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Prepping for Long-Term Travel

The Basics


Check your passport. Often overlooked by those who aren’t constantly on the road, check your passport’s expiration date and renew if necessary. I won’t dwell on this, but it has to be mentioned because it’s often the last thing people remember to check.



Check VISA requirements - often only necessary for long-term stays, but it’s worth checking out each country before visiting to be safe.



Get your shots. Depending on where you’re going, you may need to visit the doctor before you take off. This is not a problem for 95% of travelers, but if you’re traveling long-term and your plans aren’t set in stone, it’s probably worth looking into it. Check https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list to see if there are any requirements based on the countries you plan to visit, then it’s as simple as visiting a travel clinic (https://healthandtravel.com/)  in your area.


Please note that some shots require multiple doses over multiple weeks, so look into this as soon as possible!


Consider travel insurance, depending on where and how long you’ll be traveling. Look for a policy that covers medical emergencies, trip cancellations, theft, and any specific activities you plan to do. I like World Nomads, but there are lots of options.


Note: Travel insurance isn’t perfect, but it can save you in emergencies. When Covid struck in March 2020, I was three months into a 12-month trip, and while no travel insurance had verbiage to account for a global pandemic, I was able to get reimbursed for a partial chunk of a prepaid train ride across Russia, it wasn’t everything, but it was better than nothing.


Medical emergencies aside, it’s nice to know you’re covered if anything big gets stolen or lost!


Honorable mention: Consider an International License if you plan on renting a car while overseas, and depending on where you go (ex. Italy, Spain, Greece, Japan) - for $20, it’s worth the investment if you’re traveling long-term. Check here to see if you need an international license: https://www.usa.gov/international-drivers-license and check here to apply for the license: https://www.aaa.com/vacation/idpf.html.


The Prep


Digitize important documents and save them to Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, or any other web-based storage platform that you can access from any computer, in case you lose your phone or your laptop breaks. Take pictures of your ID cards, credit cards, medical cards, and any other important documents, and add the support numbers for each document to your phone. Think about what you would do if your phone goes for a swim or someone steals it.. How do you cancel your cards? How do you access websites if you have two-factor authentication setup? How will you access your IDs and cash. Have a backup plan in place.


Beyond the important stuff, consider keeping ALL your digital files in an online repository, so that if something happens to your laptop, you won’t lose anything. 


Consider a burner phone. This is how long-term travelers operate, we buy a cheap, unlocked phone and purchase a SIM card (or eSIM) in whatever country we're visiting, and we use that phone any time we go out. It lowers the risk of losing access to everything, and you won't care as much if it gets damaged or stolen. I tend to hang on to all my old phones (vs trading them in for an upgrade), and I use them as my backup phones while traveling. I've been known to carry three phones while traveling, my primary and two backup phones, they're small and hold little value if they get in the wrong hands. 


Note: Consider a second email account as a backup to your primary, and tie this second account to your burner phone(s), so if anyone gets a hold of it, they don’t have access to your primary email.


Consider a secondary e-SIM. I use Google Fi (which works in almost every country) as a cheap, secondary travel line, you can activate the eSIM on your main phone and enable it when you land, wherever you land, while turning off your primary cell (and/or disabling roaming). This has saved me hundreds of dollars in roaming charges over the years, and it’s easier than purchasing a physical SIM card and plugging it into a separate phone. But again, take note, I wouldn’t use this method alone, I would still keep a burner phone for nights out and day trips in sketchy countries. I use all three when I travel, a primary phone with my main number, a secondary eSIM travel line tied to my primary phone, and a tertiary burner phone with a local SIM card. Backups on backups on backups.


If you’re paranoid like me, consider a retractable cord or wrist strap for your phone to protect against pickpocketing, it may look a little funny, but it’s better than being phoneless. (Matt’s story).


Leave the Extras. While we’re on electronics, do yourself a favor and leave the expensive stuff at home. I have a hard time leaving my AirPods anywhere, but I have an even harder time losing a pod or living in fear of my pods getting stolen when I’m in a foreign country, that $250 loss could buy you two weeks in a hostel in some countries, which is a kind of crazy to think about, especially knowing you can buy a cheap pair of Bluetooth headphones at almost any convenience store, in pretty much any city in the world. They also scream “I’m a tourist with money!” - which is never good.


The same applies to any other electronics you’re considering… if you don’t need it for work, you don’t need it on the road: tablets, eReaders, portable monitors, noise-canceling headphones, etc. Everyone needs to figure out their ideal remote-work strategy, but in general, the more you pack, the more you have to lose.


Finances


Let’s assume you have the basics down, money saved, cash on hand, and credit cards in tow. Here are a few additional considerations for financial peace of mind: 


Have a primary travel credit card that doesn’t charge ATM fees, and have one or two additional credit cards that you leave hidden in your backpack at all times, I travel with three cards, one on me, one in my day bag, and one that stays with my backpack, locked in a hostel locker. 


I do the same thing with bank cards, one primary bank card tied to checking, and a secondary bank card tied to savings, I keep them separate at all times. Overkill? Possibly… but peace of mind? Yes.


Consider security pouches, hidden money belts, and/or secret pockets, even if you don’t always wear them, they’re a nice way to keep your cash out of sight if you forget to zip up your bag. Security pouches may be an easy target for anyone familiar with them, but small pouches and hidden pockets aren’t as easy to spot.


Please keep in mind, 99.9% of travelers you meet at hostels are good/decent people, the above methods are meant to protect from uncommon, opportunistic theft. 


Lastly, don’t forget a padlock for hostel lockers if you plan on staying in dorms; even if you don’t plan on staying in dorms, they can come in handy on excursions where lockers are available.


Apps & Tools


There are only a few apps that I consider mandatory for travel, and of course, you can download whatever you need, when you need it, but this list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning:


WhatsApp: Used by 90% of the world for everything from hostel group chats to lodging to communicating with businesses (think coordinating check-ins, scheduling tours, negotiating rental rates, setting up haircut appointments), this app is used by everyone in the world except iPhone users in the US. 


Google and/or Apple Maps - specifically the “download offline maps” feature, you likely already use one or both, but it’s a very good idea to download a map of whatever city you’re flying into, before taking off.


Uber/Lyft/DiDi/Cabify/Grab - These are worth downloading ahead of time because they all require you to verify a credit card before use, so it’s good to get them set up before you leave.


Google Translate - specifically, download the language packages for whatever countries you’re visiting. Also, consider DuoLingo or whatever other language-learning tool you prefer, you’ll probably never open it, but when someone asks if you know the local language, you can show proof that you’re on step one of the program.


A VPN App like NordVPN or ExpressVPN, while not always necessary, you’ll find that you can’t access some US-based websites without connecting through a VPN; save yourself the trouble, and have it on hand if you need it.


Lastly, just a friendly reminder to download any music, shows, podcasts or other entertainment before the long flight. :)


The Pack


Pack light. You had to see this one coming, but as a general rule of thumb, if you’re unsure about something, leave it behind, you can always purchase hats, gloves, ponchos, underwear, etc. as needed while on the road.


If you’re traveling to a hot country, you don’t need a lot of clothes, you’ll probably be wearing the same swimsuit every day, the same shirt over that swimsuit, and sandals (i.e. no socks). And if you’re traveling to a cold country, you don’t need a lot of clothes, you’ll be wearing the same pants, hoodie, and jacket over your underwear and undershirts every day. In either case, a week’s worth of socks, underwear, and undershirts should be sufficient, no matter the city, country, climate, temperature, or activity. 


Choose versatile, comfortable clothing. I can’t emphasize this enough, comfort is king while traveling. If you pack ten shirts and two of them are your favorite because they’re so comfortable, you’ll be wearing those two shirts 90% of the time, do yourself a favor and pack what feels good!


Consider compression or vacuum bags to maximize bag space. I use a Scrubba wash bag that doubles as a vacuum compression bag to keep my pack as small as possible, and, of course, you can use it to wash clothes if you’re in money-save mode.


Consider packable travel gear. Packable backpacks, packable fanny packs, portable wash buckets, packable puffer jackets, packable rain jackets, pocket blankets, etc. Look for places to minimize and get creative.


Forget the towel. This is highly controversial, but I never travel with a towel, they’re bulky, dumb, and easy to lose. Yes, I rent a towel everywhere I go, or if I’m in a private room, they’re provided for free. Imagine the freedom of being able to throw that faceless wet towel on the floor after you shower, just before packing up and checking out…  versus packing it in your bag.


Conclusion


That’s it!  


If I’ve forgotten anything, please feel free to mention it in the comments below, I’ll update the article and immediately delete your comment. :)  Kidding (maybe).


As always, happy travels. 




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