Wanderlust is a powerful force. It drives many of us to aspire to travel as much, as far, and as wide as possible, whenever possible. And while it’s a glorious and enlightening feeling, you also need to know how to prepare for long term travel so you don’t get stuck in a travel snafu while abroad.
When you’re heading out on an extended trip – or just packing up and traveling indefinitely – it takes a little time to prepare for your adventure. There are many things to consider to make sure you’ll be comfortable, stylish, smart, and safe while on the road. The key is stating to prepare early so you aren’t scrambling at the last minute and may forget something, or find you don’t have what you need.
Here are a few things to consider before packing up and heading out.
Save up and get your finances in order
Before you can pack up and head out for an extended period of time, you need to have a money plan. Maybe you’ll be making money while you travel, but more likely you’ll need to have saved up for at least part of your trip. Some Visas require you to show at least $10,000 in your bank account before they grant your entry, so be prepared to provide evidence of that if needed.
There are many ways to save up for a big trip. I outline my saving method in this post, which should get you to the $10k mark fairly quickly (on autopilot!), if you commit to stepping up your savings-game and eliminate any unnecessary spending.
You’ll also want to account for any recurring payments while you’re gone, like car, rent, insurance, loan payments, utilities, etc. and make sure you have enough to cover them, and set up automatic payments. You shouldn’t count on reliable wifi connections, even in developed countries. This could be a costly mistake if you don’t set up automatic payments.
No one thinks anything bad will happen to them, but with long trips there are circumstances that are beyond your control. Your train could be delayed that results in a missed flight (this almost happened to me in France), and travel insurance would cover the cost of the flight and possibly an airport hotel as well. Another time, my backpack with all of my belongings were stolen on a bus in Costa Rica. I did not have travel insurance, but many people told me if i did, I’d get reimbursed for the value of my stolen things.
There are many other situations where travel insurance could save you a lot of headache and money. Just one hiccup in your plans and the travel insurance will likely pay for itself. Many travelers recommend World Nomads Travel Insurance, but there are other companies that offer it as well.
Some countries require vaccinations, and in others they are recommended. In either case, make sure you schedule your vaccination prior to arrival. Leave plenty of time before your trip begins to book your travel clinic appointment, as some vaccines are given in multiple doses, or can’t be given at the same time as other vaccines. The CDC website is a great resource to see which vaccinations your need or are recommended.
Passport and Visas
This is self-explanatory, but you ned to make sure you are legally allowed to enter the countries you are visiting. For many countries, this means getting visas a few months in advance. Every country has different visa requirements based on your country of origin, so check with your country’s website for what the requirements may be. The process can take a few weeks, so make sure to get an early start.
Your passport also needs to be valid 6 months after your last flight. Often, if it isn’t you wont be allowed on the plane and you’ll need to renew your passport while abroad. Avoid this hassle and make sure your passport is updated!
Schedule Check-ups Before Leaving
Before you leave, schedule check ups with your doctor and your family dentist at least a couple months before leaving, to make sure everything is is good working order. Leave enough time so you can have a cavity filled or any follow-up appointments before you leave.
Pack for the Climate and Activities
Check the weather for the time of year of where your traveling. Just because there are palm trees doesn’t mean it will be hot! Layers are a must when packing for travel to various climates, as you’ll encounter drastic temperatures inside and outside. Also consider what activities you’ll be doing: Hiking? Museums? Casinos? Bar hopping? Diving? Horseback riding? Bring clothes that are dual-purpose: they look nice and will be comfortable and appropriate for your activities. For some inspiration, check out my curated 20 piece travel capsule wardrobe.
Pack Carry-on Only
You can save a lot of time and hassle in the airport by packing everything in a carry on bag. You’ll never risk lost luggage, and you’ll have everything you need at all times. Plus it’s a lot easier to navigate busy cities and tight subways with a smaller suitcase of backpack. I like to opt for a carry-on convertible backpack like this one, so I don’t have to roll a suit case over cobblestone streets or up lots of stairs.
Having trouble fitting all your “must have” items in a carry on? Create a capsule wardrobe to cut down on excessive outfits, and make sure everything matches everything else to increase the number of different outfits you can create with a limited wardrobe.
If you’re a shoe-person like me, make this the ultimate exercise in self-control and limit yourself to only 3 pairs: nice-looking sandals that can get wet, waterproof walking boots, and stylish hiking sneakers. I just tell myself that I’m making room in my suitcase so I can buy shoes abroad. 😉
Also bring along a couple combination locks: One to use on your bag, and one to use on your hostel locker. I recommend combination locks because I lost the key to my locker in Costa Rica and had to saw the lock off my hostel locker door to get my things. good thing the hostel had a metal saw from the last time someone lost their locker key! It’s, apparently, pretty common.
First Aid Kit
First aid and sun safety might not be high on your packing list, but it’s highly recommended if traveling for an extended period of time, and especially if you’re traveling with children. Adding a few things to your suitcase can mean the difference between being comfortable and being miserable. Foreign water and food sanitation are notorious for causing digestive issues in travelers. And days full of walking can cause painful blisters. Here are a few recommendations of what to bring so you can keep your adventures rolling:
- Motion-sickness medicine
- Anti-diarrheal tablets
- SPF Chapstick
- Bandaids and Blister pads
- Antibiotic cream
- Cortisol cream (for bug bites)
- All-purpose Soap
Many countries, especially in Europe, have pharmacies that can sell medications to foreigners. Just walk in, explain your ailment to the pharmacist, and they’ll give you a miracle drug that costs like $6. I had to do this when I had a sinus infection in Portugal and within 24 hours I was back in action. A much faster and process than if I needed medicine in the states!
Of course, many supplies can be bought abroad – after all, people LIVE there too! People, who are just like you and me. They have basic amenities, clothes, toiletries, medicine, etc., that you can purchase along the way if you forget or lose something. It’s always better to under-pack and buy a souvenir than to lug around extra weight on the road.
Do you have any tips on how to prepare for long term travel? Leave your advice in the comments below.. & Happy travels!
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