Guide for Planning Your RTW Travels

By Tran Dang on 12/18/2011

There are many things that go into planning for a round-the-world trip. Most travelers agonize for weeks or even months about major decisions like which countries to visit, whether to go with a RTW ticket or fly as you go, how to save money on vaccinations, which fast-drying underwear to buy, etc. To help make this phase of your journey less stressful and more manageable, we’ve compiled a list of resources to get you started and on your way.

Cost of RTW Travel

How much to save depends on where you want to go and what kinds of experiences you want to have. To get an idea of what others have spent, see Bootsnall.com’s recent post on 11 travel budgets revealed. For specific examples of travel budgets organized by region, see LegalNomads.com’s “Resources” page. Regardless of where you go, make sure to cushion your travel fund to account for unexpected expenditures like additional tours, gifts, flights, visas on route, etc.

Pre-pay for Flights v. Fly As You Go

This can easily be the hardest pre-trip decision you make because of the amount of money involved, and because pre-setting an itinerary means committing to a time and location. Whether or not to purchase your tickets in advance really depends on your travel plans and travel style. If you want to know more about how RTW tickets work and whether you can do it for cheaper, see NomadicMatt.com’s post on Buying a RTW Ticket. For those choosing to fly as you go, check AirNinja.com for budget flight schedules. Travelindependent.info also has a list of budget airline carriers by region.

Solo Female Travel

Thinking about having a go at it alone? Solo female travelers have been doing it for ages and many of them have written extensively about their experiences abroad. Take a look at these very different female travelers, who have combed the globe from South America to Central and Southeast Asia: Bacon is Magic, Adventurous Kate, Legal Nomads, Nomadic Chick, and Never-ending Footsteps. Other helpful resources for women travelers include: What Your Big Sister Never Told You About Travel and The Gender Gap in Travel: Myths and Revelations.

Visa Requirements

Some countries have specific requirements for obtaining your visa ahead of time, meaning you won’t be able to obtain it upon arrival. To avoid unwanted delays and unnecessary misadventures at the border, read up beforehand to make sure you will be able to satisfy all requirements. Generally speaking, it is probably a good idea to have at least the visas you need for the first 1-2 months of travel before taking off. If you do not have a pre-set itinerary, you can leave remaining visas to be obtained en route. For entry requirements, American citizens should check the State Department’s International Travel section.

Vaccinations & Health Abroad

When it comes to cost for vaccinations, prepare to dole out some serious cash. Depending on the shot, the cost can vary significantly from clinic to clinic. To avoid paying more than you have to, do a thorough search of travel clinic price schedules in your area before committing to a location.

Lucky for you guys, we have an infectious diseases doctor on staff. Check out her articles on how to save money on anti-malaria pills, tips for preventing malaria, and dealing with Montezuma. Also take a look at her list of recommended travel health sites, both U.S. and non-U.S., that you may find helpful as you plan your trip, while you’re abroad, and once you've returned. For more general tips, take a look at these 32 Travel Health Tips from 32 Bloggers.

Medical Insurance

Bootsnall.com provides a comparison chart with several insurance plans represented. It is a good place to start to get a feel for the various plan features. The list, however, is not comprehensive. Other medical insurance providers you might consider checking out include: STA Travel (prices increase after you turn 36), Global Travel Shield, and these eight from Frommer’s list of top travel insurance providers.

Of course, not everyone thinks it is necessary to purchase medical insurance abroad. Some find that it is actually cheaper to pay out-of-pocket as you go. In developing countries, healthcare is very affordable and it might make sense for you not to prepay for medical insurance. Personally, we prefer to have a contingency plan in place.

Note: Panama provides medical insurance to visitors for the first 30 days of travel in the country. If the timeframe works with your travel plans, you might be able to avoid paying for medical insurance for a portion of your trip. Of course, you would have to begin or end your trip in Panama.

Where To Stay

You won’t have trouble finding budget and mid-range accommodation. The market is saturated with options ranging from as little as $5/day to more than $30/day. How much you spend will really depend on what part of the world you’re traveling to, the level of comfort you seek, and your overall budget. Always talk to other travelers to get recommendations, and when you can, do your own research on the ground. This is how we found some of our favorite places to stay.

Resources:
HostelBookers | Hostelworld | TripAdvisor – guesthouse, hostel, and cheap hotel listings
Couchsurfing | Hospitality Club | GlobalFreeloaders | Servas | Casa Casa – hospitality exchange networks
TrustedHousesitters | MindMyHouse | Housecarers | Caretaker – house sitting opportunities
Airbnb | Wimdu – apartment/room rentals

What to Bring

With so many packing lists out there, why invent another one? See the resources links below to see how you compare to other backpackers. Of the lists we’ve seen, some of the more interesting items backpackers have been caught carrying include: a doorstop, honey, Vegemite, stack of Kiwi comic books, solid shampoo, origami paper for making Turu cranes, glow sticks, and beanie babies. Hey, if you can fit it in your bag and you’re willing to carry it with you, why not?

Resources:
How to Pack for Long-Term Travel
A Digital Nomad’s Ultimate Backpacking List
The Complete 2011 foXnoMad Travel Gadget Gift Guide
RTW Pre-Departure Checklist | Packing Checklist
Rolf Pott’s Packing for a No Luggage Journey (for the minimalist traveler)

Documents

It makes sense to bring along a hard or digital copy of the following documents: passport, visas obtained in advance, and proof of vaccination, if required. It might also be wise to bring additional passport photos in case your itinerary changes and you need to apply for an additional visa. In countries that require you to have a valid government-issued ID on you at all times, American citizens might consider purchasing the passport alternative or passport card.

Credit and ATM cards

You'll want to bring a mix of cash to cover different scenarios. That means bringing an ATM card, a credit card, and at least one type of currency. Some people even go so far as to open a bank account with branch offices worldwide. If you don't go that route, you can still minimize foreign transaction and ATM bank fees by knowing which card to bring. In the unfortunate event your credit or ATM card is lost or stolen, you'll want to know your bank's policy on replacing cards abroad. We personally have a soft spot for banks that are willing to wire money through Western Union when you need it most.

Keeping Your Files Safe

If you’re bringing a laptop, we recommend you use an online backup service provider like Carbonite, Backblaze, or Mozy to backup your laptop to the cloud. Make sure to get started at least two weeks before your departure date so that your entire computer can be backed up before you leave the country. For more information on how to keep your documents safe, see Artofbackpacking.com’s Backing Up and Protecting Your Files On The Road.

Staying Connected

It seems most travelers today continue to use Skype, which is free if you’re calling Skype to Skype. However, for those of you who want to stay connected with people in the U.S., Google Voice is a superior option. From any computer in the world, you will be able to call any phone (cell phone or landline) in the U.S. for free. Google Voice’s calling rates to other countries in the world are also consistently lower than Skype’s, and they don’t charge a connection fee. Other pluses include the ability to receive voice and text messages to your U.S. phone number for a one-time $20 setup fee.

Note: Google Voice’s app does not allow you to place calls from your iPod Touch, only your computer.

In countries where it might make a difference, you may want to check thePlanetD.com’s tips for Getting Around Internet Censorship While Traveling.

Saving Money, Doing Good

There are many positions you can take while on the road to either earn money or secure room and board. If you're willing to volunteer, work, or chip in, you'll be able to save a little money on your trip.

 

If there is anything we missed or any topics you'd like to see added, let us know.