Long-term travel has perks. Lots of them. Yet one of the many challenges with extended travel (anything beyond 2-weeks) is managing your life back home. Ensuring bills are paid on time, businesses are growing, credit cards aren’t being ripped off by your hotel, your home is being cared for, and on and on the list goes. With short-term travel it’s easy to line everything up so you can just disconnect and forget. However when you’re gone for over 2-weeks, unpaid bills or defrauded cards can cause problems with credit and operational issues in businesses can cripple cashflow—both of which can cut a trip short due lack of access to cash. Here are five things you can do to prepare:
Outsource Mail Processing
I’ve been outsourcing my mail now for almost 10-years and it’s awesome. Time savings are substantial. I’ve completely eliminated: walking to the mailbox, opening dozens of envelopes, recycling them, filing or scanning contents only to repeat the cycle again (and again). My mail is opened, scanned, and securely transfered to me via Dropbox and all that is left for me to do is to drop them into the appropriate location in Google Drive. If you travel often, look for a similar service in your area or simply find someone who can do this for you. Pay them to do this while you’re away but beware that you may be too spoiled by the time you return to continue processing your own mail.
Do NOT Notify Your Credit Card Provider—Tell Your Bank Instead
This one is counter-intuitive. Both your credit card provider and your bank will ask you to notify them of your travel plans. In my experience tell the latter, not the former. I’ve done it both ways (notifying and not notifying) and the results aren’t what you think. If you tell your bank, you’ll be able to take cash out abroad without challenge. If you don’t tell your bank, it’s a toss up—they may or may not block the card. If you avoid telling your credit card provider, you’ll be able to swipe your card for small transactions (under $1,000) but not for larger one (over $,1000)—for me, that’s perfect. If however, you notify your credit card company of your travels, they may allow $1,000’s of dollars (in my case $14,500 of them) to be charged across the country on things like tires, cell phones, and fuel. Brilliant. My rule is simple: tell the bank, keep the credit companies out of the loop—it works.
For some, this defeats the purpose of leaving home. For me, it means that if something comes up that requires my attention, is urgent, and needs to be dealt with, key people have a way to reach me. For some, this can be accomplished by checking email on a somewhat regular basis. For me, I carry a cell phone. For short-term travel, I typically avoid use and let my phone roam, while for longer-term travel, I buy a SIM card upon arrival and purchase both a voice and often a data plan. This way you can relax knowing that if someone needs to reach you because the world is falling in on life back home, they can, meaning you can relax and enjoy your travels. If you’re like me, it provides a means for working abroad. Before you leave, be sure to ensure your phone will work abroad (it will need to be unlocked and supported on the frequencies used in the country you plan to travel to). Not looking into this prior to departure will result in both wasted time and unneeded stress.
Pack Light—Really Light
Most North American’s don’t understand what “packing light” actually means. Listen to this: take enough clothing to get you through 3-5 days. Clothes can be reused, washed, or purchased for less in most countries than back home. I don’t check baggage with any airlines as it wastes time (sometimes lots of it), costs money, and most importantly is unnecessary. In both warm and cold climates, I travel with a 35L pack and if more room is needed, I can buy a new bag or simply ship a package back home. Don’t bring anything you can’t easily purchase upon arrival. Toothpaste, sunscreen, shampoo, soap, etc. When in doubt, leave it at home.
Don’t Book Ahead—Save Yourself The Hassle
This one is hard for many. When my wife and I travel, we never book hotels in advance. Ever. Why? Well sure we love adventure, however it actually maximizes our time abroad. We can cut segments shorter, extend them, and can stay exactly where we want once we have a chance to familiarize ourselves with the area. I’ve never not been able to find a bed to sleep in (despite hearing things like “you have to book in advance there”) and I’ve always spent less money as a result. No booking fees. No scams. Try it, you’ll never go back. My wife and I honeymooned for over three weeks without a single reservation.
What travel tips do you have to share? Mine are based on experience and I’d love to hear about yours in the comments below!