There’s a few things you will need to consider before setting off on your travels.
Where do you want to go?
Budget/Length of trip
What to pack
Will you be going on your own? As a couple? Or with a group of friends/family?
If you are going by yourself skip straight to point 2, if not you need to consider what the other people you are travelling with will want i.e. will they want to go/see the same places you do? What’s their budget? How long do they want to go for? Will they hold you back from doing things that you want to do?
You will have to discuss these truthfully with them to prevent any arguments or awkwardness while you are travelling.
Where do you want to go?
This is where the planning gets exciting! Firstly I would write a list of the places you are most interested in going to. Once this is done you can look it up on a map and decide on a rough route (whilst seeing what countries you could potentially visit in-between). After deciding where you would like to go consider whether it would be best to do it all on your own or whether it would be best to join a group tour. You may benefit from a tour in less westernised countries such as China, India etc.
Budget/Length of trip
These two go hand in hand for obvious reasons, if you only have a small budget you can’t travel for months on end (unless you intend to earn money whilst doing so). Figure out what you can cut back on to save money for your trip- trust me the experiences you will have on your travels will outweigh a drunken night out and a greasy kebab!
The things you will have to think about with your budget is dependent on how you want to travel and where you want to go. Are you happy to stay in hostels and travel on overnight buses? Or would you rather stay in hotels and catch flights? Which countries will you be visiting, for example South East Asia could easily cost you less than £10 ($14) a day, whereas Australia will be upwards of £30 ($42) a day on a tight budget.
One more thing I would think about is budgeting for vaccinations! Personally I got lucky as my local doctors were surprisingly cheap costing just £90 for my full rabies vaccination which in comparison my partner paid £90 per jab! (3 jabs for rabies) a lot of people I met paid around £300 for all there jabs! Also do not leave this to the last minute as there are time scales on a lot of the jabs.
How long do you intend to stay out? Another factor on the long list that is bound to change! Personally I always intended to go away for 12-18 months but for my partner she intended to stay out for 6 months (until meeting me and deciding to stay out for another 12) Try not to make your plans to rigid if possible as you will meet new people or discover more places you would like to see before you go home.
Flights will probably be your biggest expense before leaving. You will need to decide how much you will be willing to travel overland to save costs on flying. In my opinion STA travel seem to be one of the best agents for finding cheap multi-stop flights as well as an option to have flexible dates which helps those times that you decide to stay somewhere for that little bit longer because you can’t bare the thought of leaving. Sky scanner is also a good website to find flights if you have completely flexible dates or if you’re trying to find a last minute deal, but shop around as there are all sorts of ways of getting cheaper deals especially if you’re willing to have long layovers etc.
Visas are obviously a big deal, I almost didn’t get granted my Chinese visa as I didn’t have flights out of china at the time! Check with each countries embassy to see the requirements of travelling there from your country. Visas can also be pretty expensive if you need to get multiple entry visas or intend to stay for longer.
Tours are a great way of introducing you to travelling without being too daunting and often take you to places that can be very difficult to get to using public transport. I personally took a G Adventures tour called ‘China on a Shoestring’ as I had heard that China was very hard to travel on your own but I’ll go into more detail about that tour in my ‘China’ blogs. There are 100’s of different tours for all budgets and lengths of trip from just day trips to a couple of months. If you’re a solo traveller tours can be beneficial to find other travellers that are doing the same or similar route as you or if you are really lucky you might find someone you want to spend your whole journey with as I did.
What to pack
Before deciding what you are going to pack its best to find out what you’re going to be packing into! If you’re planning on a short trip and not doing too much moving around then a suitcase is probably the best option for you. If you’re doing a lengthier trip with a lot of travelling I would definitely recommend a good backpack! You’re backpack will become your closest companion on your trip so you will need to make sure it’s comfy with cushioned straps and a decent size. My backpack was 65 litres and I also had a small backpack for carry on luggage and for going out and about in the day.
Deciding what to pack can be difficult. Take into consideration the climate of the places you’ll be going to and what time of year you’re likely to be there. Also think about whether you can afford to buy new clothes whilst you’re out there as this can help a lot! I would advise essentials being general toiletries, a few pairs on underwear, minimal t-shirts and bottoms, comfortable footwear and any medication you may need to bring such as malaria tablets etc. My best bit of advice for packing would be ROLL!!! I saved so much space in my backpack by folding clothes once and then rolling them up, as an extra bonus this also prevents clothes from creasing too badly!
Next I would think about what kind of gadgets you are thinking about taking. Do you really need to take a laptop? Do you have a large camera or are you going to use your phone to take photos? Are you going to back your photos up onto a memory card or a hard drive?
When I first left home I had the idea of just using my phone as a camera but the more I travelled and saw different peoples photos I wish I’d had taken a good camera or at least something like a GoPro (which after saving money whilst working in Oz I managed to get both). This made a huge difference to what I could now take photos of. Scenic pictures in places like New Zealand were so much better after getting hold of a DSLR and we took our GoPro whenever we went snorkelling or diving which made for some amazing photos including Charlie’s very braggable turtle selfie!!
Before leaving try and get hold of some sort of device for locking up your bag, whether you are just able to lock the bag with a standard padlock or whether you need to buy a wire that can be looped round your bag and locked up. I would also recommend getting a multi continent travel adapter plug (saved me a lot of hassle).
If there is anything you are unsure about packing or any other questions don’t hesitate to comment or message and I will be happy to offer any advice 🙂