Planning the big journey
September 13, 2016 | Travel | by Michael Breitung
In the plethora of travel books out there, we often read how people just pack their backpack and hit the road, no concrete plans, just letting themselves float. As great and adventurous as this sounds, it is not for everyone, including me. I need more structure in my travels and while it’s not possible to plan every day of a six month long journey around the world we were able to plan a set of segments in quite a similar way as we would a normal two weeks trip. This means forfeiting some flexibility but it’s a tradeof we are willing to make.
So after agreeing on a route for our journey and fixing a start date, we made a list of things to do before that date. There are a lot of such lists to be found on the internet. In the end we used some as inspiration for our own list. Also very helpful was the german site Weltreise-Info, which has a forum where users post their experience and can ask questions.
Our to-do list involved things like getting vaccinations, arranging health insurance for long time travel, some organizational stuff at the bank, getting credit cards and a lot more boring stuff, which I don’t want to go through in this article.
Instead I want to share with you the three main planning pillars of our travel around the world.
First I created an Excel sheet, in which I layed out our route of travel including all our travel and location segments as well as organizational things we had to do before the journey. This was kind of a work in progress and the list got more and more detailed as planning progressed. It contains several columns: a location column, a description column including dates, an estimated cost, a status, a final/payed cost and a next steps column.
This might sound a bit nerdy but without this list it would have been impossible to keep track of all the stuff that was going on during the planning. I had to communicate with several tour providers, book hotels, busses and flights. And in the list I always had the next important steps highlighted.
It also gives us a good cost estimate for the complete journey and we already have a rough overview about how much money will be needed on each segement of the trip.
Together with the list I also filled my Google Calendar, which helped to spot holes in the planning.
Here’s a before and after photo of the things I pack for the journey.
Round The World Ticket
Booking all our needed flights really was a tough one. The first thing I did was calculating all the flights we would need separately, using some random dates one year earlier than our actual journey. It summed up to more than 12000 Euro for the both of us. That would have been a very large budget just for the flights and there had to be a cheaper way. For example, if we do a normal vacation we always book the flight towards our travel destination and our flight back together, which is much cheaper than buying the flights separately. An exception might be budget airlines or some last minute flights.
The RTW ticket follows the same principle. We booked all our flights together from one Alliance of Airlines. Because our route of travel includes South America, Australia and South-East Asia, while completely avoiding North America, the One World Explorer ticket was the best choice for us.
The principle of the Explorer ticket is simple. As we started to setup our itinerary we had 16 segments, which we could fill with flights or mark as self-travel segements leaving no gaps in the process. The price of the final ticket mostly depends on the number of visited continents. We didn’t have to use all segements but were not allowed to exceed the maximum number. Also with the Explorer Ticket it was possible to change our general travel direction as long as we stayed within one continent. So, for example, we will fly from Chile to Australia first and later back to New Zealand. Some other RTW tickets don’t allow this.
We ended up using every available segment. The most important part: We had to have all our segments in the correct order when we finally booked our tickets and we had to wait till all segments were available. This would have made buying the RTW ticket directly through the homepage a bit tricky. We wanted to lock in our flights once they became available to make sure we got the flights we wanted.
The solution was booking the RTW ticket through a travel agency. In our case it was Boomerang Reisen here in Germany. Booking through this agency was a huge advantage because they were able to reserve our flights in advance without the need to do the final booking. So we just passed them our desired route and dates and as soon as the flights became available they locked them in for us. The ticket was then booked as the final flight became available nearly six months after we reserved the first one.
If you ever want to book a RTW ticket, find an agency that can help you there. In the end it wasn’t even more expensive since we also booked our campers for Australia and New Zealand with them and altogether it was less than what I had first calculated for the individual flights.
Pre-Booked hotels with cancellation policy
The third important part in our planning was pre-booking the hotels for our complete trip. This sounds crazy for a world travel but since we had layed out our complete route anyways it was the logical thing to do. It gives us some ease of mind because we don’t have to research places to stay while traveling or when arriving in a new city after hours in a bus or airplane. We can focus more on experiencing the landscapes and culture of the countries we visit.
Because I had good experiences with them in the past I used Booking* for nearly all of our reservations. For South America and Asia it was easy to find a hotel with cancelation policies of up to a few days before arrival for nearly all areas we will be visiting. This way we retain some flexibility, if things don’t go as planned or if we want to stay a bit longer in an area.
Another good thing are the prices. Seldom did I find a cheaper offer on other booking sites. In fact only one of the hotels we booked was offered cheaper elsewhere. After informing Booking.com about this they arranged the same price.
In the end we have now booked around 40 hotels, where only four of them are fixed and cannot be cancelled anymore. Since those are layovers before flights we can live with that.
Now that the planning is finished and there are only some last emails to be sent and the bags to be packed, there’s this voice in my head again counting days… but this time it’s counting the days until we start our journey and I’m sure it won’t come back so fast after our first flight.
* Above I use Amazon Affiliate Links, marked with *. If you use them to buy or book something, I’ll get a little commission