Travel the World: RTW Trips for Empty Nesters

Something occurred to me during the many conversations I had with my husband and son as he was getting ready to head to college. I realized I am going to be an empty nester. My son will be off to college. Wait! My son will be off to college so, now I’ve begun daydreaming about how this will allow me to travel more.

I have hope my son will continue to find time to travel during college and think about a study abroad program. We have talked a lot about a gap year for him to travel the world.

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around the world travel

Should he take the gap year after high school and before college? Should he take it after he finishes college? Does it have to be a full year? Could it be a semester off from college or even just a few months?

Why are gap years geared towards young adults? What about an empty nester gap year? Or gap month or three months?

As I mentioned, many students take a gap year to travel around the world somewhere between high school and finishing college or between college and starting a career.

travel the world

I was no exception. I took two trips after college, and both focused on travel in Europe. On my first trip, I spent 9 months in Europe and visited 8 countries. I also visited Turkey on this trip, so technically I also made my way to Asia.

My next trip was three months traveling in Europe and I visited 6 countries. On both of these trips, I carried a backpack around Europe and stayed in hostels. They were both completely budget-driven experiences.

RTW for Empty Nesters

rtw trip

Now that I’m entering a new phase of my life, instead of backpacking around Europe or Asia as a twenty-something, I’m ready for a different kind of adventure.

I hear my GenX contemporaries talk about a trip of a lifetime after retirement. I’d like to re-define what a trip of a lifetime is. For me, it’s not one destination, it’s to travel around the world!

Sure, there are lots of locations and experiences on my travel bucket list. Why can’t I plan a trip longer than 10 days in Europe or Bali or South Africa? What if, for about the same amount of money, I could create a flight itinerary to visit many locations?

Until recently, I didn’t know that much about Round the World Travel (RTW travel). But, now I’m jumping in with two feet to learn about this kind of travel and how I can see more of the world.

There were a couple of things that held me back from researching RTW travel until now. 1) I assumed it was going to be very expensive. 2) I thought it was meant for long-term travel — at least 6 months or more.

Here is my challenge to myself and you!

Why not take your travel bucket list and turn it into an RTW trip? That is exactly what I’m starting to contemplate! Yes, it’s going to be my empty nester RTW Trip! I know how I can truly make this happen.

I could try to do a trip to Europe this year, a trip to SE Asia next year, visit Africa the year after and so on. Or, I can create an itinerary where I can hop around the globe visiting some of my dream locations during one trip. The beauty of an RTW trip is that I can travel at a quick pace or as slow as I want!

I recently partnered with AirTreks as an ambassador and I’m super excited to share their tools with you as well as an ongoing series about planning my own RTW travel adventure.

You can create a sample RTW itinerary with the Airtreks trip planner below:


Plan a trip of a lifetime! You can research thousands of flight combinations to
create one-of-a-kind routes for your next round-the-world trip.

Start by simply adding your departure location below:

What is Around the World Travel?

RTW travel is combining multiple locations into one trip. It can be a fast-paced trip where you spend a few days in each location. Or it can be a slower trip, where you spend a week or more in each location. Depending on your style of travel, you can customize your trip based on locations and how long you stay in each location.

What is an RTW Ticket?

rtw ticket

RTW tickets enable travelers to fly around the world for a relatively low price. According to Airtreks, an around the world ticket provider, unless you take a trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic flight, you haven’t technically taken an around-the-world trip.

But, you don’t have to travel around the world to take advantage of these multi-stop flights!

How Long Is an RTW Trip?

I’ve always thought of a Round the World trip as a gap year. But in turns out, they can be anywhere from 3 weeks to as long as you want. They can even be 52 days!

How Expensive are RTW Tickets?

Cost really depends on how many flights and where you are flying. You can find multi-stop tickets for as low as $1,200, for a three-stop trip! Prices may seem more expensive than regular one-stop flights, but when you compare it to individual tickets to each destination, it is much cheaper.

How to Choose an RTW Route

You can choose a route based on a theme, such as wine regions around the world. You can choose one location on each continent. Or you can simply choose the places you’ve always dreamed of visiting. RTW tickets can be anything and everything you want.

RTW Examples

  • Los Angeles – Paris – Berlin – Stockholm – Bangkok – Singapore – Tokyo – Los Angeles for as little as $1350
  • Miami – Cartagena – Bogota – Rio de Janeiro – Cuzco – Lima – Miami for as little as $1375
  • New York City – Bordeaux – Frankfurt – Milan – Florence – Barcelona – Porto – New York City for as little as $1560
  • Los Angeles – Auckland – Sydney – Seoul – Beijing – Berlin – Edinburgh – Reykjavik – Los Angeles for as little as $2965

Airtreks has 30+ additional RTW itineraries examples as well as a trip planner where you can create your own trip from scratch

How to Book an RTW Ticket

A round-the-world ticket — sometimes referred to as RTW — is typically offered by an alliance of airlines.

There are a few options when it comes to booking an RTW ticket. You can book directly with one of the two big airline groups; Star Alliance or One World. These two round the world ticket providers are also the two largest airline alliances in the world. There is a third alliance option, which is Sky Team, but they have more limited flight options.

Another alternative is using an around-the-world ticket expert like Airtreks. This is the company I plan to use for researching and booking my first RTW flight.

Airtreks are experts and operate differently than airline alliances. Airtreks creates an RTW ticket by finding the best individual airline tickets based on the lowest available fares.

How to Plan an RTW Trip in 13 Steps

  1. Research the different airline groups and companies offering RTW tickets. As I said, I’m planning to use Airtreks.
  2. Determine who you are traveling with or are you going solo?
  3. Determine your budget for airline tickets and daily expenses.
  4. Determine how long you can or want to travel.
  5. Choose your route and destinations you want to visit.
  6. Buy your around the world ticket.
  7. Apply for Visas. If you are a U.S. Citizen here is a list of countries that require a Visa.
  8. Book accommodations
  9. Research each destination to have an idea of what you want to do. Don’t over plan. You want plenty of time for unexpected discoveries.
  10. Get any Immunizations (travel vaccines) you need. Here is one immunization resource.
  11. Buy travel insurance for your RTW trip. World Nomads offers long-term travel insurance that includes medical, cancellation of flights or hotels, luggage/baggage, 24/7 worldwide assistance.
  12. Pack for your trip (I’ll be adding an article on this step shortly)!
  13. Bon Voyage! Experience your own empty-nester RTW Trip!

I’m currently working on steps two, three, four and five. I think the hardest step for me will be choosing my route. I have the problem of wanting to go everywhere! Ultimately, it will depend if I do this trip solo I’d have one itinerary. If I take this trip with my husband or a friend the final itinerary will be quite different.

So, who is on board? Are you ready to plan your RTW trip? Let me know in the comments.

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One Comment

  1. Your RTW in 52 days is very topical for us – we are planning a 70 day RTW trip in winter of 2020. Its going to be a spectacular adventure. We are going to circumnavigate the southern hemisphere from our home base in Toronto. Brazil, South Africa, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, French Polynesia. Maybe Madagascar. Any suggestions on destinations and local highlights would be much appreciated.

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