Lots of friends have been reaching out to me over the last few months asking where to start with planning the trip of a lifetime.
In these uncertain times, it may be hard to pin point when your trip will happen but if you are self isolating/working from home and need a little break from the constant news reports, why not start planning your trip for when this is all over and we can press the un-pause button on our lives again!
It takes a heap of organising and a large dash of courage to commit to a big adventure. Lots of people quit their jobs or leave uni to be able to travel and we did just that. Back in 2015, both of us were working full time (and overtime) to save every penny we could. We had enough money to put down a deposit on a house and in early 2015 we decided that we would spend it on a year long once in a lifetime trip instead.
That same trip ended up lasting four outstanding years. You could say we were bitten by the travel bug.
Anyway, you have decided to go on a trip. You may already have a list of all the countries you want to visit or you may not.
My honest opinion is that if you plan too much you actually end up depriving yourself of other opportunities. As we made our way from place to place, country to country, we added numerous places to our list just by chatting with other travellers and sharing stories with the amazing people we met along the way.
So, with that in mind…
…grab a pen and paper!
Step one – Where to go
Figure out your starting point. Which country is at the top of your bucket list? Which country is the closest to you right now and en route to where you want to end up? For example, we started in Thailand as we could hop there after a brief stop in Dubai before continuing on to Australia.
StEP TWO – FLIGHTS
Book your flights.
If you are a “travel virgin” you may feel safer booking with an travel agent. Or you may just wish to plan your flight route for now and book them a little bit further down the line.
Once you have booked your flights you should probably look into some good gap year insurance for example, True Traveller Backpacker Insurance. You can get cover for up to two years and then renew it after that if you decide to continue your journey on like we did!
STEP Three – visas and vaccinations
You need to research into visas for the country/countries you want to visit. Some countries you may not need one but it is best to triple check before stepping on the plane.
You can check the government website in your home country (the UK website is .gov.uk) for up to date information on the visa requirements for countries.
You also need to think about whether or not you need any vaccinations for your chosen countries, for example against Yellow Fever or Rabies. This information is also available on your home countries government website. Sometimes you can go to your GP for these travel vaccinations but others you may have to go privately.
STEP four – planning
Once you have your flight plan in place it is time to start thinking about your first week. When we initially left home we had only booked a week of accommodation and travel plans.
That first flight out of your home country is going to be hard, especially if you are going for an extended length of time. We sat in the airport, after waving goodbye to our families, wondering if we’d made a huge mistake.
The flight was long and uncomfortable. We didn’t know what we had gotten ourselves into and then we landed…
…we immediately felt free and happy.
Bangkok, what a place to begin. Tuk Tuk’s fly past you, hooting and the drivers yelling. Music comes from every direction and blends into one confusing melody. People stop you in the street to offer you food, massages and drinks.
We spent our first week on Thaintro. We got to see so much of Thailand during this first week. We had a night in the bustling city of Bangkok, we took an overnight train to Kao Sok National park and slept in floating bungalows. We visited Koh Pang Yan and bathed elephants. All of this before heading to the Phi Phi Islands for the second week of our trip and then on to Chang Mai to hike a mountain and stay with a mountain tribe. We had over a month in Thailand for our first stop.
This group travel experience is great if you are new to the “travel scene” and gives you a great spring board into the travel lifestyle.
step five – budgeting
Now, you have your first week sorted and your flights are booked (or planned), it’s time to get excited!
You of course need to start budgeting. Before embarking on any chapter in our trip we’d always do some research into the location and seek other travellers opinions on how to budget for that specific country.
Check out my individual travel guides for information on the cost of living in each country. These will give you an idea of what you are looking at for the cost of day to day living e.g. food, travel, excursions and accommodation.
step six – working/volunteering
If you are flying directly to a country and are hoping to find work straightaway to fund your onward travel, start hitting up the backpacker job boards such as: –
If you are looking to volunteer each country have really good sites to find volunteering work for example: –
Worldpackers.com – World Wide opportunities
Think Pacific – Fijian Volunteering
step seven – packing
Now you have made a planned your initial adventure, you have booked your flights, got your visas sorted and made a budget, it’s now time to think about packing!
- Passport, visas and travel documents
- Travel money card and/or foreign currency
- Toothbrush – you wouldn’t go anywhere without this (well I hope not)!
- Floss, toothpaste and other dental necessities
- A small travel towel – we got ours from Mountain Warehouse
- Small bottle of sun cream – you are bound to need this at some point
- Hat – both a sunhat and a beanie…TRUST ME!
- Reusable Water bottle – SAVE THE PLANET
- Camera of some sort – even if it is just your phone, you are gonna want to take pics!
- Thongs – no not those kind of thongs…flip flops silly!
- Hairbands – it can get hot and sticky hiking those mountains and volcanoes
- Torch – you won’t need it all the time but when you do you will be grateful for it
- Laptop – to stay connected and it is also great for movie days if the weather is bad
- Day Bag – essential for hiking and day to day travel life
- Mosquito spray
- First aid kit – with only the essentials – E.G. Anti-diarrhoea tablets, painkillers, plasters, anti-histamines etc.
- Shampoo, conditioner and soap – unless you plan to buy it overseas
- All electronic chargers
- Hand Gel – water and soap isn’t always available
- Eye patch to sleep with in hostels – trust me on this one!
Be strict on yourself here, honestly you won’t need half the clothes you think you do. We packed so much the first time around and regretted it. I was forever throwing things out in an attempt to make my bag lighter. It became a competition between my partner and I to see who’s bag was lighter on the airport check in scales!
- Tops/Vests x 5
- Shorts x2
- Couple of Dresses
- Underwear x7 (enough to get you through a week without having to do laundry)
- Hiking socks x2
- Socks x5 – you will probably find you are barefoot for most of your adventure
- PJ’s – essential especially if you are staying in hostels!
- A hoodie
- Raincoat – you’ll need this in the tropic too!
- Warm coat – if you are headed somewhere cold
- Pair of casual trainers/shoes
- Walking shoes/boots
- Journal – keep a note of your adventures, you will adore reading back on the amazing moments of your life
- Lightweight yoga mat – if you are likely to continue your yoga journey during your trip
- Polaroid camera – nothing better than an old fashioned Polaroid!
- Make up – I hardly wore any makeup throughout our travels but you may want to take a little
- Book or Kindle – my partner got me a Kindle for Christmas one year during our trip and it was the best thing he could have brought – lightweight and all my books in one place! Get on Amazon now and order yours, you won’t regret it!
- Snorkel – we found so many beautiful oceans to explore
JUST BEFORE YOU GO
Be sure to notify your bank that you will be travelling overseas so they don’t block your card if they find your purchase history to be unsual. There is nothing worse than being stuck in a strange country with no access to funds!
You can load up a travel card with money if you wish. The post office in the UK provide one and most travel agents offer some sort of travel money card. We didn’t bother in the end as we just opened up a bank account in the country that we settled in for several months. We had one in both New Zealand and Australia for working purposes and used these when we travelled overseas to places like Fiji and Indonesia.
Before you head to the airport, each and every time, make sure you give someone your flight details and let them know you will be travelling. Better to be safe than sorry!
Anyway, to summarise your to do list: –
- Decide on at least your first destination
- Book or plan to book your flights
- Get travel insurance!
- Research Visas for each country
- Plan your first week at least, book accommodation or book an Intro Travel tour and let them sort it for you!
- Find out if you need any travel vaccinations
- If you’d rather work/volunteer straight away – explore opportunities ahead of stepping on the plane
- Plan your travel budget using my handy Travel Guides
- Hand in your notice to work around a month prior to your departure date
- Get packing using the handy packing list above at step six – be strict on yourself!
- Sort out your currency
- Give someone your flight details
GET ON THE PLANE…
AND ENJOY AN AMAZING LIFE ON THE ROAD!