This long term travel checklist came from when we took our first sabbatical. We were amazed at the number of jobs there were to do, so we kept a list of them, for others to use.
Even trying to build the list can feel intimidating.
And no-one needs that stress in their life.
So I created built the list for you.
Below you will find 35 key things to do before you travel. I’ve grouped them by weeks to make it easier, but you can easily change the order to get ahead or match your own plans.
(P.S. this post assumes you’ve already decided on your destination and itinerary, so it picks up from the point you start to plan)
So without further ado, here we go….
Long Term Travel Checklist: Week -12
Book Your Initial Flights
This will probably be the biggest one-off expense attached to your sabbatical, so book early and spread the cost over a longer period of time. I generally use Google Flights though I sometimes also have luck with Skyscanner or Kiwi to make sure I’ve got the best price.
Book ‘Throwaway’ Flights
A sabbatical might well be the first time in your life you’ve booked one-way flights, but be careful! Many countries require a proof of exit, or they won’t grant a visa.
A trick to get around this is to book a ‘throwaway’ flight. Find the cheapest possible flight out of the country close to the time you think you’ll leave, and book it. You may use it, you may not, but if you get it cheap it doesn’t really matter.
An alternative is to leave booking this flight until very close to your arrival, and then cancel it shortly after for a refund.
For more information on ‘throwaway’ flights, click here.
Check Your Passport
Make sure you check your passport to ensure:
- Is in date with at least six months additional validity from the point you enter your last country
- Has enough space in it for visas.
Not only will you need your passport to be in date, but some countries also require it to be in date for six months after leaving, so be cautious. If you are going to be travelling through multiple countries with complicated visa processes, you might need to upgrade to a passport with more pages to ensure you don’t run out.
READ NEXT: How to Find the Visa Requirements for Any Country
Long Term Travel Checklist: Week -11
Decide What to Do With Your House
If you rent, then this will be as simple as giving notice on your lease, but you will also now need to start deciding what to do with your stuff as you travel (storage can be very expensive).
If you are a homeowner, then you will need to start looking into options for your house. It might seem simple to leave it empty, but this can invalidate your home insurance, so double check with your insurer.
If you have pets, it becomes even more important, as one option might be to leave them at your house.
Here are a few options:
- Speak to neighbours or relatives to see if anyone can move in whilst you are away.
- Sign up with housesitting companies (I prefer HouseCarers.com) to find a short term housesitter.
- If you are away for a long period of time, it might be worth renting out your property, so speak to estate agents in town
- You can leave the property empty, but check with your insurance company (as most have exclusions if the property is vacant for 30 days or more), and organise someone to pop round regularly to ensure there are no problems.
Decide What to Do With Pets
This can be one of the toughest decisions to make, so I have an entire post dedicated to it.
If you have someone moving in it to your property it might be an easy transition, but if not, now is the time to start looking for local kennels or catteries. If you plan to leave them with a friend or relative, it might be worth doing a test run for a weekend to see how your pets adapt to their new environment. This is especially important if you are introducing them to a home with other animals or children.
Start Making a List of the New Gear You Will Need
This is another area where you can spread the cost. Whilst I wouldn’t encourage buying a huge amount of new gear, there are some essentials if you don’t have them already. A decent rucksack, packing cubes, a new camera – you can see the full list of gear that we took to Southeast Asia here. If you start planning early, you can add some of these items to Christmas or Birthday lists, and pick them up when sales come around. The sooner you work out what you’re going to need, the more money you’re likely to save.
Long Term Travel Checklist: Week -10
Buy Travel Insurance
Don’t leave yourself vulnerable here. If you’re travelling for a long period of time, there are so many variables. A short term saving can end up costing in the long run.
After a $450 charge for reversing a Toyota Hilux into a tree in Laos, we were thankful for getting the money back, and the total travel insurance cost less than that. There are many options out there, but we chose World Nomads. Simple to use, and great customer service when we were processing the claim.
A sabbatical is a great time to start streamlining your life.
When you’ve spent a few months living out of a rucksack, coming back to a house full of stuff can feel like an overload. Tackle your house cupboard by cupboard and separate out things to sell or donate. You can make good money on eBay or Gumtree which will help to fund your travel.
You don’t have to do it all, but de-junking a few keys rooms or cubbyholes before you leave can be liberating, and the additional income is very useful.
Long Term Travel Checklist: Week -9
Check Your Credit/Debit Cards
Check your current cards aren’t going to expire when you’re away, and if they are, apply for new ones now.
We also applied for a low cost travel credit card when we travelled. It gave us additional protection on purchases, and also had no fees for cash withdrawals abroad. Do some research now to ensure it arrives in time.
Brush up on Some Language Basics
If you’re travelling to a location where there is one widely spoken language, then now is the time to start picking up the basics. When you get out of the main cities, a few phrases can come in very handy.
READ NEXT: 4 Simple Ways To Learn Language Basics
Long Term Travel Checklist: Week -8
Check Which Vaccinations You Need for Your Destination Countries
Don’t miss getting your jabs before you travel, there are some pretty nasty diseases out there that can be easily avoided with advance planning.
Get them booked in with your doctor or health clinic. Flick through the World Health Organisation website to get an idea of the biggest risks in the area you are travelling to.
Register for Proxy Voting
If there are key elections that take place whilst you are away, then you can get someone else to vote on your behalf if you register in advance. This is called proxy voting, and it’s relatively easy to set up in most countries.
Long Term Travel Checklist: Week -7
Research and Apply for Visas
Some countries require you to have a visa organised in advance with your date of entry and exit. This will need careful planning, and there can be a lot of paperwork involved. This is something not best left until the last minute, so make sure you have done your homework. I have put together an article that will help you find out what you need to book in advance.
Research the Best Way to Withdraw Money Whilst Abroad to Minimise Charges.
There are many travel credit cards available that offer low withdrawal rates so do some research and order one. It will save you a huge amount as you travel.
Get Your Phone Unlocked
It can save a lot of money to buy cheap ‘pay as you go’ SIM cards whilst you travel (see a great option for virtual SIM cards here) but this is only possible if your phone is unlocked. Most phone providers have details of how to do this on their website.
Long Term Travel Checklist: Week -6
Set up Mail Forwarding
If someone is going to be moving into your home whilst you’re away or the property will be left empty, then get your mail forwarded to someone you trust, or use a company who will scan and email copies of your post.
Book Accommodation for the First Few Nights
Whilst most long term travel is based on a broad sense of direction rather than a specific night-by-night schedule, it is comforting to know exactly where you’re going to stay when you get to your first country. Book in your first few nights to get your bearings before the more spontaneous adventures begin.
- Try Hostelworld for the best cheap accommodation deals
- Booking.com has the best variety of properties and is generally our go-to for accommodation while we’re on the move
Long Term Travel Checklist: Week -5
Order Additional Repeat Prescriptions
If you have medication on repeat prescription such as asthma inhalers, order additional now, so you enough for your trip. Some only allow you to order a certain amount at a time, and trying to get a replacements in a non-English speaking local pharmacy can be a bit of a lottery!
Get Additional Passport Photos
Passport photos often needed on entry to countries where you can apply for a visa at the border. Have one passport photo for every country you are planning to visit as a minimum.
Apply for an International Driver’s Permit
This is not needed for all countries, but for some your insurance is invalidated if you haven’t got one. They are easy to apply for from a Post Office. Here is a list of all countries that require one.
Long Term Travel Checklist: Week -4
If You Have Someone Looking After Your House, Get Them Round to Chat Through the Plan
Depending on what you decided in week -11, you may have found someone to look after your house whilst you are away. For us it was our neighbour’s daughter, so we got her round for a coffee to discuss a few ground rules. We also made her a list of things she might need to know about the house whilst we are away. For example:
- Where key documents are kept
- What to do with post
- Where stopcocks are trip switches are located
- Whether they are allowed food etc
- Put together list of passwords if you are giving them access to wifi, cable etc
Book Airport Transfer
With a sabbatical it’s unlikely you’ll be leaving your car at the airport, so don’t forget to book your route to get there, as it might nor be as easy as previous trips.
Long Term Travel Checklist: Week -3
Make Copies of All Key Documents
I know it seems old school, but I like to keep a paper copy of all my key documents with me, as well as creating a digital copy. Use an app like Scannable to turn them into a PDF, before printing and then uploading to a cloud folder such as Dropbox.
It is also useful to share key documents or the link with trusted people in case they need access to them in an emergency.
Here are a few examples of documents you should copy:
- Travel insurance
- Health insurance card
- Driving License
It can also be worth taking a colour photocopy of your passport and laminating it, so you always have identification on you, without the risk of losing or damaging the original. We often left ours in a safe and just took the laminated copy in case we needed it.
For bonus points, print out the address and map of the place you’re staying for the first few nights to show to the taxi driver in case you can’t get on a network or your phone runs out of charge.
Long Term Travel Checklist: Week -2
Deal With Last Minute Finances
There are a few last minute financial jobs to put on your long term travel checklist:
- Cancel any direct debits that don’t need to be kept going whilst you are away
- Call banks to tell them you are going to be away and stop them blocking cards
- Go into all online bank accounts and turn on ‘fraud alerts’ by email and text message. This will then notify you quickly if there’s a problem with your card.
Download a VPN to Your Computer for Use Abroad
A Virtual Private Network has the dual benefit of protecting you whilst on public Wi-Fi networks, and allowing you to tap into services in your home country.
Ensure you have one that works on both your computer and phone. My preference is Nord VPN, which costs $11.95 a month, and is incredibly reliable.
Download Key Travel Apps to Your Phone
You will use your phone very differently when you travel, so download the key ones you need and put them on your homescreen so they are quick to access. Here is a list of apps we used most whilst in Southeast Asia.
As a starting here are a list of useful categories and my favourite apps:
- Translation (Google Translate)
- VPN – these work for mobile phones too (read my post ‘The Best VPN for International Travel’ to learn more)
- The local taxi app (Grab in Asia, Uber most places, 13cabs in Australia)
- An offline map that won’t use your data (Maps.me)
- Fast Currency Conversion (Globe Convert)
Long-Term Travel Packing List
Two weeks in advance may seem a little early for getting your gear ready, but if you’re missing anything you’ve still got time for some last minute shopping.
It’s also a chance to get everything you’re going to take washed and ready for packing.
Here’s some hints and tips on a packing list for long term travel (apologies, this is from a male perspective, but if you want a broader view, here is the full packing list that my wife and I took on 3 months of travel):
Bags and Packing
- Enough underwear
- T-shirts/Shirts (include at least one long sleeved for sun protection or layering)
- A sweater or fleece
- Swimming gear
- Mac in a sack for wet days
Clothing Accessories & Footwear
Health & First Aid
- Washbag (H&S Hanging Washbag)
- Shaving Gel & Razor plus Spare Blades
- 2 x Inhalers
- Toothbrush & Toothpaste
- First Aid Kit Bag (Lifeventure Travel Washbag)
- Hand Sanitiser
- Insect Repellant Spray (3 x Trek Pyramid 55% Deet Mosquito Repellant)
- Insect Repellant Wipes (Ben’s Insect Repellant Wipes)
- Anthisan Bite and Sting Cream
- A mix of Bandages, Plasters, Gauzes, Eye Pads
- Saline Solution
- Vinyl Gloves
- Blister Plasters
- Cold and Flu tablets
- Rehydration Sachets
- A headlamp
- Waterproof cases for your phone and laptop
- Power bank
- Cables for you devices (and a cable organiser)
*this assumes you are travelling to a fairly warm climate
Check Batteries in Fire Alarms and Replace if Needed
Many of fire alarms are wired in to the mains now, but if not it’s best to change the batteries to ensure they work while you are away.
Notify Your Security Company That You Are Going to Be Away
If you have a security company who look after your property it’s important they know you won’t be home. They may also want another contact in emergencies as you will be harder to get hold of while travelling.
Long Term Travel Checklist: Week -1
Set up Auto Responders
Set up an auto-responder on your work and personal email accounts and have a voicemail on your phone. For work, direct people to someone who can help them in your absence, for your personal account let people know you’ll be a bit slow getting back to them whilst travelling.
The first few days of travelling can be hectic, so get ahead by charging all your devices before you leave.
Finish Packing and Check You Don’t Go Over the Weight Limit
Send an E-Mail to Key People
Give them an idea of your itinerary, the key documents link and contact details so they can all get hold of one another in case of an emergency.
Clean out Your Fridge
Donate or dispose of any perishable food and turn the refrigerator off to save money if no-one will be staying.
Unplug All Electronics at Your House
If you have no-one staying you don’t want to waste money on your electricity bill by paying for electronics to be on standby.
Long Term Travel Checklist: Week 0
Time to Travel Abroad!
That’s it, you got there time to head off and enjoy your travel.
If you’re looking for travel tips or any more travel inspiration then I’ve still got you covered!
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