It is exciting when you decide to travel for a longer period of time, though when you start thinking about all the logistics that need sorting before you go, it can be pretty daunting to figure out. If you’re anything like me, that to-do list writes itself in your head every time you’ve got a minute to not think about anything (a.k.a the shower). To avoid that list becoming the entirety of your committed memory, I suggest writing it down somewhere. We started out with a brain dump in a spreadsheet, but for an organised and in control person like me even that started becoming a massive jumble. I could no longer just go with the flow, cross my fingers and hope that we won’t forget to do anything before we take off, so I organised it in a Trello board (I know!). I categorised everything, added bits and bobs here and there, gave all items due dates and put them in chronological order. (I can literally see you eye-rolling)
There were a few things that needed sorting out first to not fall into anxiety induced sleepless nights (unlike my husband who falls into deep sleep anywhere anytime without a worry). We have now done all of them and it feels great. Sure there is still a lot to do, but having the major, potentially travel blocking items, done is such a relief and it doesn’t take away from the excitement for the actual travel.
1. Decide on a budget
And length of time, I suppose. Though the budget might dictate the length of your travel once you’ve done a bit of research as to how much in average it costs per day per person. There are so many sites out there where you can find information on that, especially for areas like south east Asia. Best is to google and ask friends who have been to the countries you want to go to.
The budget will also depend on what kind of travelling you’ll want to do. Are you only going to do low-end budget accommodation? Do you prefer hotels to hostels, etc.? Think about it and adjust your daily rate per person for that country.
Remember that there are expenses already before you actually go on the trip such as vaccinations and buying a backpack (don’t cut corners on this. Trust me, it’s not worth it!), so track that money.
2. Check that your passport is going to be valid
In my case it wasn’t so much that my passport wasn’t going to be valid. It was starting to fall apart and may not have the “minimum 6 empty pages” for stamps and visas by the time we’d done 3 countries. German passports are supposed to last 10 years but mine wasn’t playing that game. After googling and contacting the embassy to ask whether my passport would be accepted, I decided to book that appointment to be on the safe side. Lots of entry requirements of the countries we want to visit state that they may not accept dodgy looking ones.
3. Decide on a route
Since our list of countries are mostly in south east Asia, we checked the weather info of every single one to design our travels around raindrops. I am sure we’ll still be running into the occasional tropical rain showers, but at least we tried to make a sensible rough plan. Note the “rough” part here, cause I am very much aware that we will change our rough plans from one day to the next and could end up somewhere we hadn’t foreseen. Which is part of the whole adventure.
However, check the weather, the proximity, take a map, draw some routes, repeat it a bazillion times to your friends. Maybe you want a bit of exciting land travel in there to avoid too many plane tickets (cause budget 👆). Maybe you don’t care flying criss-cross in which case, lucky you, one less thing to think about.
4. Sort your vaccinations out
Where I grew up, you get vaccination cards to help any GP or vaccination-giving person keep track of what you’ve received and what you need to get. It’s a little yellow leaflet and it’s worth so much when you’re planning something like this. Otherwise, call your parents and hope they’ll remember.
In the UK, you can simply call your GP and say where you’re going and they’ll tell you what you’ll need. Of course, I also did my own research and checked what vaccinations are recommended for each country and what are part of entry requirements. I suppose this is country specific, again, in the UK, some vaccinations are given by the GP through the NHS, others need to be done privately and you need to pay for them.
When I called the GP and found out how long the vaccination process is for Hep B, I immediately made an appointment with Boots pharmacy only to find out on the day that there was a shortage of Hep B and rabies vaccines nationwide. I was told that maybe some private clinics still have stock. Luckily, the second (also not the cheapest) private clinic I called had them, enough for 2 people, and we went for our first shot immediately the next morning.
5. Book that first flight and accommodation
Reading, asking friends and talking about the trip doesn’t make it yet a reality. My husband and I would talk daily about our travels, but hadn’t booked anything yet. It is another threshold that is odd to step over because then it makes it real!
There was still a lot to figure out but we said f*** it, let’s book the outbound flight and accommodation for a week. The whole time when discussing the route, we always started with Indonesia. I also thought a week to arrive, freak out and get adjusted to the timezone in a guaranteed warm and sunny place would be ideal to kick off our travels. It also gave us an extra kick in the butt to get into second gear with all of the not-so-fun organisational stuff that need to be done so we’d be able to leave.
6. Get your travel/health insurance
Another one of those things that you didn’t think of when dreaming about backpacking through the Vietnamese jungle. It is a bit of a minefield, like anything insurance related, but it is important. I know, no one wants to think of worst case scenarios, but if crime shows and movies have taught me anything is that anything is possible. I don’t want to sound too bleak, but you know what I mean. I suppose my 22 year old would have been more lax about it and just winged it…wait who am I kidding, I would have totally gotten the same insurance to make sure my Mama could fly out in case of emergency. Or get the natural disaster add-on, cause you know, Tsunamis and earthquakes and volcanoes…
What I am saying is, it is important to know what it is that you wouldn’t want to pay for but need in case something goes wrong however big or small. Most backpacker insurances offer more or less the same thing, with different excess levels (the higher the personal excess, the lower the total insurance premium), activities covered, add-ons etc.
InsureandGo and Columbus Direct were the final two from our research in the UK.
7. Decide what to do with all your stuff
We’re renting a flat, have a some things in it and no family with empty garages in the country. There was a lot of back and forth as to what we’d do. We like our flat, we like our area, but in the end we made the choice to give up the place and put everything in storage, cause a) it’s cheaper, b) we’re more flexible and c) we don’t have the responsibility looking after a sub-letter, if that would have been possible.
With that decision, we slowly started building a list of things that bring us joy and we want to keep, that we want to sell, donate or throw. The Marie Kondo method certainly helped with deciding on the size of storage. Bonus part, the storage company we went with offer 2 hours free van hire, which might be all we need cause they are a 5 minute drive from the flat.
8. Write a packing list
I already shared our packing list in a blog post a few weeks back, so you can read all about it there and if you’re planning a longer trip similar to ours, you can download the PDF.
In short, get used to lists cause you’ll be making a lot of them. I got a lot of tips from friends through my post, which really really helped refine our list to what we’re currently plan to. Another friend sent me this link and it is great for both men and women.