Around the World On $50 A Day

| Intro | London | Dublin | Paris | Budapest | St.Petersburg | Moscow | Frankfurt | Zurich | Delhi | Hong Kong | SF |

Tour Ledger

$2262 Basic airfare from San Francisco to San Francisco

Via London, Budapest, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Frankfurt, Zurich, Delhi, and Hong Kong, booked through Delta Airlines and carried on Virgin Atlantic, Swiss Air, Delta, and Air Singapore; with side trips

$226 to Dublin, per person, via British Midland, and
$98 to Paris, per person, via the Eurostar "Chunnel" train from London

We also spent:

$25 each on the train from St. Petersburg to Moscow
$25 each on the taxi from Moscow to the Sheremeyevo airport
$102 each on a private car hire from Delhi to the Taj Mahal at Agra and back to the Delhi International Airport


$32 each for a Gray Line tour of Hong Kong Island.
$2770 TOTAL for all air and ground transportation, excluding transit under $15 per person. PLUS:
$843 ALL OTHER daily expenditures excluding souvenirs and personal property

divided by 20 days = $42.15 per day


[divided by 20 days = $186.50 per day]

Introduction Come fly with us!

Bob and Jon Kennedy in Hong KongMy brother Bob (67 and retired), and I (about to turn 54) decided to see "the world" on an economy budget within my three-week vacation from my job as executive editor of a community newspaper group in San Jose. This was by far the most adventurous trip either of us had ever taken. I'd been on a group tour of England, Wales, and Ireland two years earlier and had been to Geneva, Paris, Amsterdam, and Rome 30 years earlier as a public relations functionary for a world congress in Geneva. Bob's international travel had been to Mexico while living in California and to some Caribbean islands while on duty with the air force just after World War Two.

We were inspired to undertake such an adventure by an ad I'd seen in a travel publication offering around-the-world itineraries for $2500, about the same as I'd spent for my British Isles trip in 1994 (though that included two meals a day and all hotels; this was airfare only). That 'round-the-world itinerary also included stops in Kenya and Nepal, which would have been excellent. It also (like ours) allowed unlimited time at each stop. But the downside was that from London to Hong Kong the flights were on Aeroflot, Air India, and Air Nepal, which my travel-agent friend, Judith Heilman, said she and the U.S. Government both decline to recommend. I asked Judith if she could come up with an approximation of that itinerary for about the same price and within my three weeks vacation time on "approved" airlines, and this is what we came up with.

We chose to travel "budget" not because our credit limits wouldn't have allowed us to pay off a more luxurious vacation over the next decade, but because that mode of travel has always been part of my basic philosophy. Many would rather not go at all than travel middle-to-low class. But to me, seeing the world—not being able to dream better dreams than I get at home because I'm on a $120-a-night mattress—is the point. We had no need to lack for anything we might want along the way, but neither was there any point in splurging. Sleeping is, in my opinion, just sleeping. I can do it—or not do it as is often the case—just as well on a hostel bed as one in a Regency Hotel. For my money, I'd rather take another vacation next year than spend next year's vacation money upgrading this year's tour.

Furthermore, I thought there might be a "market" for a trip journal of this sort on the Internet, and hence it would fill a need.

Though we didn't deprive ourselves, we did try to see how economically we could get by, in the hopes of opening a new travel frontier for many who might not otherwise think such a trip within their means. I, for one, didn't think it possible to go around the world for $2500 when I first saw that advertised. "Yeah? What's the catch," was my attitude. So the following gives as much economic detail as I was able to record, recall, or reconstruct. And this is an interactive forum—I encourage others who follow, or who preceded us, to share their information through emails which we will post and interactively link to these pages.

Only once, I feel, we may have made a mistake by not spending more. Yes, we visited Moscow without seeing the Kremlin and Red Square.... We probably should have hired a taxi before the one to the airport, but at the time—frustrated in our attempts to get there by subway, tour bus, or on foot—that option didn't occur to either of us. You'll get the details later....

On some days most of our expenses were included in the cost of our airfare. For example, there were no dinner or room costs for the first and last days, as they consisted of overnight flights with dinner shortly after take-off and breakfast just before landing.

San Francisco to London

Northern RouteThursday-Friday

I left San Francisco at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, May 2, due to arrive in London something like 10 hours later at 10 a.m. London time, May 3. I kept my watch on California time through the overnight Virgin Atlantic 747 flight via the arctic route crossing northeast Canada, Greenland, and Iceland, to keep track of the time-length of the journey.

My daughter Chris, granddaughter Brandi, and infant grandson Antony saw me off. I was scheduled to arrive at London's Heathrow International Airport within five minutes of my brother Bob, who was flying simultaneously via Virgin Atlantic from New York's Kennedy airport, having made the trip from Chicago's O'Hare earlier in the day (he lives 90 miles from O'Hare in Goshen, Indiana). We would be together from then on—more together than we'd ever been in our lives before. Thirteen years older than I, he was in the air force by the time I was five years old.

Through the Internet, I had found and booked rooms in Dublin, St. Petersburg, and Moscow. For the rest of our nights, including this first one in London, we were depending on the luck of the draw, not necessarily the most economical way to travel.

Here are some thoughts recorded in flight over the frozen north:

It's now just before midnight so we must be about two hours out of London. They haven't turned the "cabin" lights back on on the plane yet, so breakfast is still a while away. At home I'd be watching Jay Leno now. But we flew into darkness around 9 p.m. and into sunrise again about an hour ago. I managed to keep my eyes shut most of that time. But that's the closest to sleep I expect to get until Friday night in London.

Seatback TV Monitor These Virgin Atlantic jets are definitely a cut above the average. Tiny color TVs in every seatback (about three inches diagonal) with six channels of programming including movies like Leaving Las Vegas, Father of the Bride II, Dead Man Walking, and Othello, and television programs like Friends.... The "goodies" bag was also upper class (Virgin's term for "business class"), though it has no cologne to match a bottle I got on my Air France trans-Atlantic flight of 30 years ago.

And the dinner menu included three tasty-sounding choices: beef, chicken, and vegetarian au gourmet.

1:15. Breakfast is over. Corn flakes from Battle Creek, choice of blueberry muffin or croissant, citrus sections (two orange, two grapefruit), coffee. The offering is taken to teach teenagers and children avoidance of HIV and AIDS. Political correctness at 30,000 feet.

Touchdown: 2:10 a.m.; nine hours, 40 minutes from San Francisco.

    Daily expense tally—room, food, transit: $5 (SF airport incidentals)

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© Jon Kennedy 1996, 2009