The hardest part about planning a trip around-the-world is knowing how to edit your itinerary. The first time that I traveled around the world (about an 11 month journey in 1996), I started my planning with a long dream list of destinations. Thankfully, my limited budget kept me from being overly ambitious with numerous flights, and my initial research into where to go, also helped me to tailor down my stops. Despite all of my good intentions and thoughtful planning, I was way off in estimating how long to spend in each country. My original itinerary was for a 4-6 month journey through the South Pacific and Asia, ultimately ending in Turkey, where I would then plan the rest of my trip. I really believed that 2 weeks was sufficient and generous time to thoroughly explore a country. By the time I made it to Turkey, I had already been on the road for over 9 months. My 2 weeks in New Zealand, had been extended to 7, and my month in Australia ended up being a 3 month stay that ended when my visa ran out. I basically learned from that experience that I like to fully explore a country, not just tick off the biggest cities and a list of popular sites. 6 years after that trip, on a 13 month adventure, Dan and I once again found ourselves spending a lot longer in a region than we had intended. Our planned 3-4 month stay in South America, ultimately ended with an actual duration of 11 months, finally returning to the US on the last day of our ticket’s validity.
Everything that we read about traveling with children, emphasizes the need to adopt a slower pace. It is continually stressed that children need more down time, and will balk at fast paced travel with too many activities packed into a day of sightseeing. This makes complete sense. Dan and I have had endless conversations about how to best slow down, and also how to insure that we have flexibility with not only our flights, but also our destinations. We simply might not be able to see everything that we initially intend to. So, it is with great trepidation that we try to set out a schedule. We do not want to tie ourselves down to too many specific dates, yet we also need some structure to our trip. We are hoping to buy our tickets in stages, so that if changes must be made to flight reservations, we will not create a domino effect of escalating change fees and penalties. Initially, we thought that our first ticket would be as follows: Los Angeles – Amman – Overland – Johannesburg – Miami. We planned on also seeing Israel, Egypt, and India in between, but hoped that we could wait and buy some of the big flights (like Cairo to Cochin) when we were in the middle east, and had a better sense of how fast or slow we would travel with our kids. Well, our routing had changed by the time we were actually ready to buy our tickets, and we have now locked ourselves into a pretty tight schedule for the first 2 months of our trip: Los Angeles – Rome – Mykonos – Overland On Our Own – Athens – Zagreb – Overland On Our Own – Dubrovnik – Tel Aviv – Overland On Our Own – Amman – Dubai – Delhi. We are waiting to buy, and thus define our dates and route for all onward travel from India, although we are planning to fly to South Africa for several months, and then have a pitstop in Florida, visiting dan’s folks, before continuing to South America. Originally, we thought we’d be back in Miami within 6 months and then take off on part 2 of our trip through South and Central America, but now we think part 1 might actually take 7-8 months.
Some variables we considered in our planning have involved the opportunity to travel with friends. Greece was added to our trip in order to holiday with John & Luisa while they are on honeymoon, to join Gavin, and his family in India for Christmas, and we might have some other friends who want to join us in South Africa in January or February. As we plan meet-ups with other people this creates some rigid dates to work with.
Another way we are hoping to slow down, is by picking more places that we stay put in – rent a house and not move around. Sometimes this may mean just staying in one city for a week or 2 (i.e. Goa?), and other times we need to consider staying put for a month (Capetown?). If part 1 of our trip ends up taking longer, we will obviously have less time for Latin America. However, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Ideally, our trip would continue into year 2, when we would really settle down somewhere in Central America (Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico?) and work from home, enrolling our kids in a Spanish language school. With this plan B, neither of us would feel guilty about shortchanging our time traveling in this region, because we would have plenty of time to explore Central America if we end up living there!