1. What Would You Like?
When you first start planning a big trip there are three questions to answer:
=> How long would you like to travel for?
=> How much money are you willing to spend?
=> Where would you like to go?
Each of these affects the others, so you go round in circles a bit to start with until you’re fairly happy with the result (in poindexter speak we call this going round and round process “iteration”). But you need to start somewhere, so lets start with...
How long do you want to travel for?
One of the main things that will shape your trip is how long you want to travel for.
Will you quit your job? If not, how much time off do you think you can get? Jobs are important, but there really is something very satisfying about quitting your job to travel the world…
So write down the maximum length of time you think you can realistically make available for your trip.
How much money are you willing to spend?
In general the longer you travel for, and the more places you go to, the more your trip will cost. And if you’re like us then you probably don’t have an unlimited supply of money. If you do, please let us know as we would like to be your friends.
So lets get straight to the point: How much money are you willing to spend? And here is our golden rule of travel (and finance generally): Don’t spend what you don’t have. This is a trip, it is not a necessity so please, please don’t go into debt for it. If you don’t have enough money for your trip, then save for longer, budget harder or make your trip less expensive.
To give you a ball park idea of what a big trip may cost, our 11 month long round-the-world trip to 32 countries in SE Asia, Middle East, Europe, UK, East Africa, Madagascar, USA and Canada cost us about NZD 30,000 each in 2009. At the time that was roughly equivalent to about USD 18,000 or EUR 14,000. This was for a decidedly low budget trip using most of the tips on our money saving tips page such as tenting in Europe, sleeping in cars, Wwoofing etc. Don’t use this as your budget, as your trip will be different to ours. This is just to give you an idea of the sort of costs we’re talking about when we get into long term travel.
So, come up with a number for how much you’re willing to spend on your trip. If this number is bigger than the number that you see when you log into your internet banking then you may have some saving to do.
Where would you like to go?
When you’re first thinking about where you’d like to go, think big. Don’t hold back. Let your imagination go wild. Now is the time to brainstorm all the places you might want to go (it'll be handy later if you put your list on a spreadsheet). Don’t worry for now about whether it is possible or affordable, we’ll worry about reality later. For now at least, let’s come up with the trip of your lifetime.
If you’ve never taken much interest in the outside world, then you may be wondering where to start. If that’s you, then allow me to introduce you to your new best friend: The Library. Most public libraries have a good stock of books on travel, including guide books, photo books, travel DVDs and more.
Lonely Planet for example have put out a few theme related books that cover things like festivals of the world, and adventure travel ideas around the world. Or there are those books with titles like “1001 places to see before you die”, and “The world’s most beautiful places” and so on. Some guide books cover multiple countries, or even entire continents. These usually have plenty of photos that help you get a feel for what some of the main tourist attractions are in different countries.
So go to your library and grab any travel books (or DVDs) that catch your eye, preferably ones with plenty of photos. Then spend some time flicking through them to get a feel for what parts of the world look interesting to you. If possible, get out a guide book (eg Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, Moon, Frommer, Fodor etc) for each of the main countries you're thinking of going to. We'll use these later.
Its also extremely helpful to talk to friends who have done a bit of travelling to find out about their experiences. They'll most likely be very happy to find someone who actually wants to know about what they got up to, as surprisingly enough, most people don't seem all that interested!
You may want to visit a travel agent to discuss your ideas with them. Travel agents will often have lots of information on tours and so forth but they will also be able to tell you if there are any Travel Expos happening in your area any time soon. Travel Expos are a great place to get all sorts of ideas of what is out there in the big world of travel. Plus the travel companies will often offer their best deals at travel expos, so if there is one in your area it should be well worth checking out!
One thing to remember when you're looking at travel books and talking to friends and travel agents, is that just because something was interesting to someone else, doesn’t mean it will necessarily be interesting to you. Everyone is different and this is your trip, not theirs! Here are some ideas to help get your imagination going...
Maybe you’d like to hike the Inca trail in South America.
Maybe you’d like to ride a camel in the Sahara Desert.
Maybe you’d like to smoke a Sheesha in Syria.
Maybe you’d like to experience Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.
Maybe you'd like to attend Speed Week at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
Maybe you’d like to volunteer in an orphanage in Cambodia.
Maybe you’d like to kiss your true love at the top of the Eiffel Tower.
Maybe you’d like to do a mega road trip from New York to Los Angeles.
Maybe you’d like to make like Indiana Jones and ride a horse into Petra through the Siq.
Maybe you’d like to spend a month travelling along the Trans-Siberian Railway.
Maybe you’d like to visit the Taj Mahal.
Maybe you’d like to hike the Milford Track in New Zealand.
Maybe you’d like to go on a big game safari in the Serengetti.
Maybe you’d like to sip coffee in the coffee houses of Vienna.
Maybe you’d like to float in the Dead Sea.
Maybe you’d like to go trekking for gorillas in Rwanda.
Maybe you’d like to cycle from Madrid to Athens.
Maybe you’d like to go hot air ballooning over the Lake Constance in Germany.
Maybe you’d like to visit Jerusalem or the Sea of Galilee.
Maybe you'd like to visit Nuuk, the biggest city in Greenland, population 15,469.
Maybe you’d like to climb Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
Maybe you’d like to go ice climbing on a glacier in Argentina.
Maybe you’d like to climb an active volcano in Vanuatu.
Maybe you’d like to drive right around Australia.
Maybe you’d like to run with the bulls in Spain.
Maybe you’d like to go trekking in the Amazon Rainforest.
Maybe you’d like to move it move it with the lemurs in Madagascar.
Maybe you’d like to go to the top of the world’s tallest building in Dubai.
Maybe you’d like to go clubbing in Berlin.
Maybe you’d like to go white water rafting on the mighty Zambezi River in Zambia.
Maybe you’d like to do a 10 day solo kayaking mission in Alaska.
Maybe you’d like to experience 24 hour daylight in Norway.
Maybe you'd like to swim with Manta Rays in the Yasawa Islands of Fiji.
Maybe you’d like to visit Vatican City and listen to an address from the Pope.
Maybe you’d like to go to the original Disneyland in the US.
Maybe you’d like to laze away the days on a beach in Zanzibar.
Maybe you’d like to visit the Forbidden City in China.
Maybe you’d like to go trekking to deliver supplies to remote villages in the Himalayas.
Maybe you’d like to see the giant tortoises on the Galapagos Islands.
Maybe you’d like to yodel on a Swiss Alp.
The world is a big place and there is a lot you could see and do, so get dreaming of what YOU might want to do!
Oh, and one more tip...
If you only have a small number of places you definitely want to go, and you're looking for ideas for other places you could visit, then it may be a good time to have a bit of a play with the RTW ticket route planning tools on One World or the Star Alliance websites. If one or both of the alliances fly to the places you definitely want to go then check out where else you could fly to easily with them and consider whether you might be keen on going to some of those places too. This can be a very cost effective way to come up with a big round the world routing. Check out our RTW Tickets tab for more about these tickets, or go straight to the route planning tools at:
www.oneworld.com/flights/plan-book-online/ and www.staralliance.com/en/booking/book-and-fly/
So now you should have some starting points for where you want to go, how long you want to take, and how much you want to spend. Now let’s get a better idea of how many of the places on your list you’re realistically going to be able to go given the amount of time and money you have available.
Lets start with: 2. Reality Check: Time