I’ve heard of people planning vacations by throwing darts on a map. While that’s a great idea for those of you who are adventurous enough to do that, I’m really more of a planner. I just like to know what’s going to happen next. I also can’t stand cliffhangers, which is why I watch a lot of TV marathons. Anyway.
In planning our route, what Kevin and I first did was go through a big book of countries (The Travel Book by Lonely Planet) and write down a list of all of the countries we wanted to visit. I think we ended up with at least 40 or 50. Obviously that was too many for an 10.5 month trip, so we had to trim the list down. To do that, we basically grouped the countries into three tiers – must go, would like to go, and would go if it’s cheap and on the way. Then, we started to plan out different itineraries, keeping in mind what the weather would be like in each country, how expensive each place would be, if we had any friends or family we could bum off of in that area and the likelihood that we would ever visit that particular region again (eg. Europe would be a lower priority because it’s relatively easy to get to).
We started out by deciding to go from west to east, starting in London (because the tickets were cheaper starting there vs. anywhere in North America, more on that in the tickets section). Then the order would be Africa, Asia, Australia & New Zealand, South America, and finally, Europe. This way, we would hit almost all of our countries at a warm time (important when you have to carry all of your clothes). From there, we basically anchored our trip on the following things: 1) a safari through Africa, ending in any city that would have flights to lots of other cities 2) trekking the Himalayas in Nepal 3) spending a month in Australia and New Zealand 4) going to Patagonia, and 5) seeing the Great Pyramids.
After we had those major points, filling in the areas around it was much easier. For that, we mostly used OneWorld’s booking tool, which was really helpful. We ended up making several different itineraries before we finally decided on the one we booked. Patience is key here.
When you start planning a trip like this, it can be really overwhelming to try and make an itinerary out of the thousands of places floating around in your head. I think the easiest way to make sense of it is just to start writing things down (or typing things out) and starting with four or five places as building blocks. Then you can start filling in the areas around those places – the key here is to be patient and let your itinerary be a bit fluid. It probably took us a solid three weeks of working on the itinerary before finally booking it.