There’s a big difference between preparing for a week-long trip with friends and preparing for an extended solo trip with no predefined return date. Here’s how to plan it out for a more relaxed and rewarding experience.
Taking an extended trip and engaging in some long term travel sounds like a world of adventure (and it certainly is) but many people are intimidated by the idea of such a trip because of all the planning required and all the logistics of being away from home and on your own—but it’s absolutely worth it. If you’re thinking of taking off for a while, but you’re not sure where to begin with all the planning, these key points will help you streamline the whole process.
Narrow Down Your Ideas
The first thing you should do once you decide you want to go on a longterm trip is to put your thoughts on paper. Do some preliminary planning by merely clarifying the what, where, and when:
- What do you want to do? Do you want to skydive over the Great Barrier Reef or maybe go on a safari to spot sleepy lions in the wild? Do you want to rent a van and make it your traveling house for a few months or perhaps experience life on a tropical island? Make a list of the main activities you want to do on your trip and use them as your points of reference.
- Where do you want to do it? Whether it’s diving at night or climbing a mountain, there are different places around the world where you can do those activities you’ve listed. Do the research and take notes of a few locations where you’d want to go and live the experiences you so badly desire. Remember, these are just options; you will make the final decision once you’ve done all the necessary research.
- When do you want to do it? You don’t need to have a precise departure date just yet, but it’s good to have a rough idea of when you’d be able to leave. This can help you create a general timeline for your plans and set budget goals.
Now that you have a clear foundation for your travel plans, you can start looking for more relevant information. Go through an elimination process until you reach a final decision about your destination(s), your departure date, and your budget size.
Do Your Research: Decide on a Destination
When it comes to longterm traveling, your budget should be the number one concern at all times. If your funds aren’t unlimited and you’re looking to leave sooner rather than later, you will have to make careful considerations about the location(s) that can fit your expectations as well as your budget.
Six months in Australia or New Zealand, for instance, translates to a whole year in Southeast Asia or South America. If you’re just looking for nature and warm weather and your bank account isn’t particularly bountiful, maybe sticking to developing countries is the best option for now.
To keep your mind from wandering into unrealistic territory, use your points of reference to guide your research and start working on an estimate of your travel expenses. These are the main points you should focus on:
- Cost of living: Find information about the prices of accommodation, transportation, food, tours, bike rentals, and anything else you might want to spend money on while you’re there. Look for travel guides, read travel blogs, and join location-specific Facebook groups for expats or tourists to get more accurate information or even make acquaintances before you even get there.
- Seasons: Visiting a place during high season comes with the guarantee of good weather and fun events, but it also means everything is more expensive and there’s less room for spontaneous decisions along the way. Traveling during the low season might not sound as appealing, but it doesn’t mean your experience will necessarily be bad. You just need to set your priorities and decide accordingly.
- Visas: Rules and regulations are constantly changing when it comes to visas, so it’s good to make sure you get the latest information regarding your entry to the country (or countries) of your choice. While some allow you to get a visa on arrival, others require you to sort it out in advance. Figure out what you need and when you need to do it, and add it to your timeline. New to the world of visas? Check out our handy guide here.
Do Your Research: Start Preparing
Once you decide where you want to go, you can begin to prepare for the big adventure. This is probably the least exciting part of the planning process as it entails e-mails, phone calls, appointments, documents, and paperwork, but it’s the most important one.
These should be your focus points during this stage:
- Vaccines: Some governments require you to prove your immunity to certain diseases before entering the country, and depending on the vaccine, you might have to get multiple shots weeks apart before you’re fully immunized. Find out if you need any and make an appointment with your doctor.
- Medication: If you have a pre-existing condition, and you need a prescription, discuss your travel plans with your doctor and get a detailed explanation of your case in writing. You can show it to immigration agents in case you’re ever questioned about the medication you’re carrying with you. Read about the medication(s) you’re taking and find out whether there are any restrictions in the country you’re going to or if it’s even sold there. If it’s not, take enough with you.
- Safety: If you’re traveling to a country not unfamiliar with conflict, make sure to follow political news and stay updated on travel warnings issued by the government. You wouldn’t want to find yourself in a critical or dangerous situation while you’re there.
- Travel banking: Search for the most convenient travel card available to you. They help you save money on withdrawals abroad, support different currencies, and generally provide you with a 24/7 support service. Set it up in advance to make sure you have everything ready to go by the departure date. If you’d rather keep your current card, don’t forget to notify your bank about your travel plans to prevent them from blocking it the moment you make your first withdrawal abroad.
- Insurance: First, you should check if your credit card offers travel insurance. If it does, then you need to find a policy that provides health coverage for the places you’re planning to travel to. If it doesn’t, then you have to scout for the most appropriate and convenient plan that includes both travel and health insurance for the duration of your trip. It might feel like just another financial burden, but you’ll be glad to be covered if you ever face unexpected difficulties along the way. Like they say, better safe than sorry!
- Document backups: Think passport, driver’s license, visas, airplane tickets, bookings, insurance, and any other important documents you will be taking with you. Make printed and digital copies of all of them and keep them somewhere safe. Leave a copy behind with a family member or a friend, and take one or two copies with you—you never know when you’ll be stuck somewhere with no battery or no internet. Also, it’s good to have digital copies on your phone as well as on your laptop, as a precaution.
Time to Start Saving
By now, you should have a rough idea of how big your budget needs to be. Since you now also have a defined timeline, you can start setting monthly saving goals to help you stay on track. But that’s not the only thing you can do to begin feeding your travel savings account:
- Consider your living situation: You’ll be gone for a while, so you need to figure out what you’re going to do with your house or apartment. If you’re renting, you should terminate the contract or find a temporary renter to take over your lease while you’re away. If you’re a homeowner, you should consider renting it out so you’ll be able to cover the mortgage during your absence. You could then ask a family member or friend to check up on the place every once in a while to make sure everything is running smoothly.
- Sell/store your belongings: Depending on your decision regarding your place, you can either sell your belongings or store them until you get back. You can organize a garage sale or sell your things online, which lets you get rid of unnecessary items and make some extra cash to add to your budget. And if you have a car, you can consider selling that too!
- Terminate bills: Take note of all the contracts you’ve got running and decide what to do about each one of them. You can either terminate them or suspend them. Just make sure you do it as soon as possible, as some providers require months of notice.
Talk to Your Employer
If you’re planning on leaving before your contract is up, you’ll have to talk to your employer and discuss your plans. You could either give your notice right away or, if you’re lucky and the job allows it, you could arrange to pick up where you left off when you get back.
Months have gone by, you’ve followed the plan, you’ve sorted things out, and your budget is looking great. With just one month left before departure, it’s time to start slowly packing.
Decide how much you’ll be taking with you and buy the backpack that best suits your preferences. Then, consider the activities you’ll be doing during your trip and buy all the related essentials. Think hiking boots, a headlamp, rain gear, a quick-drying towel, a travel adapter, a portable charger, and a water bottle. The rest is just clothes. Remember to pack light since you’ll be carrying all of that on your back and don’t overestimate the number of things you’ll need—it’s always less than you think. If you’re suddenly missing something, you can always buy it wherever you are.
Now grab your passport, hug your loved ones, and go! This is the beginning of a new adventure.