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. Hey since your already going to Poland def make a stop in the southern town of Zakopane – its a touristy place but unforgettable , great mountain hiking and you cant miss the Tatranski national park at the end of the “trail” its a bunch of lakes up high in the mountain called morkie oko, very beautiful.

  2. I am really enjoying all the great stuff on this site! I was curious Steph if you or anyone is buying each ticket individually or buying an around the world ticket? I am planning a somewhat similar trip…and wondered which people thought was more cost effective…this would definitely effect the level of preplanning that goes into a trip

    1. I bought my tickets individually and I think it’s a MUCH better idea. You have much more freedom when you plans change- which I promise you they will.

  3. Just stumbled upon this blog. How awesome. I subscribed and I look forward to reading about your adventures!

    PS – I’m totally #2. I hate the thought of missing something because it was closed on a Monday and we are leaving first thing on Tuesday morning. I plan everything out in excel. Sigh.

  4. Wow, what a fantastic trip! . I feel I should share with you an amazing course I did while I was in Cairo, Egypt – Sarah Merron of Fire Dragon Coaching teaches strategies that really helped me focus on getting the best out of myself and others around me, for both my work and personal life. She runs courses all over the world, so it’s a fantastic way to combine travel with self improvement. Here’s the link, I found it had a very powerful effect on my life:
    You should check it out if you head that way.

  5. Hey Steph, I’m not too far from Hadrians wall. May I make a suggestion if you have time?-

    Visit Beamish: It’s an open air museum which shows how English lived in the 1800’s. It’s pretty cool, especially for a 1st time experience. Just a thought!

  6. I just found out your first stop is Japan. I was just there earlier this year. If you have questions/concerns, shoot me an email anytime.

    Btw, your site is excellent and always give me new idea the next time I am going on a trip.

  7. I’m sure you know this by now but, as of a couple of months ago, Burma is visa on arrival now, so good luck with that.

    Awesome itinerary Steph, apart from finishing in Scotland in August – it’s the middle of summer, so don’t forget your rainwear!

  8. Great site! I am also leaving September 15th to travel for a year. I’m starting in England via Iceland and then heading off to India for a few months (and possibly Sri Lanka and/or Nepal) and then SE Asia in December (Thailand for New Years), New Zealand then Turkey, Greece, Scotland and then who knows! It sounds like we will be in some of the same places at the same time. It be great to meet up. Are you going to Thailand for New Years? Koh Phangan perhaps? I really like your website and your ideas so I linked you on mine:) You can check out my site too if you’d like:

    Happy Travels!

    1. That sounds like a fun itinerary- Iceland is terrific! It’s looking like it’s probably going to be Bangkok for New Years for me- meeting up with some friends there probably. Will be sure to check out your site!

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