Round-The-World Pre-Departure Travel Checklist

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One year before departure

Plan sabbatical. Start laying the groundwork at least a year before you are to go on sabbatical. You may need that much time to arrange things at work and plan for your time off.

Research. Get informed about the countries you are planning to visit and don’t be afraid to ask other travelers you know or meet online—check out forums such as BootsnAll and Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree. Read about culture, accommodation and local transportation. Keep digging. Not everything is listed in search engines! A visit to you local neighbourhood bookstore will reveal a massive array of travel-related books. For a small and very carefully chosen selection of what Kathryn and I consider to be the “best of the best” when it comes to helping you plan your round-the-world trip, click here.

Budget. Check your savings, budget your trip and plan a ~30% reserve. Interested in our thoughts on saving for a round-the-world trip? Check out our series of articles focusing on personal finances for a round-the-world trip. The series comprises the following topics — constructing a savings plan for your travel fund, saving for a round-the-world trip and budgeting for the return home.

Six months before departure

Request your sabbatical. Present your request in terms of how it will benefit you and your employer.

Passport. Apply for or renew your passport if it is going to expire within a year. Many countries won’t allow you in if your passport is not valid for six months past your date of entry.  This means that if you’re planning to be abroad for 12 months and there’s less than two years left on your passport, you should get a new one. Also consider other memberships and identification—you may want to apply for an ISIC student or teacher card, a youth hostel card or an international driver’s license. And remember to carry several extra passport photos with you—you’ll need them for visas en route.

Destinations. Figure out where you want to go. Start with the most elemental question — where to first? Are you going to head east or west? Check out our article entitled: “East vs West: Which is Best for Your RTW?” What are the places you’ve always wanted to visit? Grab some travel magazines, surf some online sites, hit the bookstore and library for travel guides and books. Start thinking about the things you’d like to see and do. Check out guidebooks to start building an itinerary.

Consider your budget. Are you on target? Now’s the time to take another job if necessary to scrape together some extra coin before departure.

Vaccinations. Because some vaccinations require multiple visits to a travel clinic, now’s a good time to consult with your physician for prescriptions and vaccinations. These will of course depend on exactly which countries you visit and how long you intend on travelling. Regardless, six months out is a good time to get a Hepatitis A and B vaccination (good for 10 years).

Obtain immunization records. Remember to ask for a World Health Organization International Certificate of Vaccination from your physician. Immigration officials in some countries may ask you for immunization certification proving you’ve had immunizations against cholera and yellow fever—if you think you may need it, prepare now by asking your doctor’s office for a record

Start surfing the web for plane tickets. You won’t be purchasing them quite yet but planning and shopping for a Round-the-World (RTW) ticket tends to be a pretty labour-intensive process, as ticketing can sometimes get pretty complicated. It’s best to check online ticket consolidators and bricks-and-mortar travel agencies for the best deals for your main route and stopover points.

Tell your family about your plans. Give them a chance to get used to the idea of long-term travel. If they are resistant to the idea, be confident in your decision and be constructive by explaining your motivation to them. Over time, they’ll get used to the idea—maybe they’ll plan to join you along the way!

Connections. Contact people you know, like relatives, friends, pen pals, etc. Make sure they know what you’re up to—and you never know—they might have some ideas or connections for you, too!

Declutter. Sell or give away what you can of your personal belongings (when you come back in a few years, most of it will be useless junk without value anyway). Check out our article on decluttering: “All We Need To Be Happy Fits in a Backpack“.

Make arrangements to rent or sell your home.  Are you going to be selling your house or renting it out? Eliminate surprises. Check out our piece entitled “Rent or Sell? The Optimal Decision for Homeowners Turned Vagabonds“.

If you’re selling your home…

Get your house appraised. Make sure you do your research and give the appraiser favourable comparables. This will give you bargaining power later on.

Clean up. Get everything off of the floor and put away in storage. Get rid of stuff you don’t need—storage is big in a buyer’s eyes.

Four months before departure

Plane/RTW tickets. In our opinion, it’s best to do this about four months in advance. Some suggest taking out insurance at the same time to cover you in the event of cancellation.

Travel insurance. Choosing the right of type of coverage is outside the scope of this checklist, but it’s something that we revisit in a future article. Various types of protection are usually (but not always) included in a travel insurance policy. Be sure to consult your policy’s wording—it indicates whether your travel insurance covers what you may be assuming that it does. Policies and insurance firms differ in what they cover so be sure to ask. A good place to start your research is with World Nomads. We recommend them because they’re simple and flexible. You can buy, extend and claim online even after you’ve left home. Recommended by Lonely Planet, World Nomads travel insurance is available to people from over 150 countries and is designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and activities such as skiing and snowboarding.

Let the government know. Notify government bodies and revenue agencies of your plans to travel or your change of address via their web site. Also notify your state/provincial health plan.

Update your online address book. No matter where you are, at home or on the road, access your address book safely and securely. All your contacts—anywhere. Take some time and make sure you’re updated!

If you’re selling your home…

Paint the interior. Nothing is a bigger turn off than dirty or outdated paint on the walls. Buy a couple of gallons of warm, earthy, modern paint colors, and spend a weekend updating.

Have an open house. Have open houses every two weeks. Not only does this get more people in the doors, but it keeps the pressure on those who are interested. Make sure the house is as clean as can be, bake some chocolate chip cookies, and throw on some classy music for atmosphere. Give everyone a flyer and seller’s disclosure.

Two months before departure

Dentist and Doctor. Visit your dentist for a cleaning and your doctor for a physical. Women might consider getting a gynaecological exam. Inform your doctors that you are taking an extended trip. But remember, some medical services can be done cheaper abroad (eg dental services are excellent and affordable in Thailand or elsewhere in Asia). 

Discount cards. Sign up for any discount cards you might need (ie ISIC, Teacher Card, Youth Card, HI Card).

Check the CDC or your local public health agency. Check their website to see which vaccinations you’ll need, and then call around to find the best rates.

Banking. Sign up for online banking and be sure to become comfortable with it before you leave. We recommend opening a second bank account or a savings account—one for which you do not receive a debit card. It should be accessible only for online money transfers and deposits. This account should hold the bulk of your savings—after which you’ll transfer money into a day-to-day account on a monthly basis. It isn’t always possible to reach a computer when you need one on the road, so be sure to schedule automatic payments between the accounts if you can. This will help you better control your spending on the road—and provides additional protection if your debit card is compromised. Get a four-digit PIN for ATM and Visa cards (some ATM’s only accept four digits). Check out our piece entitled “Managing day-to-day spending on the road” for more information.

Other money matters. Your money, if you have enough to worry about, needs special consideration. Plan ahead, and give yourself some leeway, so that a change in your schedule won’t damage your long-term financial planning. If you have a lot of money in stocks or in a retirement fund, consider hiring a financial advisor—and make sure you’ll have access to your funds via the Internet. Add up your deductions and get estimates to your accountant before you go, and then arrange for official documents to be forwarded. File for an extension if you need to.

Will and power of attorney. Make a will and give a family member or a trusted friend power of attorney in case he/she needs to act legally on your behalf. Consider both financial power of attorney and someone to take care of any medical emergencies if you become incapacitated). But something may happen to you on the road and having your wishes in a legal document makes it easier for everyone if anything were to happen.

 Notify utilities. Notify your gas, electric, phone, internet and other utility companies to make necessary arrangements. At the same time, gather up all your bills; they’ll contain valuable information like account numbers and customer service phone numbers. Keep these in a safe and accessible place—like an online contact book.

If you rent…

Give notice. Most landlords will require 30–60 days’ notice of your intention to leave your property. This applies only if you are in a month-to-month lease arrangement. If you have an existing rental contract that has not expired, you will have to go through a separate process to attempt to break that lease.

One month before departure

Buy your travel gear. New boots? Be sure to break ‘em in!

Get some business cards made. Check out the new line of custom travel cards from the folks at Hostel Dog—’Hostel Dog Custom Travel Cards‘. These pocket-sized and cards are a unique way to personalize your travels, promote your brand (if you’re a blogger) and stay better connected with new friends on the road—as well as family back home.

Pick a backpack. For many reasons, your backpack will probably be the single most important purchase you will make before hitting the road. It can become your closest travel companion or your worst enemy—depending on the choice you make. Choose wisely!

Visit an optometrist. If necessary, you might want to pick up more rugged frames, order additional contact lenses. Might be a good idea to determine your prescription so if you have access to it from the road. It’s a good idea to have your eyes checked at least every two years or even more frequently if you have a family history of eye problems (ie glaucoma or early cataracts). It’s always a good idea to have them checked out before you travel. Think about how much you rely on your lenses on a daily basis. Can you afford to live without them?  

Make copies of your documents. It’s a very good idea to photocopy all of your important documents—passports, visas, tickets, credit cards, drug prescriptions and other critical documents. It will be easier to replace the originals in the event you lose them. For more hints and tips, check out our article entitled: “Travelling Safely: Before You Go“.

Visas. If you need visas at the beginning of the trip, get them before you leave. The rest you can easily get as you travel from embassies or consulates in big cities—though this can take many days, especially if they have to contact your home country. Once you know where you’re going, figure out visa requirements for individual countries and get the ones you need.

International driver’s permit. The IDP is a special license which allows motorists to drive internationally, when accompanied by a valid driver’s license from their country. So where is the IDP valid? In all the countries that signed the 1949 Convention on Road Traffic. In addition, many other countries which are not signatories to the convention recognize the IDP and accept it in their territories.

Storage. Store your stuff. Prices vary depending on location, so get a few estimates before committing to a storage company. Movers charge a hefty fee, so get several estimates on that too, and have your stuff well packed in boxes before they arrive to save money.

Moving sales, donations, trash. Depending upon your housing situation, you may need to liquidate (almost) everything like us. It’s amazing how much stuff we had accumulated in a short time…and how quickly we’ve forgotten about it.

Create packing list. Writes Doug Dyment, the so-called ‘Go Light Guru’ from OneBag:  “Arguably the single most important aspect of intelligent travelling is the issue of what to pack. This, more than anything else, will determine the size of your luggage, the weight of your load, and the state of your happiness. Your top priority, then, should be the acquisition, personalization, and use of a good packing list”.

Final farewell to friends. As other have said, going away parties are an exquisite kind of torture. The exquisite part is that many of the people you know and love are in the same place for a few exquisite hours. The torture part—they’re there because soon you won’t be! Think about having a last hurrah to celebrate and savour friends and memories—and talk about making new ones!

Update your bank on your plans. Call your bank and credit card company and let them know about your travel plans. Most institutions keep track of spending patterns and may interpret an unexpected overseas purchase as credit card fraud. Your bank or credit card company could lock your account if you use your card in another country without notifying them. Take a few minutes and call them!

For Canadians: Confirm long-term healthcare eligibility. To confirm continuous universal healthcare eligibility during an absence of longer than ~220 days from yrou provice, you should contact your local healthcare body before you leave the province.

One week before departure

Anti-malarials. If you’re heading straight to a malarial area, start taking your tablets before travel. This is extremely important to cover the incubation period of the disease. Thereafter, take them regularly while you are in a malarial region, and continue to take them after you have left—according to the instructions.

Leaving an automobile behind? If you own an automobile, you will need to sell it, lend it to someone, or otherwise place it under someone’s care while you are traveling. If you are contemplating a long journey, you want to be sure that it is used occasionally so it doesn’t sit and rust for the duration of your travels. 

Leave parents or friends with a copy of your documents. Leave a set behind (with someone you trust and can reach easily when abroad) and stash the other set somewhere separate from the originals—some backpackers like to stuff the photocopies in the bottom of their packs and forget about them. You should consider putting them in a re-sealable bag, such as a Ziploc, to protect them from the elements (and beer).

Pets? Take care of any veterinary needs your pet may have before dropping it off with a caretaker.

Stop newspaper and magazine delivery. Cancel/suspend subscriptions.

Arrange your mail. Arrange for someone to collect your mail, set up a forwarding address, or get a PO box. In Canada and the US, your initial forwarding period will be limited to a maximum of six months, which you may extend to a maximum of one year. Your mail can be forwarded via Post Restante. Most post offices worldwide allow you to send a letter to any (or some) of their Post Office branches and there it would be kept available for you for a certain period. So as soon as you arrive at a destination, you could go to the Post Office branch and pick up your letter(s).

Bookmarks. Upload your browser’s bookmarks or favourites to server space if you know how, so that you can access them from any public computer. Ayngelina from Bacon is Magic highly recommends Check out her post entitled “How to plan a RTW without guidebooks“.

Two to three days before departure

Pack. Pack. Everything you want to take, pack it up. Then unpack it, take away about half, and pack again.

Reconfirm flight. Some international airlines do require passengers to call and reconfirm your flights with the airline 24–72 hours prior to departure. For all flights we strongly recommend that you review your itinerary to ensure you know your current schedule.

Email. Set up an email auto-responder that tells people you are away for a while and not responding to emails too quickly.

Day of Departure

Double check. Run over this checklist one last time.