With less than 2 weeks to go, it’s time to focus on the not-so-fun part of a trip around the world: the administrative work. Planning for a longer trip can be quite stressful, to be honest and while the actual research of the places you’ll want to see and things you’ll want to experience is a lot of fun, the administrative work is a pain. What kind of insurance do you need? Which bank offers the best deals for withdrawing money in foreign countries? Which credit card caters best to your needs? What should you do with your apartment or house? Your plants and mail?
Once you start asking yourself those questions, you’ll inevitably start to ask yourself if this is all worth it. At least to this question, I can give you an easy answer: Yes, it is! Once you’re out and about you’ll forget all about the stressful times back home and just think about all the experiences you’ll make and people you’ll meet! It will all absolutely pay off in the end, I promise! But never underestimate the organizational efforts of a longer trip and start early with your planning.
To guide you through the organizational jungle, I’ve gathered the most useful information I could find and give you my personal evaluation and recommendation, plus a hopefully useful checklist you can print out and use for your own adventures (scroll to the end to download the list). I have divided the checklist into timeframes, so you know when to do what. The list below, on the other hand, gives you an overview of points to think about in each category.
Some points are specifically for Swiss residents that may or may not be adapted to other countries. It never hurts to keep the points in mind and do a little research on your own, if the points mentioned are also applicable to your country. Please feel free to share your findings and recommendations and what you have found to be helpful.
Budget for your adventure: The internet is full of useful information about how much money you’ll approximately need per person and day, depending on which region you travel to. While you can easily live off $50 per day in South East Asia, destinations like Hawaii or Hong Kong can easily raid your budget quite fast. Look up the info on each region you plan to travel to and budget accordingly. Bear in mind that traveling with someone you can share a room with brings down your cost as you can share some of your expenses (rule of thumb: It’s about 2/3 of the costs as opposed to double the cost).
Start saving money and/or sell unneeded stuff: I’m a huge believer in not having too much stuff. Use the time before you head out to declutter your life. Go through your things and get rid of stuff that doesn’t make you happy. I’ve given away bags of clothing, purses and kitchen utensils, cleaned out the basement and sold everything that was worth something.
Find the right credit card: There are lots of «free» credit cards out there. Just remember: «There’s no such thing as a free lunch. And if the lunch is free, you are the lunch.» Credit card companies live off fees. So be careful when chosing a credit card for your travels and check their terms and conditions for withdrawing money in other countries and their fees. For my upcoming world trip, I have opened an account with the online bank Revolut. It’s a pre-paid credit card which, among many other things, offers interbank exchange rates as well as no fees for ATM withdrawals up to CHF 200 per month. Revolut comes with a mobile app, you’ll see your spendings right away, you can block your card or set a monthly spending limit independently. I signed up with Revolut a couple of months ago to test it nationally. I will report back how it works while traveling.
Review your bank account conditions: Same here. Check how much your bank charges you when you withdraw money from an ATM abroad. It can get very pricy very fast. Before I traveled through South America for 3 months, I opened up a bank account with PostFinance. Once you have a certain amount of money in your account, you can withdraw money from ATMs around the world at no cost. I have since then traveled to many exotic places and was able to withdraw money even in the most remote villages of Myanmar (given there was an ATM) I only had a hard time in Jordan, where I have probably tried every freaking ATM in the places we’ve visited. Turned out that I only had to enter the first four digits of my six digit PIN. Who knew? Also ask your bank about Geo-Blocking. Some countries might be blocked for safety reasons and you don’t want to find this out while being there.
Assign Credentials: It’s always helpful to have someone at home who has the credentials to your bank account and can sort out stuff for you at home when you run into problems abroad.
Order foreign currency: Since I was usually able to withdraw money at every ATM in the world, I have neglected this for my last travels and promptly ran into problems (I look at you, Jordan!). It’s advisable to have a small stock of emergency cash in local currency or USD/EUR, in case all the ATMs decide to run a riot against you.
A very appealing topic, I know. But so important when traveling for a longer period. So bear with me!
Accident insurance: If you’re a Swiss resident working for a Swiss employer, you’re insured against accidents (Unfallversicherung). If you are giving up your job or taking unpaid leave, you are insured against non-occupational accidents for the next 30 days starting from your last working day. After those 30 days, you’re on your own (bad spot to be in). With many insurances you’ll have the possibility to buy an interim accident insurance (Abredeversicherung in German). An interim accident insurance extends compulsory insurance cover against non-occupational accidents for up to six months. This is not expensive (the premium is about CHF 45.-/month), so please look into it.
AHV/IV (for Swiss residents only): The minimum contribution per year is currently set to CHF 478.-. If you don’t want to face insurance gaps in the future, make sure you pay at least CHF 478.- per year into your AHV insurance.
Pension fund (Swiss residents): Once you quit your job, you’ll need a vested benefits account (Freizügigkeitskonto) with a bank, where your current pension fund can transfer the money to until you have a new employer.
Liability insurance: The topic of foreign liability insurance is important, because a damage to third parties can happen so quickly and in those situations it’s good to know that personal liability insurance protects against damage caused to third parties. A liability insurance is normally valid worldwide. Be sure to check the insurance cover abroad and if necessary take out additional insurance to cover damage abroad.
Health insurance: The (for swiss residents compulsory) health insurance covers emergencies abroad. During the trip, practically everything is considered an emergency, as you cannot simply travel to Switzerland for treatment. The maximum reimbursement is double the amount that would have to be paid for the same treatment in Switzerland. In most countries this is sufficient. But not in countries like the USA and partly also Japan, Singapore, Australia or New Zealand. It therefore makes sense to take out travel and holiday insurance in addition to the Swiss health insurance.
Travel and cancellation insurance: The most important criteria when choosing the right health insurance: Worldwide coverage of medical costs and treatment costs in the event of illness or accident, amount insured in the event of illness and accident, additional insurance offer (accident coverage, hospital costs), range of services (assumption of costs for rescue and emergency transport, repatriation, search and rescue costs), franchise level, medical examination, re-entry on return, monthly premium.
Vaccinations: When preparing for your trip around the world, itis advisable to take care of the topic of vaccinations early enough. Vaccinations are not only important, but even mandatory in some countries. Recommendations vary from country to country, so it is important to gather information and seek expert advice. You can protect yourself against most tropical diseases, and prevention is much better than cure. Arrange an early appointment with your GP, tropical- or vaccination institute to discuss the details. There are vaccinations that need to be repeated (revaccination) to ensure full protection. The vaccinations that you receive from your doctor or tropical institute will be listed in your vaccination pass or ID card. Take your vaccination pass or at least a copy of it with you on your journey. Some countries want to see your vaccination card when you arrive.
Plan doctor’s appointments: Also make sure to arrange doctor’sappointments (gynecologist, dermatologist, ophthalmologist) and your dentist while there’s still time to finish potential treatments.
So far, so much fun. Yay! Right? So on to more fun topics like your household! I found this the least bit of fun of travel planning, because it involved a lot of organization and hours of cleaning.
Apartment/House: If you’re going away for a longer period of time,it is advisable to quit your apartment to save the rent. If you terminate your contract in Switzerland on a date specified in the contract, you normally don’t have to look for a new tenant, unless not otherwise agreed in the contract. Take care of it early on and check the contract for details.
If you are traveling for a few months and want to keep living there after you come back home, you can sublet your apartment. Clarify the possibilities with the landlord. If you are renting out your apartment fully furnished, you are legally entiteled to ask for 20% extra of your monthly rent (this applies to Switzerland), should you find someone willing to pay that.
If you own your own place, allow plenty of time for all the details involved in selling your home. If you own a car, sell it or find a car port.
If you find subtenants or if you’re quitting or selling your apartment/house, please factor in plenty of time to clean your place or have someone clean it. It took me hours to get the apartment ready to sublet and I was so glad I started early enough so I didn’t have to rush everything in the last few days.
Mail: Find out if your local post service offers atemporary scan service for your mail or if you can forward your mail to a different address. You might also want to check if you can switch to electornic mail during your absence. This way, your bills get directly sent to your e-banking inbox. For our trip around the world for 4 months we have looked into different options and went with a mix of two options. I have switched to e-bills for the companies offering it and found someone trustworthy to forward the rest of my mail to while being gone. Please also bear in mind your subscriptions: many newspapers or magazines don’t offer to pause subscriptions, but you might be able to forward the newspaper/magazine to a different (national) address, because they usually provide digital access to their content. To not
«lose» money, I’ve forwarded suscribed items to friends and family.
Plants: If you have plants in your home, you’llv inevitably start to ask yourself the question of where they can live while you’re away. That is, if you don’t want to buy all the plants new when youvreturn. I’ve searched the internet high and low for a plant-survival-service in my area, but couldn’t find one (business idea, anyone?). So I ended up giving carloads of plants to my mom, because I like mine fresh and alive when I return and I know they will get far better care from her than me 🙂
Pets: I don’t have any pets, but if you do, please plan plenty of time to find a solution and temporary home for them.
Cell phone plan: When you’re traveling for a longer period of time, it makes sense to pause or cancel your cell phone plan in order to save that money. My initial plan was to pause it, which wasn’t possible with my provider. I had to switch to a pre-paid plan in order to be able to keep my number. And I would have never ever guessed into how many problems one can run when doing so. I guess when something doesn’t work in the beginning, it will screw the whole process up. It took me 14 days and MANY phone calls and e-mails to sort something out that should normally have worked out without the slightest problems. So you might want to factor in enough time, check the terms of your plan and act accordingly. I wish you the best of luck with it!
You kept on reading until here, congratulations! Good news: planning and organizing this topis is so much more fun than the above listet. So here we go!
Plan your trip: Eventhough you might not know exactly where you’ll go yet, it’s good to have a rough plan of the countries you want to visit. You’ll need this information to check visa an vaccination requirements. For your trip around the world we’ve had a looooong list of destinations, we wanted to see. We broke them down into places that are potentially change quite a bit over the next few years and those that will most probably stay more or less the same. We’ve put all the potentially faster-changing countries on our priority list and planned a route around those. Diversity is also a very important factor for me and I always want to go see places that are preferably as different than my home. And then there was the budget. Since we both got an unpaid leave, we knew we could afford a couple of more expensive countries/cities, but still the majority of the travel to be in low-budget countries.
Search for flights: When I’m telling people that I’m going on a trip around the world, people ususally ask me if I bought an Around the World Ticket. Well, no. I’ve looked into it and for the route I’ve planned, there was no airline alliance that would cater to my needs. Plus, they were far more expensive than individual flights. But I’d recommend checking all the options. I’ve made the experience that individual and multi-stopp flights booked through flight engines worked better for me. We initially wanted to pre-book all the big flights but since our itinerary wasn’t set in stone and we wanted to be flexible, we ended up only booking our first flight. I feel like there are two ways: book your flights 6 months prior to leaving, or book them super-late. I’ve done latter in South America, which worked out perfectly.
Check visa requirements: Many countries offer visa on arrival. But there are some countries where you’ll need to apply for a visa before arrival. Most of the tourist visas allow you to stay 30 up to 90 days and almost all visas cost money. Also be careful about that topic when booking your flights. If you haven’t checked through your bags until your final destination, you’ll have to collect your bags. This means, you’ll be entering a country you might need a visa for. If you don’t have one, you won’t be allowed to board the plane.
Get your picture taken: As mentioned above, some visas can be applied for at home and some abroad. You might need pictures printed out for your visas or other documentation abroad. Make sure you have plenty printed out and with you.
Check weather conditions: This actually seems like a no-brainer. But when you’re traveling for a longer period of time to countries you think are always warm and sunny, you tend to forget that there might be higher altitudes, storms or bad weather there, too. Plus, you don’t always know yet what exactly you might be getting yourself into (unless you have everything planned out and don’t leave room for any spontaneity, which I urge you not to do!). I so happend to find myself quite unexpectantly on 4’700 meters above sea level in the Peruvian Andes in the middle of summer without proper hiking gear, let alone waterproof shoes or a sleeping bag/mat and got hailed and snow-rained on and would have probably frozen to death at night if I wasn’t lucky enough to have gotten to know two sisters, who decided to adopt me as their 3rd sister and tent-sharer (which developed in a pretty awesome friendship, by the way) Long story short: check weather conditions and pack layers!
Buy/test essential gear: Be this technical equipment you think you might need or clothes. If you start looking for what you need early, you might be able to use sales or find cheaper second-hand stuff. If you buy new equipment, allow time to test it at home. You don’t want to find out that some part of your brand new camera is missing while you’re already on the other side of the globe.
Decide if you want to obtain an international driver’s license: I have one. And never used it so far because my national driver’s license was enough. I’ll report back in should I get asked for it.
Read up on local customs and etiquette: Be a respectful traveler and inform yourself about local etiquette. You are a guest in a foreign country, so it’s only reasonable to behave according to local customs. Read up on the do’s and don’ts, and get to know the countries you’ll be traveling to.
Organize the first few nights: You’re new to a foreign country and not accostumed to the local conditions. Do yourself a favor and book yourself accomodation for the first (few) nights to figure things out. You might as well organize transport to/from the airport or at least know how to get to your accomodation and print out the address.
Pack/weight bags: Almost set to go! Test-pack your bag a couple to days before. This gives you the chance to weight your bag and run out for a potential item you might have forgotten. Also check weight limitations with the airlines you’ve booked your flights with. Make sure all your bags are properly labelled with the destination address and your contact information.
Well, that’s about it! Once you’ve follow all those steps, you’re good to go! Please help yourself and download the pre-travel checklist below and share your recommendations with me.