Having travelled extensively and met many people along the way you come across two types of round the world travellers. People are either tick box tourists on a schedule or take a scatter gun approach to their backpacking. In this article we look at how to plan a round the world trip and compare a planned vs unplanned RTW tour.
International travel is still difficult due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. But things will eventually return to normal and people will start travelling again. There will be a surge in bookings with many round the world plans having been put on hold for the last year or two. But how do you plan a round the world trip?
First up you need to know where you want to go. This can either be a list of specifics such as wanting to dive in Phuket, trek to Everest Base Camp and skydive over Fox Glacier. Or very general that you want to visit Australia, overland in Africa and go to Peru.
Either way the first port of call is to book flights and ensure you have the correct visas. Round the world flights are usually much cheaper than booking individual flights for your entire trip. Often they are based on flying to the furthest destination on your journey with stop overs on the way there and the way back.
For example, from the UK you might book a round trip to New Zealand. But on the way you stop in Asia and Australia and on the way home stop in South and North America. You can even specify different arrival and departure airports giving you plenty of chance to overland. Also RTW flights are usually flexible so you can make changes.
From here there are two ways to plan your RTW trip. You can either go all in and plan the entire thing, or you can just arrange the flights and sort the rest out as you go. Now it is worth noting that neither is mutually exclusive, but people do tend to fall into one camp or the other.
Both options have advantages and disadvantages which we look at below. So the rest of this article explores the planned vs unplanned RTW tour. Hopefully it will help you decide what is best for your round the world trip.
First write a list of all the countries you want to go to. Then for each country a list of the locations you plan to visit and activities you want to do. From this you can look at the seasons and figure out a schedule to visit everywhere you want at the best time.
A planned RTW tour is the most efficient way of arranging a round the world backpacking trip. It helps you set deadlines, create itineraries and prepare reading materials. It can be very prescriptive, but you will return having ticked off all those sights you wanted to see.
Your Facebook page, Instagram profile or other social media will be full of the obligatory pictures of the Pyramids, rafting the Gran Canyon, walking around Uluru, exploring Angkor Watt and trekking to Machu Picchu. You’ll have visited the places you want to go. But did you experience anything unique?
Alternately, for some people RTW is about the travelling as much as it is the arriving. What use is the ticket if you never have time to wander from the track? So, beware: if you plan too well you’ll create your own package holiday and can wave goodbye to your freedom.
Well, this approach is just as its title suggests: unplanned. For some people, a RTW ticket is a licence to roam. It’s a period of exploration punctuated by international flights.
As experienced travellers, we know a big part of the joy of travel is going somewhere unexpected and experiencing things most people do not. That said, would-be travellers need to remember that the path less travelled, is not always easy, safe or particularly good.
But for us escaping the crowds, having unique experiences, meeting locals and getting off the beaten track is a big part of travel. Being flexible enough to meet new friends and travel with them, or to hear a rumour about a particular beach (not The Beach) and head there opens up all sorts of opportunities.
On the flip side, you may only have this RTW opportunity once in your lifetime. So a little planning and preparedness is vital to make the most of it. Perhaps the strongest reason against drifting aimlessly from continent to continent is a financial one. Your spending money will flow faster than the Zambezi if you don’t budget to a rough itinerary.
If you’re not careful with the cash, by halfway you’ll be headed home. And a half-way round the world trip is rather sad. But even running out of money can be seen as an opportunity. Stop off to work and live somewhere for a while to top up the cash. Then resume your travelling afterwards.
You could even take up a new career. For example, you could train to be a surf instructor in Bali, a divemaster in Argentina, or a becoming a professional skydiver. Or you could pick fruit, do door to door sales or work in a bar – whatever pays for the next part of your travels!
At the end of the day the best way to travel is entirely up to you. But when comparing planned vs unplanned RTW tour remember you don’t need top choose one or the other. Do a bit of both. Have times when it is planned and times when it is flexible.
You could overland in South America for months just going with the flow, until your pre-booked slot to hike the Inca Trail in Peru. You can arrange to visit certain places at particular times but work the rest out as you go along. Also remember even if you make detailed plans there is nothing wrong with changing them.
I said at the start that there are two types of backpackers. Those that plan every moment of their trip and those that see where each moment will take them. The truth is most people fall into both groups. They do a bit of each and it is only the moment you meet them that dictates how you categorise them.
So, how do you approach a round the world trip? Answers on a postcard please, or perhaps just leave your thoughts in the comments section below…
We hope you found this guide of how to plan a round the world trip useful. Planned or unplanned check out these overlanding holidays worldwide that could be part of your RTW tour.