9 Steps to Plan Your Year-Long RTW (Round the World) Trip – How to Travel RTW

9 Steps to Plan Your Year-Long RTW (Round the World) Trip – How to Travel RTW


Planning for a year RTW (Round The World) can be both exciting and overwhelming. Where to start? Here are 9 steps to help you plan for a trip of a lifetime.

1. Set a Budget

World Traveling Family

Adventurists in Bali!

This will be the biggest factor in your trip. Unless you are able to make money while you are traveling, you will have to stick to a budget.

You may want to consider the following general expenses:

  1. Current Life Expenses
    Do you have a mortgage, life insurance or any other expenses that need to be paid even if you are traveling? Be sure to include your current life expenses when you budget your trip. Here is a simple worksheet to help and guide you on your budget: Download Budget Excel Worksheet
  2. RTW Tickets
    How much will it cost to get around the world? Get high-level quotes from various sources. Tickets can range from USD $3,000 to $10,000 or more per ticket depending on various factors such as number of countries and/or distance, class (economy vs. business), age of people traveling, etc. Here are a couple other websites to manage your ticket expenses:

  3. Inter-Country Transportation
    How will you travel while you are inside a foreign country? Will you use inexpensive travel (buses, trains) or more expensive (car hires, planes)? Here are a couple websites to help plan out local transportation when you are in a foreign country:

    • www.rome2rio.com – This website gives you great information on point-to-point travel options, duration and costs.
    • www.seat61.comIn-depth information on traveling by train.
    • www.itasoftware.com– Find flight prices for inter-country flights and what week or day may be cheaper.
    • www.airlineratings.com – Provides safety ratings on all major worldwide airlines.
  4. Lodging
    What type of lodging will you stay in? How much is your budget for one night? In most countries, you find various pricing levels of accommodations: economy, mid-range, luxury. Nowadays you can also look at sites like Airbnb and VRBO for house, condo and room rentals. These can be particularly affordable and also allow you to save money on items such as meals, laundry, etc. as some places have amenities. The following websites can give you information on types and costs of lodging in your target countries: an idea of lodging expenses you can look forward to while traveling:

    • www.tripadvisor.com – provides options and costs for hotels, b&b’s, inn’s and vacation rentals AND traveler reviews (EXTREMELY helpful)
    • www.airbnb.com – provides an alternative of renting someone’s home, a room in their home, entire villa, castle and even stay on someone’s boat! Searchable amenities too.
    • www.vrbo.com – similar to Airbnb where you can search available home, room, etc. rentals.
  5. Visas
    Depending on the countries you visit, you will have to obtain a Visa. Costs can vary based on the country, length of stay, visa extensions, number of people, etc. Also, there may be times where you need an agency to help obtain your Visa which is an added cost and these costs can add up. The link (https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country.html) gives updated and detailed visa information & costs.
  6. Travel Insurance
    It is good to consider travel as they help you to deal with unexpected and uncalled issues cancellation of flights, flight delays or even baggage losses and saves you a lot of last moment hassles.
  7. Travel Health Insurance
    Generally, most U.S. health insurance does not cover out-of-country doctor visits, emergency room visits, prescription medicine, etc. So these costs will be out of pocket and most of the times, MUST be paid in cash at time of service. Additionally, for Americans, you have the Affordable Care Act Laws to abide by; there is a minimum number of days you have to be out-of-country in order to be exempted from being required to purchase US Insurance or to be charged with the penalty. It is handy to consider travel health insurances. Do your research on the ACA (Affordable Care Act) and how it will impact you.

  8. Meals
    Will you be cooking at home or will you be eating all your meals out? Or a combination? Will you be eating at cheaper restaurants or higher-end? Generally most countries have a range of restaurants from “cheaper” to “fine dining”. But it would still be worthwhile checking out what your options are and what it will cost you if you eat breakfast, lunch and/or dinner out. Here are a few helpful links to understand the cost of meals and/or groceries in your destination city:

    • www.tripadvisor.com – research restaurants, prices and reviews in your target cities.
    • www.expatisan.com – Compares costs of cities including restaurants and groceries.
    • www.numbeo.comLike expatisan.com, compares costs of cities including restaurants and groceries.
  9. Trip Experiences
    This being said, there are also other expenses that you will want to budget for: experiences. Make sure to put money aside for other items while you are traveling such as excursions and tours, entrance fees, gifts and souvenirs, etc. How much? You may want to look at museum websites, TripAdvisor or simply Google activities in your select countries to get an understanding of what your experiences will cost.

2. Make a List of Countries

Enlist where you want to go and what have you always wanted to do or see. Plan out your wish list. List the specific cities in those countries. You may begin with a tentative list, for starters, but as you research and go by, you will be crossing some names off and maybe even adding additional countries or cities you hadn’t considered before. My rule of thumb was 30 days per country and considering 3-5 cities in each country that I wanted to visit.

3. Research, Research and More Research

This is where you will spend majority of your precious planning time. Here are a few points to keep in mind while researching for your year-long trip:

  • Budget
    Stick to your budget. If a country looks too expensive and beyond your financial reach, don’t do it.
  • There’s always another trip to look forward to.You can’t do everything in one go. The more someone researches, the more places attract them and the more places they add on their ‘to-do’ list. Just remember, there will always be a next time.
  • Travel Warnings
    Make sure to double check any countries that might be under travel warnings.
  • Peak vs. Off Season
    It’s always good to keep track of when peak season and off-peak seasons are. You can find value in off-peak or bordering peak seasons.
  • Weather
    Do extensive research on what time of year is better weather, especially for a any specific destinations or activities you might be planning. You may want to keep track of the better months to visit based upon the weather.

4. Refine Your Budget

Now that you know are clear as to where you want to go and how much your overall budget should be, go ahead and try to refine it. Does your budget need an extra $1,000? Do you need to stay in a cheaper country longer to offset a more expensive country? Did you find out about a city you HAVE to visit or an activity you HAVE to experience and it will be a splurge? Now is the time make sure you have a good idea of what your plan is and how much you need to save before your departure date.

5. Save & Sell

Now that you have your budget, consider how much time will it take for you to save. Put it in a separate savings and don’t touch it! This is also a good chance to do some spring cleaning, put items on Ebay, Offer Up, Let Go, or have a garage sale. Sell your car (we did) or even your house, if it makes sense. One very big lesson you will learn early on in your trip is “you don’t need all of that stuff”.

6. Finalize your Route

You’ve saved your money or at least most of it, now its time to finalize your route and aligning them with dates and/or duration in each country. You will need this information in order to have a meaningful conversation with your RTW ticket provider.

Things to keep in mind:

  • On a RTW ticket you have to continue moving East to West or West to East.
  • Weather – What months will be better weather in the destinations you chose?
  • Peak vs. Off Season – What months will be better for your travel budget?

7. Select a Departure Date

You are getting close! It’s time to choose your general departure date. Is there a better month to leave for work, your spouse, children, school? I would also recommend working with your RTW ticket provider(s) to understand what may be a better day of the week to travel or better week to travel in a month to get the most value out of your RTW ticket.

8. Choose a RTW Ticket

Talk to a few RTW ticket providers and see what route, airlines, and price is going to work for you. Finally, shortlist one that suits you best. We used www.ticketsroundtheworld.com and really like our travel specialist.

Here are a couple other websites to help with who you will choose for your RTW ticket:

9. Purchase your RTW Ticket!

Last step! You’ve decided on your route, your departure date and RTW ticket provider. It’s time to purchase your ticket.

So, what are you waiting for? Let the excitement and experience of a lifetime begin!


— Cash Cortez

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