Worldly ways: top tips for round the world travel
Round-the-world trips offer numerous possibilities. But most people need help with the planning.
Sarah Tucker provides some top tips
If there is one thing you’re likely to find on a bucket list, it’s a round-the-world trip. Ever since Sir Francis Drake pulled it off in the 1570s, circumnavigation of the globe has been a ‘must’ for every adventurous soul.
But while the many aspire, the few attain. Lack of knowledge or a perceived lack of time keep most of us tied up in port. And this is where a specialist firm comes in.
“Global journeys are not just for students in their gap year,” insists Paul Bondsfield of Round The World Experts, the leading company specialising in itineraries. “Increasingly people of all ages are giving it a whirl. Most, however, still think that it will be too expensive, or take too long, or they don’t know where to start, so their plans never get off the ground. That’s a pity.”
I will be travelling the world – in two instalments – later this year, working with Round The World Experts to produce an itinerary that fits with budget and time, is comfortably paced and offers the variety of experience I seek. Planning and consultation are the keys to it all, along with clarity of purpose. This is an experience, not just a holiday, so be clear about your reasons for going.
Here then are my Top 10 points to consider before you hoist sail…
1. Why do you want to do it? Answering this will help you to decide when and how you want to go and, importantly, the stops you want to make en route.
2. Do you want to go on a ‘themed’ trip? Is the idea to see the major cultural cities of the world, or are you more interested in how the wilderness varies from continent to continent? Perhaps wildlife or art are your thing. You could focus on imperilled destinations before they disappear, such as San Francisco, Venice or the Maldives. Or you may want a combination of everything. Whatever your priorities, be clear about them in advance.
3. Keep the journeys smooth. Airports are the big black holes of the travel experience – the queues, the lost luggage, the lack of information – but some are better than others. Make sure that your consultant bears this in mind when helping you to decide on stopovers.
4. Be clear about your budget and energy levels. This is not a marathon from which to return poor and shattered – it’s a tonic to inspire and invigorate you.
5. Think about when your chosen destinations are at their ‘best’. For example, I want to see Japan in the spring, but San Francisco in the autumn. Which of these am I prepared to forgo? Also, many places stage huge events. Do you want to be there when they are on, or avoid places at these crowded times?
6. In which direction should you travel? Most airlines issue RTW tickets with a view to filling spare capacity on their planes. To retain control, they often stipulate the direction of travel, along with a maximum mileage and a ban on retracing one’s steps. However, expert agents can circumvent these rules to create bespoke routes.
There is, in fact, no real reason to travel in any specific direction. However, the cheapest time to leave the UK is in our late winter or early spring, when travellers can find the warmer weather by heading west to the USA. In addition, changes of time zone are thought to be less draining if you go west, as you are travelling with – rather than against – time itself!
7. Visas and vaccinations. The specialist will advise you about what exactly is required (fitfortravel.nhs.uk), but it’s always an idea to check for yourself as well (thamesconsular.com).
8. The weather! Does it matter if the sun shines throughout your trip? If it’s an issue, be sure to raise it with the specialist. If you don’t, he or she won’t factor it into the planning of your itinerary.
9. Plane, train or automobile? Do you want to ride a Harley around Sydney Harbour, or take an open-top Beetle over the Rockies? This sort of thing can really add a dimension to your journey. On the other hand, train is by far the most relaxing way to cover distances and meet the locals. So mix and match: variety is spice.
10. Finally, plan your journey as if you are planning the synopsis for a novel or a great adventure book. What would you put in it? Eat Pray Love – the popular travel and self-discovery memoir of American author Elizabeth Gilbert – was conceived and commissioned even before the author left home.
What would you like the protagonist of your book (you) to do on his or her trip? Do you want an element of danger? Would you like to live with a local family somewhere? Are you in search of romance, bonding with your child or the roots of your family tree? Would you like to meet the original Crocodile Dundee or travel with Thelma and Louise?
Above all, heed the words of Ernest Hemmingway: “Never go on trips with someone you don’t love.” It’s excellent advice for anyone travelling the world. After all, it’s an awfully long way round.