Planning a long trip? This to-do list will help.

by Kim on March 4, 2012 · 54 comments

I put together this list to guide those of you that plan to embark on a big trip. I know it seems like there are a million things to do (there are a million things to do) but staying organized and taking it one step at a time will make the process a whole lot easier. 

The biggest, baddest long-term travel to-do list

1 + year until departure: big pictures stuff

Determine your budget.  Your budget will depend on a number of things including where you want to travel, how you want to travel, and the length of time you’ll be gone.  Will you be working on the road or relying completely on your savings?  Resources:  Determining our RTW budget (So Many Places), How much does it cost to travel around the world?  (RTW Expenses)

Employment. Do you hope to take a leave of absence or will you quit your job?  Look into the rules at your place of employment- you may be surprised, or disappointed, in the possibilities.

Inventory your stuff.  Take a good hard look at all your stuff.  What can you sell now to beef up your savings?  What do you absolutely want to keep and what can you live without?  If you own a home, will you sell it or rent it out?  Resources: The decision to sell our home (So Many Places), How to have an indoor yard sale (Married with Luggage)

Get to know your finances intimately.  If you’re going to save a bunch of money you need to know exactly how much money you have and where you’re spending it.  Sit down with your finances and figure out where you are.  Resources: How I paid off $24K debt in nine months (Furtherbound); Eliminate unnecessary bills (So Many Places)

Get serious about saving. Change jars, tax returns, and whatever portion of your paycheck you can manage- save it all!  Once you’ve determine how much you can save each month you’ll be able to determine how long it will take you to reach your savings goal.  Once you get a grasp on your savings you’ll be able to predict your departure date!

Pets.  If you have pets you need to begin thinking about who will watch them while you travel.  If you’re anything like us then your pets are your babies, and you want to make sure you find someone you can trust to take good care of them.  It’s never too early to put your feelers out.  Also, don’t forget to leave room in your savings to pay for food, vet and boarding bills while you are on the road.

6 months until departure

Start to plan your itinerary.  Search for flights to get an idea of costs.  Consider weather.  

If you don’t have a passport, order one.  If you do have a passport make sure it is valid and won’t soon expire.  Do you have enough pages left or should you order more?

Apply for a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.  Resources: RTW friendly bank accounts (Jack and Jill Travel)

Make an appointment at a travel clinic for vaccinations.  Resources: Typhoid, hepatitis and yellow fever, oh my! (So Many Places), Travel and expedition medicine (Travel Doc clinic) 

Consider the electronics you’ll take with you.  Do you want a computer?  A nice camera? Purchasing electronics can get expensive so give yourself time to budget, save and shop for deals. Resources: And on the seventh day they shopped (So Many Places)

Tell your family and friends about your big adventure.  Be prepared for a variety of reactions and remember that not everyone will be jumping up and down for you. Resources: We’re going to travel the world! (So Many Places), Tipping our hand (One Giant Step)

Buy plane tickets to your first destination.  

3 months until departure

Choose a pack.  Do you want a travel pack or backpack?  What size?  Resources: Choosing the right backpack (Nomadic Matt), Travel pack or backpack?  (Eagle Creek), The pack that Brian and I both carry. 

Create your packing list and shop for what you need.  Resources: My RTW packing list (Answering Oliver), Gear update: 18 months of travel later (Legal Nomads) 

Apply for health insurance and, if you are carrying expensive electronics, extra insurance for your possessions.  Resources: My health insurance headache (Katie Going Global), Getting health insurance when you travel (Almost Fearless) 

Create a will and a living will.

Book 2-3 nights in a hostel in the city of your first destination.

Choose a bank with no ATM fees and lower foreign transaction fees.  We had to apply for our Charles Schwab account by mail.  Resources: How to avoid bank fees while traveling (Nomadic Matt) 

Make all of your doctor and dentist appointments and insure you have a clean bill of health.

Give proper notice where necessary: gym, rent and anything else in which you’ve signed a contract or lease will require between 1-3 months notice.

Do you have investments and retirement accounts? Do you have TurboTax online to efile your earnings? Make sure your accounts are in good order and will work for themselves while you travel.

Tell work you are leaving, or at least begin to consider when you might give notice.  Some people are comfortable giving two weeks notice while others give months or even years. Resources: Telling our jobs about our plans to travel (So Many Places) 

Research VISA requirements to the countries you think you may travel to.  Does your first stop require that you buy a VISA in advance?   Resources (for U.S. citizens): The state department.

If you are opening your house or apartment to renters consider how you will receive payment.  Will you hire a property manager to fix any issues that arise?

Start a blog or create an email list so that you can keep in touch with friends and family.

Make sure your license is current and valid.

Apply for an International drivers license.

1 month until departure

Sign up for online bill pay for bills that will trickle in once you’ve given up your permanent address.

Ask a trusted loved one to have power of attorney over your finances in case you can’t access them.

Get a Skype phone number and teach your family how to Skype.

Sign up for volunteering and lodging options that can help save money and keep you on the road.  Resources: Trusted Housesitters, Servas International, Workaway, Airbnb, WWOOF, and CouchSurfing (to name a few).  

Defer your student loans if applicable. 

Get your resume and LinkedIn profile in shape.

Consider enrolling in the Smart Traveler program with the state department.  Resources: U.S. Department of State

Make copies of your important log-ins: credit cards, online bill pay, blog and email log-ins. You might go weeks between logging in to your accounts, make sure you don’t forget those important passwords.   

Determine what you’ll do about filing your taxes.  Will you have a loved one scan your documents so you can file online via Turbotax?  Perhaps you’ll ask a family member to file for you or pay an accounting agency to do the dirty work.  Think ahead about how you’ll handle this task.  

Inventory your stuff again.  What can go to Goodwill?  What will you keep?  Are you getting a storage unit?  If so, now is the time to rent one.

Organize your files.  We had years and years of old bills and other junk stored away in our files.  Pare down your documents to only what you’ll need to refer to in the next three years.  Shred and recycle everything else.  

Collect addresses of loved ones so that you can send post cards.

Get extra passport photos to use in VISA’s.  

1 week until departure

Cancel your cell phone service.

Notify your bank and credit card that you’ll be traveling.  

Scan copies of your marriage certificate, birth certificate, passport, VISA, and plane tickets.  Email copies to yourself and to your family.

Pack.

Upload books to your kindle.  

Donate/ give away/ or put the rest of your stuff in storage.

Cancel your utilities/cable/car/renters insurance.

Forward your mail.  

Make a note of your bank and credit card company’s international phone number for lost or stolen cards.

Ensure the emergency contact in the back of your passport is correct and completed.

Get a stash of cash from the bank (clean, unwrinkled US dollars) and a bit of local currency for your first destination.  

Eat all of your favorite foods.

Throw a gigantic going away party.

Freak out.

Leave!

What am I forgetting?  Please add to this list in the comments below.

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{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Pamela March 4, 2012 at 6:36 pm

I’m not yet ready to plan a RTW trip, but I still find you blog helpful and fun to read. For now I like working and traveling frequently. Someday I’ll definitely want to do RTW or maybe even permanent travel. All the things I’ve learned from your blog will help me now and in the future. Thank you!!!

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Kim March 4, 2012 at 8:42 pm

You are welcome! You can keep this list on hand in case you ever do leave to travel long-term. :)

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Lisa Wood March 4, 2012 at 7:28 pm

What a great list to work towards for when you are travelling and need to get ready.
I guess you could say that I jump in with both feet, and then think again afterwards about what will work/wont work!!

We now get our boys online by email as we no longer have a fixed address, all of our other post goes to Davids parents home.
We have sold off everything we really didnt need and only stored what we wanted to keep for one day. Yet I dont think we will ever want to give up travelling :)

Like the idea of finding a page of what to do for planning to travel long term.

Cheers
Lisa

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Kim March 4, 2012 at 8:43 pm

That’s one way to do it. I could stand to jump in and think afterwards… I am just too much of a planner at heart, I can’t help myself!

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Sarahsomewhere March 4, 2012 at 10:43 pm

Where was this list three months ago?! He he, just saw a few things I neglected to organise, like extra passport photos!! That’s a good one. Oops :)

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Kim March 5, 2012 at 6:39 pm

Oops. Seems your still surviving pretty well, though :)

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Lize-Mare March 5, 2012 at 5:14 am

This sure is a list! i am going to try do some of them before departure i leave in 1 month and 27 days! NOT THAT im counting…. Sooo excited to get out of this cube-bound lifestyle

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Kim March 5, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Yayayaya!!!! So close! We are two months and 10 days away, not that I’m counting either!!

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Tracy March 5, 2012 at 6:59 am

Yes! Giant master list! I’m sure all travelers have thought about these things at one time or another, but it’s nice to have it all in one place when your brain starts going crazy trying to think of everything. Thanks for the list, I’m sure I’ll refer to it in the future

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Kim March 5, 2012 at 6:41 pm

I’m sure you will!!

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Patricia GW March 5, 2012 at 8:26 am

This is a great resource, Kim! Another big thing is under the “inventory” category: a vehicle. You’d need to sell it (eg via Craigslist), transfer ownership via SOS or DMV, and cancel the insurance. Plus, coordinate transportation before you leave if you still need to get around.

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Kim March 5, 2012 at 6:41 pm

Ah, yes! Thank you!!!! I will add it to the list.

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Cherina March 5, 2012 at 3:58 pm

You really are the queen of to-do lists! I love that there wasn’t a list to be found…so you made one yourself! Perfect. This is a such great resource for anyone going on an extended trip. Super impressed!

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Kim March 5, 2012 at 6:41 pm

Haha, thanks. It was fun.

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Traveling Ted March 5, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Holy moly that is a lot to do. I felt like I just traveled the world just thinking about all the things that need to get done. I think I will just read your blog :) This is a great resource for those thinking about embarking on a RTW.

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Kim March 5, 2012 at 6:42 pm

No kidding- so much to do. Luckily (unluckily?) we’ve had plenty of time to get it all done.

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Caroline @ Traveling 9 to 5 March 5, 2012 at 5:30 pm

I am having flashbacks of all the work that goes into leaving to travel – I should dig up my never ending excel spreadsheet, most if it is pretty identical to yours!

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Kim March 5, 2012 at 6:43 pm

You can look at the spreadsheet and reminisce!! :) I hate that I love excel.

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Marlene March 5, 2012 at 5:56 pm

Hi Kim! We moved to Asia three months ago, and scanning down your list, I’m glad to see we didn’t miss anything *too* major, hehe! Just a suggestion, most of the things on the “one week to go” list could/should be done before then. The last week will FLY by!!!! Document scanning, Kindle uploading, bank, utility and mail notifications, contact lists, etc. can all be done in the last 2-3 weeks or sooner. Try to keep the last week as open as possible, it will rapidly fill itself. :) But if you plan right, it will be filled with fun, not chores! :) Can’t wait to follow your adventures!

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Kim March 5, 2012 at 6:44 pm

Yes, that is a great point. Most of that stuff in the “one week” category can be done well in advance. For instance, I am already freaking out and we’ve still got two months to go! ;)

I can see the wisdom in keeping the final week open… I’m sure lots of stuff pops up and even if it doesn’t it sure would be nice to have a little time to relax.

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Two Travelaholics March 6, 2012 at 5:28 pm

Great comprehensive list! It matches our handwritten list, but the only thing I think you’re missing is submitting a change of address to the Post Office. You want to be sure that your mail forwards to a PO Box or a trusted friend or family member.

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Kim March 7, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Yes, thank you! I will make sure that is clear on the list…!

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Peggy McPartland March 6, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Kim, great info!

I’m heading out in 3 weeks and missed of few of these. Just registered with the State Department Smart Traveler program. I’d heard of it before but didn’t get it on my list so it slipped my mind. I’d also forgotten about the extra passport photos.

This is an amazing resource. Thanks for sharing! I’m looking forward to following your journey.

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Kim March 7, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Hi Peggy, I’m so glad it reminded you of a few things!!! THREE WEEKS! Yahoo!

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Ali March 7, 2012 at 2:13 am

Great list!! I would strongly suggest doing some of those “1 week until departure” items before the one week mark. Whatever freaking out and panic and excitement you’re experiencing now will skyrocket that last week, so trying to get too many practical things done in the last week won’t work out too well. Especially since you will want to spend time with friends/family that last week, you don’t want to have too much on your plate.

A word on notifying your credit cards – when I called mine, I got an automated system for letting them know I was going to be traveling. It varies by card, but one in particular didn’t want to accept my 5 months. They said they would note my account for one month and then I would need to call back. I was finally able to get a person on the phone, and after much explaining, they were able to note my account that I’d be traveling for 5 months. She was so confused that I wouldn’t be able to call back after a month.

Medications – if you have any prescription medications you take on a regular basis, get as much as you can ahead of time and make sure you know how to get more while you’re on the road.

Sorry for the long comment! I hope you’re doing great!

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Kim March 7, 2012 at 8:46 pm

MEDICATIONS- yes, I must add this to the list.

Thanks for the heads up about the credit cards, it’s good to be aware of that before making the call. It’s never a walk in the park calling customer service at my credit card to begin with…

I am hearing loud and clear that I need to leave my last week wide open- I’ll do it (as much as possible!)

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Savvy Scot March 9, 2012 at 1:37 am

You are not helping me with my itchy feet ;)

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Kim March 9, 2012 at 8:04 am

That’s a good thing, right ;)

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Jo March 10, 2012 at 7:06 am

This list is great. I’m just starting to actually think about whether a RTW is a possibility, but I’m excited to refer back to this.

Also, I don’t know if this is the post to share this, or not, but I’ve seen you write in a few places about the possible headache of buying and finding (and carrying) tampons while you’re traveling. I just wanted to put a plug in for you, or possibly other readers, to check out a menstrual cup. They are lightweight, easy to clean, sanitary, reusable, and you don’t have to worry about replacing them while you travel. My personal favorite is the diva cup, but there are lots of options out there. (http://www.divacup.com/)

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Kim March 11, 2012 at 11:16 am

Jo! I’m so glad you bring this up. A diva cup is on my list of things to buy. I have friends that are die-hard fans and they’ve sold me on it. Plus, less waste, can’t argue with that. Thanks!!

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Paula Rizzo @ListProducer March 11, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Kim — I love your concept and how you’re actually living your dream! :) Good for you!

I’m a lover of lists myself — my entire blog is dedicated to them: http://www.listproducer.com

I’m not ready for a trip around the world quite yet — but when I am — your list will come in handy for sure! Thanks for sharing!
–Paula

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Kim March 11, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Paula, you are a woman after my own heart. A whole blog full of lists, I love it! Thanks for stopping by :)

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Kelley March 19, 2012 at 7:58 am

Wow, what a great list! I will definitely be using this – just sold my house and getting outta here late July. Thanks for so much info, there are things I hadn’t thought of.

Love your blog, been following for a while. Best wishes on your travels!!

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Kim March 19, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Thanks Kelley :) Best wishes on your travels as well.

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Mrs. RTW March 27, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Hey Kim,
Did you guys figure out travel/medical insurance? Just curious as that’s next on my to-do list :)

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Kim March 27, 2012 at 9:10 pm

Hello! Well, we’ve actually decided to go through an insurance broker because it got so complicated we couldn’t handle it. So, we are getting a short-term policy while we are in the US and then a travel policy while we are overseas (that is HIPPA compliant). I will write a post about it when we have all of the details squared away. I’m happy to share the name with our broker with you, she was recommended to us by someone else. Email me if you’d like her contact info.

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Montecristo Travels (Sonja) October 12, 2012 at 7:20 am

You’re not forgetting anything … I think that for us there are a lot of “extra” elements because we are sailing our own sailboat. So there are things like acquiring a license to sail the Med. and learning how to do your own electrical and mechanical repairs (not many chandleries in some of the North African and Middle Eastern countries for example) and so on … and … we have + dog, we have a LOT of paperwork to complete for him and his needs have to be taken into account but I like this list!! I may use it as my spring board and modify it. Thanks Oh Queen of the To Do List!

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Kim October 15, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Oh yeah, that must add a whole bunch of things to the To Do list! Have fun planning!

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Adam at GettingStamped November 27, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Great post, I am just putting together our to do list, we are 7 months out yet but I thought it would be good to start. I missed a few good ones you have in the 1 month category. We are planners too…Is it weird that we just test packed our bags at 7 months out?

Keep up the great posts!

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sarah January 2, 2013 at 11:26 am

hey Kim! great list! my husband and i are leaving in less than 2 weeks and the anxiety of not forgetting anything is starting to set in- thanks for your list…i feel we have most of it covered! whew! now if only i did not have a broken hand – broke it just yesterday- life would be so much easier!! :)
thanks!!

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Kim January 14, 2013 at 11:13 pm

OH NO, how terrible. I hope it heals quickly.

Just to ease your mind: Once you are out on the road you will see that you don’t need most of the stuff on the list anyway (or that you can find those things on the list anywhere). Feels good to be organized though. Have fun on your adventure.

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Shana April 4, 2013 at 9:54 pm

Oh my goodness… this is SO HELPFUL. I love to-do lists, but have never traveled long-term before so this is amazing! Thank you :]
Shana recently posted..In Limbo

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Kim April 5, 2013 at 12:15 am

Yay! I’m so glad it’s helpful for you!!

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Ashley March 5, 2014 at 9:48 am

I am getting read to leave on a RTW trip for a year and I am starting to panic! Not even sure where to begin :) I find your blog very useful, so thank you!

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Kim March 6, 2014 at 5:52 am

Ah, yes, I know the feeling. Deep breaths. You will get through.

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Ashley March 5, 2014 at 9:49 am

I feel so overwhelmed by the whole thing that I don’t even know where to start. I am planning on leaving in September and I am starting to panic! I’ve never been a good planner, so I am trying to read as much as I can and find your blog very helpful!

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