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Did you know it’s possible to circumnavigate the globe for under £1500? Ever wanted to travel for an extended period of time but totally unsure on how to plan a round the world trip? Well look no further.
I’m writing this blog post three weeks after returning from the backpacking trip of a lifetime, exploring around Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Dubai, Japan, The Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Singapore. We travelled for 8 months, had countless phenomenal experiences and stayed in such awesome places, all for under £12 000 each. So here it is, the ultimate guide on how to plan a round the world trip for less.
How to plan a round the world trip
First up in how to plan a round the world trip is getting creative. Print some world maps, grab some pens, and start drawing. Make an afternoon of it and just enjoy it.
Try and come up with a list of key places you want to visit, your bucket list if you will. I got most of my inspiration from Instagram and the tales from other travellers. Eventually, try and come up with a continent-ordered list, prioritising the highlights and must-do experiences.
Now you’ve had your fun deciding where you’re dreaming of visiting, it’s time to get serious, and crucially, realistic. Wouldn’t we all love to travel indefinitely for the ultimate adventure? However, when considering how to plan a round the world trip, there are several factors that you’ll need to think about in advance.
Length of trip
How long can you feasibly take away from your job or career? Have you just finished university so are waiting to start work, or could you take a sabbatical? For me, I took a year away from work, which coincided with finishing off my Masters degree. Consider early how long you can realistically travel for, as that will determine how many places you can tick off your bucket list.
Budgeting for a round the world trip is no small task. You’ve got to be strict with yourself. The general formula I’d follow is:
Total budget for round the world trip = Flights cost + £1000 per month accommodation, local transport, food and activities + £60 per month travel insurance + vaccinations/visas before you leave
I’ll go into flight costs more a little later, but generally speaking, aim to budget £1000 a month for all expenses including accommodation, food, local transport and activities (budget backpacking!) This will obviously vary depending on whether you’re in an expensive or cheaper country that month, but for a backpacking budget, it usually averages out okay across a few destinations.
Plan for costs of insurance, vaccinations and visas in your budget. Visas, vaccinations, malaria tablets and insurance can be incredibly expensive, and you’ll need to factor these in early in your budgeting costs. Having caught malaria and crashed a campervan on our round the world trip, I cannot stress enough how important these things are. Don’t scrimp and save on your health and possible emergency situations.
A great place to help with visas is The Visa Machine. Book an appointment with the travel nurse at your local GP at least 6 months before you plan to travel to discuss vaccinations. And finally, buy travel insurance the moment you book your flights, then you’re covered for any cancellations from day one.
Saving for your adventure is one of the most significant things to think about when you first begin considering how to plan a round the world trip. We’ve already talked about budgeting, so where’s the money going to come from? We all manage our finances differently, but here’s a few ideas that I tried to live by in the year coming up to the trip.
- Get a second (or even third) job! Yes that’s right, there’s no getting around it, you’re going to need to put in some hours to get the cash for a trip like this.
- Live somewhere with cheap rent for a year. Do you really need to be living in a swanky pad when you’re about to be living out of a backpack? No!
- Open up a separate savings account. Every month when my pay cheque came through, I’d direct debit half of it straight into my separate savings travel account. Be strict with yourself, don’t ever dip into it.
- Be honest with friends when you can’t afford to do something. Your friends want you to go for brunch two weeks in a row? Not possible. You’re saving for the trip of a lifetime, they’ll understand.
- Get ready for January sales. Try and have enough saved to book as much as possible in January!
So now it’s time to put your creativity and reality together in one epic flight route.
But here’s the part no one ever seems to talk about. There are certain flight routes that are just SO cheap, and building your trip around these is the way forwards. I learnt all this whilst working as a Travel Expert for STA Travel a few years ago, and boy did it help me with building a cheap round the world itinerary.
Round the world flight packages vs individual tickets
In my experience, building a round the world itinerary with individual flights is nearly always cheaper than buying a restrictive round the world ticket with a particular airline group. Pick your highlight places that you really want to visit and string everything else around these. Think about your main international flights first and then smaller regional flights as separate things.
Open Jaw Flights
This is the main money saving tip for how to plan a round the world trip. Did you know that it’s possible to make a return fare with an airline that goes into one continent and home from somewhere totally different? For instance, you could fly from London to Nairobi, and from Sydney back to London, all on one airline ticket. This is called an ‘Open Jaw’ return ticket.
Open jaw tickets need to be with the same airline, and it’s possible to find them using the ‘multi-city’ search tool on an airline website. Get used to using this function, as it’s the main way to save money when planning out your flight route.
Here’s my round the world itinerary, showing which parts were booked as open jaw flights, and which parts were booked all on one ticket:
London -> Doha -> Dar Es Salaam (Qatar Airways)
Dar Es Salaam -> Mwanza -> Dar Es Salaam -> Zanzibar (Air Tanzania)
Zanzibar -> Nairobi -> Victoria Falls -> Cape Town (Kenya Airways)
Cape Town -> Dubai -> Tokyo (Emirates)
Tokyo -> Manila -> Bohol -> Cebu -> Siargao -> Clarke -> El Nido -> Manila -> Denpasar (Philippine Airlines)
Denpasar -> Cairns (JetStar)
Sydney -> Christchurch (Emirates)
Auckland -> Nadi -> Singapore (Fijian Airways)
Singapore -> Doha -> London (Qatar Airways, on same ticket as the original London -> Doha -> Dar Es Salaam, booked as an Open Jaw return)
We did all those flights, yes all 24 of them, for about £2000. And that was made possible by the use of same ticket multi-city flights! USE THIS TOOL, it’s the best!
Cheapest Flight Routes
Okay so you’re sold on using multi city tools for how to plan a round the world trip, but what about building it around particular flight routes that are really cheap? There are several journeys that include really long distances that for some reason, are very cheap to obtain.
- If you’re including Africa and Asia in your itinerary, consider flying from Cape Town to Tokyo with Emirates. You get a free stopover in Dubai, and you can get this flight for seriously cheap if you’re booking far in advance.
- If you’re heading to New Zealand and wanting to go over to the Americas, make use of the free stopovers with Fijian Airways. Build your itinerary in their multi city tool by typing in Auckland – Nadi – LA for their best fares.
- If you’re heading to Bali and wanting to then go to Australia, fly with JetStar on their ridiculously cheap Denpasar to Cairns flight.
Remember, if you’re trying to plan an itinerary that’s quite complex, you’ll always be better off talking to an expert. Don’t just presume you’re going to get ripped off, travel agents really do know what they’re doing. Make an appointment at STA Travel to get them to help you out! STA have tons of exclusive fares that are way cheaper than anything you’ll be able to sort yourself.
Wing it or plan out
So you’ve got your big international flights booked, but now it’s time to think about what you’re going to do in each individual country. The big question for how to plan a round the world trip is do you wing it or meticulously plan out each destination? I’d recommend a combination of the two.
It is undeniable that the further in advance you book things, the cheaper it’ll be. However, if you’re super rigid with your plans, you won’t be able to go with the flow of meeting people and seeing where the adventure takes you. Unless you’ve got tons of cash, there will be certain countries where it’s just not financially possible to wing it, so get organised and book your hotels and activities before you leave. That said, other destinations are cheap enough that aside from your first night’s accommodation, it’s possible to wait and see where the wind blows you. For instance, we planned out our adventure in Japan to every fine detail in order to make it affordable, but when travelling around South East Asia, it was easy to just wing it.
Something to bear in mind is planning in downtime. Backpacker fatigue is a real thing. If you’re on the move from place to place constantly, it gets tiring and you crave a goodnight’s sleep and a day in bed. Don’t sacrifice your sightseeing time by tiring yourself out, so plan in down time. We aimed to do six nights in hostels, before one or two nights in nicer accommodation for a proper rest.
What To Pack
The final thing to think about in how to plan a round the world trip – what to take with you! It’s likely you’ll be hitting a huge range of climates in all different seasons, so how on earth do you fit everything into a travelling backpack? The answer is, take as little as possible. We live in an incredibly globalised world, and you’ll be able to buy anything you need from cities as you travel around.
A few things to ensure you take:
- A large backpack and small frontpack day bag. I’ve used ones from Osprey and Vango in the past and loved them.
- Get a portable charger and global adaptor.
- Buy a sleeping bag liner and mosquito net – you’ll be so glad of them in some hostels. I used my sleeping bag liner as my inner sheet in all hostel beds.
Going on a round the world adventure will be the most life changing, phenomenal and unforgettable thing you’ll ever do. Meet everyone, challenge yourself to try something new everyday, and learn as much as possible as you go!