Planning the Big Travel Trip

Cappadocia and its hot air balloons, Turkey

Cappadocia and its hot air balloons, Turkey

Whether you take one month or one year off to travel the world, it can be a daunting task to organise.

I thought moving to the UK was a massive task.

Then I thought leaving the UK (or even staying) was going to be a big task.

Yet, I didn’t quite consider how many facets there were to the actual planning of the ‘Big Trip’.

Where do you begin?

Grab a map, look at Google, buy/borrow some books or magazines. Where are the places you’ve always dreamed of going? Make a list (I’m a big list person, so I apologise now for that).

travel magazines, books, guides

A few of my travel inspirations…

What do you want to do on your trip? Sit on a beach? Visit temples, churches, castles? Meet wild animals? Embrace culture and food that you’ve never had the chance to experience before? Go hiking, white water rafting, bungee jumping or paragliding? Have you studied about something in a book that you’ve wanted to see in real life? Again, make a list. Start investigating what places in the world you could visit to makes these experiences real.

Paragliding in Slovenia

Paragliding in Slovenia


Once you have your lists, start thinking about what you’ll want to do and how long for in these places. Keep dreaming big for now.

Start looking into prices, both locally and when you convert them into your currency. Speak to people to get an idea of monthly costs and large additional costs that you may want to consider. For instance, when I was planning the South America section of my soon-to-happen big trip I noted expected costs of things like visiting the Galapagos, the Nazca Lines, volunteering and a potential trip in the Amazon. These would all become additional costs to my monthly budget.

Temples in Bangkok, Thailand

Temples in Bangkok, Thailand

Look into your countries and places, which ones are near each other? Could you cut down travel costs by visiting places closer to each other or does your desire to visit those distant places win over?


Total up the expected costs of your locations, consider flights and additional activities/experiences. Then have a think about what you’ll need to buy to prepare for these places. If you’re going on Safari and need a new camera, that could be a large cost. If you’re going to Antarctica you may need more expensive winter gear. Do you need a new backpack to fit everything in?

Think about other costs about leaving where you currently are. Shipping boxes from the UK to NZ can be upwards of £200+ depending on the number of boxes and weights. Vaccinations can range from free to costing a lot, I had to get 3 rounds of rabies vaccinations because of the places I’m going to and volunteering with animals – each round with the UK NHS was £50 a pop! Then you’ve got medications, if you’re getting malaria tablets it is worth shopping around, I managed to get all mine for 1/3 of the cost most pharmacies sell by ordering online. Consider costs of unlocking a phone (and/or buying a new one), sim costs and prepaid travel money cards. Then there are also potential visas costs, which can get very pricy depending on what country you’re from.

Overwhelmed yet?

Now think about when you want to leave and how much you can realistically save up in that time. Can you limit how often you go out for dinners, drinks and clothes shopping in the next few months? Can you walk rather than drive or take public transport? There are lots of ways to cut costs, but it is important to be realistic as to what you will actually do – otherwise that dream trip will never happen.

How do you lists of costs compare?

Time to get realistic

What are your ‘must-see’ locations and experiences? You’re going to have to be brutal. You won’t be able to do everything. I already have a few countries in mind for my next big trip after this one (granted will be a few years off now). I know I can’t afford to do it all at once, so I’m targeting a few top areas.

Think about how much time you actually have, whether it is because of work, education or when you have to be back in the country so that you won’t get stung lots of taxes for shipping things from your current location to your homeland (yes this is what is giving me my big trip end date).

Getting into the nitty gritty

Ngaire and Gorillas

Me with the Amahoro Group of Gorillas in Rwanda’s Mountains.

Okay be warned, this will start off fun as you start to decide places and where to stay. Over time, depending on how much you want/have to organise, you’ll wish someone else was organising it for you. If you want, visit a travel agent – but chances are you’ll get convinced to do lots of group tours and things that everyone does. Personally, I decided to book my long haul flights through a travel agent, comparing their quotes to all my various travel websites and then I organised the rest myself.

Remember to think about visas, vaccinations, medications you may need – don’t leave them too late to organise. If you need to have rounds of vaccinations they can take 4 to 6 weeks, if not more. Then think about how you’ll pack up your current life, ship it or leave it somewhere in boxes. Sell what you can, chances are you won’t need or want half of it when you return.


As I write this, I’m realising how far I’ve come in my organising of my big trip. It can get stressful at times and people will tell you how lucky you are and how jealous they are of you. Just remember you’ve worked hard saving and making compromises to be able to do this (unless you have wealthy parents that help you out). You deserve this. You’re doing this for you. In the coming months travel (not holiday) will change you in ways you never imagined. You’ll grow as a person with all the experiences (good and bad) that you have. It will be worth all this hard work once you get going.

Oia, Greece


“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do that by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

– Mark Twain

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