Before you fully unplug and leave your world behind, let’s talk about the necessary things that you must consider before your trip. I know, you’re excited to jet off and leave your current world behind you. With all that excitement flowing, it could be easy to forget the small logistical stuff. Before taking off on that epic world adventure, let’s make sure you have everything in order so you can have the most worry-free, stress-free time of your life! Read on and make sure you’re all set with these tasks/items before your trip:
CONSOLIDATE YOUR BILLS AND EXPENSES
The most cost-effective way to take a multi-month trip is by getting rid of all your rent altogether. I know this isn’t as easy as it sounds, but if you can swing it, it will save you at least a few thousand dollars (especially if you live in a high rent area like me—shout out to California and the high cost of living…). Perhaps you can’t just up and move all of your stuff out. Consider subletting your apartment or your room out for the duration of your trip. Wouldn’t it be awesome to be able to spend all that money on food, hotels, experiences rather than paying for an empty apartment or room?
Car payment, phone bills, credit card bills, streaming subscriptions, gym memberships, etc.
Two things here.
- Can you eliminate some of these expenses, either temporarily or permanently? Some subscription services or gym memberships will let you put your membership on hold. Maybe you’ve evaluated these expenses and realized that you weren’t really using them enough to back into the cost. Even better! Cut ’em. Sell your car, or rent it out. Get creative with it.
- Can you automate these payments? If you can’t let these things go, make sure that you are aware of payment due dates so you don’t miss any payments while you’re out galavanting the world. You have better things to do than worry about bills when you’re traveling.
GET SOME TRAVEL INSURANCE
It is likely that your current health insurance won’t cover you while you’re traveling abroad. Depending on where you’re going, consider buying travel insurance that includes emergency medical insurance, trip interruption, and cancellation insurance. Some travel credit cards cover this, but only portions of your trip where you’ve ‘purchased’ it with the card. For all other moments, travel insurance provided by a travel insurance company is ideal.
I didn’t personally get travel insurance for my 3 month Europe trip, but that probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do. You can weigh out your options and judge for yourself, but it’s always good to be safe than sorry.
SELL YOUR BELONGINGS
This is actually quite fun and satisfying. We really don’t realize how much junk we accumulate in life until we find a reason to evaluate our belongings. As I was in transition and moving from Los Angeles back to my parent’s house in the Bay Area, I had to take inventory of what I owned. I didn’t want to come back to the US to a ton of useless crap stuffed in a room, so I adopted a minimalist mindset and made it a mission to sell what I didn’t absolutely need. Not only did I feel more refreshed and less bogged down by the amount stuff I owned, I made good money that I ultimately used to fund my travels.
Got a gaming console that you don’t use anymore? Sell it on eBay. Got furniture that you no longer want? Sell it on Facebook Marketplace. Got clothes that don’t fit or are out of rotation in your closet? Sell it on Poshmark or at a local buy/sell/trade shop. Got a boatload of crap you don’t know how to sell or can’t be bothered to post individually? Hold a garage sale or rent a stall at your local swap meet or flea market and get rid of it. You have tons of money-making options here!
GET A TRAVEL DEBIT CARD (AND CREDIT CARD)
We all know that travel credit cards are a must. But don’t forget to consider those pesky ATM fees you incur each time you pull out money from your checking account. If you’re traveling for more than a few weeks, chances are you’ll be withdrawing local currencies out of ATMs more than a few times. Luckily, there’s a solution for these annoying fees. Open up a new checking account and get a travel debit card!
You’ve got some options for checking accounts and debit cards for international travel:
Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking® Account. With this account, Charles Schwab Bank doesn’t charge you to use an ATM, even ones in foreign countries. The bank refunds all ATM-operator fees at the end of each month. This is the one I use and it’s such a relief to be able to go up to any ATM without worrying about an extra $5 charge here or there. If you do get charged a fee, Schwab will just reimburse you at the end of the month. Easy peasy. When signing up, you’ll have to open a brokerage account as well, but it just sits there and I just ignore it.
Capital One® 360 Checking® Account. While Capital One doesn’t charge an ATM fee if you use the 360 Checking MasterCard® Debit Card to withdraw money from an ATM, it won’t reimburse you if the ATM operator charges you a fee. However, you can avoid operator fees by withdrawing money from Capital One Bank–branded ATM or Allpoint ATMs within the U.S., Canada, U.K., Puerto Rico, Australia or Mexico.
For credit card purchases, make sure you have a card that doesn’t have a foreign transaction fee. Otherwise, you may pay an extra 3% or so for purchases in another currency. If you do use your credit card, make it a habit to check your online statement at least once a week while traveling to make sure there are no fraudulent charges.
GET YOUR HANDS ON A STUDENT ID CARD
A lot of museums and attractions offer discounted admission for students. Some of them apply to EU students only, others apply to students from all walks of life. I am no longer a student, but I like to save money when I can, so judge me if you want. Unfortunately, my UC Berkeley ID card is long gone, but I did get one from one of my friends who had an extra, sweet! I can’t tell you enough how many times this has come in handy, saving a few bucks here and there. You might even come across some larger savings!
For example, when I went to Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia, I was appalled to find out that an adult admission ticket was 250 kuna during the summer season, which is equivalent to almost $40 USD (what is this, an amusement park?!). Luckily I was carrying around that student ID card, borrowed exclusively for these sorts of things, and instead, I paid 160 kunas which is equivalent to ~$25 USD. That’s $15 that I was able to keep in my pocket to be spent on something else later on.
GET YOUR HEALTH IN ORDER
Before I said goodbye to North America for the summer, I made sure to see my primary treating physician, dentist, and eye doctor. I let my medical doctor know that I was going to be out of the country for at least 3 months and was able to get my prescriptions filled for 4 months so that I didn’t run out at any point during my trip. I had my teeth cleaned, obtained a new prescription for my eyeballs, and stocked up on contact lenses. If you use medication, make sure you have enough to last throughout the duration of your trip. Carry a copy of your prescription for added security.
Don’t forget about travel vaccinations. Utilize the CDC website to keep up to date on the latest health issues around the world that may concern you specifically. If you’re traveling to a country where disease is rampant, make an appointment with a travel nurse to discuss the necessary steps. Ideally, get this done 6 weeks before you travel for maximum protection.
Other obvious things…
- Make sure your passport and visa are up to date. Most countries require that your passport be valid for six months after your return date. Get a visa if a country you’re visiting requires it.
- Search and download apps and maps beforehand.
- Share your travel plans. Especially if you’re traveling alone
- Keep copies of documents on hand
Got all of these things prepared? Take a deep breath, rest easy, and go enjoy yourself. You deserve it.