When you book round-the-world tickets you want your travel experience to go smoothly. After all, you can look back on stressful moments on the road and laugh, but there’s no reason why you should have to.
Here are my best 15 suggestions to get the RTW trip of a lifetime while limiting the problems ahead of time:
1) Reconfirm your flights
Probably the best path to a happy, problem-free RTW trip is to reconfirm your flights 2-3 days before you take them. This will give you a buffer-zone to make sure your flights are departing when you think they are. Don’t get to the airport, blithely chatting up locals, only to find your flight was delayed, canceled or discontinued.
Avoid this situation altogether by making a simple phone call a few days before your flight. Read this article for the best ways to reconfirm a flight while on the road.
2) Stay healthy
Is it even possible to avoid the inevitable gut-burst/insect bite/bone-crack when you’re eating things, venturing places and experimenting with activities that you’re unfamiliar with? Not bloody likely. But you can hedge your odds by preparing yourself ahead of time. Read the AirTreks guide to staying healthy on the road and save yourself a world of hurt. Also don’t forget to get your vaccinations.
You might also want to think about buying insurance. World Nomads has a great health benefit to get you out of a hospital without debt.
3) Make sure all your ticket info is correct
When you receive your RTW tickets after booking, read over everything—use a magnifying glass, infrared scanner or electron microscope if necessary. While 99 times out of 100 it will be correct, errors can happen. People are only human, so to speak.
Check your destinations, dates, connection times, name spellings and airlines. Make sure everything exists the way you planned it. Avoid being surprised by a conflict or missing piece after it’s too late.
4) Review your itinerary before a new trip stage
A simple thing you can do to make your trip go smoother is to read over your itinerary before any trip transition (next flight, new city, etc). Even the most organized person can miss a stitch, and it only takes a botched am/pm to send you into damage control. It may have been months since you booked your trip so this can be a very important little step.
5) Book a few nights of accommodations ahead of time
A smooth trip does not include schlepping your gear to 10 different hotels, under a heavy jet lag, in a country you know very little about because an unexpected event/convention/pope-christening sold out all the rooms. While some people do swear by booking beds on the fly, it’s a good idea to have at least a few nights set up before you arrive in a new city. This way you can start your accommodation-search fresh, clean and cozy with the perspective that comes with good night’s sleep. Read this for when and how to book accommodations on the road.
6) Know the local customs (i.e., act like you live there)
You can slip by the hawkers by being a Roman in Rome. You can also avoid being a target for crooks and thieves. Condé Nast Traveler has put together a great Etiquette 101 guide about how to dress like a local. While it may be impossible to fit in everywhere you go, at least you’ll know that a fanny pack will almost universally single you out. There’s nothing worse than walking around blindly unawares.
7) Earn Money
Okay, so you’ve hit a bit of a snag (it happens) and now you’re broke. Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to mean packing it in and heading home. Even as a foreigner it’s totally possible to make money while you’re traveling, both under and over the table.
Here’s some helpful information from Matador Network to help keep the dream alive.
8) Appreciate your traveling companion
Another sure-fire way to ruin a trip is to be coupled up with someone you’re not totally compatible with. While this can be hard to predict with a veritable stranger, AirTreks has a guide to help with that.
Here’s a post by Travmonkey on how to survive traveling with a girlfriend or boyfriend. Intimate nights can only keep you happy for so long.
9) Know your destination
Of course you know this—you’re more informed than the Stockholm Nobel Panel. But if you’re the spontaneous type and tend to leap off to unexpected destinations, don’t forget to get a quick bio before you do. There are great websites out there that can answer any last minute logistical questions you might have. My advice: check the Dude, or you’re screwed!
10) Handling an airport layover
Even with the most obsessively planned itinerary you may still wind up laying around in the airport for long periods of time, whether it’s inside a layover, for a delayed flight or because you didn’t read your itinerary and you headed to the airport a day early. Um… I don’t know anything about that. First read #4 above, then this post about making the most of your long airport layover.
11) Keep baggage fees under control
You’re hanging onto your budget like grim death. One way to kill it all is to get hosed on baggage fees. And they’re everywhere recently. Check each of your airlines ahead of time for weight limits and extra bag fees. Kill this budget killer before it kills you. See LuggageLimits for all the info you need.
12) Shop like a traveler (not a tourist)
Don’t go overweight on your baggage (see above). One way to do this is to fall for and buy all those adorable little items that can enhance your life in every way. Don’t do it. Here’s our guide to shopping on the road.
13) Travel light (what to pack)
It really truly sucks to travel with a piece of luggage that weighs more than you do. Not only will you spend more than you need to on baggage fees (see above, and above that) but you’ll only have to haul that stuff around with you wherever you go. If you didn’t take that third pair of shoes to begin with you wouldn’t have had to ditch them later on. Pack right, smooth out your traveling hiccups and be a happy traveler.
Here’s an article called Packing and the Art of Minimalism by Molly McCahan at Matador Network. Complete with a nice (and minimal) packing list.
14) Bring a power strip
You’re traveling with your camera, music player, laptop, dry-cell power scooter and electronic fingernail buffer—you’ll need a place to recharge them once bedtime rolls around. And you can’t guarantee multiple outlets everywhere in the world. To recharge everything at once, it’s best to have a multi-outlet powerstrip with you. This way, one plug, one adapter, voila, full-batteries and fresh, buffed nails.
Here’s a great powerstrip for travelers. There are 2, 4 and 6 outlet versions too!
15) Don’t rely on one ATM card.
It’s super easy to lose things when you’re constantly on the move. The one thing you want to keep on your person is your access to cash. Having two or more ATM cards will save you stress if one is lost. Instead of having to wait for your bank to send a new one to God knows where you are, you can simply make a phone call and activate the alternate.
Contact your bank to see what options you have.
Have copies of your important documents either at home or online
Your loved ones at home may not be available to send you a copy of your passport, your ticket copies or prescriptions when you need them. Keep them under password-protect online: either email them to yourself or use Google Drive to keep them handy.
* photo credit Tony George