Planning for long-term travel is often daunting and overwhelming. In fact, it is also one of the most popular questions that we often receive. There is a lot to consider, so we compiled several tips for you, whether you plan to take a month off to travel, work in another country, jet-set on a 6-month leave to warmer climates, or plan a new lifestyle of long-term travel, like us.The best way to start it is to build a very detailed trip checklist of things to do, long before your departure, in order to avoid forgetting valuable tasks and missing crucial items in the process.
Fortunately, we’ve already done the hard work for you.
Below are links to useful resources for planning your exit.
THE ULTIMATE TRIP CHECKLIST FOR LONG TERM TRAVEL BEFORE YOU GO:
The Ultimate Trip Checklist
1. MONEY MATTERS
Before you begin any planning, get a handle on your debt situation. Getting out of debt will no doubt make your life easier after you leave, and it does take a massive load off your life. In some cases, you may be leaving without a full-time income, so paying your debt will be much more challenging.
Long before you plan any trip, or life change, get clear on where you spend your money, then focus your funds towards what you want to experience. Here are our tips on preparing a budget that allowed us to redirect thousands of dollars towards long-term travel. List everything you spend your money on, including entertainment, haircuts and donations, and see where you can make some cuts so you can channel them towards your travel plans. We use Freshbooks as a tool to track all of our monthly personal and business expenses, which easily populates information directly from our bank account (and our online bills).
Banking and Bills
Online banking is the perfect way to manage your deposits, withdrawals, and your monthly bills. Convert all your bills to an online payment system, so you can track and manage everything while you are on the road. This trip checklist tip will ensure you manage your money effectively.
Bank card selection and fees for travel
Carry two bank cards - We recommend that you maintain two bank accounts at different bank institutions for travel. Sometimes, bank cards do not work, and you need a backup in case this happens. It has happened to us a lot more times than we can count. Also, to use a foreign ATM, you must have a 4-digit pin number, so make sure both cards have this.
Bank Fees - Many people don’t realize that you get charged two separate bank fees when you travel. One fee is from your home bank and the second fee is from the foreign bank you are taking out money. Before you know it, you may be paying over $10 in fees by taking money out of the bank in a single transaction. You can’t avoid #2, but you can avoid #1. Talk to your bank to switch to a different bank account, one that eliminates the foreign transaction fees. Some of these accounts will require a guaranteed balance amount in the bank to wave the bank charges Ask your bank how to reduce bank fees while traveling, and research other banks for options. We switched our bank account to cut our bank charges which allow us to avoid international bank fees.
Designate a co-signer – This can be a friend or family member whom you can appoint as co-signer on your bank account. Troy’s mom deposits checks for us when some of our businesses we work with cannot send us a direct deposit. Also, if emergency cash is required, she arranges a wire transfer easily.
Credit Cards for Travel
We highly recommend you carry at least two different credit cards in case one of the cards doesn’t work. Recently, one of our cards was no longer usable, as the swipe strip was damaged. Fortunately, we had a backup that we could use until a replacement card arrived.Avoid using credit cards to withdraw money from ATMs as you will be charged cash withdrawal fees, with expensive interest charges.
While you have a full-time job, take advantage of various travel hacks. Open new credit cards to maximize your points for airline points, hotel stays, and upgrades.
There are some great tools to help you choose the right credit cards to earn the most points and know the strategies behind it.
Most importantly, charge all your expenses on your credit cards including your utilities, gas, and every expense you incur each month while you are still working to maximize your points. (Of course, make sure you pay off your cards to avoid interest fees.)
Important tip: Keep a record of annual anniversaries for your credit card. If you receive a no-fee card for one year, you can use the points, then cancel it before you incur annual costs.
Additional Resources: Our first resource is useful for all countries, although when you get to credit card choices- each country has different offerings and advantages.
Find a good financial planner to manage your money from your home country.
Share your goals of foreign travel with your planner. With our goals of long-term travel in less expensive countries and the reality of receiving lower income, our administrator has enabled us to receive good tax savings on our investments and registered savings accounts. We will dive into this topic more deeply in future posts.
The Ultimate Trip Checklist
2. HOME & TRANSPORTATION
This is a great area to reduce expenses wherein you can use the savings to help pay for long-term travel. Before you leave, consider what services and extras you truly need and value. We had eliminated our home phone account years before we left in order to cut costs. We also cut our cable bill to Internet only (we watch TV on our laptops). We reduced thousands of dollars each year.
First, determine whether you will keep your home vacant, temporarily rent it, or sell it.
If you plan to give notice – Determine the timing to ensure you can make arrangements for accommodation before you leave.
If renting your home – Hire a landlord (a friend or family member, ideally) to help manage tenants while you are away. Make arrangements for cash transfer options for your landlord to handle any expenses. Ideally, meet with your future tenants and make arrangements for direct deposit of rent to you.
If selling your home – Hire a realtor and lawyer, and have early discussions with your bank on your mortgage (to assess any penalties or benefits to paying off early)
Consider how you will manage your mail while you are away. How will you handle important documents?
We send our mail to friends and family. Our documents, such as our driver’s licenses and taxes, are sent to our last provincial address, while another mail is sent to our family to scan, and they send any relevant document to us.
There are also virtual mail services that handle your mail. They accept it, open it, scan it and send to you. You can choose to keep it or shred it. Some of these services are costly, however, they reduce the burden on family or friends, and if you want to create the appearance of a business (with an address), maybe this is an option for you. Here are some businesses we researched online, however, we don't have experience with any of them and each has their own set of fees.
Now that Virtual Mail is becoming popular - you can do your own research by Googling Virtual Mail-(your country) to see what options come up.
This is a big topic. But first, let us break it into parts. With regards to the items you have accumulated over the years, you can either: Keep it, Store It, or Sell it/Donate It.
Keep It: This is if you plan to come back to your home in some months, regardless there is a benefit to selling your stuff – to help you fund your travels.
Store It: Store items if you plan to return in the future. However, the more you purge, the smaller the storage container you can rent, the lower your costs. We chose to keep a few boxes (tax returns, winter clothes, and a few items with our friends and family.) Rule of thumb: if you decide to rent a storage lock up or container, it is cheaper to rent a unit outside the main cities.
Sell It/Donate It – Our approach was a little more drastic. We sold or donated almost all our goods over an eight-month period. We held two- yard sales, sold hundreds of items online, and gave the rest away. We detached ourselves from our stuff, as our goal was to travel longer.We tackled it drawer by drawer and room by room.
In our experience, we approached our stuff with a goal in mind: long-term travel. By selling almost everything, it has freed up cash to help us travel longer. With this objective, we were able to part with our things easier.
If you want to save money for travel, your car is your best area to look into. Consider the cost of car payments, gas, and insurance. If you take these out of your expense books, you have saved $500+ per month, before you know it.
If you have a lease and wish to depart before it expires, there are online services to match up people to take over your lease. For instance in Canada, there is a service called Leasebusters. It’s best to research the current monthly lease for a new make and model of your car. If it’s cheaper for someone just to lease a new car, you will need to provide him or her with an incentive to take over your payments. (i.e. give them a cash discount so that they can reduce their payments each month)
Selling your car – We recommend selling your car as early as possible. This is easier if you are living in a major city as transit, or where car rental services, such as Car to Go, or Zip Car or Auto Share, allow you to rent cars economically when you need them.
Consider an international driver’s license for your travels, as another form of ID. It is an extra precaution in countries where you will be driving. The license is valid for one year through motor vehicle services like AMA (in the USA) or CAA (in Canada).
The Ultimate Trip Checklist
You will need to keep your ID current and valid for travel and when you return to your home country.
Check all the expiry dates on your passport, driver’s license, health cards, and credit cards. Renew your cards before you leave, or find out auto-renewal options, and get a family member to arrange to ship to you your new cards.
Take copies of your passport, credit cards, and driver’s license and leave a set to your designated family member for emergencies.
Passcodes and ID details
Use an encrypted passcode/document system to protect your valuable information. We use 1Password – With just one word to memorize, this system works on both our phones and computers to access all our passcodes for online apps, programs, as well as storing images of our passports, credit cards, and drivers licenses.
The Ultimate Trip Checklist
4. LEGAL CONSIDERATIONS
Sadly, your taxes do not go away when you leave, depending on your country, you may need to file taxes whether you ever live there again or not. (Do your research for your country.)
Organize all your receipts and archives for your upcoming tax filing. We scanned all our receipts and important papers before we left, and sent them to our accountant before filing.
Arrange with an accountant to manage your taxes remotely – you can discuss issues online and scan and sign documents over the Internet.
Now, we track all our invoices, receipts, and expenses electronically on our computers, and we regularly back up our files. We also use Freshbooks as our tool to manage our records, and it also downloads expenses and income from our bank accounts.
Power of Attorney
Meet with a lawyer to discuss and prepare a power of attorney. This legal document allows a family member to access our bank accounts and investments in case we run into issues or if something happens to us, and we are unable to handle our own affairs mentally.
Regardless of whether long-term travel is in your plan or not, it's important to have a will drafted. We recently created a will (after delaying this task for years.)
The Ultimate Trip Checklist
Book your last appointments covered by health insurance in your home country before you leave (doctor, dentist, etc)
Note: Depending on the country you are visiting, it is often far more inexpensive to visit a dentist or doctor there than in your home country, but using up your health benefits will buy you some time to find medical contacts.
Visit a Travel Medical Clinic
Investigate shots and medications for countries you plan to visit. We strongly suggest you do your research before you buy expensive medications. Typically, these clinics are over cautious and may not consider the time of year nor updated information. For instance, we traveled in Laos last year and bought malaria pills only to discover that there was no incidence of Malaria in the area we visited. (This information was validated by medical professionals who were also traveling.)
Research how long or what special circumstances are available to keep your home country healthcare for an extended period. You never know what is possible until you ask. In Canada for instance, we discovered Ontario allows you to apply for a two-year sabbatical to keep your healthcare even while you are traveling. You can fly back and get regular or emergency services in Canada.
Life Insurance and Critical Illness
Regardless if you are traveling or not, life insurance is an important asset to consider. We continue to pay monthly insurance premiums, and we buy critical illness insurance, as we will be without our home country insurance, and we will use this for any emergencies to return to Canada.
Consider this task non-negotiable and necessary. Shop around for insurance. We like using World Nomads Insurance. It offers an excellent coverage plan and it is more flexible than any other insurance we have used. You can book for up to 6 months (for some countries like Canada) or a year for others. It is very simple to renew online, even while you are traveling. Their customer service is excellent, and making a claim is a straightforward process.
Investigate visa requirements online. Try your government visa requirements for its citizens abroad, or check any Visa agent has this information (but avoid using a visa agent as they will charge you an enormous cost to arrange.)
Set up alerts on your government visa website as the requirements change frequently.
Make sure you know if you need to apply for travel visa before you leave or not. Some countries have visa-on-arrival services or you can do entirely online (like Myanmar).
Often visas are cheaper to buy at the airport, or at the border or consulates in a nearby country Important note: Do your research to confirm if you need to buy a visa in advance, before you travel.
The Ultimate Trip Checklist
6. PHONES/KEEPING IN TOUCH
It is very easy to stay connected while traveling. With the Internet, or cheap data plans, our friends are often surprised by how accessible we are most of the time.
Avoid roaming packages – they are a huge cost.
Check free Wi-Fi areas and connect to it when you can so you can save up on cost.
Plan ahead to cancel out of your cell phone plan and get an unlocked phone.
Buy a SIM card anywhere in the world with inexpensive data plans.
We use a data plan (or the internet where available) to call our friends using Facebook Messenger (audio, video, and now you can leave messages) or Facetime (Apple video calls). We also bought a SKYPE phone number, so we have one main number for important calls/contacts with banks, etc.
How to manage your list:
The best way to maintain a detailed trip checklist like this is to cross things off when they are complete. It will make you feel like you have accomplished something! And assign dates to it in order to keep yourself accountable.
We hope this trip checklist has given you a head start for planning your extended departure. Perhaps you have a favorite tip for planning a longer trip, we'd like to hear about it. Or if you have more information, please let us know.
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Dorene is a marketing consultant and freelance writer. She quit her 20-year career in marketing to redesign her career and lifestyle on her own terms by living location independent. Now with her husband Troy, she helps people who want to redefine their midlife and make conscious changes at TravelLifeX. She also trains & coaches travel and hospitality clients to improve their marketing at TravelLifeMedia.com