Seven Essential Steps to Prepare for a RTW Trip


1. PassportAmerican_Passport

  • Apply for a passport here if you don’t already have one.
  • Ensure you have enough blank pages for all of the stamps you’ll need with at least two extra pages, and that it doesn’t expire within six months of your final return date.
  • Take several extra passport-sized photos along for visas
    Note: I did have to renew my passport for this trip (and change my name on it) but do not count the $140 expense on our trip budget because there’s no doubt I would have renewed it anyway.

    • Total cost for passport photos: $12.99 (Walgreens) or just follow these steps to take and print your own 2×2 inch photos.
  1. Visas
    • Check to see which visas you need in advance, which are on arrival, and which cost by checking the U.S. Dept. of State website.
      • Our total anticipated cost for visas: $610. Total upfront cost: $320 (Argentina)
  1. Vaccinations/Medications

    • Malaria:
      • Since Uganda is at risk for malaria, we each got prescriptions for Malarone. This is one of the more expensive options for malaria meds, but they were all the same price with our insurance.
        • Total cost from Kaiser Permanente: $50
    • Check with your health-care provider and/or a travel pharmacy to determine which shots you need. Recommended vaccines for travelers usually include:
      • Hepatitis A and B
      • Tetanus
      • Typhoid
      • Yellow Fever—must carry yellow card with proof of vaccine with you as it’s required for some countries.
        Note: We had most of our vaccines from previous travels but Caleb still needs to go get the yellow fever vaccine.

        • Total cost for vaccine at Walgreens: $150

          Seeing these faces is worth having to get shots and take medications.

          Seeing these faces is worth having to get shots and take medications. Photo by Ada Marshall.

  2. Gear: 
    • The gear you’ll need will vary depending on where you are going and the time of year. While this is subjective for each person, there’s lots of great advice out there for what you do and don’t need on the road. A rule of thumb is generally to pack way less than you think you’ll need! Much of the gear we needed we either already had or we would have bought anyway for use backpacking, hiking and camping in Colorado, but our gear budget still came to around $1,500. Our full packing list will be posted before we leave.
      • Total cost: $1,500
  1. Money:
    • Credit Cards: Ensure you have two different credit cards to take, ideally from two different banks (in case one gets lost, stolen or frozen temporarily), with zero foreign transaction fees. We’re taking our Barclaycard Arrival and Capital One Venture card, which both earn 2x points on ALL expenses.
    • Debit Cards: You’ll probably also want two different debit cards from different banks to be able to withdraw local currency. We signed up for a Charles Schwab ATM card, which reimburses ALL fees. We’ll take our other debit card as a back-up.
    • Cash: You’ll likely want to take some cash with you. We recommend splitting up your cash among various bags and carrying a money belt.
    • High-yield savings accounts: We’re of course leaving some money in various checking accounts to pay credit card bills and withdraw cash but the rest of our savings we’re moving to high yield accounts to earn more money while we’re gone. Here’s what we’re using:
      • Netspend (5% APY on up to $5,000)
      • Ally Bank (.99% APY, unlimited balance)
  1. Ensure all of your expenses and responsibilities at home are handled.
    • Mail forwarding
    • Set all accounts possible to paperless statements to minimize mail.
    • Ask a trusted family member or friend to collect it for you and occasionally flip through to make sure there’s nothing urgent that needs opened.
    • Set any online bills to auto-pay, such as credit cards, insurance, car payments or loans.
    • Figure out a plan for filing your taxes from overseas.
    • Cancel services you won’t need while away, such as cell phone, gym membership, cable, car insurance, etc.
    • Sub-lease or rent your home on a service like AirBnB to make some extra cash. You’ll likely need someone nearby to help manage this while you’re gone though.
    • Unsubscribe to any email lists you don’t want to be bothered with while out of the country using unroll.me.
    • Turn in your resignation notice at your job.

      Handle any responsibilities at home before traveling so you can enjoy sunrises at Angkor Wat worry free. Photo by Kathryn Chinn.

      Handle any responsibilities at home before traveling so you can enjoy sunrises at Angkor Wat worry free. Photo by Kathryn Chinn.

  1. Book at least your first flight and first night of lodging.
    • Most of our flights and lodging will be booked before we depart, but even if you are going to be planning as you go and flying by the seat of your pants, you’ll need to at least book your flight out of the US and it’s recommended to have your first night accommodation booked so you don’t have to wander around in an unfamiliar place with your luggage looking for a room.
      • We’ll go into greater budget detail later but at this point everything we’ve booked has been covered. Even our airline award fees and non-hotel accommodation expenses have been offset by our Barclaycard Arrival points.

Other things you may want to consider:

  • Global Entry will expedite customs processing in the US and Australia. Total cost: $95, but reimbursed for certain credit card holders, including the Citi Prestige.
  • Set up your travel blog if you plan to write about your adventures. We use the Customizr WordPress theme and host on godaddy.com.
  • Pre-book any must-do tours or activities, especially if it’s high season.

    A safari is something you may consider booking in advance. We're going back and forth, as my friends were able to book this safari on the Ngorongoro Crater the day before. Still bummed I missed it for a trip to the medical clinic, but will get redemption at Kruger National Park while we're in South Africa. Photo by Kathryn Chinn.

    A safari is something you may consider booking in advance. We’re going back and forth, as my friends were able to book this safari on the Ngorongoro Crater the day before. Still bummed I missed it for a trip to the medical clinic, but will get redemption at Kruger National Park while we’re in South Africa. Photo by Kathryn Chinn.

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