Preparing for Long Term Travel

So you’re ready for the ultimate adventure, whether it’s a two month Euro Trip or a year around the world extravaganza! Notepad in hand, coffee in the other, it’s time to start planning… but where do you begin?

For some of us lucky few, taking the leap and taking that long term trip can be both exciting and daunting plan to put together, with so much to prepare beforehand, it’s understandable to feel overwhelmed, after all we want to ensure our travels start and continue with the best start possible.

Choosing where we want to go can be the biggest hurdle to begin with, particularly when taking into account our budget and of course other important matters such as booking reservations, visa processes and vaccinations.

In reality all it takes is a little time and some organisation skills to get you started.

If you want you can read more about How I spent 3 months backpacking Europe in winter with only a 25L rucksack.

So this is why I put together this guide and I’m going to share with you how to prepare for your long term travels.

Let’s go.

1. Deciding where to go

The world is yours to explore but with so many options where do you begin your journey?

I find the easiest way to tackle this first question by breaking down your trip into categories.

Do you plan to work your way East to West across Europe, or vice versa?

Personally I always recommend working your way West as it is easier and the best way to minimize jet lag. Jet lag includes side effects such as mental sluggishness, sleep problems and disorientation.
For a first time traveler going it alone, this may be the scariest part to beginning any long term trip, so this is something to bare in mind.

Step one:
List your destinations by desirability, the absolute must do’s on your travel bucket list. This is the obvious choice.

From this list filter down your destination choices by creating a second list, only this one being the places you would really like to visit but if you were to miss them, wouldn’t be the be all and end all of your trip.

The reason for this is to be realistic with your time, Yes it is possible to squeeze in four countries per month but would that really count towards actually seeing a country?
Of course this is all down to personal preference, however with any long term trip, travel burnout is a real thing.

Travel is an adventure filled with fun and excitement, don’t bog yourself down with having too much on your plate by rushing around to see as many countries as possible, remember it’s not a competition.

Step two:
A great way to manage your financial budget is break it down. When asking other travelers on the road how they managed to keep within their budget most of them had their own way of doing it by either one of these few examples below;

a) By splitting your budget evenly over 6, 12 or 24 months
b) Basing it on how expensive each country is on their list
c) Or by how long they planned to spend in each country

By putting together a short list of destination by price, this will help you come up with a plan on how much to budget per place/duration and what you plan to see, do and eat of course.

Tip* However bare in mind that some countries may be more expensive than others and in some cases you may not even come close to your monthly budget.

For example: It’s no secret that the US is considerably more expensive than South East Asia.
A $1000 may only last a couple of weeks in New York but the same amount will undoubtedly stretch a lot further in Thailand, even by about a month or so.

Always take into consideration the length of time in which you plan to spend in each location.

2. Study up

Take this time to become your very own destination expert!

Picture yourself in one of your destinations chatting to a local or tour guide, what would you like to know?
Ask yourself what things would you like to see and learn about this destination, are there any off the beaten treasures? Some special events taking place? How would you get there?

By visualizing yourself in that scenario it will put yourself into a deeper perspective on what you would love to get out of this amazing trip.

There are many reasons why people love to travel, here are a few of my personal reasons why –

To experience something unfamiliar
To see the world through different eyes
Experience culture and local customs
Learn a language
To experience culinary specialties around the world

Here are some pointers to get you started on becoming your very own destination expert;

Take advantage of the resources around you such as checking out Travel Blogs and dedicated websites such as Lonely Planet and Condé Nast Traveler for example. Also take the time to connect with other bloggers and travelers who have visited these places. They will be full of useful tips and advice.

YouTube is also the perfect place to find and watch a wide variety of destination guides, documentaries and useful travel hacks. It’s so easy.

Other social sites such as Pinterest and Instagram are a brilliant way to get inspired and discover new places (just don’t be fooled by the over saturated editing)

Introduce yourself to travel groups on Social Media, my personal favourites are Girls Love Travel and Pink Pangea, these are my go to pages for advice and tips, particularly when it comes to solo female travel but there are a whole bunch of other groups to suit every kind of traveler.

So know you have a few places to look, here comes the question, what things would you like to know before you go about your destinations in mind?

a) What will the climate be like?
b) What will the transport be like?
c) What kind of clothing is appropriate to wear and where?
d) What local customs should I be aware of? (Religious/Sacred sights)
e) What special events and festivals will be taking place?
f) What do you plan to see and do there?
g) What kind of food do you want to try?
h) How to travel ethically?
i) What about currency?

E-Reading

If you’re like me and you prefer not to carry tonnes of books and guides then I highly recommend you buy yourself a Tablet or Kindle.
You can purchase and download travel guides to your phone or kindle before you travel and can store 100’s of E-books to your device.
A perfect companion for those long flights and easy to store away.

Apps
Its always useful to download a few apps to help guide you through your travels, here are what I recommend;

AirlinesIdeal and stress free for online check-ins, flight updates and making any amendments. An easy way to keep updated on the go. Many major airlines offer this service now, for example,

Navigation
Citymapper

City Guides – One of my trusted favourites, Citymapper. Citymapper is a public transport app with a built in mapping service to help guide you across many major cities across the world. Recommending the most convenient and easiest ways to get around. If you’re planning a trip to London soon and the thought of using the London Underground scares you, get this app!

Bank App – Online banking is a fantastic way to keep up with your finances and nowadays many banks will offer this service. I would highly recommend you visit your local bank and ask about this.

City Passes – Some cities such as Oslo offer an online (E-ticket) version on their City Pass, other cities include,

Currency and Tipping – Last year I wrote a review on behalf of Gratitude which is a travel resource app packed with useful advice on tipping in local currencies and national food/drink. If you’re a little unsure like me when it comes to tipping etiquette, gratitude will guide you (and even calculate the math for you) easy.

Tourism Boards

Lastly, check out local news sources and tourism boards online of the countries you intend to visit, this is not only useful for events and festivals taking place but a reliable source for special offers, official ticket websites and important updates in regards to any disruption which may be occurring if any. It’s always a good idea to check these out beforehand.

Library

If you don’t want to spend money on expensive guide books (and believe me you’ll thank me for the extra backpack space) Libraries will become you’re best friend.

Its completely free to explore and often stocked with hundreds of books to suit your needs. You can borrow a range of travel books and guides (becoming a member is usually free) and only requires an ID or address. If there’s anything in particular they don’t have then they will be happy to order it from another library nearby for you.

If like you’re keen to save as much as possible before you leave. This is the best free option. Plus who doesn’t like to keep it simple and old-school sometimes.

3. Get an expert opinion

Remember there are people who can help if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, particularly if it is your first time when it comes to booking flights, applying for visas and so on. Travel agents are here to help.

Some useful advice when arranging a consultation with a travel expert;

a) Take your time and ask questions, experts within this field can give you the most accurate and up to date information on world affairs, visa requirements and even hook you up with great flight deals if required.

b) Ask about visa and application costs, a fantastic example of a travel company who do this are STA travel who specialise in student travel and Australian/New Zealand Working Holiday Visas. These guys will guide you through the whole process, from initial application to helping you find work overseas.

c) Enquire about the types of ticket options there are for flights, would you prefer to just book them one by one? Or be interested in a one way multi-flight ticket? Do you plan to travel overland instead?

4. Money

My biggest tip when it comes to money is to overestimate. Set a price goal/budget and plan accordingly by either month to month, length of travel or by how expensive a country is. Which ever suits you best.

Over estimating and keeping a little back up cash will certainly come in useful, especially as you never know when something unexpected may happen, like discovering a new Museum you hadn’t heard of or accidently missing a train connection. Safeguard yourself, it’s always a smart idea to have a little set aside.

Be Realistic

When saving and planning for your long term trip you need to ask yourself, is this a realistic budget? How much do you think will be a comfortable amount?

Everybody’s idea of a budget will vary slightly, this largely depends on where and what you plan to do.

Not only will this include outbound flights and accommodation but another key point is to factor in other costs, by this I mean;

Transport costs in between each destination (will you be taking a train, coach, boat)

Food, do you plan on eating out everyday or will you be cooking at the accommodation?

Will be be staying in hostels, hotels or AirBnB?

Museums/Attractions and other entrance fees.

Tip* Another reason to check out other blogs and tourist boards are to discover free things to see and do in a destination, you don’t always have to splash out.

5. Passport Validity

Most travel resources will tell you to have at least 6 months validity left (after the final day of travel) left on your passport and that’s fine. However for me personally, I would aim for a minimum of 2 years instead. Why?

Well, if you plan to travel for a few months and decide to extend you’re travels or decide to apply for your second year Working Holiday Visas then you’re already covered.

Tip* Most countries will not allow travellers to enter unless their passports are set to expire 6 months after the final day of your travels to their country.

If you only have a few month left on your passport, apply for a new one as soon as you can. When booking your plane tickets, you will be required to input your passport details when adding passenger information. This is often required before online check-in.

6. Important Documents

It’s time to gather all of your documents which you will need, here I will provide a list;

a) Passport – Original and photocopy (physically or electronically), in the event of your passport being damaged or stolen you can present a copy to the relevant Embassy/Authorities

b) Vaccination Records – Dependent on where in the world you travel, an original and a photocopy (physically or electronically) of your vaccination records will be required to enter certain countries which could pose a risk.

c) Insurance Documents – These are an absolute must as they will cover medical expenses as well reimbursement cover for stolen goods. Again keep a copy either on you or electronically so you can access online or in your email if needs be. Keep a note of your policy number.

d) Visa Documents – Always research any necessary visas required for certain countries online, you can either speak to a travel expert or check out the visa requirements online. Visa rules and the length of stay allowed in a particular country may alter your travel plans slightly.

e) Doctors note – For any medical conditions or prescription medicinapes you may need to take with you.

Tip* Photocopy important documents. Keep originals on you in person and spare photocopies separately. Be sure to leave digital copies with someone you trust in the event of an emergency who can access your account/details. Alternatively you can store them to your email so you can access them online yourself.

7. Medical

Prescribed Medicines

If you require prescribed medicine whilst abroad be sure to set up an appointment/consultation well in advance with your doctor. Tell them your travel plans and which countries you intend to visit and duration of your travels. This way you can plan special arrangements for extra medicine and/or pick up points in your upcoming destinations.

Please note that some countries may have rules and regulations about certain types of medicines in which can be taken into certain countries so be sure to take a look on their official Government Websites beforehand.

It is advised to keep a copy of your prescriptions and an official letter from your doctor when travelling and passing through customs, this should detail the name of said prescribed medicines and your reason for this medication.

Other tips to consider are;

a) Ensure your prescribed medicines, diabetic syringes and so on are correctly labelled.

b) Pack spare supplies safely in your hold luggage.

c) Keep your medicines in your hand luggage

d) Always ask advice from a medical professionals on how to safely store your medicines if they are to be kept at certain temperatures.

e) Inform Customs officials that you have prescribed medicines and show them your Doctors letter, as some medicines may exceed the 100ml limits.

Travel Vaccinations

Don’t leave this to the last minute, set up an appointment with a Travel Clinic, GP or practice nurse and inform them of the countries you plan to visit. Be thorough with locations and duration as this will best equip you in terms of taking the right vaccinations/tablets and precautionary measures.

It is highly recommended that you get yourself vaccinated and covered aroud 12 weeks before your due travel date. Book in advance to ensure you get that appointment in time.

Tip* If you are from the UK some travel vaccinations are free on the NHS providing that your practice offers travl vaccinations, for example; Typhoid, Cholera and Hepatitis A

However always ask beforehand as some clinics/private GP’s may charge for this service and prepare to pay at least a few £££ if so.

7. Setting up your Mobile/Cell Phone

Before you set off on your travels take the time to get you phone set up, keep yourself if contact with family and friends back home.

Here are some pointers to remember;

a) Get your phone unlocked.

b) Set up online bill-pay with your phone provider to help you keep up with payments on the go. I decided to set aside enough cash in my backup savings account to pay and keep up with my monthly payments whilst away. I would use the app to to keep up with how much I was using. (Which to be honest wasn’t a lot as I took advantage of wifi most days)

c) Get your mobile/cell phone unlocked and purchase some local pay-as-you-go sim cards for each destination, often cheaper than paying international roaming charges.

Or if you prefer…

d) Set up unlimited roaming with your network provider and have it capped.

e) Purchase a Universal Charger or USB to charge you phone, many hostels now include USB charging ports as well as universal plug outlets, failing that you can use your laptop or portable battery.

8. Set up a meeting with your bank

I recommend setting up a meeting so you can organize a few matters in one day.

Make sure you inform your bank that you are travelling. If not, once you start using your card abroad your bank may see this as unusual behaviour and freeze your account, thinking your card has been stolen. Tell them so this doesn’t happen!

Here are some other useful tips;

a) The easiest way to keep track of your money is via an online banking app.

b) Keep a secondary account and card if you must. Like a back up savings account in case anything goes wrong. That way you can transfer money across to your spare account. (Just be sure to keep to cards and money separate so if you do get robbed you have a backup)

c) Sign up for email bank statments, your bank will be able to arrange this with you.

9. Money/Currency Exchange

If you’re planning on getting set up with travellers cheques, don’t.

Be sure to look up the prefered method of payments to the coutries you intend to visit as some places prefer cash, over card and vice versa.
For example – when travelling around Europe I opted for a variety of both and got myself a few Thomas Cook Cash passports, they are super simple to use, where all you need to do is go in branch and apply for one, the next step is to load them with your X amount of money. That way your avoiding transaction fees from using your debit/credit cards abroad, which believe me certaily add up.
You can get them for both Euros and US/CAN Dollars.

If you would like a more detailed post on how to travel on a budget and extend your travels, check out my post on here.

10. Accommodation

Here I will share some previous posts in regards to acommodation.
Since my favourite go to for accommodation is hostelling, i’ll share some links to convince you here:

My favourite Hostels in Europe

Why every Traveller should work/Volunteer at a hostel at least once

Making friends in hostels, even if your anxious.

11. What to take with you

Pull out our packing checklist or, if you want to travel light, never fear–turns out a backpack may be just enough baggage for your round-the-world trip. Use these pieces to pick up the items you’re sure you can’t live without, and discard the rest. When it comes to luggage, less is usually more.

• Start packing! Grab everything you’re taking with you and take inventory. Keep that list with you throughout your trip so you can keep track along the way. This will help keep your baggage within airline weight and size limits and also let you know right away if you’ve lost something.

Dependent on where you plan to travel can slightly alter what to bring with you, make a mental note of all the places you intend to travel. Are they primarily tropical destinations? Will you be travelling in winter? Do you plan to visit any religious landmarks? and so on.

My go to Hair and skincare products for the backpacker on the go.

12. Gadgets

Tip* Your clothes can double up as extra padding to protect items such as your laptop/kindle and charging outlets.

Here’s a list of gadgets you may wish to take, some items such as kindles and selfie sticks are completely optional however.

a) Mobile/Cell Phone

b) Camera (including spare battery/charger/lens)

c) Go-Pro

d) Universal Charger

e) USB Charger

f) Laptop, Netbook or Tablet

g) Kindle

h) Selfie Stick

13. Toiletries

Only take what you need for the time being for example toothpaste, these items are pretty straight forward to find and stock up on so don’t overload yourself. Plus, liquid limitations at the airport!

Here’s a quick post about some of

Tip* Have you considered purchasing an all in one shampo/conditioner bar? I bagged mine from Lush, they’re compact, super affordable and you can get up to 80 washes per bar. Pretty neat.

14. Remind family and friends back home that you’re safe

Now for a mom moment, be sure to keep in touch with family and friends the best you can back home, now I’m not saying that you need to videocall or email everyday but letting loved ones know where you are from time to time will keep peace of mind for everyone.

If you’re planning to be away from wifi (ie; camping/wilderness) where connection may be scarce, let folks know beforehand so they don’t start panicking and sending out a search party for you.

15. Before departure
So you’re almost ready to go and there’s just a few days left. You’ve celebrated with friends and caught up with family, now it’s time for the adventure.

Here are a few final checks to make sure you are ready and good to go, ensuring a good nights rest before you leave.

a) Double check your bag/backpacks weight and measurements, be sure to check out the airlines liggage limits in which you are travelling with. The last thing you need are any extra charges for exceeding your limits.

b) Read over any reservations you have booked, you can always message the accommodation beforehand to doubke check you’re all confirmed and ready to go.

c) Be sure to check-in online, plan your route to the airport and go online and check for any traffic delays/distruptions, this will allow for time to create a back up plan just in case.

d) Check your flights departure times online and keep an eye out for any changes if any.

e) Set your alarms early to allow yourself plenty of time.

f) Don’t forget your passport and the all important documents!

16. Just for fun

Set up a Travel Blog or Instagram account to document and remember your journey and store your photos.

Load up your Kindle/Tablet with inspirational travel books to get you excited.

17. Other Useful Websites

Omio (Formely Go Euro) – http://www.omio.co.uk – For price comparisons on flights, trains and coach travel throughout Europe.

Skyscanner – www.skyscanner.net – My one stop for flight comparisons

Gratitude App – For tipping etiquette and advice.

Lastly, I hope you find this post useful – I understand there are a billion of posts out there regarding this topic.
However i’ve included some extra tidbits from other posts to get you started and on your way to planning the mosts epic adventure.

I hope this post finds you well and I wish you an excellent trip – no matter the duration.

HAPPY TRAVELS XO

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