Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Fifteen Steps to Planning Your RTW Trip

Planning my RTW trip was an arduous (and approximately 6-month) process.  Having never done this before, I was a bit clueless.  At least planning a trip of this caliber will be far easier next time.  Here are the general steps I took during my 6-month planning process.  This list includes the things I learned or wish I had known before I started planning.

The following steps are approximate.  Tailor them to fit your needs and wants. 

Step 1: Decide where you want to go.

These books were of great help to me when trying to decide where to travel.

The City Book:  A Journey Through the Best Cities in the World.  A Lonely Planet publication. 
The Travel Book:  A Journey Through Every Country in the World.  Another Lonely Planet publication.

Both books can be purchased online at:

Step 2: Decide when you want to go.

Consider the weather at that time of year.  Depending on when you leave, you might travel north to south or south to north in order to optimize weather conditions.

For instance, I began my RTW trip in India in February.  In March, I moved north to the Middle East and north Africa.  In April, I moved north to Europe.  I remained in Europe from April through June.  I feel as though I've had terrific weather throughout my trip.  Now consider the weather if I'd done this trip in reverse.  (Europe can be cold and rainy in February and India is extremely hot in June.)

Step 3: Decide how long you want to go for.

This will, of course, depend on your budget and how much time you can take off work or school.  If you're willing to volunteer or work while you travel, you can extend your trip longer.

Travel Budget Calculator:

Check out my blogposts for some ideas about financing your trip.
Earning Money While You Travel
Saving for Travel:  Seven Days to SE Asia 

Step 4: Get a passport.

For American citizens, passports application/renewal information is available at:

Note that passport processing time is about 4-6 weeks.  However, you can pay extra money for a 2-3 week expedited service.

Step 5: Get visas.

For American citizens, visa information is available at:

Note that visa requirements vary from country to country.  Some visas should be applied for in advance.  You can get some visas upon arrival in the country at the airport.  Many countries in Europe have an open borders policy where a visa is not required when traveling from one country to another pending a valid passport.

Step 6: Book plane tickets.

Find a travel agency that specializes in RTW trips.  It could save you a bundle.

Some ideas.
Round The World Experts:
STA Travel:  
Intrepid Travel (has flight specialists if you book a trip with them):
Round The World Flights:

Step 7: Consider your health.

-Schedule an annual physical.
-Consider the activity level required for your trip.  Start or modify a workout plan accordingly.
-Make an appointment at a travel clinic to ensure you are up-to-date on vaccinations and have appropriate prescriptions (e.g. antimalaria pills).
-Get a medical ID tag with info like allergies, blood type, an emergency contact.
-Make sure you have a full supply of medications and/or supplements (e.g. birth control, multivitamin). 

Step 8: Get travel insurance.

Travel insurance plans are relatively inexpensive and can be tailored to be as comprehensive as you want or need them to be.  The peace of mind they provide is priceless.  My travel insurance plan included medical coverage (including medical evacuation in case of an emergency), lost or stolen luggage, and missed flight.

Here are two reputable travel insurance companies.
Travel Guard: 
World Nomads:

Step 9: Make an administrative needs list.  Start checking it off.

Here is my list.  Some of these items could not be checked off until literally an hour before departure.  (Call the company or organization directly to inquire about their policies.)

-Put household goods in a storage facility.
-Change car insurance.  (Many car insurance companies offer hugely discounted rates if your car will remain in a garage, driveway, or storage facility during your travels and won't be driven.)
-Suspend cell phone.
-Pay outstanding bills.  
-Call bank to find out credit card pin number.  (I knew my debit card had a pin number, but not my credit card.  You can use your credit card to withdraw money from an ATM during your travels, but you will need the pin number.)
-Let bank know countries on travel itinerary.  (That way, if you debit and/or credit card in swiped in Timbuktu, the bank will not suspect fraud and put a hold on your card.)

Step 10: Make a packing list.  Start checking it off.

I thought that The Ultimate Adventure Packing List was pretty nifty:

Step 11: Book accommodation for arrival city.

Most accommodation can be booked as you travel (24-72 hours before arrival in a new city).  Even if you prefer an impromptu itinerary, you will have peace of mind knowing that you have a place to stay that first night of your trip.

Step 12:  Attend to last-minute packing.

Step 13:  Attend to last-minute administrative needs.

Step 14:  Say your goodbyes.

Throw yourself a Going-Away Extravaganza.  It's a good opportunity to exchange email addresses, travel tips, inspiration, and pass on your travel blog address to friends and family.  You are going to keep a travel blog, right?

Step 15:  Depart 

Got a ride to the airport?  Arrive early.  Check-in times for international flights can be lengthy.

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