How to plan for long-term travel

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?

Start saving

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.

Passport

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.

Passports.jpg
You won’t be going far without these bad boys!

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.

Travel map Europe
Grab a map and figure out where you want to go!

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

Vaccines

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.

Insurance

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

Check-ups

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.

Derek after leaving his job for the last time
Last day of work, peace out!
  • 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.

Packing

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 contracts

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.

Redirect mail

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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What to pack for long-term travel: advice & checklist

When it comes to packing for a year of travel, the task can be daunting! After 13 months on the road, we’ve put together our best advice and a handy checklist so you know exactly what to bring

When it comes to packing for a year of travel, the task can be daunting! As if packing for any trip wasn’t scary enough? We always fear we’re going to forget something, or lug useless things around.  After 13 months on the road, we’ve learned quite a few things about packing and what to bring with you, so we wanted to share the wisdom.  Sharing is caring, after all.  So here is our best advice and a handy checklist for you.

Things to consider

Before you start making your personal checklist and starting to pack, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.  These questions will help you figure out what you can do without and what your musts are.

What countries will you visit?

Maybe your list isn’t complete yet, or maybe you have the next year all planned out.  Regardless, make sure you bring clothes that are suitable for the countries you plan on seeing.  Are they conservative?  Very religious?  Highly liberal?  Always dress respectfully and adapt to that culture.

Japanease Alps lake

What seasons will you be going through?

This goes hand-in-hand with the countries you’ll visit.  Are you staying mainly in summer weather?  Will you go through all four seasons, like us?  Are you going through dry or wet seasons?  Your list will greatly vary from one list to the next, so make sure you bring some essential items depending on the climate you’ll go through.

What type of activities will you do?

Are you a beach bum like Derek?  Do you like to go hiking like Carine?  Will you do a lot of city walking?  Will you cab it most of the time?

Wediditourway Roy's peak Wanaka New Zealand

What is your budget?

We’re more middle-budget type travellers.  We don’t mind splurging once in awhile, but we usually stick to a decent budget.  We won’t do dorm rooms, but private rooms in hostels are ok.  We brought sleeping sheets, our pillow cases and bath towels, but if you prefer a life of luxury, you don’t need these.

What kind of bag?

Check-in of carry on?  Suitcase or backpack?  We were going through all four seasons, so we couldn’t fit everything into a carry-on.  But that’s our next packing goal.

Depending on your style of travel, you may be able to work with a good backpack or suitcase.  This choice is really personal.  Regardless of your choice, make sure you pick sturdy and durable bags.  There is nothing worse than having an ill-fitting backpack or having to replace your bag on your trip.  It may be an extra investment at first, but it’ll be well worth it.

Extra tip for choosing a good backpack:  Make sure you give it a good run before you commit.  Pack it up, wear it around the house, try living out of it for a week.  Return it if it doesn’t do the trick.  This will be your home for the time of your trip, so make sure you love this bag!

Best advice for packing

We wanted to share some of the best advice that saved us on our trip.  Again, this is really personal, so just go with what you’re comfortable with.

Pack for a 10-day trip

On a 2-week trip, you can bring an outfit for every day.  When you have to lug everything around for a year, you can’t pack for 52 weeks.  Some people say to pack for a week, but laundry can get expensive and things can go wrong.  Our advice is to pack for 10 days, just to have some extra wiggle room.

Think simple

Derek learned this the hard way.  Don’t go for flashy colours or big bold prints.  Make sure everything matches together.  This will help with laundry and ensure you don’t pack too much.  Also, prioritize colours that don’t show dirt too much, or sweat marks… yeah, those aren’t cute!  And, make sure all the clothes you bring are machine-washable.  It’s a no-brainer, but a life-saver!

Make sure you can layer

In many countries, tropical or not, the weather can change greatly from day to night, so make sure you can layer things.  This is also helpful for religious monument visits (temples, churches and mosques), or certain countries where they are more conservative.

Have a packing system

Derek is the king of organization, so this is his tip.  It’s a pretty good one!  Have a system, so you know where everything is at all times.  Always pack the same way to avoid scrambling to find things.  And keep the daily things close-by and handy.

You don’t need to have everything on you

You can’t account for everything, and it’s not worth lugging things around for months for those “just in case” moments.  You can always buy or ditch things as you travel.  Things (clothing and medication) are often cheaper on the road so buy them as needed.  Also, if you haven’t used something in weeks, chances are, you don’t actually need it!  Donate it to someone who does.

Know what is cheaper at home

Mainly sunscreen and bug spray.  You have more choices (eco-friendly and better quality) at home.  We’re not saying to lug these around for a year, but if you’re going to SE Asia, know you will pay 2 or 3 times the price for these items.  And if you want to stick to a budget, you may want to bring these items with you.

Buy smart toiletries

Buying toiletries for a year in insane, so just buy smart (i.e. less plastic) and travel in an eco-friendly way.  We love the plastic-free shampoo bars, toothpaste pills, and concentrated detergent.  They last longer and are better for you and the environment.  Plus, they help you save money!  Win-win-win!

If you love it, leave it at home

Shit happens a lot on the road.  If you love something, leave it behind, because you might lose it, have it stollen, ruined, whatever.  I really miss my wedding ring, but I’m happy I can go back to it when I get back home.  I’ve heard too many stories of people losing theirs on their trip.  No thanks!

If you can, do a test run at home

This may sound crazy, but if you can do it, DO IT!  Try wearing your packed items for a month (or 2 weeks at least).  Does everything fit ok?  Do your outfits make sense or do you look like a clown?  Are there things you never wore?  At least you’ll be able to make changes to your bag before you go!

Must haves

These are things you should have on you regardless of where you go.  Basically, if you don’t have these, you’re going nowhere!

Travel essentials

  • Passport:  Plus bring a copy or 2, just in case.
  • Travel insurance:  You never know if you’ll need it, but if this trip is going to cost you more than the cost of the insurance, GET IT!
  • International driver’s licence:  In a lot of countries, you’ll need this to rent anything motorized.  It’s not expensive, but totally worth it!
  • Student card:  If you’re young and lucky like that, bring it.  A lot of places offer discounts to students.
  • Cash money:  Always have at least $200 of the local currency on you (well, maybe less if it’s a really cheap country).  You don’t need to carry it with you, but you should have some cash, just in case.  Cause as my dad says “Cash is king”.  Wise words from a wise man, because in most countries, they don’t take cards, just cash.
  • Bank cards:  A debit card to pull money from ATMs, and a credit card.  Make sure you get one with rewards, cause those plane tickets add up!
  • Prescription medication
  • Glasses or contact lenses:  Bring spares if you can.  Like we said, shit happens!
  • Scarf / Sarong Bring 2 of these.  They can double as beach towels, as cover-ups for temples, to cover your head on hikes.  They’re lifesavers!
  • Flip flops Not just for the beach, but for certain hostel showers as well.
  • Day pack:  You’ll need this on hikes, if you’re out for a whole day and need to lug water, a jacket and a camera around.
  • Purse for everyday:  A small purse is great to have.  Make sure it slings around your body, both for comfort and safety.
  • Compression cubes:  These babies are a must.  They keep everything organized and smoosh them enough to make room in your bag.
  • A good book:  Bus rides are always longer and English books are hard to find, so bring one and trade it in when you’re done.  Better yet, get an E-Reader!
  • For the ladies, Thinx:  Depending on your menstrual flow, these underwear will save you and save the environment.  Well worth the investment (plus that link will give you a discount.  You’re welcome!).
  • Laundry line:  Because you will need to do your laundry in a sink at one point, and this little guy will save you!
  • Carabiner:  To put your bag off the floor, to hang up your laundry line, to hook things together.  It’s a small investment, but well worth it!
  • Concentrated detergent:  These detergent sheets are awesome and so practical!
  • Shampoo bars:  We love the ones from Lush Cosmetics!
  • Lifestraw Go:  To save money, to stop buying plastic bottles, to have drinking water anytime, any place.  We love this guy!

Packing list

So here we go, here’s what we recommend you pack.  Obviously, you can personalize this list to where you’re going, how you’re travelling, and your own style.  It’s more of a good base to work with so do it your way.

Clothes

  • Underwear x 10:  Ladies, I recommend a mix of thongs and full underwear, but it depends on your preference.  Also, depending on your menstrual flow, 3-4 Thinx underwear for your period.
  • Bra x 2:  One sports bra and one bralette.  Note: I hate bras now.  I might burn the ones I have back home!
  • Bathing suit / Bikini x 2:  Again, depends on where you go and if you’re a beach bum.
  • Socks x 3-5:  These are easy items to wash, and you can bring less if you’re going around in flip flops all day.  Make sure you bring at least 1 wool pair, just in case!
  • Dresses x 3:  Go for light ones, and bring one long one for temple days (make sure it covers your knees and shoulders).  If you don’t wear dresses, pack an extra top and bottom.
  • T-shirts / strappy tops x 3:  Make sure they match your skirts, pants and shorts. Pack 1-2 dri-fit ones if you plan on hiking a lot.  Guys, go with 5, unless you’re packing dresses.
  • Longsleeve top x 3:  If you’re going through fall/winter months.  Bring one (like a zip-up) that you can wear over the t-shirts so you can layer.  Bring just 1 if you’re staying in warm weather.  It will come in handy in temples.
  • Shorts x 1 for the ladies, if you have dresses.  Bring 3 if you don’t like dresses or skirts.  Guys, bring 3 pairs of shorts.
  • Skirts x 2: One long, one short.
  • Pants x 1:  Go for linen, cause they’re light and pack nicely.  If you hike a lot, bring some hiking pants (maybe those that convert into shorts).
  • Leggings x 1:  Men, bring light chilling pants.
  • Hoodie x 1
  • Rain jacket x 1
  • Packable warm jacket:  This little guy will save you in winter months, and you can layer with other clothes to make it warmer!
  • Flip-flops
  • Sneakers or hiking shoes:  Or both, depending on your type of trip.
  • Comfy walking shoes:  Especially if you plan to hike a lot in the previous pair.
  • Sarong X 2:  You can use them as a scarf, a beach cover-up, a towel. So many good uses.
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat

Toiletries

  • Shampoo / conditioner bars
  • Deodorant:  Or not.  We actually stopped wearing it.  It’s better for you and the environment.
  • Soap bar:  Avoid heavy liquids than come in plastic bottles.
  • Dental kit:  Toothbrush (bamboo ones, preferably), toothbrush cover, toothpaste (in tubes or pills), floss
  • Lip balm:  With SPF, obvi!
  • Nail clippers & nail file
  • Tweezers
  • Comb
  • Hair bands
  • Razor with razor blades
  • Sunscreen:  SPF 30 is a minimum.  We used 50 because the sun is lethal!  And make sure it’s coral-friendly.
  • Aloe Vera / moisturizer:  Perfect after long beach days
  • Makeup:  Only if you really need it.  I packed some, and never used it… and I used to wear makeup every day back home!  This is personal, so bring what you are comfy with.  I had a blush cream (that i used as eyeshadow and lipstick too), mascara, an eye-liner, and lipstick.
  • Contraception:  Condoms and/or pills.  Just be safe!
  • Sanitary towels / tampons / menstrual cup / ThinxWhatever works for you.
  • Sink plug:  To do your laundry in the sink.  Or get a washing bag!

Medical kit

  • Safety pins:  Bring a few, we always lose them and they’re so handy!
  • A needle:  Blisters happen!  And can be vicious in some countries. Ask Carine about her bug bites that turned into blisters in Vietnam!
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Antiseptic cream:  Polysporin is our favourite!
  • Plasters / Bandaids
  • Bandages
  • Ibuprofen
  • Antihistamines:  Especially if you have allergies.  They seem more severe when you travel
  • Oral rehydration sachets (Hello Hydralyte)
  • Antidiarrhoeal (Imodium):   We hate taking meds, but sometimes, you need it!
  • Antacid:  For indigestion or heartburn
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Tiger balm:  This puppy is the best! For when you have a cold or sore muscles, as a repellant against mosquitoes, or as Afterbite, it’s so so good!
  • Baby wipes:  If you must, make sure they’re biodegradable and without scent
  • Insect repellent (DEET 50%)
  • After bite

Gadgets

gear

  • Mobile phone:  Well obviously!
  • Camera and gear: Camera, batteries, 32GB memory card, cables, tripod
  • Laptop:  Go for something light and compact.  We love our 13-inch Macbook Pro
  • Plug adapter:  Get a good one, because this puppy will be your best friend.  Bring 2 even!
  • Power pack:  This guy will save your life.  On long travel days, especially!
  • External HD:  Because wifi isn’t always great and your laptop and phone will run out of space.  Just get one, you’ll thank us!
  • USB stick
  • Flashlight or head lamp:  Always good to have!  We prefer a USB charging headlamp
  • Spare batteries:  Rechargeable is better!

Miscellaneous

  • Travel towel:  If it’s a 2-pack, even better!
  • Sleeping sheet & pillow case
  • Travel pillow:  The ones you can blow up with air.  Perfect for flights, bus rides and long waits
  • Eye mask:  especially if you’re a light sleeper
  • Ear plugs:  because of birds, loud snorers, and noisy streets in big cities
  • Book / E-Reader:  We highly recommend an E-Reader.  English books are hard to come by in a lot of countries, especially that book you really want to read!
  • Safety pin / sewing kit
  • Swiss army knife
  • Waterproof cover for bag
  • Laundry line:  This little guy will save you!
  • Carabiner
  • Concentrated detergent:  These detergent sheets are great for laundry days

So there you have it!  Our this is what we had for a year of travel.  It may not seem like much, but sometimes, we feel like it’s too much.  If you have friends or family meeting you somewhere, like ours did, they can bring and take some items with them too.  Or if you really love some pieces, you can have them shipped back to your home.  Either way, don’t get too attached to things, and don’t stress too much about this.  You’re out living your dream, and you can alway buy or ditch along the way!

Let us know what kind of packer you are in the comments.  Were you able to travel long-term with just a carry-on?


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Discover our best advice and a helpful checklist on what to pack for long term travel. Includes important questions and our best recommendations after 13 months on the road