Looking for long-term travel tips from an expert? You’ve just found them! In this blog post, I share my best long-term travel tips.
Travelling long-term is not as complicated as it might sound like. Still, learning basic long-term travel know-how will help you save money and avoid tons of stress.
I originally wrote this guide during my 2-year trip around the world. Besides that journey, I’ve also spent months exploring the world and its many countries. In total I have been to 68 countries. I’ve entered most of those countries without flying.
Below are 42 long-term travel tips split into ten different categories. Instead of the most common travel tips for international travel, I’ve focused on less obvious travel tips that you won’t hear so often.
You can click the travel tip categories below to jump to different sections.
- I. Planning Your Route
- II. Long-Term Travel Preparations
- III. Travel Tips for Packing
- IV. Budgeting and Saving Money
- V. Accommodation Advice
- VI. Travel Tips for Transportation
- VII. Travel Activities
- VIII. Social Life
- IX. Safety Tips for Long-Term Travel
- X. Miscellaneous Travel Tips
How to Plan Your Route
The first long-term travel tips on this list deal with route planning.
1. Look at the Globe
Google Maps doesn’t give a very realistic projection of the Earth. The northern and southern regions look ridiculously massive, obscuring your judgement of distances. Find a physical globe or check Google Earth to get a more honest picture. Thetruesize.com is another great tool for comparing the real scale of countries.
2. Do Research on the Best Seasons
While planning your route for long-term travel, check out the best and worst seasons at your possible destinations. On the other hand, note that the best seasons attract the most travellers. To enjoy lower prices and smaller crowds, traveling on the shoulder season between high and low season might be a good idea.
3. Take Climate Change into Account
Yes, the world has already come to this. Weather maps from a few years back might already be out-of-date. For example, the monsoon season in Nepal has lasted exceptionally long for many years in a row, even postponing the best mountain climbing season.
It’s not certain if all these changes are caused by man-made climate change. Still, it’s good to note that the local weather can be more unstable than expected.
4. Don’t Overplan
It’s very easy to put too many destinations in your international travel plans. Try to plan less and drop some destinations from your list. You’ll eventually want to slow down from time to time. Don’t rush, because it will eventually exhaust you.
I also don’t recommend to buy all your RTW flight tickets in advance. While this might save money, I believe the cost of limiting your freedom is too high. If you’re stuck following a pre-set route, you can’t change your plans when something wonderful comes along.
5. Don’t Announce All Your Megalomaniac Plans in Advance
Your plans will change as you travel. However, dropping some destinations will be harder if you’ve already announced them in public.
I started my trip around the world telling I’d visit all the continents during my journey. For a long time, I felt somehow obliged to follow that public plan. It took me a while before I managed to drop Antarctica from my itinerary.
Travel Tips for Long-Term Travel Preparations
What should you do before you start your long-term world travel?
Further reading: How to Prepare Your Mind For a Trip Around the World
6. Get a (Fake) Address
You probably won’t keep your apartment when you become a long-term traveller. Still, you’ll encounter hundreds of forms and documents where you have to give some address. Make sure you know how to fill the blanks.
7. Redirect Your Mails
If possible, you should redirect your post to the address of a friend or a family member. For example, I’m now officially living in my mother’s house and we’ve agreed that she can open all my mail without my permission, only giving me a notice if there’s something I really need to know or react to.
Besides this, you might also want to write a letter of attorney for a person close to you, authorizing them to pick up your mail from the post office if necessary.
8. Take a “Before” Picture
I’ve been traveling for over 500 days now, and my beard and hair look quite different from before. Unfortunately I didn’t take a “before” picture of my face before I went travelling, so I can’t really compare my looks between day one and day 500.
Yes, this is one of my travel life’s biggest regrets.
9. If You Need Glasses, Consider Eye Surgery
Glasses and contact lenses (especially the latter) can be quite inconvenient while traveling. If you need either, consider getting a laser surgery for your eyes before travel. I’ve had the eye surgery done four years ago and it has been one of the best decisions of my life.
Long-Term Travel Tips for Packing
Whether its getting the right gear or organizing your backpack, these long-term travel tips help you with packing.
Further reading: Packing for a Round The World Trip – My List of 106 Items
10. Organize Your Luggage When You Start
When you fill your backpack for the first time, take the time develop an organized system for your packing. This way it’s much easier to find (and not lose) your belongings when you automatically place them on the same places.
11. Keep Things in Plastic Bags
I keep most of my things in plastic bags inside my backpack. There’s two plastic bags for clothes, one for hygiene stuff, one for laundry, one for electronics… and so on. Plastic packs make packing, unpacking and finding your things much faster and easier. They also protect your belongings from water when necessary.
12. Roll Your Clothes
There are many ways to fold your clothes to fit them in as small space as possible. If you don’t want to learn any fancier techniques, you can simply roll your clothes before storing them in the plastic bags.
13. Get Used to Discomfort (And You’ll Need Less Clothes)
Your clothes will take up most space in your backpack. However, if you get used to wearing the same clothes for longer periods, you don’t need to pack as many clothes. Logical, right?
14. Travel Clothesline + Universal Sink Plug + Laundry Detergent = Laundry on the Go
Washing your laundry in hotels and guesthouses can be surprisingly expensive. However, you need just a few basic things to wash your clothes in the sink. I’ve learned my hand wash method from this guide on the travel blog “Travel Fashion Girl”.
15. Long Sleeves Protect Against Mosquitoes
If you’re heading to hot destinations, you might plan to pack clothes like shorts and sleeveless t-shirts that’ don’t cover so much skin. That’s fine, but don’t forget about mosquitoes. Long shirts and pants with light colours protect against both insects and the scorching sun.
16. Only Buy Winter Clothes When Necessary
Warm clothes take lots of space. If you spend more time in hot temperatures, don’t pack your winter clothes with you. Just buy them when you need them. And don’t cling on to your things for too long: if something becomes useless, dare to throw it away.
Advice for Budgeting and Saving Money
The next long-term travel tips are all about the money.
Further reading: How to Save Money to Travel Around the World?
17. Your Realistic Travel Budget = 1.5x Your Optimistic Estimation
When I estimated my travel budget, I thought I’d spend 800 euros per month on the road. In reality, the amount was closer to 1200 euros during the first year of my trip around the world. No matter how realistically you try to evaluate your spending, there will always be some surprising payments.
18. A Higher Budget Has Its Benefits (So Consider Traveling for a Shorter Period)
As you plan your long-term world travel, you easily try to see how long you can last with your limited budget. Still, traveling as long as possible shouldn’t be your main goal.
Having a higher daily budget will let you participate in different courses and activities. If you feel like extending your trip would mean significant sacrifices on your comfort and enjoyment, reconsider if a longer trip on a tighter budget really is worth it.
19. Credit Cards Offer Better Rates than ATM’s
ATM service fees can be surprisingly high. Besides that, ATM’s often give worse conversion rates than credit cards. In the long run, you can save a lot of money by using your credit card more often.
(UPDATE: After reading this article, my friend suggested that you should also attach a point scheme to your credit card. If you can gather frequent flyer points from your daily purchases, you can save a lot of money on flights. I haven’t done that myself, but I believe it’s a great idea!)
20. Leave Money for Your Return
(I can’t take credit for this long-term travel tip. If I remember correctly, I first read this piece of advice from a guide book by Finnish travel duo Madventures.)
Unless you plan to travel full-time for the rest of your life, it’s important to prepare for your homecoming. Make sure you leave some money untouched for the time after your return. Finishing a long journey is tough as it is, and money issues could make it even worse.
21. Donate for Charities
So, you’ve got enough money for long-term travel all over the world, huh? Now that you’re extremely rich in comparison to most people of the world, you should help others out. Don’t spend all the money on yourself, but donate at least a few hundred euros for charities.
Personally, I recommend you donate your money before (or soon after) the beginning of your long-term world travel. Once you’re savings start to run out, you’ll notice it gets much harder to give any of your hard-earned money away.
Tips for Accommodation
How to book your stays… and other accommodation tips for long-term travellers.
22. CouchSurfing is Free
At first, I thought CouchSurfing.com would be too obvious for a list of less obvious long-term travel tips. However, I’m constantly surprised by the amount of travelers who either haven’t heard of CouchSurfing or don’t know that it’s free. CouchSurfing is also an amazing cultural experience that connects you with locals all around the world.
23. Booking.com Offers Good Discounts
Booking.com offers last-minute discounts and other makes it cheaper than other booking websites such as Hostelworld. Booking.com also uses affiliate links: when you make a booking using your friend’s link – or the other way around – both of you earn some money. Other sites such as airbnb also have similar offers.
Ps. Here are my affiliate link for Booking.com. Feel free to use it for your next booking!
https://www.booking.com/s/22_8/arimo051 (10% off)
24. Don’t Forget Holidays
No surprises here: accommodations get booked much faster for holidays and other special occasions. While it’s obvious for most tourists, it’s much easier to forget about the rule as a full-time traveller. After all, weekdays quickly lose their meaning and you get very used to finding accommodations on a very short notice.
Besides the most obvious celebrations like Christmas and New Year, watch out for massive local festivals.
25. Check-Out Checklist: Bathroom, Fridge and Power Plugs
When you’re leaving your accommodation, make absolutely sure you don’t leave anything in the bathroom, fridge or power plugs. I’ve forgotten at least half a dozen shampoo bottles all over the world. If this long-term travel tip can save even one shampoo bottle from being left behind, this blog post has been worth it!
Long-Term Travel Tips for Transportation
Long-term travel tips for border crossings, flying and other transportation things.
Further reading: How to Waste Time During Long Train Journeys
26. Keep a Ballpoint Pen with You
When crossing borders or taking flights, you usually need to fill some arrival documents. Unfortunately most airports and border stations have very limited (if any) pens for writing. Keep a pen in your hand luggage so you can fill the forms quickly.and get an early spot on the line.
27. Make Sure You Have a Hotel Address Ready
When arriving in a new country, you often need to give your address in the country. There might be no internet access on arrival, so make sure you have the address ready before you board your transportation. Even if you’re really staying with a local host or haven’t booked an accommodation yet, it’s usually better to give the officials a hotel address.
28. Know How to Find Cheap Flights
There are whole books written about cheap flights. I’m not going to compete with the massive guides here, but here are a few basics about cheap flight bookings.
The price of the flights can depend both on the departure day and the day of your booking. In both cases, Tuesdays are often one of the cheapest days. Compare different dates to see the cheapest options.
If you want to find the cheapest destinations, look for the biggest hub airports. Shorter distances aren’t necessarily any cheaper.
There are several flight search engines online, but I’m mainly using Skyscanner which I’ve found cheaper than some others.
Search for your flights in “incognito mode”/”private browsing”, because your search history can increase the prices.
29. Pay Voluntary CO2 Offsets for Your Flights
Traveling is often quite harmful for the environment. To reduce my ecological footprint, I use Atmosfair to pay voluntary CO2 offsets for my flights. Counting the exact carbon emissions with one-way tickets is quite challenging, so I simply donate 10 percent of my ticket prices for them.
30. Take Warm Clothes into Buses and Other Transportation
When it’s 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) outside, you rarely think about socks and jackets. But for some reason, the AC of many vehicles can be extremely freezing. The longer the journey, the more important it is to pack some extra layers.
Freezing and getting sick on a night bus in India isn’t very pleasant, I can assure you.
Long-term Travel Tips for Travel Activities
What should you do while you travel? These travel tips for long trips deal with your activities and daily life on the road.
Further reading: 8 Useful Android Apps for Long-Term Travel (and What to Do With Them)
31. Take More Photos of Yourself
I didn’t come up with this long-term travel tip by myself. Instead, I learned it from travel blogger Lauren’s awesome travel blog Never-Ending Footsteps. Here’s Lauren’s travel tip in her own words:
“Photos of the beautiful places you visit are great and all, but when you get home, they’re not all that different to the ones everyone else has taken there, too. Photos with you in them are special and they’ll come to mean a lot more.”
Personally, I also like how these photos show how my hair and beard are getting out of control.
32. If You Read Local Books, Start Early
Some travellers want to read books from the countries they’re visiting. Unless you’re staying in the country for a very long time, I recommend choosing books that are short. You should also start reading the books quite early, perhaps even before arriving in the country.
While I was in Laos, I bought an interesting non-fiction book about the local culture. The problem was, I wasn’t able to finish the book before I left Laos. I carried the book around for three more months until I finally threw it away.
33. Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is Amazing
No, this is not a paid advert. I just genuinely love my Amazon Kindle Paperwhite e-reader. I also like to have my Lonely Planet guidebooks on my Kindle. This way I have some travel information available even without an online access.
It took me more than a year before I tried volunteering on my 2-year trip around the world. Had I known how great it is, I would have started volunteering much sooner. Besides getting free food and a place to stay in exchange of work, volunteering can help you rest when you feel like you get tired of active traveling.
There are lots of websites for volunteering opportunities, but the one I’m using is Workaway. A yearly Workaway subscription costs 32 US$, but the volunteering is otherwise free. Other similar sites include Worldpackers (free registration, pay for volunteering), HelpX (20 € for 2-year premier membership) and WWOOF (organic farms, 30 US$/year).
Long-term Travel Tips for Social Life
How to connect with people and find like-minded travellers?
35. Try to Memorize People’s Names
People all over the world love hearing their own names. You can make quite an impression if you manage to remember at least some of them.
To memorize names, pay attention when you hear someone say their name. You can even repeat it to make sure you heard it right. With foreigners, you can also ask about the spelling and correct pronunciation of the name. I even write people’s names down on my phone!
36. Learn Some Basic Conversation Starters
When I arrive in a new hostel, I very often start conversations with the question “Do you know any good places to eat nearby?”. Besides breaking the ice and giving me useful information, the question has connected me with lots of wonderful people. People might not only show you a place, but they might even invite themselves to eat with you!
Memorize a few conversation starters, and making new friends becomes easier.
37. Join Online Communities
Long-term travel can get lonely, and there will be times when you won’t meet many other backpackers. If you want to have more connections with like-minded people, I recommend joining different online communities for travellers.
I can especially recommend the Facebook group “NOMADS – a life of alternative travel“. Although only some of the group´s 180,000+ members are full-time travellers, the community does have a very inspiring and supportive atmosphere. NOMADS (of the same NOMADS group) has a great listing of different travel groups on Facebook.
Safety Tips for Long-Term Travel
How to stay safe while travelling? These long-term travel tips deal with safety.
38. Learn About Local Scams
The best way to avoid scams is learning about them in advance. After doing some research, you’ll learn to flee quickly after a shoe shiner drops his brush or a mother asks you to buy milk powder for her baby.
Learning all the scams in the world might be too much to ask for, but you should at least know some local varieties. This chart by Just The Flight explains many of them. Lonely Planet guide books (especially Lonely Planet India) also warn about some local deceits.
39. Understand How Bold the Scams Can Be
Many scams work because they are so incredibly blatant that you wouldn’t believe they exist. Befriending you for days before asking you to join a casino? Building fake tourist offices and restaurants? Trust me, these things really happen.
Oh, and those people who tell you to be careful are often the ones you should watch out for.
40. Don’t Worry Too Much About Safety
Sure, most scams are based exploiting your kindness as trust. Does that mean that you should become a more cynical person? Maybe a little bit, but don’t overdo it. Almost every stranger you meet is worth your trust, and the bad cases are only rare exceptions.
The warnings of your friends and family can make you paranoid. Still, the world is usually safer than it looks like when you only watch it from afar. And besides, most safety issues of traveling are not life-threatening. You might lose your money and be ashamed, but life goes on.
And finally, here are a few long-term travel tips that didn’t fit the other categories.
41. Always Carry Earplugs with You
I believe earplugs are one of the most useful things you can pack for a trip around the world. Besides using earplugs for sleeping, I recommend to keep them on your day bag just in case. Buses and other vehicles – especially the one’s with television screens or crying babies – can be surprisingly loud.
42. Keep Toilet Paper Inside an Empty Toilet Paper Tube
It’s one of the most common and best travel tips that you should carry toilet paper with you. However, keeping a toilet paper roll in your day bag can be a hassle. So, what to do? Here’s my toilet paper packing tip:
Once you finish a toilet paper roll, keep the carton tube and flatten it. Now you can roll and put extra toilet paper sheets inside the flat tube! (See picture above.) This way the toilet paper won’t break down in the bag, and the flat carton takes very little space.
43. Follow Arimo Travels for More Awesome Full-Term Travel Related Content!
If you liked this post, you can follow my blog “Arimo travels” on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for more similar articles. There’s also an email subscription form at the end of this page.
Okay, the last one wasn’t a travel tip – it was shameless advertising. Sorry, I couldn’t resist the temptation! Then again. it was also the 43rd item on this list of 42 long-term travel tips, marking the end of this blog post.
What did you think about the list of long-term travel tips? What are the best travel tips that you know? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
So many great tips, Arimo! Thanks for these tips, and for all the great writing around this (fantastic) site! 🙂
Thank you Glenn! 🙂
Nice travel tips! I like the “Before and After photo”. I might do that one day if I’m lucky enough to travel
For a long period of time. How cool you are to be able to travel for 500 days. Your tips are just awesome as you. This really show how knowledgeable you are about traveling. Thanks a lot I enjoy reading it.
Thank you so much, I’m really glad you enjoyed the tips! 🙂