Tips for Long-Term Travelers

Some notes from my adventures that other travelers may find helpful. I’ve covered mail, finding campsites and other places to stay, keeping organized, items that do double duty, money, keeping in touch, entertainment, and souvenirs.

Let me know if you have any additions, edits, or other comments.  Happy to keep this a living document.

Hey There, Mr. Postman (Getting Mail on the Road or While Traveling)

There are several ways to get your mail – USPS general delivery (more details here) which will hold your mail at a main post office location in the city you direct it to.  Make sure you have GENERAL DELIVERY in all caps and use 9999 as the 4-digit ZIP code extension. Head to post office and collect mail (just give them a call first).

Example:

Sarah Bear
c/o GENERAL DELIVERY
Springdale, UT 84767-9999

If you’re staying in Hotels/AirBnB’s or other locations, you can also have stuff shipped to those spots by USPS using a c/o designation for the addressee.

Example:

Sarah Bear
c/o Honey Bun’s Cabin
123 Busy Bee Way
City, State Ziiip

FedEx also offers local pickup if you ship to their stores if you need something speedy overnight (call the shop ahead of time to confirm).

Pro Tip: Have an Amazon Prime account and know where you’ll be in 2-5 days, just ship ahead!

As I Lay my Weary Head (Finding Campsites and Places to Stay)

I never thought I’d be so happy with an app purchase, but AllStays is amazing.  Get it now, period.  It will save you so much headache and worry.  They have details on what services you can expect, star ratings, pricing estimates ($-$$$$), the number of sites available, RV hookup info, and a wealth of other info.

Pro-Tip, if you’re going somewhere that you may not have cell service, open the app, scroll around the area you are heading to in order to populate the available sites, and leave the app running in the background.

Social Economy: I also have Couchsurfing and AirBnB for when I can plan a bit ahead.  In fact, nearly my whole EU route is already booked through AirBnB except where I’m staying with friends/family.

Hotels: I also have the Choice Hotels app, Hotels Tonight, and Motel 6. Hotels tonight is for those Treat Yo’ Self-nights, the other two are after long days on the road when you just need a locking door and a long, hot shower.

Many Walmarts (and other outdoorsy stores like Cabelas and Bass Pro Shops) allow RVing in their parking lots. I haven’t done this so cannot speak to it (but it doesn’t sound all that great).

The Road Less Traveled (GPS/Mapping)

I use Waze for long hauls and Google Maps for shorter trips, searching for services, and to download offline maps in areas I am worried I won’t have service.

Waze offers notifications for speed cameras/cops/road debris which is super-helpful if you’re driving a long distance and have a bit of a heavy foot.

Google has my heart.  You can plan routes and send them to your phone, download offline areas, and search for services (if you have cell service).  To download an offline map, click on the three horizontal lines to open the menu, and select offline areas.  Highlight the area (or areas) you want to download and then just use Google Maps like you normally would.

Organize that Shit

I am a notorious planner and an even worse when it comes to having back-ups for everything.  Case in point, I have two backpacking backpacks, one weekender backpack, and one daypack (yes, I am shaking my head in shame).  But, I’m packing for a year of travel and once I leave the U.S. I’ll be leaving behind most of my camp gear which takes up most of the space.

I use my REI 18 liter daypack every.single.day, and it’s water repellant which is a huge plus.  I’ll throw my toiletries, computer, change of clothes, and anything else I need and lock up my car.  I use my big backpacking bag to store all my camping gear.  I can just pull it out of my trunk and have everything I need in one spot. The other two bags are hanging out, waiting for Europe to arrive.

Another lifesaver has been the purchase of luggage cubes. I have two sets in different colors from Amazon (which were the cheapest I could find) and they are amazing.  The Amazon brand ones are also good options and they have way prettier colors. I have the packing cubes mostly filled with clothes, but also filled one of the large ones up with books to keep them corralled.  I have two large ones that have my EU/SE Asia wardrobe in them tucked away at the back of my trunk.

I also got stacking storage bins with open fronts to keep my clothes easily accessible and organized. I leave them in the back seat and can grab, sort, and organize very easily. easier than digging through storage tubs.

I also use rugged storage envelopes to keep writing and drawing supplies organized and together, all my tools in one place, and important paperwork corralled.  I love these things and have already abused them so much.

For toiletries, I have one of LL Bean’s hanging toiletry bags which I’ve had for 20+ years (thanks, Mom and Dad!).  It’s so helpful and allows me to corral everything in one spot.  I even keep my makeup bag in there (which I have used all of once so far…).

Dolla Dolla Bills, Yo (Banking & Credit Cards)

While I’m trying to mostly live on cash, I’ve downloaded apps for all my banks, investment accounts, and credit cards so I could track everything and check balances with a click of a button.  A trust fund would have been nice but was not in the cards for me.

I also opened a Charles Schwab checking account because there are no ATM transaction fees anywhere in the world. This will be a lifesaver.

Things doing double-duty

I have a fold-up fleece blanket that I’ve been using as both a camp blanket and pillow (Stomach sleeper here).

My Jet Boil keeps me caffeinated and makes a mean camp meal.  If you go car-camping more than three times a year or backpacking ever, it’s worth the $100.

My yoga mat gets used as a double pad for sleeping and for my morning workout routine (thanks Ashley for the workouts!!!).

My headlamp keeps my inflatable sleeping pad wrapped up.

I have a really big elastic band to keep my paper towels from unraveling.

I use an MSR Dromedary bag to store extra water and as a source of running water for washing my hands and face, cooking, and rinsing stuff. I bought the spigot attachment and it’s so helpful.

Phone Service

I switched to T-Mobile after 18 years with AT&T.  Why? international service.  I can use my phone all over the world and won’t have to go searching for compatible sim cards or any other such nonsense while on the road.  My phone also works as a hotspot when I want wifi for my computer.  I’ve also had service pretty much the entire trip save for some canyons and mountains. I was very worried about the service availability but it has not yet been a problem.

That’s Entertainment

I have downloaded all of Parks and Rec through Netflix’s app so I can watch offline.  I also have a huge library of podcasts that I’ve been tapping and have recently fallen in love with Audible books for those long drive days.

I also have a postcard project where I’m trying to send a postcard every other day.  So far, I tend to write 3-4 at once, once or twice a week.  I have a stack of postcard stamps that I’ve been burning through, but totally worth it to keep friends and family from forgetting about me!  USPS is clearly my secret hero.

Souvenirs and Memories

You may have noticed I am a prolific picture taker. I use the one second a day app as well and will hopefully have a fun, memory-filled short film at the end of this adventure to look back on.

Christine also gave me a fun idea to cover something in stickers…so my cooler is looking pretty cool these days.  (though I should have gotten something 1/2 it’s size).

I’ve also been picking up cool postcards as I’ve seen them and will likely frame them when I get to the end of my trip.