With so many beautiful places to visit in the world, it’s natural to want longer than a few days or weeks to experience a destination. Maybe you’re finally doing that epic road trip or taking off on that 6-month break you’ve been planning for years. Maybe it’s time to prioritise yourself and your dreams, throw caution to the wind and just take off for a while. Whatever the reason, travelling for a long time takes planning and preparation. To help you, here are six things to do before taking a long trip.
1. Know where to go
Before anything else, it’s a good idea to come up with a plan for which places you want to visit. While you don’t need to have every day of your extended trip detailed out in an itinerary, having an overarching plan will help give you much-needed structure. That way, you’re free to follow the spirit of adventure each day and see where the road takes you while also having a good plan to fall back on.
When putting your overarching plan or broad itinerary together think about the waypoints or rest points you’ll work towards. These will be the tent poles, freeing you up to explore during the daylight hours while knowing where you’ll end up in the evening. Take some time to consider what type of accommodation is best suited to your trip. Are you planning on staying in motels, hostels, hotels, BNB’s or renting a house for an extended stay in one spot? If you’re working with an agent to book your accommodation, you may ask them to make use of a rental estimate to help you prepare your travel budget.
2. Prepare your budget
Having your destinations and accommodation sorted and using those as tent poles in your plan is a huge step in preparing your budget. When we travel, we manage our budget by doing a mix of free, low-cost and paid things each day. For example, we may eat breakfast at the accommodation, visit a national park in the morning, having a picnic lunch, do a paid activity in the afternoon and eat dinner out in the evening.
When putting together your budget don’t forget to include room for food, transport (including hire and fuel), groceries, shopping and incidentals. Create a list of your daily estimate of expenses and aim to save money on some days so you can splurge on other days, ensuring you get to do all those bucket-list things you really want to do and still have a great time!
3. Go into savings mode
Before we took off on a year-long trip abroad, we went into a pretty intense savings mode! The hardest part about this is trying to get your friends and family to understand why you can’t come out and spend $100 on dinner and drinks. It won’t be easy and there will be times you’re going to be tempted to break the budget but you’ll be glad you didn’t when you’re enjoying your trip away!
A few ways we saved money was to set up a budget with a clear target in mind. This included how much we wanted to save each pay, all our outgoing expenses (groceries, bills etc) and a small weekly allowance for fun to be spent however we liked. Having that small weekly ‘pocket money’ allowance helped keep us both on track, rather than making an unrealistic goal to spend no money whatsoever.
Another big thing we did was to clear our debt. We sold our car, paid off our credit cards, reduced the limits on them and ensured all our debts were paid off. In the long run, it made more sense to use some of our savings to clear our debts, relieving the pressure to have that money while we were away and saving us money on interest.
Small changes like cutting back on subscriptions, taking lunch from home, eating at home more, walking instead of catching public transport and cutting back on night’s out, buying new clothes etc made a BIG difference.
4. Pack up and raise funds
In preparation for our trip, it made more sense for us to end our lease and put all our things in storage. Not only was it cheaper, saving us money, it gave us a chance to make money! Downsizing our belongings meant we could hire a smaller storage locker and, to get the best deal, I visited a number of storage providers looking for a competitive rate. In the end, I was able to pit two against each other to get an even better rate. Choosing a facility further away from the city centre also produced cheaper rates.
We were tough when it came time to pack up our house. We saw it as a chance to get rid of the old and, in doing so, donated things to charity and sold a lot of stuff too. The money from what we sold went towards our budget for the trip! If you own your house, it may be a good idea to consider renting it out so you’re making money while you’re on the road. It may be suitable to have it listed as a long-term, short-term or even holiday rental.
5. Visit your doctor
Before you take off be sure to pay a visit to your doctor. Make sure you’ve got a good supply of any essential medications like asthma inhalers, epi-pens etc. It’s also a good idea to tell your doctor where you’re going in case you need to do anything specific like take a course of Malaria medication. Not only that but discussing any planned activities can come in handy to identify risk. For example, your asthma may make it too risky to go scuba diving. Best to be safe!
6. Stay in touch
This may seem obvious but it’s really important! Make sure you share your rough itinerary and any set travel plans with people you know and trust. If you need a break from social media, consider sending out a weekly or fortnightly update via emails to your nearest and dearest. This will ensure people know where you are, should you need help while you’re away.
Always keep a list of emergency contacts on your person, in your luggage and in your vehicle. It’s also very important to learn how to contact the emergency services if visiting another country! You don’t want to find yourself in desperate need of help and not be able to dial the number for an ambulance. I recommend having a list of key phrases printed out too so, if you don’t speak the local language, you can show a local the print-out and point to phrases like, “I need an ambulance,” or “I need the police.” It may seem over-the-top but if a day comes when you need to use it, you’ll be glad you had it. Read: 7 must-know travel safety tips for first-time travellers.
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