Itinerary and Planning

Guide books various copyright respective owners

So, you have decided you want to take a trip. How do you plan it?

This is one of the most frequent questions we have been asked on our travels.

We drew up a list of must see countries and went out and bought a mixture of Rough Guide and Lonely Planet books for our potential destinations (other guides are, of course available).

Once we had whittled our must see country list down to a manageable number for our 12 months we went to see Global Village ( Unfortunately we were a little old to get a student discount from STA ( but had a chat with them anyway and they were very helpful and provided a benchmark for pricing the flights. There is a great article from Nomadic Matt  on whether a round the world ticket is right for you.

Don’t forget that the agent is working with commission at the forefront of their minds. The more they can charge you for a ticket the more they get. Don’t be afraid to politely negotiate, go in with a budget and your list of destinations and get them to tailor the trip to you rather than the other way around.

As part of our round the world ticket we negotiated almost limitless changes to our travel dates with the agent. They have a set number of changes they can make with the carriers for free and if they haven’t used them all then they can pretty much guarantee you will be able to make as many changes as you like.

We left the RTWF Islington office an hour later and had our broad itinerary planned.

We then made the first fundamental error of planning a big trip, we started formulating a rigid itinerary. We planned almost to the day what we would do in some countries. See the snapshot of our original India itinerary, it looks exhausting!

India itinerary

What we now realise we should have done was pick a few must see destinations in any given country and spend our time exploring these places properly. Trying to tick off every city in a country with a rigid itinerary will not only leave you exhausted but, no matter how cheap public transport is will still put a significant dent in your budget.

Here is our broad trip as an example:

South America-New Zealand-Australia-South East Asia-India

This was the flight pattern we put to the travel agent. They put together an itinerary as follows (entry and exit points):

Rio de Janeiro – Santiago,  Aukland-Christchurch, Sydney- Sydney, Bangkok- Bangkok, Mumbai – Mumbai

Then whittle down each country, here were our must see places in Brazil:

Rio de Janeiro, Ouro Preto, Belo Horizontes, Salvador,São Paulo, Iguazu, Fortaleza, Manaus

We then worked out how we would get from one destination to the next using the  arrival and departure sections in the guide books.

We stayed with the most wonderful family in Rio who insisted that after our week with them we had to go to a little town called Tiradentes. Our itinerary was already changing. We went to São João del-Rei and on to Tiradentes (below) which incidentally is a beautiful little town.

Market square Tiradentes (c) O.Boundy

From here on in we kept our broad itinerary with the must see destinations as a framework but spoke to locals and people we had met for recommendations along the way.

You will be surprised how easy it becomes to stay in a place for a week or longer and really get to know it and if you don’t like somewhere you can simply book transport and move on.

We had planned originally to get up to Manaus and take a slow boat down the Amazon into Peru. We had read about this trip in our guide books and it sounded rather romantic. However we met a guy in Belo Horizontes who told us a very different story, cramped conditions, food poisoning and a general sense of horror. We did a little more exploration on line and discovered this was not the experience for us, we don’t have cast iron stomachs and like a degree of comfort. We decided to cross into Argentina at Iguazu and put off the Amazon until we reached Peru.

Another factor is weather.

We looked at weather patterns but knew we would hit a winter or wet season somewhere along the line.

Everywhere we have been for the last 12 months has been experiencing unusual weather, the rainy season began early or ended later, milder winters, drier summers. You will see from the photograph above when we visited Machu Picchu a month into the dry season this was our view.

Global weather patterns are changing so don’t rely too heavily on historical data when planning your trip. Do however heed the broad guidelines in regard to major weather patterns, India will have a monsoon in a given quarter so be sensible!