You’ve made the big decision to go forth and travel….now what? Here are some of my own tips for travel and packing for that long trip!
Before you go…
Don’t just book the first flight that comes up. Research the place you really want to spend time in, then work your way backwards and see if there are other ways of adding in more time to travel, could you inter-rail across Europe to get closer to where to want to be and take overnight trains or smaller flights? If you’re doing a big trip and you have the funds, finding alternative ways of travelling may add to your experience.
When travelling to Australia in 2011 we flew to Mumbai, then onto Bangkok. We spent four weeks touring in Thailand then jumped the overnight train to Singapore before flying into Darwin…then we drove over to Cairns which was where we wanted to be. The one way flights, train and car cost us in total £550 each and we did more things than we were planning on doing, to get over to Australia!
We have flown with Etihad a good few times when we have travelled and recommend them for long distance flights! Very comfortable seats, good leg room, nice entertainment. Great prices too!
Check visa requirements for each country you will be in. Some Asian countries with a 30 day visa require you to show your outbound travel journey from the country to ensure you are leaving – this may mean planning the next part of your journey ahead of time instead of ‘winging it’ to avoid any issues.
Only pack useful items. You don’t need the rest!
When I first packed my bag for Thailand and Australia I had a 90l bag and 30l bag attached and they were full to the brim. Hairdryer, products, toiletries, sun creams, jeans (seriously), a coat, first aid kit, everything but the kitchen sink. And it was ridiculous!
There are some items that are more useful in some countries than others – for example in Asia we used mosquito nets and sleeping bag liners instead of sleeping bags. In Australia we didn’t need any of them! But you can avoid having to take extra stuff if you are careful when booking places, lots of small hotels will have mosquito nets available in their rooms – just ask! Linen is usually always provided so just use sheets of your too warm.
I always think it’s a good idea to pack a small rope, a plug and some picnic items. Sounds silly but when your fighting with other backpackers for space on the washing line – that rope can be tied between two trees or two beds and get your clothes dry for you in no time at all.
A plug always comes in handy, lots of ‘on the road’ eating and rest stops don’t have plugs for the holes in sinks, so washing cutlery or your face etc can be quite wasteful – and if you’re in a country that is in drought, it can be quite thoughtless and unnecessary to waste water.
Picnic items are always great – plates, knives, forks, oil spray & BBQ tongs – it can make life so much easier. If your going to be driving in Australia for example, there are lots of rest stops and parks that have electric/Gas BBQs free for you to use. Having a few basic items makes this so much easier to do. It also comes in handy as most hostels charge $10 for crockery/cutlery and you only get half back when you return the items, so it can save you money! Pots and pans are always provided free…plus if you own your own cutlery you can guarantee they are as clean as you left them!
Ditch the toiletries/sun creams/bug spray! Unless you are going to a country that does not have basic facilities, don’t bother! Save the kilo for other stuff. Most countries sell the same stuff, similar brands & have better SPF and sprays targeted to their sun and bug requirements. Lotions and potions are sometimes super expensive in some places (in Australia it’s between $5-8 for deodorant!) so if your on a tight budget, maybe bring a few bits for when you first get there. I took loads of makeup with me overseas but found it was best suited to colder climates and melted easily (off my face…nice!) when it got to 25-30degrees. I found a cheap alternative in the country I was in that was better suited to the heat! Ask at makeup counters in the likes of Myer in Australia and they are pretty helpful. Or go bare faced. The sun on your face and wind in your hair you won’t need much for that beautiful sun-kissed look.
And boys…don’t be too proud to put moisturiser on your face. The sun can cause damage, so layer on that suncream and don’t forget to use after sun or moisturiser to keep your face baby soft!
Pack for the weather conditions
As I mentioned, I packed jeans and thick leggings when I went out there. Why?! It never got cold enough for me to wear them! Shorts, light trousers, skirts, thin tops / tank tops and very thin cardigans / lightweight shirts if you plan to travel somewhere hot. A good beach towel and a few swimsuits or trucks and don’t forget the flip-flops (but they are called Thongs in Australia…don’t get that confused!)
Most hostels have hair dryers or you can pick them up cheap in whatever country you’re in. If you desperately need your hair polka straight then bring your GHDs…be warned, mine lasted two days! My partner thought the Thailand three pin plug was the same wattage as the UK one and zap went my beloved straighteners! I’ve been curly-haired since… (for the most part).
Pack something that lets you communicate with home (iPad or smart phone, or laptop if you prefer) and get family and friends set up with Skype before you leave! This way you can blog, vlog, keep people posted on social media and store your images (if your device lets you) in a safe place.
Pack a good book to read on the plane. Most hostels have free book exchanges so read it and leave it for someone else to enjoy, while picking up a new book for the journey! I hadn’t read much for years before I headed out on the road and must have easily read 2-3 books a month. Great for long bus journeys between towns!
A good pair of shoes…you will walk more than you ever have before! I hated walking and trapsing around but I’ve done so much more walking for a few reasons – a. It’s free! and b. You see much more!
Take something small that comforts you from home, for those homesick moments.
The rest you don’t need… I promise you!
Figure out what you want to spend each night on accommodation and what kind of privacy you want on your trip. If you are travelling alone and are happy to share, most hostels have 12-20 bed dorms that you can hire pretty cheaply, from £3 / $5 per night in the likes of Thailand, Lao, Cambodia however if your budget allows, their private rooms start from £5 / $8 per night! in the likes of Australia, most decent hostel dorm prices start at around £15 / $24 per night and £37 / $60 per night for a private room.
But…shop around! Of course if you want cheap as chips budget backpacking with a wild nightlife then the hostels are going to be for you in most countries. If you want to party the night away, but then would like to go back to your room and get some SLEEP, I mean real sleep, not the half awake wondering who your room mate is shagging 3 beds down kind of sleep… then look into AirBNB & Booking.com – You can find guest houses, apartments, hotel rooms, cheap B&Bs on there that have much more private rooms for very reasonable prices…and if you are travelling in a pair ( as a couple or friends who don’t mind sharing) or even in a group, these options can sometimes work out cheaper, with better facilities.
For example, we budgeted £25 / $40 per night each in Thailand for the 5 nights we were there before our Hill Tribes and Beaches Tour – there were two of us, so our accommodation budget was £250 / $410 total, now you saw above we could have got it for much cheaper, but we spent £110 / $182 on a double private room in a hotel with an ensuite, rooftop pool, close to all amenities and just off Khaosan Road. So we were able to get better accommodation for cheaper than our budget in a hotel, without having to go too cheap.
If you are looking for great deals, we use AirBNB & Booking.com for 80% of our travels. Check them out!
When your there…
Don’t say no. If your invited out, say yes, even if it’s not usually your thing or if you haven’t tried it. Eat new food, try new things, listen to people, talk to people you’d never think of talking to at home. Ask about different cultures, food, religion, learn a few lines of your new friends language, kiss lots of people, dance until the sun comes up and get a job in a random small town and stay a while. Try new sports! I hated sport and exercise all my life and went kayaking and I fucking love it! I’d never have done it before then. Sky dive, bungee jump, go white water rafting, couch surf, don’t be afraid to be yourself, go wandering, walk everywhere – cities really aren’t as big as people say they are. Grab it by both hands and stay as long as you can.
It all sounds so cliché but for someone who went home and has fought for four years to get back out in the sun…it’s easy to look back and wish I’d done more to travel for longer while I had no responsibilities (not that it’s stopped me!). Stay as long as you possibly can & I promise you won’t regret it!
Don’t leave home without travel insurance. I know, I know…boring, but whether you are travelling alone or with friends, getting sick in another country when your miles away from home can be scary as hell. If you get sick, break a bone, need stitches, need to be in hospital, get an ear infection or UTI, or worse…an STI, you will need some form of treatment/antibiotics from a Doctor. This costs a LOT of money if you don’t have travel insurance. For example I got an ear infection working in the Outback and it cost me $80 to see the doctor for him to tell me what I already knew and $60 for the spray. That was $140 I claimed back on my insurance!
If you head to Australia and your from a country with a reciprocal agreement (like the UK) then sign up for Medicare to access their medical treatments cheaper. Get it for the whole of your trip and include contents insurance if you can. If that camera, laptop or iPad go missing – you can claim for these too.
And, not to scare you…but if anything bad happened to you and you needed to be sent home, travel insurance would also cover this if you choose the right one. I chose the STA 12 month Backpacker Travel Insurance and it covered me for all sorts of adventure activities and working abroad too. I used it 2-3 times while I was travelling and it paid for itself in the end.
Passport & Documents
Always make sure you have at least 6 months left on your passport from the date you expect to RETURN home otherwise you may have issues getting in and out of countries.
Make a back up of all of your documents – passport drivers license, travel insurance, medical cards… leave a copy at home or with a friend and keep a digital copy with you. If you lose any of these, it’s much easier to sort out if you know your information.
Most hostels require a copy of your passport (they will photocopy this for you) or drivers license and some will even ask to keep them until you check out. I always try leave a drivers license rather than a passport as it’s the safer option. Never leave your passport somewhere or with someone you don’t trust.
and that’s it… hopefully this will help with your prep for travel, if there’s anything I’ve missed please let me know and I will add more to this list! Goodluck and good travels!
Disclaimer: These are all my thoughts only, please always check what you need to travel with and take what’s best for you. If you are travelling alone remember to keep your wits about you and stay safe.
*This post contains affiliate links, don’t fear – they come at no extra cost to you (in fact, you get discounts!) & they help me to travel a little longer!