Hi all! We’ve gotten a few requests for itinerary from friends and relatives, so below is a rough itinerary of our trip. Overall, our travels will take us Central America -> South America -> Oceania -> Southeast Asia -> East Asia -> Russia -> Europe.
Month-by-month, here’s the current plan, in case anyone wants to join us somewhere!
November – Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama
December – Colombia, Peru, Chile
January – New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia
February -Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia
March – Vietnam, Hong Kong
April – China (if we get visas), Taiwan, Japan
May – Mongolia, Russia (if we get visas)
June – Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Netherlands
July – Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, Ukraine
August – Bulgaria, Greece, Israel
September – Croatia, Italy, Switzerland, France
October – Spain, Portugal, Iceland
Planning a Route
For those of you interested in planning your own route around the world or for any long-term trip, we followed 4 steps that can help you too!
1. Set a draft route between regions
Start by getting a laminated map of the region you plan to visit so you can draw and erase routes as you plan them. While there are tons of great digital options for route planning, nothing yet beats the real-world feel of drawing the lines for yourself. We used the map from Amazon and a standard Sharpie marker as it’s less prone to getting accidentally erased (but comes off with isopropanol/ethanol–er, rubbing alcohol or booze >100 proof).
Once you have your map, circle the regions you want to visit. This is where “design considerations” come in. We used these:
- Budget/money available
- Time constraints – this breaks into two parts:
- Duration/time you have for your trip
- Any time-limited activities you may want to do (ex: hiking)
- Direction constraints
- What direction do you want to travel in?
- North vs South – This breaks down into summer vs winter, or rainy vs dry season
- East vs West – You probably want to go west. Explained below.
- What is the most efficient route between your desired regions? Backtracking is inefficient and depending on your travel method, expensive.
- What direction do you want to travel in?
For our round-the-world trip we budgeted $25,000 per person for the year, which we decided on based on how long we wanted to spend in each region (2-3 months). Following that, we knew we wanted to carry everything with us AND do a lot of hiking, which are both points in favor chasing summer because it means less gear to carry and better weather. Because we’re starting off in November, we should head to the Southern Hemisphere first, then flip to the Northern Hemisphere around April. We next decided to head west because we would gain hours. While that seems obvious, there’s an instinct to head to Europe first to get the expensive countries out of the way. For us, that was less important than having a good sleep schedule for all the amazing things we wanted to do.
2. Add in “must-do” experiences
These are the experiences that you’ve always wanted, immortalized in a clipped picture from a magazine, a bookmarked webpage, or a story told to you by someone. They are what you dream and daydream about. For us, these were things such as stargazing in the Atacama desert, hiking in New Zealand, and taking the trans-Siberian railway across Russia.
Something helpful to keep in mind as you think about these : separate the “experience” from the “place” and know yourself. Those sunsets on the beach look lovely, but are you the kind of person who likes sitting in a hammock and watching the sun go down? Similarly, that picture from the peak of Cerro Paine Grande is spectacular, but are you willing and able to make the climb and see it for yourself? You’re going to have the most fun if you do what you want to on the trip. Don’t try to live out someone else’s fantasy.
Circle the locations of “must-do” places on your map, and if they take place in a specific time period write it down underneath. When you’re done, take a step back–these are the countries/areas you’re going to visit (and the times you have to visit them). Hopefully they fall into the regions that you circled previously, and if not you may want to reconsider the regions you’re visiting or leave that “must-do” for another trip. You’re going to overestimate how much you can do on your trip, so adding more is a bad idea (we tried this with Antarctica before deciding against it). This also narrows your route to specific countries, meaning you can pass over others to leave more time for what you want to see. Using this, we were able to eliminate some countries (Sorry Ecuador! Sorry Laos!) where we didn’t have anything “must-do”.
3. Fill in the gaps with specific locations
If you went from one amazing experience to another for weeks/months, you’d get burned out pretty quickly. You’re going to need downtime to rest and prepare for the next experience, so find rest places along the way. If you’re outdoorsy like we are, this means building in time to stay in towns and cities where we can restock on supplies, relax, and recover from any injuries. For many experiences, there’s a common “base” that people use as a start/end point because of proximity (ex. Cuzco for hiking the Inca Trail, Ulan Ude for driving around Lake Baikal) so look for these and plan to rest there for a few days. We planned to be on the trail on average 4-5 days before we would return to civilization.
This is also a great point to look at travel requirements for the countries or areas you want to visit, which break down into regulatory (visas, special permissions) and medical (immunizations, medicine). Most of the regulatory information can be found on Google, and there’s a handy list of visa requirements for US citizens on Wikipedia. For some countries, you can’t apply for a visa more than 6 months before your trip, so keep that in mind if you plan to visit multiple countries that require a visa. The medical requirements are a little trickier–information is easy to come by online, but most vaccinations/treatments require that you visit a travel nurse or doctor to get immunizations. For me, that appointment alone cost $110, followed by an additional ~$400 in vaccinations and medications.Several vaccinations also require multiple shots with weeks in between, so it’s best to figure that out sooner rather than later.
4. Lastly, connect the dots (or circled spots)
You’ve got your must-do places and resting spaces, so the last thing to do is connect them in a line that minimizes the travel time or, if you’re not constrained on travel time, the order in which you would most enjoy the experiences.
Before you draw any lines, is there an easy way to get between to spots on your map? Two points on a map may look close, but that doesn’t mean there’s an easy or direct way to travel between them. This is especially true if you’re going to be flying, as the world’s flight network is set up as routes radiating from central “hubs”. For us, this meant that while it’d be closer to go from Oaxaca to Merida directly, flight routes dictated we’d have to fly from Oaxaca to Mexico City, then from Mexico City to Merida.
You’ll need to do some sleuthing to figure out how much time and money it will take to travel between your desired destinations. To do this, I used an amazing website recommended by my friend Nancy, Rome2Rio, which gives you the time, money, and mode of travel between any two destinations. When you find a route that meets your criteria of minimizing time, money, or misery, mark it on the map. Continue until you’ve connected all the dots.
You’re done with your first route! While this may change (due to time/money limitations, or because you find some new awesome must-do thing), you’re on the first step toward your trip.