When Andy and I decided it was time to leave The UK to travel, live and work abroad we had no idea how much it would involve.
Previously when travelling, it was just a matter of booking flights, having a rough idea of the destination, packing a bag and jumping on a plane.
Fast forward ten or fifteen years and we both have jobs, a mortgage, and are married. With all that has come responsibilities, which has meant ALOT of planning went into getting us ready for our big adventure.
I myself am quite a planner; I like to know what I’m doing and when I’m doing it. I write lists…oh, so many lists. I use them to keep track and cross each thing off when completed. This creates numerous jobs that aren’t actually crucial to the desired outcome. Andy, on the other hand, sticks to the essentials that would be showstoppers if not completed.
This meant that Andy was packed and ready to go with just under three weeks to play with, whereas I still had a substantial ‘to-do’ list to conquer. To be honest it all became a little overwhelming.
For a long time, my exit plan consisted of scribbled on post-it notes, scrawled on notepads, rambling word docs, and vast excel spreadsheets. Enough to blow anyone’s mind!
After another exhausting weekend sorting things out, I decided enough was enough and it was time to condense my chaotic lists into something more manageable.
So here it is, to help you prepare…my new and improved checklist for long-term travel or moving overseas.
Checklist for Long-term Travel
These are tasks that REALLY HAVE to be done to prepare yourself to up-sticks and leave life as you know it behind.
#1 Decide on funds
Decide how are you going to fund the trip; asking yourself these questions. Do you need to save or already have savings? Will you have a rental income? Will you need to work when you’re away?
If it’s the former, think of ways to top up your savings, such as cutting out unnecessary spending or taking on overtime or an extra job. If it’s the latter think about what you could do to earn a living or supplement your funds whilst away.
#2 Arrange vaccinations
It’s sensible to find out about your travel vaccinations asap, especially if you haven’t had many before. Some are a series of jabs over several weeks or months; so allow plenty of time and visit your doctor early on in your plans to seek advice.
#3 Check your passport
This one is a showstopper if you’re going overseas. If you don’t already have one you’ll need to apply for one. If you do have one you’ll need to check it’s valid for the whole of your trip. Having plenty of empty pages for the myriad of new stamps you’ll collect is also a good move.
#4 Make house arrangements
If you own your house you’ll need to decide what you’re going to do with it. Will you rent it out or sell it? If you’re going to sell you’ll need to put the wheels in motion early on. It can take months to sell and complete a house sale. If you’re going to rent it out you’ll probably want to instruct a letting agent to manage it.
If you rent your home you’ll need to advise your letting agent of the date you’ll be moving out.
#5 Book flights
Once you’ve decided where you’re going and when it’s time to start looking into flights. It’s worth spending some time researching flights before booking. If you’re flexible with dates, times and airports, you’ll often be able to get a good deal and saving yourself some money. We mainly used Skyscanner and Kayak to check for the best and cheapest flights.
#6 Apply for visas
Again this could be a showstopper. You’ll need to research this as some countries grant a visa on arrival (VOA); whilst others require an advance application either online or in person at an embassy. If you arrive at a country without the relevant visa you won’t be granted entry. That would really put a dampener on proceedings.
If you’re planning on working overseas you may also need to apply for a work visa. This is something we need to do when we arrive in Cambodia. Again you’ll need to do your research on this as it varies from country to country.
#7 Hand notice in at work
You’ll need to decide what you’re going to do regarding your job when you leave. This will depend a lot on your employer, your contract and the length of time you’ll be away for.
If you’re going to be away for a set period of time your employer may agree to an unpaid career break or sabbatical. If this isn’t possible or your return date is unknown it’s likely you’ll need to hand in your notice. Ensure you give your employer your contracted notice period and keep it polite and professional. Don’t burn any bridges as you may need a reference from them at some point in the future.
This is the most boring and time-consuming bit but has to be done. What you need to do will vary depending on your residential, marital, and employment status. We’re homeowners, married, employed in the UK and will be working abroad, so I’ll base this on our experience which should cover most scenarios.
- Change your address. This needs to be done for everything including bank accounts, and with your doctor, dentist, letting agent, house insurer, letting agent, and mortgage and pensions provider etc.It’s useful if you can use the address of someone you trust, so they can open your mail to scan and email anything important to you. My mum kindly offered to do this for us which is great. Redirecting your post is also a good idea, just in case you forget to change your address on something.
- Notify utility companies that you’re leaving. Water, gas, electric, TV licensing, and council etc. This will enable them to calculate your final bills. Hopefully, you’ll get some refunds from some of these.
- Cancel contracts that are no longer needed. Broadband, Netflix, car insurance, breakdown cover, mobile phone, gym membership etc. Some of these may charge an early exit fee; annoying but can’t be helped. The one that hit my pocket most was Vodafone – about £340…ouch, plus hours and hours on the phone!
- Check your will is up to date (if you have one). Never a nice thing to have to think about but it’s a good thing to have in order.
- Inform HMRC for tax and NI purposes (UK Residents). This won’t apply to everyone. However if like us you’re planning on living and working abroad you’ll need to contact HMRC to ask what needs to be done with regards to your tax liability in the UK. This is a minefield and gave us nothing but headaches. I’m most definitely not qualified to give advice on this and other countries will have their own rules.
#9 Store or sell your belongings
If you have a set return date you may want to store your belongings with family, friends or paid storage. Alternatively if like us you’re not sure how long you’ll be away for you may decide to just sell everything.
Just before we left we had over 200 items listed on eBay and Gumtree, and many others already sold. For us, it was all extra money in the pot which would come in handy.
There are many options with regards to travel money. What you decide to do will be dependent on your circumstances and plans. So, for now, I’ve just briefly detailed the various options below:
- Buy local currency before you leave. For security reasons though it’s not advisable to walk around with wads of notes. A small amount is handy though for emergencies. It’s usually a good idea to check out exchange rates of various Bureau de Changes so you get the best rate. Try to avoid leaving this until getting to the airport as the rates are usually worse than elsewhere.
- Debit cards can be used to withdraw cash from ATMs and pay for purchases. Be mindful though that foreign exchange and cash withdrawal charges may apply from both your bank and the bank abroad whose ATM you use. It’s better to open a bank account with no or low international charges such as HSBC (Worldwide).
- Credit cards can also be used to both make cash withdrawals and purchase. Although unless you can find one with no or low fees; I’d suggest only using them in emergencies. Also be sure to pay the balance in full each month to avoid interest charges
- Internet banking is almost vital to help manage your travel money and help keep track of spending. Don’t forget your card reader for this.
- Prepaid travel money cards such as that by Travelex can be loaded with money and used like a debit card. You can also connect it to your internet banking. The fees for these seem to be on a par with other debit cards so we’ve decided against this option.
- Local bank accounts can be a good option if like us you’re going to be living and working abroad for any period of time. You can transfer money to it from your normal bank account and withdraw cash from the local banks ATM. Again you need to be careful of the transfer fees.
- Hedge your bets by taking a selection of debit and credit cards. Small amounts of cash in currencies such as US dollars, British Sterling or Euros are also good to have for emergencies.
- Notify your banks you’re travelling, where to and for how long. If you don’t they may freeze your accounts for security reasons when they detect foreign transactions. A real pain if you’re trying to access your money in another country.
#11 Buy travel insurance
Some people are happy to take the risk and travel without but I would never go anywhere without travel insurance. Things can and do go wrong, it’s just not worth the risk and by doing your research and shopping around on comparison sites such as Compare The Market you should get a good deal.
Be sure to read the small print for any policy before you buy to ensure it covers you for your type of trip and the activities you. If you won’t be starting and ending your trip in the same place you may need to go for a one-way travel insurance or long stay insurance. World Nomads are recommended by many long-term travellers.
#12 Book accommodation
If you’re going to be on the road for a long time you probably won’t want to book all your accommodation. It can be restrictive and doesn’t allow for much flexibility to change your plans. Booking your first night in each country though can be a sensible move. More often than not you’ll have had a long tiring, journey; the last thing you’ll want to be doing is traipse around a strange place looking for somewhere to spend the night. My favourite site for accommodation bargains is Hotels Combined, and Trip Advisor for reviews
#13 Organise travel documentation
Ensure you’ve printed copies of all travel documentation such as flight and accommodation confirmations. We also like email them to ourselves and save them to a folder so they can easily found should the print outs go astray.
#14 Backup important documents
Scan your passport, visas, driver’s license and any other important documents. It’s also a good idea to email them to yourself, and save them and to print a copy to keep in a separate place to the original.
If you manage to lose your original documents, the scanned copies can be used to help sort out replacements, making the process much easier.
To finish off here are a few things that won’t halt your plans if you don’t do them; but which may make things smoother and more enjoyable for you.
#1 Create an itinerary
This is subjective and a matter of personal choice. Some like to know what they’re going to be doing and when, every step of the way, whilst others prefer to wing it. The latter is much more doable if you’ve not got any time restrictions
#2 Research employment opportunities
This is only relevant if you’ll be working whilst abroad. Having an idea in advance of what you might like to do could give you the chance to gain a new qualification or brush up on skills that may help you gain employment.
#3 Sort out gadgets
There are so many options here. Phones, tablets, laptops, cameras, go pros, video cameras, kindles etc. What you take will vary from person to person and is likely to depend on what you’ll be doing.
Don’t forget chargers, battery packs, and storage too. All the tech in the world won’t be much good if you can’t charge your gadgets or run out of storage for photos etc.
#4 Unlock your phone
Speak to your mobile phone provider and request a network unlock code (NUC). This will allow you to buy a cheap local sim card in the countries you visit enabling you to use your phone without racking up eye-watering charges.
Top Tip: An iPhone doesn’t require an actual NUC code. Just request the NUC, wait ten days, then sync your iPhone to iTunes. That’s it you’re all set.
#5 Organise your music, reading or viewing material
It’s great to have music or something good to read or watch on long journeys. It gives you the chance to unwind and relax. Be sure to have your music, books, and films in an easily accessible format for when you need it.
#6 Write a packing list and pack
A packing list can be a help or a hindrance. Despite my love of lists, I’ve found I can spend more time on writing a packing list than it would take to pack. Others find it helpful and reassuring and that it helps ensure nothing is forgotten.
I find it easier to lay out everything I’d like to take or will need and then whittle it down to a more realistic load. This can often take several iterations of the process.
#7 Throw a leaving do
Finally, getting all your family and friends together in one place at the same time to say goodbye is fun, albeit a little sad. It will also free up the rest of your last week or so to concentrate on any last-minute tasks before the ‘big off’.
Phew, I think that’s it; a bit longer than I anticipated, but it’s definitely helped me feel more organised, and I hope if you’re about to do something similar you’ll find it useful pointers too.
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Some of what I’ve talked about may differ depending on your own personal circumstances but I hope it gives a good overview and starting point.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on our checklist for long-term travel or moving overseas. If you’ve done something similar or are considering it did you find this useful or is there anything you think we’ve missed?
P.S. You can read more about how we made the decision to travel long term and live and work abroad via the following link: