territories challenge

We’ve all heard of the challenge of collecting each and every U.S. state and if you are a stateside reader of this blog, I’m sure you’ve been keeping up with your own personal tally.

Outside of merely grabbing all 50 within one’s lifetime, there have been attempts at nabbing the “lower 48”, the “continental 49” or all 50 within a set time constraint – usually falling between 6-10 days. Want examples? How about the 48-state record of 97 hours and seven minutes. The 49-state attempts are referred to as “48 Plus!” by the famed Iron Butt Association. Barry Stiefel visited all 50 states in “a week’s vacation” from work and also managed to visit 21 states in one 26-hour day (benefiting from both a time zone change and daylight savings time).

It made me wonder if anyone has attempted to visit all the U.S. territories – at least the five most prominent ones – in record time? And what exactly would that record time be?

Of course, it would require flying. American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands. Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are all, well, islands… I suppose one could take a boat between Guam and the Marianas as well as between Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, but (as of now) I’m not sure if that would help make any itinerary go quicker.

Firstly, any record attempt would be purely for self-acclaimed notoriety (what else would any of these “record” attempts be worth?). This one is potentially even more sillier than the 50-state attempt as one would constantly be airport-bound at all these beautiful island destinations, essentially a multi-thousand dollar “kiss-and-ride” expenditure. But, for those crazies, here’s what I dreamt up…

We start on the night of June 24, 2013. I suppose we could start on any day, but I just picked that day. The best place to start seems to be Pago Pago – the capital of far-flung American Samoa. For your sanity, I hope you began with a nice vacation in American Samoa, to prep for this absolutely insane itinerary.

From Pago Pago we head to Honolulu where the next flight to Guam gives you a nice eight-hour layover in Hawai’i’s capital. You’ll then get to Guam on a 6:00 p.m. Wednesday after crossing the International Date Line. From there it’s a quick flight to Saipan that gets you into the Northern Marianas by 9:10 p.m. You can finally catch a break and grab a bed in Saipan for the night.

The next day you’ll be shuttled back to Guam (I couldn’t find a flight to Saipan soon enough on the previous day, or else a Saipan direct from Honolulu might make more sense). From there the quickest itinerary actually takes you to Tokyo, then an overnight haul to Houston, then Atlanta before finally touching down in San Juan, Puerto Rico at 10:59 p.m. on Thursday. Yes, that’s four layovers with a total combined layover time of 5 hours and 32 minutes – good luck making every flight!

At least you can sleep for a little bit. On Friday morning you’ll have an early and quick flight to St. Thomas – the capital of the U.S. Virgin Islands. With a scheduled landing of 8:04 a.m. you’d have visited all five U.S. territories in 3 days, 8 hours and 44 minutes (not to mention $3,390 of airline ticket costs)! Order up some plantains for breakfast and enjoy yourself!

I had some help with Google Flights, but maybe you can do better? Here’s the full itinerary below…




  1. I had a friend who worked out of an office in San Francisco and had to periodically visit a smaller office in Guam. He found it more convenient to fly direct to Toyko, stay overnight, and then fly to Guam rather than try to get there via Honolulu. As you discovered, sometimes the straightest path isn’t the most efficient.

  2. There was a recent article in USA Today in which the writer tried (in vain) to visit Guam and the Northern Marianas without the use of a passport. To do this, she booked the direct from Honolulu – which is far more costly and apparently doesn’t have as regular a schedule as departures from Tokyo (which serves as a hotbed for Guam/Marianas tourists). Oh, and technically you don’t need a passport as an American, but they generally ask for it anyway due to most tourists arriving from (or through) another country.

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