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I find it so exciting looking at all the things there is to do, finding out how to get there, digging through to find ways to save money. This bit I would quite happily drown myself in for days on end. The bit I don’t find quite so exciting is the all the pre-stuff that needs to happen.
In the last 5 years I’ve taken 2 long term trips and created ‘must see’ lists as long as my arm. I’ve travelled Asia in the rainy season, road tripped New Zealand in the snow and stayed in huts on the beach in Samoa. If there’s one thing that I’ve had no choice but to get used to it’s packing for long term and diverse trips.
The part that I don’t find so exciting, and found incredibly difficult before my first trip, is working out all the stuff that needs to happen before hand. I’m the queen of being indecisive and packing for ‘just in case’ situations which rarely happen. But after all these years, I’m kinda of getting there.
So whether you’re planning a long trip around the world (here’s the route I did for my 8 month RTW trip if you’re looking for more inspiration), or a long trip that’s going to see you through a crazy variation in weather, this checklist is for you!
Just keep repeating, less is more, layers are everything. Less is more, layers are everything…
You might also like:
- 22 long term travel essentials I couldn’t cope without
- 20 essential toiletries for backpacking anywhere in the world
- 7 things you might not think to pack but definitely should
- 15 of the best travel apps for when you’re on a budget
- How to choose the best drone for travelling
The Ultimate long term travel checklist: Prep
Step 1: Your route
Obvious? Yes. But bloody difficult too! This may well be a trip of a lifetime for you so you’ll need to find a balance between seeing everything you want to see and what is feasible. However, deciding where you want to go is super hard. I would start by writing a list of where you want to go and plotting it out on a map. This will help you work out how to get from A to B to C and so on.
One thing I will say is don’t feel like you have to go somewhere just because it looks like everyone else is going there. You don’t have to go to Thailand just because it’s on the usual backpacking route. You don’t have to climb Machu Pichuu if you go to Peru. Be honest with yourself and don’t be afraid to go off the path of what everyone else seems to be doing. I’ve fallen into the trap of feeling like I have to do things so many times and then just feel a bit of a muppet after.
Additionally, if there is something that you’re really wanting to do, make sure you check whether it’s a seasonal activity and plan your route around that. After travelling around Thailand in the rainy season, I’m a big fan of off peak travel but it did limit us for some activities.
If you’re looking for some more help on planning and booking your trip, I highly recommend visiting STA Travel. The guys in there specialise in planning multi-stop routes so will be able to give you loads of information and advice. I booked both my round the world trip and my flights to Australia with them.
Step 2: Your budget and length of trip
Both of these will pretty much determine where you go and how long you can spend in each place. To give you an idea about how much long term travel can cost you, when I went around the world and visited Southeast Asia for 3 months, Australia for 1 month, New Zealand for 1 month and South America for 3 months, I took $10,000 in spending money and did it all on a budget. What I spent in 3 months in Asia I spent in one month in Australia.
My honest advice is save as much as you can before you go, always make sure you have some money sitting in your account as an emergency backup and try not to go too crazy when you first start your trip. I travel on a budget, choosing to eat street food and stay in hostels over fancy restaurants and hotels. This way I was able to spend my money on doing things and ultimately, this is the stuff I remember.
Even when you’re travelling it’s still important to live within your means and keep a close eye on your bank balance- which can be scary sometimes for sure, but so important!
Step 3: Paperwork and documents
This may not be exciting but if you don’t have this stuff in order, you and your perfectly packed backpack ain’t going nowhere! This is the stuff you need to get sorted well in advance:
- Passport – Make sure your passport is well in date (check that you will have at least 6 months left until it expires from your return home date) and make sure it’s not ripped or really scruffy. A battered passport can lead you to be turned away from a flight or a border crossing, which is why I always recommend keeping your passport in a cover.
- Visas – Whether you will need a visa will depend on what passport you hold and where you’re going. The only reliable source to check this is the relevant countries embassy websites.
- Drivers license – One of the best ways to travel around some countries is to hire your own vehicle so make sure your drivers licence isn’t going to expire while you’re away. I would also recommend checking whether you will need an international drivers licence as some countries (such as Thailand and Bali) require you to have one.
- Passport photos– You might need these for getting visas processed on arrival so be sure to have a few with you in a folder.
- Make copies of your documents – Just in case anything happens to your passport or drivers licence, it’s so handy to have a photocopy of these saved somewhere. I have mine in an email folder so I can get them if I need to but don’t have to carry around any more paper than needed.
- Notify Student Loans – If you’re from the UK and have a student loan, you will need to notify them that you are not working and are not eligible to be making repayments. You will need to do an overseas income assessment (find out more here) and you will need to do one each year if you’re away from more than 12 months. If you don’t do one then they could start taking money out of your account for the repayments. Ouch!
Step 4: Get an overseas bank card
These types of bank cards generally give you better rates than your normal bank and make it a whole lot easier to manage your money. I personally use and love Revolute as they offer exchange rates that are really close to the true exchange rates. You can withdraw up to $350 free each month from ATMs and you can make payments using the card if you don’t have cash. It also has a great secure system where you can freeze your card and turn on location based security using the Revolut App. It’s so easy to use as it’s all done through the app and they also have a 24 hour help chat on there in you have any problems. Also, if you use the link below you can get your Revolut card for free!
[button link=”https://www.revolut.com/r/thomas7f6″ size=”medium” target=”new” color=”orange”]GET YOUR FREE REVOLUT CARD![/button]
Step 5: Get travel insurance
Is it expensive? Yes! Are you going to need it? Maybe not… but maybe you will. And if you do, you will be so unbelievably grateful you have it. Touch wood nothing happens to you but if you do fall ill or get injured, medical bills can grow rapidly. I use World Nomads travel insurance, which is one of the most popular insurers for travellers as their policies cover lots of activities and you can renew it whilst travelling (which is not allowed for most other travel insurers). You can use the box below to get a quote and see just how much is covered.
Step 6: Vaccinations and medicine
Taking preventative measures to make sure you don’t get unwell while you are away is really important. Some countries (such as some in Asia) actually require you to have some vaccinations in order to be able to enter the country and other vaccinations are really advisable. I recommend speaking to your doctor and seeing what they recommend for the locations you’re going to.
Additionally, if you need specific medication, I would speak with your doctor about getting enough to take with you to last your trip. It’s not always easy to get hold of specific medicines abroad so it’s best to have enough on you from the start.
The Ultimate long term travel checklist: Backpacking essentials
Top tips for long term packing
The most important thing to work out when you’re packing is what climates you’re going to be in. You’ll most likely be crossing a number of climates but you really need to know whether you’re going to be in anything extreme such as snow. As well as this, if you plan on basing your travels around certain activities such as hiking then you need to account for this when packing. Both of these are far more important than how long you’re going to be away for.
Because the reality is, you will only wear the same 4 outfits. All. The. Time.
Well, on a day to day basis anyway. Unless you’re doing a special activity, you’ll be living in your shorts on the beach, longer stuff for temples, sports stuff for anything vaguely active and a hoodie if it gets cold.
As I mentioned at the beginning, layering is key and having a backpacking wardrobe you can mix and match will make things so easy. It’s also worth noting that laundry is pretty cheap in a lot of countries so you really don’t need a lot of clothes with you. And if you find you don’t have something you can always pick it up as you go.
Here’s a story for you, Tom and I both came out to Australia with a wheelie suitcase and 24kg of luggage. 24! What the heck were we thinking? Fast forward 6 months and most of it has been given to charity shops and our cases have been swapped for backpacks. Do not do this my friends. There’s always a debate online about suitcase vs backpack and honestly, I think backpacks are the best way to go, especially for long term travel.
As a seasoned over-packer, I want to also recommend getting a backpack that’s 60L max. This size will give plenty of room but it’s not so big it’s going to get too heavy. Be sure to find a backpack that is comfortable for you. The blue Vango one is similar to the first backpack I had, and the other one is by Osprey which is one of the most popular and trusted brands.
Backpacks generally aren’t waterproof so a waterproof cover is a must! Some backpacks come with them attached but if yours doesn’t make sure you don’t leave without it. The last thing you want is damp clothes stinking out your bag.
How exactly I survived before these, I do not know because they are an organisational dream! There are 2 main types you can get – normal ones that zip up and compression ones that squash your clothes down so you have loads more space. These things will save your backpack turning into a black hole when you’re looking for a pair of socks or whatever.
I actually have a full toiletry packing list that you can check out here but here are my top items that I cannot live without. Some of these aren’t items I had ever needed before but they are definitely backpacking travel essentials. Amazon is a great website to look for these to find them at a good price.
Hanging toiletry bag
I’ve had mine now (the blue one below) for about 6 years and it’s still going strong. The great thing about having a hanging toiletry bag is it means you don’t have to put it down on the wet (and sometimes grubby) floor and then back into your backpack. A folding one with a few compartments is also great for keeping things organised.
You cannot travel without one of these! These towels are really thin , fold up small, weigh nothing and dry way faster than an normal towel. Be sure to get a big one in case you find yourself having to get dressed in a bit of a public situation. I also use mine as a beach towel (yes, doubling up like a true backpacker).
There’s simply no room for full sized toiletries in a backpack so make sure to fill these little bottles up before you leave. As you travel and run out, why not buy a full size bottle and ask your hostel mates if they also need a top up? It’s a great way to reduce your single use plastic and help out fellow travelers.
It doesn’t matter where you’re going, hand sanitiser is always handy to have. You’re going to be touching a lot of stuff and eating a lot of different things so make sure you keep one in your day bag.
Depending on where you’re travelling to, there’s a fair chance that there’s going to be some annoying mosquitoes around. Make sure you pick up a decent insect repellent to help keep them off and also help stop yourself from potentially getting quite ill. Some of them can carry some pretty nasty illnesses.
I’m a bit of a stickler for this one because even in the UK in winter I will wear an SPF, but sun safety is especially important whilst travelling. Since I’m currently in Australia I’ve found Banana Boat to provide good protection and lasts a decent amount of time even when I’ve been swimming. If you are planning on exploring reefs and being in the sea a lot, I highly recommend getting some reef safe sunscreen like Tropical Sands. This sunscreen doesn’t contain the chemicals that harm sealife so you’ll be doing your bit to protect the environment.
It’s not always easy to get the sanitary products you prefer in every country so make sure you take the items you use with you. If you’re looking for ways to travel more environmentally friendly, then you should definitely look into getting a menstrual cup. I’ll be honest, I’m yet to be brave enough to tackle using one of these (which is ridiculous, I know) but so many women use them and wouldn’t travel without it.
One of my biggest fears when travelling for the first time was getting sick abroad and having to see a doctor. But guess what, it happened more than once and it was fine. I seen a doctor in Malaysia, Chile and Australia and each time, had no problems at all. However, if you have any prescription medicine, be sure to speak with your doctor at home and get as much as you can just to make sure you won’t run out.
Nearly everything you can get at home, you can get in every other country so don’t worry about bringing too many of the basics. But here is what you should pack just so you have it in case you need it:
- Ibuprofen and Paracetemol
- Re-hydration salts
Sustainable travel items
Mini cutlery set
Hands up who’s fed up of seeing plastic forks, knives and straws all over the floor! By getting a little cutlery set you can do your bit to reduce the amount of single use plastics whilst still enjoying delicious food. The little set below is small enough to easily fit in your day bag so you can keep it on you.
Foldable shopping bag
As with your cutlery set, don’t go out without a foldbale shopping bag with you. I use mine all the time for anything from clothes, groceries and even as a beach bag. It’s small, weighs nothing and can be washed.
Reusable, collapsible water bottle
Where ever you can drink the tap water, you should 100% do so. Having a couple of these soft, collapsible water bottles with you will make it so much easier and cut back your chances of needing to buy bottled water. These pouch style ones as so small and light and can be rolled up when they’re empty, taking up virtually no space.
The Ultimate long term travel checklist: Clothes
T-shirts x 4
I used to hardly ever wear t-shirts but now I find them to be far better for travelling than vests. I have pale skin so they help protect me from the sun better and also it’s just easier when I’m visiting temples or places where it’s more respectful to be more covered up. Pack a few different colours or patterns that you can mix and match to liven up an outfit. ASOS has a huge selection to choose from at great prices and H&M have an awesome organic and sustainable collection with lovely soft t-shirts, too.
Vest tops x 2
Saying that, I do like to have a couple of vest tops with me just as another option. I also tend to double these up as pajama tops as well or a way to add another layer if it’s cold outside. Again, ASOS and H&M have a great selection of vests as well as more patterned ones that could double up for night time as well.
Nicer top x 1
Travelling is really social so having something a bit nicer to put on for a night out is a good idea. Just don’t fall into the trap thinking that you need loads of this type of outfit because you really don’t.
Jumper/cardigan x 2
I’m a bit of an old lady and love a nice cardigan for the day and a fleece jumper for when it really gets cold, but go with whatever you prefer. I always go to H&M for my cardigans and recently splashed out on a North Face fleece and it is literally one of my favourite items of clothing.
Dresses/playsuits x 2
I’m a lazy kinda person so I love dresses and playsuits *hello entire outfit from one item*. I recommend going for darkish coloured ones (I don’t know how anyone travels with a white dress) that aren’t too tight , espeically if you’re going to hot climates. Dresses and playsuits are great for this and can easily be a day-to-night outfit or be worn with a t-shirt underneath if needed.
Shorts x 2
I find having 1 denim pair of shorts and one thin cotton pair to be the best way to go as it offers a bit more versatility. The denim ones are a staple item that goes with any top and the thinner cotton pair are great for beaches as they dry super fast. They also come in some great patterns as well. Be sure to have yourself a little fashion show to make sure your tops go with them too. For the love of all things travel related though, ladies, please stop wearing denim hot pants where your butt cheeks hang out!
Skirt x 2
As well as dresses, I’m a huge lover of skirts, especially the stretchy type. Yes, I know that sounds incredibly unflattering but they are just so much comfier and more versatile than ones with zips. Both of mine are knee length and floaty which helps keep me cool and also means I don’t have any problems visiting temples in places like Asia. I have one neutral one and one dark red one and pair them with my plain t-shirts.
Jeans x 1
The number of trousers you’ll need will depend on where you’re travelling to. If you’re going to lots of cold countries you’ll want to substitute skirts and shorts with more trousers. If you’re going to mostly hot climates, one pair is plenty. I only took one pair of jeans with me on my around the world trip and didn’t wear them until I reached New Zealand in winter, but I was so glad I had them!
You really only have space for one jacket so I highly recommend getting something that’s practical for your whole trip. The jacket below is super light, folds small and is rain and wind proof. Having something like this in your day bag is way better than a crappy plastic (and single use) poncho. Since when did wearing a glorified bin bag become acceptable anyway? Be better than a poncho guys, be better.
Swimmers x 2
I know this might sound scary, but you really do not need more than 2 sets of swimsuits with you even if you’re going to lots of beachy places. H&M and Boohoo.com have an awesome selection to choose from.
Cover-up x 1
Whilst I’m a professional shade bather thanks to my pale skin, it can definitely be tempting to bask out in the sun on the beach. But it’s so important to stay safe in the sun and a great way to do this is with a cover-up or sarong. There are heaps of nices ones to choose from and they take up no space in your backpack.
Walking shoes x 1
Shoes are always the most annoying things to try and fit in a backpack so you really have to be honest about what you want with you. I have one pair of light weight, really comfy Nike trainers with me that have seen a lot. They are great for walking around in all day and I’ve even used them for things like climbing Table Top Mountain in Toowoomba and Mt Batur in Bali.
Flip Flops/sandals x 1
basically, something for the beach and also to wear in potentially gross hostel showers. I absolutely love Havaianas,not just because they’re really pretty (although that does help a lot) but also because they actually have some grip on them and last so much longer than cheap flip flops. They also make those flip-flop-sandals which are great for travel.
Flats x 1
I always have a pair of black flats with me just for any more slightly fancy occasions where sandals just aren’t a good idea. These folding ones below look awesome and would be really easy to shove into a small gap in your bag.
Underwear x 10
If there’s anything you need the most of it’s underwear. Trust me, there will be times when you’re on day 3 of a rather grubby t-shirt but as soon as you run out of undies, that’s when you have to do laundry. Having more than enough pairs will save you when you just don’t have the time for laundry.
Bras x 2-3
I always stick to neutral colours so I can wear any bra under any top. Don’t forget that your bikini top can also double up as a bra when you get really desperate and no one will judge you, that’s the best bit!
Sports clothes x 1
If you’re trying to keep fit whilst travelling, or you plan on doing some outdoors activities, be sure to pack a set of sports wear. The type of material used for these kinds of items are usually fast drying, light and super comfy so can double up as travel clothes or even pajamas.
Having a small handbag for the daytime is essential and a lot safer than having money and your phone in your pocket. Be sure to get something that practical as well as nice, folds up small and fastens shut.
You’ll want to keep this to a minimum but having a couple of statement earrings or necklaces is a great way to spruce up an outfit, especially when you’re bored of wearing the same stuff. I keep mine in a small pouch so nothing gets lost or damaged. Boohoo have an awesome selection of jewellery at great prices which you can find here.
International travel accessories: Electronics
Tom and I travel with a lot of tech but you can keep things as minimal as you want. I would just like to add here though that on my around the world trip I had a pretty rubbish camera and now I look back at the photos and kick myself. A decent camera is well worth it for a trip of a lifetime. I absolutely love my Sony a6000 camera as it’s compact and is great for both photos and video (I shoot all my YouTube videos on this camera – take a peep here). As well as this, we have a GoPro for any underwater shots with a few accessories. Tom also has a DJI Mavic Air which is awesome. If you want to really go for it with photography, this is a great gadget to have.
I have a Macbook Air and absolutely love it. It’s so light and compact and even though it’s a few years old now, the battery still lasts a long time. It’s a big investment but it’s so worth it if you want something compact for when you’re travelling.
These little contraptions are a lifesaver and a space saver. No matter where you are in the world, they have the right socket for you. These ones also have USB ports to charge from just to make things even easier.
When you’re travelling you’re going to find yourself spending hours on coaches and trains. Save your sanity and have a charged up power bank with you to keep your phone topped up. I also use mine to charge up my camera.
Must get travel apps for your phone
I’ve put together a whole post about my favorite travel apps that will help save you money (take a look here) but here are my top, top 5 favorites:
- Google translate: I’ve seen people have whole conversations using this handy app. You can either type into it and it will translate it or speak into your phone and it will translate it out loud. Amazing!
- XE currency app: This app shows live currency conversion rates so you can get your head around how much your spending. It also works offline so you can keep on top of it even without a local sim or wifi.
- Skyscanner: This is my number one app for finding cheap flights. Skyscanner compares air fairs across a number of different airlines to show you the cheapest or most convenient flights available. You can also check flight prices for a whole month to find when is cheapest to fly.
- Hostelworld: If you’re travelling on a budget the hostels are the way to go. Hostel world makes it really easy to book hostels on the go and also shows you reviews so you can get an idea about what each accommodation is like.
- Booking.com: If you’re more into hotels then be sure to use booking.com. They have loads of hotels on there, plenty of sales and some awesome last minute deals as well. be sure to keep an eye out for some awesome bargains.