So you’re finally taking the plunge and traveling long term? Amazing! Get ready for one of the best times of your life. But before you set off, there’s a lot of planning to do. Planning for any trip can be so fun. But there is something even more special about planning for long-term travel. It comes with a lot more considerations than a short 2 -week trip. Having spent more than 14 months on the road, we learned quite a few things really quickly when it comes to planning.
So here are the main things to keep in mind when you decide to travel long-term. We’ve broken it down on a timeline, but obviously, it’s quite flexible. We decided to leave 4 months before our date, so this is more of a general guideline.
6-12 months before
Ask the important questions
There are tons of ways to travel long-term. That’s why it’s important that you ask yourself some key questions to prepare accordingly.
- What’s your travel style going to be? Will you be roughing it or living it up in luxury? Will you stay in dorms or private rooms?
- What’s your budget? This will depend on how much you can save, what you plan on spending, where you want to go and how long you will travel for.
- How are you traveling? Are you going solo, with a friend, or a partner?
- Will you be working as you travel? You can choose to pick up odd jobs, doing a working tourist visa, freelance, workaways or just enjoying life.
- How long do you want to travel for? Is it a few months? A year? Until you run out of cash?
- Why do you want to travel the world?
- What do you want to get out of the experience?
It’s never too early to start saving. Regardless of how you want to travel, chances are the money you save now will help you travel for longer. Your dollar saved will probably go further abroad than it goes back home, so put in the effort and start saving now. Even before you decide to travel, if you can! Here are some tips on how you can save money before and during your travels.
Some important advice that might help you:
- Have a piggy bank account: Basically, make sure you have a contingency that you keep on the side. This is in case things go wrong, or your trip costs more than you think. Because it always ends up costing more than you think!
- Keep money for when you get back: Just like your piggy bank, make sure you keep some money for when you get back. We kept about $2,000, just enough to get things started again. Depending on where you live, and what your situation is, you may need more or less than this.
Regardless of where you’re going, you will need a valid passport. Make sure yours won’t expire for at least 6 months, or longer than you plan to travel for. Check that you have at least 4 empty pages. Also, make electronic and hard copies of your passport and keep them in a secure location while you’re traveling (not in your wallet). And finally, give a copy to your parents or someone you trust.
Start planning your itinerary
This does not mean to start planning every single day of your trip. In fact, we beg you not to do that! Keep some flexibility because itineraries change. What we mean is to start making the list of countries you want to visit. Check when the high and low tourist seasons are, look at the weather (dry vs wet season), look at the cost of living there, make sure there are some festivals happening. This is also going to help you decide what to pack.
Visas & other paperwork
While your checking the list of countries you want to visit, look into visas as well. A few countries don’t need any visas, others you’ll need to get online and some you can get at the airport. Some are more expensive than others, so just make sure you do your research before you head out.
Also, if you’ll be driving in any of the countries you’ll be visiting, make sure to get an international driver’s licence. You may need it to rent scooters in certain countries so make sure you have it done. It’s not that expensive and it’s well worth it.
3-6 months before
Once you have your initial list of countries, make your way to the traveler’s clinic. Get all the shots you need to get. Start doing this at least 4 months before you head out, as some need multiple shots. They will also let you know if you need any medication.
We debate about this all the time, but really, there should be no debate. Just get travel insurance. It is a hefty chunk of money, but it’s well worth it. Our rule is that is your trip is going to cost more than the cost of insurance, you should get it. You can see what you want to have covered, but keep in mind that luggage gets lost, goods get stollen, flights get cancelled. Don’t be stingy on this.
Start downsizing and selling
Depending on if you’re looking to live the nomad life forever or for a determined amount of time, start downsizing and selling what you no longer need. You can start getting rid of things you know you won’t need or miss before you leave right away. For anything else, wait 2 months before leaving to start selling it. You’ll probably need it until then.
You can get rid of clothes, furniture, electronics, kitchen supplies, whatever. You’ll notice as you travel that you get used to having so little so you don’t want to come back to unnecessary clutter. Good sites to sell things on are Craigslist, eBay, and Kijiji. You can even host a garage sale or a private sale for your friends. Some things you can donate to charities.
1-3 months before
About a month before you head out, go get your usual check-ups done. Dentist, gynaecologist, family doctor, allergy specialist, whatever you need to do on a regular basis. Let them know you’ll be traveling for a while and where you’ll be going. They may have important information to give you or medical advice to follow for your specific condition.
Car and real estate
At this point, you’ll need to decide what to do with your car. Will you sell it like we did? Will you break your lease? Put it in storage? These are options you can look into. Obviously, it will depend on what your current situation is and what you expect to come back to when you get back home. Our car was quite old but in great condition, so we just sold it. We know that when we get back, we can get a cheaper lease or use a car-sharing service.
As for real estate, again, it depends on your current situation. We own our condo, so we decided to put it up for rent, and have our parents take care of any issues that come up urgently. If not, our neighbours and tenants can reach us at anytime, so this was not an issue. If you are renting your place, you may want to break your lease or sublet your apartment. Either way, make sure you let your landlord know.
Get gear you need
Sign up to your favourite stores’ newsletters and start keeping an eye on sales. You’ll probably need some gear, so make sure you get them when they are discounted. Even if you haven’t started packing yet, you know what you need to update or upgrade, whether its your photography gear, hiking shoes, backpack, whatever. Just start looking so you have enough time to compare prices, test out some options and get a great deal.
Book your ticket
This is the other exciting thing you’ll be doing. Book that ticket baby! Usually, they say it’s best to book it 3 months before you go, so start looking at prices and be flexible. Check to find the cheapest but most convenient way to get where you’re going.
2-4 weeks before
Quit your job
This is probably the most exciting and nerve-wracking part. It’s time to quit your job! Depending on your relationship with your employers, and what you what to do on your trip, and when you get back, you can look at different options.
- Leave of absence: You can ask your employers to take an unpaid leave of absence. If you know your return date, they can potentially keep your position so that you can return to it.
- Work abroad: We’ve met quite a few people who were able to continue working for their employer as a freelancer from abroad, or as a temporary employee when they need some extra help. If you plan on working as you travel, this is a great option for both you and your employer as there won’t be training required.
- Quit your job: If these 2 options above are not possible, you can just quit your job. Give them enough notice so that they are not stuck in a tight situation. You want to leave on good terms.
- Find new work: If you choose to work while you travel, start looking for contracts you can pick up as you travel. Either you can contact local clients or you can offer your services online through sites like Fiverr.
Let your bank know
This is an obvious one. Make sure you call up your bank and credit cards to let them know you’ll be traveling abroad, and how long you’ll be gone for. This is so they don’t block your cards as you’re on the road. Make sure you also know where to contact them in case they do freeze your account. This happened to us because we stayed on the road longer than we expected. Luckily, we knew what to do.
Power of attorney
Depending on what your situation is, you may want to give power of attorney to a trusted loved one. Because we own property and have investments back home we can’t tend to on a daily basis, we gave power of attorney to one of our parents. This way, if anything were to happen, we had a legally-assigned person to take care of things. This will really depend on your situation, so it may not apply to you. The best thing to do is to call your notary and see what does apply to your specific situation.
About a month before, start packing. Carry your backpack around the house, check that it fits well and isn’t too heavy. Try living with only the clothes you want to take with you. This is a great way to figure out what you still need to get, what you think you need but don’t really, what you can live without and your absolute musts.
Cancel any contracts you don’t need anymore, like your phone contract, electricity, internet, etc. Let them know your last date in country and when you’ll come back, if ever.
Pretty straight forward. Make sure you get your mail redirected to a loved one’s place. Your parents, siblings, BFF, whoever. Just get it sent there.
Say your “see you laters”
This is another one of our favourite things to do. Have a huge party (or 3, like we did) to say Au revoir to all your friends, family, colleagues, and loved-ones. Try to convince them to come visit you on the road. But more importantly, enjoy your time with them. Take pics and videos and keep those memories dearly!
And there you have it, that’s all you need to plan to get going on your long-term trip. Is there anything else you did before leaving on your trip? Let us know in the comments!
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