I’ve always been enamored with traveling, and if you’re reading this, I’m sure you feel the same way. In particular, long term travel has always been something I wanted, rather than fast-paced week-long getaways.
Long term travel differs from regular travel in many ways. When you travel for extended periods of time, you’re able to gain a deeper understanding of the foreign cultures you’re surrounded by, you’re able to pick up bits and pieces of new languages, traveling becomes cheaper, and because you’re traveling slower, you aren’t constantly in crunch time trying to fit as much as possible into a short schedule.
You have more time to explore your surroundings, get to know locals, get to know other travelers, and make meaningful bonds with things, places, and people.
Despite all of the wonderful aspects of long-term travel, it can be tough to get accustomed to at first. After all, it’s a big change from both your life at home and regular traveling.
To make your lives a little easier, I’ve written a list of some of the best tips for long-term travel. I hope you’ll find it helpful, and hope you can avoid some of the common mistakes that many beginner long-term travelers make. Let’s get to it!
1. If You Work Remotely, Consider Switching to a Chromebook
If you use any sort of video/photo editing software, CAD software, or need to install large programs, disregard this tip.
On the flip side, if you only need your laptop for browsing the web or using web-based applications like Google Docs and Sheets, and you like the idea of being able to download and play Android/Chrome games on your laptop, a Chromebook would be the perfect fit for you.
They’re lighter, have longer battery lives, are more secure, are faster to boot than your typical laptop, and are so much more affordable. Many of them also have great features like the ability to convert into a tablet and full touch screen compatibility.
You can get a high-end chromebook for only 600-700 USD, where as if you were to buy a regular laptop with that amount of money you’d be scraping the barrel.
I’ve used Chromebooks before and have nothing but good things to say about them. The only reason I don’t use one now is because I need to be able to run hefty programs, but if I didn’t, I would absolutely be using one.
2. If You Rely On Wifi, Bring a Hotspot
I cannot stress this enough – if you rely on the internet for your livelihood, get a travel hotspot. Seriously, they’ll save you so many headaches. No more having to desperately scrounge for the nearest source of Wi-Fi, or long hours at coffee shops.
A travel hotspot is a device that acts as a mini router and connects you to the internet almost anywhere. There are different types available, but a lot of them work on a plan basis. You can purchase Wi-Fi as you use it, by the month, or by the gigabyte.
The large majority of the data plans don’t require contracts, which I really like, and you can find the hot spots devices online for as little as 100-150 USD.
3. Create a Work Routine and Stick by It
It’s easy to get too little or too much work done while traveling, depending on what type of person you are. If you go in with zero routine or schedule, your work to life balance will likely end up being disproportionate, which will only lead to unnecessary stress and an overall rough time.
If you’re a workaholic, allocate a certain amount of hours a day to work and stick by it. Try not to work too many hours, or lose sight of the reasons you’re traveling in the first place – to experience new things, learn, connect with others, connect with yourself, and have a good time. You can’t do any of that if you’re working 24/7.
If you fall on the other end of the spectrum (like me) and have difficulty motivating yourself to work when there are so many other amazing things you could be doing, I’ve got a couple tips for you.
Pick a time of the day that you prefer to work – morning, afternoon, evening, whatever floats your boat – and work during that allotted time every day. If it’s difficult for you to stick by, remind yourself as often as necessary that putting off work can’t be done indefinitely, and the longer you wait the worse crunch hour will be later. (and trust me, it’ll come, it always comes)
A couple other tips are:
- Partake in small, enjoyable work rituals. Do you like coffee or tea? Have some at the beginning of work. You really like listening to a certain playlist while you work? Save that playlist so you have access to it always. Little things like that will make working a more enjoyable experience, and will give much-needed positive reinforcement.
- Take away the temptation. Seriously, just don’t make plans that take place during work hours. It’s simple, but very effective. If you don’t have any distractions or temptations, getting yourself to work will be a lot easier.
4. Pack High Quality Items
Buying high quality equipment and apparel is always the move. It’s more sustainable (the longer your stuff lasts, the less often you’ll have to replace it, which translates to a smaller carbon footprint) and is a lot more convenient for a traveler. The longer your stuff lasts, the less often you have to worry about replacing it.
I always bring clothes and shoes that can take a serious beating. For tools and equipment, I buy items that are made of durable materials and have a long life span. (AKA no flimsy plastic)
5. Keep Your Wardrobe Simple and Classic
As much as I love a vibrant, unique, complex wardrobe, it’s not practical for a long term traveler. You might love that pastel rainbow cardigan, but trying to match it with just a few other articles of clothing can be difficult.
I’ve found it best to stick with a simple wardrobe filled with clothing that I can mix and match easily. The goal is to have a wardrobe filled with 10 articles of clothing that can become many different outfits. Here are a few of the criteria I use when packing my classic mix and match wardrobe:
- Each article of clothing is one color. No stripes, no patterns, just simple single color clothes.
- Stick to your favorite colors. If you like jewel tones, buy that. If you like neutrals or earth tones, get them. Base your entire wardrobe around these sets of colors so you can mix and match with ease.
- Plan out your wardrobe according to the styles you like. If you like button-down shirts, pack more of them and less of other types of tops. If you can’t stand cardigans, don’t bring them! You won’t end up wearing them and they’ll be a waste of precious space.
- Bring clothes that are low maintenance. I love silk, but it’s not practical to have to hand wash all of your clothes while traveling. Linen is a strong, stylish fabric but I’m not ironing my clothes everyday.
6. Don’t Wear White
White does not travel well. Seriously, just don’t bring white clothing. It gets dirty way too easily, stains like crazy, it is often see-through in the worst of times. Stick to darker colors if at all possible.
7. All You Need Is Two Pair of Shoes
I don’t know why, but many people seem to pack more shoes than necessary. This is a big no-no considering how much room shoes take up.
All you need is two pairs – one for hiking/running/being active and a pair of comfortable shoes that can be dressed up or down. I like to bring a pair of ballet flats, personally.
8. Use Packing Cubes
I am a huge proponent for packing cubes, and recommend them to anyone who travels frequently. The longer your trip is, the more you’ll appreciate how helpful packing cubes really are.
They make staying organized 10x easier, make getting something out of the bottom of your bag much less frustrating, and help you utilize all the space your pack has to offer – I can fit a ton more stuff in my backpack when I use packing cubes. 10/10 would recommend.
9. Bring Less
This is easier said than done, but try to pack as little as possible. The lighter your luggage is the better it’ll be for you in the long run, both physically and mentally. Really think about what you’re packing, and ask yourself:
- Will you need it on the daily, or are only packing it on the off chance you might need it one day?
- Can you easily buy it at your destination on the off chance that you’ll need it?
A few things that fall into this criteria for me are bug spray, first aid kits, and umbrellas.
10. Bring a Filtered Water Bottle
A water filtration system might seem like an unnecessary item to pack, but it most definitely is not. The water in many parts of the world is not safe to drink, and unless you want to buy water bottles over and over again (which is both a waste of money and terrible for the environment) investing in a filtered water bottle is the way to go.
11. Use as Many Solid Toiletries as Possible
There are a ton of reasons to switch to solid toiletries – they’re more sustainable, they last longer, they take up less space, they aren’t subject to TSA liquid limits, and they’re easier to carry around while traveling, to name a few.
Some of the solid toiletries I use include toothpaste tablets, solid shampoo, and solid conditioner.
12. Sleep Masks and Ear Plugs Are a Gift From God
What do loud children on airplanes, a snorer in your shared hostel room, and midday sunlight have in common? That if you’re a light sleeper, you can kiss your chance of a good night’s sleep goodbye. Seriously though, if you aren’t a heavy sleeper who can sleep through just about anything, I’d recommend bringing an eye mask and earplugs.
13. Sleep Sacks Are Your Best Friend
Not all accommodations are created equal, and if you’re a long term traveler, it’s inevitable that sometime or another you’re going to stay in a bad accommodation. Bugs, mold, dirty bedding, you name it.
I carry a sleeping liner with me for this reason. They’re like a sleeping bag, but are made of sheet like material. They take up next to no room, will keep you from having to lay on a dirty bed, and will give you a little peace of mind while sleeping in a sketchy room.
14. Pack Exclusively UPF Clothing
Wearing clothing with ultraviolet protection is my favorite “sunscreen”. They are just as effective at preventing UV damage as traditional sunscreens, don’t have to be reapplied, and only have to be purchased every few years at most.
It’s especially important that long term travelers wear some sort of sun protection because they are frequently out in the sun for extended periods of time, and wearing UPF clothing is just more convenient than having to reapply sunscreen every few hours.
It’s also much better than normal apparel at temperature regulation on sunny days, which doesn’t hurt.
15. Ladies, Use a Menstrual Cup
If you’re a woman of reproductive age who isn’t on some sort of birth control that halts periods, one of the most sustainable feminine hygiene products you can use is a menstrual cup.
There are other options such as reusable tampon applicators and reusable pads, but they’re not as practical for a traveler. You have to wash reusable pads in between each use, and because they’re so absorbent, it’s much harder than cleaning a menstrual cup. I really like reusable tampon applicators, but in order for them to work you have to have cotton refills to insert into them, which means they’re useless without them. They both also take up a lot more space.
16. Multivitamins, Painmeds & Antihistamines
Please bring multivitamins with you. Unless you’re carefully planning out each meal and limiting your take out consumption, a travelers diet isn’t exactly the healthiest. It’s better to err on the side of caution and take your daily vitamin.
On that same note, it’s a good idea to bring along some painkillers and antihistamines. I promise you’d rather have them and not need them, then need them and not have them.
17. Don’t Lose Your Wallet
Easier said than done, but try your absolute best not to lose your wallet. If you do, you’ll be in a world of hurt, and no one wants to have to deal with that. Always keep it in a safe place, check for it regularly, and be mindful of it so you don’t accidentally drop it.
This is especially important for those of us who are a little scatterbrained and forgetful. (me)
18. Hide Money in Your Shoes
Always, always stash money on your person somewhere other than your wallet. In your shoes, in a secret compartment, in your bra, in your underwear, literally anywhere.
On the off-chance your wallet does get lost or stolen, having a some cash to get you to your accommodation safely and take care of immediate needs will be very helpful.
19. Get a Bag With Lockable Zippers
If you carry around a lot of expensive gear, or just don’t want to be stolen from, invest in a backpack with lockable zippers. They’ll deter all but the most determined thieves, and most will just go look for an easier target.
SELF CARE & HEALTH TIPS
20. Bring a Piece of Home With You
I have always been susceptible to homesickness. When I would go to sleepovers as a kid, nearly every time I’d end up calling my parents late in the evening begging them to come pick me up, and I still get similar feelings to this day. Every time I leave for a trip, on the first couple of days I feel very homesick. It always ends up passing, but during the heat of it I feel awful.
If any of you also get homesick easily, or are prone to feeling down in the dumps, my advice to you is to take a piece of home with you.
What I mean by that is, take an item that you really like (a certain type of ramen, a book, or any specific product) and think about whether you’ll be able to find it abroad. If the answer is no, and the thought of not having it makes you sad, take it with you.
My pieces of home are Bigelow’s lemon ginger tea and Tazo’s chai tea. They’re my all-time favorite teas, and drinking them is like an instant pick me up.
21. Limit Junk Food, and Eat a Balanced Diet
This one is difficult with what seems like an endless supply of delicious junk food to be tried all over the world. As much as I love baklava, poutine, takoyaki, and fresh sugar cane juice, none of them are something that’d be healthy to consume everyday.
Try to limit your junk food intake to 2-3 times a week, and instead opt for a healthy, mostly plant-based diet. Eat your weight in fresh produce and enjoy all the seafood you can get your hands on – you’ll feel so much better in the long run, and your future self will thank you.
22. Take Time off When You Need It
This is one of the most important tips on this list. Travel should be something that you enjoy, and if it’s gotten to the point where it’s not, you need a break.
Take breaks when you need them, and for however long you need – a day, a week, a month, or even a year. Long term travel can be taxing, both physically and mentally. Not having a place to call home, a lack of normalcy, the difficulty in forming and maintaining relationships, and all the other stressors that come along with travel can make it unenjoyable at times.
So if you ever find yourself dreading your day ahead for no particular reason, you’re more than likely burnt out, and would do well with some rest. Maybe stay at your accommodation for a couple weeks longer than planned and relax. That might be all you need to bounce back, but if it’s not, there is zero shame in going home or staying with a family member for a prolonged amount of time.
Forcing yourself to continue will do nothing but make you miserable – take as long as you need until you’re looking forward to traveling again.
23. Write in a Journal
I’m a big proponent of journaling. It relieves stress, helps keep your thoughts organized, allows for self-reflection, and helps you understand why you feel the way you feel about things.
Journaling is particularly good for travelers though, because it gives you a way to remember things that would normally fade with time. Everything you write down, every emotion and memory, can be re-read years later and allow you to almost relive the experience.
It doesn’t have to be an everyday thing, either. You can do what I do and write about any experience you don’t want to forget. I like this type of journaling because it’s less monotonous, and helps you hold on to the memories that are most dear to you.
24. Send Random Gifts and Postcards to Your Loved Ones
If you’re traveling long term, you’ll go without seeing your family for months, maybe even more. Sending cheesy postcards and gifts to them is one way I show that I love them, and am always thinking of them.
The more obscure and unique the gift is, the better. Handcrafted wooden combs, jellyfish plushies, a music box that plays Ave Maria, and candies/snacks that they’ve never tried before. These all make for a fun gift that’ll be more memorable than a sweater or pair of shoes.
25. Call a Loved One at Least Once a Week
One of the easiest ways to show your family that you love them is to keep in touch with them. Losing track of time while traveling is not uncommon, and it’s easier than you’d think to forget to contact your loved ones.
To avoid this, set notifications that remind you to call home at least once a week. Long term travel can be lonely too, so it’ll be just as good for you as it is for them.
26. When You’re Really Sick, Go to the Doctor
This shouldn’t need to be said, but it does – if you are sick, go to the doctor.
I’m not saying you should go to the ER for a common cold or seasonal allergies, I’m talking lingering unexplained symptoms or sudden, extreme symptoms. Reoccurring night sweats and unexplained weight loss? Go to the doctor! An extremely swollen lymph node? The most sudden, painful headache of your life? Go to the doctor.
Going to the doctor might cost you some money, but at the end of the day, your health is all you have. Take care of yourself.
27. Don’t Overplan
Nothing ever goes as planned when traveling, but that’s one of the most beautiful things about it. The inherent and unavoidable unpredictability of travel leads to the greatest adventures and most memorable experiences, and it keeps you present and flexible.
Over-planning is one of the worst things you can do when traveling. It sets you up for failure and is a quick way to become disenchanted with travel. The more plans you make, the more expectations you have, and when these inevitably aren’t met, you’ll feel disappointed and frustrated.
I like to travel with what I call an outline. Instead of planning my morning, afternoon, evening, and everything in between, I pick a few things that I want to do and space them out throughout my schedule. Everything around that, I play by ear. I set a rough estimation of how long I want to stay in one location, and usually stick to that give or take a few days. I plan just enough to stay organized, but not lose any of the spontaneity that makes travel so enjoyable.
28. Scan All of Your Important Documents
Before you go on your trip, make sure you scan and upload all of your important documents to the cloud. Things like your ID, passport, birth certificate, medical records, and social security card. If you end up needing them, having them available online will be very convenient.
29. Research Important Laws and Social Norms
There are tons of laws around the world that you’d never know about without prior research. Seemingly regular things like feeding pigeons, chewing gum, bringing alcohol, wearing camouflage, kissing in public, wagering a few bucks on an innocent game of blackjack, and expressing your discontent with world leaders can result in hefty fines and even jail time in certain countries.
Another thing to keep in mind is, just because something isn’t illegal does not mean you won’t be looked at like you are a degenerate if you partake in them. Normal behavior is relative, and things like taking off your shoes before you enter a building, knowing not to shake the hand of someone of the opposite sex, tipping your server, belching after a meal, and avoiding showing the soles of your feet are just a few social norms of various countries around the world that you should familiarize yourself with.
So before I go to each of my destinations, I like to research their laws and social norms. This prevents any would-be accidental crimes, makes me a more respectful traveler, and prevents some very awkward encounters.
30. Always, Always Get Travel Insurance
I don’t care who you are, I don’t care how careful you are, I don’t care if you’re as healthy as a horse, you should get travel insurance. Things happen – people get injured, things get broken, luggage gets lost, equipment gets stolen, and accidents happen. It’s just a part of life, and it’s better to be prepared beforehand rather than be left between a rock and a hard place when you’re at your most vulnerable.
- Covering medical emergencies abroad
- Covering emergency evacuation
- Covering loss, theft, and breakage of your equipment
- Reimbursement for lost baggage
- Protection for identity theft
- Reimbursement for canceled trips
- Rental car coverage
- Hotel/Cruise Ship Protection
Travel insurance will provide these benefits (and more) without breaking the bank, and will make your trip so much less stressful. I sincerely recommend you get it before long term traveling.
31. Have Multiple Bank Accounts
Having multiple bank accounts comes in handy if one of your bank accounts gets hacked or becomes inaccessible. If you’ve got two, you won’t have to worry about jumping through loopholes to be able to access your money because you’ll have another account on the back burner specifically for this reason.
32. Get a Virtual Mailbox
This was something that was always at the back of my mind when I started traveling – what happens if I can’t access my mail and get sent something super important? If you don’t have a relative back home who can check your mail for you or have it sent to their house, things could get a little messy.
An easy fix for this is to invest in a virtual mailbox. Virtual mailboxes are a type of business who specialize in making mail accessible to anyone, anywhere. (at least, with signal that is)
What they do is provide you with a real physical street address that is unique to you, which is located in their facility. When they receive your mail, they scan the outside envelope and send a PDF of it to you. You then can decide whether you’d like to toss it, open it, hold it, so on so forth.
It’s particularly convenient for long-term travelers who no longer have a permanent residence, and is affordable as well. You can find plans for as little as $15 a month, like this one.
33. Make Sure Important Documents Are up to Date
You know what’s not fun? Having a document like your passport or ID expire while out of the country. While you can get them renewed at U.S. embassies, it’s a lot more complicated, and who needs the extra stress. It’s best just to make sure your important documents are updated before your trip begins, and know when they are scheduled to expire so you can plan accordingly.
34. Get Vaccinated
Please get vaccinated. It’ll keep you safe, keep others safe, and make the world a healthier place. Get boosters for your routine vaccines like measles and the flu, and before you start traveling, get the vaccines for illnesses that don’t normally affect your country but are common in others such as:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Typhoid and paratyphoid fever
- Meningococcal disease
- Yellow Fever
- Japanese Encephalitis
These illnesses can all lead to lifelong disability or death (and a humongous hospital bill if you don’t have insurance) so stay safe and get your vaccines.
35. Learn Essential Words & Phrases
A few simple words can be very useful in situations like asking for directions, ordering food, or anything of that nature. Words and phrases like no, yes, where is, thank you, you’re welcome, help, train station, bus, bathroom, how much, and water are basic, but can be very helpful in communicating with locals.
Another reason to learn basic words and phrases of the dominant language of wherever you’re traveling is that it’s polite. People like when you speak their language (even if it’s botched and barely understandable) and will often treat you more warmly than they would have otherwise. It’ll make them happy, you’ll potentially get better treatment, it’s a win-win in my eyes.
36. Don’t Idealize Your Dream Destinations
It can be hard not to put the locations you’ve been dreaming about for years on pedestals.
You’ve thought about visiting them countless times, and in doing so have inadvertently created expectations, and while expectations aren’t always a bad thing, they make it very easy to be let down. This is especially important in current times, because more often than not, the spectacular locations you see pictures of on social media are entirely different in person, and there’s zero way that reality will be able to measure up.
I do my best to have little to no expectations when traveling. I just go with the flow and feel how I feel about my destinations without preconceived notions. I find I enjoy my trips more, and even when something turns out to be boring or unpleasant, I feel no disappointment.
37. Planes Suck, Trains Rock, and Walking/Biking Is King
Planes are fast, but at a tremendous expense to the environment. They’re by far the least environmentally friendly way to travel, and they’re exuberantly expensive.
Cars are convenient because they are widely available, but they’re also terrible for the environment and, if used frequently, can add up in cost.
For these reasons, I much prefer traveling by train, bus, bicycle, and foot. I particularly like travel by foot and bicycle – it’s free (or nearly free), it’s good for your health, and it’s fun. Whenever I need to travel long distances that make walking and bicycling impractical, though, I prefer travel by train. It’s the most sustainable way to travel besides by foot/ bike, and emits 66-75 percent less carbon dioxide than travel by car and plane.
So if you’re concerned about your carbon footprint, and want to find ways to lessen it, stick to trains and avoid flying at all costs.
38. Back Up Your Photos & Videos Regularly
Backup your camera every time you use it. If that’s only once a week, it’s once a week. If it’s every day, it’s every day. I’m sure most of us have experienced the dread that comes along with the loss of data, whether it was from an unsaved video game, word document, spreadsheet, camera data, you name it.
To save your future self some pain, backup your photos regularly, whether it’s to the cloud or an external hard drive.
39. Don’t Give Money to Child Beggars
Despite the good intentions you may have when giving child beggars money, candy, knickknacks, and other gifts, in reality you’re doing much more harm than good. Organized begging is one of the most visible and widespread forms of human trafficking, and unfortunately, it’s largely financed and enabled by good-hearted people who just want to help.
The money and gifts you give the children go straight to their “handlers” pocket, the children are often kept addicted to opioids and other drugs to prevent them from running away, and it’s not uncommon for the children to be intentionally starved or mutilated to increase revenue. (after all, disabled children elicit more sympathy and earn more money)
Is every child you encounter going to be part of a child trafficking ring? Of course not. But even if they’re not, all you’re doing is giving them a disincentive to go to school and perpetuating a cycle of poverty. There are plenty of other reasons you shouldn’t give money or gifts to child beggars as well. If you’d like to learn more about them, this is a great resource.
40. Take Photos During Moments You’d Like to Reminisce on
Even if it’s a moment that others may see as inconsequential, if you think that you’d enjoy thinking back to it someday, capture it. Take a picture – memories fade, but photographs last forever.
One day when you’re old and gray, you’ll be looking through your photo book and will be able to reminisce happily. When in doubt, take a picture.
41. Don’t Live Through Your Camera
On the other side of the coin, try not to live through your camera. What I mean by that is, don’t be too focused on capturing every single moment or on taking the perfect shot. If you get too caught up in your camera, you run the risk of missing out on the actual experience. Just take a couple photos or videos of what caught your eye and get back to it.
And I know this is gonna sound cheesy, but I’m gonna tell ya’ll anyway. I really, really love the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. One scene in particular has always stuck out to me – it’s the leopard scene.
You know, the one where Walter finally finds Sean, and Sean is surrounded by his camera equipment and is attempting to capture footage of the elusive snow leopard. When the leopard finally shows itself, Walter asks Sean when he’s going to take the picture, and Sean says:
“Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.”
— Sean O’Connell
This scene has always had a special place in my heart, and I frequently do the same thing. If I really love a moment, in a way that almost feels surreal, I want to stay in it, stay as present as possible for however long the fleeting moment lasts.
Take that as you may, haha. It’s more of a personal preference than anything, so by no means do you have to live your life that way.
Those are all of the long term traveling tips that I could think of. I’ll be adding to this list whenever I think of something new, and if you have any tips that I’ve missed, feel free to let me know about them in the comments below.
I wish you only the best, and hope you have an amazing time during your travels. Thank you for reading!
Hi, I’m Ash!
I’m a laid back traveler who loves experiencing new things and spontaneity. My favorite hobbies are hiking, gardening, skincare, and all things tea.
My biggest goal is to spread the word about sustainable travel and show everyone how easy it is to partake in. If you wanna learn more about that or get to know me better, feel free to click here.