How To Plan for a Long-Term Trip
When I first decided that I was going to quit my job and travel for 7 months on my own I had no idea where to begin. I didn’t personally know anyone that had done this before and hadn’t even thought to look at travel blogs. Here is a list that I’ve put together that will help you to get the ball rolling.
Get a Guide Book
After you decide where you want to go and glance over a few online sites to make sure that you are really interested in visiting that place, plan a visit to your local bookstore to buy a guide book. Call me traditional but there is something about books that make me feel more comfortable and at ease knowing that all of the information is at my fingertips. You can also buy these as digital books for your Ipad or Kindle but I like the idea of being able to bookmark a page so that I can easily go back to it at a later time. Also if you find yourself in a place with no wifi, spotty wifi or before a flight where they make you turn off your electronics you can still continue your trip planning.
There are so many guidebooks out there but I like ones that are a little bit smaller, more manageable and less overwhelming. I also prefer smaller ones so that my bag doesn’t get weighed down by books! My go-to guide book brand is Lonely Planet.
Lonely Planet offers a variety of different guide books, but I was most attracted to their new discover series, recognizable by their green covers. Unfortunately they don’t have them for all countries……yet! These books are a little bit smaller with color pictures (always a plus). What I found most valuable about this series is that they offered mapped out itineraries for exploring an entire country. This was priceless for me because it made it so much easier to plan my route.
In addition they include:
- Tear-out maps
- Must-see attractions and unbeatable experiences
- Itineraries organized by theme and length of trip
- “Best of” lists
- Activities for all types of budgets
- Local guide excerpts that provide insights on major attractions
- Accommodation and restaurant recommendations
I wouldn’t advise using their recommendations for places to eat and stay because they are usually sold out or packed and tend to cost more. The books cost around $30 but that is way cheaper than hiring a travel agent to do the work for you.
Research Research Research!
Research is not only about picking out a place to visit but also includes finding the average costs for accommodations and restaurants, day trips, taxis, culture, climate, etc. In addition, research also helps you figure out the time of year to visit certain destinations. For example, it may be cheap to go to the Dominican Republic in June but that is also hurrican season so you want to be prepared for that or maybe save that place for another time.
Recommendations from friends are another great “research tool” because you trust these people. When I was planning my trip to Indonesia I reached out to someone that had just been there. She told me about a little island she discovered while she was exploring. Not only did I go there, but a 3-day trip turned into 10 days and I later returned 6 weeks later and stayed for a month. This place was the highlight of my entire trip and probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever laid eyes on. I never would’ve known if I hadn’t asked my friend.
Not only is research important for figuring out where you want to go but also for what you plan to do once you arrive. While you don’t have to have your days planned out hour-by-hour it’s good to have a few things in mind that you would like to see. If not you can easily get side-tracked in a bar or at your hotel pool and by the time you leave you may not have gotten to see everything that the city had to offer that you probably would’ve really enjoyed.
While researching may seem time-consuming, it is the best feeling in the world to arrive to a place and see in person what you have been reading about for so many months. Not to mention it gives you a total sense of accomplishment and confidence that you got there all on your own!
Make a Budget
When planning to go away for a long period of time it’s important to know if you will be able to support yourself. Based on my research, I come up with a budget and then break it down by day. Each day I track my spendings to make sure I am on track. I will expand on the details of this in a future post to give you a precise way on how to come up with your budget.
While this seems easy enough, sometimes you don’t realize that what you think of as a basic necessities really is unnecessary in the long run. Buying a coffee everyday is so much more expensive then making your own, dining out a restaurant could actually get you a cheap hotel in Asia and that all-inclusive cable that you insist on having even though you only watch TV a few hours a week? Get rid of it! You’ll be so happy you did once you’re on the road and have a bigger bank account just because you made a few minor adjustments your last few months leading up to the trip.
Secondly, continue to save while you are on the road. Before I left on my trip I had a monthly automatic transfer from my checking account to a separate savings account. I decided not to cancel this automatic transfer so that I was still saving during my trip…… even if it was a small amount.
Look in to “No-Fee” ATM and Credit Cards
One thing that I hate spending money are ATM withdrawal fees and foreign transaction fees. It seemed like I was throwing money out the window whenever I used a cash machine during my trip. Not only did my bank charge a fee but so did the ATM machine that I used. On top of that I was charged a certain % based on how much money I took out. I didn’t know about any no-fee ATM cards before I took my trip and really wish I would have. I think I probably spent around $600 this year just in ATM fees alone. When speaking with other travelers I found out that there is a card out there from Charles Schwab that actually pays you back all your “widthdrawal fees” at the end of the month. Unfortunately this is for US residents only. While I don’t personally have experience using this card, the other travelers I met said it worked out great and saved them a lot of money in the long run.
I did however, get a credit card that waived the foreign transactions fees which was a lifesaver in the end, and probably saved me hundreds of dollars. This one had no annual fee and no APR for the first year which was surprising. The only problem is that sometimes places don’t accept credit cards and that’s why getting ATM cards with no-fees are invaluable. There are plenty of credit cards out there with no foreign-transaction fees all you have to do is google it!
Tell Your Banks About Your Upcoming Travel Plans
There is nothing worse than arriving to a country and not being able to access your funds because your bank put a hold on your account for “suspicious activity” when in fact, the suspicious activity was you trying to take out money in some exotic location! I went to France once and forgot to alert my bank and they put a hold on my account immediately. I had to go 48- hours cashless because I arrived over a long-holiday weekend and no banks were open to release the hold on my account.
Make a Packing List
It may sound frivolous but start your packing list a few weeks before you leave. Each time you think of something jot it down. This will help to ensure that you won’t forget anything, especially when you are packing the night before. Once you’ve finalized the list, take a look at it and cut it in half!! You’ll never need half of what you think you do and it gets annoying to carry around the extra weight that you never end up using. Just trust me on this one!
Organize Your Email Inbox
Such a tiny detail with huge advantages! When I started to plan my trip I created a folder in my inbox titled RTW (round-the-world). From here I made sub-categories by country. Each time I booked a ticket, reserved a hotel or got an email from a friend recommending something in a particular country I dropped it in the appropriate folder. This was so incredibly helpful. Each time I got to a country I knew exactly where to look to find flight times, hotel addresses or recommendations.
Get Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is a must when on the road because there will always be times that flights are cancelled or plans get changed. Surprisingly enough, travel insurance is not that expensive! I used World Nomads and I paid around $400 for a 6-month package. What’s great is that you can always add on additional months if you decide to stay a little bit longer!
Take Care of Personal Responsibilities Back Home
In addition to planning out where you’ll be going and what you’ll be seeing in your upcoming travels, it’s also important to think about how you’ll be taking care of personal responsibilities back home.
- Storing Your Belongings
- Automatic Bill-Pay
- Get a Second Savings Account
Storing Your Belongs If you plan on keeping your belongings, start to get price quotes on storage units in advance to get the best possible price. Also think of the time of year that you plan on returning. If you are putting your stuff in storage in the winter time and plan on coming back in the summertime, it’s in your best interest to keep some summer clothes in a place that is easy to get to in your storage unit so you don’t end up taking out all your furniture to find a tank top and shorts!
Automatic Bill-Pay If you have reoccurring bills set yourself up for automatic bill pay so that you don’t have to remember to do this. It becomes difficult with time-changes to make sure you are paying on the correct date in your home country.
Get a Second Savings Account Lastly, I highly suggest that you get a second savings account. This savings account should be difficult to access or better yet impossible to touch until you get back home. This will ensure that you have something to come back to so that you don’t find yourself living like a backpacker in the luxury of your own country. Sometimes finding a job upon your return takes MUCH longer than you’d expect. I’m going to ask you to trust me on this point too!