13 January 2020

So you're taking a big trip - congratulations! You've got your jabs, bought a ginormous backpack and sorted your visas out.

But here are 10 things you must do before the big trip so you can relax and enjoy yourself - or get stuck into whatever it is you're planning - without having to worry or get overwhelmed.

1. Unsubscribe from as many emails as you can

White woman on a laptop

The last thing you want when you're chilling on a foreign beach with limited data and dodgy coverage is to have to delete a ton of irrelevant emails.

Unsubscribe from all the lists you can think of before you leave (not ours, obvs, and if you haven't signed up to our Career Break newsletter yet, you can sign up here).

To make it quicker and easiererer for you, you can use a service like Unroll.me (it says it's only for people outside Europe and our correspondent LauraSideStreet on Twitter says it picked up her location, though you could try it with a proxy site).

2. Log yourself out of everything everywhere

Iphone being held in hand

Whether you're taking your laptop with you or you're leaving it to collect dust in someone's garage, you'll need to up your security while you're in the road. Just in case something gets stolen - it's less of a headache for you if you aren't logged in to your usual sites, especially shopping and banking ones.

You can do this quickly by just clearing your history, cookies and cache. For extra security, clear all your passwords too (make sure you've got a way of recovering them BEFORE you do this though!).

Make sure you do this on all of your devices as well, not just the one you're using now.

3. Curate your social media lists and increase your privacy settings

Phone app screen with social media apps

Chances are, you're following or being followed by a load of people you don't really know.

Consider unfollowing or unfriending these people before you go on your big trip, especially if you're leaving your home unoccupied. The fewer people know that your stuff is unguarded, the better.

Increase your privacy settings as well, to limit what non-friends and non-followers can see.

This isn't right for everyone of course, and if you simply must share your entire life on Instagram, that's fine, that's up to you. But if you do that, at least be careful of the exact details that you share, such as pictures of your boarding pass and so on. And make sure that you never post things like your home address publicly, or even your birthday.

4. Stash some cash

Currencies in cash - sterling, US dollars and euros

It's a good idea to stash some actual money - ie cash - and some money in an account where you can access it quickly and easily. This is extra money than what you have set aside for your trip.

Your actual money should be in one or more of the following currencies:

  • US dollars
  • Sterling (if you're British)
  • Your home currency
  • Euros
  • The currency of the first place you're going
  • The currency of the place you will be spending the most time in

It doesn't matter too much, those are just the easiest to use or change. Stash your spare cash somewhere no-one will want to look for it. Ladies, tuck it in your tampon/sanitary towel bag. Chaps, an inside pocket of your sponge bag is good, or a clean sock (remember, someone will have to handle this money sooner or later so be respectful!).

For money that isn't actual cash but that you can access easily, Paypal is obvious but also consider a pre-payment foreign currency card. It's like a credit card but you put the money on it first, so it's not linked to an account and you can't run up a massive debt on it.

5. Make a list of where you've stored your stuff

Man making a list next to his laptop

If you're going away for any length of time, you'll probably need to store your stuff somewhere - especially if you're renting and are giving up the lease on your place. Even if you own your home and are renting it out, you will doubtlessly want to move out items that are of significant financial or sentimental value and put them somewhere safe.

Most career breakers leave their stuff in their parents' attic, or a mate's garage. They also lend things to friends, so they can be used while they're away. So what might happen is that your stuff is spread out over several households. If this is what you're doing, make a list of where everything is, and store it in the cloud so you can access it easily. You might think you will remember but after a few months, you won't!

Then when you return, you can get your stuff back easily.

6. Make a map of where you've stored your stuff

Wine cellar

Yes, as well as a list, a map of where you've stored everything can be really handy. If you've got a stack of boxes or bin liners of stuff, making a map of where everything is in the garage or attic means you can find it again easily. You should leave one map with the stuff, and take a copy with you (preferably a digital copy, with a paper copy as back-up).

When you return, it means you can access what you need quickly without disturbing the rest of the pile if you don't need it. For example, if you leave in the summer but return in the winter, you're going to need your warm clothes out straight away but might not need your books until you've moved into a new place.

Another advantage of making a map of where you've stored everything is that you can request something from abroad if you suddenly find you need it. This doesn't happen very often but if it does, your mate at home (or more likely, your mum) will be able to locate it without having to dig through great piles of your stuff. It also minimises stress if you tend to get anxious about forgetting stuff.

7. Go to the dentist

Young woman smiling showing teeth

An often-forgotten one, this.

Visit the dentist before you go on a big trip! You might not feel anything is wrong with your teeth, but your dentist will be able to spot a potential problem before it becomes an actual problem, and will be able to deal with it.

One reason for doing this is not just so your trip isn't ruined by a falling out filling or an unpleasant abcess. It's also because if you're travelling outside your home country, you might find dental treatment either very expensive, or not very hygienic. Not everywhere has Western standards of infection control, and of course, some countries have high rates of HIV and hepatitis.

It's fairly unlikely you'll need an emergency dentist on your trip but it's good to be on the safe side. Plus, you'll need a bright smile for all those cool people you're going to meet!

8. Visit the optician

Girl with glasses

If you have 20/20 vision, you can skip this one!

If you don't, you'll need to think about what glasses or contacts you will need to take travelling. You'll need to consider what kind of facilities there are for cleaning contacts, how much you want to pack, and if you're anything like me, how likely you are to accidentally sit on your glasses and break them.

Your optician will not only be able to update your prescription, if you need it, but will also be able to advise you on your various options of specs, contacts, disposable contacts and everything else. You can also get a cheaper pair of glasses for travelling and leave your good ones at home.

If you're going somewhere sunny of course (and most career breakers do) you can also consider reactive lenses and/or prescription sunglasses, even if you don't normally use them. Whether you're going skiing or to the tropics, you will often find that the sun is a lot brighter than at home, and you need to protect your eyes (as well as look cool).

9. Learn to sew

Threads for sewing

This isn't so you can impress your fellow travellers by knocking up an obscene cross-stitch picture on the bus (although it doesn't hurt).

Basic sewing will help you repair your clothes and bag on the road. They will rip (especially if you've got a cheap knock-off in an Asian market) and you will need to fix it. Yes, you can buy new, but you may not be near a shop, you may want to save your money for something else, and you know that repairing your stuff is better for the environment.

Besides, having a patched up bag or pair of shorts marks you out as a proper traveller!

Basic sewing is easy, cheap, and you shouldn't have much trouble finding someone willing to teach you. And use my grandmother's top tip of using dental floss to sew up your bag - it's much tougher than normal thread.

10. Say goodbye properly

Party time - people clinking glasses of different drinks

It's weird how often this one gets missed.

In all the packing, planning, booking, and buying, it's easy to forget one of the most important things you need to do before you go - and that's to say goodbye!

And it's not enough to just send a text (especially not to your gran) but you need to say goodbye properly.

A leaving party is a good idea, because it's fun, people will buy you drinks, and you get to say goodbye to everyone at once. It also makes your big adventure look that little bit bigger!

So say your goodbyes properly and remember to stay in touch while you're away.


If that's got you excited about taking a career break, have a look at all our career breaks here.