With everything that goes into planning a long-term trip, designing your around the world itinerary is the fun part. This is when dreaming of far off places becomes a reality. Do you want to travel to London, Bangkok, the Great Barrier Reef, or Machu Picchu? On an around the world itinerary, you can visit them all!
Here are our tips and tricks for designing an around the world itinerary.
What’s On Your Travel Wish List?
The first thing to do is generate your travel wish list. Where do you really want to go? These must-see spots should be a priority when designing your itinerary.
If there is a spot in the world that you really want to immerse yourself in, now is the perfect time, because with long-term travel you have the luxury of time.
Some destinations have a narrow window of time that provides the best traveling experience. For example, if your dream trip is to go to Africa to watch the wildebeest migration across the Masaai Mara, you should plan on visiting Serengeti National Park between July and September. Once you have this travel date planned, you can work out your itinerary on either side of these dates.
What We Did: Our big wish list item was the trek to Everest Base Camp. There are small windows of time during the year when trekking to EBC is ideal. We planned our entire RTW itinerary around being in Nepal at the end September and into October, just to do this trek.
Trekking in Nepal
Traveling as a Family? Get Your Kids Input
We believe that kids should also have some input to the itinerary. We asked Tyler and Kara for one or two places they really wanted to visit, and these got added into our itinerary. They made it easy on us. Tyler requested Italy, Kara requested New Zealand.
Direction around the Globe
Should you travel east or west? There’s no right answer here. Each direction has its advantages and disadvantages.
If you travel from west to east, each time you hop over a time zone you lose an hour. For example, if you fly from New York to Barcelona, you lose five hours of time. And later, when you fly from Barcelona to Istanbul, you will lose another two hours. This scenario repeats itself until you reach the International Date Line.
Once you cross the IDL, you get all of that time back. It’s a crazy experience…it feels like you are time traveling. Our flight from Tokyo to Los Angeles departed at 7 pm on July 23. We watched the sunset as we crossed the Pacific Ocean. When we landed in Los Angeles at 1 pm on July 23, we gained our day back that we had slowly lost as we traveled around the world. Plus, later that day, we got to watch the sunset for a second time in the same day.
If you travel from east to west, you will lose an entire day crossing the IDL, but you will slowly gain that day back, hour by hour, as you cross time zones. Plus, many people say they experience less jetlag flying from east to west.
What We Did: We flew from west to east. We picked this direction simply because we wanted to start in Europe (and we live on the east coast of the USA) and get to Nepal by the end of September.
An Endless Summer
It is possible to plan your route such that you are always traveling during the warmer months. Between April and October, stay in the Northern Hemisphere and between November and March stay in the Southern Hemisphere. For the most part, you will always have warm temperatures.
An added benefit is that you will not have to pack heavy winter gear and lots of warm clothing, which decreases the amount of belongings you lug around the world.
Stick to Your Budget
Consider how much it costs to visit each country on your list. Obviously, some places are much more expensive than others.
If you are traveling on a budget, the best countries to keep costs low are in Asia, South America, parts of Africa, and eastern Europe. In general, the most expensive places to visit are Japan, Australia, New Zealand, North America, and Western Europe. These more expensive countries can be included in a budget itinerary, just don’t linger long and be prepared to stay in budget accommodations.
What We Did: We traveled for 13 months. We spent nine months in Asia, a little over one month in Europe, six weeks in southern Africa, and almost two months in Oceania.
RTW or One Way Tickets?
You have two options for booking your flights: a RTW ticket or a series of one-way tickets. Both options have pros and cons, with the main factors being cost and flexibility.
A RTW ticket is a series of flights linking cities around the world, all offered by one airline alliance. The two main companies offering RTW tickets are Oneworld and Star Alliance. There is a third company, Air Treks, that offers a RTW ticket using most airline companies.
Your second option is to book one-way airline tickets as you travel. This offers more flexibility than RTW tickets, but does require more work on your part and it potentially can be more expensive.
RTW tickets have many rules associated with them. Backtracking during your route around the world is penalized, so this can impact your itinerary if you plan on using a RTW ticket.
For more information, read our post on the advantages and disadvantages of RTW vs. one-way tickets.
Peak Season or Low Season?
It is almost impossible to get to every destination at the perfect time of year. However, you do need to note things like weather conditions and if it will be peak, shoulder, or low season while you are there.
For example, you may not want to visit India and Nepal during monsoon season. Or you may not want to go trekking in Patagonia during the middle of winter.
Peak season usually coincides with the best weather conditions, but you will have higher crowds and higher prices for activities and accommodations. The opposite is true for low-season: low crowds, low prices, but sometimes less than ideal weather.
We are big fans of traveling during shoulder season. The weather can still be pleasant, costs are still relatively low, as are the crowds.
Add Downtime into Your Itinerary
Travel is exhausting. And it can be a lot of work. The more frequently you change locations, the more you will have to adjust to a new culture, learn how to get around town, and figure out what to see and do. At first, this is exciting and fun. After awhile, it can be draining.
Don’t plan every day to be a big day of sightseeing. Doing too much will lead to travel burnout. Make sure that you have plenty of “free” days built into your itinerary. These “free” days are necessary to recharge your batteries, relax, and do some planning for your upcoming travels.
We had roughly one day of downtime for every three to four days of sightseeing. That may sound like a lot of free time but we could have used even more. I recommend at least one day of downtime for every two to three days of sightseeing. You can still go out to dinner or go exploring, but it is nice not to have set plans every single day.
Don’t Plan Every Moment of the Trip
If you are not traveling with a RTW plane ticket, you can be flexible with your schedule. There’s no rule that says you must have your entire itinerary planned out and set in stone before you start the trip. If you are going for a year, maybe just have the first six months planned. Or leave the end open. As you travel, you might learn of new places, and you can add these on to the end of your itinerary.
What We Did: Originally, we planned on taking a 12-month trip. Before the start of our trip, we had the first six months planned with a rough itinerary for the second six months. While traveling, we planned out the second half of the trip, added on another month, and slightly changed the end of our itinerary.
Know that You are Not Going to “See it All”
It’s a big world. A year feels like a long time. Surely you can get everywhere, right?
Unfortunately, no. There are 196 countries in the world. The typical around the world itinerary takes people to 15 – 20 countries. Yes, you can fit in more than 20 countries in a one year trip around the world, but your expenses will go up and the amount of time you have to immerse yourself in each country goes down.
There is no way you are going to get everywhere. Just enjoy the fact that you will have plenty of new places left to explore once your trip around the world is over.
What We Did: We visited 35 countries in 13 months. This was a very ambitious itinerary, but it was perfect for us. We only spent a few hours in some countries, such as The Vatican, Denmark, Lesotho, and Zambia, which increased our country count for the trip. But we did move so frequently and see so much that we ended the year with a nice case of travel burnout.
Is There a Perfect Around the World Itinerary?
The answer is yes…whatever works best for you. So, grab a map, your travel guides, and unleash you wanderlust. It’s time to start designing your perfect around the world itinerary.
Click here if you want to see our around the world itinerary.
Are you planning a trip around the world? Check out our entire page devoted to around the world travel, including how to plan your trip, what to expect on the road, and what it is like to finally come home.
AROUND THE WORLD TRAVEL: Learn what a typical day on the road is like when traveling around the world. We also have a round up of our worst travel experiences and a recap of the trip in 100 beautiful photos.
SOUTHEAST ASIA ITINERARY: If a visit through Southeast Asia is on your bucket list, don’t miss our 3-month Southeast Asia itinerary and travel planner.
TRAVEL INSPIRATION: For more travel ideas, here are 10 unique destinations to put on your travel wish list and 10 cool destinations to visit during the winter holiday season.
TRAVEL ADVICE: Here is our list of tips to help you maximize your time while traveling. We also have tips on traveling with kids plus a massive list of 101 travel tips we learned while traveling around the world.
DESTINATIONS AROUND THE WORLD: For more places to visit around the world, check out our Destinations page.
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Hello! We are planning a 12-months world tour in 2025 and I’d like to know if there is an app that you recommend for having all the trip and planning info at the same place. Your website is awesome!!! 🙂
Hello Caroline. That’s very exciting!! We kept track of itineraries, things to do , etc using the Evernote app. I had everything organized by country (each country got its own notebook). I still use it today, both for travel and this website. Have fun planning your travels! Cheers, Julie
Hi, Good to see a website with all the details about your RTW travel. Is there any RTW club, where we can see other travelers who have completed RTW or currently doing or planning to do. as RTW is vast and has many different countries to be covered. I will def plan this with my family in future.
One question regarding the RTW on the family. Does the perspective of kids change about life ? Did it change the mindset of everyone in the family towards life ?
When are you guys going for other countries ?
There is not an RTW club that I know of, although that is a good idea. It definitely changed the way we think about the world, particularly our kids. Meeting new people, learning about different cultures, trying to learn a bit of the languages as we traveled, and seeing how people live in different places really had a big impact on all of us, but mostly our kids, since they were at in impressionable age when we did this. Our son became a lot more outgoing and adventurous and really changed how he saw the world and himself. We still travel quite a bit, but not full time anymore. We now make enough money from the website that Tim and I both work on it full time and we are currently on a 5 week trip to Italy. Cheers, Julie
Every since I first found your blog (I think looking at Rocky Mountain Nat’l Park hikes for a trip in 2020) I have had it in the back of my mind to plan a RTW trip for our family of 3. I’d like to do it when my daughter is 11, so 10 years from now 🙂 … I have a lot of time to plan! My question is, did you take your kids on other international trips in the years before this one to help prepare them for your RTW trip? Any other tips for preparing kids to travel? We will travel as much as we can in the next 10 years while balancing wanting to save money for our year long trip.
Hello Nicole. That is very exciting that you are planning to do an RTW trip with your family. Our RTW trip started in 2014. Tyler and Kara’s first international trip was in 2012 (London and Paris) and in 2013 we did Turkey over Spring Break and Norway in the summer. That was the extent of their international travels. And before that, we really hadn’t traveled much with our kids. We did some Disney trips and some local trips to the beach and NYC but they really didn’t have much experience traveling before the RTW trip. Kids in general seem to be very adaptable and our kids had no issues adjusting to long term travel (other than having their parents as teachers…ha ha). But any travel that you can start doing now…flights, new foods, new places, new languages…will make it even easier for your daughter. But if you can’t do a whole lot of travel, based on our experience, your daughter should still do just fine. If you can expose her to a language now and have her start learning it, then spend some time on your RTW where she could use it, that would be a fantastic experience for her. Tyler got to do this with basic Chinese and it really opened him up to the power of learning different languages. Cheers, Julie
Love your website!
Any tips on where to manage the plans? any app you’re using?
We’re building our own around the world trip, and we have so many high level details (“let’s go to .. on November”) with so many low level details (“you must try this.. when you get to..”).
How do you keep track of everything? reservations you made, recommendations you got, itineraries, etc
I wrote out itineraries and travel details in an app called Evernote and still use it today. You can take notes, save pages, and keep them in Evernote, and refer to them on both your phone and computer. I basically set up a “Notebook” for each country, and kept the itinerary and travel notes on different pages within the notebook. I love this app and still use it today for our travels now and to manage this website. Cheers, Julie
I love your website and this article! I just started planning my world trip. It can be overwhelming, it takes a lot of preparation. Your website is very helpful to me. Thanks!
You’re welcome! That’s very exciting that you are planning an RTW trip. Let us know if you have any questions along the way. Cheers, Julie
These websites are really needed, you can pick up a lot
As an experienced World traveler, it takes a lot of planning! I read a lot, take copious notes, watch “youtube” videos and create a “Things to Do List” on my phone calendar with daily reminders! I think of Location, Time of Year, Entry requirements during COVID-19 lockdowns) and how long I can visit. Now, Let’s face it, … it takes money to support your lifestyle!! Airline/Luggage costs, Hotels/Airbnb, Taxi, Uber/Grab, Water/Food, Apartment Essentials Travel Insurance, COVID-19 Testing, Quarantine and/or Hospitalization, Phone plans or SIM Cards for your Smartphone.
Be Resilient … Travel without Fear!
This is a wonderful article so thank you. I traveled west around the world. I remember crossing a day out of my diary. I think London to Los Angeles is through many time zones. Therefore it makes me feel a little jet lagged. Flying east bound made me feel even more tired. March was very hot in Sydney and yet in December it was a lot cooler. I went to Darwin in the wet season. It had powerful lightening and stormy weather. It was so humid at that time of the year. I went to India in February and I know a lady that went in April. It was too hot for her. I took my children to Bangkok in April. It was far too hot. I have a love for tropical islands and have been to Fiji, French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, Samoa , the Maldives and the Seychelles. I long to visit Madagascar and Mauritius. I fancy visiting Peru and Ecuador. I would love to visit China when it is safe.
Awesome post! Thanks for sharing the knowledge and keep up the good work.
This is a great start to planning an around the world trip! Planning the itinerary is definitely the most fun part!! If you are curious about more details I’d love if you checked out my complete guide to planning an around the world trip here: https://kiramichelle.ca/plan-an-around-the-world-trip/
Keep up the amazing inspiration you guys!
Hey there! So inspiring to read all that you accomplished during this trip around the world. May I ask how long you saved/budgeted, and how much could one expect to spend on a similar itinerary while not staying at the fanciest of places, and perhaps flying some budget airlines from place to place?
Hello Taylor. We were about 40 years old when we took this trip. Since getting full time jobs in our 20’s, we put money into our savings each year. It added up to be enough to pay for our around the world trip. So, I guess you can say that it took us about 15 years to put the money aside. I have an article about how to budget for an around the trip which you can read here. Cheers, Julie