Long Term Travel Checklist: The Guide BEFORE You Go

Long-term travel is a big commitment. It’s more than packing a bag and buying a plane ticket. Read my list of logistics (one year in the making) to ensure you, and the things you care about, are prepared.

There’s something to say for spontaneously hopping a flight to a foreign country. Nothing but the clothes on your back and money in your pocket, right? But there’s also something to say for having to spend thousands of dollars to return home and resolve something unfinished. Or your phone, bank account or body failing with no one to help. Bloggers and Instagram feeds lead us to believe that long-term travel is heaven; a forever vacation. But it’s not (…entirely). Long-term travel is a lifestyle change that takes a bit of work and preparation to be successful. These tips could make all the difference in your time and comfort on the road!

You can download a version of this checklist here: Checklist for Long-term Travel.docx

Task Overview
Determine “Why”
You’re Leaving
First and foremost: determine if you’re leaving for the right reasons, and have a strategy going in. Read my post, Thinking about Sabbatical? Consider These First!
A big part of traveling is managing your money responsibly. Ask yourself, what type of travel do you want to do? For how long? In what countries? From there, develop a savings plan with monetary goal and deadline. Cut your living expenses wherever possible, be strict on your spending and sell what you don’t need.

MY BUDGET: On average, I can survive on $1.5K/mo. That’s through budget accommodation/transportation options, minimal superfluous spending, and cooking often. There’s a lot of time and effort put into budget traveling, so anything is excess would help.

Educating yourself on visa requirements is essential. Many countries require visas be obtained from your home country rather than on arrival. Expect delays and start the process EARLY! Trust me on this one.

MY EXPERIENCE: I started my visa process ~3 months early with a 30-day quote. It took the embassy and processing servicer 3x that duration. After 3 months of arguing, 3 passport photos, 2 processing centers, and a cancelled passport, I received it and my visa less than 24-hours before my indefinite departure.

Like visas, you’ll need to consider what countries you’ll be visiting for vaccinations. Common vaccinations cover most mainstream destinations, but there are exceptions. In some cases, you’re required to have your vaccinations “X” months before departure, so schedule early! This will also ensure you don’t get negative side-effects from the medicines.
Ensure you’re in full health before going overseas. Physicals are quick and covered under most insurance plans (or free clinics). These will minimize your risk for surprises, which are a different ballgame when seeking medical attention in a foreign country.
Do you take medications regularly? If so, request multiple refills from your doctor (this applies to vitamins too). Also speak with him about an oversees plan when that supply runs out.
Now, the fun part! Read my post on RTW travel gear, Packing List for RTW Travel: What’s In My Bag.
Renew IDs
Often forgotten, IDs do expire. Ensure your driver’s license, passport, etc. are renewed long enough for you expected stay.
Taxes, we can’t escape them! Ensure your taxes are up-to-date and organized for the upcoming tax year. You can request electronic delivery for future forms, or, use a virtual mail system. This will save a huge hassle when filing oversees.
Travel Insurance
A mantra for travelers, “If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.” All it takes is one mishap to put you in debt for life, which isn’t worth a few hundred bucks now. This task should take most of your time to research. Speak with representatives directly, or, work with a broker who oversees multiple providers and isn’t biased toward any one company. Make sure you’re covered for “adventure sports” which aren’t normally included under base plans. Consider return coverage for temporary (or permanent) returns home. And finally, if a U.S. Citizen, research how the Affordable Care Act will affect you.

MY CHOICE: I decided on IMG’s Patriot International Plan. It’s less than $50/mo and covers accidents and emergencies (no preventative, dental or vision). This, however, doesn’t classify as a primary, so I’ll likely get slammed with a $700 penalty come tax season (ACA). Still, this is less expensive than the primary option.

Property Insurance
It takes one accident or thief to put you out thousands of dollars. Ensure your valuables are protected: laptop, tablet, camera, phone, etc. Review the international claim process meticulously. In some cases, your new unit must be mailed to a domestic address (where a friend could forward it), but that could still be cheaper than buying a new unit outright.

MY CHOICE: I couldn’t find any insurance provider who would cover cell phones (due to today’s payment installment plans), so I went with my provider’s offered insurance. For property insurance, I chose State Farm whose annual plan covered a couple grand in gear for less than my monthly phone bill.

Phone Plan
Let me start by saying that I pay the same amount for my international plan that I did for my domestic plan. You want something with easy communication back home in addition to international calling options. For some travelers, you don’t need a plan; a phone and wifi will suffice. I, however, use my data tirelessly outside of signal (…or bad signal) and want to be covered for emergencies.

MY CHOICE: After a 10-year alliance to Verizon, I switched to T-Mobile’s Simple Choice Plan. It provides unlimited talk and text to the U.S., pay-per-use international rates, and 2GB LTE + unlimited 2G/3G data. Between this and messenger apps, I’m covered!

Credit Card(s)
Free money! Need I say more? Rack up points and use them to extend your stay. Research plans for your type of travel and let the bonuses roll in.

MY CHOICE: Chase Bank Sapphire. It offers 20% off travel when booking through Chase.com, 2x points on travel purchases and restaurants, and 0% foreign transaction fees. In my opinion, it’s the best travel credit card out there.

I can’t say the same for Chase’s debit cards which haven’t adapted to international needs. I currently pay $5 withdrawal fees which is a huge nuisance in countries with additional ATM fees and withdrawal limits. (Have a recommendation? Leave it in the comments!)

Recurring Payments
If you’re planning to sabbatical, you should be doing this anyway! Cancel unnecessary expenses immediately. During the time you’re gone, you can take it a step further: cable, internet, streaming services, car insurance, etc.
Track Valuables
One of the easiest ways to deter loss/theft is tracking apps on your laptop, tablet and cell phone. Apple’s “Find My” iCloud service is easy. And there are other options for Google/Android.
Update Resume
Do this before you forget anything! Whether you intend to use it or not, having an up-to-date reference is valuable. Even for opportunities outside your current industry.
Cloud Backup
Cloud backups servicers are essential to protecting your (virtual) valuables. Things like photos and local files are gone with your electronics, so let the cloud back them up automatically.

MY CHOICE: iCloud’s 50GB storage plan for iPhone and BackBlaze’s Personal Backup for laptop. For laptop storage, I was torn between BackBlaze and CrashPlan. But CrashPlan had horrendous customer service while BackBlaze was stellar. With similar offerings, I chose the latter and haven’t looked back.

Communication Apps
Stay connected! Apps like Whatsapp, Skype and Facebook Calling can save loads of money on voice/video calls. Do your research based on your location and take full advantage.
Money Transfers
God forbid your cards are blocked or accounts are emptied. Create a way to get money in such emergencies: wire transfers, cash withdrawals… anything to buy a few days while the problem is resolved. And remember: always carry enough cash!!
Forward Mail
The last thing you need distracting from your trip is a missed letterhead. Convert your delivery options to electronic and all others forwarded elsewhere. This could be a friend/family member’s home, or, a virtual mail system.
Travel Notifications
As with any trip, notify your bank. Put travel notifications on all your debit/credit cards and explain a long-term international stay. Discuss card security and claim processes to ensure you’re prepared for any event.
File Paperwork
And finally, as a reassurance to yourself and family, log your records on the cloud. Create a folder on Google Drive or Dropbox that you and emergency contacts can reference if needed. Log preliminary files like: insurance contracts, phone contracts, vaccination records, important phone numbers, pre-booked tickets/excursions, etc. Maintain it as often as you see fit.

You can download a version of this checklist here: Checklist for Long-term Travel.docx

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