How much is Too Much (Planning)? Plus! My Itinerary

So I’ve been planning to take this round-the-world trip since last June, but it only occurred to me around January that I should probably start PLANNING this round-the-world trip.  I was then faced with a decision: how much of this trip needs to be planned out? And how?

Obviously I will need to plan ahead of time for things like visas, immunizations etc. But I’m talking about planning my itinerary here- where I want to visit and in what order. Everyone seems to have different philosophies when it comes to trip planning. From what I see there are two basic schools of thought:

  1. The anti- planning people– Usually confident seasoned travelers, these folks seem to abhor planning of any kind. They like to buy a ticket, roll up and see where the wind takes them. While they have maximum flexibility, they are often subject to higher ticket fares by buying at the last minute, and the lack of plan can lead to inefficiency and backtracking.
  2. The must have a plan people- I think this is more common among newer, more nervous travelers, but it’s not exclusive to them. These people plan down to the day where they will be and what they will be doing. While this approach can mean maximum efficiency (especially if you are short on time) these travelers sacrifice a lot of flexibility. I mean what if it rains? What if you fall in love with a city and simple NEED an extra week?
guide books
Creative Commons License photo credit: johninbkk

Where do I fall? Well somewhere in the middle really.  I want to be flexible and open to opportunities that may come my way. I realize that making extensive plans is probably going to lead to more frustration than anything else 5 or 6 months into my trip.

However I also really, really love planning things. Ever since I was a little girl and my dad handed me Walt Disney World for Dummies and said, “Hey, you handle this” I’ve had a love affair with guidebooks. The anticipation that comes from learning about a country is a real and big part of the enjoyment of the trip for me. I can’t really imagine showing up in a new place without any idea of what’s important there or what I might like to do. I would hate to miss out on something really awesome because I didn’t do my research first.

So trip planning has become an exercise in compromise for me. I’m buying some of my tickets ahead of time but not all of them. I’m going country-by-country and pouring over the guidebooks but I’m steering clear of itineraries or concrete plans. I’m compiling lists of things I would like to do but not committing myself to anything. I think my notes will be really useful once I’m on the road, particularly as I won’t be bringing any guidebooks with me. At the same time it should leave me open to decide what I want to do and see as I go along.

Atlas, it's time for your bath
Creative Commons License photo credit: woodleywonderworks

When it comes to planning I think it’s important to do whatever makes you feel most comfortable. If you are a novice traveler, that may mean planning out every day of your trip. If you can’t stand the idea of concrete plans then don’t make them. In either case its important to remember that part of travel is being flexible in your plans, beliefs and practices.

So without further ado, here’s a first look at my (still evolving) itinerary:

***ETA: This is no longer my itinerary. For an updated look at where I’m going, check out my About page***

  • Japan- My first stop will also be my most expensive! My target date to head out will be September 15, but this is subject to change. I’ll be visiting a friend teaching English just outside of Tokyo and seeing as many highlights as I can fit in a scant two weeks.
  • New Zealand– Sky diving, bungee jumping and other adrenaline thrills await me here. After a quick relaxing jaunt to Fiji it will be on to…
  • Australia- I’m planning to spend about two months traveling primarily the east coast of this enormous country. It’s here I will be meeting up with my travel soul mate Liz and spending some quality time with my crazy old Australian roommates (on is in Brisbane, the other in Melbourne). I suspect these will not be healthy times for the old liver.
  • Southeast Asia– here’s where the plans get a bit fuzzier. Sometime slightly before or after Christmas I’ll fly into Bangkok. Over the next 5 or so months I’ll be exploring this region and reviling in the lack of snow. Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and hopefully Burma if I can get a visa. Eventually I’ll head south down to Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. This area of the world fascinates me and happens to be very, very cheap- wins all around.
  • Egypt- Around May I will fly from one of the major city centers of SE Asia to Cairo.  I’m not entirely comfortable exploring this region on my own so I will probably sign up for a group tour with Gap Adventures. Ideally, I would love to do this tour, which takes you through Jordan and Syria to Turkey, but it may be beyond my budget.
  • Eastern Europe– Some of my favorite places I’ve visited in the past were in this region, so I want to take some time to see more of the area. Tentative list of countries to visit includes: Turkey, Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, Bulgaria and Romania (possibly the Ukraine and Slovakia as well) before I head up north to Poland where I fly to my final destination…
  • Northern England– My last stop on the trip, around August 2011, will be Hadrian’s Wall, which I hope to hike the length of along with my Dad and Step-Mom who will fly out to meet me. From there I’ll probably head down to my favorite city of London for a few days before flying back to the US.

***ETA: This is no longer my itinerary. For an updated look at where I’m going, check out my About page***

So that’s the plan, still very much subject to change and adjustment. So far in my readings/planning I’ve only gotten as far as Australia so there is a lot still to be figured out logistically. I’m really excited about the year ahead of me! Of course any comments and suggestions are appreciated.

Your turn: How much do you like to plan?

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98 thoughts on “How much is Too Much (Planning)? Plus! My Itinerary”

  1. Ian [EagerExistence]

    Great itinerary for a RTW trip. And you’ve left it very vague in places, which I bet was hard for such a planner 😀

  2. This sounds like such an amazing trip! Malaysia is a cheap/delicious food PARADISE, and I absolutely loved it. I studied abroad in Jordan for a semester and visited Syria a couple times. Bottom line: they’re absolutely amazing and you shouldn’t miss out on them! But also, it can be tough for an American woman to travel in those countries by herself, especially with the language barrier. Jordan is more tourist friendly and they make it easy to plan day trips to do things like visit Petra or the Dead Sea pretty cheaply. Or, and this might sound weird, but try looking online for college kids studying in Jordan and Egypt who you could maybe plan a trip with. They’re also on a budget, they’re also seeking adventure, and they’ll know at least a bit of Arabic to help get around.

    Best of luck with everything!

  3. Hi! Why the Philippines is not included in your itinerary in your Southeast Asian trip? Just wondering because I’m a Filipino. 🙂

      1. I thought about that out of the way thing. But I hope one day that you can visit the Philippines. I’m not sure though what do you mean by a little bit expensive. 🙂 A slice of pizza costs around US$1 or 45 pesos…hehehe

  4. Dear Steph,

    I had this crazy idea to follow all the Stephanie’s I could find on Twitter, and of course, you are one of them. Strangely, I am embarking on an around the world trip this September too, and you can find my itinerary at

    Maybe we can find a way to cross paths? I am not 20 something, but 30 something, and will have children in tow.

    I like your blog a lot, and will keep it in my bookmarks to follow you while we are trekking the globe.

    All the best,

    1. Hello Stephanie,

      That’s really awesome that you found me! I’d love to meet up along the way if our paths cross. Keep in touch,


  5. I too am a “planner”. When it’s time for me to plan the family vacation, I have to do extensive research. I will pay for tickets and attractions well in advance of my arrival and every part of my day is planned before I ever arrive at my destination. However, I am intrigued by the idea of planning somethings ahead of time like my airline tickets and access to some of the must see attractions while leaving plenty of time for “on the spot” planning.
    .-= Shirley Kelly´s last blog ..How To Paint House Exterior =-.

  6. Hi! I too am planning a RTW in September and am doing it similar to yours.

    Here is the general idea for more than a year away:

    September: NZ 1.5 months
    November: Nepal and India 2.5 months
    January: South East Asia and China 3 months
    April: Trans-Siberian into Mongolia and Russia 1 month
    May: Scandinavia 1 month
    June: Eastern Europe 2 months
    August: Germany 1.5 months
    October: Dalmatian Coast
    November: Turkey, Lebanon, the Middle East
    December: Egypt, maybe Tunisia, Morocco.

    I’m also hoping to add on some more extended stays to do some volunteering.

    I did have one question. I know you have been to New Zealand before. How did you get around then and how are you getting around this time?

    Keept writing! Maybe our paths will cross!

    1. Looks like a neat itinerary! I actually have not been to New Zealand yet, but my basic plan at the moment is to take intercity buses. Hopefully this wont be too difficult to figure out…

  7. Great article and good advice/suggestions. I’m planning a RTW in October and am doing it similar to yours. Starting in New Zealand, going to Australia, up to Asia, jumping over to Egypt and ending in Europe. I’m doing open ended but I’m timing the countries by when I can get flights via FF miles. Have a good trip and look forward to reading about it.

  8. Your plan looks great! I will continue to live my world-traveling through you…. I’ve got a long way to go before I’m in a place where I can even start saving to travel again. I agree that having a rough outline, and then allowing yourself freedom within that, is the best way to go…. and doing as much research as you can ahead of time so you’re well armed with information… Go Stephi!

  9. I am one of those people who think that you can never be too prepared! But that’s just me. Enjoy your travels. 🙂
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..How to Take Action Photography =-.

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