How I started to plan my trip around the world

Like most trips around the world, ours began as an idea. It was not a serious idea until I asked my husband, Addison if he wanted to travel the world with me for a year. But surprisingly he said yes.

After some serious thought and considerations I made a decision and started working on an actual plan to make our trip happen.

This post is my planning process in order. I tried to group the different tasks together not by activity, but more along a timeline. Starting with the first idea, which in my case was more than one year away from the start of the trip.

If you are at this stage where you just decided to do a trip around the world or are playing with the idea, head over to my other blog post called I want to travel the world. Where do I start?. It will help you get started and make some first decisions before planning all tasks listed in this post.

Jump to

  1. Decide to do a trip around the world
  2. Decide for how long you want to travel and when to go on your trip
  3. Find a travel partner or travel alone
  4. Decide what to do during your trip around the world
  5. Choose destinations
  6. Research new destinations
  7. Research climate
  8. Make a (more or less) final decision on destinations
  9. Research visa requirements
  10. Research necessary vaccinations
  11. Get first vaccination shots
  12. Create a budget
  13. Get second vaccination shots
  14. Research backpacks and suitcases
  15. Research accommodation alternatives
  16. Sign up for hospitality exchange networks
  17. Research what to do with your place
  18. Research how to book cheaper flights
  19. Book your first flights
  20. Get a second credit card
  21. Raise the credit card limit
  22. Research health insurance
  23. Get third vaccination shots
  24. Quit your job or apply for sabbatical
  25. Cancel your rental contract
  26. Do health checks
  27. Create a packing list and things to buy
  28. Buy a backpack or suitcase
  29. Find accommodation
  30. Research safety tips
  31. Get visa where necessary
  32. Cancel your phone contract
  33. Research internet options while traveling (WIFI or sim card)
  34. Do a packing test run
  35. Get WIFI or sim card
  36. Throw away stuff
  37. Get an international driver’s license
  38. Throw a farewell party
  39. Tell your bank about the travel period
  40. Pack for the trip
  41. Download movies and e-books to your phone/ tablet/ laptop

RTW travel planning tasks one year before the trip

1. Decide to do a trip around the world

Like I explained above, the very first thing you need to do is make the decision to do a trip around the world. Everything else follows.

2. Decide for how long you want to travel and when to go on your trip

We decided from travel from February 2020 for one year. The reasons for this decision where multiple:

  • First, we needed time to save the necessary money.
  • Second, we wanted to wait for our rental contract to run out.
  • Third, we wanted to be “digital nomads” and work while we travelled so we needed enough time to prepare some income streams.

So for us February 2020 seemed like the perfect time to start. Until COVID-19 hit… But that’s another story altogether!

3. Find a travel partner or travel alone

Many people do their trip around the world solo, but you don’t have to. I don’t like travelling alone, and I am fortunate to have my husband travel with me.

If you don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend maybe one of your friends wants to go with you. And an even more exciting option;  find a person you don’t know to travel with you – many future travellers can be found in Facebook groups.

4. Decide what to do during your trip around the world

I want to go, and see as much of the world as possible in one or two years. We are in our 30s, and want to start a family one day so wanted to see as much as we could while taking it slow, for this reason we didn’t set a super tight schedule; but did loosely plan to be away for a couple of years.

There is so much you can do during a year of travel. Do you want to learn a new skill, volunteer by building a school or teaching somewhere, do you want to work on a farm, work online or do you plan/desire to see as much of the world as possible?

I am so curious about many countries, therefore decided I wanted to travel around the world visiting as many countries as possible.

But I asked a couple of other people about their trips and they did something completely different from my trip. You can read about Nina’s European adventure or Julie’s 16 months backpacking in South America to get some new ideas.

5. Choose destinations

We planned to spend six months in Mexico, and then head to South East Asia.

My process was as follows: Addison and I both made a list of countries we wanted to visit, and from that, we compiled a joint list. I even considered a possible route depending on the seasons and convenience of travel.

Over time this list changed a lot due to COVID-19 but having an initial plan helped make decisions early on (even though it wasn’t set in stone).

6. Research new destinations

My favourite resource is googling like crazy –  thereby finding other people’s travel blogs – or finding information on Pinterest.

But of course, I also love to watch the odd TV series or YouTube videos set in different places around the world – anything that shows me new ways for trotting the globe! For instance, we loved Somebody Feed Phil on Netflix, the Mexico episode actually pushed us towards going to Mexico.

Lastly, the best thing you can do is ask friends and family about their best experiences.

By doing all the research, I got new ideas and inspiration about other places I wanted to visit, what activities I wanted to do, and I gained new confidence by reading about stories from other travellers.

7. Research climate

For each country, it makes sense to have a look at the climate. If you don’t want to visit during the rainy season, it makes sense to know when the rainy season is. If you don’t want it to be too hot or too cold than that also needs to be a consideration.

Especially when it comes to packing. It is much easier to pack if you have more or less the same kind of climate everywhere you go. A trip to the desert and Antarctica, on the other hand, is tough to pack for.

We decided to only travel to hot climates or at least places that will be moderately warm during our visit.

8. Make a (more or less) final decision on destinations

Even with all the research, there are always more ideas that will influence your trip planning and only once you start booking things will you really get into detail, which is much further down the timeline on your RTW travel planning tasks.

9. Research visa requirements

For each country, you are interested in visiting research the visa requirements. There are countries you can get into without having to prepare a visa in advance.

Others require you to fill out an e-visa, yet other countries require that you visit an embassy to receive a proper visa.

There are often costs in connection with visa issuing, so if you are on a very tight budget, it really helps to know how much you should expect to pay for each visa. The website Project Visa is super helpful to find out visa requirements.

10. Research necessary vaccinations

Okay, here is a step you can’t do early enough! It is also one of the most critical tasks.

Now that you know where you are going, research what kind of immunization recommendations there are.

Make a list and talk to a doctor about risks. We sought a lot of vaccinations: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhus, Tetanus, Japanese Encephalitis, Rabies and Yellow Fever.

Vaccinations can be quite expensive, true. And quite fast, but health is one point where you shouldn’t make decisions based on costs.

11. Get first vaccination shots

For many vaccinations, you will need multiple shots; getting started as early as possible is the way to go here.

I got my first round of shots 7 months before my travel year, and that was already kind of cutting it close.

Depending on what kind of vaccinations you decided on getting in the previous step, you might need more time to be fully covered.

12. Create a budget

In my other blog post I want to travel the world. Where do I start? one of the questions is “How much will it cost?”. This is really tough to answer, because everyone has different expectations, different travel styles, and different limitations when it comes to a budget.

We calculated that for two people $30,000 USD in savings would best for the destinations we wanted to visit. Some people say that is a lot, others say it isn’t enough. But it really all depends on your travel style. For us this was the buffer we wanted to have in savings. Even though we planned on working as we travelled, we wanted to have a years savings on hand.

You can either create a daily budget or a full budget. Alternatively, you can try to plan your trip around the world in as much detail as possible and try to figure out how much it might cost (this is a very complicated thing to do though).

Another option is looking at other people and kind of average their spending, so you know how much people spend on average. But then again it really all depends on how you want to travel.

You can see how much we’ve spent and earned on our trip here.

13. Get second vaccination shots

For some of the vaccinations, the second round of shots is one month after the first round. So, if you do it like me and had your first shots 7 months before your trip the second round will be 6 months before your round the world trip.

But like I said earlier is better, because the third round is half a year after

your second shots and that’s kind of cutting it close!

RTW travel planning tasks 6 months before the trip

14. Research backpacks and suitcases

For me, the question backpack or suitcase was a tough one. We decided on a backpack, because suitcases seem unnecessarily cumbersome.

Not only did we decide on a backpack, we also decided to do carry-on only. First, because it’s cheaper to fly (save on baggage fees). Second, less hassle in terms of carting a big, heavy bag around on buses, planes or trains.

I bought a Kathmandu Litehaul backpack for each of us. Which weighs about 12 kg when fully packed. Heavy but light enough for me to carry, while still below most countries’ maximum weight capacity for carry-ons!

Because I knew which bag I wanted, I was able to wait for a sale and managed to get ours 50% off.

See what’s in my bag here.

15. Research accommodation alternatives

Now we are getting to one of my favourite topics. I am not a huge fan of staying in hotels. And while many backpackers and world travellers love hostels, we only love hostels for a short stay. For longer stays, it was not going to be the best option for us.

So, we opted to primarily use AirBnB. and for month long stays.  Want our advice? Escape the ‘hotel chain’ rat trap for a more immersive, and often less expensive neighborhood outside the city center. We really like to stay with and rent off locals. This has many, many hidden advantages, the greatest of them being your first-hand knowledge of what kind of things to do, see, and eat at your destination. Staying with locals is also a super easy way to make new friends.

See our guide on booking the perfect AirBnB for digital nomads here.

16. Sign up for hospitality exchange networks

We signed up for Workaway. Workaway is a network of over 50,000 opportunities in more than 170 countries worldwide. As a Workawayer you can exchange work – usually up to 5 hours per day – for accommodation. Each opportunity is different so take a look and see what is right for you.

17. Research what to do with your place

We decided on giving up our rental, and selling all of our stuff. See our post Selling everything we own and what we learned doing it here.

This freed us up from unnecessary costs and responsibilities while travelling, but it is going to be a pain to look for a new place and buying new furniture when we finally return home.

There are other options open to you if you don’t want to give your place up (or if you own a house). You can, of course, just leave it as it is while you are travelling. However, we feel in most cases you are just leaving money on the table:

  • One option you have is subleasing/subletting your place for the whole time.
  • Alternatively, you can find a house sitter, someone who will take care of your house, plants, pets while living there (usually for free).
  • Another option is listing your place on AirBnB (if the law in your country allows it). I was briefly thinking about this option, because of the potential to earn good money from it. That said, as a responsible host (travelling afar) I would have felt a lot of stress while on the other side of the world so we did not pursue it. However, you could arrange for a company to take care of the cleaning and even management should you choose this income stream.

18. Research how to book cheaper flights

We have been booking flights for ourselves for many years, and (nerd alert) I actually really enjoy the researching process. I feel like the flights I am looking for are often costly. So, I soon discovered ways to find cheaper flights.

Here are a couple of blog posts I found really helpful and interesting:

By the way, have you heard about round the world flight tickets? There are different airlines and companies offering these tickets that let you fly in multiple steps once around the world. For example from the US to Europe, onward to Asia, then Australia, from Australia to South America and from there back to the US.

We found round the world tickets to be not flexible enough, because we didn’t really plan a straight route. I was sure we could find cheaper flights by booking them separately. Consider doing a bit of research into round the world tickets and see if they are a good fit for you.

19. Book your first flights

I am actually a person who needs a lot of planning and security.  Like most, I always fear prices (especially flight prices) will only get more expensive over time. So, I booked our first flight almost half a year in advance.

By the way, I book my flights via Skyscanner. It is a website that compares prices on many booking portals.  Be aware that in many cases the displayed price is not the final price, because of additional charges for checked luggage or even payment option fees.

RTW travel planning tasks 3 months before the trip

20. Get a second credit card

Another tip I have: make sure you have at least two widely worldwide-accepted credit cards from different card companies. For example, Visa and Master Card or American Express. That way if you lose one you still have a way to pay until your replacement card arrives.

Make sure you have your credit card institute’s phone number noted down somewhere so you can contact them right away if your card is gone.

21. Raise the credit card limit

While I’d never encourage anyone go into debt when you could work as you travel to cover your trip’s costs, it is important to have at least one credit card with a raised limit for emergencies or what my husband sarcastically calls ‘the unknown-unknowns’. For us, it was to ensure we could always buy tickets home, pay for an expensive activity, or any unforeseen medical expenses – should they spring up.

Keep in mind that if you choose not to become a digital nomad, your trip may cost you a lot of money,  especially if you have no job/income stream.

Once you have no job, there will be difficulty raising credit card limits or applying for new credit cards. So, do these two things early.

22. Research health insurance

In general, I recommend you get health insurance for your trip.

Try to find out what kind of long-term travel insurance is available in your country. If you are like me and you can’t get into any because you won’t be registered in any country during your trip around the world, your last option will be to get international health insurance.

23. Get third vaccination shots

Hepatitis A and B, as well as some other vaccinations, require 3 separate shots to fully cover you for at least 3 years.

Don’t forget to get your last shots on time, or else your previous shots may have been be for nothing.

24. Quit your job or apply for sabbatical

In some countries, it is customary to quit a job at least 3 months in advance. In New Zealand, the norm is 1 month. However, as a courtesy, I gave my employer 3 months.

I recommend that you tell your company about your plan to quit or to do a sabbatical as soon as you feel comfortable. There is usually some paperwork or bureaucracy involved, so plan some extra time to get everything done before the deadline.

25. Cancel your rental contract

Another thing you shouldn’t forget when planning for your trip is to cancel your rental agreement if you are planning on moving out.

In most countries, there are specific rules for how far in advance you must declare your plan to move out. Find out the rules for your place and cancel in time.

RTW travel planning tasks 2 months before the trip

26. Do health checks

Before you leave for a long term trip, it is a good idea to get checked thoroughly. This means making appointments at all the doctors you usually go to for check-ups during the year.

A visit to your dentist to get rid of eventual cavities is also a good idea.

27. Create a packing list and things to buy

I am a planning freak, and I probably had a preliminary packing list half a year in advance.

But you seriously should start thinking about what you need to pack and what you still need to buy about 2 months before you start your world trip.

28. Buy a backpack or suitcase

By now you should have made a final decision on whether you want to travel with a backpack or suitcase. I can really recommend travelling carry-on only. It’s super freeing!

29. Find accommodation

From about 2 months in advance it is time to look for accommodation. As I mentioned above, we wanted to stay in month-long AirBnB as much as possible. And around 1 to 2 months in advance is the best time to find potential hosts: It is far enough in advance for hosts to know their future plans and availability, but not so short notice that they already have heaps of bookings or other plans.

Keep in mind: when writing a request, make sure you ask your hosts to run a WIFI speed test for you. Especially, if you plan on working online while you are there. Read our post on find the perfect long-stay AirBnB here.

RTW travel planning tasks 1 month before the trip

30. Research safety tips

Only one more month until your trip around the world! Which means you have completed most of the more significant planning tasks – but there are still things left to do.

For example, researching safety tips. Since I come from New Zealand, a reasonably safe country, I never really concerned myself with safety before. 

A trip around the globe, on the other hand, with more extended stays in Asia, Central and South America can sometimes make research into safety necessary. Which cities should be avoided? Is the water drinkable? Is it safe to travel between states/provinces at night? What are the dangerous animals/venomous insects in the area?

31. Get visa where necessary

If you need to apply for a permit for the first couple of countries, you want to visit, do it now. As a New Zealand passport holder I don’t really need to apply for a visa in most countries, but each country is different so always do your research.

Make sure to check far enough in advance for which countries you will need a visa and how to get it.

32. Cancel your phone contract

Usually, cancellation of phone contracts takes one month, so cancelling your phone roughly one month before your flight date is the right time to do it.

Side note: This would also be a good time to determine whether your phone is country specific – locked or unlocked. My husband purchased a locked Samsung phone with Spark, a leading mobile phone provider in New Zealand. When Addison tried to add a Mexican SIM Card to his phone, it failed because the phone was locked (New Zealand providers only). We had to purchase a new phone, and ensured it was unlocked so we can change SIM Cards as we travelled.

33. Research internet options while travelling (WIFI or SIM Card)

I need internet access while travelling. As digital nomads we need a good WIFI connection, but of course we like to update our Instagram while on the go. And don’t get me started on the use of Google Maps – a luxury I don’t want to live without! For this reason, I did some extensive research into how to stay best connected while travelling. I have come to the conclusion that buying a SIM Card in every country is the way to go, because it is quite cheap.

However, there is always a short time between our arrival and actually purchasing a SIM card. We got a SkyRoam to use whenever we don’t have a local SIM. Honestly, it is quite expensive at about $9 USD per 1GB, but worth it for emergency purposes. A great safety net when the house WIFI cuts out, or underperforms while both of us are videoconferencing.

34. Do a packing test run

I get it. The last thing you want to do – about one month in advance – is a packing test run. Think of it this way, you will know whether you have forgotten to buy anything, and also if everything fits into your backpack or suitcase.

RTW travel planning tasks 2 weeks before the trip

35. Get WIFI or SIM Card

Only 2 more weeks until you are travelling around the world. This means now it is time to order your pocket WIFI or SIM Card (if you chose to get one). They are usually delivered to your address within one week, and you will be good to use them from day one. Perfect!

36. Throw stuff  away

Don’t underestimate the time it takes to do this! As I said, we got rid of everything except for a single box. Imagine how much junk we collected in the 2 years of living in our house.

Whether you have lived in your place longer than that, and you now going to move out; need to make space for short-term renters or house sitters; or want to put some things in storage while you travel, this might be a more significant task than you think.  Donate! Give things to a friend or neighbor.

37. Get an international driver’s license

If you are planning on driving in other countries, you need an international driver’s license. You can get this only in your own country before you leave and usually, this will be valid for 1 year.

RTW travel planning tasks 1 week before the trip

38. Throw a farewell party

One more week to go. It is getting exciting! And it is also time to say goodbye to colleagues, friends and family. I had 3 farewell parties, all with colleagues from work. I am super happy that they all wished me well for our trip around the world. So, take the time and say goodbye (for now) to everybody – shout it from the rooftops!

39. Tell your bank about the travel period

If you extensively start to use your credit card in different countries your bank and credit card institute might start thinking something is fishy and lock your card. To prevent that from happening, let them know that you will be travelling.

40. Pack for the trip

A couple of days before your trip and it is finally time to pack your things!

41. Download movies and e-books to your phone/ tablet/ laptop

Last step. On the day before you leave download movies, e-books and music to your phone, tablet or laptop so you will have something to do during waits at the airport long flights or bus rides.

Now, all that’s left to do is enjoy your trip!

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Author

Zahn is a travel junkie born and raised on the North Shore of Auckland, New Zealand. Zahn spent two years in South Korea where she met Addison in 2018. She has visited 17 countries and is on a mission to literally work her way around the rest.

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