If you are thinking about traveling long term, you need to first see these 15 long term travel tips for beginners.
We have been traveling full-time for the last two years and have learned a ton. When we first started traveling, we had absolutely no experience. After lots of trials and tribulations, we have a few travel tips that will help all those long term travel newbies.
We’ll cover travel tips for beginners, travel tips packing, unique travel tips, travel tips during covid, how to prepare for travel, tips for long term international travel, and more!
This post is all about the best long term travel tips for beginners.
Long Term Travel Tips for Beginners
1. Travel How You Want to Travel
There are often preconceived notions of what travel should look like. This is especially true for long term travel. But if you want to travel, you need to travel the way that makes you happiest. You can push yourself out of your comfort zone and try new things, but don’t force something that doesn’t work for you.
For example, we have found that we really like staying in Hiltons sometimes. We also don’t like backpacking or sharing bathrooms with other people. Those things make a difference in our overall well being so we make an effort to accommodate those things. It may be completely different for you and that’s okay. Just don’t succumb to the pressure of traveling how other people think you should be traveling.
2. Ease into Eating Foreign Foods
Every culture has a very different diet. We highly recommend easing your way into eating foreign foods. Not necessarily the dishes you get but maybe where you get the dishes. It may not be the best idea to eat solely street food upon landing in Asia. Your stomach will adapt and eventually you’ll have no issues. This is especially true for the water in other countries. We can, by no means, drink a bottle of tap water in Thailand. However, we can brush our teeth and wash our fruits and veggies without any side effects. But only after we slowly worked our bellies up to the difference in hygiene levels.
> Check out some of favorite food tours from around the world!
3. Pack your Favorite Clothes
There seems to be some marketing pushed notion that you need “travel” clothing to travel. No. You do not need travel clothing to travel. You can get it if you really like it. But speaking from experience, I wear my favorite pair of jeans almost every day. It’s so worth it to add the extra weight of denim because we actually wear them. And we love them! With so many new experiences every day, you’ll be glad you have your favorite jeans or sweater or dress to turn to.
4. Checked Bags are Okay
You don’t need to pack everything you own into a carry-on suitcase or backpack in order to travel the world. I’ll be honest, it might be easier at times (lugging around everything or taking a train journey) but not always. It can be hard to fit everything you need, carry it all around the airport (long layovers anyone?), and try to pack it every week. We tried it and it wasn’t for us.
That said, checking our luggage has not been a problem at all. It frees up our travel days. It’s nicer to have more room to pack which means less stressful packing sessions. It does cost more to buy checked bags at times. However, we already have our backpacks as our carry-ons with all of our camera gear XX. So if we wanted to pack everything into carry-ons, we would need to pay for additional carry-ons, too.
And we have never had an issue with our checked luggage getting lost or left behind. We have had our fair share of multi-flight layovers and rescheduled flights and it always ends up where we do.
> Download our free long term travel packing list!
5. Expect Plans to Change… Often
If you are a planner, this may be hard to accept. Traveling long term is not going to go according to plan all the time. And that’s okay! I am not saying you shouldn’t plan (because I, too, am a planner) but you should be flexible in your plans. I always make rough itineraries and know we likely won’t get through everything, but it’s okay. You get better and better at staying flexible with time.
And on the note of plans changing often, we first started traveling full-time only 5 weeks before the pandemic… So there’s always that.
6. Don’t Forget to Take Care of Your Health
It can feel like one big vacation while traveling long term. And who goes to the doctor or works out on vacation? Well, unfortunately, traveling full time is not a vacation and you still need to take care of your health! It can seem hard to find healthy dining options when you’re always eating out. Instead, try renting a place with a kitchen, grill, or kitchenette for a period of time to cook for yourself. Always check out the local markets for fresh fruits and veggies. You should find a workout plan that works for you while on the road. Nate loves running in every new town we visit as it’s a great way to sightsee and exercise. I travel with a yoga mat. And we always try to ride bikes whenever we can!
You can and should visit the doctor too! Don’t skip your annual appointments just because you are in Asia for 10 months out of the year. You can do it when you travel home for short stays or find great ex-pat-friendly places wherever you are.
7. You Won’t Be Great at Long Term Travel Right Away
This was a hard one for me to learn. But it’s hard in any new thing I take up. You won’t be great at traveling long term right away. Even if you have been traveling extensively before this, long-term travel is just different. You may get homesick, you may find it hard to balance normal routines, you make not find the right balance of exploring. There is a lot to learn and understand and the only way to get better is to keep going. These are all part of the stories you’ll tell from your time traveling the world.
8. Try Both: Slow Travel vs. Fast Travel
There are a ton of different methods of traveling long term. It comes down to two factors that will help guide you. Do you want to travel slow or travel fast? We have tried both ways and many variations of each. You can travel visiting a new country every week if you are ready for an adrenaline rush. You can also travel as long as your visa lets you (30 – 90 days) in a country to really settle in. Or anywhere in between. We personally have loved staying in one place for 2-4 weeks depending on how active we are or how much admin work we want to get done. You’ll likely experiment but both are great options. It’s all about what works for you!
9. Get The Right Credit Cards
Paying with credit cards around the world is a bit different than it is at home. You’ll first and foremost want to make sure you have more than one credit card. We like to carry at least one with us at all times (usually 2 or 3) and then have at least 1 backup back at the hotel. This helps protect us if we get a wallet stolen or lost.
Second, you want to bring a credit card you can actually use abroad. You’ll want no international fees and a bank that works worldwide. We have found Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted cards.
And if you are looking to start racking up points with all this travel spending, you should find a card that rewards you! Since you can now put your “rent” and transportation costs all on a credit card, you’ll rack up way more points if you get a travel credit card. Our favorites are the American Express Platinum XX, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the Hilton American Express, and the XX.
> Read more for the full list of benefits you’ll want in your travel credit cards.
10. Have Digital Copies of Everything
This is an important one. You should scan and save a digital copy of all your important documents. You should have this locally on a computer or phone and on the cloud so you can access it anywhere in case those things break or get stolen. You should have copies of all the following:
- Vaccine Cards
- Health Insurance
- Birth Certificate
- Marriage Certificate
- International Drivers Permit
If you also have any other important documents or cards you would need to access information on even if they got lost, you should scan and save them. You can also take photos of them on your phone and save them in a folder.
This is handy when we don’t want to carry our passports around to enter certain places. And has worked like a charm for our vaccine cards.
> If you want more long term travel tips, check out our weekly newsletter, Travel Tip Tuesday!
11. Less is More
If you aren’t sure if you need to bring something, you likely will be okay. The less you pack and carry with you, you will thank yourself. We honestly wear the same clothes day in and day out. Our favorite few t-shirts and shorts. We have narrowed down what we actually use and need. It’s taken a while, but it definitely is something you’ll have to work on overtime.
12. Keep a Journal
There are going to be so many fleeting moments that will be lost to history if you don’t find a way to document them. Sure you’ll always remember that time you say Petra for the first time. But will you remember the cute little cafe you visited where the lady made a joke your boyfriend looked like George Clooney? I have found that travel journals are a fun way to relax and reflect on great memories. Plus it’s a cool way to keep ticket stubs and plane tickets.
And if you don’t like writing, take videos or draw or find a way to keep the little memories!
> If you use Notion, check out our free template for travel journaling!
13. Take Photos
Along the same lines as keeping a journal, you should take photos. One day you’ll be telling someone about this gorgeous sunrise and not have a photo of it. You’ll wish you did. You don’t have to get all the camera gear or spend all your time taking photos. But just remember to take your phone out and snap a photo or two to look back on.
And always remember to take photos with people! New people you meet and friends you have had forever. Looking back on photos with friends is always the best.
> See some inspiration from our travel photos on Instagram!
14. Easy Homesickness Remedies
You may get homesick while traveling. You may not want to go home but you may miss some of the comforts of home. It can be hard sometimes with culture shock, long travel days, and just craving a burger. The great thing about our generation is that we can jump online and call friends and family in an instant. There are also a ton of western food options all around the world so you can get a little bit of comfort food when you need it. Although, no In-n-out and that makes me really sad some days. You can also rent a nice hotel for a night or two (maybe with points) to get a nice bed and room service. Or just pop on a classic movie to give you all the homey feels.
15. Language Downloads are Lifesavers
Lastly, this tip is super helpful when traveling off the beaten path. We travel to many places where no one speaks English. By downloading the language on Wi-Fi on Google Translate, you can access the entire translation dictionary even if you have no service. This has been a lifesaver for us when we are in the middle of nowhere and need help with directions. Or even just getting to know someone a bit more. This is even more key if you are traveling with dietary restrictions and want to eat at more local restaurants. You can simply type in what you can or cannot eat and show them in their language.
> Take a look at more of our favorite travel resources.