It’s a big freaking world. Wait, just yesterday I was commenting to a friend how SMALL the world was, but you get what I mean. There are a lot of places to see and experience. How do you pick where your next trip will be? And if you’re planning an extended trip, the question gets even more complicated! There are several steps we took to plan our 12-month route through Europe and Asia, and I’ll walk you through our process of thought. Some of the things you want to consider as you begin making your plans are:
- Cost of living
- Methods of Travel
- Tourist Seasons
- Season Seasons
It can all seem overwhelming, but let’s just take one bit at a time.
Step 1 – Map it Out
It’s time to get out your dream list of locations. If you don’t have one, it’s time to start compiling one. Start listing the first places that come to your mind. This is more of a brain storming session, so go for it. Don’t worry about how crazy or unrealistic the locations may seem, jot them down. Open your favorite map, or get out an old school map and start placing pins in your cities. This is just to get a general visualization of the possibilities, so don’t worry about being too precise in the location of your pins. Place your pins in major cities as that’s where you’ll likely be arriving and from where you’ll be leaving. We’ll get more precise in our locations a little later. Don’t forget to include the place from where you’ll start and where you’ll end up (most likely your home city). You can see the map we created below.
Step 2 – Consider Routes
As you look at your map, you’ll start to see some natural clusters and routes. You’ll also see what places may not make sense due to the location on the map, or expense it would require to get there. Most of the cities that topped our list were in Europe and Asia. Argentina and Alaska quickly fell off the list. Not because we aren’t dying to visit, but because they’re not near any of our other highly ranked locations.
Step 3 – Compare Cost of Living
Another consideration high on our list was cost of living. Look at a cost of living comparison for each country against your own to get an idea of what it will cost. We used this site, among others to get some data. If there are some countries with higher cost of living, balance that with countries that have lower cost of living. Is it making more sense why our trip began with Europe and ended with Asia?
Step 4 – Look at Visa Requirements
Next look at the visa requirements for the countries you want to visit. We recommend staying a minimum of 30-45 days in each city you visit. That will give you time to explore surrounding areas, immerse yourself in the culture, and get SO MUCH MORE out of your visit. Anyone who tells me they are planning a trip to Europe and they’re visiting 90 countries in 3 days, well, they’re DEAD to me. When you take your time, you discover so much more. Places most tourists never get to see or experience. You learn to cook local cuisine, learn some basic language, make friends, and gain a much better understanding of the local people. In addition, an amazing side effect is costs start to go way down when you extend your stay in each location. Housing costs go down. You cook more at home from local, fresh markets, and you spend less on transportation as you learn the most efficient and “local” ways of getting around.
As we began looking at our countries, we found we could stay in England for up to six months, and we could stay in the European Union for up to 90 days. So if we did one month in England and one month in three European countries, that would leave us with about six to eight months in another part of the world. Most Asian countries would allow us 1-3 months without much issue. However, China was a little more complicated, and would be a lot more expensive than other countries. Our list started to narrow, and plans were beginning to firm up.
Step 5 – Get an Estimate on Flights
There’s a really cool site called AirTreks. It allows you to put in multiple destinations and calculates an airfare estimate for your trip. It’s a great place to start and to get an early idea of what your travel will cost. AirTreks will actually book your travel for you, or you can book your own later. Honestly, this is the part that first blew my mind and made me realize this was actually possible. I couldn’t believe how inexpensive it could be to do one-way tickets around the world (see mine below). Take a minute and enter some of your destinations.
Step 6 – Do Final Research
The last step in finalizing your destinations is to do some research on your finalists. Do google searches for “things to see and do in France.” Or “best places to visit in Chile.” Do hashtag searches on Instagram, or look at google images. There will be certain places that make their way up to the finalists.
In our next post, we’ll talk about the next step of the process, picking your housing. This is a very exciting step of the process, and the trip starts to become very real at this point. Now, go make your map! We’d love to see what you have in mind, so send us a note, or post in the comments. Happy planning!!