It feels like a lifetime ago that Darryl and I sat on the carpet of my mum’s living room, laptop open, credit card in hand, ready to book our month abroad in Australia, Bali and Dubai. This was a whole other world of travel compared to our previous all-inclusive resort trips within Europe.
If you’re able to travel for longer than one month then you might decide to do things a bit more spontaneously, but if like us you have a strict annual leave allowance to work around, then you need to plan carefully.
So to help you get the most of your annual leave and go on a once in a lifetime trip, here’s everything you need to know about planning, booking and enjoying your month of travel.
Read more: 5 Tips for Travelling Around a 9 to 5
Booking a big holiday is not cheap. You might be booking bargain flights and cheap hostels, but it all adds up very quickly once you’re there. Especially if a few bucket list excursions catch your attention.
We spent around £3,000 each on our month abroad, which covered absolutely everything. We got a lot for our money, but £6,000 for a holiday isn’t realistic to do on a whim, so the earlier you can start saving – the better!
For us, the best thing to do was put as much as possible away per month. If you plan to save for a year (like we did), then you’re going to need to be putting away at least £250 each month for a £3000 trip. We lived at home so luckily didn’t need to pay rent or a mortgage, so instead sacrificed a few luxuries (including other holidays).
If you work full or part time, not every company will allow you to have a month off work, however the statutory annual leave entitles most workers to 5.6 weeks’ off each year (which may include bank holidays), so you might be allowed to save it up and use it in one go.
I’d advise that you give your company plenty of notice for this to increase your chance of being able to take the month off.
Luckily I had just started a new job, so in my interview I explained that I’d need that time off. This was unpaid, but I hadn’t used even a quarter of my holiday from my previous company which meant I got paid for some of it when I left. And Darryl was simply lucky to be allowed his 20 days off in one go.
This did however mean that we had no other time off, apart from bank holidays, for a whole year. It’s worth the wait, but bear that in mind when you’re thinking about doing a month-long trip.
When you’re ready to start planning, you need to do thorough research. For example, you might want to visit Thailand in the height of the British summer, but in reality it’ll probably be monsoon conditions at that time of year.
Start off by doing a bit of research on where you want to go to and look at when each destination has the best weather. You may have to compromise on certain destinations if you plan to visit various parts of the world.
We knew we wanted to visit Dubai, Australia and Bali, all of which had great weather in November, so we booked our departure for 1st November 2015.
I say this because we crammed a hell of a lot into four weeks. We literally travelled to the other side of the world, and then moved onto a new place every couple of days. I actually enjoyed the thrill of it all, but it’s not for everyone and you don’t want to leave feeling like you didn’t see enough of where you visited.
So with that in mind, sit down and plan where you want to go, and ask yourself if you’re happy with moving around a lot. If you’re not, you know you need to chop your destination list.
From experience I’d say that two to three countries are perfectly doable in a month, but don’t expect to see even a fraction of the country (unless its tiny). During our trip, we saw a good chunk of Dubai, only part of the east coast of Australia and only a handful of places in Bali.
It’s also worth considering how much you want to plan, and how much you want to leave open. I personally prefer a regimented schedule so I know what I’m doing each day, but that’s not for everyone. Just remember that a month isn’t long, so you don’t have much time to leave open.
Friends of ours had booked a similar trip with STA Travel, so we made an appointment to visit our local store and went in to talk about our options. We ended up booking all six of our flights, all of our excursions, all of our Australia hostels and our Greyhound bus travel in Australia with them.
By booking almost everything at the same time, we had all of our travel information in one big document which made it seamless to coordinate our remaining accommodation and transfers, which we did independently.
We booked our Australia hostels with STA as they were cheap everywhere, but we knew we could save money on our more luxury Dubai and Bali hotels by doing it ourselves. As we already knew our travel dates, it meant we could book our accommodation fairly early on to save money.
We booked both hotels approximately seven months’ ahead of our departure date, both via Booking.com.
This is the fun part, if you’re an organisation freak like me. I created the most extra spreadsheet for our entire trip, to not only help us without travels, but also let our families know what we were up to everyday. The spreadsheet featured columns for:
Each row of the spreadsheet that involved a flight was highlighted in yellow so I could quickly find my flight information. I then had a second tab on the spreadsheet that listed the contact details of every hotel and excursion company during our trip.
See, I told you it was mega!
To help you out, I’ve reworked my previous spreadsheet to create a downloadable template for you to use:
If you’re like me you’ll pack weeks in advance, and that’s what I’d recommend for everyone. Packing for a month in what may be very different climates is not like packing for a week in Ibiza. You’ll need to put your practical head on for this and only take what is essential.
We bought medium sized backpacks for our trip as that is what everybody seemed to be doing when they went off travelling. This is absolutely a good idea if you’re travelling for a long period of time, but to be honest, for a month you can probably get away with a suitcase (depending on your destinations). It’s all down to preference really.
What you need to pack will depend on where you’re going, but below is a rough list for you to pin and follow as a guide:
A few other tips include:
Packing cubes: they’re a game changer, especially for backpacking travel.
Covering up: check the dress code rules for where you’re going, as religious sites will require you to cover up.
Washing clothes: you only need to pack enough clothes for one to two weeks, because you can wash everything throughout your trip (particularly if you’re staying in a hostel or Airbnb).
Do listen to reviews: if they’re poor, consider if you really want to book with that company. It’s not worth risking your health or money for something marginally cheaper.
Book your trip on a credit card: this way if there’s a cancellation or issue with the company, you’re covered.
Be aware of the dangers: but don’t let that take the fun out of the trip. Everywhere in the world has its problems, just keep your wits about you whilst you’re there.
Get your travel insurance the day you book the trip: then if anything goes wrong beforehand, you’re covered. And make sure it’s a good insurance to cover all the activities you may be doing during your trip. Don’t forget to pack confirmation of this, and leave a copy with family.
Pack a first basic first aid kit: a few Dioralyte sachets, packets of painkillers and plasters don’t take up much room and could save you on a bad day. Trust me!
Put your money on a prepaid card: this will save you carrying cash around. But still take your own credit/debit cards as a backup.
Pack a spare battery and enough memory cards: you’d be gutted if your technology failed when you’re on the trip of your dreams.
Wow, writing this post has made me so nostalgic! If I could travel for a month again I’d do it in a heartbeat, but the full time career and pet owner life doesn’t make this an easy option. One day when the time’s right, I’ll get something booked. But where to next..?
If you have any other questions about planning a month abroad, please let me know!
Have you ever travelled for a month or longer? If you could go anywhere for a month, where would it be?