How to Plan a Round the World Trip
Planning a trip around the world is a pretty intensive process, but at this point you’ve already made the hardest decision you’re going to face: the choice to overcome your perceived obstacles and travel.
It’s easy to get extremely overwhelmed when it comes down to the actual process of preparing and planning out your trip, but it’s also important to keep the process in perspective, outline your goals for what you just “have” to finish before you depart, and work backwards from there.
Some of the top hurdles to overcome in the planning process include: handling your material possessions, travel insurance and vaccines, finances on the road, and planning the route.
Material Possessions: Eliminate the “Stuff” in Your Life
Purging personal possessions is one of the toughest obstacles you may encounter because let’s face it, Western society likes “stuff.” Clothes, books, knickknacks, electronics – these are all of the easy purges. That’s not to say that you necessarily want to get rid of them, but storage fees can be pricey and leaving on a RTW journey is the perfect opportunity to streamline your life.
You’ll want to start the purging process early and sometimes it helps to call in a friend or family member to help you assess those possessions that are really worth keeping. Two key possessions that take a lot of consideration are the car and the house. While I normally advocate traveling with as few possessions back home as possible, the current economy has made selling a non-prospect for many travelers, especially those planning a year or less on the road.
If you choose to keep your house you have several options: rent it out, hire a house-sitter, or close down the house. All three of these will mean taking time out of your travels to field phone calls from back home, handle paperwork, and deal with any house-related issues. Talk to family members and close friends about the roles they might be willing to play in helping you manage renters, safely close down and monitor the property, or see if they’re willing to house-sit for a reasonable fee (an ideal option if you have pets).
Health: Pick an insurance plan and choose your vaccines
You’ve got your yard sale piles formed, you’re purging like a champ, and now it’s time to make an appointment with your local travel clinic. Travel vaccines can be pricey but shop around and find out what your general practitioner can handle instead of the clinic. Although your GP is a great choice for getting some shots covered on your current health insurance, travel clinics are up-to-date on all of the latest information from the CDC.
Do your own research at the CDC Web site and write out a full list of your planned destinations – if you’re winging it and only have a rough plan, list each region and they’ll help you decide which vaccines maximize your safety.
Getting vaccines before you leave and filling recommended prescriptions are great ways to ensure that you are as healthy as possible on the road, but just these precautions do not preclude the need for good travel insurance. Even if you have insurance in your home country you must purchase travel insurance.
I’m not even going to say that you need to, it’s a must. Make sure that your travel insurance provider includes these essentials: med-evac back to your home country, repatriation of your remains (you’re not going to die, but if you do this is an important one for your family), and coverage for any of your planned adventure activities. It’s also great to have theft coverage on your electronics and money if your luggage is lost by an airline, but really it’s the first three that are the most important travel insurance considerations.
Finances: Choose the cards and prep your taxes
Two of the most important considerations in the finance stage of planning your RTW trip are choosing your credit cards and prepping your taxes. Find out current foreign withdrawal and transaction fees for all of your current cards; most major credit cards charge between 1% and 3% so if you don’t like what you hear, shop around.
If you’re carrying a bank card with a Visa logo on it then consider a MasterCard credit card. Not all places accept both cards and it is really imperative actually that you have both of these on you.
Taxes are inevitable and it’s best to face the issue head-on if you’re going to be on the road when the tax deadline comes around. Consider filing for an extension if you’ll be back not long after the tax deadline; otherwise, gather all of your tax documents into one location and talk to your tax accountant about how best to get all of the documents and forms in on time.
Planning the Route: Book as you go and take recommendations
Slow down and don’t over plan; while I acknowledge that there are people who only feel comfortable traveling if they have all of their time and activities plotted out, RTW travel is different. You have the time to figure it out along the way.
As you’re plotting your route and dreaming about all of the places you’d love to visit, remember that each of these countries is not a “notch on the belt.” When you’re considering your route look into estimated costs for each country; spending additional time in the cheaper countries allows you the freedom and breathing room to indulge in a lot more local activities. My RTW trip budget is a good starting place for researching country costs and will give you a rough expectation for daily budgets.
Your flights are a serious consideration; buying a series of one-way flights versus the RTW ticket takes research. The costs often work out very closely if not in favor of the RTW ticket, but you do lose some spontaneity if you book your entire route in advance. All of the major RTW ticketing companies offer free consultations and one-way ticket prices can be researched at the major online booking services.
A few last considerations for planning your RTW trip:
- Pack lightly! They sell more toiletries and clothes in every place you’re visiting.
- Bring at least 8 passport sized photos and several photocopies of your passport.
- Make a list of your must-visit sites in each country and leave the rest up to whimsy.
My parting thoughts: go slowly and absorb the stories and culture, you’re likely going to visit a lot of temples and ancient sites all over the world but it’s the people you meet along the way who you’ll most remember!
Have you traveled around the world? Share your tips!