Many people dream of travelling the word but sadly the idea remains just that – a dream. Not so many take the steps of turning their dream into reality.
I can say with 100% certainty that my round the world trip was the best thing I ever did. All the best aspects of my life now – my husband, my children, my gorgeous home in the rice fields of Bali, the fact that I get paid to do what I love every day – all these things are a result of me taking the plunge and buying that RTW ticket.
If you’re constantly dreaming of where you’d love to travel to but never actually doing anything practical about it, you’ll never get anywhere. What you need to turn your travel dreams into reality is a plan.
The following lays out a rough timeline for anyone planning a RTW trip. Obviously timescales and other aspects may vary depending on your personal circumstances, but it’s a good base on which to start your planning and you can change things around as you go along.
Are you ready?
One year to six months from departure
- Pick a date. Any date but you need to make sure you can save enough money in the meantime on which to support yourself. You can change the actual date you book your ticket later but it’s really important mentally to have a date on your calendar circled in big red pen. Without setting a date it’s all too easy to let a year slip by, and another, and another… I’ve used this technique of setting a date to great success for lots of different things – quitting a job, getting a promotion, taking an exam. It works, trust me.
- Research. Start browsing travel websites and blogs to get an idea of where you’d like to go. Pop into your local travel agent and pick up some glossy brochures for inspiration. Again, this is not set in stone and will probably change a lot over time but it helps to stat to build a rough itinerary in your mind.
- Start saving money. You probably won’t be working much, if at all, once you’re on the road and so you’ll need some savings to keep you going. Maybe you’re lucky and have another source of income such as from a rental property, but it’s still a good idea to have a cushion of cash to fall back on. Reduce your monthly outgoings where you can – stop your daily Starbucks habit and take packed lunches to work, keep your heating turned down and wear lots of layers instead – whatever it takes to save a bit more money every month.
- Bring in some extra cash. As well as saving what you can from your regular salary, it will really help to increase your earnings. There are so many ways to do this from freelancing in the evenings, to selling your stuff on eBay. Be creative and keep the end goal in sight!
Six months from departure
- Call your travel agent. Around about this time you’ll want to have a more definite idea of your itinerary and take the plunge of buying your ticket. It’s possible to buy RTW tickets online but this is one of those occasions when it really pays to discuss all the different options with someone who really knows what they’re talking about. I found a specialist in RTW tickets who managed to save me hundreds on the same ticket and route that I’d discussed with several other agents. It really does pay to shop around. Depending on your travel plans, you may want to buy a one way ticket to your first destination, rather than buying a RTW ticket with multiple connections but again, discuss this with your agent to decide what’s best for you.
- Sort out your passport and visas. It can be a real pain renewing your passport when not in your home country, so if it expires within the next year, it’s best to apply for a new one. Many countries also will not let you in if there are less than six months left on your passport. Check out the visa requirements for the countries you plan to visit and apply for at least the first country on your list if needed. In many cases it is possible to get a visa at the border but this is definitely something you should be aware of before you leave.
- Talk to your manager. If you’re planning to leave work permanently, they’ll appreciate as much time as possible to find a replacement. If you plan to return then you can try to negotiate a period of extended leave. This does depend somewhat on your job – if you think they’ll try to fire you as soon as they know you’re planning on leaving, it’s probably best to leave this one till the last minute.
- Sell up or rent out. If you own your home and you’re planning on selling up entirely, it’s best to get this out of the way as soon as possible and stay in some temporary accommodation until it’s time to leave. If you’re planning on finding tenants to live in your home while you’re away, start with plenty of time in case things fall through at the last minute.
Three to four months from departure
- Buy your ticket. Congratulations! You’re about to become a traveller!
- Pick up some guidebooks and start planning properly. Now your dates are set in stone (although you can usually change them later), you should start planning in a bit more detail. Depending on what type of personality you have, you may want to plan everything down to the day or just leave it up to chance. It’s best to try to be a little bit flexible, however, as rigid schedules can really take the fun out of travel. Set up a trip calendar on Google calendar or similar and try to get a rough idea of how long you’ll be in each place. Plan your daily budget accordingly!
- Get your travel vaccinations. This is the ideal time to take a trip down to your local clinic and get some advice on which vaccinations are recommended, depending on where you’re travelling to. Some vaccinations are given as a series of injections spread over several months, so don’t leave this any later to sort out. Some malaria medications also require you start taking them a few weeks before you leave.
- Apply for a credit card or travel cash card. Cards are usually the most convenient way to access cash when you’re overseas. Look for a credit card that offers low fees when abroad, or try one of the cash cards designed for travel that you can load up and use like a credit card.
Two months from departure
- Hand in your notice at work. Congratulations! You’re (almost) free!
- Give notice on your accommodation. If you’re staying in a rental property, let them know that you’ll be ending your contract. You may find it easiest to stay with friends or family for the last month or so before you leave.
- Start getting rid of your stuff. Use this opportunity to lighten up your life. Even if you’re planning on coming back, it’s almost guaranteed that you have more stuff than you really need and there’s no point trying to store it all. Sell it on eBay to make some extra cash or give it away on Freecycle – be ruthless with yourself!
- Tie up your finances. Call up your gas, electricity and telephone suppliers and let them know when you’ll be leaving. Cancel your mobile phone contract and use a pay-as-you-go sim card until it’s time to leave. Let your bank know that you’ll be leaving the country. Make any necessary arrangements for tax purposes.
Four to six weeks from departure
- Start packing! It’s good to lay everything out so you can see exactly what you’re planning to pack. Make a list of what you need and buy any special equipment or clothing. Buy a decent backpack and make sure you only pack it half-full!
- Organise travel insurance. Make sure that all the countries you’re visiting and all the activities you may be taking part in are covered. If you’re taking an expensive camera or laptop, you may need to take out extra insurance for that too.
- Set up online accounts. Redirect your emails to an online account. Keep copies of any important documents or files you need for work in a cloud-based service like Google Drive or Dropbox.
- Visit your friends. Arrange to see any friends and family you haven’t caught up with in a while – it may be a while before you see them again.
One to two weeks from departure
- Organise a leaving party. Make sure all your friends and work colleagues have a proper chance to say goodbye before you leave.
- Check your tickets, passport and visas. Double check everything and keep an eye out for flight times, which often change when you’ve booked a long time in advance.
- Book your first few nights’ accommodation.
- Make copies of all your important documents. Scan your passport, tickets, insurance papers and any other important documents. Make a list of important phone numbers and contact details. Keep a copy in your email or online storage and make sure a family member or friend has a copy too. Make sure at least one person has a copy of your itinerary.
The day before you leave
- Pack for the last time. Make sure you stick to your packing list and shop for last minute toiletries and other bits and pieces.
- Charge batteries. Make sure your camera, iPod and laptop are fully charged up.
- Reconfirm your flight.
That’s it! The day has finally arrived when you can start your adventure. Take a deep breath, say your goodbyes, step onto the plane and into your new life.