In this article, I’ve compiled a practical checklist of things to do, plan and consider to ensure your long-term career break travels are blissful and low-stress. There will be stress, that’s for sure, but planning to live your dream doesn’t have to be overwhelming, particularly if you give yourself enough time. For context, I traveled to Europe twice during my year-long career break. My first tour lasted three months, and my second lasted one month. Though my husband stayed home taking care of our place and our pet, I’ve added tips for travelers who don’t have a partner.
🌏 12+ months in advance
1. Plan your budget. Consider ongoing monthly expenses at home and away. For example, transportation (airfare, transfer, intercity transportation), accommodation, food, activities you want to pursue, medical bills, clothing, storage, and travel insurance. Save an additional 3 – 6 months’ worth of salary for your re-entry period (when you wrap up your career break and look for a job).
2. Check if your employer has a sabbatical agreement. Perhaps you could keep your job, if that’s your preference.
🌏 6 – 12 months in advance
3. Start the process of selling or leasing your home.
4. Homeowners: research storage options for your belongings.
5. Pet owners: research caretaking options.
6. Research vaccination requirements for the countries you want to visit and schedule them.
7. Check the dates on your passport and apply for a new one, if needed.
8. Consider hiring a career break coach to help you define success before, during, and after your break. A coach can also help tame your fears and concerns. I highly recommend Katrina McGhee. She’s coached over 60 career breakers, including me, and she’s fabulous.
🌏 3 – 5 months in advance
9. Purchase your plane tickets. I use Google Flights to find the best deals.
10. Buy good travel insurance. Don’t overlook this item. Consider the types of activities you’ll want to experience during your travels (i.e, sailing? bungee jumping?) and check if your insurance covers them. You may be healthy today, but you never know. I felt sick with COVID-19 the day before I was scheduled to return home, and at the time I wasn’t allowed to fly. Thankfully, I was insured and able to recoup the expenses from my recovery time (i.e., hotel, food, groceries, transportation). I used World Nomads travel insurance, which has a crappy phone customer service, but provided me a refund with minor bureaucracy. Hint: if you do fall ill or have an accident, make sure you save your receipts.
11. Check visa requirements for your destinations and schedule your visa appointments.
12. Apply for a good travel credit card. Consider a card that gives you air miles for each dollar spent. I use the United Explorer Mileage Plus because United Airlines has a hub where I live. I pay for all of my purchases with this card (everything, from bills to groceries). This card charges me $100 in yearly fees, but to me, it pays off: I’ve traveled internationally and upgraded to business class with the miles I’ve accrued. If you’re interested, please apply through my referral link so I can also be rewarded. Thank you 🙂
13. Open a Charles Schwab checking account and forget the hassle of going to a local dealer in another country to exchange currency. The Schwab debit card allows you to withdraw local currency from ATMs without paying fees. It doesn’t cost anything to open the account, there are no monthly fees or balance minimums, and the bank refunds you for any fees associated with your ATM withdrawals. A pretty good deal that I took advantage of!
🌏 2 months in advance
14. Book accommodation for your first week (s) of travel. I’m a fan of Booking.com. I’ve used it so often that I now get up to 20% discount on accommodations. I also trust their review system more than any other booking platform.
16. Buy a good suitcase and/or backpack.
17. Buy a selfie stick (I’m a huge fan without any traces of shame!).
18. Buy clothing and gear essentials.
19. Ensure you can use your driver’s license abroad. If needed, apply for an international travel permit.
20. Give power of attorney to a trusted person for any pending legal matters (i.e., to close on the sale of your house).
21. Schedule doctor and dental appointments. Do a complete physical and dental check-up.
22. Order an extra pair of prescription glasses and sunglasses.
🌏 1 month in advance
23. Hand in your notice at work.
24. Ensure your pet has a safe place to stay while you’re gone.
25. Either cancel your phone contract or buy a phone and data plan that suits your needs.
26. Pack your belongings and put them in storage.
26. Buy VPN service. It can help protect your computer from hackers and gives you access to the Internet in countries where it’s restricted. I like Proton VPN.
27. Change the address on your bank accounts. This is important if you live alone and lose your credit cards while traveling. Banks won’t send your card to another country, but they could mail a new card to your parent’s house if you change your address in advance. Your parents, then, could ship you the new card.
28. Pay any outstanding bills.
29. Buy packing cubes. They save space in your luggage and keep items organized.
30. Stock up on prescription drugs.
31. Cancel or stop any subscriptions you won’t need while away (i.e., streaming services).
🌏 1 week in advance
32. Inform your bank of your travel plans.
33. Scan and save important documents (i.e, passport, vaccination cards, medical prescriptions, etc.).
34. Forward your mail.
35. Share your travel plans with trusted friends and family. I created a spreadsheet of my upcoming destinations (country, city, accommodation address) and updated it on my Google Drive. Some people prefer to share their location on a WhatsApp group.
36. Start packing your suitcase/backpack. Make notice if you need to buy any last-minute items.
37. Check the State Department Travel Advisories website for recent developments regarding safety in your destination.
🌏 Travel Day
38. Enjoy the kick-off of a beautiful career break! You’ve earned it!