Eight years after we first met in Stavanger, Norway, to travel around Europe, we’re still exploring the world. It’s hard to believe that we’ve been to nearly 85 countries across six continents in those years! After all this time, we consider ourselves well-traveled for two twenty-somethings thirty-somethings, but still manage to learn something new every day.
It wasn’t always like that.
I was young, nervous, and naive on my first solo trip to Iceland. I made many travel mistakes during that time, but I also got a lot right. Travel, it turns out, is not so difficult. After all this travel, several crucial elements remain the same. This is how we travel the world and what you can learn from it.
How to Travel the World – Step by Step
Set Up the Finances
The first step to getting yourself traveling the world is to set up your finances. Many claim they don’t have money to travel, but we’re hard-pressed to believe that is true for everyone. With innovative saving strategies, you can save money for your next trip.
Once you’ve secured the funds, make sure you’re set up to travel abroad. We suggest picking up a good travel credit card, a low-fee bank, and a travel wallet to carry your passport and ensure your cash is secure. You can read more about our travel banking tips.
If you understand the basic principles of finance while traveling, you’ll be able to save your hard-earned dollars. Which, in turn, can lead to more travel. This way, you’re not stuck wondering about the best travel credit card or how to exchange foreign currencies and avoid ATM fees.
It’s all an endless cycle of intelligent financial decisions that lead to more travel.
Why Every Traveler NEEDS a Travel Credit Card
Decide and Book Travel
If I don’t know exactly where I want to travel globally, I start with a general region of interest. Since we work for ourselves full-time, we have a lot of flexibility in selecting dates. Flexibility is the key to finding a good deal. The high season typically results in high prices.
You can find a great deal with an open flight search using Skyscanner’s everywhere feature or Google Flights map feature. They’re easy to use and brought us to many places on a whim, like Latvia, South Africa, Bali, and Cusco.
To use the feature on Skyscanner, type in your departure city in the “from” field and then hover over the “to” portion until you receive a popup that says, “Can’t Decide Where? Search Everywhere.”
Select the specific date you want to travel or put in “full month” so that it will find you the best deals on the best dates of the month. The world is your oyster with an endless selection of possibilities.
Google Flights has a similar feature that we find ourselves using more often. Once on their homepage, you can easily select your departure city and leave the “Where to” section blank. Select “flexible dates” and see what you get!
After searching multiple times and finding a good route for you, it’s best to clear your cookies. These browsers can save your search features and then raise the price when they know you are interested in a particular flight about to book.
Plan an Itinerary
Once you book flights and decide on the country you want to travel to the world, it’s time to start working on an itinerary. I’m certain you don’t want to stay in the city you flew into the entire time. This is when I start researching online and on travel blogs to determine a good itinerary.
We like to use fellow bloggers’ itineraries and travel information as it’s one of the best resources online for travel information these days. Once we get a general idea of where we want to go, we begin with booking accommodation. We start with the first night, which is generally an accessible hotel room close to the airport unless our flight arrives early in the morning.
Decide on Accommodation
When you wondering how to travel the world, you should note what kind of traveler you are. Depending on your type of traveler, now may be the time to book accommodation. We do a mix of planning and taking it daily, but we always book our first night before arriving.
If you like to have all aspects of your trip sorted before you arrive, begin with checking the various platforms to get an idea of availability and pricing, such as Airbnb, Booking.com, and Agoda. This ensures you often get the best price and place to stay.
However, planning and booking in advance also mean you have to adhere to a schedule, and if you don’t like a place much, it’s tough to change plans if there is no free cancellation.
Score a Place for the First Night
It’s okay if you want to wing your trip. We do it quite a bit, even at the expense of less appealing accommodation options. If you decide to wing your journey, I recommend booking accommodation for the first day of your arrival.
No one wants to get to a foreign destination after a miserable long-haul flight and have no place to go and rest. No matter when you get to your destination, book at least your first night so that you can settle, rest, and recollect your thoughts. Trust me; it will make the rest of your trip much more enjoyable.
It also helps with immigration as it’s often the first question they ask.
Pick Your Means of Transportation
We have to decide how to get around the destination during our planning process. In some places, the public transport, train, or bus system is excellent (notable places of mention include most of Europe and Asia).
Your travel will be severely limited to other destinations if you don’t have your own means of transport (hello, North America, Australia, and Africa). That doesn’t mean you can’t get around via public transport, but you should think about the access you’ll have to the places of interest. That goes for parts of Europe too!
Many European destinations can be done with public transport, but are best done with a car rental like in Scotland or Ireland. While in Asia you can get by with public transport for large destinations and then a cheap motorbike to get around regions or cities.
Generally, the sooner you book a car rental, the more you save. No matter what, make sure you book your car rental at least 24 hours in advance, as booking systems will significantly raise the price with less notice. Check out all our car rental tips here.
Bring the Right Luggage
We like to pick the right luggage for the right destination. That often falls between the choice of a backpack or suitcase. The choice depends on the destination, pace, activities, and season.
We always prefer to take an Osprey Farpoint for an open adventure in developing countries where we will take public transport and move a lot. The backpack allows you to be flexible, save on airline baggage costs, and move on and off public transport.
If we stay in one place for a while, on a business trip, or want our belongings to stay organized, we choose a rolling suitcase over a backpack. Typically, a suitcase is my go-to luggage choice if I am traveling in Europe or throughout North America. It is better suited for traveling short distances from cabs to the hotel room and protects nice clothes.
Our last option would be a duffel bag that is great for more rugged adventures. If you plan on taking a safari in Africa, it’s an excellent safari bag.
Here are the exact pieces of backpacks and suitcases we travel with:
- Osprey Farpoint for Natasha’s backpack
- Osprey Daylight for a day bag
- Osprey Atmos for Cameron’s backpack
- Dakine Ranger Duffle 60L (Black, One Size)
- eBags Hardside Spinner
- LowePro Whistler BP450 AW for a camera backpack
Pack for Your Trip
Typically a month or so before a major trip, I’ll begin thinking about what I need for the destination. Usually, that’s travel adaptors, travel towels, a new piece of luggage, a down jacket, or even a new wardrobe.
Check the weather in all the locations you plan to spend time. Just because you’re heading to one country doesn’t mean the weather will be the same throughout. Take Peru, for example; it’s one of the most diverse countries in the world, with nearly every biome on the planet.
I would suggest doing a mock pack at least a week in advance of any long trip so you can ensure you have everything you need.
Here are some of our packing lists to get an idea of what we pack:
- 25 Essential Beach Packing List Items You’ll Want for Vacation
- 25 Packing Hacks For Your Next Trip • Pack Lighter, Smarter, and Faster
- The Best Winter Packing List for Europe and Beyond
- The Africa Packing List Items You’ll Want to Have
- The Best Women’s Clothes for Travel
Purchase Travel Insurance
We don’t travel without travel insurance, nor should you. You never know what can happen while traveling, so it’s best to be prepared. HeyMondo provides excellent short-term and long-term travel insurance plans. I feel if you can’t afford travel insurance, you don’t have enough to travel yet. Of course, I wish you well and hope you have the most fantastic trip, but we all know accidents can happen.
It’s a brilliant idea and a good precaution to prepare for an accident or unforeseen issues. Thankfully, we’ve never had to make any claims, but they offer competitive rates and good plans.
Download an Offline Map
Before we board the plane to our destination, we have an offline map on our new city/town/country phones. You can download an offline map from Google Maps, but sometimes it takes quite a bit of memory and can take a while to download. So, I suggest you ensure you have it on your phone before you arrive at the airport.
Offline maps are our saving grace for navigating a new country when we know we may not be connected to the internet. It’s a fantastic tool; they are great for walking around a city or for turn-by-turn driving directions.
Know the Exchange Rate
Another thing I like to do when I travel the world is to make sure I know the exchange rate. XE is my favorite app for this as it gives me up-to-date currency conversion. You’ll need to be connected to the internet the first time you put a new currency on your phone so make sure you do this before arriving at a new destination.
I once met someone who paid $26 for a Big Mac combo in the Dubai Airport because he didn’t know the local currency and just figured it couldn’t be that bad – don’t be that guy.
Deal with Flights
The day is finally here – the day you leave for another fabulous trip! But first, you have to deal with a long-haul flight. If the flight crosses oceans, try to book with a carrier you love. Emirates, Qatar, Turkish Airlines, and Cathay Pacific are just a few of my favorites.
A great airline can make or break a flight experience and set your whole trip up for a good time. I try to avoid budget carriers at all costs, but sometimes it is the only route, and there is no choice. There are also instances when the money savings are too significant to avoid.
A few things that help me deal have a more enjoyable flight are:
- A sweatshirt as it’s often very cold on planes.
- Preorder a vegetarian meal as special meals are served first.
- Invest in TSA Precheck if you travel around America. (You can get reimbursed with many travel credit cards nowadays)
- Bring headphones that are better than the crappy plane ones. I have these noise-canceling headphones.
- Pick the right seat even if that means paying for seat selection. Sometimes it’s worth it to be comfortable. (Aisle seats are my preferred choice).
- Consider getting a Priority Pass or some form of lounge access. (free with the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card).
Grab a Sim Card
Yay! I Landed in a new country or destination. You’re likely groggy, jet-lagged, and feeling dirty. I know all you want to do is get to your hotel to shower and rest, but first, I would recommend picking up a sim card if you want to be connected to your new country.
Because of our jobs, we like to stay online when we can, plus we find 3G and 4G often works a lot better than hotel WiFi networks. The airport is the most accessible place to pick up a sim card. Even though it’s usually more expensive at the airport, it saves us the hassle of dealing with locating and navigating our way through a new city to save a few dollars.
Get Cash to Travel the World
The main things you need to know when researching how to travel the world are about money, finances, and cold hard cash. Before you leave the airport, strap yourself with some cash. Many developing nations operate on a cash basis, and you could struggle to use your credit card. Even if you’re traveling in Western Europe, you should still always have some cash on you in case of emergencies.
We don’t ever recommend using exchange offices, especially at the airport. They often have hidden fees and terrible exchange rates. Instead, we use the ATM, giving us the most up-to-date market rate. See more of our travel banking tips here.
If the airport ATMs are not working in the rare case, you’ll want to at least have some backup cash on you. USD or Euro is the currency of choice and the most valuable – and I emphasize the USD over the Euro. It’s also helpful to have in the event of emergencies.
It’s uncommon for airport ATMs to not work, but it can happen in developing nations or small airports. We recently had it happen when we landed at 2 am in Bali. I’m thankful I had $100 in my wallet to exchange. That at least got us a cab to our hotel until we could find a local ATM.
You’ve landed, you have your cash, you are connected to the internet and alive! Take a second to collect yourself and your things. Sometimes I like to sit, have an overpriced coffee, and chill at the airport Starbucks for twenty minutes.
It’s our moment to ensure we’re leaving the airport with all our belongings and directions to our place.
Grab a Ride to Your First Place
Now it’s finally time to get to your first hotel from the airport. You’re almost there – you can rest, chill, and do what you came to do – travel the world! Many airports have buses or trains that will bring you to the city center. From there you can hire a cab or walk to your place of rest.
If we are coming off a long-haul flight and don’t feel like dealing with anything else, we will pay for an expensive taxi cab to take us directly to the hotel. I’ve realized throughout my travels that sometimes it’s worth it to pay!
If you’ve rented a car from the airport, now is the time to pick it up. Always check for damages, take photos, and look for hidden charges before you drive off. We like to pick up and drop off rental cars from the airport. Even if there is a surcharge, it will save money on a taxi to and from the airport and create less hassle for us on already stressful travel days.
13 Car Rental Tips • How to Rent a Car For First-Timers
Explore, Don’t Buy Souvenirs, Research
Now that you are in your fantastic travel destination, it’s time to sit down, research what you want to do, read a few travel blogs (aka The World Pursuit 😁), and enjoy your travels.
I often like to take my first day just to explore the area, hop into a cafe or restaurant and get a feel for the environment. And unless I just have to have something, I don’t buy souvenirs until the last few days of my trip. This gives me a general idea of pricing and allows me to pick what I like best – plus, I don’t have to lug everything around with me during my whole trip.
Oh, yea, and don’t ever buy the first thing you see! Chances are you can find it elsewhere – often cheaper!
Most importantly, have fun when you travel the world!
Plan For Your Trip
- Protect Your Trip: We don’t travel without travel insurance, nor should you. You never know what can happen while traveling, so it’s best to be prepared. HeyMondo provides excellent short-term and long-term travel insurance plans.
- Find Cheap Flights: Sign up for Going (formerly Scotts Cheap Flights) to get notified when prices get ultra low.
- Travel Adapter: Make sure you find a good adapter to keep your personal electronics charged. Otherwise, you may be paying for a cheap one once you land. Purchase one here.
- Travel Backpack: We like the Nomatic Travel Backpack for our travels. Check the price here.
- Our Favorite Travel Shoes: Our answer to this question is always ALLBIRDS! Check them out on their site!
- Get a Travel Credit Card: We travel worldwide for free because we have leveraged our spending into points. See why you should get a travel credit card and how you can do the same with our favorite travel credit cards.