My friend Justin is one of the best-traveled people I know, so when he told me that he was going on a round the world (RTW) trip with his girlfriend Amanda after they graduated from business school, I couldn’t wait to hear about their travel plans because I knew they’d be ridiculously impressive. Six months and 20+ countries later, I was not disappointed one bit. And since they have so many beautiful photos and thoughtful RTW trip recommendations, I decided to split their post into a two-part series. Here’s part 1 – enjoy!
How long was your RTW trip, and how did you find the time to go?
Our trip was 6 months long and the timing was perfect for us as we had just graduated from business school in June, 2013. We both had jobs lined up and were offered a late start date (February 2014) – the opportunity to travel for that length of time was too good to pass up.
Where did you go (and how much time did you stay in each place)?
The rough breakdown is as follows:
~6 weeks in South America:
• Ecuador (Galapagos Islands, Quito, and Banos)
• Peru (Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu, and Cuzco)
• Argentina (Buenos Aires, Bariloche, and Mendoza)
~8 weeks in Europe:
• Spain (Barcelona, Mallorca, and San Sebastian)
• France (Saint Emilion, and Paris)
• Belgium (Bruges)
• Netherlands (Amsterdam)
• Germany (Munich for Oktoberfest)
• Austria (Vienna)
• Slovenia (Ljubljana and Lake Bled)
• Croatia (Zagreb, Plitvice National Park, Zadar (coastal drive), Split, Hvar and Korcula (islands) and Dubrovnik)
• Montenegro (Kotor)
• Turkey (Ephesus, Pamukkale, Capadoccia, and Istanbul)
~3 weeks in the Middle East:
• Jordan (Petra, Wadi Rum desert, Aqaba, and Amman)
• Israel (Eilat, Dead Sea, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Bethlehem)
~6 weeks in Southeast Asia:
• Thailand (Bangkok, Krabi, and Chiang Mai)
• Laos (Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, and Vientiane)
• Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur)
• Indonesia (Bali, Komodo Islands, and the Gili Islands)
~3 weeks in New Zealand (Amanda went home for the holidays as she had already been to NZ, so Justin pushed on solo):
• Tongoriro Crossing / Lake Taupo
• Franz Josef glacier
• Milford Sound
Did you have a set itinerary from the start, or did you play things by ear?
We booked the long flights through American Airline’s RTW ticket desk (this consisted of about 10 – 12 segments), and then played everything else by ear. Once we were booked, the cities were set in stone but the dates were changeable for free (luckily, we never had to change anything). For example, we knew we were flying into Buenos Aires on a specific date, and we would generally plan the activities that we did in that area as we went along. One condition of the RTW tickets was that we had to fly into and out of the same city (we were allowed one exception to this rule, which we used in Europe: flew into Barcelona and out of Istanbul). Therefore, we also knew what date we had to be back in Buenos Aires to fly out. How early we planned things depended on where we were: in Europe it was very easy to just make decisions and hop on a train or bus, whereas in Indonesia we had to book flights to get from island to island – so that part required more advanced planning.
Our greatest resources for recommendations for each location were suggestions from previous friends that have traveled there, tripadvisor (we used this A LOT for everything ranging from activities to restaurants to hotels), and posting on FB for recommendations. These resources all were an important part to the planning process. Also, don’t underestimate the time it takes to plan! We would take a day here and there to just do research and plan our next move – you want to make sure you put thought into what you do so you can finish the trip with no regrets which is what we did!
How hard was it to pack for a RTW trip?
The answer to this question varies significantly depending on who you ask – packing was much easier for Justin.
For Justin, the thought of packing for this trip sounded daunting at first (6 months, countless cities and countries, and multiple climates in both summer and winter), but at the end of the day he just simplified and packed light. When it was cold he layered up. He packed mostly things he didn’t care too much about, expecting stuff to get lost or ruined – no real science to it. Amanda put much more thought into her packing…
From Amanda’s perspective, this was a very overwhelming trip to even think about packing for because she didn’t want to forgo her fashion sense for total utility so she worked hard to strike a balance. She wishes she had some advice while packing therefore she has provided some key things / recommendations that she would make to girls packing for a RTW including:
- Get a backpack that you can easily get into and out of so you don’t feel like you have to repack every time you want to get a shirt – I LOVED my backpack which was the Osprey Waypoint 65L which was great because it had a daypack attached to it (very convenient) and it zips open like a suitcase which was very helpful. Have your backpack fitted to you as well so it is more comfortable (they can do it in any travel or outdoorsy store).
- Scarves are your best friend – I brought 4 on the trip and bought more while traveling. They are not only great to add warmth and layers, but they can easily change up an outfit to make you feel like you have more clothes than you do!
- Roll everything you pack – it takes up way less space so you can squeeze more things into your back pack
- Only pack lightweight things and focus on layering – I brought a lot of solid colored tank tops that I could layer with each other or under sweaters. This is also a great way to change up the look of outfits.
- Buy space compressible bags to pack bulky items in! I had one from EagleCreek and it was life saving – I could put 6 sweaters in it and compress them to take up the space of half that.
- Try to pack things that are one color scheme so every piece goes with everything else – I took a lot of black and white items so then I could add a colorful scarf, tank top or necklace to make many outfits out of a few items
- Don’t underestimate the amount of active clothing you will need (work out pants / shirts, etc.) – that is one thing I wish I would have brought more of because if they get sweaty, you can’t re-wear them!
- Find a great crossbody purse that is neutral in color and zips up so you don’t lose all of your valuables. I got a Marc by Marc Jacobs beige canvas bag which was perfect. I could easily clean it, it went with everything, was large and had a zip pocket that I could safely put my wallet and passport so I would not get pick-pocketed.
- Don’t pack anything you are attached to – I took only inexpensive items and did have some things ruined during the course of the trip. I had to throw them out but it was no big deal since they weren’t expensive!
- Have a great pair or two of sunglasses – the best accessory to make you look great in pictures when you may feel “not at your best” after camping for 3 nights and not showering, just for example…
Come back tomorrow to read the second part of Amanda and Justin’s amazing round the world trip, including thoughts on their favorite and least favorite places, and lots of incredibly helpful tips for other couples considering going on a RTW voyage.