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gap year travel plan map rtw

How To Plan Your RTW Gap Year

I spent over a year working for STA Travel organising and booking god knows how many backpacking trips, I’ve also done a year living an working in Australia and I’ve now been on my current trip for nearly 2 years – so I think it’s safe to say I’m pretty well educated on how to put together a backpacking adventure!

I’ve been asked heaps by my buddies at home how the hell you start planning and putting together an around the world trip, so I thought I’d pass on some more tips and advice


Start Saving

Even before you know where you want to head start saving some serious dollar! Even if there’s a slight chance you might want to travel start saving NOW. It’s always good to save and in the very unlikely event you decide not to hit the road you’ve then got a nice pot of cash to play with!

Starting saving now will also give you a good idea of how much cash you can get together. Make a monthly budget, cut down your social life, limit your luxuries and start dreaming of warm beaches…!

Getting thrifty with your money will also serve you well on the backpacking trail. Don’t become a recluse or anything, just limit your lifestyle at home to maximise you savings. Would you rather have that Starbucks in the morning before working in the UK or would you rather that paid for a nights accommodation, meal and two beers in Thailand?!


Buy Some Maps

backpacker banter travel destinations rtw blogI’m a very visual person by nature so anytime I start planning a trip I by some maps to stick on my wall. Or of the world and then some more detailed ones on countries and continents I want it visit.

It works two fold, firstly it gives you a bit more bearing on where you’re heading too – which helps heaps when you find yourself finally there, and secondly it kick starts your travel stoke!

Plaster them in post it notes, highlight places you want to head too, tear out pictures to add alongside it…have your travel plans big, loud and proud!


Get some Inspiration

There’s no point aimlessly pointing at places on the map though (unless that your thing!) so you’re going to need some inspiration. Get a heap of brochures together – the continent ones from STA are a great start – and grab them all! Have a flick through, skim read and take in the photos, make a note of EVERYWHERE and EVERYTHING that catches your eye, you can always narrow it down later!

The Internet is your best friend for planning too, google some places and activities – and of course get stuck into some travel blogs! Despite being a blogger myself and having a background in travel I still find heaps of inspiration and new places to out on my bucket list by reading about what other people are up too! Check out the links page for a good list of people to inspire you!

Now would be a great time to join some forums like GapYear.com and chat to people in the same situation and gain some ideas, you might even strike lucky like me and end up finding some travel buddies!


Make a Rough Plan

Once you have an idea of what places you want to visit start putting together a rough route.

Where do you want to start?

Where do you want to finish?

Are there any specific dates you need to be places, such as new year or Songkran?

Do you want a RTW, return, flexible or one way ticket? 

You’ll soon find your trip putting itself together. And remember at this stage go big and out together everything you want…it might not be completely feasible but it’ll help you in the next stage.


Go See the Professionals!

Take your rough plan and book yourself some appointments with some backpacker travel agents.

sta travel uk
My Old Work Colleagues!

A good travel expert will take in everywhere you want to go and gauge the type of plan your aiming for.

Now it’s time to narrow it down and make things more realistic!

Make sure you have a pretty good idea of what your budget will be and how long you want to be away for (check out my monthly travel summaries for a rundown of what I’ve been spending), and if possible your leaving date – from here your travel guy (or girl!) can start advising on what you can fit in, the best tickets for you, other points of interest and any other epic adventures you could squeeze in around your original plan.

At this point it’s time to shop around. This isn’t just a price thing, travel experts have all visited different places so everyone will have a heap of suggestions on which routing to do or what you can fit in.

Once you have all the info to hand firm up what you want to do and pick who you’d like to book with.

There’s heaps of last minute holiday deals too, so if you’re all set and raring to go and want a really spontaneous adventure looking around for some flights sales and deals could see you with a heap of extra cash to spend!


Get Serious

Now by this point you should have some good savings behind you, at least enough to start getting your flights on the go! Nothing kick starts you into saving hard and getting things done that a deadline, so get a flight sorted! It doesn’t have to be the whole thing, it can just be the first leg, but make it real!

It’s also good to sort some travel insurance at this point too (you can extend it later) so you’re covered for any cancellation costs.

Be honest with your travel expert too – if you simply want to sort the flight and nothing else be up front. It’s their job to suggest and sell you the whole package, you’re going to need a lot of stuff sorted but you can always spread it out, that way you can grab bargains as they come around and get fierce bang for your buck!

It may also be a good idea to sort any accommodation or yours that are important. If you know from the off that when you land you want to do a tour for a few days get it booked. If you know you need to be in Sydney for Xmas sort it – even if its January! There’s nothing worse than last minute panic on things you have your heart set on!


gap year travel plan map rtw
What My 2012 Travels Look Like!

Start Piecing the Rest Together!

So your flights are booked and you know what your plan of attack is! Now it’s time to out all the little bits together!

Get shopping for a backpack, draft out a kit list, get on the case with your doctor about vaccinations, check out visa advice, start looking at accommodation options in key places. The more on the ball you are now the more relaxed you’ll be and the more fun you’ll have on the road!

Don’t plan everything to the day and hour though (unless you REALLY want or have too!), leave room for flexibility and spontaneity.



With all this preparation out the way, a rough plan and an epic adventure ahead of you means than you can simply jump on that plane, sit back and enjoy the whole experience knowing that you’ve done everything you can to set yourself up for a trouble free trip.

It’s just a case of soaking up the sun, sipping on a mojito and reaping the rewards of all your hard work…you deserve it!


As you can see planning a RTW trip doens’t have to be too daunting. You just need to break it down and tackle it piece by piece. Whether it’s a month or a year, the same theory applies!




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