So you’ve decided you’re ready for long term travel! Maybe you’re jetting off to explore Europe for a few months. Perhaps you are getting ready to study abroad in Chile or about to head to Thailand for some backpacking, a gap-year or a work-abroad placement. Whatever the deal may be, there are some key things you need to do before you leave. Some of these may seem obvious but when you’re getting ready for a big trip it’s always nice to have a checklist, so here’s how to prepare yourself for long term travel.
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This is definitely the most obvious step to getting ready for any big trip. However I still can’t stress how important this is. Check the expiry date on your passport and make sure it will not expire before you will be leaving the country you are going to. Your passport is your lifeline while abroad so make sure that when your passport is with you (in airports, traveling from one hostel to another, etc.) that it stays on your person. Invest in a money belt for security and peace of mind.
I’m not talking about credit cards here. If you’re going somewhere for a long time chances are you are going to need a Visa of some sort or another. In fact, some countries may even require a Visa just to enter the country (depending on where you’re from). The Visa you need to get will depend on the type of traveling you will be doing. For example there are Visas for studying abroad, working abroad, and just visiting.
If you’re going away for a long time, travel insurance can be expensive. Buy it anyway. Trust me on this one. One time while backpacking through Thailand I got really bad food poisoning that led to an infection. I had to stay in a hospital on Koh Phi Phi overnight and I am so grateful I got travel insurance. That hospital visit would have been over $3000 CAD for me if I hadn’t purchased the insurance. Insurance will allow you to visit the hospital or doctor’s office if you get sick or injured. You really never know what can happen while abroad and it’s not good to take any chances, especially when you could put the money from a doctor’s visit like that to future travels or fun activities on your travels. I often get travel insurance through TuGo, but if you’re not sure where to get yours, check out this review of some of the best travel insurance companies out there.
No one wants to get sick abroad. That’s why it’s super important to visit a travel clinic when you go abroad. You may need to get some injections or oral medications to take depending on where you go. Some places may be hot spots for malaria or other diseases and infections and it’s important to be protected against these. Plus you can also get medicine to prevent against travelers’ diarrhea which is super common. I know… Pretty exciting stuff.
Check out your home country’s embassy website to see if there are any travel warnings concerning the countries you will be traveling to. Do some more online research to see if there are any neighborhoods or areas that are considerably dangerous and should be avoided. Consider buying a Guidebook for the country you will be visiting. I personally really like Lonely Planet Guidebooks. Above all else use your common sense when abroad.
Get your cell phone unlocked before you jet off on your big adventure. Getting your cell phone unlocked will allow you to purchase a new SIM card when you get to your destination. This means you will be able to text and call any new friends you make while abroad. You also won’t have to worry about keeping ‘Airplane Mode’ on all the time so you don’t acquire roaming fees.
It’s often much harder to unlock your cell phone while abroad than while you’re at home. You can get your cell unlocked at many cell repair shops or by calling your service provider. Just make sure you tell your service provider that you are wanting to get your phone unlocked because you are traveling abroad. If you don’t do this your service provider may think you are wanting to simply switch providers in your home country and, not wanting to lose your business, they may make you jump through some ridiculous hoops.
I used to have to do this before every trip but now my bank automatically updates my location for me. I don’t know how they do it but they do. However your bank may not do this so make sure that you check so you can notify them about your trip. It’s also a good idea to look into which bank machines you can use abroad (some will not work for your bank card). Make sure to check currency conversions and get a little cash changed before you go so that you don’t have to exchange it in the airport when you get there.
I currently have some medications that I need to take daily to manage anxiety and asthma. Before every long term trip I make sure to go to my doctor’s office and tell them I’m going to be traveling for X amount of time. This way I can renew my prescription for however many months I will be gone. When packing my medications I always make sure to put half of them in my checked baggage and half in my carry-on. That way if I get to my destination and lose one of my bags then I still have a hefty amount of meds I can use until I figure out how to get more whilst abroad.
Obviously if you are going out of the country and not planning on taking a train or bus, then you are going to need to book your flights. I find that booking my flights early often saves me a ton of money. It’s always a good idea to check prices on different websites and compare them. Below are some of my favorite websites for finding cheap flights:
No matter where you go you are going to have book a place to stay. If you’re planning on moving around the country a lot then your best bet will probably be to book hotels or hostels depending on your budget. Personally when I travel I prefer to book hostels because they’re a great way to meet fellow travelers from all over the world. If you will mostly be staying in the same place during your trip then it will probably be better to rent an apartment. Some of my favorite websites to book cheap rooms are the following:
Research what the weather will be like when you go abroad. When I first left for a semester in Chile I stupidly assumed that because it was in South America that it would be hot or at least warm most of the time. When I arrived I ended up having to purchase more sweaters and scarves since I arrived in Santiago’s winter season. I did get to enjoy hotter months as well but those first few days without the right clothing were so cold!
Also make sure that you don’t overpack. If you’re going somewhere for a long period of time you are probably going to end up going shopping and accumulating a lot of pretty clothes and souvenirs. A good way to budget some extra space is to place an object (like a rolled up sleeping bag or pillow) inside your backpack or suitcase and then pack everything else around it. When you’re done packing take the pillow or sleeping bag out and you will have extra room for souvenirs. I am such a souvenir sucker on long trips so I often end up rolling up an extra duffel bag into my backpack and bringing it with me. That way I have more room to take all my souvenirs and gifts home on the way back.
Traveling, especially for a long time, is super fun. Get yourself pumped up for your upcoming trip! Check out what other travelers and locals have to say about where you’re going. Go on Pinterest and make a board of ideas for your upcoming trip. You can use this to find out where the best restaurants, tours, sights and activities are. If you identify as a female then request to join the Girls Love Travel Facebook Group so you can ask other travelers where the best spots are or even just to make friends before you go! Something else I like to do before I go on a big trip is to make sure I have a travel journal that I can paste photos, ticket stubs and magazine clippings into while I’m there.
I sincerely hope this list helps you as you get ready to jet off on your big long-term adventure. I’m so excited that you’re getting out there and exploring what this wonderful world has to offer. If you have any other before-you-go tips, questions or want to share how this list may have helped you, please let me know in the comments!
April is the founder and main author for Just Leaving Footprints. She has written for numerous blogs and publications such as Explore Magazine and Snow Pak. April loves writing about sustainable tourism, and promoting other sustainable travelers on her Facebook Group and Instagram Community, Ladies for Sustainable Travel. Currently, April is living and teaching English in Mexico City with her husband Arturo and they don’t plan on stopping their travels anytime soon.
Earlier this month my husband and I got married at the beautiful Barceló resort in…June 30, 2018