To plan or not to plan?
“Travel free with no plans…” Those famous last words!
This is what everyone used to say to us in the time leading up to our travels. If only we knew what we know now we wouldn't have taken that comment so seriously and a lot more planning would have been done! Our advice on travel planning is as follows… we hope it helps.
We spent endless nights after long days at work and weekends planning. There are many big factors to such a big trip that you simply have to plan. Of course if you are doing a trip where you hop on a plane to one country and then want to see where it takes you next, not much planning is involved at all but for us we have a rough time scale and a lot of places we want to see.
Flights is the first big thing to think about. What flights do you need to book and when? We started looking at this 1 year before our departure. Writing a bucket list of countries we knew we wanted to visit seemed the easiest place to start. To make sure nowhere was missed we started in one corner of the globe and made our way around This wasn’t hard for us as we have always been dreaming of many countries we wanted to see. Round the world flight tickets can sometimes be restrictive with certain countries and you always have to travel in the same direction, be it clockwise or anticlockwise. Once you have your list you need to note a rough timescale next to each country for how long you want to spend there in order to come up with your travel dates. This isn’t that important as you should always purchase a 'flexi pass' to ensure you can change dates at any point in your travels. Who knows where you will fall in love with. We did a lot of research on online price comparison websites to find the cheapest way of purchasing all of our flights. Doing it individually was a lot more expensive and you don’t have the flexi option without incurring extra costs. Skyscanner was the best website for comparing the RTW tickets. We then visited many travel agents in our city including The Flight Centre, STA, Nomads, Thomas Cook etc. and the best deal for us surprisingly came from STA which also included a free flexi pass for both of us. When you book those flights is when it all becomes very real and exciting! We had everything booked 10 months before departure. Obviously flight dates towards the end of the trip weren't available yet so they book them to secure a cost and then date change them as they become available with your flexi pass.
Our bucket list was as following:
Remember you will still need to book internal flights so budget for these too.
Our first stop was North America including British Columbia and California. This you have to plan for, there is no doubt about it. Anywhere that is your first stop you should definitely make a rough plan with the first weeks accommodation being booked so you have time to settle in. Same goes for each country you land in, book the first nights accommodation so you have somewhere to head to especially if it is going to be a late arrival. So North America, whether it is at the beginning, middle or end of the trip you simply have to plan ahead and book. It isn’t like other parts of the world such as Asia for backpackers. Throughout the Summer towns and cities are full of families, holidaymakers and travellers like us so hotels, motels, hostels and campsites get fully booked. Once you have a rough plan for the first couple of countries you are good to go. You have so many free days whilst being away, rainy days, long travel days etc. you can plan further ahead then.
Your budget is probably the most important part of planning! We found the easiest thing to do was work out the total amount we would have when leaving the UK and divide it by each country. This requires some research as what you need for a week in America is three times what you need for a week in India! Look at accommodation, trips, transport and food costs for each place. America, Canada, NZ, Aus and Singapore are very expensive! Another good thing to do is add to your bucket list things you must see and do in each country so you don’t miss out. This may be the Taj Mahal in India or a bungee jump in New Zealand.It’s good to then take away money from the country budget for the trips you want to do and transport (we hired cars so the hire cost and fuel per day). From that you can then work out a weekly or daily budget for accommodation and food. We found a daily budget easier to keep on top of.
From the budget comes the banking… How are you going to spend all that money!
DO NOT LEAVE THIS TOO LATE!
We went to the bank 2 weeks before we were due to leave and the card we wanted was declined to us. Leave at least two months before you leave to get this sorted. We were left with no other option than to travel with our credit cards before sorting out a currency card. Using debit and cards often will incur you extra foreign charges that you don't want to be spending. There are credit cards such as the 'clarity card' from Halifax that are perfect with no hidden charges. We recommend a currency card. Just check the conversion rate offered is good and they provide currency for each country you are visiting. We have the 'claxton fx' and also recommend the 'revolt'. The 'monzo' has also been recommended to us but there is a very long waiting list when the claxton reached us within 5 days. These currency cards also make it easier to keep on top of your spending as you choose how much currency you load on. Simply only load your budget and keep an eye on what you are spending.
Travel vaccinations are not to be underestimated when planning your budget! Our jabs cost 600 pounds each including malaria tablets (always get Malarone, the more expensive version to avoid nasty side effects). Which vaccinations you need will differ depending on where you are going. Some places we were heading posed a low risk of a disease but we went for it as we figured better to be safe than sorry and relax while we are in an effected area. Allow enough time for these too, head to your GP surgery 6 months before departure with your list of destinations for a consultation to find out which free vaccinations (such as Hep A) they offer before heading to a clinic such as Nomads for a free consultation on what else you need and the cost.
You have to get the boring things done and in place before flying off for all of that fun! Travel insurance is sooo important, especially for us having a few health conditions floating around. But health conditions or not, you have to have it and have it good! Time well spent is time researching different policies and what they offer and cover. Think of what you will be doing such as skydiving, bungee jumps and check these are covered as often extreme sports are not in basic packages. Our insurance company offered different levels of cover; bronze, silver and gold. The cost and level of cover varied between each so simply have a good read and see what suits you. Ensure you declare all existing health conditions and medical history. We were lucky enough to find a 0 excess policy which is great to have if you ever did need to claim (hopefully not), so look out for this. We used 'cover for you' and the cost for both of us was around 800 pounds. This is not an area to try and save money on.
Remember everyone is so different (what makes the world go round) and has a variety of views on what travelling is so while it is good to get advice from others don’t get too fixated on this. Make your own mistakes and learn your way. Your gut instinct is always right.
Thats a lot to take in for now so we will leave packing until next time!
Oh and one more thing plan a party to say goodbye to all of your nearest and dearest.
Booking.com is cheapest for accommodation hostels, motels and hotels
Air Bnb is great value for money if you want some privacy
Always check reviews – trip advisor, booking.com ratings, blogs and locals recommendations
Research weather conditions and countries holidays (labour weekend) as they can really affect plans – we have encountered extreme forest fires and hurricanes
Booking our flights - that feeling!
Partying with our family and friends
The sense of achievement when a plan comes together
With love from The Globe,
Isabelle & George x
Currently in New Zealand.