Actually, I have 8 1/2 months to gobefore my round-the-world trip. But this is a list of stuff that you need to start thinking about 6-12 months in advance. It’s been compiled from other lists on the internet, as well as my own ideas, so some of the things don’t apply to me, but may apply to you.
Research and Booking
Research destinations and plan your itinerary - this is the fun bit. Remember to look at the seasons to work out the best times to go so you get a sensible route. Mine and Mr Beet’s route has been pruned from this to:
Research and book flights - more cheap deals are available the earlier you book, so start thinking about your main flights early on in your trip. Often, flights cannot be booked more than a year in advance, so you may have to put some off until nearer the time.
Book organised tours and expeditions – if you are planning to incorporate these into your trip then they may need to be booked in advance.
ID and Travel documents
Get or renew your passport - you won’t get far without it. Some countries don’t like it if your passport is within six months of expiring, so check that yours has a good six months to run after the end of your trip. Mine expires in 2012, so I need to renew but I’m waiting until after my holiday in January.
Research visas – being a UK citizen makes this fairly easy for most countries, although sometimes more expensive as they seem to jack the price up if you come from a rich country. We’ve done our research and the only ones we need to get before we go are India and China. The rest can be acquired en route. Make sure you check travellers’ websites, because often the way things work in practice is very different to the official guidance.
Get student status for an international student card - this is good for discounts all over the place so consider enrolling on a course that entitles you to one. If you are going to do this, do it before you book any flights – there may be discounts, especially for RTW packages.
Get an international driving licence – I let my UK driving licence lapse since I no longer drive, but I may renew it and get international licence as alternative ID and in case I want to hire a moped or a jetski or something.
House and Home
If you own your house you’ll have to sell or sub-let it - massive pain in the arse and a whole other list in itself. But since I rent, I don’t have to bother. Yay for me!
Sell / lend / donate belongings – to minimise storage. Fortunately, my mum works in a charity shop so I can just present her with my charity shop boxes and she will sort for me. Unfortunately, she is a renowned hoarder and will get all sentimental on my behalf about anything that I’m giving away “…are you sure you don’t want to keep this?” thereby undermining all my ruthless decision-making.
Storage – work out where you are going to store the stuff that you haven’t sold, lent, or donated. In my case; my parents’ loft.
Have a plan for where you’ll live when you get back - I will be moving back in with my parents at the age of 30. I appreciate that’s not for everyone.
Think about telling your employer – you might be able to negotiate a sabbatical, in which case giving your boss some advance warning will probably work in your favour. But be careful, if you don’t think you can get a sabbatical then think twice about saying anything before you are required to give notice. If your employer knows that you are heading off then they might give you the crap jobs, stop you from going on any training courses or even sack you and get your replacement in place sooner rather than later. Both Mr Beet and I told our employers as soon as we’d decided and worked something out amicably.
If you plan to work or volunteer abroad – you need to start researching that and getting any relevant qualifications or experience to improve your CV. I’m just planning to bum around for a year.
Write a CV – although I won’t work abroad, I do hope to get some kind of gainful employment when I return. I plan to write this before I go, as after a year off I think I’ll have forgotten what it is I actually do. The actual CV-writing can wait until nearer the time, but it’s worth having it in mind so I can start making an effort to do stuff that’ll look good on there.
Speak to any relevant professional body – in my case the Law Society, to see what I need to do to make sure I don’t get struck off the roll for going AWOL for a year.
Start fitness training - I only think this is necessary if you are planning to have a completely different level of activity on holiday than you can currently cope with, which I don’t. Anyway, I’m already training for a marathon, so that covers general fitness training. You might want to consider training for specific activities that you plan to do, for example I looked into doing my PADI scuba qualification here so I was all set to go when my holiday started, but have decided it’ll be cheaper and more fun to learn abroad.
Take a self defence course – at barely over five foot, I am never going to be that intimidating, but I am a black belt in taekwondo and therefore already as hard as I am ever likely to be.
Take a first aid course - this probably is a good idea at any time, but I’m probably going to rely on “I will give you lots of money if you get me a doctor” for anything so serious that it is not going to be covered by a basic first aid kit and some common sense.
Research health issues in relevant countries – make a list of what vaccinations you will need. It’s best if I do this, Mr Beet just convinces himself we’re going to contract Ebola virus the moment we step off the plane. Most vaccinations can be left until nearer the time, but Hepatitis B needs to be done 6 months in advance so work out if you need that one now. You will need to take your immunisation records with you on your travels.
Research contraception options – and weigh up the various merits of condoms v. the pill v. a coil v. an implant. If you decide to try something different, start using it now so you have time to see if it agrees with you.
EHIC card – if you’re European and going to travel to Europe, get / check expiry on your EHIC card.
Get new glasses – Mr Beet is going to update his prescription and get some new specs and a supply of contacts for things like scuba diving.
Get a check up from the dentist – best to get any problems identified and sorted before you go. Ditto a medical check up if you have any symptoms that you think need to be checked out.
Give blood – before you have any immunisations, especially since if you are going anywhere exotic you probably won’t be able to donate again for a while after you get back. If you’ve never done it before you should definitely go, if only to find out your blood type which might come in handy to know.
Start saving – think about your budget (don’t forget that you don’t want to be absolutely potless when you get back home) and start tightening your belt.
Determine financial strategies – in my case this means getting a credit card for the first time in my life, not because I don’t have enough money but just in case my current account gets stopped. Also, my debit card is a Visa so I’m getting a Mastercard credit card for maximum coverage. Research what accounts are good for taking out money abroad and apply for them now, while you still have an income and to build up a credit history.
Stop buying new stuff – that you are just going to have to get rid of or put into storage in a few months. This will also help you save money.
Start buying new stuff – that you will need for your trip. There’s lots of suggested packing lists on the internet. Look at the stuff that everyone agrees that you will need and start buying / borrowing it now so you can spread the cost.
Road test travel kit – especially footwear and backpack to check they are super comfortable. I will be testing various bits of new kit on trips to Lapland, Glastonbury and probably a camping trip this summer. I’ve also tested shampoo alternatives. Very important.
Study languages – I currently have English, some French and some Spanish. Unfortunately our itinerary doesn’t include any French or Spanish speaking countries (apparently French may be some use in Vietnam?) so that gets me nowhere. I’ve started Mandarin lessons as we plan to spend 6-8 weeks in China. Ni hao! For everywhere else, I’m just going to learn a few key phrases and wing it.
Get a permanent email accounts / phone number – if you use only your work email and phone, start using a personal one now so that everyone gets used to contacting you on these before you go away.
Get a blog – if you are so inclined. You can write about the build up to your trip as well as the trip itself. Alternatively you can just muscle in on your girlfriend’s.
Establish contacts – let it be known that you are travelling and your friends will come up with suggestions and also put you in touch with people they know who live on your route. You can also make contacts via travel websites.
Make a will – if you have enough assets to make it worthwhile. I don’t.
Make a power of attorney – if you have affairs that will need to be managed in your absence. I don’t.