Talking travel with SkyTeam ’round-the-world’ exec

With the summer season in high swing, backpackers are zipping off for around-the-world trips. Here to shed some insider’s tips on the process of planning your next around-the-world journey is Bobby Spann, Director of International Development for Delta’s alliance program (the SkyTeam alliance consists of 14 airlines around the globe).

When might travelers pick a round-the-world (RTW) cruise rather than travel by plane?

While we all may dream of cruising around the world, traveling by plane is actually quite attainable given that a RTW cruise can range anywhere from $10,000 to $200,000 a person! A RTW airline fare package is actually the most cost effective way to travel around the world – if you bought tickets individually from city to city, it would cost you a lot more.

What are some of your favorite RTW trip itineraries?

It all depends on the destinations that you want to go to. SkyTeam offers four programs that offer you total travel freedom. With a 39,000 mile RTW program for example, you could fly from New York across the Atlantic to see historic European cities like Paris, Rome, Madrid, Prague, Moscow and Amsterdam, travel to some of the most popular Asian destinations, including Bangkok, Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo, and tour through the Americas to take in the sights of Los Angeles, Mexico City, Santiago de Chile, Buenos Aires and Atlanta, before heading back to New York.

I’ve heard that SkyTeam is relatively weak for itineraries through South America, the Middle East, India, Australia, and the South Pacific. Is this true?

SkyTeam has a very strong and expanding global network. We have major hubs in numerous popular destinations around the world, including Guangzhou, Seoul, Mexico City and Moscow, which help link people to the places they want to go. We offer strong service in South America – from Quito, Ecuador to Buenos Aires, Argentina – and in India, from Mumbai and Delhi to Bangalore. Our online route map can give you a glimpse of all the destinations served by SkyTeam.

What should travelers do if they want to backtrack? Is a RTW trip still appropriate?

Absolutely! With SkyTeam’s RTW product, you don’t have to keep traveling in the same direction – you can always backtrack within the same region. For example, a RTW passenger originating from Beijing, China who visited Osaka, Japan can backtrack west to Seoul, South Korea before traveling to a new region. SkyTeam’s RTW fare also permits surface sectors – meaning that travelers can drive or take the train between destinations as part of their trip.

What if a trip is not quite around the world? (If you focus on two or three continents, for instance) Is this type of ticket still possible?

Yes – however, your RTW itinerary must include one transatlantic flight and one transpacific flight. It also has to start and end in the same country, but not necessarily in the same city.

A perk to traveling with us is that your RTW fare can be used in conjunction with a SkyTeam Europe Pass, America Pass or Asia Pass ticket. Depending on your itinerary, using a SkyTeam fare pass not only provides you with an opportunity to explore and totally enjoy each region you visit, but could result in significant cost savings.

Is the recent emergence of RTW tickets on low-cost carriers a threat to SkyTeam and other traditional carriers?

No. Low-cost carriers provide point-to-point travel options, but the alliance offers an extensive global hub network – providing customers with flexibility and greater control of their travel schedule, access to more destinations and consistent customer service standards. Additionally, one of the greatest benefits to passengers traveling RTW with SkyTeam is the opportunity to earn and redeem frequent flyer miles on all alliance member flights – a passenger can earn quite a few miles traveling RTW.

Are there any ideal times/seasons for RTW travel?

Traveling in the fall is best. This way, you avoid the heavy peak vacation season.

What are three mistakes first-time travelers may make when booking/planning such a trip?

  • Not allotting enough time to research, plan and book a RTW trip. You should start researching and planning at least six months in advance of your intended RTW trip. Keep in mind that with SkyTeam’s RTW fare, you are only required to book the first flight of your itinerary. The remainder of your trip can be left “open” for you to book dates whenever you wish.
  • Not taking care of passport and visa requirements for each destination well in advance. It’s
    always good to take care of all necessary requirements well before your departure date.
  • A RTW trip should not be rushed. Remember to take your time to fully experience each destination. SkyTeam offers four flexible RTW fare packages that leave the length of your trip to you. Depending on the time you have, you can return in 10 days, 6 months or even 1 year.

Any more tips for planning a RTW trip?

Try traveling East Bound – traveling in this direction makes it a lot easier on your body’s time clock!

Around the world in 60 pubs: month-long party or month-long hangover?

As a traveler who — nonchalantly, with no prior intention! — tends to end up in heated dance-offs and other bizarre late-night situations, I’m not sure that a tour centered on drinking would be good for me. I tend to stumble upon party places without even trying. But if you’re the type of traveler who prefers pub crawls to walking tours and local beer to local cuisine, and you have an indestructible liver, an Australian tour operator has created what may be the perfect trip for you. The Around the World in 60 Pubs trip is a month-long, alcohol-drenched tour of the world’s hottest party places. Destinations include Munich, Germany; Prague, Czech Republic; the Thai island of Phuket; and Cancun, Mexico.

The tour’s operator, Thirsty Swagman, specializes in “thirsty tours;” besides the round-the-world venture, the company also offers a 10-day “Euro Hard ‘n’ Fast” power pub crawl as well as one Australian trip named the “Slammer.”

Although the website claims the “Around the World in 60 Pubs” is “one tour you’ll never forget,” I have a suspicion that it might be one that many of its participants barely remember.

National Animals from Around the World

Six countries around the world have the eagle as their national animal: Albania, Germany, and Nigeria each share the regular, run-of-the-mill eagle, while Mexico, Poland, and the United States associate themselves with the Golden Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, and Bald Eagle (pictured), respectively.

Five countries each honor the lion as a political symbol: Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Singapore, and Sri Lanka, while three countries chose the tiger: Bangladesh (Royal Bangal), India (Bengal), and South Korea (Amur). Finland and Russia are bears. Oh my!

Aside from the aforementioned eagles, many nations elect birds to represent their political drive:

  • Estonia: Barn Swallow
  • France: Gallic Rooster
  • Guyana: Canje Pheasant
  • Iceland: Falcon
  • Japan: Japanese Pheasant
  • Venezuela: Turpial
  • New Zealand: Kiwi (pictured)
  • Chile: Condor
  • Columbia: Condor
  • Malta: Blue Rock Thrush
  • Pakistan: Markhor
  • Peru: Vicuña

Surprisingly, Spain’s national animal is the bull. You’d think they would have picked an animal that isn’t routinely killed for fun. It would be like the United States holding a week-long festival where revelers are encouraged to jump into a giant cage filled with rabid bald eagles. Spectators would then be urged to goad the eagles until they either lose interest and fly off, die, or forcibly insert their beaks into the eyes of their torturers. What fun!

The Chinese had a hard time deciding on which animal to choose to represent their country, so they went with three: the Chinese Dragon, the Crane, and the Giant Panda. It’s tough to call a the Chinese Dragon an animal, however, because it’s mythical. The Giant Panda is very real, and very endangered, with an estimated 2,000 left in the entire world. They’re also what’s known as a living fossil, which is “an informal term for any living species (or clade) of organism which seems to be the same as a species otherwise only known from fossils and has no close living relatives,” according to Wikipedia.

And let’s not forget these other countries and their national animals, many of which I had never heard of until now:

  • Belarus — Wisent (bison)
  • Bhutan — Takin (goat-antelope thing)
  • Botswana — Zebra
  • Cambodia — Kouprey (ox)
  • Finland — Brown Bear
  • Vietnam — Water Buffalo
  • Nepal — Cow
  • South Africa — Springbok (gazelle)
  • Ireland — Stag (deer)
  • Canada — Beaver
  • Honduras — White-tailed Deer
  • Italy — Italian Wolf
  • Moldova — Auroch (bovidae)
  • Namibia — Oryx (antelope)
  • omania — Lynx (cat, pictured)
  • Philippines — Carabao (water buffalo)
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis — Vervet Monkey
  • Thailand — Thai elephant
  • Turkey — Grey Wolf
  • Peru: Vicuña


Riding a Penny Farthing Around the World

Joff Summerfield is biking around the world. Not only is his feat impressive — to date, he’s already cycled more than 8400 miles! — but he’s doing it on a 19th century penny farthing bicycle, one of those bikes that boast a front wheel with a 47-inch diameter; sport a tiny little nubbin of a back wheel; and has neither chains nor gears. Much like Rosie O’Donnell, he’s top-heavy and dangerous.

Wearing a traditional English pith helmet, Summerfield left London on May 1, 2006. Since then, he traversed Europe before crapping out from dysentery and altitude sickness in the Middle East. As such, he had to pause his trip to recover. Now healthy, in November, he returned to Oceania to keep pedaling.

Currently in China, Summerfield plans to cover 36 miles each day while spending under $10 a day. (Maybe Ember‘ll buy him lunch.) On such a restrictive budget, Summerfield is forced to sleep in a tent, cook on a stove, and slurp from water bottles. He plans to spend 6 months in China, Myanmar, and Hong Kong before heading to North America.

For some pretty amazing pictures from his journey, check out his website.