Meet Jenny McIver the founder and the author at Round The World in 30 Days blog sharing with us her travel experience around the globe. Her first RTW trip was love at first flight and quickly turned into an annual event once she realized that it wasn’t that hard to plan,it wasn’t as expensive as she thought it might be and it was unbelievably, life-alteringly, amazing!. You can follow her blog on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram
First of all, tell us a little bit about yourself
I’m Jenny McIver. Atlanta-based road warrior, globetrotter and author of “The Grown-Up’s Guide to Globetrotting.” Ten years ago while on a business trip, I came across a newspaper article about a man who took a year-long trip around the world on a single airline ticket. I don’t know why but the idea just struck me like a ton of bricks. I’d never heard of “RTW” tickets but I started looking into them the next day and discovered that I had more than enough miles to book one through Delta’s Skyteam Alliance. I couldn’t take a year without sacrificing my career but I decided to do a month. Exactly one year later I departed on my first 30-day trip around the world and this year I’m planning my 10th for January 2015. To date, I’ve visited and written about more than 155 countries on all 7 continents.
What gave you the inspiration to start your blog?
I started blogging long before I actually realized that’s what it was called. With my first round-the-world trip in 2006, I used a site called MyTripJournal.com to keep an online journal of my travels, mainly just so I could share photos with family and friends, keep them updated on my location and have something to help me remember all the little details of the trip. (Remember, this was back before the whole world was on Facebook.) When I decided to do the trip again the following year, I again used the MyTripJournal site but by Round the World #3, I knew this was going to be an annual event so I decided it was time to transition to my own site. Thus, RTWin30days.com was born in 2008 and I’ve been blogging about my travels there ever since.
What is it about travel that has you so obsessed about it?
It’s funny, the more of the world I see, the more I want to see. You don’t realize just how big the world is until you get out there and start exploring it. And travel (especially round-the-world travel) has definitely become a passion for me. In 2009 I realized one 30-day trip a year just wasn’t enough anymore so I started a mid-year edition. Not a RTW, but a month-long trip focused on a certain region of the world. That summer was “Europe in 30 Days” I’ve also done Central America, the Himalayas and the Balkans in 30 days each on subsequent summers.
What have been your favorite places that you’ve visited so far?
My all-time favorite is Antarctica and I can’t imagine that any place will ever surpass it. It’s the closest you can get to visiting another planet and it was just a uniquely special and surreal experience. My other favorites are Easter Island and Aitutaki in the Cook Islands. I also love the Maldives, Laos, the Greek Islands and just about everywhere in Thailand.
I noticed you mentioned travel isn’t expensive, how to you fund your travels?
My round-the-world trips are primarily funded by my business travel-accrued airline miles and hotel points. I use my Delta miles for a business-class RTW ticket each year and my accumulated hotel points cover about half of the hotel costs. That helps a lot. That said, you don’t need miles to do a RTW trip affordably. RTW tickets are an incredible value for anyone and I’ve seen them on sites like Airtreks.com and Bootsnall.com for as little as $2,000 (which is almost what I paid just for my coach flight to China last summer). Choosing inexpensive destinations is a great cost saver, too. In South America, Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe, your money will stretch a lot farther than at home. South Africa is a deal right now, too, thanks to the rand’s drop against the dollar. I was just there last month and I was shocked at how much cheaper it was than on my first visit in 2006.
What are the most effective ways you limit costs when traveling?
Miles and hotel points are the biggest thing. But I also spend a good amount of time figuring out the least expensive order to visit several countries in a region – where are the cheap direct flights? Or inexpensive train routes, for example. Each big trip is like putting together a puzzle. You have to find the least expensive way to make the pieces fit. I also love taking advantage of low-cost carriers around the world and have done dozens of flights for less than $50 in various countries. Buses and trains aren’t always the cheapest form of transportation!
Are there any budget travel strategies that you tried but decided weren’t for you?
Hostels aren’t for me. Budget airlines, yes. But hostels, no. I do love a nice bargain hotel, though. With budget airlines like Easy Jet and Air Asia, I always pay the extra money for early boarding and assigned seats when available. It makes me feel like I’m flying a full-service airline even when I’m on a super cheap fare.
What do you mean by “being on the road for business”?
I own an event management business and travel frequently to manage large conventions and trade shows. My primary client, however, is a major sports television network and I travel weekly for them during college football season. Overall, I travel for business more than half the year.
Do you take advantage of airline credit cards to save on flights? If so, which card do you use?
Absolutely! I’m an Atlanta-based frequent flier so Delta is my program. I have two Delta Skymiles American Express cards, one business and one personal. Those cards help me earn miles for my RTW tickets. I also carry the Chase Sapphire card and I’ve used their Ultimate Rewards program to book flights on airlines all over the world.
What places are still on your bucket list?
The Arctic to see the Northern Lights. Visiting all 50 US states (believe it or not, I’m still about 6 short). The Marquesas, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Kenya…so many places! And there are dozens of places I can’t wait to return to someday.
Of all the places you traveled to, what was your favorite?
Antarctica, hands down. Mykonos, Greece is also a very special place to me, it was the first place I visited overseas and I loved it so much I’ve been back 7 times. I like to think it was that little island that first inspired my wanderlust.
Do you have any major travel regrets?
Not starting when I was younger! While some of my peers were taking gap years to travel, I was building a career. I didn’t get my first passport until I was 26 for that trip to Greece. I don’t necessarily regret the choice because it got me to where I am today but I think I would have loved backpacking around Europe as a 20-year-old. What an incredible learning experience it would have been.
Aside from traveling, what’s the best general advice you want to pass to people?
Don’t assume you’re going to have the time or money “someday” to travel. Travel NOW. You never know what will happen down the road. People always say they want to travel but most never really do. They take the traditional, single destination vacation each year and wonder why they’re not making any progress on their Bucket List. Change the way you think about travel. Take that two weeks and go around the world! It’s easier and more affordable than you think.