Plan your Route

This route will change many times but for overall timing we need to understand a starting point, travel and travel options between each point of interest (POI) and your departure point. So let’s begin.

Find a major city as a starting point because travel to that point from where you are will be most inexpensive. If there is nothing within that city that does not interest you (which will be doubtful) find the closest major city to where one of your POI’s and start there. You can arrive in the major city and then travel immediately to your starting point. (For my trip to SEA I chose Bangkok.) Now that you have “arrived” at your first destination think of the activities you would like to do there. Now place a generic time limit on that POI and it’s activities, let’s say 3 days.

Now is also a good time to start estimating costs as well. If you know how much an activity will cost you while researching it, jot it down. It will be helpful when we start the budget phase.

Next where would you go from there? Is there a logical next destination? Perfect, how will you get there? Bus? Train? Boat? Do some quick research on common travel between the 2 destinations chose your preferred method and note the time this travel takes, and the cost. Let’s say 3 hours travel but the bus leaves in the morning so we will say the morning of the 4th day you will move to the next POI. In continuing this exercise time very quickly starts disappearing. Your 2 month trip you are planning gets whittled down fast or you may find that you have more time left than you thought based on the POI you have chosen. So let’s tackle both of these.

Ok you have picked 23 places you would like to see in your 2 month trip but 1/2 way through you find that a month and a half of time is gone. This has happened to way to many people, myself included and we have to do what we don’t want to do… Time to trim the list.

You will notice that this is the first time we have discussed the length of your trip. This has been done on purpose as not to let the cart lead the horse. You should not have limited your imagination till this point because you can always save more and spend less to have more time available to you on your trip

Now the first POI to axe are the are the easiest, the ones that are just a bit too far out of the way of the rest of the POIs and the POIs you wanted to see, just not EXCITED for. These can be trimmed quickly and mostly painlessly. Did that work? Let’s hope so. If not its time to trim more. A good way to do this is to reduce the number of days spent at a certain POI or save more money to extend the trip a little longer to accommodate your POI. Another way is to split your trip. Do one area this time and another area the next trip. My plan eventually included Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia to cross the equator but I cut these for another trip and focused on Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Now remember this is a first draft of this route and things change a lot, but this route will be the basic timeline of your trip and help solidify your “final” route. (I say “final” sarcastically because on the road things will change but you have to start with a good plan to be able to deal with the hiccups in the real world.)

Now for those of you that find that they can see all their POI with time to spare on their trip it’s time to branch out your interests. Spend an extra day exploring an art museum in one of your destinations, take a cooking class, try an off the beaten path adventure or do as The Wander does and relax and go where the wind takes you. This can be fun, adventurous and you may find the unplanned turns out to be the most fun of your trip.

Continue these exercises again and again and eventfully you will end up with a basic route. You will have a list of POIs that fit within the time you have and an idea of very basic costs. With this in hand you will now need to verify that either you have returned back to the same major city you came into or have ended near another major city to return home. In thinking about costs it is normally best to do a round trip ticket from your home to a major city and back or to fly into one major city and return out another. There is a third option that sometimes works as well, have the round trip ticket to and from your one major city and the last part of your trip you fly back that city. It is expensive sometimes but it is often worth it. On my trip I looked at Bangkok, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Singapore etc. as my starting city. It turned out that Bangkok was the best but if there was dramatic saving to be had to fly into another city I would have rearranged the order of my trip. I invite you now to do the same. See if starting or finishing at another place can save you significant money. Remember this trip is not carved in stone yet and you can adjust based on prices you are seeing for travel.

Hopefully at this point you should be getting pretty close to getting to a very solid route, but for fun let’s throw in a monkey wrench into the mix. Do any of your POI have a time restriction? Machu Picchu believe it or not is closed during the month of February, the full moon party requires that you be there on the full moon, and you can’t climb to base camp one of Everest in the winter season. Take a look at your route and see if there are time constraints in your plan and adjust it accordingly. You may get irritated updating this route over and over but the better you know your route and plan for it inside and out, the better prepared you will be if things don’t go as planned, and trust me they will not! Below you can see the final route I chose for my 2 Month Backpacking trip.

This was an amazing trip and I was able to see MOST of what I wanted too.  Looks like I will be going back soon!  At this point you should have a pretty solid route and plan of activities and POI for your trip. Now we need to start building a budget and figure out how you will pay for this trip.