The Ultimate Long Term Travel Checklist with Timeline


Preparing for long-term travel can be overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be.  In this article, you’ll find a step-by-step checklist and timeline to get you ready for your extended international trip.

Disclaimer: This article is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to constitute professional advice. You should obtain professional advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. Deskless Nomad makes no representations, warranties, or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete, or up to date. Please see the full Deskless Nomad Disclaimer

1 Year To Go

Plan your route. Go beyond the printed guidebook to research your destinations.

Some excellent sources of travel information online include RoughGuides.com, LonelyPlanet.com, TripAdvisor.com, and Frommers.com websites.  You can also find a ton of information and inspiration through Youtube, Instagram, and TikTok videos as well as blogs linked from Pinterest.  Don’t forget to review local customs to avoid embarrassing yourself or insulting others.  Look up tourist scams common at your destinations, unsafe neighborhoods, tipping etiquette, and dressing standards (especially for women).  

Take notes using a note-taking app like Notion that you can keep adding to and use as a portable reference for later.  Survey your family and friends who have traveled to your destinations to get recommendations.

Calculate your budget for your trip

Learn how to plan and budget for long-term (slow) travel.  This will give you an idea of your expected expenses.  In addition to flights, transportation, and accommodations, don’t forget to factor in food, entertainment, travel and health insurance, and any expenses at home like ongoing bills and storage units.

Book a round the world airline ticket

You will need to know your basic route when you purchase your round-the-world ticket.  Most round-the-world travel packages will allow you to make adjustments to the dates of your departures from each destination however it is more difficult and costly to change the destinations after you have purchased the ticket package.  

Read my Complete Guide to Round the World Tickets to understand how these tickets work.

Booking a round-the-world airline ticket is a big one-time expense.  If you need to spread your costs out over time then you can wait to book your initial one-way tickets until about six months out for the best deals.

Find a credit card with travel rewards

Apply for a travel credit card that will start earning you points and free travel. As a long-term traveler, you can stretch your money by travel hacking with credit cards that reward you with extra points or miles for every travel-related purchase.  You can then use those points or miles to get free flights and hotel nights.   Your travel bookings may also be covered under the credit card travel insurance so make sure you are using your travel credit card from the very first booking.

Learn to travel hack

There are tons of Youtube videos, TikTok videos, blogs, and podcasts dedicated to teaching you how to travel hack and make the most of your budget.  Learn all of the ways you can save money when booking flights (earn free flights, find cheaper fares, use one-way tickets, use round-the-world tickets, use open-jaw tickets, get access to airport lounges and free food). 

Learn how to do the same with accommodations to save money on short-term rentals or upgrade hotel rooms and get free food. 

You can also travel hack with alternative accommodation options like house or pet sitting, house swapping, work exchanges, staying in hostels, and couch surfing.

See also: 27 Tips, Tricks, and Travel Hacks to Save Money on Airbnb Rentals

Start brushing up on languages and learn to use google translate

Dedicate 5-10 minutes a day to language lessons that will build up your skills over the months leading up to your trip. The exhaustion of trying to speak in an unfamiliar language all of the time is one of the many things I wish I had known before starting long-term travel.

Use the free Duolingo app to begin or refresh your knowledge of one or two languages you anticipate using during your travels.  Duolingo also offers audio lessons for certain languages.  Watch foreign language movies with subtitles on Netflix to further your foreign language comprehension.

The Google translate app is an excellent free tool to help you translate written text on the go.  Just select the language and direction of translation (i.e. Italian -> English), point the camera at the menu or sign and the app will automatically translate it for you to read.  You can also use the app while speaking to someone.  Tap on the mic button to speak and your words will appear in English with simultaneous translation into the other language.  The person you are speaking to (who doesn’t speak English) can do the same so you can read each other’s words in your respective languages.  

6 – 12 Months To Go

Approach your boss to discuss going on a sabbatical or working remotely while traveling

Negotiate with your current boss to go remote and work while you travel. Alternatively, you can arrange for a sabbatical or leave your job entirely.  If you plan to freelance or start a small business as a digital nomad, begin well before you leave for your trip to avoid adding to your stress.

If you plan to work abroad, make sure you understand how this will affect your taxes

Working remotely while traveling abroad can have significant consequences for your taxes. By planning ahead you can save on your taxes with special tax deductions and credits. You’ll also want to understand the tax consequences of working remotely while in a foreign country. Check out our tax guide for digital nomads and remote workers to learn more.

Book your initial one-way flights if you decide against a round-the-world ticket

About 6 months before your trip is a good time to start booking your initial one-way international flights.  Realize that some countries will not let you enter without having proof of onward travel out of the country so you will need to book at least two flights ahead of time (one into and out of your first country).  There is also the option to book a temporary return ticket.  

Read more about the pros and cons of one-way flights and how to use temporary return tickets. While booking direct flights may not always be the cheapest option, they are one of the many factors to consider if you want to become an eco-friendly traveler.

Check what vaccinations you will need and arrange to get them

Check the CDC website for vaccination requirements at your destinations.  Some vaccination series can take weeks to complete and take effect so make sure you leave plenty of time.

Minimize your stuff

Use this time as an opportunity to start getting rid of things you don’t need or use.  Learn the methods of minimizing your stuff from Marie Kondo.  One way to make this process easier is to designate one room or category each month over the year leading up to your trip.  You can sell your things online for extra cash, give them to friends, or donate to a good cause.  Reducing your belongings may also help you save money by decreasing the storage unit size you will need.

Find an online bank and debit card with free or reimbursed international ATM transactions

An online bank is essential for long-term travel.  You will need the ability to check your account balances to make sure you won’t incur overdraft fees as your credit card balances and other bills are paid automatically.  The best bank for you may depend on where you live. Make sure to check the exchange rates for the bank you are considering and compare them to others.  Revolut.com is an excellent online bank that allows you to spend money abroad at the market exchange rate in over 140 currencies.  

If you are traveling internationally, there may be destinations where it will be more convenient to pay in cash.  You’ll want to have easy access to your cash from your checking account without having to pay huge ATM fees with every withdrawal. Don’t forget to let your bank know where you are traveling so you won’t face trouble at the ATM. 

Start booking your accommodation

Research your options on alternatives to Airbnb.  Set up profiles on the sites you plan to use.  Some will recommend you upload a photo and enter profile information for hosts to learn about you.  Learn how to ask Airbnb hosts for a discount and how to avoid scams on Airbnb and short-term vacation rentals.

If you plan to book rentals for a month or more, you will want to start looking about 6 months beforehand to make sure you find places available for the full-time you need.  Make sure to read the cancellation policies and make note of the cancellation and reservation change deadlines.

Set up a spreadsheet to keep track of all your flight and accommodation booking details

Use a spreadsheet to organize the details of your bookings, dates, host contact information, payments made and due, cancellation policy, etc.  

3 – 6 Months To Go

If you will rent or sublet your place, begin the process of listing your place

The best time to list your place for rental or sublet will depend on the rental market in your area. 

Check your passport expiration date and renew it if applicable

Some countries will require that your passport be valid for 6 months beyond your date of entry.  Make sure you have plenty of blank pages for stamps and visas.  If you don’t have space you may need to upgrade to a passport with more pages.

Check to see if you need to apply for visas in advance

Information on visa requirements for US travelers can be found on the US Department of State website.

Automate your bill payments so you don’t forget while overseas

Make a list of the bills you will continue to pay each month while abroad.  Set up automatic payments for each and then set up your credit card payments to be paid automatically from your checking account.

Get travel insurance

Understand what your credit card travel insurance actually covers.  Talk to a representative to make sure you understand the terms and conditions. Then look at other travel insurance options to cover any gaps. Many long-term travelers recommend SafetyWing.com. 

1 – 3 Months To Go

If you are renting, inform your landlord of your move-out date 

The required notification time for vacating your rental will depend on your lease agreement.  If you know exactly when you will be leaving you can give your landlord advance notice.

Delegate someone as your Power of Attorney

Choose someone who can act on your behalf if something happens while you are overseas.  For example, if your storage unit goes out of business and someone needs to access and move your stuff, or if you have to sign paperwork and don’t have internet access.  Remember that you no longer need to print, sign, and scan documents anymore if you travel with an iPhone or other smartphone that allows you to download, sign, and return documents digitally.

Apply for a digital nomad visa if you plan to work remotely and want to stay in one country longer

Digital nomad visas are a great way to stay in one country longer and have the legal right to work remotely while there. They come with many pros and cons, including tax benefits, so make sure to fully understand what you are applying for. The processing times for these visas can vary from a week to a couple of months. You can find links to applications in our digital nomad visa index.

Alternatively, several countries have long visitor visas that allow you to stay for 4 months to a year without requiring a special application process.

Set up online storage for your travel photos

On an extended trip, you will likely take more photos than your phone or camera can hold.  Make a plan for where you will upload and store them.

Find a storage unit

If you plan to put your things in a storage unit, start looking for one well ahead of time.  Some places will offer deals or discounts in advance.  Storage units of certain sizes can be hard to find in some areas of the United States.  Reserve a unit ahead of time so you aren’t left scrambling last minute.  Alternatively, you can arrange to leave your stuff with a family member or friend.

Choose your luggage

You may already have the perfect luggage for your trip.  If not, you’ll want to research the best luggage for a long-term trip.  If you plan to fit everything in one backpack, beware that just because you can fill up a pack doesn’t mean that it will be comfortable to carry.  Packs that weigh 25kg or 50lbs can be quite heavy when walking up hills or flights of stairs.

Make a packing list and do a practice pack

Start making a packing list at least a month ahead of time.  You will think of things to add to the list (and subtract) as you move through each day.  Waiting until the last minute to pack or make a list can result in forgetting a few key items.  

Do a practice pack and see what it feels like to carry everything on your list. If you are like most people, you will overpack on your first attempt.  You can also try living out of your suitcase for a week to see if you actually use the things you have included.  Try to include things that have multi-use rather than single-use.  

Buy any gear or clothes you will need

Don’t forget travel plug adaptors, extra batteries, your favorite toiletries, a small first aid kit, a handy multi-tool (just don’t pack it in your carry-on).

Make sure you will have multiple ways to pay for things

Make sure you have more than one credit card.  Plan to have some cash on hand.  Consider getting some backup traveler’s checks (but only if they are accepted at your destination).  

Make a plan if you get sick while traveling

Research travel health insurance and purchase a good plan.  Download their app.  GeoBlue has an app that helps you to find local physicians who speak English and accept the insurance without you having to pay upfront.  Safety Wing travel health insurance will soon be offering telemedicine visits from anywhere in the world.  Other U.S.-based telemedicine services like Teladoc offer global telemedicine visits to help guide your diagnosis and care.  

Check the US embassy website for your destination to find a list of recommended doctors and hospitals.

Figure out how you will get your medication refills on the road

Order any prescription refills and ask your doctor how to get refills while you are on the road.  You may need to do some research or have your doctor help you figure out the equivalent medications in the countries where you will be traveling.  A telemedicine physician may also be able to help you with this.

Apply for an international driver’s permit if you plan to drive a car

The international driver’s permit is accepted in 150 countries but is not required in every country.  In the United States, you can visit a AAA location or download the application from the American Automobile Association (AAA) website and mail it with two passport photos and a check or money order for $20.  In Canada, this can be done through the Canadian Automobile Association website.  

1 Month To Go

Scan copies of your important documents and save them in a secure online file

Save copies of any document you may need access to while traveling.  This includes your passport, visas, vaccination records, medical records, flight itineraries, accommodation bookings, etc.  If you are traveling with your dog, don’t forget to scan copies of all of your dog’s veterinary records, vaccinations, and proof of ownership (dog license and/or adoption license).  If you will have to file taxes while traveling, make sure that you have scanned and saved all of the documents you will need to file your taxes.  

Take screenshots and/or print out essential documents you may need at the last minute.  You may not be able to rely on internet access.  Include your first night’s stay as well as contact information and a map.  Having scanned copies and screenshots will ensure you multiple ways to identify yourself if you lose your passport.  Give copies of these documents to your power of attorney.

Purchase travel insurance

While some credit cards provide travel insurance for bookings paid for with those cards, the terms and conditions of the insurance may not fit your needs.  Review the coverage and decide if you would benefit from additional travel insurance. 

Work out a return plan if something goes wrong while you are away

Review your travel insurance to understand what may be covered.  Your emergency plan could include an emergency fund with money set aside for a last-minute ticket home.

Use up or give away your food 

Go through your pantry and start using up your food that will expire before you return from your trip.  You can donate whatever is left to a food bank or give it away to a friend or relative.

Pack up the belongings you aren’t taking on the trip and put them in storage

Let your bank and credit cards know about your travel plans

Some banks and credit cards will put a hold on your card for your safety if they see transactions from another country.  Let them know those transactions are yours.

Get your phone unlocked and purchase a virtual SIM card

Using a virtual SIM card with minutes and data will save you a lot of money.  Your phone must be unlocked to use a virtual SIM card.   Contact your cell phone service provider for instructions on how to unlock your phone.

Set up a VPN or Virtual Private Network for use abroad

A VPN will protect your data while you are using your computer on public WiFi.  It will also allow you to use your streaming services from back in your home country like Netflix or HBO.

Research and download any travel apps and maps you will need

  • XE Currency Converter 
  • Google translate
  • Local taxi apps like Uber, Free Now (Europe), Grab (Asia), Ola (India), 13Cabs (Australia)
  • Download maps to use offline and avoid using your phone data (google maps)
  • TripAdvisor

Have extra passport photos printed

You may need these for passport reissue, transportation passes, or visa applications.

Arrange for your utilities to be turned off and pay the final bills

Forward your mail and change your address on all of your accounts

You can forward your mail through the USPS website temporarily for up to one year.  Make sure you are forwarding your mail to someone you trust and who you won’t mind asking to sort through and open your mail.  Change your address on all of your banking accounts, credit cards, subscriptions, driver’s license, etc.  It can take two or more weeks for these changes to go through.

Set up a Signal or WhatsApp group to stay in touch with family and friends

Plan to regularly notify them of changes in your travel plans and when you enter and exit a country.

1 Week To Go

Buy some backup currency for your first couple of destinations

You’ll want to have some cash on hand in case it takes you a while to get to an ATM or bank or they are not open or available when you arrive.  If you wait to do this until you get to the airport you may find yourself paying higher exchange rates.

Move your stuff into storage and do a final cleaning of your place

Make sure you leave your place in good condition to get your full deposit back.  Make arrangements with your landlord to have your security deposit refunded to your bank account since you may not be in the country to receive a physical check at the time it is returned.

Arrange for your airport transfer

Whether you book an airport shuttle or arrange for a family or friend to take you, now is the time to confirm your ride to the airport.

Give a copy of your itinerary to your power of attorney and another responsible adult

Plan ahead to make your journey more comfortable

Learn these tips to sleep well in the middle seat, survive long-haul flights, or even make your economy flight feel *almost* like first class.

After 2 – 4 Weeks On The Road

Review and adjust your budget

Review your budget after the first month on the road to make any adjustments early on so your money lasts for as long as your intended trip.

Jamie Dubois

I am a freelance writer, wanderer, kayaker, rock climber, and adventurer exploring the world on my own terms.

Recent Posts