A Trip Planner for Around the World Travel
Now that you’ve saved enough money and bought that RTW (round-the-world) ticket, what’s next? This isn’t a 2-week trip you’re going on, it’s a dream trip come true, something you’ll probably never do again. You want to ensure you’ll have the best time you possibly can, so do yourself a favor and prepare before you go.
1. Take Care of Your Health. Get all available vaccinations and medications for any area you are going to or are thinking about visiting. Contact the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for vaccination information; www.cdc.gov/travel. Start vaccines early in your planning. The hepatitis B series alone takes six months to complete. Get your teeth checked and get a physical. Make sure you don’t have any problems that might develop while you are on the road. Bring a sufficient amount of your prescription and over-the-counter medications for your entire trip, packed in their original labeled containers. You don’t want to get arrested for drug trafficking.
2. Plan Your Itinerary. You can be the most spontaneous when you plan ahead. Contact the tourist office of the cities and countries you will visit to see what special events will take place when you are there. Read Edward Hasbrouck's, The Practical Nomad: How to Travel Around the World.
3. Find Out if You Need Visas. Call the embassy of the countries you are going to visit to see if you need a visa to enter or go to www.passportsandvisas.com. Visas expire, so you may need to get one at an embassy while you are on the road. Stay informed; it is not uncommon for a country to suddenly decide that U.S. citizens need a visa to enter when they didn’t need one a month ago. You may need a multiple-entry visa, especially in Africa, if you take a train from one country to visit another country but have to return to the first country to fly out. You will also need a visa for every country the train passes through even if you don’t get off the train.
4. Where to Stay? If you can’t afford to stay at the Hilton every night but you feel you’ve outgrown youth hostels, the best budget choices are YMCA and YWCA hotels, pensions (cheaper if you rent the room with the bath down the hall), churches, missions, convents, temples, college dorms, home exchanges, and recommendations from other travelers.
Several organizations promote hospitality exchanges among people of other nations. Servas, www.usservas.org, allows you to arrange two to three days of living with a family. Many other hospitality organizations can be found here. The purpose of these organizations is not free lodging but increased understanding. See this article on hospitality exchanges for more.
5. Take Good Walking Shoes. Even if the shoes are expensive you will never regret it. The only other shoes you need are thongs to wear in the shower.
6. Pack Light and don’t take anything you can’t afford to lose. If you plan to attend a special function and need a special dress, tux, or shoes, mail them to yourself at your hotel or American Express office (cardholders only) ahead of time. Put your arrival date on the outside of the package.
If you wear a backpack, you will be identified as a tourist in many countries. Unless you are going to be trekking or camping, consider taking a rucksac or travel pack (available from Europe Through the Back Door), which looks like a canvas suitcase but has hideaway straps for use as a backpack.
7. Budget Your Money Daily. To stay within your travel budget, decide on the maximum you plan to spend each day. Take that amount out and put it in a separate place where it is accessible. Put all your other money in the hotel safe or a money belt under your clothes. Keep a credit card available in case of emergencies. Bring along a money exchange calculator to know what you’re spending in your own currency.
8. Keep Your Money All Over Your Body. I keep most of my money and my ticket in a waist money belt and my passport, with a credit card and $300 cash, around my neck. My money for the day is kept in a fanny pack.
9. Buy Evacuation Insurance. If you are traveling in Third World countries, don’t leave home without evacuation insurance. If you get seriously sick you do not want to be treated at a local hospital. The Traveler’s Emergency Network offers evacuation and emergency aid insurance for $99 a year, $129 for an entire family.
10. Photocopy All Important Travel Documents. Make copies of every page of your airline and train tickets, every page of your passport (including the blank pages) and your itinerary. Leave a copy with a friend, who can fax it to an embassy if necessary, and take a copy with you. Put a copy of your itinerary in each piece of luggage and carry-on bag. Put your home address and phone number at the top of the itinerary. In the event your things are found, sending them to your home may be easier than to your next destination. Leave your address book at home. Write down the names and addresses of everyone you want to send a postcards to on one piece of paper.
Final Tip. Know how you are going to get from the airport to the city.
PAMELA TERRY is the author of Around the World: A Postcard Adventure.