Organizing an around-the-world trip is a daunting task, particularly if you’ve never traveled extensively before. Take the stress out of the planning stage by following these seven easy steps.
1. Figure out where you want to go
This is the really fun part where you get to use your imagination, and dream without inhibitions. Many people have some kind of bucket list or collection of countries that they’ve always wanted to see, and this is a great place to start. Seek out inspiration from travel sites, guidebooks, and social media, and think big. You can condense your list later. (See also: 25 Incredible Places You Must Visit Before You Die)
Getting yourself a large world map and putting a sticker on each destination on your list can be a good way to visualize where they are in relation to each other. Alternatively, you can create a spreadsheet or use a notebook to group countries by continent. Both of these will help you when it comes to planning a coherent route.
2. Decide the length of your trip
There are plenty of considerations when deciding how long to go for, not the least of which are the size of your budget and the status of your job. If you’re planning on quitting your job, then you have a lot more leeway. But if you’re working within the restrictions of a sabbatical, or need to negotiate extended leave, then this may dictate the length of your trip.
Here’s where you’ll need to be realistic as to how much of your bucket list you can get checked off. Start to narrow down your number of destinations based on how much they excite you, why you want to visit, and what you’re going to do there. For example, if Tokyo is on your list simply because you want to go on a high-speed train but the rest of Japan doesn’t appeal to you, save that for another trip. Find a balance between the cost of travel in each country and how badly you wish to visit them. (See also: The Easy Ways to Save Up a Big Travel Budget)
3. Finalize the route and pick your method
Now that you’ve decided on the places that you’d like to visit, you need to work out the most sensible course to take between them and how you’re going to do it. The best routes cut down on the amount of travel needed by avoiding any doubling back and following a natural path between countries. This will save you time and money, as well as lessen your impact on the environment.
Round-the-world plane tickets can cut down on hassle, but they do have limitations on both time and destinations. Also, sometimes it’s cheaper to book flights separately. If you choose to do the latter, you’ll gain flexibility and could save money by booking cheap flights, but you will have to arrange everything yourself. A good airline rewards credit card can also help you earn free flights. (See also: 10 Flight Booking Hacks to Save You Hundreds)
Keep in mind that individual flights are much more expensive than booking multiple legs at once. Consider using the “multi-flight” or “multicity” tool on your favorite flight booking engine to enjoy discounts on taking numerous flights in a given time period. If you know you’re going to travel to New York, London, Paris, and Tokyo, use the multi-flight tab and book all your flights at once to save money. (See also: Extend Your Vacation for Free With Open Jaws and Stopovers)
4. Work out your budget
This is one of the trickiest parts of planning a round-the-world trip because there are so many things to consider. They include not only your flights, accommodations, and food, but you also have to factor in visas, insurance, attraction entrance fees, and any necessary vaccinations before you set off. You should also include an emergency contingency, since travel has a way of raising the unexpected and you don’t want to be stuck in an unfamiliar country. (See also: Everything You Need to Know About Buying Travel Insurance)
Set up a spreadsheet with each country you’re visiting, including columns for all of the expenses you anticipate you’ll incur while there. There’s no substitute for good old-fashioned research here. You don’t have to come up with a detailed breakdown of every single dollar you’ll spend, but try to come up with the main expenses and a daily ballpark figure. Guidebooks, blogs, and sites like Numbeo will give you an indication of the amount you can expect to spend in each place. From here, calculate a daily average that you can multiply by the amount of time you have in each destination.
5. Select when is best to go and in which direction
If there are activities on your bucket list that you need to book in advance, then let those dictate when you set off and in which direction. For example, due to strict regulations on visitor numbers, it’s necessary to book the classic Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu well in advance. You’ll need to work the dates around activities like this to ensure you’re able to do them.
The same goes for important festivals and annual holidays that you may want to experience, or overly busy public holiday periods you may want to avoid.
Weather usually plays a large part in people’s decisions about when to travel, and most try to avoid extreme weather events like rainy or hurricane seasons. Chasing the sun is a popular thing to do on a round-the-world trip. All of this will determine whether you head east or west, and what time of year to set off. (See also: The Best Times of Year to Travel Anywhere)
6. Start saving up
There are a million and one different methods of building up a vacation fund, but ultimately it’s all about reducing your expenses and increasing your income. Set a savings goal that covers your budget and start putting away a fixed amount each month to meet it. Saving up to travel the world is a very particular enterprise, as you have a specific, life-changing goal in mind.
While you’re saving, keep in mind that there are many travel jobs that can help you earn money overseas, so you could potentially extend your trip even further by working while you’re on the road.
What more inspiration could you possibly want to keep you on the right track than picturing yourself standing near the Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil or lying on a tropical beach in Thailand? If traveling the world is something that you truly have your heart set on doing, then it will provide you with all of the motivation you need.
7. Plan what you’re going to pack
This will be affected by what type of traveler you are, but a good rule of thumb is to pack as light as possible. Lugging multiple suitcases around the world for months on end will get very tiring very quickly. Remember, you can buy virtually anything you need virtually anywhere in the world, so do away with all the “just in case” items. (See also: 15 Packing Secrets From a Professional Traveler)
By now you should have a good idea of the climates of the countries you’re going to visit, but you should also research what’s appropriate to wear. Take into consideration local cultural and religious customs to ensure you don’t offend anyone. Consider buying some specialized clothing or gear along the way so that you don’t have to carry it on your whole trip. For instance, if you’re planning to trek to Everest Base Camp, you may want to wait until you get closer to that portion of your trip to think about buying what you need.