Long Term International Travel Tips: Don’t Overlook These Pesky Details!

Planning a great vacation can be a lot of fun, but there are always those important details that you can’t overlook…which aren’t quite as fun.  This is especially true when you are planning long term international travel, as we have been.  Looking at books, magazines, and blogs is the fun part.

We can daydream about all the places we want to go and imagine ourselves on this grand adventure, but then we have to come back to reality and think about the practical stuff.  How are we going to access our money?  What about insurance, for our health and personal belongings?  And what if there is an emergency?  As we have researched and put together this around the world adventure, here are some of those pesky details that we’ve discovered you should not overlook.

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1. Have Plenty of Blank Passport Pages

If you are planning to travel internationally, then it is a given that you need to have a valid passport.  However even if you already have a passport, it is important that you double check its validity and how many blank pages you have left.  Many countries will require you to have a valid passport for a certain amount of time upon your entry (example:  6 months).  Also, some countries will require you to have 1 or even more blank pages available.  For details on the entry requirements for US citizens in other countries, visit the US Department of State and Consular Affairs website.

Because we are going to be traveling the world for an extended amount of time and visiting MANY countries, we needed to be sure that we had a lot of blank pages available.  Running out of blank passport pages on the road can be a real pain!  Embassy visits, paperwork, fees, and lots of waiting; this will really put a damper on your travel plans.  It is easiest to add pages to your passport well before you leave.

Also Read:  How to Get a Passport in 5 Easy Steps

We simply went online and filled out the paperwork, mailed in our passports with our payment, and had them returned to us with 48 new pages!  Our passports are pretty thick now, but we have a lot of countries on our list to visit.  So now, we don’t have to worry about running out of pages!

Two new packs of pages added to our passports - they are ready for the world!
Two new packs of pages added to our passports – they are ready for the world!

2. Update Your Immunizations & Other Medical Check Ups

As with any trip abroad, you should always check to see if you need any special immunizations or other medical check ups.  For most travelers, this won’t be much of an issue, especially if you are going to developed destinations such as Europe.  But in our case, we are going to be traveling around the world and visiting many destinations that are off the beaten tourist path.  To be prepared, we checked the immunization requirements for the countries we plan to visit, and made an appointment with our doctor.

For US citizens, in addition to our childhood vaccinations (MMR, polio, etc.) we received:  hepatitis A & B (multiple doses are required, so plan ahead), tetanus and pertussis.  All of these vaccines were covered under our health insurance here in the States, so we were able to easily get these by stopping into a CVS minute clinic.  Other shots on our list to receive include:  rabies, meningitis, Japanese encephalitis, and yellow fever.  Typhoid is something else you should protect yourself against, you can get shots or pills.

Read about getting our CDC Travel Vaccine shots in Thailand

Unfortunately, these other vaccines are not covered under our US health insurance because they are not necessary here in the States.  And some of these vaccines are very expensive here because they are rarely needed, so we have opted to get these final inoculations at our first overseas destination, Thailand, where the healthcare is good and the prices are more affordable.  Malaria is also something you should be aware of; however, there is no vaccine for that.  And because effectiveness of the different pills varies by destination, your best option is to get pills overseas at your destination.

I hate shots...but will put up with them for my love of travel!
I hate shots…but will put up with them for my love of travel!

3.  Ensure Access to Your Money:  Banking & Credit Cards

credit_cardAs mentioned in our previous post about Money Travel Tips, you should always have multiple ways to access your money when you travel and have alternative payment options.  Notifying your banks is important so that you accounts are not locked, and be sure that you have cards that do not charge you international usage fees.  Overall, ATMs are really the best way to access cash overseas.  There are fees involved with using an ATM, but usually they are minimal.

Since we are traveling overseas long-term, we wanted to do everything we can to minimize those ATM fees.  So we opened a new bank account with Charles Schwab which reimburses us for ALL foreign ATM fees and doesn’t have any transaction charges.

Further, we linked our new Charles Schwab bank account with our existing bank accounts so that we can easily move money back and forth as needed.  Our plan is to only move money over to Schwab in order to pull it out of an ATM, but we won’t keep a lot of money in that account in case of theft.  That way they won’t be able to clean out our other primary savings accounts.  Hopefully (knock on wood) that won’t be an issue!

4.  Don’t Skip the Insurance – Health & Personal Belongings

I know of many young travelers who choose to forgo insurance to save some cash…but I would NEVER recommend this.  The small amount of money you save is not worth it if something were to happen.  Emergencies are expensive.  And the last thing you want is having to ask for help from family and friends because you weren’t responsible.

For most vacations overseas, standard travel insurance is sufficient and it is quite inexpensive.  As discussed in our previous post about handling travel emergencies such as hurricanes, you should carry a certain amount of travel insurance which covers some health emergencies, lost baggage, re-routing fees, cancellations, etc.  But for long term travel overseas, we have gone beyond the basic travel insurance.

First of all, we need real medical insurance because we will actually be working and living abroad for quite some time.  We found a great policy through IMG that gives us complete health insurance coverage all around the world.  We even purchased an additional “adventure sports” rider so that we are covered if we get hurt on some of our adventure activities.

An important thing to keep in mind with any medical coverage abroad is that you are covered in case the worst might happen.  The last thing you want is your family having to foot the bill and deal with the stress of getting you home if you are severely sick, or worse.  It isn’t pleasant to think about, but you do need to be prepared in case of tragedy.  So your insurance should include medical evacuation as well as repatriation of remains.  For great healthcare coverage, similar to what we had here in the US, we are paying a monthly premium of $150 – which includes both of us and only has a $500 deductible (it’s actually better than some health plans here in the States)!

Our IMG health insurance policy for our overseas trip!
Our IMG health insurance policy for our overseas trip!

Another consideration that we have had to think about is in regard to our personal belongings.  Because we will be living abroad and working on our blog, we have quite a bit of technology equipment that is valuable.  If we are ever the victims of theft, then it would cost us a lot to replace these items.  So we have also purchased Personal Belonging insurance through Clements.

All of our equipment including our laptops, ipods, ipad, iphones, GoPro, DSLR camera, etc. are all covered.  For a minimal annual fee, around $170, we were able to cover everything completely.  The value of these items well exceeds that annual premium, so it is very much worth it to us!  And if anything does happen, ALWAYS be sure to get a police report to submit to the insurance company.

Our personal belongings (including valuable electronics) are covered by Clements.
Our personal belongings (including valuable electronics) are covered by Clements.

5.  Sort Your Personal Affairs – Wills, Life Insurance

Since we are traveling long-term, wee have also opted to get our personal affairs in order in advance.  This is definitely not a fun thing to think about, but we have decided that it is better to be safe than sorry.  Having your personal affairs in order, such as life insurance and wills, are an important thing to do in general.

Many people overlook this in their day-to-day lives, but this around the world trip that we are going on gave us an opportunity to get all of these things in order before we leave.  Not fun, but important.

6.  Set Up Electronic Document Backups

Because we are living and working abroad for quite some time, we have also safeguarded our electronic documents in case of damage or theft by purchasing a cloud backup account.  In our secure cloud we have encrypted and backed up both of our laptops, in case anything happens to the devices.  This way, we will not lose everything.  Having the ability to back up in the cloud is also helpful for us because we know that we will be taking a lot of photos and will have all of our blog-work documents.

Our cloud service lets the two of us easily share documents back and forth between our laptops, as well as backing up everything.  Of course, we will need internet access to do this, so we plan to back up each time we arrive at a new destination with wifi.

We use Zip Cloud for our online computer back ups & to store encrypted documents to share with family.
We use Zip Cloud for our online computer back ups & to store encrypted documents to share with family.

7.  Access to Important Personal Documents

To piggyback on the previous tip about backing up electronic documents in the cloud, you should also be sure to back up all of your important personal documents.  Again for most short term travelers this isn’t a necessity.  But for us, we wanted to have electronic copies of passports, birth certificates, health insurance information, vaccination records, banking records, etc.  This information is quite sensitive.  So we put all these items in a folder on our computer, then encrypted it.  After encrypting, we loaded it into our secure cloud for safe keeping.  Even if someone can hack our secure cloud, the documents are encrypted anyway.

We can easily access these documents anywhere we have internet access, but it is important that you have someone back at home who has access in case of an emergency.  In our case, that is our parents and siblings living here in the states.  We were able to send a link to these individuals to our secure folder in the cloud along with the ability to decrypt the documents, if needed.  That way they can access anything important that they may need.

8. Set Up International Cell Phone & SIM Cards

Our OneSimCard came with an international phone number and connects to us anywhere in the world. We simply put it in our unlocked SmartPhone!
Our OneSimCard came with an international phone number and connects to us anywhere in the world. We simply put it in our unlocked SmartPhone!

There are a few ways that you can handle cell phones while you are traveling abroad.  Usually when we travel for a few weeks or less, we just add an international plan to our home cell phone for the length of our trip only.  We pay the extra for the international coverage for just that month, then we turn it off when we return home.  But for long term travel, that isn’t a very cost effective option.  Depending on how long you will be staying in a country, you may want to purchase a SIM card in that country, or just rent a cell phone while you are in a country.

However since we will be traveling the world for the next couple years and visiting a lot of countries, we have opted to purchase a worldwide SIM card.  For $30 we have a SIM card that can be used in our existing iPhones.  It comes with an international phone number, but we also purchased US phone numbers so our family can call us at no charge.  This number will forward to our cell phones wherever we are in the world!  This is very convenient for our friends and family.

There is a fee for us to receive the call, and we pay as we go; however, we can monitor our spending online and pull back if we feel like we are talking too much.  But we do have the option of using VOIP with the SIM cards.  So if we are in a location with strong internet access, we can actually call our family through the VOIP for only $0.01 cent per minute!  Of course, Skyping is another option too; which we plan to do periodically.  For more information, click here to check out the One SimCard.

9.  Designate Mail Recipients at Home

Because we are officially nomadic and no longer have a home, we need somewhere to forward our physical mail.  All of our important mail is received via email nowadays, but there are still some cases that physical mail is sent (mostly junk mail…).  So our parents have been kind enough to receive our mail while we are gone.  We have set up organized file folders and periodically (perhaps once a month) we plan to Skype with each other and go through the mail together, and they are kind enough to file it away for us.  Our goal is not be a burden, and we really appreciate them helping us out with that!

10.  Identify Emergency Contacts

We have also given copies of our itineraries to various family members and provided them with emergency contact number.  Josh has also come up with a code word, this is a bit extreme but I guess it doesn’t hurt!  If ever something serious goes down, if we send an email, text, or phone call with just that code word, then that is a signal to contact the embassy.

Being Prepared for Long Term Travel Is Important!

While these details are not as exciting as browsing through a magazine at amazing photos, they are critical to your trip.  Getting everything squared away before you leave on your trip will help give you and your family peace of mind while you are gone.  This way you can enjoy your trip, and you should be well prepared for anything unexpected that may come your way.

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