How to Prepare for Full Time Travel
Updated: Jan 13, 2020
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This post contains a playbook of sorts to transition from the usual typical 9-to-5 American lifestyle to one of full-time, nomadic travel.
We thought it might be helpful to share all of the planning and the steps we had to go through for the benefit of others who might also be interested in full-time travel. Our pre-travel lifestyle may vary from yours in more ways than one, but we hope that this full checklist helps you tailor the plan to your own circumstances.
Before we dive in, a word of caution...
Whether you call it a gap year, mini retirement, sabbatical, or simply a really-long-unconventional-meandering-around-the-world, we can tell you from experience it’s not for the faint of heart. It takes blood, sweat, tears...and then some! But for those dedicated souls lucky enough to make it happen, it can be incredibly rewarding.
[Important Note: We do not have children, which would certainly add another level of complexity (and perhaps even a stronger “why” for making a lifestyle change) but we admittedly have no expertise in this area.]
In order to work together on knocking everything off of our moving To Do list, we created a shared Google Doc and brainstormed together.
When we went back and checked the version history, the original version was created on May 29th (a full 6 weeks before our planned departure and just 10 days after our wedding). We had already checked off a few of the major items from our mental list, but getting it down “on paper” helped us stay organized and focused.
Let's jump into the step-by-step...
1. Decide on a destination (or a few). You must have some idea where in the world you’d like to spend an extended amount of time. We narrowed our itinerary down to western and central Europe.
2. Pick a “D” day - when you want to leave. Picking a date gives you that first feeling of “this is real” and provides a great basis for setting some goals.
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Another important disclaimer:
Our wedding date was May 19 and our planned departure was July 15. This meant that we spent the ~12 months prior splitting any available minute between wedding planning and trip planning. (And yes, we are absolutely nuts, in case you were wondering.)
3. Pick someone you know and tell them about your plans! The sooner you begin to share your news with family and friends, the smoother it will go. By sharing, we breathe life into our adventure!
4. Determine a monthly budget. Unless you’re made of money, you’ll likely still need to research what your target lifestyle will cost and confirm you can afford it. Check out our post on Budgeting For An Extended Trip Abroad for some ideas.
5. Book one-way flights and your first accommodations. With the advantage of time on your side, you can keep an eye on prices for a bit and book the best deals. Similar to #3 above, this one makes things REAL!
6. Make a packing list. Do your research and figure out what works best for you while traveling. You can also check out our Packing List For a Year Traveling Europe for inspiration. We’re big fans of merino wool clothing and can’t recommend Woolly Clothing highly enough!
7. Collect moving boxes. Start doing this early if you have a decent amount of things! Pro Tip: You can often go to big box stores and ask for the ones they are going to throw away (some places may say no...just try a few others). You'll also find liquor stores have boxes perfect for storing glassware.
8. Get a storage unit and give a spare key to someone you trust. Some people may just sell everything before traveling. We opted to keep some large and/or expensive things due to the fact that we are moving back after the trip is over. We found a 17' x 20' temperature and humidity-controlled unit for $180 USD per month.
9. Host a garage sale. This is a great way to pare down your belongings and make some extra cash to help pad your travel fund! We even offered to let family and friends bring things over so it was more of a draw for people driving by and everyone got to get in on the "declutter and make some money" fun.
10. List larger and more valuable items on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. You may find a buyer willing to pay a better price on these platforms than at a garage sale. You can also combine the best of both....post the larger items and let buyers know they can find the item at your MOVING sale. This way, they might just end up buying more from you.
11. Pack up the house. Now that you’ve collected all the boxes in town and had a garage sale the likes your neighborhood has never seen, it’s time to start packing!
12. Schedule piano movers. Megan has her grandmother's piano so we hired professional movers to deliver it to it's new temporary home at her dad's house.
13. If you work for an employer, submit your letter of resignation. (...in a professional way that doesn’t burn bridges!) Eddie gave ~6 months notice of our plans and his employer was more than professional about the whole thing.
14. If you work for yourself, notify your clients. “Yo, I’m gonna be traveling for a year… sooooo” ← don’t do this. Be professional and discuss the situation with them. Maybe they’ll want to keep you on part time in a remote capacity? This is actually what happened with Megan. Her client simply asked "what will your availability be?"
15. Rent your house. If you own a home and are allowed to rent it out while you’re gone, you can dip your toe in the landlord world and still be earning equity while you're traveling. Remember to do a background check on any potential tenant. We used RentPrep and it was very easy! And if you don’t own a home, things are even simpler.
16. Hire a landscaping company. We preferred to hire a landscaping company to take care of things while we are gone instead of relying on our tenants to do it, since we intend to keep our house for many more years. Just add the landscaping cost to the monthly rent.
17. Cancel utilities (water, sewer, internet, electric). This one is pretty straight forward. You don’t want any surprise bills popping up while you’re traveling. Most of our utility providers even had an online form, making this step a cinch.
18. Create a preventive maintenance plan for the year. Similar to the landscaping, you will still want to make sure regular maintenance is being done on the house. It lets the tenants know you’re taking care of the house and also gives you peace of mind at regular check points that everything is in order. We were fortunate enough that Megan's brother let us "hire" him to do a few visits over the 12 months we're gone.
19. Change homeowner’s insurance to a landlord policy. Your home is likely not covered with your current policy unless it is owner-occupied. Do the responsible thing and check with your insurance agent to be sure.
20. Determine at least one emergency contact who is local. Easier said than done for some people. If you don’t have a friend or family member nearby that’s willing to do this, you can always reach out to some property management companies.
21. Clean out the dryer vent. Do this even if you aren’t leaving for a year! A clogged dryer vent is a fire hazard. We actually know someone this happened to recently and it's so heartbreaking.
22. Figure out where to stay between moving out and leaving on your trip. We stayed with Megan’s brother and his wife for a couple of nights (thanks again, you two!).
23. Determine a plan for your mail. We use Traveling Mailbox, which is a service that scans the outside envelopes of your mail. Then, you can view them via an online dashboard and request which ones to either scan, shred, save, forward, and/or delete. Even if you don’t get much legit mail anymore, it’s likely you still get something important (hello, tax forms). They even have a service for depositing checks on your behalf!
24. Submit a mail forwarding request to USPS. We no longer wanted any of our mail going to our former address since there would be tenants leasing our house. Here’s a link to the US Postal Service online form for your convenience.
25. Get a PO box. If you aren’t as trusting of the digital option above, another option is to have your mail sent to a PO box. For the low cost of ~$12 per month for the smallest box, you can have your mail delivered there instead (and technically you wouldn’t have to change anything in terms of your mail once you return). Just be sure to have someone check it for you every once in a while. (Thanks goes out to Megan's mom for helping us out with this!)
26. Sell your car. Megan owned a 2011 Mazda3, of which she had been the sole owner. We no longer had a loan on the vehicle so that made things simpler. She listed it on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace and had it sold for full asking price within a couple of weeks.
27. Transfer your lease. Eddie was ~18 months into a 36-month lease on a 2018 VW Tiguan. Notice that we surely couldn’t have had plans to move abroad when he signed the lease! My how life changes...
RELATED: Can You Get Out of a Car Lease?
28. Cancel auto insurance. Work with your insurance agent to plan ahead for the date when you will no longer have either vehicle. They should be able to prorate your final month’s bill.
29. Submit refund request to BMW. Did you know the Bureau of Motor Vehicles will often refund registration fees if you don’t have the car the entire year? Depending upon the dollar amount of the fees for your particular vehicle in your state, this may or may not be worth the time and effort. You decide.
30. Find someone willing and able to spoil your pet while you’re away. We were sooooo grateful that Eddie’s aunt and uncle were willing to take great care of our pup, Mr. Miles, while we are away. Honestly we think he’s having more fun and making more pupper friends than if we were home!
31. Stock up on regular medication. Miles takes the usual flea & tick and heart worm medication once a month so we stocked up on both. You’ll likely even get a discount if you buy 12 months’ worth at one time.
32. Confirm your pet is updated on all vaccinations. Check with your vet and make sure your pet is current on check ups, vaccines, and other routine care.
33. Make next vet appointment. You should be able to do this in advance, making it easier for whomever is watching your pet(s) to plan ahead.
34. Notify banks of international travel plans. This is so that your credit and debit cards don’t get flagged with suspected fraud since you'll be using it in other countries. The quality of different banks’ fraud algorithms varies quite a bit but letting your bank know about your plans is a good idea regardless.
35. Banking. Check the availability of ATMs ahead of time as well as the fees that might apply. We have the Chase Sapphire Preferred which has no international transaction fees among its many benefits.
36. International cell phone plan. We use Google Fi, which includes international coverage by default so no need to purchase separate SIM cards everywhere you go. Use our link to get $20 USD off!
38. Switch to LastPass. You can use it to store passwords, credit cards, addresses, and other sensitive information. No more using the same password for every site OR writing them all down on a piece of paper someone else could easily steal and use for their own gain.
37. Subscribe to a VPN. Did you know you may not be able to access the same websites and content when you’re in a different country? Using a VPN makes it “simulate” as if you were in another location and it usually allows you to access the same content, etc. as if you were at home.
39. Lease a safety deposit box. If you have valuables you do not want to bring on your travels or leave with a friend or family member, a good option is a safety deposit box.
40. Come up with an “In Case of Emergency” file and share it with a loved one or two. We really only did this step “halfway” by setting up an emergency contact in LastPass. You can designate one or more people to have this level of access. If they request access to your stored information at any point, you will have a set amount of hours (which you decide) to respond or they will automatically be granted access. If we had done it correctly, we would both have wills, etc. Adulting to be continued...
41. Health insurance. We purchased a global health insurance plan from Cigna Global, which is geared towards expats. Don’t get caught having a medical emergency in a foreign country with zero coverage. You never know what could happen.
42. Check on vaccines. Make an appointment with your primary care physician (PCP) and tell them which countries you are planning to visit. They will then be able to recommend which vaccines (if any) to help keep you healthy during your trip. Since we would primarily be traveling in developed countries, our physician recommended only the Hepatitis A vaccine.
43. Travel insurance. We actually opted not to purchase travel insurance (since we purchased health insurance) but felt it was worth it to include in this list anyway. Travel insurance can help cover delays, lost luggage, accommodation issues, and other travel-related hiccups.
44. Decide how you will share updates with friends and family. What you are doing is very unconventional and probably exciting to others. You’ll want to share stories and photos so they can join in on the fun! Some people choose to blog, some create YouTube videos, and yet others prefer to simply text friends and family using WhatsApp. Carefully consider which option is best for YOU.
CONGRATULATIONS on making it this far! You must be one of the dedicated few ;)
We hope this post has given you some ideas about how to approach your transition to a full- or part-time travel lifestyle and kick start a new adventure without having to worry about anything at home.
Eddie & Megan
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