Top dozen RTW travel planning resources

We have been planning our trip since 2003, and actively saving for it since 2006. Travel planning is equal parts fun and frustration. It’s exciting to make plans and to see a trip coming together, but it’s also a lot of work researching your destination, arranging transportation and lodging, and determining how long you’ll need in order to do everything you planned. You become a project manager, event coordinator, location scout, travel agent, and financial planner all at once. The last time I went on an extended trip overseas, I didn’t have a lot of the tools and web sites available today. Travel planning is a bit easier these days now that the Internet can provide so much information. Here are the 12 tools that I use extensively for our RTW trip planning.

Google Sheets

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 9.30.03 PMSpreadsheets may be a bit antiquated, but there’s no quicker way for me to determine travel dates and keep all those destinations straight. If you have a lot of destinations, it can become tedious to keep track of where and when you’ll be somewhere. I originally set up an Excel spreadsheet with destinations, dates, approximate costs, and visa requirements back in 2003 and have updated it frequently. It became the basis of our savings goal. I recently transferred the spreadsheet to Google Docs and keep it updated online now. The format hasn’t changed much since I first created it. The dates are automatically calculated from the initial starting date. I enter the number of nights we plan to stay at a destination and the spreadsheet calculates the arrival dates for all the following destinations. It becomes a dynamic, ever-changing master document that is invaluable for advanced planning. Unlike other online tools, you can add or remove columns for whatever you want to track. Continue reading

Travel photo gear

When I’m shooting for a client locally, I’m not really concerned with the same things as when I’m traveling and taking photos along the way. These are different situations and they call for different equipment. When looking for travel cameras and photo gear, here’s what I consider important:

Quality is paramount

There’s not much point in taking photos if they’re not the best quality available today. Photo quality isn’t determined by the resolution or the camera processor, but by the glass that you shoot through. Good quality lenses make better photos, so I stick with well-respected German or Japanese brands. I explain this in much more detail at Choosing photo equipment.

Resolution is important

Medium format equipment these days can produce 50 megapixel images. Most digital SLRs are between 24 and 36 megapixels now. Even point and shoot cameras can capture 18 megapixels or more. Even though I just said in the previous paragraph that resolution does equate to quality, it is important, because a higher resolution image allows more flexibility for cropping and manipulation. So if that art director doesn’t want all that foreground that you’ve included in the shot, they can simply crop the photo and not sacrifice too much resolution to get only what they need. A low resolution image can’t be cropped much without some pixelation occurring. For what I’m doing, 20 megapixels is the minimum. Continue reading

A date has been set

It’s been nearly 14 years in the planning, but we’ve finally decided we are going on our around-the-world trip. We have set a date, but I don’t want to reveal the exact date just yet. No need to alarm our employers and clients. Some may ask: why now? All the signs seem to point in the same direction: the road. Here are a few of the reasons:

1. Airline Policies Change

Originally, we were going to purchase two around-the-world (RTW) tickets, but since my wife traveled so much for work, we decided to start saving up her airline miles for those tickets. Using reward miles would save us over $10,000. That was over 10 years ago, and since then we’ve used some of those miles for trips to Africa, Italy, and the Middle East. I had some miles also and we used some of those for our trip to the U.K. and France last year. Even after all those other trips, we still have enough airline miles for two RTW tickets.

Last month, my wife received an email with some policy changes from one of the larger airlines where she has accumulated some miles. It indicated that they would no longer be offering an RTW ticket. Since it wasn’t the airline with which we had the majority of our miles, it didn’t affect us directly. However, airlines tend to follow the lead of other airlines, especially the larger ones. In the past, we saw that when a couple of the airlines started to charge extra for checked baggage, it wasn’t long before all the other airlines charged for checked baggage. So if one of the major airlines discontinued their RTW offering, we figure it won’t be long before the other two airlines also stop offering it. Time to use those accumulated miles. Continue reading