Long-term travel offers the opportunity to explore new cultures, gain life experiences, and step out of your comfort zone. But it also requires a lot of planning ahead, preparation and due diligence. The last thing you want is to run out of funds halfway through your journey, or get called about a crisis at home over something you left behind and assumed you wouldn’t have to think about.
Whether you’re planning a gap year, sabbatical, or extended adventure, careful preparation is essential to make the most of your journey. Here are five crucial tips to help you get ready for long-term travel:
1. Set Clear Goals and Expectations
Before embarking on a long-term travel adventure, it’s essential to define your goals and set clear expectations. Are you traveling to relax, learn, work, volunteer, or a combination of these? Knowing your purpose will help you plan your journey effectively. Consider the following:
- Budget: How much you are able to spend will affect your entire trip, so you need a firm grasp of what you have, and how much you should be spending to stay on budget.
- Duration: Decide on the length of your trip. A rough timeline will help you plan your itinerary and ensure you have the resources you need. A one-month backpack trip will require a different level of planning and resources compared to a year-long journey.
- Accommodation: Consider your lodging preferences, such as hostels, hotels, Airbnb, or couchsurfing. You can mix and match these options based on your budget and comfort level.
- Work and Volunteer Opportunities: If you intend to work or volunteer during your travels, research opportunities, and requirements in advance. Double check all requirements, take down deadlines and make note of when you need to submit applications for opportunities you plan to participate in.
- Health and Safety: Understand the health and safety regulations in the countries you plan to visit. Get any necessary vaccinations and ensure your travel insurance covers potential health issues.
2. Create a Comprehensive Budget
Financial preparation is crucial when it comes to long-term travel. Careful budgeting ensures you have the resources needed to support your adventure. When you’re making a budget, you need to consider all of the following:
- Living Expenses: This will include transportation (plane fights can be costly), accommodation (will you be staying at hotels or hostels?), meals, activities, travel insurance and visas. Remember that the cost of living varies from location to location!
- Emergency Fund: Things happen unexpectedly. Make sure you can cover an unexpected medical expense, unanticipated travel costs, last-minute accommodations and other things that might spring up on you.
- Income Sources: Will you be drawing any income at all while you’re traveling? If so, you need to calculate how much you’ll earn on a monthly basis, and you’ll need to make sure you have the time and resources required to complete whatever work you’ll be doing. For instance, if you work online, you may need to pay for access to a mobile hotspot.
- Banking and Currency: Converting money to different currencies and accessing it can be challenging when you’re traveling across the globe. Set up some international banking access, and explore cost-effective money transfer options. Don’t forget to let your bank know you’ll be traveling — if they don’t know, they may assume fraud is taking place and freeze funds when you need them most!
- Exchange Rates: Research foreign exchange rates for the countries you’ll be visiting. Consider carrying a mix of currency and travel-friendly debit or credit cards so you have options.
3. Health and Wellness Preparation
Your health is a top priority when traveling long-term. Take these steps to ensure you’re in good shape both physically and mentally:
- Get a Medical Checkup: Before you travel, visit your healthcare provider and get a thorough medical checkup. Address any pre-existing health conditions and ensure you have an adequate supply of necessary medications. You may need to take special steps to ensure you can pick up prescriptions while traveling internationally, or that you have enough for the entire trip before you go.
- Get Vaccinated: Depending on where you’re traveling, there may be a number of vaccinations required to enter the country and/or stay healthy while traveling. Some vaccines take several shots over several months to complete, so start this process early.
- Travel Insurance: You should invest in comprehensive travel insurance that covers medical emergencies, trip cancellations and other unforeseen events. Read the policy carefully to understand what it includes. You should have enough coverage so that you aren’t left financially strained if you need to visit a medical facility for any reason.
4. Downsizing and Packing Smartly
Packing for a long-term journey is a skill in itself. A minimalist approach will help you stay organized and avoid carrying excess baggage, and avoid having too many responsibilities at home to worry about while you’re gone Here are some tips for downsizing ahead of your journey and packing smart:
- Get Your Housing In Order: Do you have a lease at home? If so, depending on when you plan to leave, it may be worth breaking the lease and putting certain belongings in storage or leaving them with friends and family. An unoccupied rental can be broken into while you’re gone, and if no one is around to check, your belongings left behind may be at risk.
- Take Care Of Your Car: If you are planning a particularly long journey, it might make sense to sell your car quickly, saving you on registration fees and insurance costs for a vehicle you aren’t using. If you plan on returning soon, a friend or family can take care of it — but remember to discuss who is responsible for car payments, car insurance, registration and inspection if applicable.
- Pack Versatile Clothing: When you’re selecting clothes, make sure you pick items that can be mixed and matched. Prioritize comfort, durability and versatility over fashion trends — these will be the clothes you live in for a long while.
- Essential Gear: Invest in quality travel gear, such as a good backpack, comfortable walking shoes, a universal power adapter, and packing organizers. These can make the difference between a hectic, stressful trip spent replacing items, and one that is smooth and enjoyable.
- Toiletries: Opt for compact toiletries where possible. In some cases, you may consider purchasing personal care products locally to save space and weight. After all, anywhere you travel, you’ll probably be able to pick up toothbrushes, shampoo and other personal care products.
5. Plan and Prepare for Emergencies
Long-term travel involves a degree of uncertainty. Being prepared for emergencies is essential for your safety and peace of mind:
- Emergency Contacts: Create a list of emergency contacts, including the nearest embassy or consulate in each country you visit.
- Copies of Documents: Make photocopies of important documents, including your passport, visas, driver’s license, and insurance policies. Store them separately from the originals.
- Local Knowledge: Learn about the local customs, laws, and cultural norms of the countries you plan to visit. This will help you navigate unfamiliar territory with respect and understanding.
Long-term travel can be a life-changing adventure, but thorough preparation is essential for a successful journey.
By setting clear goals, creating a comprehensive budget, prioritizing health, packing efficiently, and planning for emergencies, you’ll be well-prepared for the adventure of a lifetime. Stay open to new experiences, stay flexible, and embrace the journey with an adventurous spirit.