I LOVE the pre-planning part of travel but I can find it verrrry stressful.
I get so pre-occupied whether I'm making the right decisions I forget that we live in a global marketplace and chances are...I can buy most things I need wherever I am in the world.
I asked a group of well-travelled bloggers for their best advice when travelling long-term and they came up with the following great tips specific to Planning, Trip Memorabilia, Visas & Documentation, Budgeting, and Packing.
Don’t plan too much in advance
It’s easy to get caught up in all the travel research you’re doing on destinations before your trip and want to book all those great hostels and that cheap flight you found, months before your trip. But try and stop yourself, or you might end up missing out advises Ashlea from Dashing Around the World.
There will always be more flights and hostels, but you might not get another offer to stay with new travel friends in their hometown, or catch that awesome festival nearby that you only just learned about.
We made the mistake of pre-booking 4 weeks in advance at the beginning of our trip, and it took less than 3 days to regret that decision! Due to our inflexible plans, we missed seeing the northern lights in Sweden by only a day or two.
You’ll be surprised how much your travel plans change during your trip and you find your ‘travel style’. Don’t miss out on great adventures because you’ve pre-booked all your accommodation and transport!
Other similar blog posts: Is Group Travel For You
2. Collecting & Carrying Trip Memorabilia
Oh my goodness, I'm SO GLAD my wooden mask collecting days are over. Those things are heavy!
I've lost count of the times I hauled items around with me on my travels only to do nothing with them when I return, or worse I damage or lose them en route.
These days I'm a lot more minimalist and collect a few small everyday items from my trips.
I find it's these small items that can often trigger the biggest memories.
It might be a flight stub from a lucky upgrade, a scribbled-on city map, a coaster from my fave beach bar or a carefully peeled label from a bottle of local brew can often bring the moment flooding back.
Find pocket-friendly, lightweight souvenirs
I agree with Shalini from Eager2Travel when she says that travel souvenirs should be something that will be a symbol of the place you have visited and that they don't have to be expensive either.
A good old fashioned postcard can capture a place better than any photo you could take, you could even send them home to yourself to read upon your return.
Many items are easily found around the world such as country flags, sew-on patches, fridge magnets and local keyrings. Keeping hold of pocket-sized maps can be a lovely reminder after your trip has ended.
Seeking our local artisans and purchasing local jewellery or handwoven items that are unique that that area can be a lovely way to treat yourself, create a reminder of your journey and support local artists.
For those will more space and the option to ship items home you could consider mirrors, antiques, statues, paintings and sculptures as well as the traditional dress of a place.
Easily create a memento as you go
These Destination Travel Wallets have an atlas quality map on the cover and solve the problem of what to do with the small keepsakes we collect during our travels and when we return.
Each travel wallet comes with a keepsake stash tin with plenty of space for small city maps, postcards, photos, keyrings, even that dodgy souvenir magnet that slides off your fridge door!
When you return you simply remove your passport and slip the travel wallet and your travel stash into the tin and label it. Job. Done.
Rifle through when you need to be reminded of your adventures.
Map your journey
There are lots of map apps and for placing pins of destinations but why not go old school and colour in where you've been on this free colour-in map poster.
You can print it colour or black and white and it looks great printed onto board and hung with a simple poster hanger.
You can grab your free colour in world map here or click the map above.
Seek out items unique to your location
When you're travelling long term, the last thing you need is for your luggage to become weighed down with souvenirs, gifts and knick-knacks advise Trina & Tim from Team Hazard Rides Again
The best choices are small things, like keychains and refrigerator magnets. Even if you hit a dozen countries, the ditty bag you keep these items in won't get too big or heavy.
However, one of my favourite things to do is to buy a piece of jewellery or clothing from the places we travel to. With jewellery you'll almost be guaranteed to be helping a local artisan and possibly buying from them directly.
As far as clothing, many places have very affordable tailors, where you can get unique, custom fit attire using local textiles. For example, Ghana has beautiful fabrics and you can get a shirt, dress or suit made for $8-15usd (+fabric).
One of the best things you can do is leave some empty space in your suitcase at the beginning of your trip so you can add a few snazzy pieces to your wardrobe as you go.
Other blog posts you might like: Easy Ways Keep Travel Memories Alive.
Collect Paper Currency
Chris Backe of Worthy Go is someone that's spent over a decade travelling/living abroad. He says that souvenirs could easily take up an entire suitcase with all the travelling he's done!
Souvenirs, at their most basic, offer memories of the specific places you've been and are fun to look at.
At the same time, a long-term traveller has to weigh a few more things in mind. Things have to be small, multi-durable / not fragile, and light — if you're just sending them back home in some way this is less important, but if you're keeping things with you, these extra criteria become critical.
Chris' personal solution is to collect paper currencies from the countries he visits. They're light, durable, and won't cost you anything extra to acquire.
Just put aside one or two of the small bills in good condition and collect them in an envelope, then place with your other important paperwork.
3. Make your money go further
Keep a spreadsheet of your expenses
The easiest way to keep to your budget is to write down everything you spend. Jennifer from Backyard Travel Family says that means everything, including the 1 euro bus fare or the 50 cents to use the toilet.
We used to keep a wee notebook on hand, or use the notes app on our phone to write down every expense, then transfer it to a spreadsheet. I love doing it manually, but there are also apps that can help you too!
Then categorise it by type of expense eg. food, accommodation, transport, fuel, attractions etc, as well as by country or city or state depending on where you are travelling.
This means at any time you can work out which country was the most expensive, what percentage of your budget you usually spend on food etc, and project if you are going to have enough money for your whole journey.
We definitely found we spent far more than we thought on street food, trying a French pastry here or a new flavour of Italian gelato here. A spreadsheet will help you keep on track and NOT run out of money!
Use an app to help with budgeting
If spreadsheets aren't your thing Cee from Itz a Family Thing suggests that there are a number of apps available and recommends the app 'Travel Spend'.
I find a number of features useful including being able to set a budget for each destination as we all being able to track your spending it can track expenses by the person; which is helpful for families.
Other blog posts you might like: How to save money on travel vaccinations & medication
4. Visas & Documentation
Check visa requirements BEFORE you set off
When embarking on a long-term, multi-destination trip, one of the BIGGEST things you cannot overlook is visa requirements says Kara from Destination: Live Life.
Especially for US citizens, it’s too easy to assume we can just show up and be granted a visa on arrival. However, that is not always the case, and it isn’t always that easy.
I found this out when I decided to visit Bolivia during my world travels. Where, in order to gain entry, we must submit a sworn statement, provide a laundry list of supporting documentation, and pay a $160 visa fee.
Luckily, I discovered this with plenty of time to get my affairs in order vs. trying to do so while sitting at the border. So be sure to save yourself some headaches and plan ahead for your visas.
You’ll be so glad you did!
Carry hard copies of legal documents
Likewise, Rachel from Adventure and Sunshine recommends carrying hard copies of legal documents.
In the modern age, it feels there are very few physical documents, apart from your passport, you need to carry when you travel.
But unfortunately, there are still a few documents that are essential requirements, particularly if you are overlanding with a privately owned or rented vehicle and/or with children.
In many places including Africa and even Europe, it is mandatory to carry physical copies of vehicle insurance and proof of vehicle ownership (or rental).
A copy saved on your mobile phone will most likely not be accepted. Keep the documents stored in the front of the vehicle so they can be retrieved easily.
Also ensure your insurance covers the countries you are entering, particularly in Eastern Europe where insurance requirements vary from country to country.
Another essential document to carry if you are travelling with children is their birth certificate.
Many border control officials request them in addition to their passports and in many cases, they are required to be full certificates and not abridged versions.
In many countries, you are also required to produce travel consent forms if only one parent is travelling with the child.
It is important to check entry conditions prior to arrival and ensure you have all necessary documentation.
It also never hurts to keep sets of passport-sized photographs for visas applied for en-route.
5. Packing Well
Learn how to pack your bag well
Packing your hand luggage smartly can save you a lot of headaches and gain you lots of space says Suzy from Explore Bari.
I often travel up to a week with just one piece of hand luggage. The advantage is that I don't have any extra costs for check-in luggage in cheap airlines.
My basic tip is not to fold your clothes, but to roll and stack them next to each other.
Socks and underwear can also be rolled up and stored in your shoes. That way, sensitive things like your camera can be put in between and are thus stable and protected.
In your bag for liquids, to reduce space and weight take only what you really need. Things like toothpaste or deodorant you can buy in your destination.
You need less than you think
Less stuff equals more freedom says Kaspars from Make Adventure Happen. It’s easier to move around, you don’t have to waste time thinking about what to wear and it makes it easier to keep your bag with you when taking local transport.
Don’t try to bring everything, leave all the “what if” items at home. You can buy everything everywhere.
Unless you have specific toiletry requirements leave full-size toiletries at home and buy when you arrive
If you want to travel with a towel opt for the microfiber towel. They are lightweight, dry quickly and take up very little space in your luggage.
Travel light! It’s awesome.
Buy t-shirts and other clothes on the spot
One of the main issues when travelling long term is, of course, space says Mario who blogs at Rest and Recuperation.
One thing I often do when staying abroad for long periods is to pack fewer clothes than normal so that I can buy them abroad.
Sometimes quality is even better, considering that many garment factories are in the countries that I visit, as it recently happened in Cambodia or Bangladesh.
And furthermore, they also make very good souvenirs, so that you hit two birds with a stone. I still use some very beautiful non-touristy t-shirts that I bought on many of my trips around the world, including Oman or Zanzibar!
Take multipurpose items
Packing for destinations across a variety of different countries, regions or even weather types can be tough.
Emma from My RIG Adventures tip is to try and pack items that serve more than one purpose. Ideally, most items should do at least two jobs, rather than packing individual items for those tasks.
An example with a kitchen item would be to use an insulated travel mug with a lid and straw for all beverages (hot or cold), rather than taking a drinking glass, plus a mug, plus a travel mug.
A lightweight, microfiber towel can roll up very small and be used for the shower, plus in a day bag for swimming at the beach or on hikes.
For clothing, think of pieces that are versatile and can be layered. A nice dress can be worn out at night for dinner, or during the day if it’s hot.
Alternatively, you can layer it with leggings, a long top and a scarf if the weather is cold. Jeans are a great, versatile item as well.
Use Compression Bags for bulky clothes
James from Travel Collecting has taken many long term trips including eight months in Africa ranging from the Sahara Desert to the glaciers at the top of the Rwenzori Mountains.
Often, you need to pack for everything from 40-degree deserts to -20-degree mountains. Hot weather gear takes up very little space, but winter clothes can be bulky.
I bought a great down jacket to take with me, but it took up a huge chunk of my backpack so my tip is to buy a compression bag.
I squashed my jacket in the compression bag, squeezed it tight and voila – it took up surprisingly little space, leaving room in my backpack for the other things I needed to carry!
Don't fret, you can buy most things!
Global brands are just that. Global. So if you do forget an item or pack the wrong clothes chances are you can get the things you need at your destination.
Before you go you may find these posts of interest:
- How to entertain yourself on a long flight
- Easy ways to keep travel moments alive for longer
- Ideas for European destinations by train
PS Don't miss out, download your free colour-in map poster today!
PPS You can pin this post for later!