Begin With a Budget and Set Priorities
If you’re like most people, budget is your trip’s primary driver. Sites like NomadList or the Earth Awaits can help you paint a clearer picture of your budget based on your destination and preferences, including filters for living style, internet speed, safety, air pollution and attitudes toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender travelers.
Susan Shain, a freelance travel writer who has been doing long-term stints abroad since 2008, recommends Budget Your Trip to help calculate your daily travel costs — but advises adding a 15 percent to 20 percent buffer to the total to keep from running out of money. An app like TrailWallet or Wave can track your spending.
Find Reliable Wi-Fi
You often need internet to look up your next stop or to navigate yourself out of unfamiliar places. There is good news: You have many Wi-Fi options.
If you are hopping from one airport to another, check the interactive map at the FoxNomad blog, which lists Wi-Fi passwords in airports and airport lounges around the world and is regularly updated. Some hotel chains like Best Western and Hyatt give their guests free basic Wi-Fi but may charge extra for premium speeds.
If you prefer coffee shops or cafes, WorkFrom is a crowdsourced site that lets you search for work-friendly spaces based on Wi-Fi speeds, pet friendliness and hours of operation in more than 1,250 cities around the world. You can usually count on the Starbucks and McDonald’s in different countries to have free Wi-Fi for customers, too. Additionally, a few cities like Tokyo and Singapore provide free Wi-Fi to tourists for a period of time if you sign up beforehand.
The paid alternative is to get international data on your phone. My monthly Sprint plan, for example, includes an international bundle that provides unlimited 3G data (hey, it’s better than nothing) in many countries around the world. T-Mobile offers a similar plan. This option, though, can get expensive for multiple-month trips abroad. Before you leave, inquire about your mobile carrier’s international options.
Many travelers go the SIM card route, but you need an “unlocked” phone that isn’t restricted by certain carriers. Another option: You can rent pocket Wi-Fi devices, like this one in Japan, but those can get expensive.
Don’t Forget Travel Visas
Before you depart, particularly for trips that involve multiple countries, always look into visa requirements. While you can check with the State Department or the destination’s own website, you’re better off consulting International Air Transport Association’s website — plug in various information and it crunches the visa requirements and other pertinent information for you.
Assess Your Insurance Needs
Check first with your medical insurance provider to see the extent of your coverage in other countries. Some plans cover a simple doctor’s visit in another country, while others are limited to more extreme circumstances. One tip: Make sure your plan covers high hospital bills — your well-being is worth the cost. The site BootsnAll breaks down some options for travelers. Many long-term travelers use World Nomads, which covers emergency medical expenses up to $100,000. To find out what you need, Ms. Ettenberg of Legal Nomads suggested asking these questions:
■ Can I keep my insurance at home and get short-term travel insurance?
■ Can I get a global medical policy that will cover me as my primary while I travel?
■ What are my options if I only have travel medical insurance and a big accident happens? How will I pay for treatment if I am sent back to my country of residence?
Learn to Sleep Anywhere
Going from one time zone to another is guaranteed to disrupt your delicate sleep pattern. Because your sleep environment constantly changes as you travel, keep what you can control consistent. For instance, I always bring with me simple pajamas, a soft sleep mask, earplugs and a podcast that intentionally tells boring bedtime stories to lull myself to sleep. Regular exercise can also help.
“I have a pretty consistent nighttime routine,” Ms. Shain said. “Before bed, I take a hot shower, then journal and read for about an hour. I find that having a routine helps me feel like I’m ‘home,’ no matter where I am.”
Educate Yourself on the Food Environment
When you travel, it’s easy to overindulge on greasy foods and skimp on getting enough vegetables, fiber, protein and even water. Over time, that can take a toll on your digestive health. Familiarize yourself with the local foods by going to markets and buying fresh produce. You generally want to avoid consuming any fruit that has been precut, and thoroughly wash your fruits and veggies (an antibacterial food wipe or wash can do the trick).
If you’re traveling with a health-related dietary restriction like celiac disease, as Ms. Ettenberg does, keep a series of handy translation cards that accurately convey your dietary needs. If you’re gluten-free, Ms. Ettenberg’s own cards account for cross-contamination and many local dish names. Cards from SelectWisely can help with many other conditions.
Avoid Foreign Transaction Fees
Overseas A.T.M.s charge a pesky $3 to $5 fee every time (on top of fees from your bank), which can add up quickly. Charles Schwab’s High-Yield Investor checking account reimburses those fees every month, making it the perfect checking account for travelers. There is a catch: You need to have a banking account elsewhere to open one. The Points Guy lists other options that waive, reimburse or reduce transaction fees — you generally will need a premium account.
Plan Not to Have an Airtight Plan
“Many of the places I loved the most were ones not on my initial itinerary,” Ms. Ettenberg said, “but came about through meeting people, hearing about their experiences and giving it a shot.”
The entire length of your trip should never be ironclad, and trying to make it so will only make you want to tear your hair out. Things are bound to go wrong.
Ask yourself: What do you hope to accomplish during your trip, at minimum? Aim for it, but don’t live by it.