Do you want to make and plan a (long) trip but don’t you know how or where to start? Are you searching for an overview of the steps to prepare for long term travel? In need of a Trip Preparation Checklist for preparing a journey? In this blog we give you a clear overview of all the things you have to think about before you leave home for a great trip, long or short!
> how to prepare for long term travel > trip preparation: long and short > preparing your journey: around the world or just one great destination: all covered in this article 🙂
This blog is both relevant for persons preparing for a holiday or short trip and travelers that intent to leave home behind for a while to embark on a long journey.
Many years of travel experience covered in 22 steps in this Journey Preparation Guide
We are experienced travelers and made several big journeys. One of them a world trip of almost 2 years! We prepared, we traveled, we learned from what we missed, and now we share our knowledge with you. Please benefit from that and we wish you an incredible and carefree journey.
22 Trip preparation steps for an incredible trip, covered in this blog:
- Decide: Yes I am going to make this journey
- Fantasize about where you can go
- Decide on duration, the kind of countries, your level of luxuriousness and pace
- Estimate your budget needed
- Save money
- Or travel without money – four ways to travel for free
- Registration in your country
- Resign your job or make arrangement about an unpaid leave
- Store the stuff you are not selling, not throwing away and not bringing
- End your tenancy, sell your house, or find a tenant
- Decide what kind of traveler you are or aspire to be
- Buy your travel gear based on your traveler type
- Organize your electronics
- Get a good travel insurance
- Arrange the necessary visa and proof of onward journey
- Redirect your mail
- Get a bank account supporting traveling
- Book your first train ride, flight, bus ride or however you want to go
- Book accomodation for your first night
- Enjoy, learn, sweat, meet people, try food, take pictures, struggle a bit and laugh about it, write your diary, travel!
Trip preparation step 1 – Decide: YES I am going to do this! –
“YES I am going to make this trip!” For us the moment of deciding to make a world trip occurred in the bus on the Indonesian island Java. It was the summer of 2014. We made an agreement to travel for half a year, and we never reconsidered. We only extended the trip from half a year to a year, a few days later in another bus. Why shouldn’t we travel longer, when we change things anyway?
This blog helps you to make the path of preparing your trip more clear. All essentials for your journey preparation will you find in this article. But don’t expect to be able to plan everything for your (big) trip. Prepare what is convenient and possible, and let go for the bigger part of unexpected things. Because that is what traveling means isn’t it?
Trip preparation step 2 – Fantasize about where you can go
What is actually better; the happy anticipation of something nice coming up or actually doing it? I am not sure. But this might be one of the best phases of preparing and realizing your trip. Enjoy it! Everything is open, you can fantasize about where you will go.
Talk with friends, what did they like on their travels? (Especially rely on friends that have a similar taste for destinations and style of traveling.) Browse through travel books (don’t miss this one, and this one, watch travel documentaries and youtube movies. Watch movies and check where they were shot. Memorize your childhood dreams, what is the faraway place you were dreaming of? Mine tell me I have to visit Egypt someday for sure. Scroll through our blogs about destinations we visited and other travel blogs. Follow a few travel bloggers on Instagram and find out what appeals to you for your trip. So many ways to fantasize!
Trip preparation step 3 – Decide on duration, the kind of countries, your level of luxuriousness and pace
Now it is time to get more serious and limit your endless options. There are between 190 and 250 countries in the world (dependent on how you count), forget you are going to visit them all on your long journey. A few questions you should answer are the following:
- Do you leave for your trip with or without an end date in mind?
- In case there is an end date; how many days, weeks or months?
- When do you leave?
- And what will be your first destination?
You could do with only answering these questions and no more. But in case you need more clarity or you want to plan your budget, you will need to decide on more ingredients of your trip.
Trip preparation step 4 – Estimate your budget needed
To plan your budget for your big journey it helps you to get answers on some other questions:
- How long are you going to travel?
- What level of luxuriousness are you going to treat yourself with?
- What is your expected travel pace?
- How many big flights will you do?
- Would you like to visit developed or undeveloped countries, or a mixture of both categories?
Don’t focus too much on the budget estimations travel blogs present you. The amount you spend per day is probably for a bigger part dependent on your travel style than the price level of the country you are in.
Can you be described as a luxurious flash packer or more as a budget traveler? Take into account whether you are going to travel with private (more expensive) or public transport (cheaper), the price level of your accommodation (from dorm to five start resort), do it yourself (cheaper) or not (more expensive: renting a guide, booking tours, eating out). And finally, what is your budget for ‘extra experiences’ like skydiving, a sail tour etc.
An great example of a very inexpensive country to travel is India. But India in particular is very interesting to travel like a king and reserve a large budget for special experiences. (> check out this blog to learn what it is like to travel India)
General rules to estimate your required travel budget
Furthermore, general rules are ‘the slower you travel the cheaper it gets per week / month’. And an ‘adventurous’ style of traveling is in general cheaper as well. Finally, developed countries are more expensive than developing countries. But there are always exceptions to the rule. That is what makes traveling so much fun isn’t it?
To test whether you have a budget traveler in you read: “travel on a budget: 10 budget travel lessons we had to learn too”.
Trip preparation step 5 – Save money
Are you so lucky you can leave for you trip without having to save more money? Go to step 7 immediately!
It is very simple, you can either save money for your trip by spending less, or by earning more income, or by sticking to the amount you were already saving per month. Your success will be dependent on what you resolve to do to create money for your (long) trip, and I am afraid, your discipline. Do you want to travel or not?
Important questions to ask yourself in this step are:
- How much per month do you currently save? And what is the level of your savings?
- Where does your money go at the moment?
- How much money do you need for your intended trip?
- Do you plan to work during your travels?
Ideas for saving money
- Cancel your memberships
- Sell your car and share cars
- Travel by bike or foot
- Skip your takeaway drinks and food and do it yourself
- No restaurants and bars (or discipline yourself)
- Learn to cook nicer for less dollars
- Stop buying clothes and shoes for more than a year (there is probably enough in your closet to look nice and not to be forced to walk around naked for more than a year)
Earning extra income
- Rent out (a room in) your place
- Sell furniture, clothing and other stuff, you won’t need it for your travels anyway
Unfortunately the step of saving money can’t be skipped and can take a while. It is a slow down between deciding to go for a trip and actually going. Unless … you are able to travel without money! Curious how? Go to step 6 🙂
Trip preparation step 6 – Or travel without money – four ways to travel for free
With a little bit of creativity, knowledge, courage you are perfectly able to travel without money or travel on a very small budget. But I must say, that is not for everyone. In the South of China we met a very nice guy from Ukraine that was already traveling for four months without money. He had even gained some pounds. How? By hitchhiking every single mile and kilometer. He was very quick in picking up a new language so he could talk with his fellow passengers and most often – or maybe in all situations – they would invite him to stay over.
Learn here how to become an excellent house sitter in 13 steps.
Steps 7, 8, 9 & 10 are essential for travelers that want to travel long term. Are you going on vacation or a short trip? Continue with step 11!
Trip preparation step 7 – Registration in your country * for long term travelers only
We are from the Netherlands. In this country you are obliged to sign out from the basis registration when you stay abroad more than 8 months a year. When you are away for more than a year you are not obliged anymore to have a Dutch health insurance and you have freedom in how you are insured (cheaper options available). These are the rules that apply to us. They are different for every country. Check yours before you leave on your long trip.
Trip preparation step 8 – Resign your job or make arrangements about an unpaid leave * For long term travelers only
Is this long journey a chance for you as well to swap your shitty job for a nice one afterwards? Or are you perfectly happy with what you do and is it just a dream to make a beautiful big trip at least once in your life? Dependent on the answer you might decide to quit your job or try to make arrangements for an (unpaid) leave. In case this journey is a way for you to create space to reflect on yourself, on what you do in life, and your future, we suggest you cancel a few of your back home commitments. When you close a door, a new one opens automatically…
Trip preparation step 9 – Store the stuff you are not selling, not throwing away and not bringing with you * For long term travelers only
This is your chance to get rid of all that unnecessary stuff. Are you sure you really need that 14th pair of boots? Is that plate for serving a cake on a party an essential part of your household? Do all the things you possess make you happy? I challenge you to put away more stuff than you actually want to or would do. For inspiration on living with less stuff and how to get rid of I recommend to read a few blogs by the Minimalists. How to experience the life-changing magic of tidying up Marie Kondo will tell you.
Where do I leave it all:
- Donate a bunch of excessive stuff and clothes to the second hand army or to the homeless
- Sell valuable stuff on Ebay and your local online marketplace
- Donate possessions to your friends or strangers if it makes them happy
- Have a garage sale
In summary: do whatever you can to reduce the amount of stuff you own and earn a few bucks extra for your long trip
You can store the stuff and furniture you decide to keep at family or you hire a storage box. In case you decide to keep your house or apartment and to find a tenant you are a lucky person. It saves you the hassle of moving your stuff. Put everything in a spare room or storage room in your house, and rent out your place in furnished state. That is not an excuse for not halving the stuff you own. Ok, I can live with a quarter as well.
Remember this. Only keep stuff that adds value to your life. All the rest can go.
Trip preparation step 10 – End your tenancy, sell your house, or find a tenant * For long term travelers only
This is an interesting step in preparing for your big journey. Your decision can have a big influence on how your trip evolves. Having a year contract with a tenant might bring you back home for sure after one year of traveling. It can also withhold you from heading back home when you are done with traveling. Having a tenant in your place can be an opportunity to earn some extra pocket money each month. Do you like the idea of having a place to return after your long trip, or do you like the feeling of a blank paper to be described in the future? Keeping your home can be a smart solution for your storage question and for a comfy return.
This is what we did and how we look back on the decision
We decided to sell our apartment in Amersfoort before our long trip, despite the big loss it was going to cost. We liked the idea of being flexible and were not sure how to rent out our place.
With a little bit more knowledge and confidence we could have succeeded in renting out our place. Looking backwards it could have been a smart investment to keep the place, and to sell it with even a profit in the future. On the other hand, would we have done all this if we still would have had the obligations?
Now our minds were completely free from managing all the practical additional matters during our world trip. And we could focus on exploring the world, each other, and just our 11 kg backpacks. That felt free.
Trip preparation step 11 – Vaccination
Your health is one of your most precious belongings. Possibly your dream destination will come with tropical challenges in the shape of mosquitoes with a virus and bacteria and diseases different from back home. Don’t panic. When you prepare well, the chance you get something is small. Assume your body will respond and behave differently from back home. Because the weather is different, the food is different, everything is different. It is a normal response of the body.
Let yourself be educated by specialists and get the required vaccinations and pills, dependent on the places you are going to visit before you undertake your trip. In the Netherlands there is a very convenient vaccination service that pays a visit at your home address. It might be in your country too. Make sure you take this step a long time before your leave because some vaccinations have to be repeated a few times with a few weeks within.
Trip preparation step 12 – Decide what kind of traveler you are or aspire to be
This step might sound strange. “What does it matter?”. We say; a lot! Finding an answer to this question helps you buying travel gear and helps you packing. Are you a traveler fond of partying; bring a party outfit(s). If you are the sportive type; make sure you bring hiking or running shoes (or find other good travel exercises and ways to stay fit while you travel). Do you aspire to be a digital nomad, bring electronic gear like a camera, laptop and other devices. Are you interested in outdoor adventures? Invest in a good sleeping bag and light tent. The person that is going to travel with public transport will benefit a lot from having a light bag. City trippers better bring comfortable shoes and a great city look.
Read here what you need for a hiking trip of more than a week, hopping from hut to hut. We wrote the blog especially for the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal (highly recommended!) but you can apply the advice to all hut hiking trips.
Trip preparation step 13 – Buy your travel gear based on your traveler type
Realize there are shops in foreign countries too. You (almost) can’t make the mistake to forget to buy an item for your travels. You can make the mistake to buy too much. Or to buy stuff you don’t need at all. When you buy all the travel hacks and smart items that are recommended in travel blogs you end up with a bag of 25 kilos.
Keep in mind what kind of trip you are going to make with what kind of activities and buy stuff that is suitable for that purpose. When you are going to wear the same clothes over and over again, day in day out, make sure you feel comfortable in them. So when you hate the look of zip off pants, don’t buy them because they are the main item for sale in every outdoor shop. Unless you are going to climb the Mount Everest peak. And make sure your clothing items all go well together.
Plea for Merino wool clothing on a long trip
Last but not least I want to stress the importance of the fabric of your clothing. Cotton is terrible for (adventurous) travelers since it has to be washed often, doesn’t dry quick, doesn’t give warmth, starts to smell quickly and is heavy. You get my point. We are big fans of Merino wool clothing. It is the opposite of cotton; light, dries quickly, regulates your temperature. It is relatively expensive to buy, but such a great investment for your travels. I am sure you will wear your Merino wool items so often happily, you will consider it a bargain after a few weeks of wearing. Our favorite brand for merino wool clothing is New Zealand brand Icebreaker.
We are preparing a list with the essential items for your long trip, keep an eye on our website.
Trip preparation step 14 – Organise your electronics
We travel with two laptops – a powerful Asus and a handy Acer chromebook – a compact Nikon mirror camera, an Ipad mini, a portable Logitech keyboard, an old school Nokia mobile just in case for emergency and calling, a small JBL speaker, a Rode microphone to record movies with the camera and two e-readers.
Looking at this list of travel electronics, you can probably imagine the chargers use up a lot of space and weight. It is worth the effort to save on them. Try to use USB cables as much as possible to charge. So you only need one big adapter for your long trip to plug in the wall socket.
Are you a digital nomad or do you fancy becoming one? Read now A tasty introduction to the wonderful world of the digital nomad
Free online storage hack
For storing your photos online use this simple Google storage hack. The only thing you have to do is to create more Google accounts and use the different gmail addresses to store your photos online. You can create easily 100+ gb of free online storage with this hack.
Learn here more about how to organise your travel electronics on the road.
Check out the list we compiled with the 18 best travel apps for travels.
Trip preparation step 15 – Get yourself a good travel insurance
Don’t leave for your trip without a good insurance. Our opinion about insurance is that you don’t necessarily need it for the small bills of a few Euro’s or even a few hundreds of Euro’s (although it feels nice to see the cash back). But for the situations that would make you go bankrupt when you wouldn’t have an insurance. Make sure you have a health care insurance with SOS coverage, and a liability coverage.
The most popular insurance for travelers out there is World Nomads. They get good reviews and you can register with them although your are not registered as a resident in your country anymore. Our first two years of traveling we used Allianz Globetrotter insurance satisfactorily, only available for Dutch residents. Our current travel insurance is with the Dutch company Oom Verzekeringen. The insurance is slightly cheaper than World Nomads but the coverage of World Nomads is more extensive. Both are great options.
Trip preparation step 16 – Arrange the necessary visa and proof of onward journey
Do you already know where you are going first? And in case you will make a multi-country-trip or world trip: which country is second or third? It is time to check whether you need a visa to travel to these countries. For some countries you don’t need a visa, for others you can get a paid or free visa on arrival, some have an convenient electronic system (USA and an Australian agency has an excellent online service ) and for the last category you have to arrange a visa beforehand.
We recommend you to arrange your visa for your first country of visit from back home, but you can apply for all the others on the road. We found that very often applying for visa in the neighbor country of the country you want to visit is cheaper, faster and more efficient than in your home country.
Unfortunately it can be quite hard to find good information about visa regulations online. Especially since countries change their rules and prices often and the rules are different for the different countries of residence. Fellow travelers (either offline or online on forums) can be a great source of information. It can be helpful to use a specialized agency to apply for a visa, and most often they don’t ask that much more.
Bonus tip – proof of onward journey & staying flexible at the same time
To complete this step we give away a valuable travel hack to arrange required onward tickets in a cheap and flexible way. To enter some countries (for example New Zealand) it is obligated to have an onward ticket. Trust me that they (can) take this requirement seriously and not having one can be a reason to miss your expensive flight. Fly Onward sells you tickets for flights you will never use. Customs will be satisfied with your proof of onward journey. And you have just bought yourself travel flexibility for only 9,99 US dollars.
Trip preparation step 17 – Redirect your mail
Or you have a tenant/ sitter in your home, or your home stays empty for a while, or you don’t have a home address anymore. Either way, make sure you redirect your mail or someone takes care of your mail, so bills and other important stuff can reach you. Yay!
Trip preparation step 18 – Get a bank account supporting traveling
All banks support moving, and withdrawing money, around this beautiful globe. But one earns more from that than the other. You want the one that earns the least. (But still enough I assure you.) All banks apply a surcharge for withdrawing a different currency. But not all banks charge a service fee per withdrawal on top of that. We were too late with changing banks, because now we can’t anymore as non-residents, but we give you a financial heads up. Take advantage of this tip; check your bank policy for withdrawing money and swap banks .
Financial bonus tip for (future) bloggers and online marketeers:
To all (future) bloggers that want to earn money online in different countries and currencies, and face the requirement to have a local bank; we recommend TransferWise. This is an online bank that gives you different bank accounts in different countries when you register. The big advantage? You don’t have to be an American resident for example to collect your Amazon affiliate income on your national bank account. TransferWise automatically gives you the essential American bank account. And for many other countries as well. That is convenient!
Trip preparation step 19 – Book your first train ride, flight, bus ride or however you wanna go
Whether you are a traveler that likes to keep everything or a lot open (that is how we like it), or a traveler that likes to book every single flight, tour and night for the coming weeks / months (or you are somewhere in between those extremes); booking your first ride is necessary to get away from it all. Don’t wait too long with this step. Just for the sake of happy anticipation, the fun of doing it and knowing for sure you go for your trip. And now you can plan your farewell party or last office day!
We love Skyscanner (especially the app, click here for 17 other great travel apps) for finding good flights. To outsource searching for the best flight and hereby saving money (that is their promise), we have made use of the services of a flight expert of Flightfox. It is interesting to try this service at least once to see whether it is something for you. Especially relevant for the more complicated itineraries.
Trip preparation step 20 – Book accommodation for your first night
Booking the first night after your arrival in a new country is convenient for everyone. Especially when you arrive late at night and don’t know the city of arrival.
Booking, Airbnb, Agoda (best choice for Asia!) and Hostel World are obvious choices. Airbnb can be a little bit more insecure since a private person has to handover the keys. Take a cab or bus to your accommodation, check in, go to your room, and breath. Your long trip just started!
Trip preparation step 21 – Pack
Time to pack! Do you pre-pack and test-pack long before you leave or are you a “pack till the early morning with a little bit of stress”-packer? Here are a few guidelines for packing, that you will be grateful for after a few days on the road. When in doubt to bring something, don’t. Once you have collected everything that you want to put in your back, try to eliminate some stuff. While humming the mantra “less is more”. Bringing one pair of shoes less saves a lot of weight and space.
The final tip we would like to give away is to roll up your clothes – more space economic and good anti creases – and to put them in separate travel cubes, like this one.
They bring the pleasure of no more searching for your stuff. Unpacking and packing in a few seconds. Not waiting for hours for your travel buddy anymore (when he or she doesn’t own travel cubes, give them as a birthday / random present).
Trip preparation step 22 – Enjoy, learn, sweat, meet people, try food, take pictures, write your diary, travel!
Once you are on the road, or laying on the beach, more to read:
The best tips for traveling by public transport – an ode to public transport
High quality Airport Sleeping. Roadmap to (a little bit of) sleep
Ins & outs of renting a motorbike abroad in Renting a motorbike on Bali (and anywhere else)
How to stay fit while you travel and during your holiday
In case you leave home for a BIG trip:
World trip benefits – how to reply to those discouraging remarks on your world trip plans (psst btw we got a lot of supportive responses as well!)