How many people have dreamed of quitting their daily grind for a one-way ticket around the world? In reality, it’s not for everyone. As fun and spontaneous as it sounds, this isn’t something that works for everyone. Still, there are many people for whom it does work – very well indeed – and they’ve returned after a long period of travel with the most memorable experiences of a lifetime. Saying that, travelling long-term doesn’t come without its challenges.
One thing all travellers can agree on is that it’s hard. At times anyway. As amazing and rewarding and life-changing as travelling the world is, we must remember that methodical planning is vital. We know that takes the edge of things and makes it sound borderline boring, but it’s a recommended step for anyone ready to embrace the nomadic lifestyle. That doesn’t mean we can’t be spontaneous on our travels. Sure we can! It just means packing the right stuff, preparing ourselves for all situations, and making sure there’s always a plan B.
These 15 tips will help make travelling long term so much easier and less chaotic. We’ve also added in a few things not to do. Above all, if it’s a life-long dream to travel the world – just do it!
20 Set a budget – to prevent running out of money 1 month into the trip
Most people don’t have an everlasting supply of dollars in their bank account. That’s why we have to be practical before embarking on our trip around the world and set a budget. The last thing anyone wants 1-2 months into the journey is to discover they’re low on funds. Before starting the journey of a lifetime, create a realistic budget and stick to it. Things won’t always go the way we plan, but if we set a budget, at least we’ll have some financial structure on our trip. Budget Your Trip can help calculate our daily travel costs in any country we’re planning on visiting.
19 Save up before globetrotting – it will be worth it
If we want a nice and comfortable budget to work with, we need to start cutting unnecessary expenses beforehand. We don’t have to save a stack of cash before we go, but it would be good to build up a little nest egg that we can work with. To do that, stop spending on unnecessary things online and in shopping malls. Start finding free hobbies like reading and spending time outdoors. If we need to buy something, buy something used from Craigslist. Instead of nights out, enjoy nights in with nice dinners, themed nights and games nights. Even saving loose change helps build our budget fast.
18 Find Wi-Fi – even those on a technology detox will need it at times
Even those who want to step away from technology for a while will need to locate Wi-Fi at some point or another. Whether it’s for finding directions, keeping in touch with family and friends, or dabbling in freelance work, everybody needs Wi-Fi. The good news is, there are Wi-Fi options when we travel. We can often find free Wi-Fi in airport lounges, some hotel chains, and in work-friendly spaces like McDonald’s and Starbucks.
Alternatively, invest in international data on your phone. It’s worth enquiring at different providers to see which option sounds most favourable. Wi-Fi might not be a necessity to all, but for most it is.
17 Choose the right backpack – it’s a long-term investment
For long-term travel, a backpack is essential. Some people might go for a suitcase instead, but trust us when we say it’s a lot smarter to go with a backpack instead. It’s way sturdier and more practical for travelling. The top-opening traditional backpack is the best choice. It’s also important to look for a backpack with a rain cover to prevent stuff from getting wet. We know it’s probably tempting to order it online, but we recommend trying it on before buying it to check it feels comfortable and fits right. This is an investment and it needs to be comfortable.
16 And pack it strategically – using this simple structure
We should choose a backpack with decent side pockets so we can pack in the most strategic way. This is going to be the backpack we live with for the next few months or years. In other words, it needs to be organized. In one side pocket, pack underwear and socks. In the other, light-weight clothes such as t-shirts, shorts, or skirts.
The top third of our backpack should include easily accessible items like our toiletries, a jacket, and any other essentials we need every day.
In the middle third, we can pack the stuff we don’t need now, but maybe later: chargers, hiking clothes, medical supplies etc. As for the bottom-third, pack bulkier clothes like trousers, shirts, shoes and a laundry bag.
15 Remember travel visas – long before stepping on the plane
Before we leave our home country, we must look into the visa requirements of countries we plan on heading to. We won’t be allowed to enter some countries if we don’t have a visa, so it’s important that we check all this out before stepping onto the airplane. Searching online is the easiest way to do it and won’t take long.
It should say on the destination’s own website or, if that fails, check with the state department. This should actually be one of our first steps when planning a long-term trip, because we don’t know how long the process will take for acquiring visas in different countries.
14 Don’t skip travel insurance – we need it!
After checking with our medical insurance provider to see the extent of our coverage in other countries, we should invest in travel insurance. Some people skip it to save money, but if something bad happens while outside our home country, we’ll be paying a much bigger price. When contacting various travel insurance providers, be sure to ask as many questions as you like. Our health is vital and it’s important we find reputable and reliable travel insurance to keep us safe when abroad. Make sure you do this plenty of time ahead of jetting off. This is something that needs to be sorted before leaving the country.
13 Save money on accommodation – because it’s the biggest expense
Without a doubt, one of the biggest expenses we’ll have while travelling the world is accommodation. Staying in hotels and some hostels isn't cheap. That’s why many travellers try Airbnb and Couchsurfing for accommodation. We will save so much money using these resources rather than relying on hotels.
Our money will be gone in no time if we stay in hotels. If we’re going to be based somewhere long term, we should try looking for short-term rentals or sublets. These options will also work out cheaper in the long run and save us a lot of our hard-earned cash.
12 Invest in a good pair of shoes – we’re going to need them
We tend to walk a lot when we travel. The last thing we want is blistered, cut up feet. If we take care of our feet, they will take care of us. For that reason, it’s a wise idea to invest in a good quality pair of shoes that are not only comfortable, but durable.
These are the shoes we are going to be wearing A LOT throughout our trip. To put it another way, don’t scrimp on shoes. We know we’re trying to save money for and on our trip, but it also doesn’t work our wallet-friendly if we have to buy new shoes every few weeks.
11 Get used to sleeping anywhere and everywhere
Our sleep environment is forever changing when we travel. It pays to adapt well to our surroundings and catch up on sleep whenever and wherever we can. Switching time zones is another issue that can disrupt our sleep. For those who struggle to get any shut-eye whilst travelling, bring along comfy pajamas, earplugs, a sleep mask and a podcast that reads dull bedtime stories to help us fall asleep. Not everyone finds it easy to fall asleep wherever they lay their head. For others, it’s a piece of cake. This is something that will definitely come more naturally to us the more we travel.
10 Have a back up – to make sure our memories never fade
Imagine how depressing it would be if all the amazing photographs we’ve taken over the past few months just vanished when our digital camera stopped working or got stolen? These situations can happen, so we try to prevent them by getting back up. If we’re travelling with a laptop, a portable hard drive will come in very useful.
As for our digital photos, we should save them to our computer or open an online storage account where we can keep them safe. Nothing could destroy our trip of a lifetime more than losing all our months of memories. If we can prevent it from happening, we say let’s do it!
9 Write a mission statement – for those hard times
Before leaping on the plane to start our new and exciting adventure, we need to remember why we’re doing it in the first place. We don’t want to be the party pooper here, but there are going to be hard times on the road.
When those tough times emerge, we need to remind ourselves why we’re on this journey. A mission statement can help us with this. Here are some questions to ask yourself and write down in your mission statement: ‘’What is my fundamental travel goal?’’ ‘’What do I want from this experience?’’ and ‘’Why am I doing this in the first place?’’
8 Stay fit and healthy – don’t just survive on greasy snack food
When we’re on a budget, it can be easy to survive on cheap street food. As amazing as street food is, a lot of it tends to be greasy and probably not all that healthy. If we’re spending a long time on the road, we shouldn’t take our health for granted.
We should definitely focus on our health too and make sure we’re getting enough vitamins and exercise. The exercise might not be such an issue if we’re constantly on the move, walking everywhere. But especially in regards to the food, it doesn’t hurt to buy fresh produce from the markets to eat.
7 Stay in touch with people back home – and don’t feel bad about indulging in a McDonald’s every now and then
Everybody who travels the world misses family, friends and home comforts at times. To keep ourselves sane, we should keep in touch with family and friends from time to time. Let them know how everything is going and that we’re okay. Also, don’t feel bad if you indulge in Subway or McDonald’s every now and then. After several weeks (or months!) of eating local foreign food, sometimes it’s nice to eat something familiar to us. As long as we’re not surviving off our Western food, it’s no big deal. The important thing is that we try as much local food as possible.
6 Don’t be afraid to ditch the plan – not everything goes to plan anyway
Some people schedule their whole travel journey so they know exactly where they’ll be going and what they’ll be doing. Although this sounds like a smart idea, it can actually prevent us from many opportunities along the way. Sometimes, the things that are not on our itinerary are the places we love the most. Isn’t the whole reason we’re travelling in the first place to escape the clutches of the daily grind? Why pigeonhole ourselves into yet another routine? The fact is, things aren’t always going to run smoothly along our journey. We have to deal with it and move on. As long as we stick to our mission statement, we’ll have a happy and fulfilling adventure.
5 Avoid: packing unnecessary toiletries – we can get them everywhere after all
This one sounds obvious but many people still find themselves packing big bottles of shampoo, shower gel and toothpaste. We don’t need to! It’s not like we’re travelling to a whole new planet where resources are low or non-existent. Sure, we might be travelling to a new country and products might be a little different, but we CAN find them. Most hostels and hotels should supply at least the soap and shampoo.
If we want to make things easy on ourselves, we need to pack less of the unessential and more of the essential.
4 Avoid: traveling at a frantic pace – it trumps fun
We know we want to see as many things as possible in as little time as possible. However, rushing around too much on our travels can actually make the whole experience a lot less enjoyable. If we move too fast, we’ll just wind up stressed and exhausted. Whereas if we slow down our pace, we can spend more time appreciating one place instead of merely thinking about where’s next. We just need to relax, enjoy what’s around us, and take it easy. This is our own individual journey and it’s up to us how speedy it goes. We don’t have to rush around frantically.
3 Avoid: taking taxis – they’ll leach our wallets in no time!
We know sometimes it’s easier just to catch a cab instead of trying to understand local transport links. However, if we want to stay on budget, regular taxi rides will be the first thing to drain it. Instead, stick to public transport unless it’s an emergency and we absolutely must take a taxi. Not only is public transport way cheaper, it also offers an excellent opportunity to meet locals. Plus, we’ll get a better idea of the culture when immersing ourselves into the way locals live and navigate.
Taxi drivers aren’t always honest either, so we might end up paying more than what we should just because we’re a tourist.
2 Avoid: leaving with a full bag – leave space for keepsakes
We’re going to want to collect things along our journey and if our bag is already overstuffed, it won’t be possible to do that. Just take the essentials and leave a little space for extras throughout the journey.
Sure, take everything you absolutely need but don’t add anything that isn’t vital. If we can buy it easily in the countries we visit, there’s no point in packing it. After all, we don’t want to return home with only the stuff with which we left. A few mementos are always nice.
1 Avoid: folding – roll all the way!
This is the best way to save space in our backpacks. In some cases, we can save more space folding things, but in the majority of times, it’s way more space-saving to roll our clothes. Not only will it save space, rolling our clothes prevents creases. Give it a try and see how much space you save. It’s surprising how many people still fold their clothes when packing.
If we can bring more clothes purely by altering our packing method, why not do it? And the easiest way to do that is by rolling instead of folding. It will save a tonne of invaluable space!
References: budgetyourtrip, thriftynomads, nytimes, alongdustyroads, lonelyplanet