Make a Plan to Travel the World: Take Your Big Trip Workshop at SXSW

Kristin @Take Your Big Trip
6 min readMar 8, 2018


At SXSW Interactive in 2015, I thought it would be hard to have 60+ tech folks heads down for a few hours of dreaming and planning their big trip, but
these mobile-phone, tweeting, maximizing people dove right in — with earnest and curiosity — at the Take Your Big Trip
Workshop at SXSW Interactive in Austin.

We worked together through five topics over 2 hours: visioning the trip,
planning an itinerary, budgeting, analyzing their current life, and finding resources and answering questions. The would-be travelers shared their trips and ideas with the larger group and with their neighbors. I think all were energized by upcoming travel plans and all the big trips that started to form!

What We Covered:
How to Plan a Big Trip: A Step by Step Guide (The Slide Deck)

Questions by the Group
What options are there for around the world tickets?
I like Airtreks with their trip planner and very helpful sales team. I also recommend STA Travel — it’s not just for students!

You can also just buy the one way ticket to your destination. I use or (more Europe-focused) to find the airfares along the way for one way tickets. Then, I buy the tickets directly through the airline for the best possible customer service. I don’t buy all the tickets at once — there’s a luxury in the and serendipity on a big trip that will be sacrificed with immovable travel dates.

What are ways to reduce costs on the road?

  • Time is on your side — stay in one place longer. Moving around costs money.
  • Take the same transportation as locals do, not tourists. For example, take long-haul buses, budget airlines, and trains are much more cost effective than a tour bus.
  • Don’t book tours or hotels beforehand. Arrive in a place, ask around, and then book.
  • Stay in local, family-run hotels or apartments via If you don’t want to arrive at a place without a hotel reservation.
  • Book one night via and then walk around your first day, talk to other travelers.
  • Walk three blocks off the main tourist drag and eat in local restaurants. A caveat to this advice! Remember you are a guest and there may be a language barrier, different service expectations, and food exactly as you like it at home. You need to be a good ambassador and order/point to what’s on the menu and then eat it. If you want English, service like home, and food like home, stay on the expensive tourist street and eat there.
  • Ask for prices before buying or getting into a taxi and and then agree on a price before accepting the service. Once you’re “in” or agreed to the service, you are obligated to pay.
  • Don’t spend more than $50 USD your first day anywhere. If you see something you want really badly, it will be there tomorrow.

What to do if I run out of money?

  • Plan not too with a big trip budget
  • Monitor your finances on the road with the Travel Wallet app.
  • If you find your bank account dwindling faster than you planned on, then stay in one place cheaply and readjust your itinerary until you feel confident you can go off again. You may need to come home early and that’s ok too.
  • If you are really worried about it, then build in working abroad into your big trip.

How do I stay connected?

  • Contact your mobile phone company and ask about/sign up for their international data plans. AT&T allows you to buy international data plans for a monthly fee and you can monitor data usage on the road.
  • There seems to wifi everywhere around the world. Make sure you have a security program on your phone like Sophos. When booking a hotel or a place to stay, I recommend confirming that there’s wifi, but usually you can find it easily in cities. If you’re in the rainforest or on a river cruise, there probably won’t be, but that’s ok. It may be a whole new experience for you to be disconnected!
  • To make phone calls — local or international — use Skype’s mobile app. You’ll need some Skype credit to do so, but it’s pennies a minute. You most likely can’t use your data plan to make local phone calls because the phone automatically connects to the local cellular network (read: expensive). Turn your phone to airplane mode, turn on wifi, launch Skype
    mobile, and dial the local number.

What are ways to be safe?

  • Be aware and street smart. Look up when on the street and don’t check your phone all the time. Your focus is not on the
    present moment and your surroundings when it’s on a little screen.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no/be stern. I don’t recommend talking to strangers who come up to you on the street until you’ve been
    in a place for a while and know the lay of the land. There are many “helpful” carpet salesmen, scam artists, and shady travel
    agents who know you will be nice and afraid to “offend” them by saying “no” or “I’m not interested.” They will lead you all
    the way to an ATM to get more money.
  • Always remember: You can buy tickets at the train or bus station, if it was a national holiday and the palace was really closed, there would be a lot more places closed too, and there are many hotels in town, not just the ones touted at the bus station. The friendly people at the airport who can give you a free night/ride into town also want you to buy a timeshare.
  • Carry cash for the day in your wallet, the rest of everything — IDs, credit/debit cards, etc — in a money belt.
  • Use a door wedge in your hotel room at night.
  • Use incognito browsing on any shared computer. Clear your cookies and history after any use. Do not check banking web
    sites from ANY shared computer or on a public wifi.
  • Use trusted local sources for advice like an official tourism office and not a helpful tour guide. If you buy anything significant with cash, get a receipt with pre-printed business name on it. You can walk away if they don’t give this to you.
  • Don’t go out alone at night unless you are familiar with the place.
  • Unless you are a photographer for National Geographic or going on a rare expedition and once in a lifetime safari, think twice about carrying a huge DSLR and four lenses with you. Or a laptop. It’s like traveling with a child, but more likely to get stolen. There are many digital cameras that are fantastic for amateurs.
  • Buy travel insurance. I like World Nomads Travel Insurance and have I use them for trips I take on behalf of Take Your Big Trip.
  • If you aren’t sure about a country, take a tour for the first week or so. You will have a “soft landing” into an unfamiliar setting and can get to know it before going off on your own.

Some Big Trips We Heard About in the Workshop

  • A family trip through Central America to Ecuador to meet the Dad’s family and end the trip at the Galapagos Islands
  • A family trip through Europe and Africa for a year.
  • A solo trip starting at Glastonbury Music Festival and then traveling overland through Europe to Istanbul.
  • A husband and wife trip to New Zealand, Australia, and Europe.
  • A solo trip to Italy just to “experience life as an Italian.” (Check out the Go Local in Italy post).
  • A solo trip around the world visiting small farms and telling their stories.



Kristin @Take Your Big Trip

Take Your Big Trip (TM) is a resource for mid-career professionals who want to take some time off and travel the world.