Planning a big around the world trip is never easy. When you’re putting together something that digs so deep into your savings and includes places you’ve wanted to visit since time immemorial, the whole process can seem a bit overwhelming. You might as well be battling the Mongol hordes.
So where do you start?
Deciding where to go – You’ve already determined how long the trip will be. This should be your next step. The distance traveled, number of stops and route will determine how much the thing will cost. Start a Trip Planner session to see prices for random trip ideas. For the most part, price is a key ingredient so that decision is an important one.
How do you decide?
First, make a list of the cities or regions you’ve always yearned for and/or heard great things about. These places will give you the most satisfaction upon seeing for the first time. Always wanted to see the Great Pyramids or the Taj Mahal? Add them in. If these won’t fill a complete trip, read on.
Books and magazines: Flipping through guidebooks and travel magazines inspires travel wishes very quickly. Chances are you’ve already decided upon your world regions so you can get more site specific with articles and images. Personally, I like the new Afar magazine. It takes a more modern, eco-friendly approach to traveling and has great suggestions. Plus they’ll send you a free copy!
The Interwebs: there’s a veritable cornucopia of helpful sites out there that can assist in the decision making process. Start with Tripbase, Trazzler and 101 Holidays. Each are intuitive, informative and will point you in good directions.
Blogs: like planning websites, there’s also travel blogs aplenty. Take it from me, I’m one of them. Of course some are better than others. But many do what they do with style and talent and are tireless professionals to boot.
Feel free to glance over this previous blog post about turning to the web for assistance in your planning process.
Twitter: regardless of your opinion about this web debutante, there are thousands of great Twitter feeds that will key you into what’s hot, what’s cheap and with an ocean of 140-character blurbs and tidbits you may not have known about. The main obstacle is narrowing down the noise. The best bet is to make a list of your fave travel Tweeters and sort through what they give you. I recommend starting out with a few then branching out:
Oh, and don’t forget to follow AirTreks too!
Friends and neighbors: have a dinner party to get them all together in your livingroom. Ask them about their prior trips and where they’d like to go back to. People are usually insanely happy to talk about their travels, often to the point of nausea, but you can glean what you want for inspiration.
Message boards are great resources. Specifically, Lonely Planet has a part of their site devoted purely to message board questions. Using Thorn Tree Forum, you can visit your selected world region in search of the questions others have asked before you. There will likely be an answer to your personal question logged on the forum somewhere. WorldBackpackers.net also has some great budget minded advice.
Be realistic with your plan (ie, don’t try to do too much). Trying to get to 25 cities in two months will not make you more informed about the world—it will only make you tired. Countries, cities and towns around the world are inherently rich and merit time to delve deeper into their cultural fabric. Sure, some cities don’t require the same time commitment as others but no country is understood after three days of bouncing from one tourist site to the next. You’ve paid handily for the right to see the world, make the most of it and give each land the time it needs. If you don’t know how long to stay in each city, our consultants can tell you more. But generally speaking, the thicker the section in the guidebook, the longer you should spend there.
To enliven the places you’re going even more you can visit during an event or festival. Joobili is a great website to find out what’s going on where so you can plan your itinerary around it.
Give yourself a full travel day between destinations when accounting for days on the travel calendar. Acclimation is an important part of getting into the swing of a new place, and airport transfers/hotel check ins can be time (and energy) consuming.
One rule of thumb is the more time you to allow between activities and traveling the better chance you have of seeing it in a relaxed and open way. No one wants to be smoothing their feathers from the taxi ride from Athens airport when contemplating the pillars of the Acropolis. Take a day or two in between. And relax. It’s a holiday!
Think about your itinerary as if you were traveling on it. Removing the transit between London Heathrow and Gatwick is worth the extra $50 or $100. Money is well-spent when you’re saving yourself a giant hassle. In other words, keep in mind logistics. Are you going to have to recheck your bags? Will you need to take a taxi, a train, a bus to the city center? Do you even know where the stations are? How does Jell-o really happen? How come 747s don’t fall out of the sky? All great things to consider.
Finally, understand that there is no “perfect itinerary”. The variables in travel are as unpredictable as Oprah Winfrey’s hairstyle. Things can change on a whim and as soon as you think you have it all worked out, that’s when you need to return home to nail that surprise dream job interview. The main thing to remember is to roll with whatever the trip throws at you. And undoubtedly, it will lob some meatballs. Take them in stride because if it doesn’t kill you, you’re probably doing okay.