With a year to go from the big trip, it may not seem real and it’s far too easy to put off planning until time gets closer. But there are some things that can’t wait. As we plan for our trip, here are the current major items on our to do list.
Choosing Your Must-See Destinations
For an extended trip, it may seem too easy to get in the mindset that you can see everything. Frankly we could try, but I know that would quickly get drained and grow tired of moving from place to place every couple of days. Because of this we’ve tried to pick a list of our ‘must-see’ destinations that would serve as a framework for route planning.
On our first list, there was no rhyme or reason; it was just a list of cool or beautiful or fascinating places that we wanted to see. Here’s where it started:
- Asia Pacific: Angkor Wat, Cambodia; Halong Bay, Vietnam; Southeast Islands, Thailand; Chiang Mai, Thailand; New Zealand; Borneo, Malaysia; East Cost, Australia; Phillipines.
- Africa: Victoria Falls, Zambia; Marakkech, Morocco; Zanzibar, Tanzania; Cape Town, South Africa.
- Middle East: Cappadocia, Turkey; Istanbul, Turkey; Jordan; Cairo, Egypt.
- Eastern Europe: Plitvice National Park, Croatia; Prague, Czech Republic; Slovenia; Greek Islands; Krakow, Poland; Budapest, Hungary.
- Western Europe: Cinque Terry, Italy; Venice, Italy; Bavaria, Germany; Paris, France; Granada, Spain; Switzerland; Bruges, Belgium; Iceland; Holland, Netherlands; Edinburgh, Scotland.
Do you think we could cover all that in 6 months? Doubtful. Now the hard part is narrowing it all down. So how did we go about that?
- Identifying travel ‘hubs’ / ‘cluster’s – If you purchased round the world airfare you may have some options with adding more remote destinations to your list, but for us we’re looking to save some cash and will be paying for airfare as we go. That means that a dedicated ticket for getting to somewhere like Iceland or into Africa, better mean we are going to spend enough time there to get our money’s worth. And that means some places just don’t make sense logistically if you only plan to spend a few days there.
- Finding route options – With a limited budget and time there is no reason to waste either on non-sensical routes. Avoid backtracking and take major thoroughfares whether by bus, plane, or train.
- Chasing summer – I dread the cold and don’t plan on bringing winter wear with us on the trip. That means that we’ll want to avoid the cold in places like Europe as it gets closer to winter.
- What we really want to see – We started this destination list separately to see where it overlapped. With this, we’ll likely end up visiting some of our shared choices.
So with these things in mind, we’ll continue to narrow down our destination list until we have a manageable itinerary to work from.
Determine if You’ll Work or Volunteer
Whether WWOOFing, working the front desk at a hostel, or teaching English, you may choose to spend a little more time in a destination becoming more engaged with the local community. If this is planned, spend some time researching where you might do something like this and what you would like to do. We had originally planned this trip to be a year long and more seriously considered a work stay option, but with only 6-months on the current schedule this will be less likely. Below are a few interesting options that I found in my search:
- South Africa: Askaria Wilderness Conservation Program & Volunteer HQ Surf Outreach Program
- Greece: Katelios Turtle Conservation
- Thailand: Volunteer HQ Outdoor Work
- Work Programs: Workaway & Help Exchange
While a year in advance may seem a little early to start telling people of our trip, I made the decision to do it. For me it was about making it a little more real; if no one knew we could always back down. But the more and more people that know, the more I told myself that we needed to make it happen.
For Kris, it was also a test on reasonability by telling her employer. Would she need to quit work or can she take a leave of absence? How would it affect her career prospects. Much more serious things to think about when we’re planning a trip that has a defined timeline.
Budgeting and Savings
Deciding on an appropriate budget and creating a savings plan to meet that budget is going to make or break if an extended trip can happen. The math is simple:
How Much Savings You Need / How Much You Can Save Per Month = How Many Months Until You Can Leave
I won’t get into the details about how to adjust your budget to make sure you can save enough because this is not a money personal finance blog. What I will say is that in order for the math above to work it needs to be strict and inflexible. Savings plans are much, much easier to work through if it can be automated and a very specific amount is put into a savings account each month. Even better – open a dedicated savings account just for your travel funds so you can track your progress over time. That’s what we did.
While many vaccinations can be handled much closer to a departure date, there are some that require some advanced planning (i.e. Hepatitis A which requires an initial shot and then a booster 6 months later). So start your research! Dig up your old shot records and put together a game plan for what you want to get and need to get. When I spoke to a travel doctor, here’s some of the items that he mentioned to consider (keep in mind prices can vary widely and some may even be covered under your health insurance). For accurate information on what is truly required and what is recommended, check out the CDC site on travel vaccinations.
- Yellow Fever – Required if going from an at risk area to another area (i.e. Botswana into South Africa) – $100
- Hepatitis A – $75 per shot * 2 shots.
- Hepatitis B – $65
- Typhoid – $70
- Polio – $30
- Japanese Encephalitis – $240 / shot * 2
- Meningococcal Meningitis – $125
- Tick-borne Encephalitis
Consider What to Do with House and Car
12 months out it’s good to have a plan for how to manage some of your big ticket assets while you are away.
If you rent, you may consider trying to time your trip for when your lease ends or plan on subletting your apartment. If you own (like us), are you going to rent your place out or sell? Well our situation turns out to be a little difficult as we plan on leaving mid-month and returning 6 months later. This only gives 5 full months that our condo could be rented out which really doesn’t work out too well. Not only do the majority of renters look for year long leases, our condo association restricts renting units for periods of less than 6 months. So unfortunately, we’ll be eating the cost of the mortgage during our trip and we’re adding in an additional $7,000 into our fixed costs for the trip to cover this.
Regarding vehicles, we have 2 options – 1) Sell them. 2) Store them. Kris’ car is on its last leg already and storing it would cost more than it’s even worth at this point. So that’s getting sent out the door. Mine has a solid 5 years left on it so we’ll be putting it into storage. I did research storage options and found people with large heated garages that would store for about $100 month. Luckily, we have family willing to take it which will save us a few bucks.