Our Extensive Travel List to Prepare for Long-Term Travel Internationally and Domestically
Extensive Travel List of Ideas on What to Do and Prepare for Before Becoming a Long-Term Traveler, Digital Nomad, or Becoming Location Independent
There’s more to long-term travel than simply finding the perfect gear and taking off (although we’ve done that as well! Checkout our Ultimate Gear and Packing Lists). A solid, well planned foundation can avoid or mitigate many problems that could arise while living life on the road as a digital nomad, long-term traveler, or full-time house sitter.
When it comes to finances, medical care, travel and medical insurance, mail delivery, data and personal security, entertainment, phone service, and so much more, you’re going to want to be prepared ahead of time so that you can free up your time and be able to fully explore and enjoy your travel adventures! Read on for our extensive travel list and ideas for long-term travel…
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In 2016, we decided to sell, donate, or recycle 95% of our belongings and ‘become homeless’ in order to travel internationally long-term. We set off to see the world, expand our horizons, and to become/purse independence (location, financial, employment, etc).
Our goal was to travel internationally and continually (mainly Europe) for one year out of one 36L backpack each, packed to about 15lbs/7kgs. In that one year we were fortunate to visit three continents, 23 countries, 60 cities, and do 18 house sitting jobs.
Since our year abroad we've returned to the US but continue to travel heavily, do house sitting jobs full-time, and explore the world!
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Prepare and Plan Ahead For More Freedom While Traveling
As you might imagine, planning our departure was more than just packing a bag, buying a plane ticket, and taking off. That approach may work for some and shouldn’t be discounted, however we find that a good plan and a solid foundation gives us the freedom to enjoy our lifestyle and travel adventures day-to-day.
The most fun part of planning your trip is finding a travel backpack, purchasing gear, and planning your itinerary. But in our opinion, the most important part of long-term travel preparation are the details that can easily be over looked.
Through our own research, practice, mistakes, and experiences, we’ve compiled an extensive travel checklist to prepare for long-term travel internationally and domestically.
We hope our list may be of help to other aspiring long-term travelers who are contemplating long-term domestic or overseas travel.
However, please keep in mind that this travel to-do list is made up of the things we did and considered. So, depending on your situation, travel style and/or sense of adventure, some or all of it may not apply or be relevant to you.
Extensive Travel List of Recommendations and Ideas to Consider before Embarking on Long-Term Travel
Home, Personal Belongings, and Mail
Before departing for long-term travel, go through all of your belongings and decide what to keep, sell, or donate. Remember, in the end it’s mostly just stuff and can usually be easily replaced.
Forward your mail to your new permanent address (trusted person/loved one/commercial mailer/etc.). Also, update all of your existing accounts with this new address.
Banking, Cash, and Finances
Automate the paying of your credit cards/bills. We keep a spreadsheet with all of our credit cards and their specifics, as well as which financial account is set up to auto-pay the balances in full each month.
Open a Schwab High Yield Checking Account. Schwab offers near ‘bankers rate’ on cash withdraws and ATM fees are reimbursed globally.
Note: To open this account (from Schwab’s website): “All account holders must be either U.S. citizens or U.S. resident aliens, reside in the U.S. or one of its territories, and provide a U.S. mailing address.”
Also note that Schwab will do a hard credit pull and require you to open a brokerage account at the same time. However, you don't need to use or fund the brokerage account to be able to use the Schwab High Yield Checking Account. Finally, Fidelity has a similar debit card/service but their card charges a one percent Foreign Transaction Fee.
Make sure you have at least two credit cards (Visa and MasterCard ideally, but depending on the countries you plan on visiting, it may be okay to replace one of those with an American Express).
Make note of your credit card numbers, expiration dates, CVVs, etc. in your encrypted password database file. Also make note of the issuing bank's or credit union's phone number in your phone in case a card is lost or stolen.
Turn on fraud alerts/emails/texts on all of your financial accounts (and consider downloading the issuer’s app on your phone).
Call to set travel alerts on your credit/debit cards (some issuers no longer require this and some allow you to set alerts online or via their app). This will likely reduce the number of times the issuer freezes your credit card for ‘abnormal’ foreign activity, when it’s in fact legitimate.
Switch all of your accounts to paperless e-statements and communications. The less physical mail you get, the easier things are to manage logistically.
Make sure the expiration dates on your credit cards, debit cards, drivers license, passport, and important documents aren't going to lapse while you're out of country. If they’re going to expire, replace them before departing.
Depending on the countries you'll visit and your traveling style, a priority chip and PIN credit card like a Choice Rewards World MasterCard from First Tech Federal Credit Union can be very helpful. It may only come in handy occasionally (again, depending on your travel style) but when it does it’s a ‘life saver’.
Setup a way to deposit physical checks sent to your permanent address. We fortunately have someone at ‘home’ who can simply deposit our paper checks into the ATM or bank so we don't need to use a commercial mailer or deposit stamp.
Remote Work and Income
For income, if you don't already have an existing pool of clients consider using the sites below for short-term contracts or consulting gigs:
If you’re unsure what type of remote work you can or want to do, use remote job listing boards as a starting point to see what options you have. You can make note of the jobs that interest you and then narrow the possible types of jobs to those that require skill sets you already have or can acquire/learn.
Leverage your current network. Brainstorm all the people you know (your friends, friends of friends, friends of your parents, former colleagues, acquaintances, social network connections, etc.) and how they could be of help (contract work, full time employment, be a reference, help with increasing your knowledge, skills, and work experience, etc.). Set up meetings and connect with them before departing. It's a great opportunity to ask for leads but also to connect before you depart. Not everyone will respond, but be genuinely thankful and pick up the tab for the drink or meal for those who do. You'll find more success when you can find ways to be of help to them, rather than just asking for help.
Find software that’ll help you track your time, expenses, and do invoices. We like Freshbooks because it’s not just an invoice and expense tracking software, you can also track time, projects, and more. If you’re a small business owner, entrepreneur, or digital nomad, then this is the software you want to checkout.
Medical Records and Care, Prescription Drugs, and Medical and Travel Insurance
Get routine medical exams done before leaving. We did our wellness exam, eye exam, dental exam, and made sure our routine vaccinations were up to date. We continue do this once a year (more or less) whenever we're back 'home'.
Gather all your medical records and prescriptions and keep them with your trusted person.
Make sure your doctor knows you’ll be traveling long-term and that you may need them to renew your prescription(s) while you’re away.
Make sure you know the details of your prescription so that you can tell a doctor or pharmacist if needed while out of town. It’s not uncommon for countries not to accept or recognize a foreign prescription, so you’ll need to see a local doctor or, possibly purchase the medication over the counter depending on the country’s regulations. During our travels we’ve been sick and needed to seek out medical care while overseas a few times.
Don’t forget about extra glasses and contacts. You can carry extras, buy them over the counter in some countries, or you can have your trusted person ship you new glasses or contacts to you while you’re traveling.
Consider options for medical travel insurance and travel insurance while abroad. You can choose to buy medical travel insurance, or depending on your US health policy (read the fine print and call them to confirm) you may be covered for catastrophic events, even in ‘out of coverage’ areas and internationally.
Sample Medical and Travel Insurance Providers:
Here are a few helpful links with details of things to consider when shopping for travel insurance and medical travel insurance:
Also, don't forget that a credit card can sometimes have built-in travel trip insurance (although, usually not as robust as a standalone policy).
Data Access, Encryption, and Privacy and Security
Use a reliable, zero logging, and global VPN provider.
Use a password vault like Keepass or Dashlane to secure your passwords and other sensitive information. Also, be aware of logging into your accounts in public areas. You may have roaming eyes or cameras around!
In case of a catastrophic event (like losing or damaging both your phone and laptop, getting robbed, etc.) use an open source service like Protected Text to create a notepad with One Time Recovery Codes for your two factor authentication (2FA) accounts (be discrete). This will insure that when you login from a new device or location you'll be able to authenticate and login to your email, remote support client, etc., even if you don’t have your phone, computer, or have access to your secure database.
Encrypt everything! Internal laptop drives, USB flash drives, backup drives, etc. This website and guide from the Electronic Frontier Foundation can really help simplify security. Which, since you’re going to be on the road and using countless unsecured networks, security is arguably even more important then when being at ‘home’.
Make sure you have a secure way to transfer sensitive information (tax stuff, legal documents, etc. that you may not be able to get electronically) from your trusted person or permanent address. Assuming you’re not going to be using a commercial mailer, Signal Messenger may be a good choice. With Signal you can chat, call, video chat, send pictures, documents, etc. truly securely.
Leave a remote computer on at your ‘home’ that you can remote into in case of theft or loss of your laptop, you forgot something, or as a backup plan. This also comes in handy as a quick way to login to a website that only allows access from within the US and may detect your VPN because of deep packet inspection.
Legal Affairs and Documents
Consider setting up or ensuring that your medical directives, financial beneficiaries, will, and power of attorney are in order and up to date.
Keep digital and physical copies of your passport, visas, driver’s license, birth certificate, health insurance card, serial numbers, important phone numbers, etc., at your permanent address or with your trusted person. If anything goes wrong, you lose something, or are mugged, your loved one can have this information to you in a matter of minutes. Alternatively store them securely (encrypted) online.
Car/Vehicle and Driving
Don’t cancel your US car insurance because when you come back you'll more than likely be charged more since you'll be considered ‘high risk’ for having a lapse in coverage for an extended period of time. Instead, switch your policy to a 'non-owner’ vehicle policy. Also, ask your car insurance company if they’ll cover you overseas, and if so, for how long.
Sell or garage your car. If you’re selling it make sure you use a bill of sale (PDF) to protect yourself from liability. In our case we were fortunate; we sold our car in less than an hour after posting it on Craigslist.
If you decide to get an International Driving Permit, you can get one from your local AAA office for about $20.
Travel: Credit Card Benefits, Hotel Points, and Airline Miles
Don’t overlook credit card benefits! For example, the Amex Starwood Preferred Card offers Boingo as an added benefit. With WiFi being so prevalent, premium WiFi may be less and less necessary, but during our travels we’ve used it about a dozen times at places where the free WiFi was unbearably slow. We simply disconnected from the free network and instead connected to the premium SSID and provided our login credentials, and our bandwidth and latency improved! Again, the need for a service like this will vary greatly on your individual needs, however if you get it free why not sign-up before you start traveling and have it ready just in case?
If you don’t carry a premium credit card that offers primary rental car insurance coverage like the Citi Prestige (secondary within the US and primary internationally) or Chase Reserve (primary both within the US and internationally), consider American Express’ Premium Car Rental Protection. It’ll save you a bunch of money since you’ll pay per rental period, not per day like traditional rental car insurance!
Depending on your travel style, you may want to consider either buying lounge access via Priority Pass or getting a premium credit card, like the Citi Prestige or Chase Reserve, that includes an unlimited number of visits in a year for you and your spouse (or travel companion). Some airports abroad can be different from US airports and offer very few seats in the terminals, making lounges a welcome retreat and great place to work.
If you have hotel, airline, car rental, etc. status with one provider/chain/carrier, now may be the time to match that status to other reward programs. Use Status Matcher to see what options may be available to you.
If you’re into r/churning and r/awardtravel consider an account with ExpertFlyer to help find award seat availability and use our hotel award lodging maps to find ‘free’ category 1, 2, and 3 Hilton, Radisson, Marriott/SPG, and Hyatt hotel rooms.
Again, if you’re into churning and award travel use Award Wallet to track your accounts and reward points and miles.
Travel: Visas, Passports, and Vaccinations
Research travel vaccinations and check whether or not your insurance will cover them or if you’ll have to pay out of pocket. When calling a clinic ask them for the CPT code (Current Procedural Terminology) for each vaccine, both routine and travel. If you're unfamiliar, CPT codes are the medical diagnostic and billing codes that your medical care provider and insurance company use to bill all procedures and visits. Once you have the CPT codes, you can call your insurance company to see what (if anything) is covered under your plan.
Make sure your passport is up-to-date and you have plenty of empty pages. Some countries will refuse entry if you have less than six months before your passport expires or lack space for a new stamp (at least two pages are recommended).
We ordered, for no additional cost (as of the time we ordered ours), a passport with extra pages (52 versus the standard 20) by checking the box for ‘Large Book’ on the passport application form. Also, before 2016 travelers could request additional pages be added to an existing passport but now you need to order an entirely new passport if you fill up the pages. So, it’s best to order a ‘Large Book’ passport!
Double check visa and ‘onward travel’ requirements for the countries you’re planning on visiting. Requirements and regulations can vary greatly from country to country. Also, regulations may have been updated, so don’t assume they’re the same from the last time you visited. If you’re visiting Europe we highly recommend being familiar with the Schengen Agreement.
Consider securing your visa before arriving to a country; you'll have one less thing to worry about. We were able get our visa ahead of time when visiting Istanbul, Turkey but because of logistics we were unable to at the time of our visit to Cairo, Egypt. Needless to say, having a visa ahead of time made for a smoother experience!
Consider making a color copy of your passport and carrying it with you.
Consider signing up for a Trusted Traveler Program (Global Entry/Nexus/SENTRI). Also, don’t forget that some premium credit cards will reimburse Global Entry Fees. Furthermore, keep in mind that Global Entry’s usefulness is limited, since it only applies to a few countries and when entering the US (although it does include TSA PreCheck).
Travel: Gear, Apps, DIY Solutions, Hacks, and Tips
Consider and purchase your gear: power strip, battery pack, travel adapter, travel backpack, packing cubes (or DIY your own), travel towel, locks, first aid supplies (stomach, muscle pain, antibacterial ointment, band-aids, etc.) sun screen, ear plugs, sleeping mask, melatonin, supplements and vitamins, laptop, phone, backup drive, USB flash drive, mouse, camera, neck pillow, etc. (We go over this in much more detail in our Ultimate Gear and Packing Lists.) With that being said, remember that you don’t need consumable supplies to last months and years on end (for the most part), you can simply pack a limited supply and buy more at your destination.
To reduce the chances of losing something or being pick pocketed, sew Velcro into your pockets, consider a money belt, DIY hidden pockets, or buy something of the shelf like a pair of pants from Clothing Arts that already has hidden pockets.
For travel liquid containers, we also use a DIY approach with yogurt pouches for ultralight portability. Although, remember to make sure they’re under 3.4 ounces (100 ml)! Furthermore, we rarely carry more than one or two ounces of each of our liquids and gels, since we can purchase more when we arrive at our destination.
Consider carrying a fake/throwaway wallet (if you choose to do this, keep some of your expired credit cards and a token amount of cash in it).
Before departing, consider setting up drop shipping supply caches or packages with your trusted person so they can mail them to you. Consider what you may need along the way but may not be able to purchase at your destination, like prescription medications (may not be legal to ship in all countries), contacts or extra eye glasses, hard to find gear and supplies, etc. At one point we were in Bucharest, Romania and couldn’t find affordable size 14/15 US shoes (we found one pair for $250 USD!). So, Sergio limped along (nearly literally) until we got back to the United Kingdom.
Use an app like Duolingo to brush up or learn a new language.
Get your travel apps in order (Google Translate, Uber, Lyft, VPN, Signal, Trip It, Google Maps, Currency Conversion, Rome2Rio, Omio (formerly GoEuro), etc.) and download translation languages and offline maps on WiFi ahead of time to save on data usage.
If you’re a gamer, setup Parsec on your 'home' computer (or cloud host) and enjoy gaming from just about anywhere with a reliable internet connection. Here's our continually updated list of what games work and don't work over Parsec. So far, we've successfully played games at a distance of about 3,000 miles off of our 'home' computer (albeit, our local and client connections have so far been 50Mb's or higher).
If you like watching TV and especially enjoy catching your local teams latest games while you’re on the go, signup for FuboTV’s online streaming service (also works with Roku, etc.). Plus, don’t forget to pair FuboTV with a VPN to bypass Geo-blocking when you’re outside of your ‘home’ market!
Travel: Phone, SIMs, and Data
Forward your cell phone number to Google Voice (or a similar service). Then, depending on your cell provider, contact them to set your phone line to 'reduced rate suspension’ (AT&T calls it this). In the case of AT&T, they’ll suspend your phone line for six months at a time (for a maximum of a year) and lower the cost of the suspended line(s) to $10 per month. Plus, since you have a Google Voice phone number (or similar forwarding service) people in the US can still call you at your US phone number (you’ll simply answer via Google Hangouts/etc. when you’re over seas).
Sign up for Google Fi or a similar international phone and data plan for no-hassle access to phone and data while traveling. Alternatively, use this Prepaid Data SIM Card Wiki to understand what the local cellular network and SIM situation is like in your new location/country. SIM cards can be easy to purchase internationally, or challenging depending on the country you’re in, the person behind the counter, and/or the time of day (i.e. a 2 am arrival). Alternately, use Google Hangouts (or similar service) to call back to the US for free (or for very cheap international calls) when on WiFi and forgo having to buy a local SIM or using an international calling and data plan at all.
Well, there you have it! We’ve found that having all of the things from our extensive travel list in order has dramatically reduced our need to scramble and solve issues while pursuing a long-term traveling, digital nomad, and full-time house sitting lifestyle. Obviously, nothing is 100% but doing and considering these things has served us well over the years!