How to Plan a Trip Around the World
Planning any trip can be overwhelming. Planning one around the globe can be downright daunting. But, with the right approach, you can break your travels down into manageable chunks. From our experiences on the road, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to plan a trip around the world.
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In addition to writing about his and Jenna’s travel and work adventures, Chipp is a CPA and founder of Walutes Capital, a real estate development and accounting firm. Wearing this “other hat,” Chipp offers real estate investment and development consulting services to clients. If you’d like help with your own real estate investing journey, contact Chipp here to set up an appointment!
Step 1: Decide How You Will Pay for Your Trip Around the World
Unfortunately, you can’t travel around the world if you can’t pay to travel around the world. So, first thing’s first: how are you going to finance your trip?
There are a few approaches. On one end of the spectrum, you can use savings to fund 100% of your travels. With this approach, you start with a sum of money, and that’s your set budget. Personally, this approach made us nervous. When we started traveling, we were still young, wanted to start a family, and weren’t comfortable draining all of our savings on the road.
On the other end of the spectrum, you can work remotely or pick up gigs in different destinations, using the money you make to fund your trip. On the plus side, this means you don’t have to crush your savings, as the money that comes in offsets cost of living. But, the inherent drawback to this approach is that you’re working – at least part time.
A middle ground exists, something we ended up embracing. A few hours every week, Jenna contracted for her old company, and Chipp picked up freelance accounting and writing work. The cash we made from this work covered our daily expenses. And, when we wanted to do a more expensive excursion (e.g. a Tanzanian safari), we’d dip into our savings.
Regardless of where you fall on the above spectrum, you need to clearly define how you’ll pay for your round-the-world trip before making any other plans.
Step 2: Define the Theme of Your Travels
Once you’ve addressed the money issue, you can move onto far more fun planning – actually thinking about the trip. Specifically, we highly recommend defining a theme for your travels. That is, what will be the focus - the driving purpose – of your travels?
Are you a foodie? Will you shape your trip around exploring local cuisines?
Do you love adventure? Will you seek out outdoor excursions and adventure-style travels?
Do you want to volunteer? Will you look for different charities and causes to work with wherever you go?
Do you have a passion for art and culture? Will you stroll through museums and galleries in foreign cities?
No single right answer exists. Rather, the important takeaway here is, if you’re going to take a trip around the world, you need a guiding vision. Thinking about and clearly defining the theme or themes of your trip will provide direction for the rest of your planning.
In Croatia on our trip around the world
Step 3: Outline the Broad Trip Itinerary
The theme of your travels feeds directly into the trip’s broad itinerary. We’re not at the detailed planning stage yet – not booking any hotels or AirBnBs. Instead, the goal here is to outline the “big blue arrow” of your travels. Broadly speaking, this entails answering three questions:
Question 1: When will you leave, and when will you return? The duration of your travels directly affects how much you can actually do on the road. One month limits you to a few days in each destination, while six months, a year, or longer means you have far more flexibility.
Question 2: What direction will you go? Are you going to depart from the United States, head south through Central and South America, then head west through Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, before returning home? Once again, the answer doesn’t matter. What matters is that you define a general flow of your route, as it leads directly into the next question…
Question 3: What major stops do you want to make? Along your above broad route, what stops do you definitely want to make? Maybe you have a friend living in Thailand, so you want to spend a couple weeks there. Or, you love hiking so want to devote a big chunk of time to Patagonia. Whatever the reasons, look at your route and list, in sequential order, the countries you plan to visit. This list provides the foundation for the next two major steps of your planning.
Step 4: Identify Your Major Travel-Related Administrative Tasks
With your major stops identified, you can transition into more detailed planning. It may not be glamorous, but administrative tasks will make or break your travels. In particular, with a list of countries to visit, you should, at a minimum, complete the following:
Get your passport. It may seem obvious, but we both know people who’ve had trips derailed because they waited until the last minute to order or renew a passport. Don’t wait.
Confirm visa requirements for each country you plan to visit. Some countries don’t require any visas, some let you buy an entry visa on arrival, and some require a formal application at a consulate in your home country. Make sure you understand and complete these requirements before you leave home. Last thing you want to happen is to get turned away on arrival.
Confirm vaccine/shot requirements for each country. Many countries have medical requirements for visitors. For example, you may need your “Yellow Passport” confirming your yellow fever shot to enter a country. Similar to visa requirements, medical “to-dos” are easy to overlook but can quickly throw a huge wrench in your travels if you don’t take care of them.
Secure a travel health insurance policy. Sure, you can travel without a policy, but it’s crazy to do so. Travel health insurance protects you in case of the unexpected. No one plans on spending two nights in a hospital in Nicaragua with a blood infection, but it happens… Travel health insurance is an affordable way to make sure you don’t end up bankrupting yourself due to an unexpected medical emergency overseas.
Step 5: Confirm the Major Flight Legs for Your Trip
Airfare will likely prove the most expensive part of your travels. And, your major flight legs provide the primary scaffolding for the rest of your trip. That is, once you know where you’re flying into and flying out of, you can make detailed plans for that leg of the trip. For example, if you know you’re flying into Wellington, New Zealand at the beginning of December and out of Auckland at the end of January, you can make day-to-day plans for the period between those flights.
For those two reasons – cost and trip scaffolding – we recommend confirming your major flight legs at this point in the round-the-world planning process. You don’t necessarily have to buy all of these tickets up front. But, at a minimum, you should confirm the routes, airlines, average ticket price, and flight frequency for the major legs of your trip.
As you do this, you may be forced to revise your planned country sequencing – or even ability to visit certain countries – due to airfare logistical hurdles. For instance, say you want to fly from Australia to Southeast Asia. Maybe there are daily, reasonably-priced flights from Sydney to Bangkok but no regular flights to Hanoi (just making things up here). In this scenario, practicality would dictate that you update your plan, flying to Thailand first then bussing or driving to Vietnam instead of the reverse.
Step 6: Book the Detailed Travel Logistics for Your First Major Leg
After confirming administrative requirements and your major flights, you get to finally start diving into your travel details! When you spend a significant amount of time on the road, many of your initial plans evolve. We landed in South Africa planning on spending a month there. Fast forward three and a half months, and we finally left. Moral of the story? Don’t make detailed plans too far in advance, as experiences and relationships on the ground will inevitably shape your plans for future travels.
Instead, we’re firm believers in doing detailed travel planning one leg at a time. By that, we mean actually purchasing the following for the first leg of your travels:
Flights to your first major destination
Any local travel tickets at your first major destination (e.g. ferries, busses, domestic airfare, etc)
Major excursions for your first destination (e.g. snorkeling adventures, safaris / game drives, tours, etc)
Bottom line, when you get to your first destination, you should, at a minimum: 1) have a place to stay, and 2) have confirmed tickets for the “big deal items” you want to do there. With this sort of planning, you don’t have to worry about showing up in a place and missing out on awesome opportunities because you failed to plan the foundational items in advance.
Step 7: Repeat
So, what’s next? You’re on cruise control for the first leg of your trip around the world, as you’ve now done all the detailed planning. First, enjoy this part of your travels! Make sure to truly embrace how awesome it is to be on the road, working your way around the globe.
Second, you need to transition to the next leg of your travels. Recall, by this point, you’ve already confirmed your next major flight and country, but you haven’t done any of the nuts and bolts, detailed planning for that second leg. At this point, you should fuse 1) your initial travel plans, with 2) the experiences and recommendations from your current travels to confirm exactly what you want to do on the next major part of your travels. Once you do, you can repeat Step 6, making all the detailed plans for the next big part of your round-the-world trip.
In this fashion, you gradually work your way around the globe. Get to one place, have an incredible experience, learn from that experience, and let that knowledge guide the next step of your travels. Next thing you know, you’ve successfully planned and had an incredible time on your trip around the world.
Good luck, and have a blast!
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