If you’ve made up your mind to leave your life at home behind for now, congratulations, the HARDEST PART IS OVER!! Before you sail off to your new adventure, though, there is a list of things you should wrap up at home in advance to make sure you don’t burn any bridges, or burn holes through your pocket doing things last minute!
Wrapping up your old life – at least a month in advance
- Tell your family of your plans
- Tell your boss with at least 2 weeks advance notice
- Tell your friends
- Terminate your lease – in NYC, this either means informing your landlord in advance depending on your contract, finding a replacement roommate, or finding someone to take over the lease… this is not necessarily a cheap or fast process, so make sure you plan at least a month in advance
- Rent out a storage unit
- Hire movers, or enlist some strong male friends
- Sell your stuff – moving is an excellent time to declutter, every time I move I find myself throwing away bags full of stuff (a good way to test yourself is: “have I used this item in the past year?”). Post any furniture you don’t want to keep onto Craigslist, consign out your nice clothing to second hand stores or Ebay, and sell your old books on Ebay or second-hand book stores
- Take advance of health insurance, while you still have it (though in some foreign countries, healthcare without insurance may even be cheaper than your healthcare in the US with insurance!)
- Pack your belongings!
Travel Preparation – The fun part!
- Purchase your air ticket – Check out sites like Kayak and Expedia for a consolidated list of airlines that offer your desired route, and flight times. Even if you want to leave your return date open-ended, it is worth it to check out the difference between a round-trip airfare versus one-way ticket. For example, my Air Canada flight to São Paulo was $1,000 USD one-way, and $1,200 round-trip. What a large price difference, but such is the cost of freedom! I ended up booking a round-trip ticket with a return flight 6 months out, since with a $200 ticket change fee, I still end up winning.
- Book local travel – Travel search engines like Kayak and Expedia are a good way to go, though many times local airlines are not listed. In Brazil, for example, Azul and Avianca are also good budget airlines. Also, beware that when you use the local version of the site vs. the international version, some airlines price discriminate!! I noticed that for a flight from Sao Paulo to Florianopolis, the local site offers $50 one-way, while using the international site yields a hefty $180 one-way price, so beware!
- Get a travel-friendly debit card – the best and safest way to get cash in a foreign country is to use your debit card to withdraw cash from any bank that is within your bank’s network (i.e. Visa); it will give you the best exchange rate you can find. However, with most cards, one gets hit with fees from your bank, from the bank’s atm that you’re using, and foreign exchange fees. These $3-$5 dollars you are charged for every transaction can quickly add up. With a Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking Account (an Online Bank), I pay no ATM fees or exchange fees worldwide. Fees charged are reimbursed to your account at the end of the month. Yay for savings!
- Get a travel-friendly credit card – Again, having a credit card is a good way to prevent loss of cash due to theft or a good way to make large purchases (i.e. pay for hotels), but normally credit cards charge up to 3% foreign transaction fees. I use the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which has 0% foreign transaction fee, free for the first year, and with a sign-up bonus of 40,000 points ($400!!) if you spend $2,000 in the first 2 months (if you sign up at a branch), or $3,000 in the first 3 months (if you sign up online). Hallelujah, free money!!! If you use your Reward Points to book travel or hotel, you get an additional 20% off.
- Inform your bank or credit institution of your travel plans – that way, your credit or debit card doesn’t get declined or worse, eaten by an ATM machine (though if it does, don’t fret and call your bank- Bank of America second-day delivered me a new debit card when an ATM in Barcelona ate my debit card).
- Book accommodations for at least your first stop – I like to be reassured that I have a place to stay once I get to my destination. HostelWorld.com is a great place to start for a hostel, AirBnb.com is a great way to rent out rooms or entire homes, and CouchSurfing.com is the budget traveler’s best friend to sleep in a local’s home for free
- PACK! – Probably one of the most stressful parts of (at least my) pre-trip preparation – how do I fit months worth of outfits into my little bag? HerPackingList.com has great tips on how to get the most out of limited space. So thankful for fellow ladies on the road!
- Purchase travel insurance – if you’re unsure of your options, www.insuremytrip.com is a good place to start comparing plans
- Bonus: Connect with locals – Connect with locals through CouchSurfing.com to find out about any meetups going on, or enlist new friends to meet up!
- Bonus: Educate yourself – Quoting a Chinese proverb – “To walk a thousand miles is better than reading ten thousand books” (行千里路勝讀萬卷書). While this is true, it doesn’t hurt to do some homework beforehand! Read travel blogs and books about the country you’re going to, to learn about its history and culture – having background information will enhance your experience.