29 August 2013

How to Plan a Round the World {RTW} Trip!

Words cannot adequately describe how over-the-moon excited I was when Rachael of Let's Be Adventurers agreed to guest post on how she and her fiancé went about planning their Round the World {RTW} trip!  For years I've dreamt of spending months exploring the globe with no set itinerary, choosing to spend a few weeks on the beaches of Goa then hopping over to Indonesia and finally spontaneously deciding to jump on a plane to Tokyo.  As RTW travel has grown in popularity, I've often wondered how people save up for such a long-term trip.  Which is precisely why I contacted Rachael as soon as I found out about her plans for a six-month South-East Asian adventure.  I hope you'll find her story as helpful and inspiring as did!


I still remember the day when the idea of an around the world trip entered my mind. It was a few years ago, while I was studying for an exam my first year in college, and I somehow came across this dancing video from WheretheHellisMatt.com. This short video of a guy dancing around the world completely opened my eyes and sparked my curiosity. The more I read, I discovered that Matt would go on trips for several months at a time. How could he do this? How could he afford this? Over the years, my dream of going on a trip like Matt grew bigger and bigger. I had never known anyone who did this type of trip before-hadn't even heard of such a thing!-and I didn't know how Matt made it work...but what I did know is that it sounded like a great adventure.

Nowaways, the world is filled with round the world (RTW) travelers, people who jetset off for gap years, career breaks or vow to travel forever--and actually make it work! Like me, people are realizing just how possible it is to plan an amazing journey.

For the last 3 years, Christian and I finally set our goal to make this dream a reality and are elated to say that we leave for our 6 month backpacking trip around Asia in just a couple months!

So how did we save? No trust funds, no money trees, no hidden piles of cash...we did it the good old-fashioned way--budget and save! But we were still able to enjoy trips and outings along the way.

Today, I'm here to share a few of our savings secrets. In addition to the obvious, such as cutting spending, cooking at home, etc., these tips and tricks made a huge difference in saving and planning for our trip:

1. Pay yourself first! See any RTW trip blog and you will almost always see this mentioned first. Once your paycheck arrives, put money aside before you can even think of spending it elsewhere. Even better, online banking means sometimes it's possible to arrange automatic transfers to your savings account on a specified date. We followed this rule strictly in our 3 years of saving. 

2. Set savings goals (and round up when needed). First thing you should do after deciding to plan your trip is to set your goal and calculate how much is needed to save each month. Each month after we saved and were within $300 to the next whole number then we almost always ponied up the extra cash so we could reach it. For example, if we already set aside savings in a given month and had a total of $7800 in our account, we would each add $100 extra so we could hit the $8000 mark. Setting small milestones like these forced us to save a bit extra. 

3. Join airline mileage programs. This has been my saving grace for years. The world's biggest airline alliances (United's Star Alliance and American Airline's One World Alliance) include partner airlines in almost every country. So flying anywhere means you can accumulate miles. Link your credit card with your mileage program and you're now open to a world of bonus miles, double miles and, the ultimate goal, booking flights with airmiles. We've accumulated enough airmiles to pay for 3-4 flights for the both of us (one transatlantic leg and 2-3 domestic airlines in China and Japan). This is saving us about $2000 on flights!

4. Preplan trips - even though we started saving for this trip 3 years ago, we still had the travel bug. Putting off all travel until our big trip was out of the question and we still wanted to enjoy traveling around Europe from our homebase in Amsterdam. However, we knew we had to keep trip costs to a minimum in order to meet our savings goal by the end of the year. So we made it a priority to book trips early. For example, we traveled to Lisbon and Croatia last summer and booked our plane tickets 7 months in advance. Result? 200 EUR for 6 flights! This year, we traveled to the {very expensive but} breathtakingly beautiful island of Iceland. We booked our plane tickets and car rental nearly 9 months in advance. But saved hundreds of dollars had we waited a few months longer. Also because it was so far in advance, two friends of ours hopped onboard for Iceland and we split costs. So, if you've got your destination chosen--BOOK!

{Iceland}

5. Minimize spending at restaurants and go to free events--get takeaway and eat at home instead of dining out. Also, when planning nights out with friends, head to free festivals, outdoor movies or lounge in the park. Food and alcohol really adds up. 


{Cheap hot dog lunch in Iceland}
{Check for events in your neighborhood, like free outdoor movie nights}
{Have date nights or hang out with friends in The Great and free Outdoors}

6. Get insurance which covers the cost of vaccinations. Upgrading your insurance could mean that suddenly you're covered for vaccinations you might need. When these babies are $100-150 per shot, it might be worth giving your insurance company quick call and atleast ask about it. We saved $650 by paying a bit more in insurance each month to cover my vaccinations.

7. Sell stuff you don't need. This one is easy. How much stuff do you really need? Or think of it this way, is *this* so important to carry on my back for 6 months? Or to put in storage for 6 months? If both are no, head over to eBay or Craigslist and get rid of it. We sold furniture and even small things, like a beer crate, on eBay. Now we are $400 richer...straight into our RTW account :).

8. Ride a bike. I am biased here. We live in quite possibly the most bike friendly place in the world: Amsterdam. But even small changes, like biking to the supermarket in your home town, will keep you from wasting gas to drive down the street. I saved over $400 each summer by riding my bike to and from work instead of paying for public transportation.


9. Get a savings account with a decent interest rate. Why not earn a few bucks on your savings? We opted for a safe investment and transferred our money into a certificate of deposit (also to stop us from withdrawing any money) and earned about $400 in interest.

10. Depending how long your trip is, move out of your apartment while you're gone and save on rent. Or if you own a place, see about posting it on Air BnB if the situation allows for it. 


Last few tips to keep in mind while planning:

*Choose cheap countries which align with your budget. Southeast Asia is beautiful and affordable, no wonder it's a backpacker favorite. We knew we wanted to spend the winter on the beach, see many different cultures and stretch our money as far as we could--as a result, we chose Southeast Asia and 6 months became the magic number! Central America is also backpacker-friendly and easy on the wallet.


*Use night trains and overnight flights to save on accommodation. We've saved on booking rooms by taking night trains to Poland, Germany and in Northern Finland. And we definitely plan on taking night trains in Thailand and Malaysia, too! Why pay for a night in a hostel if you don't need to? The night train to Poland included breakfast, too!

{Night train to Poland}

A big thanks to Matt Harding for showing me just how possible a big trip is. And an even bigger thanks to Jenna. Thanks for having me and I cannot wait until we can meet up one day :).

Follow us on our journey around Asia at Let's Be Adventurers or on Instagram!


Thank you so much for posting Rachael!  

You actually make RTW travel sound feasible.  At the end of the year I'll definitely be opening a RTW savings account.  And I can't wait to meet up either... Johannesburg is calling your name ;)

Follow along on her adventures here.

34 comments:

  1. Such a dream and great advice - saving is so hard sometimes when you fee like you just HAVE to have some things - but maybe easier knowing you'll be packing light for awhile :)

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    1. I feel like I have the same problem, ha! But, I think once you start seeing progress towards your goal you start actually wanting to save more and more. I'll let you know how it goes once I actually have a full-time job again ;)

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  2. Just watched the Where the Hell is Matt dancing videos and LOVED them. That is such an inspiring idea for travelers or people who want to travel.

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    1. Aren't those movies the best!? No matter how many times I watch them I always tear up.

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    2. I tear up too!! Especially when he dances with everyone in the videos...love that guy!

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  3. Such a cure picture of you guys, you look so happy! And that would be so cool to go on a night train!

    A Golden State of Mind

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    1. Aren't they the sweetest?! I feel like they'd be just as wonderful in person too!

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  4. These are all fantastic tips and very inspiring. I can't wait to follow along on Let's Be Adventurers!

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    1. Me either! I feel like I'm going to be completely glued to her instagram feed for six months straight.

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    2. Thanks for all the love, guys!

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  5. Great advice! Taking 6-months off to travel was one of the best things I ever did - so many cool memories.

    My no.1 tip is to pack light and only take basics, as carrying a heavy bag isn't much fun, and you can always buy things along the way if needed :)

    http://somewhereyonder.blogspot.co.uk/

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    1. So incredible that you were already able to do this! I'm still hoping Jurgen and I find the time and money someday :) Thanks for the tip.

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  6. love them! they're so fun and travel so much! such good tips for any kind of travel!

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    1. I know! I feel like if I met Rachael {or you!} in real life we would quickly turn into bffs. And you're right... these are also sort of universal travel tips.

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    2. Cali meet-up one day must happen :D

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  7. Oooh wow!
    Now I want to open a RTW savings account too!
    http://johced-ourjourneytoeverywhere.blogspot.com/
    xxx

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  8. I've not yet done RTW travel, but that looks fantastic!

    Bonnie Rose | A Compass Rose

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  9. I swear I have watched those WheretheHellisMatt videos a thousands times. Rachael, what a great post - you make this sound incredibly do-able! Can't wait to follow your travels.

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    1. Thanks JessinBelgium...It's hard to stay on track with saving but keep at it and it will happen ;)

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  10. Jon did his gap year in SE Asia and spent four months backpacking all around there! He's desperate to go back. I have to admit that this sort of travel is not my cup of tea, but I'm definitely taking your budgeting suggestions on board - they're so helpful regardless! thank you :)

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  11. What an inspiring and upbeat post - nice one Jenna!

    Great advice - Rachel - I hope you guys enjoy your 6 month trip!
    Hope to see you in South Africa one day!

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  12. I have just had another thought...
    If all us bloggers banded together, we could become the Couchsurfers of the blogging community and host fellow bloggers from around the world in our homes.
    Free accommodation would save a fortune!

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  13. Great tips! When my hubs and I did our 6 month/50 State road trip last summer, we saved for it using many of those same approaches... especially, pay your travel savings account first!

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    1. Ah, that's so cool that you guys were able to do a 50 states tour! Must have been absolutely incredible. Jurg and I are also hoping to do this one day.

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    2. THAT IS AMAZING! It sounds so fun to do a big US roadtrip. Christian is also really keen on a US roadtrip...Jenna: shall we bring our foreign men and hit the road? ;) hehehe

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    3. Oh definitely! I think Jurgen wants to do a US road trip even more than me :) After you're finished with SE Asia let's start planning!

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  14. great tips!
    i didn't know about that airplane mileage

    p.s - jenna, i live in indonesia (in bali-to be more spesific) so if you ever come to indonesia, don't hesitate to contact me.

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    1. Thanks so much for the invitation! When I make it to that side of the world I'll definitely take you up on the offer :)

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  15. Oh gosh I can't wait for them to start travelling. SE Asia stole my heart two summers ago - couldn't be more happy for them! Great guest post idea Jenna :)

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    1. Oh, SE Asia stole my heart too... especially Cambodia and Burma! That was in 2006 and I've been dying to find a way back since. Laos is at the top of my list... I keep hearing so many great things about it.

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  16. RTW travelling is a dream of mine. I'm not so keen on SE Asia, though. It's mainly the food that puts me off! I'd love to travel round Africa though (South Africa and Kenya especially!)

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Thanks for commenting! I love reading each and every one of them :)