Here, I’ll run through the main things to consider before booking that plane ticket. This is detailed, but feel free to scroll to the bottom where I’ll put everything into a checklist.
It’s an obvious one, but what is your current living situation? If you’re still living at home with your parents, it should be much easier (financially) to up sticks before travelling. When you’re renting, it’s also pretty easy to end your rental agreement and leave with only a few weeks’ notice.
If you own your own home, things become a bit trickier. You’ll either need to sell, or arrange to rent it out. This can be a hassle when you’re halfway across the world.
We seriously considered renting out our home. But after a lot of consideration, we decided it wasn’t the right option for us.
Yes, it would’ve been great to have our mortgage paid for us, but a number of factors made us think twice. We weren’t 100% happy in our old house, and we knew we would want to sell up as soon as we returned to the UK anyway. Due to our circumstances, we would’ve had to pay a fee for an agent to manage the tenancy, while we would’ve still been liable to pay any maintenance costs. We were also confident that we would sell at a profit, and the idea of having a couple of extra £££’s towards our adventure was tempting.
After a lot of thought, we decided that keeping our house would have put too much responsibility on our shoulders, so we decided to sell. Sadly, this meant that we were at the mercy of our buyers, and we did have one sale fall through. In the end, it took us 9 months from going on the market to completing our sale. I won’t lie, those 9 months were rough. It was all worth it in the end, though!
I’m a big believer in working to live, not living to work. You can always earn more money, so I would never get too hung up about abandoning your career (at least for a short while). Karl and I have both built successful careers in development and marketing, and the thought of putting it all on hold is definitely daunting.
Luckily, we’re in a position to work from anywhere. We’ll embrace the world of freelancing, while staying in touch with friends and contacts from the UK. There’s no reason for travelling to thwart your career at all, especially if you can work remotely.
I’m a convert to minimalist living. I LOVED the feeling of clearing out our house when we moved. The simple fact is that nobody needs ‘stuff’. You have to embrace this mindset if you decide to travel!
We packed the entire contents of our home (what was left of it!) into a sprinter van. This included a sofa that we loved, our bed, clothes, paperwork and no more than a couple of storage boxes. I think that’s a pretty impressive achievement. We’re lucky enough to be able to store some of this at my parents’ house, but otherwise we would’ve weighed up the pros and cons of renting a storage unit at around £100-150 a month.
Not forgetting our cars. Selling your car is a great way to top up your fund before travelling. Karl is selling his, while my mum is going to ‘borrow’ mine until we get home.
Decide on a savings target. How long do you want to travel for? Are you happy to bed down in a hostel, or will you want to stay in nicer B&Bs and hotels? Where will you go? Generally, most countries in South East Asia have a much lower cost of living than countries in Europe, for example.
Next, work out where your travel fund will come from. How much can you realistically afford to save each month? Will you need to sell or rent out your home? Do you have a car to sell? Could you sell any of your possessions, or trade them in for cheaper versions?
What about your bank accounts? Does your current account charge you a fee, or require a certain amount to be paid in each month? If so, you might want to consider switching to a free bank account.
You may also want to consider opening an app-based bank account (we use Monzo). They offer some valuable security features, such as mobile notifications whenever you make a payment. It’s also possible to freeze and unfreeze your card within seconds using the app, making it ideal for countries where card skimming is rife. Purchases abroad are free, too.
It’s worth splitting your money up before travelling, to avoid “having all your eggs in one basket”. We keep some money in our UK bank accounts, and use it to top up our Monzo accounts as needed. We also use a 0% credit card for booking flights (and for any emergencies), which we then pay off straight away.
Don’t forget to set aside some cash to buy your all-important travel gear, too.
For those of us with problematic medical conditions (me included!), it’s a sad fact of life that these need to be taken into consideration when planning something as simple as a holiday, let alone a year-long trip!
Ask your doctor for their advice – they may be willing to prescribe you extra meds to see you through. It’s also worth researching the rules for the countries you plan on visiting. Some countries outside of Europe can be surprisingly strict about certain medications.
It isn’t a fun topic, but it’s one you should give serious thought to before travelling in certain parts of the world. Before our trip, we asked our doctor’s surgery about vaccinations. We actually found them very helpful. They booked our appointments 15 minutes apart, and we were vaccinated on the spot for typhoid, as well as diphtheria, tetanus and polio, all on the NHS. This was around a month before our trip.
At the time, we had to pay privately for a Hepatitis A vaccine, which we arranged through MASTA (although it is normally available on the NHS). They were also incredibly helpful, and they’re definitely the experts on travel vaccines. Masta gave us some great advice about the countries we would be visiting, and told us in detail about other vaccines that were available, but didn’t force us into paying for anything we didn’t need (some of the less common vaccines are pricey). They also gave us advice about hygiene, areas to avoid, and anti-malarials.
Don’t get too worked up about vaccinations, as you will usually only need a couple and they should be easy to get. Unless you’re travelling in very remote, jungle areas, or between borders, it’s unlikely that you’ll come into contact with anything serious.
Try to have a rough idea of your itinerary before you go for a vaccination appointment, as the time of year that you visit different countries can be important too.
Some of the insurance quotes for long-term backpackers can be eye-wateringly expensive, but if you’re planning a round-the-world trip, there’s a good chance you’ll need to call upon your insurance provider at some point. No matter how careful you are, there’s always a chance that your luggage could get lost, or your phone could get stolen.
We shopped around and eventually settled on Outbacker, based on good reviews and a positive recommendation from someone we knew. It’s worth reading the small print to check that your chosen activities are covered. You’d be surprised how many policies won’t cover you for relatively ‘low-risk’ activities, such as kayaking. Look out for clauses that will invalidate your insurance if you return home during your trip, too. We ended up paying £540 to cover the two of us for a year, and that included add-on gadget cover. It also covers us for one short trip home, up to 14 days long.
Before Travelling Checklist (TL; DR)
Once we started to think seriously about travelling, it would’ve been useful to know what was actually involved during the planning process. It’s easy to forget about all the little details and unexpected costs, which can add up to a lot of time (and money) before you’ve even boarded a plane. With this in mind, here’s a comprehensive checklist of everything you’ll need to do before travelling.
BIG life stuff:
- Sell your house/serve notice/tell your parents that you’re flying the nest!
- Quit your job or agree to work remotely
- Pack up/store/sell/give away your stuff (and be ruthless!)
- Leave plenty of time to sell your car
- Open a savings account for your travel fund
- Close any bank accounts that charge a fee, or require a large monthly deposit
- Open an app-based bank account
- Get yourself a credit card with a long interest free period
- Set a few hundred £ aside to pay for vaccinations, visas and essential travel gear
- Pay off any existing loans and debts
- If you have one, contact the Student Loan Company to let them know about your plans
- Cancel any existing contracts/insurance policies you may have (and be ready to stump up a fee if you’re not ‘out of contract’)
- Contact your mobile network provider to cancel or ask to switch to a cheaper contract (you won’t need all that data when you’re abroad!)
Mundane stuff that’s easy to forget about:
- See your GP for medical advice/vaccinations/prescription top-ups
- Head to the dentist for a check-up before you leave
- Girls, stock up on the pill, or speak to your doctor about your contraception options
- For the girls (again) buy a Mooncup (life changing) or stock up on tampons/sanitary towels
- Guys, stock up on condoms!
- Shop around for travel insurance
- Unlock your phone (or buy a cheap unlocked one) for easy SIM swapping
- Check if there are any visas that you need to arrange in advance (before entry)
- Get a bunch of passport photos for your visa applications
- Print out copies of your passport, itinerary and travel insurance documents for yourself and your family at home