Your Planning Timeline – From Inspiration to Departure

No one said planning a big trip was easy. It can be a nerve-racking endeavor, especially if you happen to be aPrague, Czech Republic terminal procrastinator. A good way to manage the planning process is to set an RTW planning timeline, thereby organizing your errands into time periods and setting up your launch in a practical and efficient manner.

Here is the official AirTreks’ RTW planning timeline to help organize your life and upcoming trip all the way until your day of departure.

1 year – 6 months out:

  • It’s still a bit too early to be purchasing tickets so use this time to decide upon your destinations, outline your itinerary and set a budget – in other words, dream.
  • Make a destination list, ranked by importance and interest.
  • Utilize Trip Planner, price out different itineraries and get a feel for what each one costs based on what matters to you most: price, length, destinations and route.
  • Research, then prioritize your country and city list to decide which are included or omitted.
  • Use seasonality and websites like What’s On When and Goby to estimate when you want to be in different locations.
  • Dig a little farther – not all the best info is reachable through Google. Use the blogrolls from your favorite travel blogs and research there. Some of the best info can be found in small-time travel blogs.
  • Check that your passport valid and for at least 6 months longer than your trip, renew if not. Best to do it early.
  • Start planning your budget. Set a price goal (and add 20% to it, just to be realistic).
  • Arrange for your house sale if you’re going that route.

6 months – 4 months out:

  • Time to get the ball rolling! Select a route on Trip Planner and follow the prompts to submit it to one of our agents.
  • Wait for the callback or email from one of our consultants, or else call us.
  • Take as much time as you need when working with a travel consultant to get the trip you want. Ask many questions. Our consultants will give cost differentials for whatever tweaks you have in mind.
  • Research necessary visas. (Visa limitations often dictate travel dates.)
  • Decide on your travel dates.
  • Take the plunge – buy the tickets! (Don’t forget the insurance.)

4 months – 3 months:

  • The hard part is done, it’s time to set up the other facets of the trip: where you’re staying, what you’ll be doing when you’re there, arranging tours, events, activities, etc. Perhaps contact the good folks at Global Basecamps for suggestions.
  • Tell your family and friends you’ll be out of town and give them the dates of your travel.
  • Get your passport or make sure it will be valid at least 6 months beyond your last travel date. If not, renew.
  • Get your visas!
  • Set your daily itinerary – what you’ll be doing on a day to day basis. Add everything to your calendar. If you have specific things you want to see, pencil them in between flights.
  • Buy guidebooks.
  • Decide upon your life at home (what to do with your house/apt, bills, car, mail, pets, etc)
  • Set up frequent flier accounts
  • Acquire no fee international credit cards. (Or make sure yours can be used internationally.)
  • Get a spare debit card (in case you lose one).
  • Contact friends in faraway places to let them know you’re coming.
  • Begin to organize your life for an extended leave of absence.
  • Get a Yahoo or Gmail account (an online account can be accessed worldwide). Tell your contacts you’re switching if need be.
  • Fill out any absent contact info (phone numbers, emails you don’t have). Don’t forget to add customercare@airtreks.com to your list!
  • Read our 101 Things To Do Before Your Trip blog post.

3 months – 1 month:

  • Fellow travel-blogger Anil at Foxnomad has deemed this time period “the Ready-To-Go Gap”, the time between your major planning and the departure week. Read his post on ways to spend your time bridging this gap. They include honing your travel skills with local trips or taking a planning break.
  • Request your sabbatical or give your work resignation (gulp!).
  • You can also take this time to set up a travel blog, buy a new camera or read an encouraging book.
  • Begin applying for visas, work permits.
  • Get your student card if applicable.
  • Get an international driver’s license if applicable.
  • Acquire extra passport photos.
  • Arrange for subletting, if you’re going that route.
  • Organize your address book.
  • Set up your online bill-pays.
  • Arrange for dinner dates with family and friends you won’t see for awhile.

1 month – 2 weeks:

    • Finalize your accommodations, especially your first night away.
    • Get your travel vaccinations and immunization records.
    • Purchase any needed supplies, gear and clothing (backpacks/luggage, travel-wear, soap, personal ID, long white scarf, travel mascot etc.)

Last Checklist

2 weeks – 1 week:

  • Carefully read over your itinerary/reservations – look for discrepancies.
  • Visualize yourself traveling in each place from day to day. This will help in acclimating yourself to the experience and also remind you of any last minute needs.
  • Make copies of or scan important documents. Stow them with family, friends or most importantly, online (so you can access them without someone else’s help).

Final week:

  • Pull out the packing checklist. You can customize one, visit One Bag.com or use ours. This will give you adequate advance notice to get any items you forgot about earlier.
  • Call your bank to let them know you will be away — banks often freeze accounts when international charges start appearing out of the blue.
  • Stop your mail.
  • Start throwing things in your bags.

3 days:

  • Time to reconfirm your first flight! (A good thing to do before every flight.)
  • Jot down a reminder list for the night before your departure.
  • Set up an out-of-town message on your email to let people know about a delay in responding.

2 days:

  • Start packing: get everything you’re taking with you and do an inventory. Keep that list with you throughout your trip so you can do counts along the way. This will keep your baggage within airline limits and also let you know right away if you’ve lost something.
  • Get cash/travelers checks and importantly some of the local cash of your first destination.
  • Do laundry.
  • Don’t for get to breathe! Take a sleep aide if necessary. Anxiety overload can keep you from accurately gauging what’s left to do.

Day before departure:

  • Pack it up! Checklist in hand, load up that luggage. Don’t forget to weigh your bags and check Luggage Limits.
  • Make any last minute phone calls.
  • Hug your family, friends and pets.
  • Charge your camera/laptop/music player batteries.
  • Look wistfully to the future.
  • Celebrate! But don’t forget that  getting on the plane with a hangover increases the effects of jet lag.

Day of departure:

  • Eat well and drink lots of water. Make sure to have a nourishing meal before your flight. You’ll need the carbohydrates and hydration. Again, alcohol is a sure-fire way to deepen jet lag, which can be debilitating upon arrival in a new country. You’ll need your facilities, prepare for it!

Post departure:

  • Reconfirm your flights two to three days before each flight (see above).
  • Take lots of pictures.
  • Enjoy life! You’ve earned it.

Feel free to respond in the comments with additional observations and personal anecdotes about the planning process. We’d love to hear about your own experiences!

* image credits: mamnaimie & phunkstarr

5 responses to “Your Planning Timeline – From Inspiration to Departure

  1. What a great review of planning for a big trip! Your tips are spot on.

    We love that you recommend buying guidebooks early, which gives plenty of time for travelers to read through cultural and logistical information and to prepare for an awesome travel experience!

    • True! It’s always a good idea to get a feel for your destinations as long in advance as possible, as soon as you know you’re going somewhere. That way you can let the ideas simmer in the back of your head while your trip approaches.

      It also gives you the advantage of reflection on what to do when you get there.

      I’d also like to take this opportunity to personally recommend Approach Guides to our readers. While they aren’t as numerous as other company’s, they have a conciseness about them that makes them super assessable and practical.

      Thanks for the comment, Jen!

  2. A good timeline for planning. I think we all do this except mine is scrunched into a much shorter time. Well, at least that helps keep the ready-to-go gap from being too much of a problem :P

  3. This is a great summary!

    One thing that travelers may want to do before a big trip is to ensure that they are comfortable using their camera, and that they know the basics of how to take good photos. There are a few simple basics of light, composition, etc., that can have a huge impact on whether a photo opportunity results in a picture to be treasured, or a picture to be deleted.

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