How do you plan a round the world trip? With lots of planning, budgeting, and a desire for adventure!
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure page for more information. Thanks!
On January 2, 2019, Dylan and I began our six-month round the world trip.
Dylan and I said goodbye to our families, jobs, belongings, and life as we knew it to become The Nomadic Fitzpatricks. We arrived in Cusco, Peru to explore and begin our new life as backpackers.
Dylan and I feel so grateful to have made this dream a reality. We realize that not everyone has the financial means or opportunity to do something like this and are so grateful and fortunate we were able to make this happen.
I also want you to know that you can do this with celiac disease (like me). There is gluten-free food to be found around the world, and you can eat safely when traveling with celiac disease (that's why I made a whole online course about it!)
Read on to learn all the details of our round the world trip and how to plan your own round the world trip or long-term travel adventure. Be sure to check out our favorite resources for flights, lodging, travel hacks, and more.
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.”
How To Plan A Round The World Trip
- How To Plan A Round The World Trip
- Round The World Trip: Take A Sabbatical
- Storing Your Belongings For A Round The World Trip
- Cars, Phones & Insurance For Round The World Trips
- Round The World Trip Packing List
- Round The World Trip Transportation
- Travel Hacking For Your Trip
- Lodging While Traveling The World
- Round The World Trip Itinerary
- Total Trip Expenses
- Questions For Jen & Dylan About Our Trip
- Round The World Trip: Final Thoughts
Round The World Trip: Take A Sabbatical
If you are trying to plan a round the world trip, it will take some time to prepare.
First, we asked for sabbaticals from our employers. I asked a year in advance, in order to give my school district ample notice to find a substitute for my year-long absence. Once the time off was officially approved, Dylan went about asking his boss and employer for time off as well.
Dylan was given six months off, so we planned to use every possible day of his sabbatical. We left our apartment in mid-December, spent the holidays with family, and then flew to South America in January. Leaving in January helped coordinate our plans for staying in warmer temperatures the entire time.
Storing Your Belongings For A Round The World Trip
One of the biggest tasks we had to deal with when planning our round the world trip was storing our belongings and leaving our apartment.
We had lived comfortably in our two-bedroom apartment rental for six years. Saying goodbye to the place was hard, but we knew it had to be done. It took a full two weeks to move everything from our apartment into our 10x10 storage unit.
By canceling our apartment rental, that also meant we no longer had to pay renter’s insurance, electricity, gas, or cable. The money we would spend on groceries just became our allocated food budget for each country we visited.
If you are planning a round the world trip and are also renting an apartment, breaking your lease and storing your belongings can be big cost savings. If you own your home, consider renting it out!
Cars, Phones & Insurance For Round The World Trips
Something to consider when planning your round the world trip is what to do with your cars and how to pay for insurance.
Dylan and I both own our (old) cars and did not have car payments. Therefore, we were able to put our car insurance on hold for six months. I have a rental car insurance policy through my credit card for the two times we rented a car - in Patagonia and New Zealand.
We purchased travel insurance from World Nomads for emergency evacuations, flight cancellations, hiking injuries, stolen property, etc. for a total of $1,137. Travel insurance was one of the best investments we made for our travels, and I can’t recommend it enough. You can find out the details of why ours came in handy while hiking in Nepal.
We kept our phones in Airplane Mode and utilized WiFi while traveling. Once I reached Europe, I was able to use my phone normally thanks to an international plan. Dylan purchased a SIM card in Thailand since we would be there for 3+ weeks. It worked well and allowed us to use his phone for transportation purposes & research when we didn’t have a WiFi connection!
Round The World Trip Packing List
How do you plan a round the world trip successfully? By not overpacking!
I can tell you we carried WAY too much stuff initially. As time went on, we sent stuff home with family, then sent it to family again. And again!
Embracing a minimalist, backpacker mindset took some time to get used to, at least for me. By the end of our trip, I was finally okay with only having 2-3 outfits to my name. And when we were finished hiking the Camino de Santiago in Spain, our bags were so much lighter than they were when we started!
Many of the items we packed with us were items we found almost everywhere - from hiking poles, warm socks, toiletries, basic medicine, even gluten-free snacks. Other items were important and necessary to bring from home - our emergency antibiotics from the doctor, our own clothes, and a small pillow all came in handy.
Planning a round the world trip will require you to have a sturdy backpack. It will become a part of you and hold a special place in your heart!
Round The World Trip Transportation
There are a lot of ways to plan your transportation for a round the world trip - believe me, I spent months researching it.
You can book all of your flights upfront. Some companies will even organize this for you, such as AirTreks. They will book a round the world ticket for you to all the destinations you plan to visit with the best prices and date estimates you give. You can also choose to book through an airline group, such as StarAlliance or SkyTeam.
We found it was more cost-effective (and allowed more freedom) if we did it on our own. We did price comparisons, checked flight prices, and saved hundreds of dollars by booking flights ourselves. It was a lot of work to compare the two, but we wanted to save the most amount of money.
Prior to leaving in January, Dylan and I planned everything out for the first two months of our trip, down to the specifics of flights, lodging, and basic plans. On March 1st, we had a flight from Bali, Indonesia to Bangkok, Thailand, and that was the last official planning we had done. After that, we started to embrace the idea of slow travel - staying in one place for a longer period of time, to understand it more deeply, rather than staying 2-3 days in a place before moving on.
Besides flying for larger distances, we mostly relied on public transportation and walking - a lot. We walked a minimum of five miles per day! Public Transportation systems in other countries are fairly simple to figure out, and everyone speaks English. Thankfully, Google Maps is super helpful, and you can download maps to be available offline too.
Here’s a fun chart that shows how much we walked during our travels. Make sure to look for the barrier!
Travel Hacking For Your Trip
Some of the best travel hacks we used on our trip included getting a solid travel credit card with perks like the Priority Pass. Airport lounges are a great way to spend time waiting for flights - especially when there's free food, Wifi, and comfortable seating.
I also used travel hacking to redeem credit card points for three different flights, saving us $1,800 USD! For more information about travel hacking, check out this blog post to help you save hundreds of dollars on your next trip.
Saving money while traveling was easy to do. We ate cheaply, cooked most of our own food, did a lot of free activities like walking tours and hiking. We primarily stayed in hostels/guesthouses, and just enjoyed being together. We balanced expensive countries with cheap countries and adjusted our spending accordingly.
If you are trying to plan a round-the-world trip and are nervous about the cost, consider saving for a good six months beforehand. You can even allocate a separate bank account for this!
Lodging While Traveling The World
You have a lot of options for lodging on a round the world trip. We stayed primarily in hostels, guesthouses, and Airbnb's. We did stay in a few hotels and used the Hilton Honors points for one hotel stay in Italy.
Hostels and Couchsurfing are great ways to meet other travelers. Everyone in hostels has something in common - you’re traveling because you love it and you want to see the world. You tell stories, share tips and suggestions on the best hike, sightseeing spot, or restaurant, and connect.
While hostels were our primary form of lodging, they can become frustrating. Staying in a shared room can present problems! Snoring, people not respecting your space, dirty clothes, and other factors can definitely get on your nerves. When Dylan and I grew a little impatient with shared rooms, and tired of wearing earplugs, we’d pay a little more money to stay in a private room for a few nights. The balance is what kept us within budget and kept us happy.
We had no real problems or issues with hostels, Airbnbs, guesthouses, hotels, teahouses, tents, albergues, or even the few hotels we stayed in. Only 1-2 places come to mind that may have been lacking in certain areas.
We always read the reviews extensively before booking - checking things like cleanliness, location, the responsiveness of the host, and hostels - the party aspect. Remember to do what makes you feel comfortable and will make you the happiest traveler!
Round The World Trip Itinerary
We planned our itinerary to try and stay in summer the entire time. Since we would be traveling in multiple hemispheres, this was relatively easy to work out. The only climates we packed extra warm clothes for were our treks in Peru, Patagonia, and Nepal. Once we arrived in Europe, our first day was spent sorting through all that trekking gear and sending home a box of items we no longer needed.
Planning our itinerary before we left meant our first two months were a bit different from the ones that followed. Countries that we wanted to see, such as South Korea, Morocco, and even Tanzania - looked wonderful, but we were unable to make them happen due to costs and running out of time. We hope to go back and visit these countries one day.
Here’s how our itinerary ended up looking month by month:
3/28/19 - 4/20/19
Nepal (Kathmandu, Pokhara, ABC Trek)
4/21/19 - 5/4/19
Croatia (Dubrovnik, Split, Zadar, Zagreb)
5/5/19 - 5/27/19
(Venice, Rome, Capri, Milan, Tuscany, Cinque Terre, Genoa)
5/28/19 - 6/20/19
Spain (Bilbao, Camino de Santiago, Madrid)
6/20/19 - 6/30/19
USA Road Trip with State High Points & Canada back to Boston
Countries and destinations in bold will take you to my travel guides & information about these places.
Total Trip Expenses
How much does a round the world trip cost?
We again want to acknowledge that we are fortunate to have made this trip happen, as not everyone has the financial means or ability to do so. We did save for months and months leading up to this trip, sold our belongings, and gave up a path of "normal" life to be able to do this.
First, we saved money before we left - months in advance. We cut back on expenses before our trip as much as possible. Read this post for more ideas on how to save money for travel.
We also stayed in hostels/guesthouses rather than hotels, villas, or fancy lodging. We travel hacked flights using credit card points and airline miles. We gave up our apartment & minimized our belongings to just two backpacks each. All of these efforts helped us save money.
Keep in mind that Dylan and I also were on sabbaticals from our jobs - unpaid sabbaticals. We had to keep costs low because there was no cash flow from our employers. Our savings account was our only source of income, and we did not want it to be depleted by the end of our trip.
But here’s the bottom line:
We knew that if we stayed home for six months, we’d spend money. It stands to reason that if we traveled for six months, we’d also spend money. We were going to spend money either way. It’s called a cost of living for a reason.
What the difference is, (and what many people don’t realize), is that how you allocate your spending will differ depending on how you choose to live. If you live in a rented apartment as we did, you’ll have rent, bills, cable, groceries, gas, etc. to pay for every month. But if you are traveling full time, you’ll have lodging costs, groceries, travel insurance, transportation, and excursions to pay for every month. Money is going to be spent. HOW you spend just requires a few shifts.
We determined that to live at home in Peabody, Massachusetts, for six months, would cost us $15K. We shifted our mindset and realized $15K would be spent on our trip in different ways. Using a tool called BudgetYourTrip helped us with cost estimates and a budget. Based on the countries we were visiting (lots of cheap/mid-range, a few pricey ones) and for how long, Dylan and I estimated this trip would run us about $20K for six months, plus another $10K for flights. And that's exactly how it ended up!
Round The World Trip Expenses Charts
Do you have to spend as much as we did? No. Absolutely not.
This is just one example of how much a round the world trip for two people can look on a mid-range budget. I'm sharing with this you to be transparent and let you know what to expect if you are planning a trip of this size.
Comparison of Budgets
Six Month Travel Budget Normalized
Travel Expenses By Country
TOTAL TRAVEL EXPENSES
Our total costs for travel were exactly in the range we thought. Our total travel expenses ran $28,206. Additional costs were our travel insurance and storage unit payments, which brought our total to just over $30,000.
The most expensive countries we visited, such as New Zealand, Australia, and Hong Kong - meant we had to find ways to keep to our budget. The cheapest countries we visited, such as Bali and Nepal, were easy to keep costs low.
I'm very proud that Dylan and I were able to stay within the budget range we hoped for during our round the world trip. Certain countries didn't make the cut because they would have put us way beyond our budget. We'll save them for a future adventure! Keep in mind that half of that total expense number would have been spent regardless.
If we had stayed in one or two continents, rather than go to five continents, our flight costs would have been much lower, bringing our total costs down a lot. If we were to travel again long term, we’d do it a bit differently and focus on slower, more sustainable travel.
Questions For Jen & Dylan About Our Trip
These are some of the most common questions we’ve been asked since returning back to the United States after traveling the world. I’ve included our answers below to help & shed some insight!
How long was your round the world trip?
Our trip was approximately six months. We left January 2nd, 2019 for Peru and returned back to the US on June 20th, 2019. We didn’t come back to the Boston area until July 1st.
What was your most common method of travel?
We flew from country to country for the most part but also traveled heavily by buses and trains. We rented a car in three countries. Walking was the most common method of travel - 5 miles a day, minimum!
How many countries did you visit?
Technically, twenty. We really spent time in about twelve countries.
Where did you go?
Peru, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Nepal, Croatia, Italy, Switzerland, and Spain.
What was your favorite country?
I enjoyed each country we visited but really loved Indonesia, Thailand, and Croatia.
I don’t have an un-favorite country.
What was your favorite city?
Madrid, Spain, or Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Chiang Mai, Thailand.
What was the best part about your round the world trip?
The total freedom and time spent together! It was such an experience in letting go and every day was something new, different, and exciting. We learned so much about ourselves, the world, and each other.
In the beginning - we were sitting and waiting for the room at the hostel in Peru, I began wondering what the hell I got myself into. We had traveled for a day, didn't sleep well, and we get there to the hostel in Cusco, waiting for a spot and just kind of like “holy shit”. I looked at my phone that said “It’s January 3rd” and realized I don’t have any connection with the outside world.
What was the worst part of your round the world trip?
Having to come home!
Funniest travel memory?
This is a tough question. Some things may not have been funny at the time, but they are really funny looking back. We have so many new inside jokes!
Two of my favorites include trying Vegemite in Australia and realizing it was a serious mistake, and discovering the mysterious chirping noise that we heard for 2 months in all of SE Asia was in fact, a gecko. Or all of Dylan's funny accents and silly songs.
Carol & Larry on the ferry in Capri - what I aspire to be one day!
Backstory: Carol & Larry were an older couple we overheard arguing on the ferry when traveling to Capri, Italy. They were fantastic and hilarious.
Best travel tip or hack?
Reusable water bottles, and the Priority Pass Membership.
Priority Pass Membership!
What was the longest travel day?
Nepal to Croatia.
Nepal to Croatia.
In April, We had a flight from Kathmandu to Doha, Qatar, another flight from Doha, Qatar to Rome, Italy, which included a 12-hour layover, and then a flight from Rome, Italy to Dubrovnik, Croatia. We got to our apartment rental and passed out around noon and didn’t wake up until 9 PM. Then we continued to sleep until 6 AM and woke up starving!
The best travel fail story?
Driving to the wrong airport in Buenos Aires, Argentina, or the time our hostel in Madrid didn’t replace the toilet paper for more than 24 hours. Ahh!
I mean, Calafate because of the car and because of gas - I would say just time spent in Calafate because we were planning on going to El Chalten but really the factors of Calafate got in the way of us going at all.
We had to wait in line for gas from 11:30 PM - 3:00 AM. Read more about the craziness of our Patagonia adventure!
Best hiking family experience or hiker bonding experience?
Hiking along the Camino de Santiago in Spain and our group from the Inca Trail in Peru.
There are 2 of them: the Camino Family, and the Inca Family.
A favorite moment while hiking?
Arriving at Machu Picchu and seeing everything covered in clouds, and being severely disappointed - until the clouds cleared later that morning and the sun peeked out and highlighted everything I had dreamt about. I remember looking at Dylan and thinking “this is incredible”.
When Jen was miserable in Spain along the Camino de Santiago - it was raining and I put on the song “Lovely Day” in Spain and danced and made her laugh and I was happy.
Here's a quick video of that moment!
What was your favorite trek?
I loved the Inca Trail Trek in Peru. It was the rainy season and we had sunny weather the entire time!
Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal - it was very beautiful, and we went through so many different climates.
What was your favorite day hike?
I really liked the Hooker Valley Track in New Zealand where we got to see Aoraki/Mount Cook. We also saw 3 enormous full rainbows that day!
Well, The Torres in Patagonia would have been, but it wasn’t because Lindsay hurt her leg and we had bad weather, so I’d have to say Blue Mountains day hike in Australia when I hiked by myself to Castle Rock.
What was the best food you ate?
Pad Thai from Pink House (100% GF Restaurant) in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and Gromo Gelato in Italy.
Momos in Nepal, with the dipping sauce, but the lamb sandwiches we had in a tree in Patagonia were a second.
Where was the best food?
Italy, Spain, Thailand, and Argentina!
Chiang Mai, Thailand, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia, Madrid, Spain, Italy, Nepal, Hong Kong, Buenos Aires, Patagonia… (literally everywhere)
Where was the best gluten-free food?
Italy, Spain, and Chiang Mai, Thailand! In Italy, there were so many delicious gluten-free staples like pizza, pasta, gelato, and bread. Spain I knew had options because I had previously lived there during study abroad but coming back almost ten years later I got to have so much more! And Chiang Mai was just an absolute gem.
In Asia, Jen had a lot of options, but I would say it was Asia because of their normal diet - not because of them advertising gluten-free or willing to go out of their way, if you told them it was a problem they would help but the overall diet is a lot of gluten-free food (rice, vegetables, curries, spices), provided you can find the right stuff.
Did you experience culture shock?
Absolutely - in Nepal. I struggled with it a lot and wrote strategies to overcome it.
Yes, in Kathmandu, Nepal. It was just a lot of sensory overload. I loved it there because it was so different.
Did you get homesick, and if so, what for?
Not really - I think I missed my pillow and bed a few times, though!
Nope. I didn’t get homesick. I got sick when I had to come home! So you could say yes, I did get homesick, I got sick when I had to come home!
What was the best part of backpacking as nomads?
Everything was so simple and easy - granted, traveling can always be complicated, but our lifestyle was just so straightforward and full of freedom.
No strings attached - we could do anything we wanted whenever we wanted. It was freeing.
What was the worst part of backpacking as nomads?
Having to do laundry so often (or just wearing dirty clothes), and sleeping in hostels or community-like settings where people snore really loud!
There was nothing truly terrible, but it would be nice to sleep in nice beds more often than we did, but we learned to get used to it. It wasn’t even that bad. I didn’t realize I wasn’t sleeping in comfy beds until we got back here!
Would you do this trip again?
In a heartbeat. I’d go even longer this time - or make this our permanent lifestyle to see where else we could explore and live. It was the best thing we’ve ever done.
Yeah. Right now. I could do it right now without any planning. I would not stress about it at all. We spent so much time planning, months, effort, everything - if you told me to pack for a trip starting tomorrow, I could do it and I would do it. I’m there.
That last question really sums up how we feel about our round the world trip. We’d happily go live as nomads once more - without question!
Round The World Trip: Final Thoughts
Traveling the world is a privilege. I'm so grateful we had the opportunity to do this, to save, plan, and make our bucket list dream a reality.
“Travel is not a reward for working, it is education for living.”
Have you ever taken a round the world trip?
Tell me about it in the comments!