Route planning might be the best fun for a traveler, or the biggest nightmare. In fact, you have to plan before setting off for an overland trip. But it depends on different things, in which extend.
During the preparations for our trip we had many thoughts about this topic. It all starts with your motivation.
Check your motivation
There are many different motivations for going on an overland trip. Every traveler has his own travel idea. It could be the places you want to visit: e.g. specific national parks, temples etc. Or a challenge you like to master: ride a specific road, cross a pass, hike a trek, drive around the world, raise money for a charity. Some trips are motivated by the dream of a defined final destination: like in our case, Australia.
No matter which specific motivation you have, there are certain possibilities that influence your planning. We identified the following three major ones. You might have to check these for your trip.
Check your possibilities
- Grade of flexibility
- Limit of time
- Amount of money
The three will determine your way of traveling, your preparations and, of course, your route planning. It could be helpful to be aware of your amount of these possibilities. For the first step, you can identify your type of planning with the following graphics.
“Iron Triangle of Route Planning”
While we were thinking about our planning (or not planning), we came to the three major points, mentioned above, that are influencing this. Thanks to Heiner’s consulting job, we gave it the catchy name “Iron Triangle of Route Planning”.
Flexibility, time, money: they are influencing each other and a good balance between them is essential for your planning.
There are many different types. Here you can see three examples and how it influences your route planning. Which one describes you best?
You have no idea of where to go, you are very flexible but also have unlimited time or money.
Don’t plan, it’s not your thing. Just make sure to make all relevant document copies for applying for the Carnet and the visa so that you can get it on the road.
You know exactly where you want to go or your time and/or money is extremely limited: plan everything to the last detail. You do not want to waste time or money on the road for planning.
The common overlander
Most people are in between. Lay out a crude route. Be flexible for alternatives and spontaneous route changes on the road. We class ourselves in here.
Of course, these three examples just show a small amount of the variety of all the different (overland) travelers. it can differ from one travel to the other. In one trip, you might be able to be flexible, in the next one, you have a tight schedule. But it is helpful to have your actual way of route planning in mind.
Besides that, there are some things to consider, as well.
Things to consider
There are more things to have in mind, after you checked your motivation and possibilities.
Some will influence your route, some won’t be important for your specific trip. But it could be worth it, to go through the list point by point and consider the significance and the effect on your planning. Maybe you will come to conclusion that you don’t care about it as you are the footloose, mentioned above. Or you will go on a longer trip, like ours, where it’s hard to plan more than the next country or destination. Then you might go through the list once in a while to prevent frustration.
Long term planning
Places and sights you really don’t want to miss: It would be very disappointing to notice after 500 km that you just missed the temple/museum/hot spring you saw on the pictures in the National Geographic at home.
Usually, we mark the places we would like to see on our paper map some time in advance to have a good orientation on our route.
Best (and worst) travel times: Like climate, political/security situation, festivals and other events. More about that in our blog post about “Time and Travel”.
Visas (and other bureaucratic stuff): Like in our case, in longer trips, it’s not possible to obtain all the required visas in advance. So keep in mind the cities with embassies you can apply for the visas for upcoming countries. We let you know more about that in our blog post about “Paperwork”.
Short term planning
Border crossings: Which borders are closed at the time you want to cross to the next countries? Which are busier than the others? What are the (at least official) opening hours? The border situation is pretty inconstant. So it could be worth it to read the most actual information in travel forums and ask the travelers who come from the reverse direction.
Fuel availability and costs: Unless your car runs of sunlight (and you are driving only in sunny areas) you should consider the fuel availability: size of fuel tank, next filling station, road conditions to there etc. Sometimes you might be able to avoid more expensive filling stations by driving a little bit further or refuel earlier (depending on the region, fuel may be cheaper in urban or rural areas).
Places to sleep: There are areas you probably don’t want to arrive at dusk (border to restricted military area, crowded places, bigger roads where you don’t find a back road for silent camping – and of course the parking lot of Titty Twister).
While we decided to go on a (half) world trip, we already decided our final destination Australia. There are still different ways to go there. Considering the points mentioned above ,we chose the way through Eastern Europe, Western Asia with Turkey and Iran, Central Asia to Mongolia, China to South East Asia.
But in fact, that’s more or less all about our route planning. It won’t be possible to plan what to see and do one year from now – it has to be planned step by step, country by country. We saved some money, so we hopefully won’t be in a hurry. That’s our most important plan for our trip. That also allows us to stay flexible – there will be some closed borders, visa issues and other time-consuming problems (and of course many great possibilities) along our way.
What’s your way of planning (or not planning)? Are you more footloose or correct planner? What do you want to add to our list of things to consider? Leave a comment!