So you’re going to do it! You’re getting out of the dreaming stage and into the planning stage. You have all the inspiration you need, from books, articles, blogs, and websites, and you are finally going to do it. You, my friend, are going on a long-term trip! Congratulations, as you are doing what most only dream of.
So now what?
The initial planning stage seems daunting and nearly impossible to the first time long-term, RTW traveler. There’s so much to do and so much to think about, and the never-ending resources, while nice, sometimes create more confusion than clarification. That’s why we here at BootsnAll have created the definitive planning guide for long-term travel. We’re starting at the very beginning and giving you all the necessary resources for planning the trip of a lifetime. We will make you ask yourself the appropriate questions, and we will help guide you in planning the best RTW trip for you!
What To Think About First
The two biggies that first time long-term travelers need to consider is what kind of budget you’ll have and where you want to go. Which one to focus on first is up to each individual traveler, but chances are that you’ll want to begin with one of these.
How Much Money Can You Save
If you start with the budget, the first thing you need to do is start tracking your income and expenses. You can always just open up a spreadsheet and start tracking that way, or you can open an account on a website like Mint, which is free and keeps everything nice and organized for you. It’s vital to begin to figure out how much money you can save per month so you can start your travel fund. If you already have some money put away, awesome, you’re ahead of the game.
If you’re currently spending more than you’re bringing in, then it’s time to start cutting back. There are several in depth articles about money saving tips, so we’ll only touch on them here. Start simple. Stop going out to eat. Cook more often and have friends over for beers instead of hitting up the bars. Think about every single purchase you make. Only buy what is completely necessary. Think about getting a second (or third) job. Do whatever you can to start saving money each month.
Once you get into your money saving groove, it’s time to start looking at timelines and a rough number of how much you may have to start the trip. It’s crucial to be honest with yourself here on how much you’ll be able to save and how long you want to wait until departing. Lowballing your total figure is the smart way to go about this. If you save more money than you anticipated, bonus.
Deciding Where To Go
Once you have a rough idea of a dollar amount you’ll be able to save, whether it’s $5k, $10k, $20k, or more, you can start looking at where you want to go and pondering how long your trip can be. If you already have a bucket list of sorts, then it’s time to start prioritizing. You have no doubt dreamed of traveling to certain countries, visiting specific cities, and seeing famous sites. Start making a list of those of places. Write them down, type them out.
At this point in the planning process, it’s time to realize one cold, hard fact about traveling long-term. If you’ve only gone on 1 or 2 week vacations in the past, the first thing you need to accept is that this will not be one long vacation. Long term travel is different, and you simply can’t sustain the same pace that you can during a one week holiday. Once you accept that fact, it’s time to acknowledge that you won’t be able to go everywhere and see everything you want. The world is huge, and even if you are traveling for an entire year, cuts will have to be made.
This is where prioritizing comes into play. A good tip is to get a short list of absolute must-sees, or what we like to call the pillars of your trip. Obviously there’s no magic number in play here, but it’s important to realize that the more must-sees you have, the more difficult it will be to plan, and the more expensive it may be, particularly if they are all in different parts of the world. Once you get a manageable list together, this can become the framework of your trip.
Think About Your Budget While Making Your Must-See List
You can start the planning process in reverse if you’d like, making your must-see list before worrying about how much you will be able to save, but because of the massive disparity between cost of travel in different parts of the world, it’s probably easier to know the budget you will be dealing with.
If your budget is going to be small but many of your pillars are in expensive regions, decisions will have to be made. Do you bypass some of your must-sees to travel longer, or do you cut your trip short but still be able to get to most of your dream destinations? It’s a personal decision that is different for everyone.
If you deal with your budget first, it can help in whittling down your list. If you have a small budget, then focusing on must-sees in regions like Southeast Asia, Latin America, India, or the Middle East would be the wise move since those are much cheaper destinations than North America, Europe, and New Zealand.
Once you get a rough estimate of your budget and a small list of must-sees, it’s off to the next planning stage, Costs of RTW Travel
Where Do I Begin? Checklist
- If you haven’t already, start a budget on a site like Mint
- Track your income vs. expenses
- Are you spending more than you’re making? If yes, see below. If no, skip to # 6
- Start cutting back on non-essential expenses like going out to dinner, going to the bars, and shopping
- Get a second (or third) job to help bring in more money
- Figure out the absolute minimum you can save per month
- Start putting that money into a separate account each month-This is your travel fund
- Think about when you might want to depart based on per month savings
- Think of a total amount you may be able to save based on per month savings and when you want to depart (remember that these don’t have to be exact, yet, and lowballing is better than overestimating
- Start researching destinations (old guidebooks from the library, travel websites, blogs, etc.)
- Start crafting a must see list that will become the backbone of your itinerary (keeping your budget in mind)