dvice from someone who has done it. From initial idea, to route-planning, saving and all that admin – this guide is absolutely everything you will ever need to know to plan your Round The World trip, adult gap year or career break.
Decide you want a break, a long one…
Maybe you’ve had a bad break up, your career has hit the skids or you’re just plain bored, at this point in your life you’re never going to go on a gap year on a whim. There’s always a reason, for me I guess it was a combination of burnout, boredom and hopelessness at the financial crisis a lot of young people are in. Thanks David Cameron you d*ck.
Reduce your outgoings
You might have to give up your house or flat to save on rent, sacrifice a lot of nights out or quit your job. I had to do all three. My monthly income when I lived in London was £1,700 after tax. Of that £700 went on rent, £250 on bills, £55 on the gym, £100 on travel, and that’s before I thought about food, going out, clothes… tampons. So when I decided to travel, I knew even if I did get a considerable pay rise in London, it would have to be a VERY big one to even think about saving. So I quit my job, moved out of London, to my mum’s house in Leeds and temped for a year. I was earning a about 10k less but I had almost no outgoings so I was able to save a decent amount each month. Without this major sacrifice there’s no way I would have been able to save for a RTW trip in a year. It would have taken me about 8 years, I reckon. You may have a job and lifestyle that enables you to save, but I bet most people don’t save that much.
I’m quite glad I had to spend a year solidly saving, it recalibrated my relationship with money and spending – although I never had any money before, I now realise I wasn’t very careful with it at all. Forcing myself to look at my finances and really appreciating every penny was the best practise I could have asked for in preparation for budgeting on a round the world trip. After I get back I’m definitely going to prioritise saving, so I already benefitted from this gap year before I left the country.
Where Do You Want To Go?
Everyone has a wishlist of places they want to visit, so now’s the time to do visit them all. You may as well check them all off the list. Watch films, documentaries and books to give you some more ideas of places to visit – I learned 99% of what I know about world geography planning for this trip (really).
Plan it Alone, or Enlist The Experts?
There’s something to be said for doing something all by yourself and you can get a huge sense of achievement. However, experience taught me that I do not enjoy booking things, whether you talk to a robot, a person or do it online there are soooo many variables that can go wrong and that stress is just not worth it for me. So I got STA travel to help plan my route and book my plane tickets and although I may have paid slightly more I probably saved 10 hours of my life. I also booked a tour with them as I didn’t fancy booking various trains, tours and trips in India by myself. There are many tools that you can use to help you DIY it like Hostelworld for accommodation, Gapyear.com for tips and the NHS website for medical advice.
Budget, Budget, Budget.
Really get to grips with your budget. To the last penny. You need to tot up absolutely everything so you don’t get any nasty surprises. Flights, transport, kit, insurance, visas, injections… it all adds up. Just make sure it doesn’t take you by surprise. The skills you learn budgeting for a long trip will stand you in good stead for the rest of you life. I created a big document listing every single thing I would need for the trip (before and during) so I had everything in one place. I then assigned a monetary amount to each item, I also counted the number of days I’d be away and multiplied it by my daily allowance.
So for example if you’ll be away for 250 days and your budget (for accommodation and travel) is £20 a day then you’ll need to save £5,000. Add onto that the cost of everything else (flights, visas, injections, backpack, other travel, travel gear) for example £4,000 and add that to your daily budget. £5,000 + £4,000 = £9,000 . Then add another £1,000 for contingency and you’re looking at £10,000.
To save that work out how many days it is until you leave (eg. 200) and divide the monetary amount by that number, then multiply by 7. This is the amount you need to save each week. Stick to it. Write down your savings each month.
Remember you document detailing every thing you’ll need. Keep looking at it and aim to get things done ahead of time. You may need to start getting injections up to 6 months before you leave so don’t leave them until the last minute. Get your visas in good time as these things inevitably get delayed. Check you have enough time left on your passport, countries vary but many insist you have at least 6 months on your passport. So if you’re leaving in 6 months and visiting Australia 6 months after that, you’ll need at least 18 month left on your passport.
Aim to buy a bit of gear each month so you don’t have to get it all at once. Buy your backpack in good time as then you’ll be able to see how big (or small) it is, get to know the features and do some practise runs with it filled.
Cancel all bills and contracts in good time too, you don’t want to be paying for something you’re not using. Let people know your plans. Start reading travel blogs. Start your own travel blog. Don’t forget to think about your technology (adapters, chargers, cameras, phones, Kindle books – what’s your plan?). Check your bank card works abroad, get a spare bank card, a credit card, cash card. Use your planning time to get so organised you won’t have to be stressed-out while you’re travelling.
Finally… Have fun! This is going to be the trip of a lifetime.
Check these posts for more planning tips!