In just a few weeks, Rainer Jenss and his family will begin their year-long around-the-world journey (which they'll be blogging about here on IT). The questions he's most often asked: How exactly do you actually plan such a trip? Here, Rainer gives us some of the lessons he's learned so far, and explains what, exactly is an ARUNK.
Designing an itinerary for an around-the-world trip for someone with wanderlust is like sending a kid into the proverbial candy store. Planet Earth has a ton of variety to choose from. You just can’t have too much too fast, or you might get a bellyache.
Step One: Find an airline network that suites your needs. We chose the Star Alliance program because it covers most of the destinations we are interested in and allows us to backtrack if need be (some programs require you to travel in one direction only, east or west). The rules are a bit challenging, but basically we need to start and end in the same country, travel for up to a maximum of one year, not exceed 39,000 miles, and fly no more than 16 segments. But here’s the catch: We have to be very mindful of the cities we select because if we don’t fly in and out of the same one, the miles between them go toward the 39,000 and count as a segment. For example, we want to enter China via Beijing and depart from Shanghai. But even though we don’t plan to actually fly from Beijing to Shanghai, the miles are added to the trip’s ‘odometer’ and a valuable segment (known as an ARUNK, or Arrival Unknown) is eaten up. This is a particularly important consideration, for if you take too many ARUNKS, it can limit the total number of destinations we can actually include in an itinerary.
Step Two: Get out the atlas, calendar, calculator, and travel books. Believe it or not, a year is way too short, and the world way too big, to do everything we want. In fact, we have to accept that one can’t see everything, even if Angkor Wat is right next door. We also made it a priority to allow the kids to be part of the process. Asking them which places they want to see and what things they hope to experience is important. For the record, Tyler chose Brazil because he studied it in school, and Stefan opted for Swaziland. Why? Simply because he liked the name! Both boys also really love seeing animals in the wild, so we’ve included plenty of time in Africa to satisfy that itch.
Step Three: Have fun planning. A colleague of mine who did the same thing (but for two years and with a three-year-old) gave me this wonderful piece of advice: Reading books, researching travel magazines, visiting national tourist boards, and asking people’s advice is a labor of love (there are other elements of planning that are not as enjoyable, but more on that topic later). Think of it as being a bit like Christmas: Preparing the list, buying the presents, and waiting with great anticipation for the big day to arrive can be as exciting as the event itself.
So, with only three weeks to go before the big day, I can tell you that we can’t wait for "Christmas" to arrive!
Rainer Jenss and his family will be blogging for Intelligent Travel throughout the course of their trip. Keep up with the Jensses by bookmarking their posts here.
Photo: Rainer Jenss