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Advice wanted - Round-The-World trip planning


Ski Diva Extraordinaire
One day this will reappear as a "Places I've been" thread.

I am planning a Round the World trip and am feeling overwhelmed. I can travel for up to 9 months and I know that I want to include Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Hong Kong. I will not be including Central and Western Europe as I travelled there last summer. My trip will start in April and end in December of this year. I'll be backpacking and doing it on the cheap (gotta save some $$ for skiing in 2011 right?).

On these RTW trips the air ticket will permit you up to 16 segments, you don't have to literally fly "around" the world on all of them, but you do have a option to make multiple one-way flights.

So I am tempted also by Hawaii, Micronesia, the Trans Siberia railway, Dude ranching in South America ........ yes, every other place the guidebooks fall open at.

I'm looking for recommendations on when is a good time to visit places (climate wise) so that I can get the itinerary in the right order, and where you have been that is maybe less well known but worth the visit. Also there are many trips and tours out there, which ones are truly worth the money as opposed to arranging it alone, or skipping the experience, e.g. best way to see Ha Long Bay, or the Great Barrier Reef (I'm a qualified experienced diver). Knowledge of ease of overland travel between two destinations. The advisability of visiting Tibet or Myanmar.

Very wide specs I know, but will be interesting to see what travel experiences you have had, or perhaps local knowledge.

If anyone has backpacking tips - please pass them on. I'm thinking of getting one that has wheels and shoulder straps for maximum flexibility. What should I pack in it? How much technology? What shoes? etc. etc. typical girls dilemma, I want it all but I do not want to carry it.

ski diva

Staff member
Lilabear, I have no advice because I haven't been to any of those places (well, except Hawaii). But I just wanted to say that your life continues to amaze me! I think I speak for many of us when I say that we wish we were in your shoes. Be sure to keep us posted so we can live vicariously through your experiences. And whatever you do, be safe out there.


Ski Diva Extraordinaire
How fortunate you are to be able to do this. Safe travels and wonderful adventures!!

I don't have any specific advice, but (if you haven't already) look for blogs from others who did RTW trips. Last year while on a ferry in Greece, we spoke with a family who was wrapping up their year of travel (parents and 2 kids <10). They blogged their whole adventure. Things I remember they mentioned were to pick your direction and always head that way -- think they said there are advantages to west. They also mentioned shipping things to various destinations along the way -- they didn't need their warm clothes everywhere. Not sure how the logistics of this work. I'm sure they and others have various lessons learned that will make for smoother trip.

I'm so jealous...hope you'll post some pics and stories along the way!


Angel Diva
Quite an adventure to come!

If you decide to spend a little time elsewhere in China besides Hong Kong, I can provide suggestions.

For Hawaii, worth going to at least one other island besides the one where Honolulu sits.

Some of the places you mention would be very hot and humid June-August. Also fewer cheap plane seats since that's summer vacation travel time for lots of families.


Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Last time I did a long-term backpacking travel trip I had a backpack on the back and a 4 month old baby on the front... This 4 month old baby is now 6'4" tall!

So much time has passed, I don't know how safe the travel is for b'packers traveling anymore. You might google the websites for youth hostels (they must be there) and see what the posts are about that. I don't know how old you are (I'm ancient...) but you might play around the internet googling for college-aged kids doing this: there might be some info on the smartest ways to go about it.

Mmmmmaaaaannnnyyyy years ago when I was doing this, I was camping in Florence, Italy, with my baby and doing the b'packing thing, planning to go down to Rome. It was really helpful to have other young European kids doing the same thing, who could give me a heads-up on the safety thing (I was doing this alone) of southern italy so I could make my plans accordingly. I know European kids still do a lot of this--so the internet might be a source for that.

I'm happy you're doing this--I'm working towards a year off to "follow the snow" round the world as soon as I can swing it!


Ski Diva Extraordinaire

do keep a journal so you can share with all of us jealous Divas, living your adventures with you vicariously.

My nephew went to study in Argentina in September, classes ended December, and he still hasn't come home!! He's absolutely in love with South America (Argentina, Patagonia, Bolivia, Uraguay). My brother and SIL just got back from visiting him and they raved about Argentina, its vineyards, the food, the hiking. They (and nephew) stayed/stay in a lot of youth hostels and loved them---say they met wonderful people and travel companions. And the food is wonderful (and cheap with exchange rates now)

Just thought I'd put that out there.


Ski Diva Extraordinaire
How exciting for you! Sounds like a great trip!

DH and I did a RTW trip last year from Jan - March. I think it's smart that you're doing mostly tropical areas and S. hemisphere. We started out in Paris so we needed our winter clothes, and then we were lugging them around when we got to warmer climes -- ended up shipping a lot of stuff back home!

We were in NZ for most of March so it was the end of summer/beginning of fall there. Very comfortable temps for hiking and exploring. We rented a car to get around and the only accommodations we really booked ahead were our first couple nights. Otherwise we booked motels as we went through the i-Site agencies they have: http://www.newzealand.com/travel/i-sites/i-sites_home.cfm

We met a few other tourists who were staying at Top 10 Holiday Parks and they reported positive experiences: http://www.top10.co.nz/
The Top 10s tend to be very conveniently located and they seem to have a variety of accommodations for your budget & for the number of people you are traveling with.

If you like big trees that are centuries old and want to learn a little bit about their significance to Maori culture, I would highly recommend the Footprints Twilight walk in Northlands: http://www.footprintswaipoua.com/mustdo/index.html#01

If you are on the South Island towards the end of your trip, there's a peninsula to the east of Dunedin where you can visit an albatross hatchery. When we were there in March the chicks were big fuzzballs about 20 lbs. big. I'm not sure if they are still in egg form in December or if they might even be newly hatched then.

On the same peninsula, you can see some rare penguins: http://www.penguinplace.co.nz/

Pretty much anything else you might want to do in NZ is very easy to find through your guidebooks or a local i-Site.

Another fun place we went was Indonesia, to see the Borobudur temple. Very, very neat place. We sort of splurged on a tour package for that one so I don't have very much advice for getting around, but I think even backpacking it might be worth the effort.

Have a great time!
The easy stuff first:

How much technology? As much as you can handle!

- Camera is the minimum. You'll need a way to download the pictures in such a long trip. That points to some sort of hard drive or a computer. The latest rage is netbooks. Point worth noting: it's a prime target for thieves!!!
- Phones will be handy but SIM cards in each countryn can bankrupt you. So except in the bigger countries, it's probably not worth it.

Backpack: seeing your list are mostly third world countries, I'd say forget about the wheels. Think lots of stairs. Think serious backpacking. Get a truely comfortable backpack! There will be times you miss the wheels (Australia/NZ). But you won't miss the weight of the build-in wheels when you have to shoulder it!

Shoes: this is the most tricky one in my own experience. You want one pair that's comfortable (and durable for 9 months of non-stop walking). But you probably need something else that are a bit dressy, in case you got invited for a any sort of "party". It should also be comfortable so it can double as walking shoes as well.

Diving in Vietnam and Australia: get a list of the top outfitter for each place and visit them in person once you're in the country. Travelling in Australia is like visiting San Francisco. They speak the same language, do thing more or less the same way. No need to worry or over-plan. Travelling within Vietnam is relatively easy to arrange. You can get from Vietnam to Laos and Cambodia overland. But roads in that region are often in poor condition so land travel is less comfortable than flying. There're also diving in Thailand.

Tibet is safe to visit. Not sure about logistics, best inquire at Hong Kong. Don't know about Myanmar.

Countries you're missing:

- Japan: it's not a robot/factory concrete canyon one usually see on TV. It's a beautiful country with deep culture.

- China: you're going to Hong Kong and Tibet but not China???

- India!!!

- Indonesia and Philipeans: you're going right over them, why not drop in?

- Are you stopping in any of the Middle East countries?


- You'll likely be hitting the southern hemisphere in their winter. Skiing?

- Your itineray have you end up in southesst Asia in the middle of the summer.

I've not done RTW myself. But I've travelled quite a bit in southeast Asia, much of it as an independent soloist. In my travel, I met many other independent RTW traveller and accompanied a few on shorter segments. Some of their advices stuck with me.

If this is your first travel outside the western culture, get ready to be bombarded with strange sights and sounds! It's a life-changing experience. Enjoy.


Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Micronesia region (not the federated states): I've been to the 3 main islands of the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands - Saipan, Rota and Tinian. I may be able to set you up with a local to guide you around, too. Also, I've friends who recently traveled to Palau. Let me know if you're interested in learning more about either of those locations & I'll PM you.

I just got back from Chilean Patagonia if that's on your list, too. Very season dependent, though -- where are you ending your trip in Dec - US or UK? If US, Patagonia is a viable option; you can shoot down there in Dec, during the summer. If you're going to be traveling around the world, you may as well hit the "end" of the world, too!

ETA: oh yeah, if you're interested in Tibet/Nepal, I have a some friends who travel there regularly for work and may have good advice. :smile:


Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Oh yes, I am very very lucky, and have been for much of my life. The areas that I am not visiting are because I have been fortunate enough to have been there before. I have a finite budget and have been warned not to over extend the itinerary - can't go everywhere, no matter how much I want to.

These responses are exactly what I was looking for, Divas always turn up trumps. Pointers and food for thought all round. I am very excited about the trip.

I am no spring chicken, I can mix with the young 'uns, but like to have a blend of ages and cultures. My trip will begin and end in the UK.

I know less about South America and Oceana than most other areas. Chilean Patagonia sounds wonderful, Argentina also sounds great. I should look into these more. I'm just wary of going everywhere whilst they are in their rainy/winter season.
Can you go from Hong Kong to Bankok and onto Sydney?

(I'm pretty sure going from Hong Kong to Tibet and onto Bankok would be consider a "back track")


Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Lilabear - I can't offer any help location-wise. But, for packing purposes, I'll give you this:

Drive down to the closest REI. They probably have the best selection of all kinds of packs. I'd ditch the wheels idea - they really add weight to the pack. Take a look at the Osprey packs, especially the Waypoint series. I have an Osprey Porter 65, which I'm going to use for my 3 week Europe trip next month, and an Osprey Talon 22 as my nice daypack. The Waypoint looks to be more like what you'd want. It has a detachable daypack, which might serve you well. There may be other packs that you'd like at REI also. One thing to look at is a cheap duffel that your fully-loaded pack will fit in. That way you have something you can "lock" when you fly from place to place.
Some little things to have:
a headlamp: Nice to have when you have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night or if you haven't made it to your destination by sunset.
A Steri-pen: Easy to carry to make your water more potable.
a sleepsack (or travel sheet): Nice to have so you don't have to "rent" the sheets at a hostel or use on an overnight train. If it's a tropical spot, it makes a nice sleeping bag.
Packing cubes: I've found them to be an excellent way to arrange my "stuff". One for undies & bras, one for socks, one for those cables & adapters.
Electronics: go onto Ebay and find an unlocked quad-band cellphone if you don't have one already. Just buy pre-paid sim cards wherever you land. If you can, buy a netbook. They are pretty small now and cost under $400. You can add Skype to it, so you can keep in touch with people and use that as a phone. You can keep your journal on it, or write to your blog about your travels. I have an Acer Aspire One with a WD Passport external hard drive. I copy my photos to the hard drive and keep some movies on there to keep myself amused. Yep - I'm a techo-traveller.

Just a couple of things there. I still envy you for tackling this journey!!!
One more thing. Prefer quick dry clothings that can be hand washed in the sink!

Especially since you're travelling in the subtropic, under-developed region...


Ski Diva Extraordinaire
One more thing. Prefer quick dry clothings that can be hand washed in the sink!

Especially since you're travelling in the subtropic, under-developed region...
Right now, the Ex-Officio website is doing a 25% sale on their undergarmets!!! Good place to go for quick-dry and comfortable items. (take out the "-" and add the .com)


Ski Diva Extraordinaire
+1 on Ex Officio undergarments. My favorite is the quick-dry tank with the built-in shelf bra.

For storing your photos, it's amazing how much a small flash drive can hold these days. Even safer is to upload to a remote server somewhere.

Also, forgot to mention that we used Singapore as a hub. It's easy to go to a lot of different places from Singapore. Our official RTW itinerary was -Paris-Singapore-Taipei-etc., but from Singapore we did RTs. to Melbourne and Java. Would have gone to India too but found out too late that we had to get our visas before leaving the U.S.

Also, be prepared to be tempted to buy Icebreaker clothing in NZ. :drool:


Ski Diva Extraordinaire
When we went to Thailand (only 3 weeks, but a long-ish trip for us), we used one of these travel packs. We have plenty of backpacking style backpacks but I really like the suitcase type entry so that you don't have to root around in your backpack for things. We camp enough that I know how annoying that can be ("I want to wear my grey pants... WHERE are my gray pants?" only to find them two days later shoved way in the bottom corner).


What I liked (aside from the easy open central compartment) was the seperated bottom portion for sleeping bag or in our case, stinky sweaty dirty clothes. And the fact that it completely zips to cover all straps, etc. for flying on planes and buses. Awesome.

We bought a cheap stuff sack for laundry. Then bag it all up, take it to the local laundry and it also functions to keep your sweaty dirty clothes seperate from the clean ones.

I second (third? fourth?) the recommendation for the Ex Officio travel undies. I bought two pairs of these and washed them in the sink each night after use, and they lasted well for 3 weeks.

We did not bring much in the way of tech. We had our camera, of course, with extra memory cards. And we had an iTouch we bought purposely for the trip. If there was wifi available, we could use it. If there wasn't wifi available, we just were out of communication. Lots of backpacker towns, even in less populous places, will have a computer you can use, where you can shoot an email off to friends. The hub was all excited as he is a techie, and he bought a solar charger for our electronics, but most places we stayed (even the squalid ones) had a bit of electricity at night or you could go to a central area and charge your electronics, and plus the thing took forever to charge so we didn't use it. Bring extra batteries for your camera.

I did buy a few pieces of clothing, but I specifically looked for multipurpose, washable (wicking) type clothing. A store like Athleta has a nice range that are still decent enough for wearing to a restaurant or if youjust want to not feel like a scrub for a day, they are a bit pricey, but you don't need many items of clothing. I took a pair of pants that zip into capris, a pair of shorts, a dress thing, and a few comfy t-shirts that still looked sort of dressy. It was heaven every night when I changed into my one dress, that was kept non-sweaty by not wearing it during the day.

Bring a buttonup shirt that covers your shoulders and a long skirt, countries you visit may have more tendency towards modest dress, even in heat.

A functional closed toed pair of shoes and a good pair of flip flops (or two!) and a lightweight packable rain jacket. We brought those super packable chamois towel things from REI and they worked great. THey are almost as large as real towels and dry quickly and pack down to nothing. And don't even bother with cotton because it will never dry in a high humidity environment.

Oh, also, you may want to stock up on suntan lotion and bug spray because at least in Thailand, the stuff they sold there just wasn't as good. In the jungly areas, mosquito coils will be your friends. Things like Tylenol PM aren't found over there (at least I could never find them).

If you want any tips about Thailand, thats the only place off your list I've been, but feel free to ask them.

Have fun, sounds like you will have an amazing time!


Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I've taken onboard much of your advice here, and I've also jigged around my itinerary to suit the seasons better. I have a round the world ticket going West to East, and I'll book a separate flight to get to Asia from Australia (counted as backtracking on the other tickets). I was 43 miles short of getting home to Manchester, so the ticket had to get reworked again.

I'll be taking all my ski stuff to my storage unit tomorrow and starting to dig out, well whatever it is you need for nine months living out of a teeny tiny backpack in all climes.

I depart 19th April, return Jan 4th, 2011. I've bought the backpack. Actually a wheeled bag with an excellent backpack harness. Either it's the ideal compromise or we will have a long term relationship of mutual hatred and damage. Since I broke my shoulder it's had an extra knobbly bit just under where straps would be, and I cannot imagine that I can carry a pack for prolonged periods.

Thus in 10 days time I depart for Hong Kong, then a week in Bali before heading to Sydney. I'll travel round Aus, and will dive the Great Barrier Reef with a friend who will join me from Colorado. After which I'll go on to Asia - Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and possibly Myanmar, this will be for 3.5 months. A quick break in Fiji, before going on to New Zealand for 8 weeks, I hope by mid October they are enjoying a warm and dry Spring. I'll finish my trip in South America, I really want to see Tierra Del Fuego and Patagonia. Thanks for really steering me towards that Pequinita, and dloveski. I love penguins and will be looking for them wherever I go.

I'm going to search out a Steripen NbyNW, and all the other hot tips from abc et al. I have been reading blogs, and these are so very reassuring - to find out that others have travelled so readily in these places, to get tips about travel methods and where to go, plus be inspired by the food and photos.

As I've already left the US I don't have the benefit of REI and exOfficio. But, as this travel to conquer the world has been a British habit for quite some time, even my home town has about 8 outdoor outfitters. I'll remember to make sure I get good DEET and all the vaccinations I need to.

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