Trip Planning Part 1: Deciding Which Countries to Visit

Once we made the decision to travel for the better part of 2017, the next thing to figure out was where, exactly, we wanted to go. Planning our round-the-world (RTW) trajectory was equally delightful and overwhelming — once you consider how many places you’re dying to visit, 10 months of travel suddenly feels…short.

Luckily, we had a lot of time to research, plan, plot, negotiate and compromise. At some point in early 2016, we started with a world map/bulletin board combo and a bunch of pushpins: an exercise which felt very exciting but actually illuminated very little (greeaaaat, we now know we want to see the WHOLE WORLD).

Pins in Map
The original map, still affixed to the wall. A fun (though ineffective) exercise in planning.


We hung the map on our living room wall anyway — it served as an exciting visual reminder of our upcoming trip and a great conversation piece for houseguests. At some point, in the middle of the night, the map came crashing down from the wall and was subsequently relegated to the floor. So that was fun while it lasted.

Eventually we decided to stop being wishy-washy and just built a spreadsheet. Google Sheets was very handy for this purpose in that we could both simultaneously view and edit the same document. It turned out to be a mammoth chart — besides a list of about 60 countries, it included columns for required travel documents, necessary vaccines, places of interest, “ideal time to visit,” subject matter experts (i.e. people we know who have been there) and a priority ranking for each of us. Though cumbersome, the spreadsheet ultimately helped us narrow our list of countries down to 35(ish).

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 12.02.33 PM
The big spreadsheet.

With our country list pared down, we could start grouping each country/region into logical sections or “legs.” This is important because we will have to come back to the U.S. at least twice over the course of our trip for family obligations, and because we learned that it doesn’t really make sense to purchase all plane tickets up-front (more on that in a future post). So we landed on:

  1. Central & South America
  2. New Zealand, Indonesia, Southeast Asia & China
  3. Europe & Africa

So there you have it! We’ve got 35 countries on our list and just over 10 months to see them all. Now onto the fun part…booking flights and day-to-day itinerary planning.

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