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Preparing a big trip can be really stressful and on the other hand so much fun. You have to think about a lot of stuff and you can seriously get lost in the process. Don’t let this hold you back from going, because making a trip for several months, or even years, is so educational. Yes, you will learn a lot from traveling around the world. As well as about yourself as about the world and other cultures.
Let me tell you one thing, the preparation process might suck, but once you sit in that plane you forget it all! At that moment you are so proud of yourself that you actually do what a lot of people don’t dare. So, come on, let me help you with the preparation process, so you can enjoy your trip to the fullest!
The complete checklist to prepare a big trip
- Make a plan to start preparing your big trip
- Check your destination
- Everything that has to do with health
- Documents you need for a big trip
- Personal things to prepare before your big trip
- Start preparing your big trip
Make a plan to start preparing your big trip
You have probably been dreaming for a long time about this trip to a far, far away destination. Or maybe even multiple destinations to make it a trip around the world. Leaving the rush of your current life behind and immerse in a new culture, meet new people and explore many new places.
And now, it is time to finally turn that dream into a plan! No more dreaming, just doing! But… Just thinking about all the things you need to arrange for such a trip can be daunting. There are so many things you think of that you need to arrange that you don’t know where to start. Or you are afraid that you are missing something and get in trouble once you are far away from home.
To avoid stress and to avoid forgetting things, you have to make a plan. As I said, it is time to turn your dream into a plan! Not just a plan in your head, but a plan that you can look at. A plan where you can stripe off things once they are done. This will make it way easier to keep an overview and it will make you happy and proud every time you can cross something!
But how do you make a proper plan? Well, this blog post will tell you a lot of things you need to include. But first things first, start with setting goals.
Setting goals should be the first thing to do on your list. Without goals, your plan is never going to be a reality, because you keep pushing things forward. So, sit down and write down the following goals:
- I want to leave for my big trip on… (choose a date)
- During my trip, I want to have a daily budget of… (set a budget)
- Before I leave I want to save this amount of money… (set an amount)
- These things I really want to do before I leave home for a long period of time… (anything you can think of, for example, a good-bye party or catching up with a long lost pal, etc.)
These might not be the easiest goals to set. Because to set a date, you want to make sure you have enough time to arrange anything that needs to be done. And to set a daily budget you kind of need to know where you want to go. But just try to give it a shot and write something down. You can always adapt them later on if it turns out that you have set very unrealistic goals.
Money is probably one of the main things you are getting stressed about. How much do you need, how can you save enough money, what if something happens and I need more than I’ve got, etc.
Stop thinking about it and start taking action. If this trip around the world is something you really want to do, you should go for it and skip some other things that cost money. It might not always be easy and some people might not understand why out of a sudden you aren’t partying every weekend anymore. Keep in mind that this is what you want and that you do this for yourself and not for them.
For us, skipping parties and out-of-the-door dinners was hard at the beginning as our friends didn’t understand why they didn’t see us anymore. But when we invited them to our home, for a home-made dinner and some cocktails, they preferred to go to the pub.
You know, that’s fine. Letting go is also part of the process. And if it is really this easy for people to ignore you and to not support you reaching your goals and living your dream, they are not real friends. So, heads up and keep going! You’re coming close!
Here are some tips for saving money:
- Save a set amount each and every month. Set your goals high on this.
- Skip going out for dinner. It is even as nice to invite friends and prepare a home-made meal. This will cost you way less, especially if you ask your friends to share the grocery costs.
- Don’t party every week. Entrance tickets and alcohol are expensive!
- Forget about holidays. You are planning a huge trip where you will be traveling for several months or even years. Don’t bother about going on a holiday in the upcoming time!
- Sell everything you don’t need. Believe me, in the past years you have saved a lot of stuff you don’t actually use or need, while other people love to buy it from you!
- Make your groceries as cheap as possible. Don’t live unhealthily, but you can really skip cheese or cookies for a week. Buy what you really need and treat yourself with one extra item every week.
We loved the process of saving money. Every month when our salary came in, a set amount of money went straight into our savings account. It was so nice to see the balance growing every month and feel that we were a step closer to actually sitting in that plane and leave everything behind!
Figure out where you want to go
This is the fun part! Figuring out where you want to go is lovely! Sitting behind your laptop or reading travel magazines/blogs that all inspire you to go somewhere. You might not want to go to one destination, but to multiple or you even want to go everywhere, like us!
Choose at least one destination, the one where you want to start. Maybe this is a destination where you can go for a good price.
TIP: Use Skyscanner to find a cheap destination. Fill in the month you like to leave and fill in you want to go anywhere. Let Skyscanner decide on your first destination by giving you the cheapest tickets!
Book accommodation for your first nights
Assuming that you want to go to a faraway destination, it is nice to book accommodation for your first 2 or 3 nights. There is nothing better than stepping out of the plane after a long flight knowing where you need to go.
Besides, it is good to have a little rest in these first days. Destress and let it all sink in! You chased your dreams and now that big trip is finally happening! So, relax, get over that annoying jet leg and explore your first destination!
TIP: Booking.com offers accommodation all around the world. From luxury apartments to backpackers hostels and even campsites. Fill in a city or a country and find the best or cheapest accommodation options.
Check your destination
Are you excited!? I bet you are! I mean, you know where you are going and you have something to look forward to! But, did you already check your destination?
Best travel time
Every country has a ‘best time to travel’. Some might be obvious, like destinations in Europe and North America, because there is a cold winter season and a lovely summer season. For other countries, the temperature is always good, like South-East Asia, but still, there is a certain time of the year that is the best time to travel.
This has to do with the wet- and dry season. It would be a bummer to arrive somewhere having rain all day long. Other countries know a hurricane or earthquake season. You better not want to arrive and have to look for shelter right away!
If you are going to countries situated in the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons are turned around in comparison with the Northern Hemisphere. Not so nice if you think you’re going to a palm-tree-beach paradise and there is snow on the ground when you get off the plane. Oops!
So, check where you are going to make sure your expectations will come true!
No matter how beautiful a destination is and how much you want to explore it, political upheaval can be a serious danger. Always check the travel advice for a destination before you travel there.
Also check if there are natural warnings, for example, for tsunamis, active volcanoes, hurricanes or anything like that.
Once you know for sure it is safe to travel, check out if you need a visa. For some countries, you can purchase a visa upon arrival, for other countries you need to arrange it in advance at an embassy.
Most countries have a website, maintained by the government, where you can find information about a visa. You’ll see which one you need, what it costs and how long it is valid for. You’ll also find information on how you can arrange a visa if it is not possible to get one upon arrival.
To enter certain countries, you need to prove that you are leaving again. You can prove this with an onward or an exit ticket. If this is the case, you can purchase a cheap ticket out of the country, whether it is by boat, plane, train or whatever transport means you can find the cheapest ticket for.
If you don’t know your plans yet, you might not be going to use this ticket. That sounds like a waste of money. At least, I wouldn’t be happy to spend money on a ticket I’m not going to use.
Luckily, there are seasoned travelers that found a solution for it! A fake ticket! Or not really fake, but temporarily. Via onwardticket.com you can select the country you need an onward ticket for and you can select a random destination to make the ticket complete. You’ll receive your ticket within 2 minutes in your mailbox and it stays valid for 48 hours.
It is a real ticket, so at customs, they will see that you actually have a ticket to get on a certain flight. What they don’t know is that this ticket will expire within 48 hours.
Obviously, you have to pay for the services, but this is just a couple of dollars, which is probably way less than a real ticket!
Everything that has to do with health
Nothing as important as health. And nothing as annoying as ending up in a foreign hospital. So, make sure you are healthy and that if something still happens, that you are insured!
A health check can be done by your general practitioner. If you tell him or her that you are going away for a long time and that you want to have a health check, they will most probably get some blood from you. They check several values and if you are low in vitamins or something, they will let you know what you can do about it.
You can also do a more extendable health check, with scans and everything involved. This might not be covered by your current health insurance, as you don’t have complaints. Anyway, doing a health check is totally up to you. It is not necessary, but it can just give you a good feeling.
Also, plan an appointment with your dentist just before you leave. Ask if they can send the latest photo’s from your teeth to your e-mail so that you can show it to a foreign dentist if you ever need it.
A teeth checkup can’t harm you anyway. Just making sure you don’t have any small holes in your teeth that can cause a lot of pain in the nearby future.
Did you already check if you need vaccinations for any destination you plan on going to? Or malaria tablets if you plan on going to a malaria area? Or altitude sickness treatment if you plan on going climbing a high mountain?
If you are not sure where you are going yet, explain it and ask if you can get as much as possible vaccinations as possible. Some health insurances cover travel vaccinations, others don’t. It might be a good plan to check if your health insurance covers this and otherwise switch to another one as soon as it is possible.
Some vaccinations need to be repeated 2 or 3 times before they fully protect you for getting an illness. Make sure you have enough time to get all your vaccinations before you leave.
Also, for every vaccination, you get a stamp. At the border of some countries, it is obligated to have certain vaccinations. Get a vaccination book where you can collect the stamps. At the end, it might be a good idea to scan all the information and save it somewhere in the cloud so you can access it from anywhere.
Regular health insurances often cover traveling abroad for a short time. So, if you are planning to make a big trip for several months or even years, you might have to look into a travel health insurance. These insurances are specially designed for long-term travelers.
Just keep in mind that they only cover costs made in emergencies. If you are in pain, or if you feel sick, yes, you can definitely visit a doctor to let it check. The travel health insurance will most probably cover the costs you made.
But they don’t cover a regular dentist appointment, just because you are used to letting your teeth checked twice a year. It is also possible that they don’t cover any check-ups for current illnesses, medicines or injuries (for example diabetes, the anticonception pill or chronical lower back pain). You should check this with your travel health insurance.
TIP: Safety Wing is a very affordable travel health insurance. We have been with them for several years and are really happy with their services.
For some medicines, you need to have a medication statement to be able to bring it across borders. Especially when you are planning to bring quite a lot, as you are going on a big trip for a long period of time. So, if you are using medicines, ask your general practitioner if you need such a statement. He or she will be able to provide it to you.
Documents you need for a big trip
Traveling most probably means crossing country borders and being far away from home. At least far enough to get in a lot of trouble if any of your documents seems to be invalid or stolen. That for you have to prepare a couple of things when it comes to documents!
Obviously, you are going to need a passport. Not just to collect stamps, but to be able to travel across country borders. If you plan on going away for a really long time, it might be handy to extend your passport just before you leave your home country. This way it is valid for the longest possible time and it will save you some hassle during your trip to extend your passport in a foreign country.
If you are going away for a couple of months or a year or so, make sure your passport is at least valid until 6 months after turning back to your home country. A lot of countries you can only enter when your passport is at least valid until 6 months after your arrival date.
If you don’t have a driver’s license, don’t bother! Skip this part and go on to the next point. If you do have a driver’s license, check it out. Until when is it valid and is it worth it to extend your license before you leave?
When you are planning on driving a car or even a motorbike in another country, check out if it is necessary to have an international driver’s license. A lot of countries accept you driving a car or motorbike with a foreign driver’s license as long as it has an English description on it. So it should literally say: “Driver’s License” in English.
Just check it out and make sure you are able to drive if you want to drive.
A credit card is also valid for a certain period of time. Often way shorter than a passport or driver’s license. So, make sure to add ‘checking the expiry date of your credit card’ on the preparation list of your big trip. Make sure you do this on time, that if you need to extend it, you have enough time to receive a new one.
TIP: Check all your documents straight away and see if you might need to extend one. If so, check out how long it takes to receive a new one and plan an appointment to extend your document.
Another thing you should really add to your preparation checklist is to authorize someone to access your bank account. This can be one of your parents, a sibling or a very close friend. There might be situations that it is very handy that they can access your account.
For example to send some extra money from your savings account to your bank account when you don’t have internet access. Or to inform the bank when your card is stolen and needs to be blocked. Making such a phone call from a foreign country can cost a lot of money.
When your card is stolen and you need a new one, they are able to receive your new credit card and pin number from the bank and they can forward it to you. See? All good reasons to authorize someone for your bank account. Don’t forget!
Don’t underestimate the importance of copies, copies, and copies! Make a copy of every document you have, like passport, driver’s license, credit card, other payment cards, medication statement, vaccination book, and anything else you can think of.
Store it somewhere in the cloud, which you access with a password. And it might be a good idea to inform someone how to get access to it as well. This can be the same person as you authorized for your bank account.
If your documents are stolen, or if anything happens when you don’t have your documents with you, you can always access the copies. This can save you a lot of worries!
Personal things to prepare before your big trip
This part might be different for everyone. Depending on the length of your trip you need to arrange a couple of things more or less than all the above I’ve mentioned so far.
Let’s see if you need to add any of the below to your checklist.
Do you receive a magazine every month, do you have a subscription for the gym, the cinema or a newspaper? Cancel it. You won’t be home for a long time and you are not going to read that magazine or the newspaper and you are not going to visit the gym or the cinema.
So, stop paying for it and cancel your subscription. This will help you save a little bit extra for your trip and it will lower your monthly reoccurring costs once you are traveling.
Don’t forget to check your phone and internet subscription. You can probably turn your phone subscription into a prepaid account and cancel your internet subscription all the way.
TIP: Make a list of all the subscriptions you have with a date when you want or need to cancel them. Check your bank account to see which reoccuring payments you make every month or quarter to make sure you don’t miss any.
What to do with the rent
Do you rent a place at the moment? You are probably not going to need that place for quite a while. It might be worth it to cancel the rent. This will save you a lot of costs when you are traveling.
Are you attached to your place and would you like to return here once your big trip is over? Subletting might be an option for you. Especially when you can rent your place furnished, this way you can leave your belongings behind and return to them when you are ready to go home. Maybe you can even make a profit!
We used to rent an apartment in Rotterdam from a private rental company, so we didn’t have the option of subletting. What we did have, was the option to nominate a new tenant. In this way, we could choose a tenant that wanted to take over all our interior. So, instead of having to sell everything separately, we could sell everything in one go, which saved us a lot of effort and time!
If you bought a house, you can either sell or subletting it. This will probably depend on the length of your trip and your plans after the trip. Anyway, it’s all up to you!
What to do with your job?
Working for a boss? Then you have to make a decision. Are you going to quit your job or are you going to ask for indefinite leave?
The first option is easy. Check your cancellation period and make sure you quit your job on time. Tell your boss personally and give him/her your resignation letter.
For the second option, you need to plan a bit ahead. Because the first question you can expect is: “for how long?” So, make sure you have kind of a plan you can tell to your boss. Keep in mind that if you ask for 6 months’ leave, you have to return within 6 months.
Change your mail address
Nothing worse than missing a bill that only adds up more the longer you wait to pay for it. Make sure you can still receive all the important stuff. Sometimes you can choose to receive your mail online, sometimes you have to give up another post address.
You can, for example, choose to let it send to your parents or sibling or a good friend. If they receive mail from you, they can inform you accordingly.
TIP: Keep track of everything you receive by mail, write down all the instances where you need to change your address for and make sure to follow it up.
Sell everything you don’t need (anymore)
Why would you keep stuff if you can’t sue it anymore? Sell it! Put an ad online on any marketplace, organize a garage sale or rent a stall on a local market. This way you will get some extra cash for your trip and you don’t have to take care of moving everything.
Think of your car, bike, interior, clothes, sports equipment, books, games, literally anything you can think of. Even if you think, “naah, no one will be interested in this”, try to sell it. There are people around that want to get it for a nice price. And for you, every dollar is an extra dollar to spend during your trip!
When we left for our trip around the world, we only had two moving boxes left with personal belongings. They kind of only contained souvenirs from previous travels. We sold all the rest of our stuff or we gave it away to charity.
Of course, we also had our fully loaded backpacks, ready to get on the plane!
Start preparing your big trip
Now you have an idea of all the things you need to arrange and take care of before you leave on a trip around the world. I admit, it is a lot. But don’t forget this is to chase your dreams! Believe me, it is all worth it!
So, make a list of all the things you need to arrange and sit down to figure out how much time everything will cost you. Create an overview for yourself to see how much time you have left before you want to leave. You can either do this in a spreadsheet, or you can create a big print-out schedule and hang it on your wall.
Her is some advice to start planning
- Check some of your deadlines. For quitting your job, extending your documents and card, canceling the rent etc.
- Make the first appointment to get vaccinations. In this appointment, it will be clear how many more times and when you need to come back.
- Check which stuff you like to sell. Try to put on a new ad or two every day.
- Plan some fun things in between! Like figuring out where you want to start and booking a ticket. Don’t forget to check if you need a visa and an onward ticket!
- Make an appointment with your dentist and general practitioner.
- Plan to make copies of your documents somewhere just before you leave. Then you know for sure you have all the documents you take on your trip
Once you’ve written it all down it becomes a real plan. Now you have an overview of things you need to do and every time you did something you can cross it! Every cross you put on your overview feels like coming closer to your big trip! Have fun!
We love to hear from you
I really hope this post has helped you to create an overview and a checklist with things that need to be done before your big trip. I’m getting so excited that someone else dares to take that step and just does it! Be proud of yourself, because you need some courage to actually make it this far and turn your dream into a plan to make it a reality!
If you have traveled or are currently traveling for a longer period of time and want to share your preparation process or if you have a question, please leave a comment below.