The last time I travelled with a backpack (around South-East Asia) I made lots of silly first-time traveller mistakes. Next time I am going away for longer (at least 18 months) and I plan to avoid these mistakes by following these 7 simple tips.
1. Get out the things you are taking and then brutally half them!
This is a very important piece of advice and one that every travel blogger will tell you. When you are packing for a trip, RTW or a single destination, the temptation to bring everything but the kitchen sink is great. That voice inside your head will be saying “but what if…”. Don’t listen. You will not need that second pair of denim shorts or that jumper ‘in case it’s cold’. You won’t need those ghd’s or that massive bottle of body lotion.
Think about how heavy your back pack is going to be and how there is only one person carrying that weight around – you! If you need something chances are you will be able to get it on the road. This will really help make your backpacking trip stress-free, as you no doubt will also want to buy some souvenirs or keepsakes of your time on the road and this won’t be possible with a bag stuffed to the seams.
2. Photocopy all your important documents. Twice.
I learned this the hard way when all my possessions were stolen in my bag on a beach in Thailand. If I hadn’t carried several copies of my passport, drivers licence and bank cards I would have been stuck on an island with no way to board my pre-booked plane to Bangkok to get a new passport from the embassy in time for my return flight home.
3. Make a budget and stick to it.
Yes, it’s tempting to throw some money at every situation to make it easier. Flying takes less time and is more comfortable then buses and boats. Private rooms with en-suites are more luxurious than and 8 bed hostel room. But remember if you blow your budget early in your trip, the rest of your time has the potential to be miserable and boring as you struggle to make the rest of your cash last.
4. Push yourself to talk to everyone (within reason)
The first time I went away, I travelled with a friend and didn’t suffer with the necessity to make new friends. We did of course engage with other backpackers in our hotels and at parties and bars, but I never needed new friends while I was away. Because of this I did not always chat to people and share experiences. People form part of the travel lifestyle and they are important. I’m looking forward to solo backpacking this time around – I can’t wait to be out of my comfort zone and meet some amazing people.
5. Don’t stress about malaria tablets (controversial)
I persevered with malaria tablets for exactly 11 days. They made me nauseous and occasionally I would vomit if I hadn’t managed to eat with them. Every person I met on the road advised me they didn’t take them anymore and that they felt much better. Now I am not telling you to stop taking medication but I am sharing my opinion. If I were to visit anywhere in Africa I would certainly invest in the recommended medication.
6. Don’t get carried away buying things to take home
I am very guilty of this on every journey I have ever been on. A slight shopaholic, I need to be reined in when it comes to spending my money. Plus, the extra weight can be a real problem. I will never forget coming home from Florida and being told my case was so overweight at check in I would be charged hundreds of pounds to take it. I spent 20 mins throwing away my shoes and towels so I could bring back all the random stuff I had bought. How much of that stuff do I still own? None. Exactly.
7. Get really good travel insurance and check what you are covered for
Once you have lost/broken/had everything stolen you realize the value in good insurance. I am the kind of person who prefers to travel with music, which means an iPhone, and a kindle and a laptop. These things are expensive to replace and need to remembers several copies of my passport. I am also very accident prone. This adds up to big hospital bills. Still not convinced? Just tell this to my friend who got surface thrombosis in both her legs on our outgoing flight to Thailand and consequently was in a private hospital in Cambodia on day 7 of a 31-day trip. The bills were eye watering. Luckily, she claimed every penny back. Seriously. Travel with insurance.