This title is a bit of a ha-ha, as truly confirming our route didn’t happen until we were ready to buy our tickets (in June 2015). However, this did not prevent us from giving a lot of thought to where we wanted to go, how long we wanted to spend in each country/ region, and when are the best times to visit.
Here was our initial list for a September 2015 departure:
- Jordan, Israel, & Egypt – 1.5 months (Beginning Sept – mid Oct)
- India – 2 months (mid Oct – mid Dec)
- South Africa (and surrounding countries) – 2.5 months (mid Dec – end February)
- Colombia & Ecuador – 2 months (March – April)
- Central America (Panama or Costa Rica overland to Guatemala or Mexico) – 4 months (May – August)
I looked at this list and so very badly wanted to go to all of these places, but I was also scared that we were trying to do too much. I hate short-changing a country, and potentially not giving myself enough time to explore it at a leisurely pace. Because we are unsure of how we will travel as a family – fast or slow, I decided to only worry about really planning half of the trip (initially the Middle East through Africa portion) with the idea that if it took us 8 months instead of 6 – so be it. Gradually, our list of destinations changed, as did our timing, when we started to make plans with friends (traveling in Greece with John & Luisa, and spending Christmas in India with Gavin). We decided that we were no longer comfortable with visiting Egypt due to the political instability, and replaced that time with a month in Europe (Rome, Greece, Croatia & Slovenia). As our plans became more entwined with other people, and these obligations firmed up, we had to be more committed to a specific route and dates. We will now be in India for longer than 2 months, as we are spending the Christmas / New Year’s holidays with our friend and his family, which pushes our plans to South Africa back, meaning that we will likely be there through the end of March.
The other part of why we chose these destinations and how we are ordering our visit is weather.
September – October is an ideal time to visit Europe, Israel, and Jordan, and the end of October through early January is perfect for where we want to focus on in India (Rajasthan, Goa & Kerala). January thru March is summer in South Africa (although not necessarily the “best” time for safaris), and I’m not worried too much about the calendar for Latin America yet!
We also tried to plan our dates by how much we anticipate our daily expenses to be. We KNOW our budget will go much further in India, thus it makes sense to spend more time there, and less time in more expensive countries, like Europe, Israel & Jordan.
Our final consideration was safety. Per above, we had to let go of Egypt, a place of amazing history, and a country that includes a bucket-list site for the whole family – the Pyramids, but our concerns were not allayed. We waited to see if political unrest would escalate or lessen, and ultimately had to admit that our fears were too great. We want adventure without bombs. I cringe even as I write this, as life is completely unpredictable, even in the so-called safest places in the world. We are not people that want to be guided by fear and propaganda, and will continually have to evaluate our gut about visiting certain countries as time goes by. Oddly enough to some, Israel and Jordan were not on the chopping block.
As a wrap-up, there are multiple other considerations involved in planning a route, like the cost of airfare, and high season vs. shoulder or low season travel expenses. Some of our stops, like Rome and Dubai, only became a part of our itinerary due to some great air tickets we found that allowed us to incorporate these cities for less than flying more direct routes to our pillar destinations. We have taken everything into account, weighing pros and cons, and so far feel confident about the route for Part 1.