This will be a mixture of preparation and packing advice for a backpacking trip away. I thought I might as well combine them into one post. This is mainly for my friends who were asking what they should pack, but I thought it could potentially be an interesting topic as there’s always so much to do and plan. I’ve just started to pack some things into my bag ready to go (as I won’t be around next weekend to sort anything out), but other than that I am guilty of being a bit of a last minute packer so I’m trying to be a bit more prepared this time.
Depending on where you’re planning to go, there are always a few important things to organise before hand. It’s always good to plan certain things well in advance to avoid stress and panic the week before your flight. Here’s a few things to think about, before going away, as well as a checklist for packing.
Depending on where you’re going, you may need a visa for your stay, even if it’s just a tourist visa, so make sure you research the places you’re planning on visiting, to know whether or not you should get a visa. Visas can take a while to be approved, so make sure to look into this in advance and know exactly what you need for your length of stay. Visa policies can change so double check one more time right before you go to make sure you still have the correct visa and documents. Definitely make sure to get your visas through official government websites to avoid being overcharged or sold something non-reputable. For example, the 18-30s tourism visa for Australia is free through the official Government website, however there are loads of other websites willing to charge you for it – so make sure you’re not wasting money on something you don’t need to! Many places allow you to just complete a visa form on the plane before landing!
It’s always a good idea to have a look online at the countries you’re going to, to check whether there are any recommended vaccinations. Just keep in mind that each country has a list of recommended, as well as suggested vaccinations, so you don’t always need all the ones you see. Make sure to go to your registered GP or to a travel clinic and talk to a nurse about where you’re going and they can advise you on what to get. But bear in mind this can take up to 2 months – if you need a course of injections. Your GP may charge you (if they provide the service) but it could be cheaper than a travel clinic. You just want to avoid having to go to a clinic and pay hundreds of pounds for vaccines you could have got for free (yes I’ve made this mistake)! Plus keep a copy of your vaccinations on you, just in case you get any medical treatment while you’re away. The travel vaccination clinics such as Nomad, will provide you with a booklet of any jabs you’ve had done with them – like mine above. You can also go to your GP and get a print out of the immunisations you’ve had to date – this can be taken to the travel vaccine clinic to help determine what you might still need.
You may choose to take a suitcase, however, depending on the type of trip you have planned, it may be more convenient to take a backpack. Picking a bag can be tough as you want to make sure to get the right one for your needs. I use a 60L Mountain Warehouse bag with a detachable 20L day bag. I probably could have gone smaller however this is the one I have, and continue to use. It’s a great bag and not too expensive – with a waterproof cover and zip away straps for airport conveyer belts. This bag can be found here.
My one piece of advice would be, pack light! You really don’t need as much as you think you do. And you’ll really thank yourself for not making the bag too heavy with useless items. The only item I let myself indulge in is bikinis as they’re light and if you’re wearing them most days I feel like it’s okay. I think I’m taking around 8 or 9 with me this time (including a one piece). One of the best items I’ve found for saving space in your bag is the clothes zip bags. You’d be surprised at how much you can fit into one of these things and it really compacts your clothes and saves space; as well as keeping them from exploding everywhere every time you open the bag. Zip pouches such as this can be found cheaply on amazon.
You wouldn’t think it but I managed to fit these two piles of clothes, plus extra, and underwear into just one of these zip bags – leaving loads of space in my bag. These are really great for organisation although you’ll have to get used to wearing creased clothes!
Another space saving hack is these small empty containers, which can be bought in multipacks for about £1. Dispensing a smaller amount of face cream, shampoo, hair gel… etc, saves you carrying around large heavy bottles, unnecessarily.
It’s always nice to know your bag is secure with a padlock. These are also great for securing your possessions in hostels (most hostel bag lockers have space for a padlock but you need to provide it yourself). However, try to make sure your padlocks are TSA Approved so that your luggage can be safely checked at airports, without the bag or lock being damaged.
Silk sleep liner –
This may sound slightly excessive but it is genuinely a good item to have in the backpack – especially if you’re planning on using any sleeper trains or very cheap accommodation. I’ve heard horror stories of bed bugs in budget hostels across Asia (whether or not this is true) so it’s always nice to have it in the bag just in case any hostel bed looks questionable. This actually came in really useful when I was travelling on sleeper trains through Cambodia and Vietnam. Sometimes the beds aren’t changed in between journeys so you just sleep, overnight, on the same bed (and bedding) as the passenger who came before you. Mine in particular is also anti-mosquito, anti-bedbug and anti bacterial. Like I said, it may sound excessive and this is definitely not going to kill you, however, I just found it nice to get into and feel a little bit cleaner.
Just be aware that you may be heading to an area where malaria is a potential risk. This can easily be determined using a malaria map of the place you are visiting. It’s good to know in advance if you may need to take an antimalarial drug so that there is time to research the different ones and find the best price (they are fairly expensive and have varying side effects). It’s always good to take extra precaution and invest in some DEET products just to avoid being eaten alive. Some people try to avoid using DEET as it’s so potent but I tend to use it anyway, if the mosquitos are bad enough. Just be careful spraying it on your clothes as it may damage them! You can also find mosquito repelling bands online. These can be wrapped around your wrist, ankle or backpack for some added protection. There is of course the option of a mosquito net too, if you’re going to a particularly high risk zone, but I think you’ll find that you rarely use it (unless you go to a rural tropical area). I’m just lucky I was so prepared last time I went away, as I still have all these things and luckily the deet is still in date!
This time I’m away I wont be taking antimalarials although there is a small risk in the areas I’m visiting, (particularly with dengue) so its important to have a high strength DEET product in your bag. I will however, take my mosquito net as it may come in handy this time for rural areas, and I’m not particularly bothered if I don’t use it (again) – it’s just better to have – just incase.
Money card –
I only recently remebered that I’d need an international money card for my trip (yes bad planning). Last time I went with STA and got one of their international student cards, which doubles up as a world wide MasterCard and student ID / discount card. The only downside is that you pay to withdraw cash from cashpoints, but other than that there are no fees apart from the initial purchase of the card (which only lasts a year). After shopping around quite a bit, I think I will be returning to STA to purchase another one of these cards. It is worth looking online at all the different money cards available, especially if you only need one currency, as there are cheaper options available.
This sort of speaks for itself. Obviously it’s a good idea to protect yourself just incase anything unexpected happens. It could be something completely out of your control – such as a cancelled flight – so it’s always good to know you’ll be covered just incase!
I’ve created a few checklists for the main items to pack in both your luggage and hand luggage. This is just what I like to pack for myself but it’s always good to have a list to go by.
- Skirts (1x long skirt for temples)
- Mosquito net
- Silk sleeper
- Medications / first aid
- Travel towel
- Beach throw
- Photocopy of passport
- Photocopy of boarding passes
- Boarding passes
- Change of clothes (long haul flights)
Always remember to keep any important electronics in your hand luggage so you know they’re safe (including laptops/ cameras). I’ve decided not to take many gopro accessories with me this time (mainly because I don’t know what half of them even do). So I’ll just be taking the stick and float. I like to take two camera batteries as well as the battery charger – just incase one dies while you’re out and about.
I always put all my sunglasses in hand luggage too, just because they could be easily damaged. I’m still undecided as to how many pairs to take – without being excessive!
It’s a good idea to take a complete change of clothes for a long haul flight – just incase you feel like changing half way through, or maybe during a stop over. Most airline companies will also provide a refreshment package for long flights, which is good too.
- Makeup (waterproof)
- Emergency medications
- Shower gel
- Face cream / wash
These are all just things to bear in mind. Most things aren’t too bad if you forget them, as long as you have your passport and valuables, most other items can just be purchaced abroad.
Hope this is helpful (Chloe and Louise).