Planning a round the world trip

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Are you considering taking an around the world trip? Here are some great destinations and the best way to go about planning it.

Planning a round the world trip
The chance to travel around the world is too good to be spoilt by poor planning, so thinking ahead is the key for setting up a great trip. If you want to make the most of several months, or even a year, the basic rule is not to plan to fit in too much - you could spend a whole year just seeing Australia properly. But the following should give you the chance to have some wonderful adventures, and provide some great ideas for places to return to when you're a bit more time and cash rich. Where to start

A great destination is India. It's a wonderful country and deserves a trip of its own. It does, however, have special concerns - particularly with health issues - that could mean your trip doesn't get off to the most brilliant of starts. So it might be better to start a round the world trip by heading straight for Bangkok. You'll need to spend a few days getting over jetlag and acclimatising to the pace of life, the heat and the assault on your senses of one of Asia's most extraordinary cities. Bangkok is a great place to find your feet, before heading north into the highlands around Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. You'll meet plenty of other backpackers aiming for Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, but I'd advise saving Indo-China for a separate trip. Instead: Firstly trek south to Phuket (above) on Thailand's west coast, sail across to Phi Phi island and continue to the haven of Krabi. From here, you could follow the traditional west-coast route via Penang in Malaysia down to Kuala Lumpur and Malacca, but the east coast is much more enticing - though bear in mind the predominance of Islam, and temper your dress and behaviour accordingly. Then, take a detour out to Tioman Island - where South Pacific was filmed (ask an elderly relation what 'I'm going to wash that man right out of my hair' was all about). You can then get a boat direct to Singapore, a great place to punctuate your travels, let your experience sink in - and indulge in some retail therapy and superb Chinese food. From here on a little flexibility and caution is important: check out the advice on Indonesia at www.fco.gov.uk. After the Bali bombing, alerts about terrorist attacks are frequent occurrences. Australia

Stick to the east coast and there'll be more than enough to see. So find a flight into Cairns, in far north Queensland. Chill out on the coast, head north into the rainforest, east into the hills or west into the ocean - and the Great Barrier Reef, where you can learn to dive. Then head down the coast, stopping at the Whitsunday Islands for a few days' sailing. Keep going to Byron Bay - the easternmost point of Australia and a great place to swim, hike or ride (a bike or a horse). By the time you get to Sydney you'll have a zillion recommendations from people you've met along the way, and be much better placed to make the most of this beautiful city. If you're planning to work in Australia, the prospects are best here. Next stop - New Zealand

If you have been planning astutely, it should now be around Christmas or January - ideal for the next stop, the South Island of New Zealand. Aim for Queenstown to get some cheap (thanks to NZ's comedy dollar) thrills, and do at least one decent hike. New Zealand is much more manageable than Australia, and you can see a fair amount of the country in around three weeks. Where next?

Fly out of Auckland for a spot of Pacific Island hopping, for example Fiji, Tahiti and Hawaii. By now the northern hemisphere should be warming up, so hop across to Los Angeles for some California dreaming. Here you can take your pick, either: Wander north along the coast to San Francisco or, Go south into Mexico and the bewitching Baja Peninsula. I suggest flying back from Los Angeles; southern California is a wonderful place to finish a trip. How to book your trip

You should book with a specialist, rather than online. They will be able to explain the options, and suggest when dropping a destination here or there can save a fortune, or when you can add one for no additional charge. The obvious airline combination for this routing is Qantas and Air New Zealand, going London-Bangkok on Qantas; Singapore-Cairns on its offshoot, Australian Airlines; and Sydney-Christchurch-Auckland-Pacific Islands-Los Angeles-London on Air NZ. It will cost around £1,200 for departures in September, or less if you happen to be under 26. Make sure you know about penalties for changing flight dates (usually easy and cheap) or amending the route (difficult and expensive). On a long trip, the more flexibility the better. Make a wish list

Make a list of what you want to achieve - learning to dive, climbing a mountain, learning a language - and establish how you plan to do this. Rather than simply drifting around the world, this will give you a focus that will make the whole experience even more worthwhile.
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