Organizing such a long trip is exciting, but is also a time-consuming endeavor. Pre-Jude, Patrick and I would have grabbed our backpacks and taken off, but with a child we decided to plot our route ahead of time. This gives us slightly less flexibility, but means that we will have to do less planning on the fly with a number of child-friendly arrangements already in place, so we can spend more time relaxing and having fun with our son.

Here are the basics of how we organized our trip, not necessarily in order:

– Buy airline tickets

Once we had an idea of where we wanted to go, I bought round-the-world (“RTW”) airline tickets for the major legs. At first I tried to create the route from an airline website directly, using its RTW trip builder. However, there were so many rules and restrictions that I could not “build” the route exactly as I wanted it. Our zigzagging caused problems – when you buy a RTW ticket from an airline, you normally have to cross particular oceans once (and only once), travel the same direction, fly on carriers within the airline’s partner network, and/or have a limited number or stop or miles you cover. I put together something passable but it wasn’t ideal. At that point I reached out to AirTreks, a travel agency in San Francisco which specializes in RTW tickets.

AirTreks was able to put together an itinerary which was exactly what I wanted, let me zigzag, cross oceans and continents in more than one direction, and fly on any available carrier. AirTreks also told me where we could stop without it affecting the total cost of our ticket (ex: coming home from England, we have a five-night stop in Reykjavik, Iceland – AirTreks told us that as long as we spent fewer than seven days in Iceland, this stop would not add to the total ticket price). The best part? The total cost of all three of our RTW tickets from AirTreks was less than the cost of one ticket I had created on the airline’s RTW website AND our tickets came with comprehensive trip and medical insurance included in the cost.

– Visas

For this part of the trip, we lucked out – but we could have run into serious inconvenience. After selecting where we wanted to go, we had to plan the route – the order of our travels. We decided to follow the good weather – going to Russia and Eastern and (limited) Western Europe in the fall, and then heading back east to India and South-East Asia on November 1.

Luckily, it turned out that we could get a China, Russia and India visas before we left. (Our Russian visas are single entry up to 90 days after issuance, and we had to provide the exact date of entry and exit which were printed on the visa; our Chinese visas are good for a year; our India visas are good for six months; we will get our visas for Vietnam using My Vietnam Visa, a service I read about in the NY Times, which allows you the reserve the visa online, then pick it up at one of Vietnam’s international airports.) If we had planned to go to Russia at the end of our trip, we would have had to get our Russian visas abroad, which would mean giving up our passports for a week or more. Coincidentally, we were going to Russia and China at the beginning of our trip, India had a first entry policy of six months, and Vietnam allows you to make visa reservations online! In Laos and in Cambodia, you can buy the visa at the airport. We are bringing plenty of extra passport-sized photos of each of us – we will need to provide two photos each at the airports in Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia (for the visa). Everything came together and we had enough time to get the visas we needed before we left. If I could do it again, I would carefully consider the visa requirements and entry options before finalizing my route. Phew!

You need six months of validity remaining on your passport to get a visa for most countries. Patrick’s passport was set to expire next spring, but since we’re traveling until January, he got a new one before I started the visa application(s) process to avoid any problems. I had extra pages sewn into my existing passport by the US State Department.

Your child needs his/her own passport and visa – the same requirements as an adult. Both Russia and China did not include on their visa instructions that they needed a copy of Jude’s birth certificate, but I got a call from each during the visa process asking me to send a copy.

– Modes of Transportation

In the first half of our trip, we are generally not flying into and out of the same airport. We are taking a lot of trains – all the way from Beijing to Helsinki and beyond. Before you buy your RTW tickets, make sure you give thought to where you really need to fly, and where other transportation options are better. Think and read about the transportation infrastructure where you want to go. These days, flying can be a real hassle and trains can be a real pleasure. (But not if they’re dirty and unreliable.) We found this website incredibly helpful with our train travel plans: The Man in Seat Sixty-One…

– Medical

Go to your doctor early to discuss your trip because you’ll need shots and medications. I called Jude’s pediatrician to talk about our trip, and she special ordered a shot for Jude to give him at his two-year appointment, and gave him a booster early. She also asked us for information on the strands of malaria present in each of the areas we were traveling to so she could determine which malaria medication to prescribe. We got this information from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. In additional to malaria medication, she gave us prescriptions for other issues we might run into from pink eye and an ear infection to more serious problems. Since Jude is allergic to all nuts, we got extra EpiPens. The pediatrician reviewed the most common problems we are likely to encounter and how to handle them, when to seek outside medical help, etc. She agreed to answer any questions while we’re away, so we’ll Skype with her if necessary.

Patrick and I went to the doctor together. I already had most of the shots we needed, but we didn’t go early enough for Patrick who will need his last course of two shots administered while we’re abroad. We also got prescriptions for malaria and other problems we might encounter.

Our good friends who took an extended trip to India, South Africa and Kenya with their nine-month-old daughter gave us important advice they got from their pediatrician: you can bring and take every medication under the sun, but the most likely serious problem to happen is a car accident. Bring your child’s car seat. Period. When hired cars without seat belts show up, insist on a car with seat belts. In their experience, the car company sent another car with seat belts every time they asked.

– Trip details

We decided to plan about 80% of the specific arrangements for our trip ahead of time. We have our Trans-Siberian Railroad train tickets and many lodging reservations, selected through TripAdvisor reviews, and apartments booked through Airbnb. Obviously, the amount of pre-planning you want to do is a matter of personal preference.

For India and Vietnam, we used Global Base Camps to plan our whole itinerary in those countries. They were very knowledgeable and I really enjoyed exploring the options with them. We decided to plan out those countries ahead of time because there were a lot of specific places we wanted to explore and wanted to be sure we had local contacts to help us with transportation and reservations ahead of time.

In other countries, we will sit back and plan things once we get there.

– Miscellaneous

We opened a bank account with a bank which has many, many branches all over the world where we can get cash from ATMs without any foreign transaction or ATM fees. We have two different types of credit cards that do not charge foreign transaction fees (otherwise, we could pay another 1-3% in fees on what we spend abroad).

We also gave power of attorney to someone trusted at home in case we need to take care of anything important while we’re away.

– Tie things up at home

Since we are moving, we had a lot of things to wrap up. While we planned the trip, we sold our apartment in Brooklyn, went through negotiations on a new house in Vermont, moved all our belongings into storage in Vermont, moved into a sublet in Brooklyn, both worked full-time, and, most importantly of all, were parents to our active little guy!

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