I am taking a big trip starting in December. I plan to be away for about 8 months. It's the first time I've done a trip so big and it is a dream of a lifetime. I am going with my boyfriend and just wanted to know if anybody here has any tips for travelling? Anything that you think will be useful, let me know please. Anything like what to take, what not to take, places we must visit (I would like to see all types of places) not just tourist type places but experience real culture. We are on a budget and plan to stay mainly in hostels or use air bnb to stay with people for cheap. I would really appreciate anything you can advise. Thanks
I think you need to reconsider the itinerary for your 'round the world trip. I looked at your Travellerspoint.com map and there is some backtracking, which is likely to cost you time and money.
First, determine what your priorities are. What do you really want to see and experience? Is it nature, is it culture, is it both? What at the sights that you really must see? The Angkor temples? The Taj Mahal? Ipanema? Milford Sound? Plot an itinerary, as you already have. Then check air routes and fares. Use Kayak.com, Skyscanner.com and Google.com/flights to check prices. There are other useful Web sites to consider, including http://www.gcmap.com/. Adjust your itinerary as needed. Consider the options. Be flexible.
Since you live in Europe, take advantage of your current location. Consider first traveling to Africa, then Asia. Going from South America to Africa is going to cost a bundle. Check it out. Why go from Southeast Asia to Beijing, then back to Southeast Asia? Why not travel from India to China then to Southeast Asia before making your way to Australia and New Zealand? From the latter, it might be cheaper to fly to Hawaii first, then to Vancouver. Check it out. There are lots of possibilities to save time and money.
If you're traveling to Africa, consider joining an "adventure" tour, such as those departing from Cape Town to Victoria Falls. Some continue onwards to Nairobi via the Serengeti. These trips are affordable and offer good value. Go online to check them out.
Finally, it pays to be one, two or three steps ahead of where you are going. A bit of advance planning helps forestall difficulties you're likely to encounter as you make your way around the world. Best of luck!
P.S. Travel lightly. You can always buy what you need overseas, with some exceptions.
[ Edit: Edited on 13-Oct-2016, at 06:17 by berner256 ]
Well I would consider the two commonest mistakes that travellers make. They are, trying to see/do too much in too little time and packing too much.
You may perceive 8 months as a lot of time. But your perception is based on your previous travel experiences if any. In fact 8 months of travel out of a lifetime is really not very much time at all. So consider that in terms of 'trying to see/do too much'. You cannot go everywhere in one trip, no one can. Berner256 has given you some good advice re backtracking etc. for example. An indication of trying to fit everywhere into one trip.
The common phrase people use is, 'too see as much as possible'. But they confuse the word 'much' with the word 'many'. They are not synonymous. The way to see/do as MUCH as possible is to spend your time IN places, not in BETWEEN places. The more you move, the less you see and do. In travel as in many things, less is more. The less you move, the more you see and do.
What most people do is first come up with a list of places and then attempt to divide the time available between those places. I would suggest to you that that is the wrong way to go about preliminary planning. Instead, I would suggest you consider what is a reasonable amount of time per place or per country and then divide the time available by that number to determine how many places you can reasonably have on your list to begin with. Then you prioritize based on interests, where you want to go, that can fit into that number. See the difference?
Consider the 'Rule of 3s' which in terms of travel says, never spend less than 3 full days/4 nights in a place unless it is only an overnight stop A and B. Note the 3/4. That allows for a travel day between places. People often forget to count days spent moving separately. A day spent moving is NOT a day spent in a place. Also note that if you used that rule, it would allow for 25% of your total time being lost to moving from place to place. Discuss with your boyfriend, just what percentage of your total time you would actually want to lose to moving vs. being IN a place seeing/doing things. Quantity does not equal quality. More places does not mean you will get more of your stated aim of 'experiencing real culture.' To do that you need to spend more time IN places.
Most people also have this learned imperative to have an itinerary. We live in a world of schedules and so when we look at travelling, we tend to think we need to schedule that too. But a big part of an extended trip is the FREEDOM from everyday life and our everyday schedules and routines. The ability to get up each morning and say to ourselves, 'so what do I feel like doing today?' So why would anyone throw that freedom away by SELF-IMPOSING a schedule?
Some people plan a TOUR in as much detail as they can, some people WING it and plan very little beyond a general direction. ie. 'we'll go East until we arrive back at where we started from.' Both will end up going around the world. Again you and your boyfriend should discuss this as it has a big impact on how your trip turns out. If one tends to planning and the other wants to change the plan on a whim, it can lead to tension between you. RTW trips have strengthened some relationships as you really get to know someone when you live in each other's pocket 24/7 but it has also ended some relationships for the same reason. Making sure you are on the same page in as many aspects of long term travel as you can, is a good idea.
Whatever you do though, make sure to allow for some flexibility in your plans. Most people find for example that after a couple of months of being on the road, they need a break. Some 'down time' somewhere to just do nothing and chill for a week or so. If you have a rigid plan with flight bookings etc. that require you to keep moving, that becomes difficult.
If you read blogs of those who have done RTW trips, I do not believe you will find any where someone says, 'next time I will plan more'. But you will find those that say, 'next time I will plan less'.
Regarding packing, as I said, packing too much is one of the two commonest mistakes people make. There is nothing as sad as seeing some young woman struggling to get a 50 lb. pack onto her back. Learn from real backpackers, that is wilderness backpackers who must carry everything they need on their back including their bed, kitchen and all food and water. In those circles, there is a definition of the Ultimate Backpacker. The definition is, 's/he who travels with the least weight and the most comfort.'
Weight is the number one enemy of anyone who carries their 'stuff' on their back. If you have to carrying everything for more than 15 minutes, you quickly learn just how much of an enemy weight is. Again if you read blogs of those who have gone before you, you will find lots of them talking about dumping stuff or sending packages home. Again, I do not think you will find anyone saying, 'next time I will take more' but lots saying, 'next time I will pack less.'
In planning for packing, most people do the same thing as they do when coming up with a list of places they want to visit. They list all the things they want to take first and then buy a pack that they can fit it all into. They end up with a big heavy pack. I would suggest that again, you take the opposite approach. FIRST determine how much weight you want to carry and then determine what you can take and remain under that weight limit. You will end up with a much smaller pack. There is no such thing as a pack that weighs too little.
There are various ways you can go about deciding how much weight you will carry. You can fill a pack with a pre-weighed amount and go for a walk around town for a couple of hours. Do that with different amounts of weight and you'll get a good idea of what you can comfortably carry. Another way is to look at what airlines allow as carry-on. While some allow ridiculous amounts as high as 50 lbs., some only allow as much as 11 lbs. http://flyingwithfish.boardingarea.com/2009/06/28/carry-on-weight-baggage-limit-chart-for-65-world-airlines/ While you might not be able to bring yourself to meet that lower limit, the closer you get to it, the more comfortably you will carry it.
Most people say they want to 'travel light' but then fail to define 'lightweight'. I do not consider anything over 25 lbs. as 'light' and in fact, I try to travel with under 15 lbs., as does my wife. If you want to travel light, define 'light'.
That leads to just what to pack. Again, you can use the 'Rule of 3s' as a guide. In terms of packing, that says, 'one to wear, one to wash, one to spare.' The fact is that on an extended trip you cannot carry a change of underwear for every day of your travels. You will have to wash things. You need no more for a 3 year trip than you do for a 3 day trip. Just as you are in the habit of brushing your teeth before going to bed, you simply develop the habit of washing a few items in the sink before going to bed. Any clothing that you will want multiples of can be dealt with that way. PIck a colour palette that lets you 'mix and match' so 3 tops and 3 bottoms, become 9 combinations. You can't take everything, so don't try to.
At the same time, packing light does NOT mean you have to do without. Remember that part of the definition of the Ultimate Backpacker which says, 'most comfort'. So the objective is NOT to do without, it is to take what you feel YOU NEED, without taking more weight. That may sound like a contradiction but is not. Any item YOU decide you NEED comes in choices. If you absolutely must take a camera for example, what is the lightest weight camera you can find that will do what you want it to do? Even a t-shirt can weigh 4 ounces or 6 ounces. Packing light means you find the lightest weight example of every item you need to take.
If you do not know the weight of every item in your pack, I can guarantee you that you are carrying more weight than you need to carry. Something as simple as a rainjacket can weight 16 oz. or 4 oz.! that is a big difference in weight. Simply finding the lightest weight example of every item you pack (including the pack itself) and you will cut multiple pounds off your back.
Finally, if you come up with a weight and then a packing list, it's time to figure out the size of the pack you need. Simply put everything into a plastic bag and tape it up into a cube shape and measure the cube to determine the number of litres or cubic inches your pack must be. If you do this and it comes to more than 45 Litres, I suggest you go back to the drawing board and start again. If it is between 30 and 45 Litres, you have probably done a pretty good job of preparing to 'pack the least weight and the most comfort'.
This is what you DON'T want to look like: http://i39.tinypic.com/16i6tu9.jpg
This is what you DO want to look like: http://wandering.world/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Birthe-with-her-Farpoint-40-backpack.jpg
And for fun, here is the woman I would like to travel with as she obviously understands how to ignore planning itineraries and pack light. http://cdn2.blisstree.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/78325045.jpg
Of course, nothing else about her would influence my choice of a travel partner.
Thank you both for some great tips. I think I'll make bulletpoints of your advice as there is lots. Really do appreciate it. I have already booked delhi and kuala lumpur so I won't be able to change those. I had looked at the prices thereabouts for that route but definitely consider changing certain parts and looking through the trips in certain places. I'd like to think I am pretty good with finding a bargain as I do spend hours comparing different flights but changing the route in the named places will defo be looked at. Our lifestyle when we aren't travelling doesn't really allow for splitting the trip up so we kind of have to fit it all in to one big trip. The minimum time we spend in one place is a week and we do have some much longer stops in the cheaper places to chill out for a while. One last question, I have been looking on other forums for when is to best to book flights and it really varies. What would you recommend? Shall I wait for times of the year like January for sales or get in there ASAP? So much to plan. So little time. Very excited.
I don't book flights until I know where I am going. Since I would never consider trying to decide where I will be even a few months from now, I would never consider booking a flight that far ahead of time.
People have this thing about finding the cheapest flights and how to do that. Well, if you understand what 'dynamic pricing' is and that all airlines now use, you would know that there is no BEST time to book flights. Prices fluctuate up and down every day and NO ONE can say when is the best time to book.
One person can book 6 months ahead of time and get a price of $100 while someone else books a week before and gets a price of $75, another person books a month ahead and gets a price of $50, another books 2 months ahead and gets a price of $125. Dynamic pricing means that the price at any given point in time is what a complicated algorithm predicts someone will be willing to pay for it.
It is NO LONGER like buying a pair of pants where there is a regular price and a sale price on Boxing Day. It is like buying gasoline where the price goes up and down daily at the pumps. That too is a product that is now based on 'dynamic pricing'.
While it is GENERALLY true that prices should be lower if you book earlier, it is not an absolute and NO ONE including the airline can predict what it will be on any given day. That is why you will see so many OPINIONS on when is the BEST time to book. They're all just guessing. Dymamic pricing works strictly based on predicted demand. Anything that impacts that demand can send the price up or down in equal measure.
My personal issue with booking too early is about the potential for lost opportunity. Bookings of any kind tend to put blinders on you to opportunity. One real story I can relate that illustrates what I mean happened some years ago in the south of France.
I was in a bar and a traveller who had a VW Campervan, was saying to several backpackers, that he was looking for someone to share expenses to go to Pamplona for the Running of the Bulls. One guy replied with something like, 'wow, I would so love to do that but I can't go. I have a flight to Rome on Friday and a reservation at a hostel there for 5 nights.'
That to me is a prime example of the blinders people can end up wearing. He would probably have lost money cancelling the flight but no money cancelling the hostel reservation. But even beyond the possible actual cost in money, note the CAN'T in that response. That's the blinders. in his mind it was CAN'T, not just 'it would cost me a bit of money to cancel.'
Rome would still be there next month or years from now but what are the chances of him once again having someone say to him, 'want to share expenses and go to Pamplona?' That opportunity was gone and is not likely to ever be available to him again.
In my travels it is always the unexpected that I have found to be the best parts of travel. Being open to not only being able to accept and take advantage of those unexpected opportunities but even being able to SEE those opportunities happens when you aren't wearing the blinders of itineraries and pre-bookings.
I book flights when I know I am going to go somewhere and not before. Sometimes I might pay a bit more than the person sitting next to me on that flight and no doubt sometimes, thanks to dynamic pricing, I will pay less. In the end, it all averages out. NO ONE always gets the lowest price. If you find someone who says they can, ask them to tell you what stocks to buy while they're at it. Or better yet, ask them to buy a lottery ticket for you.
Thanks you sound spot on. Better to be spontaneous I guess.
You don't need to book too far ahead; but don't do it at the last minute, as you're likely to pay higher fares. As previously mentioned, keep one, two or three steps ahead of where you are going. For example, if you're in Kuala Lumpur, are you headed to Bangkok next, then to Siem Reap (for the Angkor temples) and then to Luang Prabang? If so, look at flights or alternate forms of transportation to those destinations; then book at least one in advance.
There are three major gateways in Southeast Asia, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Bangkok. The latter has two airports, BKK and DMK. Most of the discount carriers, such as AirAsia, use the latter. AirAsia, based in KL, has many reasonable fares throughout Asia. You might even be flying AirAsia from India to KL. It's wise to enroll in AirAsia's loyalty program to get advance notice of fare sales. But consider other carriers, too. They might have lower fares; and better schedules. So shop around.
You asked in your original post what to pack. Over the years, I've found several essentials: Two or three changes of clothing, a pair of flip-flops, an LED flashlight (torch), a rain jacket; and a fleece. Socks are as important as shoes; they help cushion your feet. I prefer wool over cotton. I'm now packing for a two-month trip to Central and West Africa that begins next Friday. Besides flip-flops, I'm also packing a pair of sandals, since I'll be jumping into water to get onshore in several places; and hiking in wetlands.
The routes of your itinerary are well-traveled. There is a lot of information online. But much of it is dated. Check and recheck after arriving. It always pays to ask.
Finally, continue to do some advance planning. For example, recheck entry requirements; and health and safety recommendations. One useful Web site: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice. Figure how to carry and access your money overseas; and how to communicate with family and friends. I find a smartphone and laptop useful on my lengthy trips.
Have fun; be safe; and have a memorable time!
P.S. Spontaneity is important. I'm sure you'll make detours as you discover fresh destinations, including some recommended by those you meet on the road. Be flexible; have options.
[ Edit: Edited on 13-Oct-2016, at 14:39 by berner256 ]