Planning for a Trip Around the World

Planning for a Trip Around the World // Nattie on the Road

Planning for our trip around the world has been a long and ongoing process for the last few months. Because we are traveling through Europe during the middle of summer at the height of tourist season, we wanted to have those months planned out and booked ahead of time. While we normally love to be spontaneous on our adventures, this time we felt like it would be better not to leave things up to chance and end up in a situation where we got to a city and everything was already booked.The process has been stressful at times as it’s a lot to plan and involves spending a lot of money upfront, but researching all the new place to go and stay, and things to do has been the most exciting part of the process and made us that much more excited to begin our travels. That being said, I thought I’d give a little insight into our planning process.

How we planned our trip around the world

Give Yourself A Timeline

The first thing to figure out is when you plan to travel and for how long —do you have limited vacation you need to balance with the holidays? Are there times of year you can’t be away from work? These are all realities you have to face when looking at taking an extended trip, but let’s face it: travelling can be exhausting and it’s also important to consider how long you will actually be comfortable being on the road.
We decided on six months — sort of arbitrarily, sort of not. We knew we wanted to be away for an extended period of time starting in early summer, but still be back in California with our families in time for the holidays. For us, 6 months works out perfectly.

Block Out The Big Things First

Figuring out exactly what you want to do first is key. Going into this trip we knew ahead of time that we were going to be meeting my family in Ireland for 2 1/2 in mid June, so that became the major starting point of our trip. We also knew that our end goal was to be in South East Asia for 3-4 months, so we gave ourselves ample time to bounce across Europe and booked a flight from Istanbul to Bangkok in late July. With those major countries and dates set, we were able to book flights and lodging, and from there we could start filling in the rest of our trip.
When we realized that we could book a flight from Boston to Dublin for half as many frequent flyer points compared to anywhere else in the US, we made plans to make a pit stop on the east coast before flying overseas. That way, we would be able to visit friends in New Jersey and New York for a few days each before traveling to Boston on the Megabus{link}, and break up what otherwise would be a REALLY long flight.

P12-planning3

Where Are You Going

Making our way from Ireland to Istanbul could be as easy as booking a flight, but since we gave ourselves time between flights to do some quality sightseeing, deciding how we wanted to fill that time was the next task. Some things you can consider are if you want to visit specific people, places, or events. For instance, one of my best friends from high school lives in London (which Rob has never been to), so that was an obvious choice for our next stop after Ireland. From there, we realized the Montreux Jazz Festival would be going on in Switzerland around the same time we would be passing through that area, so Geneva/Lausanne/Montreux became our next stop. Northern Italy was next on the list, followed by Greece. With both the timeline in mind as well as the big flights booked, we knew Greece would be our last stop on our European adventure portion of the trip.
We tried to choose places that neither Rob nor I had been to, but that would also take us east across Europe on an easy and natural route to Istanbul. We’ve both spent time in Europe separately, and felt like it would be fun to experience new places together. That’s not to say that there isn’t some overlap, as I’m going to take him to all my favorite spots in London, and I’m sure he’ll be regaling stories of his study abroad years in Switzerland.
Be flexible with your decision making so that you don’t get too stuck on an idea that you miss out on other opportunities. When starting out the planning for this trip, the European tour looked a bit different than it does currently. We wanted to go to a specific town in Switzerland to go to the Therme Vals, but it turned out to be closed that time of year, so that got scrapped. We also wanted to go from Italy to Croatia to Greece, which makes sense when you look at the map seeing where those countries are situated, but during the research and planning process we quickly realized that travel between those countries was going to be a logistical nightmare of too many trains, buses, and/or 20 hour layover flights. Time-wise it didn’t make sense for this trip, but I know I’ll make it to Croatia at some point. I want to to see Dubrovnik (Kings Landing) and hang out on those awesome beaches!

Research

Research is key to planning any trip. You are going to want to find out everything from local culture, landmarks, and transportation, as well as where the best places to stay are and any events that might be going on while you are there. I found that WikiTravel is a helpful resource when looking for a good crowdsourced overview, and from there I recommend searching travel blogs’ posts on the places you’re going for sights to see and places to stay. I also use TripAdvisor for reviews of accommodations, restaurants, and activities.
A friend had recommended Cinque Terre to us when we were talking about Italy, so I proceeded to read tons of blog post about it. Cinque Terre is a group of 5 towns on the north western coast of Italy, and the popular thing to do there is to hike between the towns. By reading up on the area on the WikiTravel page, I found out that the trails between Cornigila and Manarola are closed, and so is the trail between Manarola and Riomaggiore. At first it seemed like a bummer, but there are local trains that go from town to town, so we would still able to take the train to one of the other towns to hike there. I also found out that Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so the land is protected like a national park. I found out where to stay by reading blog posts and personal accounts of people who’d stayed there before. I really liked this post about it!

Planning a trip around the world // Nattie on the Road

Specific Things You Want To Do

After researching, you realize there are going to be specific thing you want to do and see. When we realized the Montreux Jazz Festival would be happening during our time in Europe, and we knew we had to check it out. It may have had something to do with just getting back from Coachella and wanting to see more live music, but once we found out Muse is going to be playing at one of the concert halls during our stay, we were sold, and even managed to snag tickets secondhand (ah!).  To be totally honest, we were ready to cut Switzerland out of the trip after our initial plan of mountain spa/bath house fell through, but I’m so glad we kept researching and came up with this plan instead. There are awesome things happening everywhere on any given day, so make sure to do your research as you may discover other local happenings you wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

Tackle Each Place One at a Time

Trying to research and book a bunch of different places, hotels, and activities all at once can get seriously overwhelming. So I would set aside a couple of days at a time to research, plan, and book for just one place. Figuring out Greece was a bit of a process because we wanted to see Athens as well as the Islands. Over the course of a week I researched the islands, decided which we should go to, and booked hotels and ferry tickets accordingly. Allowing yourself the time to do the research on where you want to go and where you want to stay is important so you don’t end up in the wrong town or in a bad hotel. One consequence to this method was that Greece was all I thought about for a straight week, and I probably spent too much time looking up scenic photos of Santorini and comparing ferry pricing, but I don’t think either of those things are a bad thing. You can never have too much information when going to some place new.

Getting Around

Aside from having the big flights booked, you’ll also need to figure out your transportation between cities. Going from London to Geneva isn’t super far, but there are still small decisions on whether to fly, take the train/bus, or rent a car and drive. We opted to fly between Dublin and London, London and Geneva, Venice and Athens, and Athens and Istanbul. If you have a flexible schedule and don’t mind flying out of smaller airports, then European budget airlines like RyanAir can make it really easy to fly for cheap. Trains are also a good option, and if you get a Eurail or RailEurope Pass you don’t have to worry about buying individual tickets. We are taking trains from Geneva to Italy and all around Italy while we bounce around. We are also renting a car for part of our time in Ireland as well as while we are in the Dolomites in Italy. As for getting around the Greek islands, we’ll take ferries. I have the feeling once we are in Southeast Asia there will also be a lot of bus rides too. There are a lot of options for transportation depending on where you are, so figuring out what is the best for the area, your budget, and your time frame should be the first thing you do.

Planning a trip around the world // Nattie on the Road

Use all the Credit Card Points and Miles You Can

If you are planning for a big trip it can be a really good idea to get a credit card that earns miles and/or points early on, just make sure you get one that earns points for a relevant carrier. We were able to book some of our major flights on points using the British Airways Visa credit card, which earns Avios points for any airline in the OneWorld airline alliance (good for domestic and certain long-haul international flights between the United States and Europe/Asia). Just make sure to be aware of any annual fees before you sign up and use it to your advantage. Pay it off early and avoid racking up debt right before you leave, and be sure to save up some extra spending cash so you don’t have to rely on it while on the road.

2 comments

2 thoughts on “Planning for a Trip Around the World

    1. nattiekaf Post author

      Thanks Lauren! I agree, blogs are such a great resource, and I love reading about people’s personal experiences. You blogs looks really cool and I’m definitely following!

      Reply

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