened the purse strings after months of travel, but what if the reverse happens and we become miserly because everything seems so expensive?
- We are more open to cutting out certain parts of our “Western” leg should the budget require it, but we’d hate to have to trim from Asia because we ran out of money. As we get older, we can always easily return to Europe, but backpacking in Cambodia might become less appealing.
- We’ve read that traveling East to West would mean we’d lose less time due to timezone shifts and jet lag might be less extreme, but since we’re planning to travel for at least a year and go relatively slowly, we don’t know how much of a real concern this is.
- In terms of weather, I think it’s a draw. We’d see Iceland in the latter half of August, then likely fly to London for a week or two in England, then make our way through France, Spain, Portugal and maybe Italy for the last bit of September and then October and November. While this might not be the absolute warmest time to visit these places, they shouldn’t be too cold as to necessitate packing special clothing, and we’d have the benefit of not visiting during peak season so hopefully this would be less of a burden on the budget.
As you can see, there are pros and cons to both options, so now we don’t know what to do. Please help! We’re hoping some of you traveling veterans can help us out based on your own travel experiences. If it were up to you, would we be starting our big adventure in Iceland or Japan?