I feel that overall I did my research and was well prepared for long term travel. But there were certainly things I didn’t know/wasn’t prepared for that, perhaps, you could benefit from knowing if you decide to take on long-term travel. Below are my long-term travel tips – in no particular order – sorted by geographical area. Here goes:
**Please note, this is a living document and will be updated as we travel to new locations!**
1. Your hygiene routine will not remain the same as it is at home while you travel. It’s not the nicest topic to discuss, but there will be many early morning trains or late night buses and you will miss a shower or two. You will survive. Also, cut down your routine to the bare minimum! Think about all of the time you will save (or extra minutes you will sleep, or extra room in your bag if you don’t bring it) if you aren’t blow drying your hair…
2. If there is a free bathroom, use it. Even if you don’t have to go. Free bathrooms in Europe are few and far between. And paying to pee really bugs me!
3. Bring a hat and scarf. It gets cold everywhere in Europe, eventually, and they take up no room in your bag. Unless it is the dead of summer. Then you can just skip this one.
4. Do not bring more than a weeks worth of clothing. Try to bring less. Yes you can wear a pair of socks two days in a row. No one will know! Plus with a week’s worth of clothes you will be washing them every week, so they will stay relatively stink-free. (Relative to your own stink, of course.)
5. Clothing with pockets are your best friend. Particularly with snaps. A good pair of travel pants will have this. They may not be fashionable, but you will never worry about the safety of your phone/camera if it is zipped or snapped into a pocket.
6. Travel in the edge seasons. September in Europe means no lines, fewer tourists, but not quite freezing out yet. Plus mid-summer can be brutally hot. But edge seasons can get cold, hence the hat and scarf advice.
7. If you are a student (or recently have been a student), bring your student ID! Some countries are sticklers about it and won’t give you a discount unless you can prove what year you are in (France, the Netherlands) but others will barely give it a second look and you’ll save a bundle. We estimate our student ID’s saved us about 200 euros or so in our 3 and a half months in Europe
8. Buy new sneakers before your trip and replace them (if possible) halfway through. Your feet take you everywhere and you can’t get new ones! You will likely walk miles and miles a day. Don’t make your feet or knees suffer! We will be buying new ones immediately upon arrival in South East Asia. These current shoes are all walked out…
9. Lush product stores are invaluable for a vegan in Europe. Everything is free of animal testing and the employees always know what’s vegan. But try not to buy them in the Netherlands. They are super expensive there! (Prices vary by country.)
10. Tourist information booths are great. Unexpected, but true. They will tell you the top things you need to see wherever you are and give you a map. They are a great way to prioritize your time in wherever you are. They have done this a million times! Trust them!
11. No rolling bags. Seriously. Carry your crap on your back. Dragging a rolling bag through Europe would be insane. There are cobble stones and crazy hills everywhere!
12. Bring a water bottle. Everywhere we went in Europe had drinkable tap water. Bring a water bottle and you will save yourself a ton of money and help protect the environment! Plus, you wont get thirsty. We use a Vapur 1L water bottle and love it.
13. If you have a smartphone, get an app for offline maps. We use Pocket Earth and love it ($2.99 for the iPhone. Worth it, in my opinion). If you leave wifi on (but have the phone in airplane mode to avoid fees!), it will put a dot on the map where you are using your phone’s GPS.
14. Skype will be your best friend and link to home and the world. Honestly, we don’t feel homesick. Even 3.5 months into our travels. And it is pretty much thanks to Skype. We video chat with our parents, siblings and friends. We also have used it to make calls over wifi when necessary, though that costs money. But the calls are so, so cheap that we have felt it was totally worth it for peace of mind in regards to things like credit card issues. Some things still cannot be dealt with by email!
15. Buy a box of quart-sized freezer bags before you leave. They are good for everything. Just rinse and reuse throughout the trip.
South East Asia:
1. Unfortunately, DEET might be your best bet to avoid mosquito-borne illnesses. Fortunately, it is readily available. We only use it in mosquito-filled areas (i.e. not cities), and only at night. And then we shower before bed. Malaria pills only protect you against malaria. Not getting mosquito bites protects you against all mosquito-borne illnesses.
2. Night buses will save you time, but perhaps not piece of mind. If you have the time, take daytime buses or trains (night or day) instead.
3. Sunscreen. Use it. This is a “duh” one, but coming from Europe, we didn’t realize how much stronger the sun is here. It is stronger. A lot stronger. Protect yourself!
4. Bring a sarong! It is so useful here. It can turn into a skirt to cover your legs when you go to a Wat. It can be a beach towel. It can be a blanket on a night bus. Infinite uses in a small and light package.
5. Though it is hot, people dress more conservatively here. Respect local custom and wear a shirt that covers your shoulders. And often, pants are required, too. Don’t be that jerk foreigner who barges in to another culture and ignores all local customs.