How to Step Foot on All 7 Continents in Just 3 Trips
by Mike Richard
Editor's note: This is a guest post by Allison Hollins - a project manager at Fly.com, a website that scans the best airfare deals on the internet. She lived in Hong Kong as a child and has been an avid traveler ever since. She’s visited five continents and hopes to make it to all seven at some point in her lifetime. She currently lives near New York City.
Visiting all seven continents can seem like an unattainable goal. But with some savvy planning, you can hit all of them in just three trips. Assuming that the majority of people reading this reside in North America – you’ve already got one continent under your belt (and likely a couple more from past travels).
Check the rest from your list and save some money along the way with these vacation planning strategies.
Europe & Africa
You can easily stop off in both Europe and Africa in a single vacation that requires just one roundtrip flight. The trip includes Spain’s southern coast and Tangier, Morocco. It might not be the African-safari adventure you had envisioned, but you’ll step foot in an exotic North African city and soak up some sun at incredible Spanish beaches along the way.
First, fly to Malaga, Spain. This requires at least one connection in Europe on major carriers. You could also opt to fly to Madrid or Barcelona first and then make your way south. Eventually, you want to end up in Tarifa on the southernmost tip of Spain, where daily ferries run to Tangier, Morocco. You can easily take just a day trip to Tangier, or spend a couple nights before heading back to Spain.
If you are visiting the south of Spain, you’d want to go during a time that you can take advantage of the Mediterranean beaches. The peak summer months (June-August) and very crowded, thus driving up the cost of flights and accommodations. However, if you visit sometime in September and October the weather is still warm enough for sunbathing (temps in mid 70s) and you’ll likely be able to find cheap flights, better hotel deals and quieter beaches.
South America & Antarctica
Dance the tango in Buenos Aires and then spot penguins in the South Pole. Two very different experiences wrapped into one trip. Antarctica cruises from Argentina are becoming increasingly popular. In fact, Antarctica made The New York Times’ list of “The 45 Places to Go in 2012.”
A popular way to take this trip is to fly to Buenos Aires and spent a couple nights in town before catching an internal flight to Ushuaia on Argentina’s southernmost tip. Most of the smaller ships that sail to Antarctica depart out of Ushuaia. Taking a smaller ship (less than 100 passengers) is a good option if you are interested in shore landings in Antarctica, since groups of more than 100 passengers are prohibited from going ashore at one time (passengers go in shifts).
Or, if you’d rather enjoy Antarctica from the deck of your cruise ship, several large vessels do “cruise-only” trips to Antarctica directly from Buenos Aires. With this option you avoid the extra flight to the port in Ushuaia … but you don’t actually “step foot” in the South Pole.
The best time to go is January or February. This is Argentina’s summer and also tourist season in Antarctica. The weather in Antarctica during these month isn’t as cold as most would think. Temps range from 30 degrees to the low 40s (warmer than most places in the U.S. during the winter).
Unfortunately, flights to South America aren’t cheap. From New York City, expect to pay around $1000-$1200 roundtrip with tax to get to Buenos Aires, $1300-$1400 from Los Angeles. However, the favorable exchange rates in Argentina help offset the pricey airfare. At the time this article was written, one U.S. dollar gets you nearly five Argentinian pesos. Drink malbec wine, dine at upscale Argentinian steakhouses and see the sights all for a fraction of what you’d expect to pay.
The cost of Antarctica cruises varies greatly based on the type of cruise ship and itinerary. A cabin on a small ship starts at $5,000 per person. Large vessel ships with departures out of Buenos Aires are less expensive (around $2,000 per person) but are longer and make multiple stops in South America.
Asia & Australia
Due to the long distance and expense of getting to Asia or Australia, it makes sense to combine the two trips into one if you’re interested in visiting both destinations.
There are dozens of itinerary options. If you are planning the trip on your own, you might want to check out some of the air passes different airlines offer so that you can visit multiple cities and save on flights. Virgin Australia has an air pass that allows you to fly to several cities within Australia and Asia starting at about $100 per flight, get more details here. The oneworld alliance has a similar pass for travel within Asia, the Visit Asia Pass covers 50 cities and offer the flexibility of leaving your segments open-dated.
This is definitely the type of trip that you’ll want to dedicate a couple weeks to as a lot of time will be spent in the sky (and adjusting to different time zones). Let’s say you decide to visit Hong Kong and Sydney, the flight time between the two cities is nine hours.
The best time to travel depends on what you’d like to get out of the trip. You’ll find better airfare deals from the U.S. to Asia during the winter, but keep in mind cities like Shanghai and Beijing will be quite cold. The nice thing is that you can warm up in Australia afterwards, where the summer months take place from December-February.
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About the Author
Vagabondish founding editor, Mike Richard, is a Rhode Island native, professional web designer and travel junkie with an unhealthy addiction to backpacking, hiking and seeing the world. He enjoys knit hats, small, declarative sentences and speaking in the third person. His professional credits include "Woman's World magazine contributor" and having once been interviewed by Tyra Banks (seriously).