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Your Long-Term Travel Checklist: How to Plan a Long Trip RTW
Whether you're actually planning a long journey or are simply interested (you never know, right?) this long-term travel checklist will walk you through every step you'll need to take.
I love lists and I find this helps take the 'overwhelm' out of the planning process, especially if it's a complicated one.
But when should you start planning? What should you do, when? What if you forget something?
This overseas travel checklist shows you exactly what you should do at which stage of your preparations. It's based on my own experience of 50 years of solo travel, so I hope I've got some things right.
Long-term travel planning: 1 year before departure
- Decide what kind of a trip you'll be taking: are you interested in ethical travel? Pilgrimage routes? Cooking schools in Europe? Unusual travel? Are you traveling to trace your family roots? Or do you simply 'suffer' from plain wanderlust?
- Start thinking about where you'll go and check out potential travel destinations - unless you know exactly where you're going, this is a good time to start making lists; you can always change your mind later
- Check out your employment options: if you have a job, can you get a leave of absence or will you have to quit?
- Begin budgeting for your trip and calculating how much you'll need
- Decide whether you'll be keeping your living quarters if you're renting, or what you'll do with your home if you own it, for example, will someone house sit for you?
- Begin to tell people around you you're leaving for a while
- If you're planning on traveling within a single region, start thinking about learning the language - at least a few phrases
- Decide whether you'll be traveling solo or with friends for part of the way
- Start picturing the trip in your mind: why you're going, what you expect from the trip
Travel Planning Checklist: 6 months before departure
- Get a passport or check the validity of yours; renew if needed
- Begin planning a more specific itinerary and start costing your trip
- Begin researching the culture; read some good travel book reviews or women's travel blogs for inspiration and to keep you going for the next few months
- Start tightening your belt and cutting back on unnecessary expenses
- Decide what you can or should sell before leaving, and whether you'll keep your car
- Start poring over maps and choose a travel guidebook or two
- This is a good time to explore options for volunteer work overseas
- Start looking into ways to earn money if you need extra, by teaching English for example
- Get head shots of yourself and start working through any visa paperwork
- Read up on travel health and get a medical checkup; research your travel vaccinations and schedule them, and don't forget to get your vaccination certificate stamped (especially in an era of Covid!)
- If you have pets, decide what to do with them, whether your pets are going with you or where to board them during your absence
Travel abroad checklist: 4 months before departure
- Finalize your rough itinerary
- Look at climate issues and plan the best time to visit each place
- Order your RTW ticket and start booking any volunteer activities
- Apply for discount cards - student card, senior card - all these will get you discounts as you travel
- If you plan to drive while you're overseas, find out if you need an international driver's licence
- Hand in your notice to your landlord if you rent (in some places, you can wait till the last month or two but make sure you don't miss the deadline)
- Go to the dentist
- Start researching what you're taking with you: the best backpacks for long term travel, the best walking shoes, the best travel pants and so on.
2 months before your trip
- Start gathering everyone's contacts and determine the best ways of keeping in touch while you're away
- Decide what you plan to put into storage and find an appropriate place (storage box or company or someone else's home)
- Start selling things you don't need or want on Craigslist or eBay or hold a garage or boot sale (it'll help build up your travel fund)
- Look into overseas money matters, like transfers, credit cards, ATM fees
- What electronic gear will you take? Phone? Laptop?
- Deepen your research, for example by reading and asking questions on travel forums - this is the most immediate news
- Start doing the required online research for more detailed background for your trip
- Make sure you're in good health and ready to go
- Start ordering your travel gear
- Buy your backpack or suitcase
- If you're backpacking, load everything into your pack and start walking around with it each day to get used to the weight; if you're taking a suitcase or other kind of bag, make sure you can lift it easily and that it has rollers
- Print out your travel packing list and begin gathering what you need; see what you already have, and begin buying the few things you still need
- If you're taking hiking boots start breaking them in
- Research your long-term travel insurance
- Order your train passes or other train ticket if you'll need one
- Hand in your job resignation if you're quitting; in some parts of the world you only need to do this a few weeks ahead of time
- Sort out your cellphone or portable wifi; research calling cards to stay in touch while you're on the road; sign up for a VPN service if you plan to get online overseas
- Make sure you have a web-based email address (gmail, yahoo) and sign up for the various social networks you plan to use
- Actually buy your travel insurance
- Give someone at home a power of attorney; nothing will go wrong, but precautions are always a good thing
- Get a spare set of eyeglasses (and don't forget to pack your prescription)
- If you're on medication, make sure you have enough with you as well as the necessary prescriptions
- Write to potential couch surfing or homestay hosts to line up your first few weeks of lodging or find other budget accommodation for your first few days
- Begin seeing your friends, one at a time
- Make sure you've thought through personal hygiene and have what you need
2 weeks to go
- Start calling those friends you haven't seen to say goodbye and make plans to stay in touch
- By now you should know if your pack is too heavy or your suitcase or bag too full; it's time to rationalize and cut back
- Get your stuff into storage; either live minimally until you leave or move in with a friend or relative for the remaining two weeks
- Talk to family members about how often you'll check in, give them your tentative itinerary, and agree at which point they should start to worry (they'll worry well before then of course)
- Start taking your malaria medication if you need it
- Photocopy your important papers; take the photocopies with you but also give someone at home a set; alternatively scan everything and put the scans on a stick you'll take with you
The last few days
- Look through the above list and make sure nothing has fallen through the cracks
- Pick up a bit of foreign currency for your first country of arrival
- Finish saying your goodbyes
- Organize your mail forwarding with the post office
- Eat a few of those foods you might not find where you're going (don't worry, you'll lose the weight when you travel)
- Take pictures of your family to show your soon-to-be new friends abroad
On the day
- Double-check your papers and tickets
- Take care of last-minute additions and surprises
- Say a last goodbye to your closest loved ones
- Make sure you give yourself enough time to get to the airport serenely
- Stop worrying and get on that plane!
A final word
When you land, don't forget to let people know you've arrived safely!
Your travel checklist should be flexible: add what you need to, delete what you don't, and make it as personal as you want!
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