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The Traveller's Magazine
  •   5 min read

Round-the-world trips can take years to plan and especially to save up for. They are huge investments but that last a lifetime. If quitting your day-job, cutting your ties, selling your possessions, packing your entire life in a backpack, travelling the world appeals to you, listen up!

Once you’ve got the idea of taking off on a global adventure a lot of questions start coming up, where to start, what to pack, how much money will I need, etc. No one can answer all these questions but there’s always a place to start. Whether your trip is just around the corner or years away, there’s never a better time to start that check-list and brainstorming and getting your head around what will most likely be one of the most memorable times of your life. These tips at least will get you started.

1. Where to go, what to see

1000 places to see before you die

Make a list of your priority destinations, sights, experiences you’ve always dreamt of having. Sort them by region and don’t hold back. Chances are though that you won’t be able to see and do everything there is to see/do but it’s a good start to know first what you want to see in different regions of the world and where you want to go. Next comes research, find out when is the best time of year to visit the places you want to visit. Monsoon season, intolerable heat, sub-zero temperatures might be things you want to avoid… unless you’re into having an “extreme” trip.

2. How long will your trip be

Are you willing to cut loose from your home life and just take off for a year, maybe even two or more years? Is living the vagabond life for you? Maybe you just have three months to spare or as little as a couple weeks to cover one region. From the notes you made on destinations, decide how long you’d like to spend (approximately of course, since plans do change) in each place. Do you need 2 days or 1 week in Peru to see Machu Picchu and other sites? Obviously the most sites you’d like to see in a country, the more time you’ll need to spend there. Add up the times for each place you’d written down and you’ve got your trip length… is it reasonable?

3. The big B: budget

Travel budget

Money matters while on the road. You’ll need to find out now general costs of accommodations, travel and food in each of the places you’d like to visit. Ask other travellers on the web what their average daily costs were in places they visited. What costs £5 in one country might cost £20 in another. Budget for additional costs like special tours and events, as well for personal supplies and emergencies. Once you have an average daily budget for each region of the world, add it all up and multiply by the number of days you plan to travel. How much times would it take to save this kind of cash?

4. RTW airline tickets

Whether you choose to search for your own cheap flights from point A to point B and along the way or you use a travel agency, can help you search for the best airline to get you there according to your budget. All major airline alliances offer round-the-world tickets, some fairly standard while others quite flexible. They are the most cost effective though. Find out about the terms and conditions of the tickets though, usually there’s no backtracking allowed.

5. Health insurance

You want to be covered while on the road, there’s no doubt about that. If you don’t already have a travel insurance policy you need to look into getting one. Reading the fine print is the most important part of this as some plans only cover trips up to 90 days while others for longer. Make sure the plan covers: medical costs, hospitalisation, lost luggage, repatriation and the cost of flying home in case of emergency. These aren’t things you plan for so being covered is the best prevention. Will you need vaccinations for your destinations or special medications like malaria pills? These are best received while at home before you depart.

6. Spontaneity versus over-planning

detour ahead

There is a certain romance attached to round-the-world travel and your plans might take a sudden turn. Some travellers definitely enjoy having day to day planned while others just leave it up to chance. There is a healthy medium though. You do need to book some things in advance like flights, some accommodation and major tours you plan to do. You might discover a new place while on the road, meaning taking a small detour, putting back your itinerary a few days. Flexibility and having room to breathe are both key.

7. Accommodation

There are a lot of choices when it comes to places to stay abroad: hotels, hostels, apartments, couch surfing, camping, etc. If there is a specific hotel you’d like to stay at, jot it down an the cost per night. Sometimes youth hostels are the best option, especially in south-east Asia and even parts of Europe where they’re especially cheap. Sometimes you might have no other choice than to stay in the city’s only hotel. Couch surfing is a fun and generally risk-free way to meet new people and have the chance to stay in a local’s or expat’s place.

8. Packing

There is a popular travel quote from Susan Heller, “When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money.  Then take half the clothes and twice the money.” There are no wiser words when it comes to packing. Essentials will include: quick-dry towel, sturdy walking shoes and a good quality backpack. Chances are where you travel there’ll be shampoo, toothpaste and deodorant so keep your toiletry back light. Remember there are also washing machines abroad so keep it simple. Packing tips are easy to come by.

9. Keeping in touch

Wi-fi is easy to find nowadays in developed cities. Don’t expect to find it in the far reaches of the Amazon but most airports and train/bus terminals have wi-fi access nowadays. Internet cafés are widespread and reasonably cheap so sending emails, Facebook messages and getting some face time on Skype isn’t that difficult. Make sure though that you do leave a detailed itinerary with your family and friends back home and do your parent’s nerves a favour and check in every once in a while.

10. Enjoy the planning process

For some, research and organising travel details is a nightmare but this is your trip and taking enough time to plan properly will never go overlooked. Cover all the bases and don’t miss a single details. When choosing your destinations, don’t be afraid to look into countries you know nothing about… Lichtenstein may be small but it’s got a lot of character! Ask, ask, ask for recommendations. #Traveltuesday on Twitter is a wealth of information, follow the hashtag and be inspired.

Have you planned your own RTW trip? Share your own advice, what did you go to get ready and how long did it take? What did you overlook and what did you over-plan?

Imgs: thumb: mocvdleung / 1000: / money: gagilas / detour: idovermani, Flickr cc.

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3 responses to “10 tips on planning a RTW trip: where to start?

  1. Never really thought about water filtration but you're totally right, especially in more under-developed areas I can imagine it would come in very handy. is also a really good way to get in touch with locals, not just for accommodations but for sightseeing or just a coffee/drink.

  2. I have yet to go on my first RTW trip, but when I do it will definitely involve meeting up with locals. For that I would probably just use I would also look into a good portable water purification system; I just read about something called a steriPEN.

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