Around the World in 60 Days- how I planned a 10 country trip in one weekend!
Updated: Feb 4
As I am writing this I am about to embark on a two month trip from San Francisco to Europe, Southeast Asia, Japan, and New Zealand! I've had a few folks raise questions about the busyness factor of the trip as well as curiosity about the cost so I thought I could share some of my experience with trip planning and attempting to travel on a budget!
Choosing the parameters of the trip, including trip length, style and desination(s)
First, let's talk trip length. There are obviously a lot of factors that go into deciding how to plan for the length of a trip. In my experience, most of these are often external factors we don't have a lot of control over, such as work, PTO, finances, responsibilities and commitments, family, pets, etc. I don't have a lot of rigid commitments in my life so I am fortunate to be able to use most of my PTO for travel. I often schedule 9 day trips with a work week and a weekend on either end in order to maximize days taken off vs time away.
In the case of this trip I was informed a new job I had just been offered would be starting in April. When I got the news January 1st I looked ahead and decided to work the rest of the month and then take 2 months to travel. This is obviously a very privileged position to be in and I was fortunate to be able to afford to take two months off and to utilize my credit cards to take this trip (more on this later).
Once you have a sense for how long you'd like to allot to travel it's helpful to think about what you'd like to get out of the trip- do you want downtime to relax? Do you want to take on an active adventure? Do you want to see a lot of places? There are no right or wrong ways to travel and what sounds good to you may vary depending on what you're wanting out of a vacation at the moment.
In my case I was really craving an action packed trip. I knew I might never have a block of time off this long again and I wanted to see a lot of places on my bucket list. I also know I like to be active physically so I looked at places that would be a good mix of city life and sights, as well as outdoor hiking and adventure. In this case I've chosen an action packed, on the go kind of trip. I totally value staying in one place for a long time and getting to know a culture in more depth... but this time I wanted something closer to a game of "Catch Me if You Can."
Booking and flight selection
Once I had the general sense that I wanted to visit Europe, Asia, and New Zealand I used a specific technique to book my trip. I was able to do this in part because of the flexibility I had, but even without that level of flexibility if your dates and/or destination are not totally rigid I would recommend checking this technique out.
The tool I used to book my trip was by using broad search terms on Skyscanner.com. I'll show you step by step how I did this.
1. First, I started by searching using all flights leaving San Francisco in February. Skyscanner is great because you can use broad search terms such as searching by all destinations and for full months at a time.
2. Skyscanner then showed me a list of various destinations in order of price. I basically just scrolled down the list until I found the first (and therefore cheapest) flight destination that I wanted to go to. In my case, Barcelona.
3. Once I had my first destination picked I then searched Barcelona and all of February.
4. I chose from the calendar the cheapest day that met my timeline. For me this was Sunday Feb 2nd.
5. Once I had picked my first flight. I then searched Barcelona to Everywhere.
6. I then picked the next place on the list I wanted to go and used the full month search to find a flight about 5 days out. I repeated the above steps by searching broadly by month and selecting a day about 5 days out from the prior flight. I continued this until I had built out a full itinerary.
7. I then looked at flights home from my final destination and chose the most affordable day that was on par with my schedule.
8. Once I had flushed out 2 months of travel I went back and looked over all my notes. I made a few tweaks for various reasons and double checked that it all still made sense. Then I booked! All in all my total flights came to about $1700 from San Francisco to Europe, Asia, New Zealand and back totalling 11 flights.
Some important notes about booking this way
1. Check the particulars of your flights. There can be hidden charges such as fees for checking bags, meals, etc., because many flights are value flights and are pretty bare minimum. Flights may also be hard or even not possible to change.
2. If your trip has several legs you may be booking flights through various airlines so it's helpful to stay very organized. I keep all my flight confirmations in an online folder for easy access.
Budget travel tips
In order to make this trip manageable for me, as I am not independently wealthy as much as I might like to be, and will be unemployed for 2 full months I had to think about how I could cut some costs. I didn't set a specific budget but I did generally attempt to keep costs down in various ways.
The first strategy was looking at accommodations. I basically set a max price I felt I could afford for the trip given I would need accommodations for 55 days. I figured the max I could spend was about $40/night totalling $2200. For better or worse because I was booking only a month out many places were already booked up, especially in Europe. So anywhere I couldn't stay in a single room for under $40/night I booked a shared hostel or capsule hotel. In Southeast Asia, however single rooms were quite affordable and I booked these easily and under budget. In total my accommodations came to $1400 (significantly under my max budget). Hostels are not always comfy for everyone depending on your physical space and emotional space needs so it's good to really think through whether that is a good option for you.
A second strategy I employed was to take out a new credit card. I chose the Capital One Venture One card as it had zero international fees and no APR for a full year. What I couldn't pay for outright I put on the card and will have a full year to pay off without interest. I would only recommend this if you trust yourself to pay it off and it feels like a good choice for you.
For the last portion of my planning I used a spreadsheet (or in this case 11 spreadsheets) to lay out ideas for what I might want to do when I am in each city. I generally like to keep these in a Google Doc so I can refer to them on the move. My usual categories are something like Sights to See, Things to Do, Places to Eat, and Nightlife. Above this table I write my flight and hotel info as well as anything else I may want to access while I'm traveling. I like this system as it helps me always have a handy list to refer to and add to after conferring with locals or other travelers. It allows me to pinpoint things I might want to do without overplanning each day. This can also be useful when I'm tired and just want a quick suggestion instead of just walking around looking for things (which I can enjoy also when I'm in the mood to do so).
I use a variety of different tools to learn about what to do in any given place. I always try to get personal suggestions from people I know, Thrillist articles, Yelp reviews, travel book, blogs, and Instagram.
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