Site icon Anchored Adventure Blog

How to Plan a Long-Term Trip Abroad

how to plan a trip abroad
Writing “travel to Europe” on a “Before I die I want to …” outdoor chalkboard.

You know this much — you want to travel long-term. It’s time for a great, big adventure. You are eager to see the world. But how to plan it? That’s where it can be overwhelming. This resource serves as a step-by-step travel planning checklist, as it will guide you through how to plan a long-term trip abroad (and without the headache!).

Just follow these easy travel planning steps — from creating an international travel itinerary to booking your flight to your first destination.  Let the travel planning begin!

1. Create a very long travel bucket list.

The first step in how to plan a long-term trip is the “inspiration” phase. The goal isn’t to begin planning the logistics — it’s simply to get inspired. As you come across cities, sites and activities that pique your interest, write them down in the notes section of your phone.

Flip through travel magazines or guidebooks, like Lonely Planet, for inspiration. Mimosas are optional!

2. Craft your trip wish list and map it with Google Maps.

Look at the long list of places from step No. 1 and place an *asterisk* by the cities/places/events that most excite you. This new list is your trip wish list.

Using Google Maps, plot all the cities from your trip wish list.

Add and remove destinations to your map.

Determine how to make a route out of your starred cities. This forms your flexible travel itinerary.

3. Plan a trip budget and duration.

What is your trip’s budget?

Money dictates everything. And it’s likely the most important topic to discuss with your travel buddy (if you aren’t traveling solo). Research the amount of money you need for the countries you are visiting. Are you on track to save a specific amount of money?

How long will you travel?

Typically, your trip duration is determined by the amount of money you can realistically save. Then, you can decide the duration of your trip. Do you want to travel for two months? Three months? A year? Do you want to travel until your money runs out?

Budgeting and saving money are two of the most important parts of planning a long-term trip abroad.

4. Choose the trip start date and finalize your travel itinerary.

Things to consider when picking your trip’s start date:

You’re now ready to write out a realistic long-term trip itinerary, but keep it “flexible.”

When planning a long-term trip, you want the flexibility to change your route last-minute. When traveling, you learn about new cities and places that you didn’t think about during the travel planning phase. You will be glad you have the flexibility in your itinerary to add them! Because of a loose itinerary, I traveled to Freiburg, Germany to visit new friends.

Be sure to add the number of days you want to stay in each city, too. You can use Google Maps to build your route or check out the many other fantastic tools and apps (such as RoadTrippers).

A rough (and flexible) itinerary for three months in Europe.

5. Research transportation, accommodations and activities.

Book your flight to your first destination.

Research transportation from city to city.

Research accommodations.

Research activities and things to do in each city:

Something to note — if you want flexibility in your trip, it’s not necessary to book your transportation and accommodations far in advance. My advice is to research a few places simply to know your options. If you know your travel plans are concrete, book as far in advance as you’d like. Now, if you’d rather go with the flow, you can get away with booking only a few days in advance (and sometimes the day of!). Just note, you may not get the exact hotel or hostel you had in mind (like on my visit to Salzburg).

Hostel dorm room in Porto, Portugal.

6. Notify appropriate people and companies of your long-term trip.

Register with the U.S. State Department.

Submit your trip through the department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, as it is completely free and will give you and your family peace of mind.

Post Office

Provide a forwarding address for your mail.

Credit card companies and bank

Inquire whether your credit card charges an international ATM fee. If so, research and apply for a new credit card. Reach out to your bank to inform them of your long-term travels and request only electronic communication. Write down an international customer service phone number for your bank and credit card company in case you have issues with your cards/bank on your trip.

Family, friends and employer

Of course, you need to share the exciting news with your family, friends and employer. Nervous to tell your employer? Maybe my story will inspire you.

7. Research, purchase and pack your clothes, gadgets and gear.

Packing clothes

Spend ample time determining what to pack for your trip. Many factors will determine what you pack, such as the weather, environment, culture, personal preference and luggage type. You can check out my detailed packing list for backpacking Europe. Two important packing tips for any long-term trip:

Purchasing luggage

I recommend a backpack for a long-term trip abroad, as a backpack is typically easier to carry, and it certainly beats dragging a suitcase across the cobbled streets of Europe. The Osprey Women’s Kyte 46 Backpack has been my go-to back for nearly three years. It’s comfortable to carry and holds everything I need for any trip – whether it’s a six-day trip to Italy or a three-month trip across Europe. Furthermore, be sure to purchase a lock for securing your luggage/backpack in hostels and possibly on trains.

Gadgets and adapters

Research the type of adapter and converter needed in each country.

Everything needed for a long-term trip to Europe packed nicely in this 46-liter backpack.

8. Finalize the last-minute details of your trip.

Phone access

There are endless options to use your phone internationally. Inquire about offerings from your current provider. Other options are to simply use your phone when you’re connected to public wifi, or purchase a SIM card once you arrive in your destination. Before leaving your home country, ask your phone provider to “unlock” your smartphone so that you can put another SIM card in it.


Automate your recurring bills, and sign up for electronic notifications.


Reach out to your medical insurance provider to determine your international coverage. Research and purchase a travel insurance policy for your trip, as well.


Import your important logins and passwords to a secure password storing application. Ensure that a trusted family member or friends can access it in case of an emergency.

Passport copies

Make several copies of your passport. Email a copy to yourself, give a printed copy to a family member and pack two copies.

International Driving License

Whether you plan to drive or not, it’s useful to obtain an international driving license, which is easy [and cheap] to obtain through AAA. While most rental companies do not ask for an international license, on a long-term trip, it’s best to be safe than sorry.

An international driver’s license can come in handy on a long-term trip – like driving the Irish countryside with this car rental, nicknamed “Little Bug.”

9. Head to the airport … Prepare for takeoff!

You’ve planned. You’ve saved. Your bags are packed. You’re ready to travel long-term! Head to the airport and prepare for takeoff. Here’s to your great, big long-term travel adventure!


There you have it! You now know how to plan a long-term trip abroad. Use the other travel resources to continue planning your trip:

Are you traveling extensively? Have you taken a long-term trip? Share your questions, ideas and experiences in the comments below.

Disclaimer: There’s a high chance that this post contains affiliate links to products and services I love. If you make a purchase, I may receive a small commission (and at no extra cost to you!). Anchored Adventure Blog is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites. When you make a purchase from the links above (at no additional cost to you), I earn a small commission.

If you liked this post, pin it to your Pinterest board so other travelers learn how to plan a long-term trip abroad! Just click the photo below to pin.

Share these travel tips with like-minded travelers!

If you liked this guide, you may also like:

Exit mobile version