Are you trying to decide on a world trip itinerary and the task seems tedious? Organizing a trip may seem like a huge headache. The imponderables can be so numerous that many will simply prefer to pay for a tour or an all-inclusive at the beach. It’s much easier when you can escape the stress of having to plan the itinerary, the transportation, the hotel rooms, the food and the security. Unfortunately, this comes with a cost that I personally prefer to avoid paying. Since I like to be free as a bird, I always organize my own trips.
But if organizing a big trip can be such a headache, organizing a trip around the world is a daunting task but so motivating for me! To solve this beautiful dilemma, it’s convenient to take some steps in order to make the task less baffling. So here are the 3 steps I took to plan our RTW itinerary:
- Clearing: identify places to discover and things to do;
- Macro planning to establish a short itinerary;
- Micro planning to revise the order of the countries.
Clearing: identify places to discover and things to do
The Bucket List
Clearing is a tedious task to achieve in the maintenance of a field. It helps in preparing the ground to see clearer. With this in mind, the first thing in arranging an itinerary is to look for inspiration. You have to establish a Bucket List of places to discover, activities to do, culinary experiences to live, etc. You should set no limits. So we considered all the places in all the continents, the one we didn’t know as much as the ones we already knew in order to relive them again. We didn’t overlook anything that our planet can offer.
The sources of inspiration
As a photography amateur, I’ve naturally browsed through travel blogs and Instagram, which have been an infinite source of inspiration. But despite the fact that we are living in the age of the internet, I haven’t found a more effective way to get inspired than books. The local library has been a priceless resource. We spent hours flipping through travel books, making sure to take note of every place we want to see before we die.
This exercise has been very beneficial in several ways. We discovered places that we didn’t imagine existed. Places that previously made us dream continue to do so. Countries that we never had the intention of visiting became countries that we’re dying to explore. While, ironically, other countries that used to dream of have become so so.
Macro planning to establish a quick itinerary
Estimating the number of days needed per country
In order to establish the first draft of an around-the-world itinerary worthy of that name, I grouped the Bucket List locations by country. For each of these countries, I estimated the number of days needed to visit all the places in the Bucket List, at a sustainable and fully profitable pace for the entire family. The estimate takes into account parameters such as the distance to be traveled, the density of things to see and do, the pace we’re willing to live with the children and the cost of living.
The best months to visit each country
For each country, I identified the best months of the year to visit. I considered aspects such as temperature, precipitation, tourist flows, periodic festivals and events. Since we live 8 months of winter a year in Quebec, we want to spoil ourselves by choosing to live under the sun for the duration of our trip. We can therefore afford to be less loaded with suitcases to save on airfare, as I described in a previous article.
Sequencing the countries
Finally, it only took me to order the countries based on the best times of the year to visit them and the duration that we plan on staying there, while trying to gather the bordering countries as much as possible. I managed to get a short itinerary, which will be the basis for the more detailed planning of the journey.
Several observations emerge from our itinerary:
- Since a great part of our Bucket List locations is in Asia and because the “best time to visit” these places lies between the months of November and March, we prioritized these countries for this period, to avoid living in stifling heat;
- The visit to Europe was split in two. A first part will take place in the beginning of the trip while the other will be at the end of it, since we couldn’t manage to squeeze our entire Bucket List of Europe between June and October.
- We won’t go to North America because we have already traveled its length and breadth to a large extent.
- We won’t go to South America, as the summer of the southern hemisphere happen in the winter of the northern hemisphere. And given the low density of the places we wanted to visit, we preferred Asia.
- The only country in Africa we will visit is Morocco. Truth be told, no other country in this continent seems to be safe enough for us, apart from Tanzania and Madagascar. And unfortunately, these two countries are a bit far from our itinerary, which may affect our budget a bit.
Micro planning to revise the order of the countries
Moving from one country to another can be a challenge in itself. Several constraints made it difficult for us to define a country order.
The means of transport
When countries are bordering and relatively small as in Europe, it is often more advantageous to cross borders by car, bus or even by boat.
When traveling with family, like we do, I recommend renting a car, which is often more economical than buying 4 bus or train tickets. So we are more flexible and efficient in organizing our schedule and as a result we manage better the unexpected. For a single traveler or a couple, the opposite is better for the budget, but it will be on the expense of flexibility. To travel from one big country to another, or to cross an ocean, I prefer to consider the plane.
The prices of airline tickets
Airfare can vary significantly from one country to another. They often depend on big airline hubs. So making a stop in one of these airports can save a lot of money. The planning of the order of the visit of the countries can therefore be very influenced by these big airports, for example, London, Istanbul, Singapore and Hong Kong.
The strict rules of car rental companies
Initially, I wanted to rent a car in Paris, Brussels or Amsterdam, to make a crazy road trip, visiting all the European countries up until Greece, where I would leave the car. This is an aspiration that quickly faded away when I realized that it would be impossible to go further than Austria with a rental car. Western car rental companies have strict rules concerning traffic in some countries like the former communist countries. Some European countries are not part of the European Union and I forgot that there are still borders. Plan B: because it’s very economical to travel by plane in Europe, we will take the plane and rent cars to visit the territories surrounding the airports.
The border constraints
Another big challenge was to be able to visit Lebanon and Israel together during our big trip, two bordering countries. We have learned that it is impossible to travel between these countries directly, neither through the border nor by plane. Plus, a condition for visiting Lebanon is not to have the Israeli stamp in the passport, which requires going to Lebanon before going to Israel. We will get there by going to Lebanon from Turkey, before going to Greece, to reach Israel by a detour to Cyprus. Complicated? Tell me about it!
My plea of not guilty
I’m well aware that it can seem alarming for many to do so much in such a short time, especially with children. Those of you who know me well know that I really take pleasure in planning it. I assure you that I put my children first and I will not try anything that my children won’t able to bear. Moreover, they are already well travelled. One of the goals of this trip is to have fun as a family. We will also establish a quiet routine to be able to homeschool the children during the trip.
I think we can agree on the fact that the objectives in a trip around the world are not the same for everyone. And if I wanted to immerse myself in the culture of a country, neither a week nor a month nor even a year would be enough. Only one man managed to do it in India within a week, and his name is Justin Trudeau. Joking aside, our goal is not to visit every corner of a country, but to see and experience primarily what’s part of our Bucket List. And it’s not because we will visit so many countries that we will not be able to appreciate them as much as some.
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I would also like to take this opportunity to share with you the summary of our exceptional world tour as a family!
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