One year to six months out
Start having a think about where you’d like to go. Start tapping up your friends for ideas and utilise the internet for inspiration. Put potential destinations in a rough geographical order, check out weather patterns, get ideas of what you want to do where and generally get rather excited about the whole thing.
Five to six months out
- Check how long your passport is valid for. As a general rule, you need to have a spare six months available from the date you come back. So, if yours expires in the next two years, get down to a photo booth, fill in the forms and send off for a new one.
- Give your friendly expert travel agent a call to get a rough idea of how suitable your dream itinerary is, and get a rough idea on costing. Just about every route can theoretically be done, but some are a lot cheaper than others. For example, if you want to island hop through the South Pacific, it will almost certainly work out a lot less expensive if you combine Samoa and Tonga rather than Samoa and Tahiti. Once you’ve got a rough idea of what you can and can’t do for the price, you can fine-tune your plans.
- Start saving some cash. The temptation is to regard the round the world flight ticket as your only big expense, but you will need some money to fall back on as you’re travelling round, and the more you can stick in the bank, the more you’ll be able to do while you’re away. The budgeting regime doesn’t have to be drastic, but eating in more regularly, making rather than buying lunchtime sandwiches and cutting down the alcohol intake will create a surprisingly large pot
- If you’re taking a break from work, negotiate the time off with them. If you’re just quitting, make sure you know what your notice period is
Three to four months out
- Go over your itinerary with roundtheworldflights.com's RTW flight planner , and buy your personalised RTW ticket.
- If you’ve not done so already, buy some guidebooks and give them a proper read to get an insight into the history and culture of the places you’ll be visiting – as well as getting ideas of what you want to see and do. Start pencilling in a few probable highlights between the flights.
- Sort out your visas. Many countries either give visas on entry or don’t require them. Others (such as the US and Australia) can be got pretty much instantly on the internet. Some, however, require you to send off your passport. And the likes of China, India and Vietnam won’t let you in without that magic bit of paper.
- If you’re not already covered, start on the jabs. Get your tetanus booster, hepatitis A inoculation and any others – such as Yellow Fever if you’re heading to much of South America.
- Apply for frequent flier accounts with the airlines/ airline alliance you’ll be using and get your number added to your ticket.
- If you haven’t already, get either a credit card or an extra bank account with a globally recognised debit card (Visa or Mastercard are most widespread). Having a spare card can save an awful lot of pain if one goes missing/ is stolen.
Two months out
- If you need to hand in your notice on your rented accommodation/ find tenants for the place you own, now is the time to do it. If you’re planning to sell up, you probably should have done so before booking your tickets.
- Arrange for gym memberships, utility accounts – such as electricity, gas, telephone – and the like to be closed or put on hold for the expected duration of your trip.
- Contact any friends, family or friends-of-friends you may have in the places you’re visiting. Get tips, arrange to meet up and cadge whatever free accommodation ou can wangle.
Four to six weeks out
- Buy a decent RTW travel insurance, and check that it covers you for the duration of your trip, all areas you’ll be visiting and any risky activities (such as skydiving) you may intend to partake in. A cheap policy that leaves you uncovered can cost you far, far more in the long run.
- Start buying any specialist gear you want to take with you – be it clothing, walking boots, backpacks, a new camera, adaptors or toiletries. And, just as importantly, test that the electronics work and the rest are broken in before you leave.
- Arrange for your post to be stopped or redirected, with any subscriptions cancelled.
- If you currently use a work e-mail account, set up a free one that can be accessed worldwide with the likes of Yahoo or Gmail. And, crucially, tell everyone that you’re switching to it.
Three to four weeks out
- If required, arrange for a medical appointment and get your malaria tablets. If you’re immediately heading to a malarial zone, you’ll need to start taking them before you leave. In the case of Mefloquine, you should start two-and-a-half weeks before you leave.
- Start embarking on your farewell tour – make sure you catch up with all the friends and family you want to see before you go.
- Work out how you’re going to get to the airport on the big day. If by train, now’s the cheapest time to book tickets. Make sure you factor in time for things to go wrong (train delays etc).
Two weeks out
- Get any foreign cash and travellers cheques you’re planning to take. Be careful not to leave this too late – some currencies need to be ordered in. The Post Office do pretty good currency deals these days.
- Book your first night’s accommodation if you’ve not done so already. The rest can be done on the road, but you really don’t want to have to find somewhere to stay after landing in a strange foreign city on a long haul flight.
- Check your ticket and itinerary for any discrepancies.
- Make copies or scans of important documents such as your passport, insurance policy, driving licence and tickets. Give one copy to a family member, store one copy separately from your real documents in a safe part of your bag, and e-mail copies to yourself.
One week out
- Make a proper packing list and start gathering everything in one place. If something’s missing, go and get/ buy it. If something’s dirty, wash it.
- Write down the phone numbers of roundtheworldflights.com, bank lost card helpline and travel insurer in case something goes wrong. Preferably e-mail them to yourself as well.
- Set up playlists on your ipod/MP3 player.
Two days out
- Reconfirm your first flight with the airline (always good practice before any flight).
- Check your itinerary in View Trip
- Start packing.
One day out
- Make sure batteries for phone, MP3 player/ipod, camera etc are fully charged.
- Finish packing, checking everything off against your list.
- Say those last goodbyes, but resist the urge to get absolutely hammered. Being violently hungover on a long distance flight is an excruciating experience.
- Check in online – it’ll save you a lot of time at the airport and allow you to reserve a good seat.
Day of departure
Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, don’t eat too much if you don’t want to feel bloated on the plane, and feel free to yelp with excitement – the adventure of a lifetime starts today.
by Stuart Lodge