This is the second post on a RTW planning series.
You have the inspiration to do a round the world trip (RTW), right? Why not turn it into something tangible and real by starting the planning stage?!
This is the overwhelming stage, as you’re going to be digging into books, blogs, articles, guides, and websites that have all the information you’ll need to plan your trip.
Now the common question is, where to start?
It’s pretty common to start with one of the two most important aspects of a RTW: destinations and budget.
You can start with either one of those, but I like starting with the destinations, as they are deeply related to the inspiration that is driving the trip. The destinations and duration can later be modified when compared to a realistic budget.
So, let’s start with destinations for now, and I’ll promise we’ll get to budgeting in the next post.
Here are a few important things to take into consideration when deciding where to travel in your RTW:
Must-Sees and Must-Dos
This is one of the main reasons why you’re traveling, right? To see the places you’ve dreamt about for so long and to do the things you’ve been piling in your bucket list.
The reality is that while a RTW tends to be long-term travel it is just not possible to see everything in one trip, so we have to choose wisely.
Do a list of the main things you want to do and places you want to see. You might want to categorize them in musts and would love to. This will help you decide later on which things/places to take out when your plan starts getting in shape.
Also, note in which countries these activities and sights are and map them. You might find that most of them could be in one or two continents or nearby regions. This will help you decide which regions your RTW could focus on and possibly which route to take.
Estimate how much money you will have to do your RTW. It could be $10K, $20K, or whatever amount, but you have to be clear on your estimated budget at the time you start your trip and how it is represented in a realistic travel itinerary.
We’ll get into more detail about budgeting for your RTW in the next post, but in general, your total budget is one of the most important factors that will help you determine where to go, when to go, and what to do.
As an example, this post shares how I traveled for a year with $18,000, and this other post shares the cost of three years of travel.
Not all destinations cost the same. While you might survive two months in India with $1,500 or less, it is possible that you won’t even last two weeks in Japan with the same amount.
You can decide to extend your length of travel by visiting cheaper countries and traveling slow or overland, or you can decide to keep it short.
In the end, you have to understand the average cost of each destination you’re interested in visiting to establish the approximate time you’ll spend in each place, the transportation costs between places, accommodations, among other things, to get an idea of how much a trip like this will cost and how it compares to your budget.
Also, there are budget alternatives to expensive destinations that could give you a similar experience.
I recommend using budget your trip to get a very rough estimate of the cost per day in many countries around the world.
How much time can you spend traveling? Weeks, months, a year, or more? Usually, Americans have only two weeks of vacation to dedicate to travel, while other nationalities might have 2 or even 3 months.
Depending on how long can you commit to the trip will somewhat dictate where to go and how many places to visit. Usually, quick trips tend to be more expensive per day since more things and activities are packed per day.
Along with time, your travel method will dictate how many places to visit and where to go. Do you plan on doing everything overland? In this case, you would possibly be concentrating in a region and keep things cheaper.
Do you plan to fly? You could visit more places in a shorter period, but your budget might get consumed with airfares.
It’s also important to know that travel options and timeframes vary drastically depending on countries and even continents.
For example, train travel in Europe is accessible, affordable, and fast; on the other hand, train travel in Africa might be at a decent price but extremely slow and unreliable. You should take these factors into account when planning.
While this is not so common to think about, on certain occasions there is an important logistics in visiting certain countries.
For example; when traveling through the Middle East, if you’re interested in visiting Lebanon and Israel, you should know that you must visit Lebanon first and then Israel.
If you do it the other way, once you’re at the Lebanon border your Israeli stamp will prevent you to enter the country (this also happens with a few other Middle Eastern countries).
There are other logistic details to take into consideration, but these should be verified once you have your ideal list of places.
For American citizens, it is always good to check the Travel Section of the Department of State website for up-to-date information on travel requirements, visas, passports, and current alerts.
Do you plan to chase the sun year-long to be in warm weather all the time, or are you looking for some wintertime too? It is always good to know what’s the weather like at the time of year you expect to be at the destination. This could help dictate the type of activities you’ll do and what to pack.
In addition to what’s listed above, there are many more factors to consider, but these will help you start with a solid idea of how your RTW could look.
In the end, don’t get too attached to that “perfect” itinerary because things will change before and during the trip. They always do!
Images 1, 2, 3, and 4 from Flickr’s Creative Commons.
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I tend to make no itinerary on my travels. It’s a one of my bad habit, or just I have too much trust in this world. Verdict? I did not fail. Everywhere I go was full of surprises and joyous moment. But yes, we need to plan for sure.
What I like to do is just set up a vague plan. But I know people who plan out every little detail. I admire that sometimes. 🙂
I tend to plan up to a degree to have an idea of what I can do and where… but then I kinda throw it away and let flexibility and spontaneity rule the trip. 🙂 Like you said, everywhere is full of surprises, so it is almost inevitable to change plans before and during the trip.
Not planning is my best travel tip. Work out the broad strokes, but be open to all possibilities. One of the best months of my life came from meeting some great people over a few beers in Kuala Lumpur. I woke up with a hangover, and a plane ticket! Fantastic!
haha! Good way to wake up! Yes, it’s good to have a general plan, but the detail always go out the window once you start your trip. I just left on my RTW and EVERYTHING has changed from what I ideally planned in the beginning.
I some what agree with you that before visiting a place, especially if you are traveling solo, you must know about the place well in advance. Anyways I am visiting Aruba this march. Any tips?
Hmmm, On Aruba… my best tip is to hit the beaches and chill out!