How To: Plan A World Backpacking Trip In 8 Steps

15 January 2019

As soon as I announced that my boyfriend Will and I would be leaving life as we knew it behind and embarking on a nine-month trip in a life update video, the main question I got was "I'd love to do that - how did you plan it?" closely followed by "what are you going to do about money?", and as those questions are still popping up in my Instagram DMs I thought I'd answer 'em. Here's a comprehensive guide to planning a world trip!

Allocate your time

1. The first initial step is to decide how long you're going to leave life as you know it behind and embark on your trip for. This is the step that's near impossible for me to give any advice on as the length of time you travel for is impacted by your job, your home and endless other variables. Freelance illustrator and renter Susie might be able to drop everything at a moment's notice and leave for sixteen months, whereas mortgage advisor and homeowner Sam might only get four weeks holiday per year (and doesn't want to leave his dog Eric in the kennels any longer than that anyway). You know your life best, and only you can realistically think about and decide upon your trip's length. 

Wanderlust to your heart's content

2. All those hours you've spent following travel inspo accounts on Instagram and wishing you could visit those destinations? Now it's your turn, baby! Choosing where you're going to go is possibly the most fun part of planning and my best tip would be to get a world map that you can draw all over - this gives you a great idea about where you're starting and ending as well as the order of countries that makes the most sense geographically. Trip Happy make handy interactive maps that you can plan your route on!

Bear the length of your trip in mind when choosing your destinations - it's tempting to squeeze in as many countries as possible, but the juice may not be worth that squeeze if you're spending most of your time in transit and rushing the actual exploring side of travelling. Another thing to note is your budget - three weeks in Iceland would be completely stunning, but the same amount of money would last you three months in Asia.

Decide on a travel agent

3. Using a travel agent rather than sorting your flights yourself means you're paying for the privilege, yes, but having them handle all of the booking is a weight off your shoulders and it's so handy to have everything 'under one roof'. Think about the recent drone drama at Gatwick Airport - would you want to be taking precious time out of your trip searching for wifi as you desperately try and rebook your flight, or would you rather sip on your piƱa colada safe in the knowledge that your travel agent has it covered? We booked our entire trip with STA (specifically Caitlin at the Kingston branch, who's just the loveliest) and don't have any complains - everything has been smooth sailing so far!

Sort your visas

4. Something that's going to cause you a lot of unnecessary stress as your trip approaches is not having your visas sorted, so just bite the bullet and get 'em done. Many embassies are only open on weekdays, so you may need to take the day off work to go. The most important thing is to make sure you have everything you need: take this from someone who ran around Trafalgar Square trying to get a photocopy of my passport, only to finally get to the front of the queue after three hours and be asked for a printed bank statement. Do your research and get that passport stamped ASAP - your future self will thank you!

Vaccinate yourself

5. Depending on where in the world you're headed, you might need some vaccinations. You can find out whether you do here and your healthcare provider should let you know when you need to come in and get them done. Vaccinations such as rabies and Japanese encephalitis require up to one month's time, so factor this into your diary.

Save enough money

6. This is a bit of an ambiguous one as, after all, what is 'enough' money - but as someone who's currently a few months into their world trip I'm gonna go ahead and say that too much is never enough. You don't have to spend it all, and not once will you sit back and think 'wow, I wish I had less money to travel with'. There are various ways you could save (earn more, spend less, fundraise, sell unneeded items etc) and personally, the most effective way I found to save was by putting aside an allocated amount of money per month into a separate account where it could accumulate. I'm also earning along the way as I'm a full-time online content creator (aka blogger/vlogger), so it's worth looking into whether you can turn one of your hobbies or skills into something that makes you money.

Pack your bags

7. I have a lot of 'what to/not to pack' content coming soon as it's something I deliberated over long and hard (and have since learnt many lessons about!) but to keep this short and sweet, get yourself a main bag and a carry-on bag. I have an Osprey Sojourn 80 Flash Back (this is like a hiking bag, but has super sturdy wheels with a pull-along handle and I literally haven't carried it once) and a backpack as my carry-on.

If I could go back in time, the one thing I'd do is pack for countries/climates rather than attempting to pack for the entire trip in one go. I filled my bag with everything I'd need from the Philippines to San Francisco, whereas in reality I should've accommodated for Asia and Asia only. You can pick up new clothing to fit the weather along the way, and I've had to leave a heck of a lot of stuff behind simply because it was taking up too much space (and San Francisco is five months away). The Anna Edit is a wonderful person to seek out when you need general packing advice - search 'The Anna Edit packing list' on Google and prepare for your life to get much, much simpler. Backpacking advice coming from me very soon!

Say your goodbyes

8. You've planned, you've prepped, your bags are packed and sitting by the door and now it's time for you to say goodbye. Like the first step, this is an extremely personal one - you might not see any point in it and just want to get gone which is fair enough, but as I was leaving for a substantial amount of time and am extremely close with my family and friends, I loved having the opportunity for I'll-miss-you's and tight hugs all round.

With all that said and done, I hope your planning goes smoothly, that your travels go swimmingly and that your world trip is a once in a lifetime experience! 

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