# Packing & Preparing For a Long Trip
How I get ready for trips that last 1-6 months.
I carry a Farpoint 40L Travel Backpack plus a large purse.
Why a backpack?
- It’s big enough for a week’s worth of clothes, but small enough to be carried on most flights.
- I can carry my gear for miles over uneven terrain (curbs, stairs, etc)
Why a large purse?
- I can carry my laptop, wallet, and medication on my person when my backpack is out of reach.
- It doubles as a laptop bag day-to-day.
- Tip: Make sure your large purse has a zipper all the way across so your shit doesn’t fall out when your bag is shoved under an airplane seat.
Normally, I don’t like large purses, but this setup works best for me on the road.
- I try to underpack, bringing less than I’ll need.
- I prioritize things that are difficult or expensive to buy. Usually that means a couple pairs of pants that fit my short legs, a packable coat and a packable raincoat, a wool sweater, and a few well-fitting bras. On top of that, I throw in some socks, underwear, shirts, one non-wrinkling dress nice enough for dinner out, and a pair of flats. Plus my toiletry kit and a first aid kit.
- There are three keys to traveling light:
- Plan to do laundry.
- Plan to buy a few items while you travel.
- Bring clothes that color-coordinate so you can layer up or down based on the temperature.
- Liquids are a hassle when you travel carry-on. I limit myself to one tiny bag with:
- a mini toothpaste
- a mini hand sanitizer
- my favorite moisturizer (hard to find overseas)
- When we land in a new place, we drop off our gear, sleep, eat, and hit up a grocery store. We pick up toiletries, including toothpaste, shampoo, and so on. Even if you have extra left over when you leave, it’s better than the hassle of dealing with liquids in a carry on.
- If you travel with medication, check on your supply at least a month before you leave. You may need to request extra from your doctor.
# Electronics and Communications
- My US cell phone plan can be used in other countries, but it’s expensive, so I don’t use it unless there’s an emergency.
- I purchase an E-SIM plan from Ubigi (there are other providers) and add an “extra” cell phone plan with mobile data to my phone for as long as we’re away. Last time, I paid about $10/mo for cellular data in Spain.
- I upgraded my iPhone SE to one that has E-SIM capability for this purpose.
- Note: Having a Sim+E-SIM is handy because both lines can be active simultaneously. My regular line is running in case we get a call from a relative, but all my data goes through the much cheaper Ubigi plan.
- I carry a universal plug adapter like this one. It’s a bit bulky, but having all the plugs in one unit is nice if you don’t want to be hunting for a new converter when you go someplace unexpected.
# Communicating in a Foreign Language
- I like to travel with a phrase book from either Rick Steves or Lonely Planet. They’re small, they work without internet, and they help you pronounce things correctly. Also, slap one on the restaurant table and the servers will know you’re a tourist.
- I download Google Translate onto my phone, including the offline language pack for wherever I’ll be. You can use your camera to live-translate text, which is helpful when you’re making sense of signs and don’t want to type everything in.
# Preparing to Enter Another Country
- Always check the State Department website (Americans) for rules, warnings, and concerns about where you’re visiting. Conditions change. Instead of thinking about “safe” and “unsafe” countries, recognize that any country can go through tumultuous times. It’s up to you to be aware.
- Register for the State Department’s Safe Traveler Program.
- Memorize the country’s emergency telephone number (Usually it’s not 911) and consider putting it into your phone along with the number of your country’s embassy.
- Likewise, check your country’s embassy website. Make sure you understand the rules of entering the country. Do you need a Visa? How long can you stay? Many countries want proof of your exit ticket, and information about where you’ll be staying. Be prepared to follow the rules, although many times you’ll be waved through without questions.
# Preparing Your Home to be Empty
- Make care arrangements for your pets well in advance.
- Throw out all perishable food and clean your house.
- Turn off any recurring subscriptions you don’t need, especially things with physical delivery like newspapers that might tip a thief off that you’re not home.
- Unplug appliances (probably not your fridge), turn off valves for gas fireplaces and water taps.
- Avoid announcing to the world that your home will be empty.
- Arrange to have your mail stopped, forwarded, or picked up by a friend.
- Consider putting a light on a timer to deter thieves, or set up a webcam for in-home monitoring.
- Figure out how you’ll pay your bills while you’re away.
- Always carry multiple payment methods in case one doesn’t work while you’re gone. Yes, two ATM cards and two credit cards.
- Check your cards and accounts for foreign transaction fees and foreign ATM fees. Some are minor and others are offensively bad. Always keep some local currency on you, as many places don’t accept cards.
- If possible, leave a set of payment cards in a safe at your hotel. Use one, keep one in reserve.
- Call your bank and let them know you’ll be traveling overseas so they don’t think your transactions are fraud.
- Use regular ATMs to get cash when you land, but be cautious of ATMs at airports and train stations, as many of them have ridiculous fees.