Whether you’re off on a gap year, taking a career break or sabbatical, or just plain dreaming, taking a RTW trip is easier (and probably more affordable) than you’d think. Of course you can plan as much or as little as you like before you leave, and what you’ll spend will depend on where you want to go and the experiences you want to have. Here are a few things to get you started:
Step 1 – Start deciding where you want to go
Often the cheapest way to get between different continents will be by buying a round the world plane ticket. There are different rules to follow depending on which airline alliance you choose to book with, including the direction you can travel, the amount of flights you can take, and how many times you can fly within each continent. If you can nail down your “must-go” places, you can start to piece together your itinerary. It can be quite a lot cheaper to use your RTW ticket as a skeleton and to book short internal travel, either air or overland, by yourself. Though RTW tickets can be booked online these days, its still worth consulting with a travel agent. Their knowledge can mean you’ll save a lot of money.
Step 2 – Decide when you’ll go and how long for
In general, most RTW trips last between six and twelve months. The length of your trip will depend on your budget as well as how long you’re able to leave home for. If you are visiting a destination because you want to see a certain attraction or be present at a certain festival, e.g. Carnival time in Brazil, then you need to plan for that accordingly. It’s also important to consider weather in different areas of the world. If you’re dreaming of enjoying the sunshine on Bondi Beach in Sydney, you don’t want to find you’ve planned your itinerary to visit there in the middle of winter. Of course, you won’t be in every place at the “right time”. Decide which attractions and experiences are important to you and plan around those. If you miss out on certain things, try to focus on the savings you’ll make by not visiting those places in peak time!
Step 3 – Begin your budget
It mightn’t be as much as you think, but your RTW trip is going to cost you something! It’s important to remember at this time that you are taking a large chunk of time out of your life for what a lot of people consider a once in a lifetime opportunity. Now is not the time to short-change yourself. Be realistic when you create your budget and allow money for incidental costs you will incur. Its better to over estimate what you’ll need and have to save a little harder before you leave than to cut short the trip of a lifetime because you haven’t left yourself enough money. It’s also important to be honest with yourself about your travel style. If you are comfortable staying in hostels and backpackers’ places, awesome! If you know that you need a nicer hotel every now and again in order to feel clean and sane, then plan for that. This is your trip and there isn’t much point in trying to save money on everything if you’re just going to be unhappy with it at the time.
Budgeting can be easier when it is divided into the different countries you are visiting – read travel blogs and destination guides to get an idea of the daily cost of living in the places you are visiting. The “Cost Calculator” at Trekhard.com is also a very useful tool. If the cost of your trip starts to look unrealistic in terms of what you can afford, its worth looking at what small changes you can make to your itinerary, such as spending less time in expensive countries, visiting more affordable countries, or going for a shorter amount of time overall.
Step 4 – Planning and booking your adventure!
How much of your trip you plan before you leave is entirely up to you. Some people are perfectly comfortable with finding accommodation once they arrive in a city, others like to have researched, read reviews and secured their room before they even leave home. Either method is fine, whatever works for you. Keep in mind though that if you plan a long way in advance, there’s a good chance you will change your mind about some things or receive advice from other travellers about easier and better ways of doing things. It can be useful to have concrete plans at the beginning of your trip but if you can cope, try to leave the later parts of your trip loosely planned. If you love a place you visit and want to stay a bit longer, you’ll have the freedom to do so. Pre-booking a hotel room six months in advance might also be unnecessary if throughout your travels you make a friend who lives locally in that city – Free accommodation and tour guide sorted out for you!
Now is also a great time to start planning your visas – visit the immigration websites of the countries you are stopping in and find out what is required of you, how long you can stay, how much it will cost and when you need to apply for your visa. Make sure you check these requirements regularly leading up to your trip in case any changes are made.
Final Note (If you’re not already off packing your bag…)
Remember, deciding to leave everything in your home life behind for an extended period of time can be scary, but its’ also hugely exciting! It will challenge you, change you, help you grow and open your eyes. You will meet people from all over the world and experience countless different cultures. When you do eventually come home, you will realise just how independent, confident and strong you have become.
Some people never take the trip you’re considering – they fear being too old, too young, too shy, not speaking the right languages, not being able to budget, getting too homesick and a myriad of other things. My challenge? Find me a person who’s taken a trip like this who wouldn’t tell you it was the very best thing they ever did.