Here’s How To Plan Your First Overseas Cycle Tour In 6 Easy Steps

If the busyness of modern life is stopping you from getting out there on your first overseas bicycle adventure, try following these steps:

  1. Find the next available window in your calendar. Multiply the number of full days it contains by 50. Guard this window with your life.
  2. Choose a nearby country — somewhere new — and book a plane/bus/train to a major city there. (If booking flights, check that your airline is bike-friendly.)
  3. Take your answer from 1, find another city roughly that many kilometres away, and book a return plane/bus/train home. (Use Google Maps to estimate cycling distances.)
  4. Get a cardboard box from your nearest bike shop and pack your bike into it like this. Pack your panniers, tent and rollmat into one of these, and take your bar-bag as a carry-on (if flying).
  5. Arrive overseas and unpack your bike. Meander towards your destination at a leisurely pace. Eat when you’re hungry. Sleep when you’re tired. Do entirely as you feel.
  6. Repeat step 4, having successfully completed your first overseas cycle tour.

* * *

Sleeping by the Swiss lakes

Today I have a few additional thoughts to share with you about cycle touring, one of the simplest and most rewarding forms of travel there is.

Despite what I tend to talk about on this blog, going on an overseas bicycle adventure does not have to involve quitting your job, spending years planning, and then embarking upon a long-winded odyssey of self discovery (though that’s fun too).

Sometimes it can simply mean going somewhere new, nosing around for long enough to unwind fully from daily life, and coming home refreshed.

It does not have to be heroic. It does not have to involve ‘epic’ days in the saddle. Or energy gels. Or lycra.

It does not have to involve hardship, heavy traffic, mountain ranges and continental crossings on £5 a day and with nothing but pasta and stock-cubes for sustenance.

Believe it or not, you’re allowed to have fun on a bike tour. Not the type of fun you later convince yourself you had. Actual, real fun. Sit by the riverside and read your favourite book. Wallow in a state of post-lunch, post-beer relaxation for hours every afternoon. Cook elaborate meals. Eat ice cream. Brew coffee. Occasionally do some cycling.

It does not have to involve telling anyone about it. Do not blog. Sleep in wonderful, wild places that only you will ever know. Meet new people every day. Ignore everyone and everything except what’s happening right here, right now. Leave your phone and laptop at home. I dare you. I double dare you. Throw out your calendar. Spontaneously change your plans, your flights, your life.

* * *


Come to think of it, I should probably get around to doing this myself.

Yes. I really should. I work too hard. I need a break — a break from writing all this stuff about adventure cycle touring.


That’s it.

I’m going to go and ride my bike.

I leave tomorrow.


15 Responses to “Here’s How To Plan Your First Overseas Cycle Tour In 6 Easy Steps”

  1. Senior

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for mentioning British Air. I didn’t know about them so I gave up on getting a reasonable cost from Edmonton, AB. I am going to ride the Rhine River from Mainz to Strasbourg in early Oct. so I am going to buy a used bike in Frankfurt.

    From Strasbourg I want to go to Tuscany but having trouble finding a train ticket to there without going to Milan and then booking another ticket to go to Bologna or Florence.

    Thanks again for the info and advice,

  2. Kenny Fagan

    Now this post is what it is all about. I find myself getting lazy with my planning because I know you just have to take every day as it comes. I am not a very good fisherman. That is why I normally take a fishing rode with me. This gives me a reason to stop and enjoy the place I am at. Do not Often catch a fish but enjoy sitting near water. Must say caught some nice tiger fish in Chora basa Mozambique.

  3. Oliver

    “Sleep in wonderful, wild places that only you will ever know. Meet new people every day. Ignore everyone and everything except what’s happening right here, right now. Leave your phone and laptop at home. I dare you. I double dare you. Throw out your calendar. Spontaneously change your plans, your flights, your life.”
    A double YAY! for this one Tom, love it!!

  4. Simon Dunford

    No pasta and stock cube? I’m not going.

  5. How To Plan Your First Overseas Cycle Tour In 6 Easy Steps | Alastair Humphreys

    […] to read some genuinely helpful practical advice for planning an overseas cycle tour. I asked Tom if I could share it […]

  6. chip barm

    Bike in the box on the way out I get.

    I’m sure you’ll have answered this somewhere…what happens on the way back?

    • Tom Allen

      Same thing, with a slightly bigger language barrier at the bike shop

      • Natalie

        have you ever travelled without a box? Some people seem to preach the merits of just leaving it without any packing (supposedly the luggage people are more likely to be careful with it but I’ve never wanted to risk it)… Then again, I’m not sure I’d want to rely on finding a shop with bike boxes in some of the places I’d like to travel to!

  7. John

    This reminds me of my planning for cycling Vietnam. Wonderful 5 weeks and met so many interesting people and have some really great memories from that trip.

  8. Joseph

    excellent laundry bag idea, thanks

  9. Erich DZ

    Where can I get maps of the regions I want to tour so I can draw the route and make notes on the map prior to going there? I would like to make notes on campground locations, distances between intended stops, etc. The maps will need to be in a small enough scale to be effective for navigation.
    The locations I intend to tour are British Columbia, Yukon, & Alaska.
    Thanks- I appreciate any guidance.

  10. Timothy

    Haha love the article. You make it look simple, and of course it can be! I’ve always considered myself pretty easy going and flexible on my trips, and it’s funny how shocked my parents and other people are by me being “unprepared”: where will you sleep? Will it be safe? How can you be relaxed this way? What if.. What if.. ;D


    The first picture seems like Italy.
    Remember my invitation Tom — I am the italian-american with Iranian wife — and we live in Ostuni, Puglia, southern Italy.


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