Preparing for Remote Year: what I did, when, and how much it cost
Despite how absolutely massive the Nation is by now, there are seemingly few posts about being a Premote as a Premote... everything is in retrospect. Which is makes sense, I suppose, because hindsight is a checked bag under 20kg.
At any rate, my departure day is in 4 weeks. I thought it might be useful to recreate the timeline of events: stuff I bought, sold, swallowed, or was stabbed with according to all the info I’ve gathered down Remote Year rabbit holes so you don’t have to.
I’ll circle back later with updates on how well these decisions served me.
4 months BD (Before Departure): $530 spent
Renewed my passport
One of the most important steps you can take is making sure your passport is valid well beyond your return date. This was the first thing I did because it can take up to 6 weeks to get renewed.
Luckily, mine was cake. I got new photos taken at Walgreen's for like $15.
Then I went online and printed out a form. Taped my new mughsot on the sheet, filled out the info, popped my old passport in there and send it on its way with a check for $110.
I got my new passport back in less than 2 weeks. And I got my old one back, too!
Got travel insurance
Travel insurance is not optional.This is a long trip and shit happens: I've heard of broken bones, surgeries, car accidents, items stolen... all kinds of crazy stuff. You do not want to be abroad without help when something inevitably happens.
There are a few recommendations through the Welcome Portal of plans vetted by RY. By no means are you bound to those options. Shop around and choose what's right for you.
I did pick a recommended plan and went with Tokio Marine Atlas Travel Medical. My options:
- Maximum limit: $1,000,000
- Maximum per injury/illness: $1,000,000
- Deductible: $500
There are a bunch of other things to pick, and all in all cost me $415. I was surprised they needed the payment upfront; I thought it was a monthly thing so I would have waited longer had I known.
3 months BD: $315 spent
My next step was to get my finances in order.
Applied for a travel credit card
I applied for Chase Sapphire Reserve: the mac daddy of travel credit cards.
It does have a $450 annual fee, BUT you get:
- a $300 travel credit
- access to Priority Pass Select for free (major key!)
- 3x points back on travel and dining
- $10,000 in trip protection
- $3,000 lost luggage protection
- No foreign transaction fees
- and a bunch of other stuff
Anyone on Remote Year would get much more value than the $150 remaining cost.
Opened a travel-friendly debit card
I went with the Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking. Perfect for travelers:
- No minimum deposit or monthly fees
- Unlimited ATM fee rebates worldwide
- No foreign transaction fees
My original plan was to open 2 of these, one for my business and another to transfer everything from my current bank. I was just starting to freelance so I decide to do that first and do the transfer second.
I got it all set up and 1 botched bill payment later, I discover this account is not eligible for automatic payments to withdraw funds.
Translation: you can't autopay bills from this account with ACH transfer.
Big problem for me--everything is on autopay.
So, I decided not open a 2nd account to transfer all my personal stuff because lord knows I need that .25% autopay discount on my student loan.
The plan now is to just use my Chase credit card to pay for things day-to-day to avoid foreign transaction fees and pay it off weekly with my personal debit so I don't accrue interest. And make friends for when I need cash.
If I really got in a bind I could pull cash out of my business account from an ATM with this Schwab account. Boom; problem solved.
Got my vaccines
The basic rule of thumb with vaccines is unless you have some god-like insurance, everything will be cheaper overseas. I went through Passport Health to find a clinic near me to get advice on what I needed based on my itinerary and my plans.
The biggest concern of course is Southeast Asia, because bugs. My rep told me Malaria, Typhoid Fever, and Japanese encephalitis would be the big ones to worry about. Otherwise, Hep A is a concern everywhere because it's transmitted through contaminated food and water.
In the US malaria pills can cost upwards of $600, and the JE vaccine closer to $800. See what I mean about waiting?
I left with a Typhoid Fever vaccine (1 round of 4 pills) and a Hep A shot for $315. Everything else I'll do in Lisbon.
2 months BD: $790 spent
This is starting to hit crunch time, so I did a lot around 8 weeks out from my trip.
Booked my flight
As soon as my super fancy pants travel credit card came in I bought my ticket to Cape Town, my group's first stop. I had been eyeing some flights for a couple weeks prior using Momondo, Kayak, and Google Flights.
I'll be flying from Boston with 1 stop in Zurich for $790. Were there cheaper flights? Yes.
Am I a bougie bitch who doesn't want to deal with multiple stops just to save $100? Also yes.
Checked my phone coverage
I have T-mobile and I'm covered everywhere with the plan I'm already on except for Vietnam. I’ll probably do the RY SIM program for that month which will cost $30.
Posted all my stuff for sale
I decided to get rid of everything I own rather than store it. Storage is expensive as hell out here in San Francisco and I’m not even sure I’m coming back to Cali. That’s the plan, but… who knows.
I had some luck selling on Letgo and to friends directly. Craigslist, not so much thus far.
Right now, 1 month BD: $130 spent
Packing up my life
My lease is month-to-month so I don't have to worry about that, but I do still have to move out. Lately I've been focusing on packing up the stuff I do want to keep like personal knickknacks, photos, and other keepsakes. Trying to keep it to a minimum as much as possible because a friend is hanging onto it for me as a favor.
Otherwise, anything I can't sell or donate is going right in the trash.
I haven't done the official list for RY yet, but the plan is to have one checked bag and my backpack as a carry-on. I will write another post soon with what I actually packed for the year.
Buying new stuff for the trip*
My biggest priority item I wanted was a kickass backpack. It look me forever to choose the perfect one, but I finally landed on this one:
It has everything I was looking for: nice, wide straps for comfort, a USB plug, anti-theft lock, a ton of space and organized pockets. I'm obsessed with it.
I wasn't sure what else I would need, so I spent an embarrassing amount of time down Remote Year rabbit holes reading advice from other Remotes. I found a few things others specifically bought for their trip or wish they had.
Here's what I bought based on many recommendations:
Everybody needs one and no one ever has one. Boom, now I'm that guy and everyone in my group will want to be my friend.
Packing cubes not only force you to be organized, they help jam all the crap you said you weren't going to bring in less space so you have room for more crap.
(Comes in other colors.)
Apparently a surprising amount of our apartments have washing machines but no dryers, and few have proper drying racks. Ta-daaaa! This one doesn't even need pins.
TSA-friendly wine opener
Absolutely critical piece of equipment.
I guess most of our apartments don't have them and regular ones could get confiscated, even in checked bags.
I mean, obviously.
Power strip with USB ports
There are never enough outlets to go around. Super handy when your roommates are hogging the good spot by the WiFi, and a good way to make friends at the airport when you inevitably mistake those mysterious wall plates for an open outlet.
(Also comes in black.)
How genius is this... it's a fan that plugs into your laptop. I can't wait to be coolin' in Southeast Asia while everyone else is dying in 100% humidity.
My running total for prep so far is $1,765. That's spent only--doesn't take into consideration the travel credit or money I'm getting for selling my stuff.
I do still need to get a visa for Vietnam online which will cost $25 for the single entry option. After then, I'm done!
Only time will tell if these were the right decisions. Keep in mind what worked for me might not be best for you, so definitely ask questions during Mel's webinars, read all the blogs, and make your own choices.
My best piece of advice is to spend time on the Welcome Portal. There is so much valuable info in there.
Hop in the comments if you have questions or want to mention things I forgot!
*I know you're a Smart Person of the Internet and have probably figured out these are affiliate links. However, I did really buy all this stuff and am using it. If you buy things through these links, I might get a commission.
Think of it like supporting my adventure. You know how poor I am.
For more info see my full disclosure linked in the footer.