Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Planning a Trip Around the World

How to Plan a Trip Around the World (RTW)
How to Plan a Trip Around the World

There are lots of great resources out there.  And really I wish more were applicable to us.  It'd be neat to be writing that we are twenty-somethings, with no obligations, setting out for a carefree and exhilarating year-long trip around the world.  But our lives took different, albeit fulfilling, paths.  We have decent jobs, a mortgage for a home we love, and a life we do actually want to to return to (:

We are at once homebodies and world travelers!

So for this (mini) RTW journey our starting point may be a bit different and our template may be a bit unconventional; we are limited more by time than by budget. We are left with a choice to visit locations for a shorter period of time or not visit them at all. We choose the former. Notwithstanding the foregoing, though having more time would be ideal, this doesnt pose too much of a problem b/c as much as wed love to wonderfully lose ourselves in the culture of each location our aspirations this time around are to fulfill our dreams of particular experiences.

So, how to even begin putting together an around the world journey?

I look at the first step like creating a study outline from a text book-filling in the static stuff first like roman numerals and headers.  Sort of laying out the bones of the thing first then further fleshing it out as your research starts filling in some of the blanks.

For example, our very first step was to determine whether any events dictated us being at certain locations at certain dates.  Then, using those as our anchor cities, building our remaining, flexible itinerary around.  What we found is that we have one.  Yep.  Exactly one event, in one destination, that dictates we be there at a certain date.  It probably sounds counter intuitive but I was sort of hoping for more constraints because, as illustrated by our profile name, for us, flexibility equals indecision.

So we had basically an outline with one header and a bunch of other stuff we werent sure where to place.

Our next step was to pin our destinations on a world map and see the most logical route. Some unroll paper maps taped together and wrinkled with wear showing highlights and markings outlining their dream routes while others hang giant ones on their walls using pushpins to identify their wildest ambitions.  We have taken the virtual and much less exciting path: google maps. Research showed there are plenty of options out there to piece together your rtw itinerary (e.g., airtreks) but for our basic needs google maps was perfect. You can see it here though note that final destinations are still in progress: wanderlust world map.

Once we could more easily visualize our journey we visited our favorite airfare website: google flights.  We *love* using google flights because you can easily toggle between airport codes AND there are some cool features like one which shows you the dates that offer the cheapest flights between your selected cities and another that shows you fares for all flights from a particular city. This is really helpful for us since aside from our ONE destination we have such flexibility.

And this is the point we are at now-comparing fares and flight times and layovers to see what is most appealing.  For example, 15 hours in Shanghai or 13 hours in Bangkok? Neither of these are destinations on our itinerary, however, maybe it would be fun to get quick taste along the way.  Or maybe we choose the flight with nearly no layover to maximize our time at our "official" destinations.  Lots of things to consider.

We created a spreadsheet (b/c we both look for any excuse to use excel) showing cost to get to/from each location to/from all other locations.  This task was fascinating or tedious, depending on which one of us you ask, but either way certainly informative.  Such as you can travel to Amman from nearly anywhere in the world for under $1,000.  And Argentina to Palau can cost you over $6,000.

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