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11 Steps for Planning a Round the World Trip for Beginners

Updated: Mar 28

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How important is planning for a round-the-world trip?

So technically you could just turn up at an airport, pick a flight at random, and hope for the best. That's for sure one way to do it, and I have met plenty of people, mostly male solo backpackers, who travel that way. If like me you would prefer to be more prepared, then this blog post is here to help you! I actually get oodles of joy out of putting itineraries together, like an ever-adapting puzzle, with excitement for the journey brewing at every stage. So here is my step-by-step guide to planning your trip around the world. I refer to the trip I am currently mid-way on, but these steps can be applied to any extended backpacker-style travel.


Not sure what to pack for a round-the-world trip? Check out my article:




11 Steps for Planning a Round-the-World Trip for Beginners



How much time do you have to spare?

If it's possible for you, I think the minimum length of time you should consider when planning your first trip around the world is three months, as this means you will be able to explore several countries in one trip, without a constant mad rush from place to place.

Even better would be six months, as you will be able to spend extended amounts of time in some places, rather than just zipping through and checking off countries, which can be exhausting. This slower pace allows you to feel more like a local by getting to grips with a place and its ways and making true friends from all over the world.

I am very lucky in that the trip I am currently on was planned for one year (naturally, this has been extended, and I am now going for two...). This is the longest 'single journey' I have done in my ten years of travelling, but I have met heaps of people along the way who have been on the road for much, much longer. (It helps if you can work remotely!)

A backpacker waiting for the bus in Botswana
That's 2 years worth of luggage right there!



Non-negotiable Stops

Where are the places that you really, really want to visit?

Choose two or three absolute non-negotiables that will mark as your pillars when planning a trip around the world. For this trip, Joe really wanted to visit Himachal Pradesh in India, I was really keen to spend some time in Mexico, and we both were dying to go to Japan.

A girl in a field of Cherry Blossoms in Japan
A dream realised seeing the Cherry Blossoms in Japan!



Get your map out!

So let's say as an example your three non-negotiables are India, Japan, and Mexico. We also know that we have 12 months to play with.

It is at this point that I would start pouring over a world map, tracing my finger between my non-negotiables, and seeing if any other countries pop up in between that peak my interest.

Skyscanner is a fantastic tool for beginner trip planners when searching for flights. It gives you the freedom to input an origin country, e.g. India, and search for flights to 'anywhere'. The search engine will then show you all of the connecting countries by flight to India, in price order. This is a great way to find inspiration!

You can also flick through Lonely Planet, Nat Geo Magazine, or 1000 Places to See Before You Die - to name a few.

For this particular trip in these first 'mapping stages', I saw that Indonesia and the Phillippines were sort of in between India and Japan and that to get from Japan to Mexico you had to travel through the USA. I also thought that from Mexico it looked super easy to jump the border to Guatemala, through Central America, and down to Colombia.

World map with pins in it



Things you're interested in

Aside from actually travelling, which in itself is an activity, think about other things that you are interested in doing/learning about/enjoying whilst on your trip around the world.

For us these were:

  • Cannabis

  • Yoga

  • Learn Spanish

  • Surf

  • Scuba-Diving

  • Food

Are there any countries on your list that are well-known for these activities?

Any bucket-list destinations you can tick off as you're in the area?

Joe is super interested in cannabis culture which is why Himachal Pradesh was his non-negotiable when planning our trip around the world. Thailand, USA, and Colombia have legalised cannabis, so these are naturally places he would like to visit if it's possible to fit them into our itinerary. I practice Yoga regularly and have been following teachers in South India, Lombok in Indonesia, Siargao in the Philippines and Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.

We are both really keen to learn Spanish and after some research have read that Colombia's style of Spanish is the most simple to learn, followed by Mexico's.

Joe is a keen surfer, and some of the best surf spots in the world can be found in Indonesia, the USA, Mexico, El Salvador, and Portugal.

I love to scuba dive, and my bucket-list dive destinations include Palawan in the Philippines, Komodo in Indonesia, The Cenotes in Mexico, and Utila in Honduras.

Food, perhaps the most important category, can be great in most countries of the world, but for us, the two biggest culinary draws are Japan and Mexico.

You're starting to see a few countries pop up more than once, right?




Okay, so now we have a rough idea of what the world looks like, which countries we would like to visit, and perhaps how to get from one country to another if you have spent enough time on Skyscanner.

So now we have to figure out some sort of order, or at least an awareness of when to go. Seasonality is hugely important for beginners to understand when planning a trip around the world. Visiting India in summer, from March to June, is unbearable. The 50-degree heat waves are dangerous.

And yeah, you may like skiing and want to see some snowy slopes in Japan, but are you able to carry winter clothes on your back for the entire duration of the trip?

High season may also be something you want to avoid. Prices can skyrocket, and some places drown in swarms of tourists. IMO you'll want to hit the shoulder season and avoid any school holidays (pesky kids). This isn't always possible, so you can prioritise places.

I would rather be in Mexico in the monsoon season than in the Philippines in the typhoon season, you know? This part takes a lot of man-hours. The Thomas Cook 'When to Go' travel guide is quite a good source for understanding seasonality.

A backpacker in yellow shorts at Singapore Airport
All I packed for my 2-year trip, weighing 15kg total



First draft

This is a really exciting part of planning a trip around the world and this will be the first of many, many drafts. But it's a great feeling to finally be able to put a list of destinations together. Just expect it to change constantly!

My first draft looked like this:

India (North then South) ~ SEP, OCT, NOV

Sri-Lanka ~ DEC

Maldives ~ JAN

Indonesia ~ FEB

Philippines ~ MARCH

Japan ~ APRIL


Mexico ~ JUNE, JULY

Honduras ~ AUG

Uruguay ~ AUG



Visas & Travel Safety

Another important logistical step not to be missed is you'll need to go down your draft list one by one and visit the 'travel advice' page for each country, to check for visa requirements and other important information.

This can be found on for British people, but most countries have their own version.

Some countries will offer a visa on arrival to citizens of your home country, some are visa-free, and for some, you will need to go to an embassy to apply for a visa before you travel. Check for things like the length of stay allowed, price, if you're able to extend your visa whilst in situ, and how to do so.

I suggest also checking the 'Safety' page, as well as 'Local Laws and Customs'. The British Gov. note down every single serious crime that has affected tourists in recent years, and it is very intimidating to read. Don't look too deeply! It always sounds worse than it is, and is very bias towards countries the UK government does not have a good relationship with.

Just check that there are no 'red zones' to avoid, where your travel insurance may become invalid and you may not be able to reach consular assistance.

It is recommended to avoid these areas, but you can make your own judgement call. I went to Sempoorna in Borneo in 2016, which was technically a red zone at the time, because there was a pirate hostage situation there in the year 2000. I wanted to dive there and sixteen years had passed, so I took the risk. It turned out there were loads of other tourists there, and I did not feel unsafe in any way shape or form. Each to their own!

The 'Local Laws and Customs' sections come in handy for knowing things that could catch you out. For example in many Muslim places hotel rooms can't be shared by unmarried couples. It's important to be respectful of other cultures and you could be acting offensively without even realising it. It's also worth noting that special permits may be required for entering some areas within a country as well e.g. tribal areas in India.

There are more complications... for example; if you travel to Cuba right now, you are no longer eligible for an ESTA - and for the USA you need an ESTA visa just to transit in the airport! See what I mean about countries being biased?!

passport camera and type writer for travel planning




Step 8 when planning a round-the-world trip for beginners is less enjoyable than other steps, as you may realise that your itinerary of dreams is out of reach financially.

But as mentioned above, everything can be jiggled about and there's always a second pot of destinations for the next, next trip!

Start with flights. Use Skyscanner to get a rough price estimation for all of your flights, and hold that in a separate budget. For Joe and I combined for this trip (the first year) the flight budget was £4000.

Next, you can find information online for the average nightly price of a budget hotel in each country, using We decided that we could achieve an average budget of £10 per night. I say average because Japan could be much more expensive, but accommodation in India and the Phillippines can be much less. £10 per night for 12 months is £3650.

Hoping to be able to cook for ourselves and also enjoy some meals out, we budgeted an average of £10 per day for food. That's another £3650.

This brought our baseline expenditure to roughly £12000. Now comes the extra budget for buses and other transport excluding flights, bottled water (this adds up!) beers, coffees, excursions and activities.

So all in all Joe and I managed to save £20,000 for our year-long trip:

  • £4000 ~ FLIGHTS


  • £7000 ~ FOOD & LODGING

  • £8000 ~ EXTRA STUFF

After doing some research we decided that both the Maldives and Uruguay were probably out of our budget for this trip. Sri Lanka's fuel emergency made us rethink that part of the trip as well, and Thailand just legalising Cannabis was a really exciting add-on.

A hitch-hiker thumbing for a ride in Botswana
Hitch-hiking is a great way to save money on transport, we successfully did it all through Africa. This is Joe thumbing for a ride in Botswana!



Second Draft

So considering all of the new information I was able to make a second draft:

India (North then South) ~ FLY TO

Thailand (Bangkok and Trang Islands) ~ FLY TO

Indonesia (Komodo then Lombok) ~ FLY TO

Philippines (Siargao, Siqijor, Palawan) ~ FLY TO

South Korea ~ FLY TO

Japan ~ FLY TO

USA (California, Utah) ~ BY LAND TO

Mexico (?) ~ FLY TO

Colombia (Medellin, ?)

A couple in white t-shirts by the Hollywood sign
As you can see we made it to California!



Volunteering Opportunities

After working out our rough monthly budget, it seemed to me that £20k was going to be a little tight to achieve everything we wanted to do and see, especially with more expensive activities like scuba diving.

This is where Workaway comes in - which is a fantastic tool to save money when planning a trip around the world for beginners!

There are alternatives like HelpX or Worldpacker, but we found Workaway seemed the most comprehensive for the countries on our itinerary. To sign up it cost us £45 for the year (as a couple).

The deal is that you work five hours a day, for five days a week, and in exchange, you get free food and accommodation. When you create a profile you can narrow down your interests, for example to organic farming and teaching English. You then search for hosts in your chosen country and make a connection.

This is a great way to spend an extended amount of time somewhere, often off the well-trodden tourist trail. It can get really tiring following the same path all of the other backpackers take, constantly on the move, and I often begin to crave to be able to fully unpack and get to know a place.

Joe did a Workaway on a chocolate farm in Mangalore in South India for three weeks whilst I was at Yoga school in Mysore and he loved it. We then both spent five weeks at Lanta Animal Welfare in Thailand which was wholesome as f*ck, I basically walked dogs all day, which turned out to be a great way to explore Koh Lanta, with plenty of time to island-hop on our days off.

We also did a 2-month Workaway in Colombia, where we cooked healthy food for yoga retreats in the mountains


The view of the mountains of cocorna in Colombia
The view from our mountain home in Colombia



Book stuff!

You are now in a position to start arranging stuff! But be warned, even worse than having no clue what's going on is having everything booked up, stacked one behind the other. This is a common mistake that beginners make when planning a round-the-world trip.

This is because if something goes wrong, which it inevitably will, you will stress! I always say with backpacking be prepared to take the good with the bad, it's not all smiles and white sand. Things WILL go wrong along the way.

You also could stumble across the place of your dreams and want to stay there longer or take a wicked recommendation from a fellow traveller you meet on the road.

This flexibility also needs to be balanced with booking flights well enough in advance to avoid huge price hikes. So how do we balance this?

For our current trip, we booked our initial flight to India, arranged our India visas, and booked our first night's hotel in New Delhi about three months before departure. We also booked our pricey flight from Japan to the USA as a halfway marker, knowing that we wanted to be in Japan during April's cherry blossom season.

The rest was left blank.

This gives us the freedom to be flexible, and add in stops if we get an ace recommendation from a fellow traveller. But from reading this blog post you know I am not making it up as a go-along. In my head (and my travel journal) is all of the information I have researched on seasons, budgets, routes, visas, etc.

This means you have everything you need to start booking stuff for the following 1-2 months, as you go.


Last preparations:




  • Vaccinations

  • Visas

  • Money

  • Student Loans & Other Debts

  • Phone

  • Driving

  • Contraception & Period Stuff

  • Passport & Photos


So there you are... 11 Steps for Planning a trip around the world for beginners!!

I hope this blog post has been helpful, I would be glad to answer any questions so please hit the comments section! if you enjoyed the read, please consider subscribing to my blog where I post new travel articles every 1-2 weeks.

If you're looking for ways to extend your travel, check out my post on how to travel for longer!

Happy Travels




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