Hi guys, my wife and I will be traveling from December starting from CA for 18 months. We are in our 30s, no kids yet, and want to make this trip a truly memorable experience but don't know where to start!
How should we plan so we maximize our time and memories?
We will have around 60k/ year budget.
Generally, Here's some things we'd like to mix up:
1.immerse in key cities: Paris, Munich, Switzerland, Hawaii, Thailand, etc
2.participate in key events: Oktoberfest, mardi gras, new years eve at Sydney opera house, etc
3.once in a lifetime activities: african safari, amazon rainforest hiking, etc
I'd like to know if this is a good general plan to work with or if anybody have better ideas how to spend the 18 months that we have?
Your budget sounds pretty workable, though you'll have to either limit your time in Europe somewhat, or save up money by spending a lot of time in very cheap destinations before heading to Europe.
Look into Round-the-World (RTW) flights. They'll only be valid for a year, but you could do for example all flights USA - South America - Oceania - SE Asia - Europe in a year on a single RTW ticket (forfeiting your final Europe - USA leg), and then book a return flight Europe - Africa, and a single flight Europe - USA separately later on. (Doing it that way, you can at the same time split up your time in the Schengen Zone, spending 3 months there, 3 months Africa, and a further 3 months Europe.)
My most important tip for maximizing time and memories is not to cram. Long term travel is a lifestyle. You need to find a sustainable rhythm. For me that means giving myself plenty of time to sit back in hostel's lounges with a cup of tea and think over the experiences of the previous days. When I notice being mentally exhausted, I need to be able to just take a day out of my schedule and not do anything, without feeling guilty about all the things I'm not doing.
Additionally, it's the little moments which you end up remembering best. Yes, the Opera House is a very impressive building, but in my mind it pales next to just aimlessly wandering through the harbour, basking in the sunshine and peoplewatching, and seeing this majestic cockatoo winging its way overhead.
You have lots and lots of time; use it to really get to *know* the places you're visiting. Don't bother visiting a city unless you'll give yourself the time to find a favorite cafe. (Okay, that might be a bit too strict; there's plenty of cities you'll pass through just because they're hubs. But for any "destination" city, double the amount of time that people generally recommend you spend there.) Even in 18 months you won't be able to do everything. Accept that, and choose doing fewer things in depth over trying to see more. Trust me, if this trip works out for you, you'll never be able to not do more travelling later on, so you can still go back to places and countries you missed this time around.
There is no way you can plan 18 months worth of travel, so don't try to. Make an itinerary at continent and country-level, noting key destinations, and then do detailed planning one country ahead while on the road. And don't be afraid to change your plans as you go! Your flight itinerary is fixed with a RTW ticket, but you can change the dates as you go along. So if you find a place you hadn't expected much of, but both really like, just stay there for another week. And if a fellow traveller tells you about this amazing out of the way place, just go and see it. By giving yourself lots of extra time everywhere, you created the space to be flexible like that.
My most important tip for maximizing time and memories is not to cram. Long term travel is a lifestyle.
Love the advice. So you're saying to be flexible, give it lots of time, and be spontaneous.
So if I take a RTW and visit 6 continents (excluding USA), how much time should we allocate to each continents? (Europe roughly how many months, africa how many months etc..)
I'd start with 3 months South America, 3 months Oceania, 3 months SE Asia, 3 months Europe, 3 months Africa (leaving 3 months unallocated), and then per continent tally how many highlights you can think of, and thus if that'd need more or less time. (Really just write them all down, and compare the lengths of the lists per continent.)
Personally if I were to make that determination, I'd think that Africa doesn't attract and could do with less time, Europe needs much more (but budget becomes an issue, as does the 90 days limitation of the Schengen visa), South America needs more (though if you've never traveled there before, it can be rather overwhelming) and Oceania doesn't need more, but is oh so rewarding if you do give it more (if you love nature, hiking and scenery, give New Zealand at least as much time as Australia).
So that'd give me South America: 5 months, Oceania: 4 months, SE Asia: 3 months, Europe 5 months, Africa: 1 month. (And then I think budget, and move a month from Europe to SE Asia, or try to save up some more.) But that's me. These are things you need to determine for yourself.
One additional tip: there's only one RTW alliance (oneworld) which does the South America - New Zealand leg. You can either do that direct, or in three hops via Easter Island and Tahiti, for nearly the same cost to the RTW ticket.
(I'm purposefully leaving out Canada / central America, as I assume it's "close by enough" that you can do it in separate trips later on. At least, I myself always ignore Europe when planning long term travel, and just visit individual countries on shorter trips.)
Now timewise, you're starting in December, which also affects things. The south of South America is great to visit that time of year (as it's summer there - also the perfect time of the year to head to Antarctica from Ushuaia, btw, though youch, that'd eat up a whole lot of your budget (but there's frequently last minute tickets for significantly less if you happen to be in Ushuaia that time of year...)); many places in the middle/north not so much, as it's the wet season there (though this varies, and you should look that up per country/region). Europe in December is just dismal (mostly), and I always vastly prefer flying west anyway, so definitely start by going south. You might just stick around long enough for the wet season to clear up, allowing you to do countries like Peru near the end of your time there. New Zealand is great (in different ways) year round; Australia is less pleasant in December-February due to both insane heat in the middle and south, and the wet season in the north. SE Asia is really complex; look up specifics per country. (But that means there's almost always somewhere where it's good to be at any given time, and you can probably navigate around any monsoon.) Europe is generally great from March through October, with variations depending on how far east and north you head.
It's quite possible that you won't be able to assemble the perfect itinerary given all those constraints. That's okay - even when you're not seeing places at their best, they'll still be worthwhile; just try to keep an eye on the seasons while determining time per country.
[ Edit: Edited on 29-Jun-2013, at 10:13 by Sander ]
After you have decided on the countries, check out the climate/weather for the time you will be there, it may be you need to travel the other way round the world.
I make a list on a spreadsheet and loosely type in the days and towns for each country and slot in an appropriate budget for accommodation/meals/outings and any expensive travel costs.
Add on any tablets (malaria etc) needed. Inoculations (your health care professional will advice based on the countries traveling in.
Airline tickets, train tickets, boat tickets etc required.
Cost of Visas and where to get them on route. (this will take time to sort out)
Check out this information site.
Check out this site if you want to meet local people, we met and stayed with a number of people on our rtw trip. Have an e-mail relationship before you meet up.
Get yourself a couple of good credit and debit cards, withdrawal can be costly so go for the best deal and pay off monthly so you don't incur interest charges. Just set up a standing order/direct debit and drip feed money into your current account from savings.
Don't use Internet cafes if you are doing Internet banking, make sure you have a secure line, use a good hotel, libraries are often free in some countries.
Get your hotel in Sydney booked early or you might not get the accommodation you want.
This will apply to any holidays around the world.
You can wing finding accommodation but I would advice booking a hotel before traveling if you are on a long haul flight. You'll be very tired and the thought of trawling around with luggage and trying to find good digs is not worth thinking about. These days you can find accommodation on-line so easily not like in the 1960s when I was first traveling that was a different ball game.
Best of Luck
Just another thought if you are traveling in Africa,
I would buy into a group safari rather than hiring a car, this is what we did on our 3 month trip there
starting in South Africa then Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Zanzibar island, Kenya.
We visited most of the National Parks and Reserves camping mostly.
We traveled in a 16 seat truck but there was only 6 of us so masses of space, there was a cook but you helped out in food preparation on a rota and cleaning the truck on a rota.
It's not a relaxing holiday and you need to be reasonably fit for setting up the tents, but we are in our 60s and we found it alright.
But it is so worth the amazing experience you will have.
We finished this safari and bought into a private one traveling to the Masai Mara for 1 week ending in Nairobi.
Then we took an overnight train from Nairobi to Mombasa and a taxi to Watamu where we stayed with a Christian conservation group Mwanda A Rocha study group for 6 weeks, room and board.
We had the most amazing time and I would advice taking a decent camera with zoom.
You would need to choose the right company to travel with as some are strictly for the young and it can be very noisy and partying all the time. We met some of the groups in the campsites and were totally glad we chose Africa in Focus.
Best of luck with your travels.
Nice to see that you couples are planning for a good world vacation. Yours is a very big trip so, plan carefully and carry travel documents, passport and other travel insurance documents for your safety. Try to visit Paris in August as it offers a lot to the visitors.
Paris offers a lot in August. The city boasts many splendid attractions for the newly wed couples during this month and host many events and parades like Indian parade - the Fête de Ganesh and Rock en Seine, which is organised outside the city.
Best wishes from Jersey_Bailey