How to Prepare for a Backpacking Trip?
Preparing for a backpacking trip may seem overwhelming at first. There are so many things to consider, like where are you going? What kind of budget should you have? What do you need to bring? Well first things first, take a breath. The planning process of a trip is the first step in your adventure. It’s the part where your backpacking dreams start to become a reality.
We’re going to outline some of the best tips on preparing for a trip to help make your planning process as stress-free as possible.
1. Create an itinerary where you can easily access it even if you don’t have an internet connection. We have found Google Documents and Google Drive to be the most efficient while traveling, as you can easily access your documents from your smartphone or computer.
Google Documents is a useful tool when creating your basic itinerary. Make sure to list your location, accommodation name and address, useful transportation information, and sights you want to see while there. Google Documents can be updated from any device and shared with whomever you please, so we suggest giving a family member access to your itinerary just in case of an emergency.
Google Drive is another great app to have while traveling. You can upload all of your files straight to the Drive, so you can easily access these files wherever you are in the world. The most important things to have saved on your Drive are:
Flight and transportation confirmations
Accommodation booking confirmations
Map with directions to your accommodation
Travel insurance documents
A copy of your passport and driver’s license
It’s always useful to have a physical copy of your bookings just in case something were to happen to your phone or computer, but having an electronic version of your itinerary saves a huge amount of time rather than searching through your backpack for all your papers.
2. Determine what kind of budget you have. Most backpackers will try to travel as inexpensively as possible, which means having a tight budget. Budgeting is an important part of the pre-travel planning process. If you go over budget you might find yourself in trouble financially, and nobody wants to beg their parents to send them money!
The first step to budgeting is researching the cost of living in the countries you’re traveling to. For example, the average cost of a hostel in Thailand is $4 per night, while in Italy, you may find yourself paying $30 per night. Determine how many days, weeks, or months you’re planning on traveling for, and then you can figure out your accommodation budget. For a trip to Southeast Asia, a typical budget for a solo backpacker would be around $800-$1,000 per month. For most European countries, however, expect to have a higher budget of around $2,000 per month.
Food is another expense that you will have to take into consideration while creating your budget. Food costs vary depending on what country you’re traveling to, so you’ll have to do some research to find out the average cost of a meal in your country. The most useful website we’ve come across is www.Numbeo.com. This website is a phenomenal tool for backpackers, as you can simply type in your destination and it will list the average cost for meals, transportation, accommodation, alcohol, and other general shopping items.
Another important part of budgeting for a trip is to decide on transportation. Are you hiring a car? Renting a scooter? Taking taxi’s? Using public transportation? You’ll likely end up using a combination of many different modes of transportation, so it’s important to make yourself a transportation budget so you’ll have a rough idea on how much you are able to spend.
Two other important things to budget for are sightseeing costs and emergencies. If you’re planning on doing sightseeing with a tour company, then you’ll have to have a higher budget than if you were to sightsee on your own. Also take into account the cost of entry for various experiences such as museums, temples, art galleries, and beaches. These costs can vary, but you will have to set aside a budget for these expenses. You may think you can get by without an emergency budget, but from our experiences, it’s one of the most important things to have extra money for. Emergencies can happen on any trip, whether it’s an unexpected injury, missed flight, car or scooter accident, or sickness. Hopefully you won’t need to use the emergency budget, but it’s better safe than sorry.
3. Get your travel vaccinations. Finding out what vaccinations you need for traveling and where to get them should be on the top of your to-do list. Getting sick while traveling can ruin a trip, so you want to make sure you’re prepared in case you come into contact with a disease. Diseases can be spread quickly among travelers and are most commonly spread through mosquitos, contact with animals, food, and water. For the majority of vaccinations, it’s a one-time visit to the doctor, but for certain types of shots you will need a course of them over several weeks.
Most health insurance plans will cover the costs of travel vaccinations, so call up your provider and see if it’s something that will be covered. They should also be able to give you the name of the closest clinic for your vaccinations. For detailed information on what diseases are common in the country you’re visiting, check out the CDC website, wwwnc.cdc.gov for health and safety tips.
4. Research your accommodation options. For budget backpackers, hostels are one of the best options for an inexpensive trip. However, if you’re looking for a little more privacy, Airbnb can offer accommodation that can be almost as cheap as hostels and nowhere near as expensive as hotels or villas. Airbnb has become growingly popular over the past few years, and now it’s possible to find an Airbnb almost anywhere in the world. With Airbnb, you can search for single rooms in a house, a shared room, or even a full house or apartment. It’s a good option if you’re staying in a place for over a week, because you could have a full kitchen, your own bathroom, and a peaceful night’s sleep.
There are many pros to staying in hostels over hotels or Airbnb’s. Hostels offer so much more than an inexpensive place to sleep. They are full of young backpackers, so it’s a great place to make friends and even find travel companions. Hostels typically offer deals on organized tours if you are staying with them, and the tours have a more social vibe since you’re with fellow backpackers.
5. Don’t book everything in advance. Certain things like flights and high-season accommodation are important to book in advance in case they get sold out, but many things you can hold off on booking. Booking things like ferries, bus trips, and tours can all be done with a local company or travel agent. Often times, making online reservations will have a much higher price than if you were to visit a travel agent in person. You can also try to bargain with the local agents to negotiate a lower price for your bookings.
6. Research the culture and traditions of the countries you’re visiting. This is an important step while planning, because you want to make sure you are respectful of the culture you’re entering into. For most temples and mosques, it’s customary to wear a headscarf, long pants or a long skirt, and shirts with sleeves. There are so many different cultures around the world, so it’s very important to be educated on how to behave and dress in these new countries so you don’t offend the locals while traveling in their country.
7. Purchase travel insurance. You may think you can get by without it, but it’s one of those things that is an absolute necessity when traveling. Many people think travel insurance only covers medical situations. Although it’s true that it covers you in case of sickness or injury, it also protects you from so much more.
A good travel insurance policy will cover you in events such as:
Trip interruption (For example, if you have to go home early due to sickness, injury, death in the family, inclement weather, natural disaster, etc.)
Loss or theft of baggage and personal items
A typical policy for a six-month trip would cost on average $330, which works out to be less than $2 per day. That’s a small price to pay for the peace of mind you get knowing you’re protected in case something goes wrong. We highly recommend purchasing travel insurance through World Nomads (www.worldnomads.com). This company has a stellar reputation when it comes to coverage abroad and has an emergency team to provide 24-hour assistance.
8. Determine whether you need a visa. Visas are a stamp you get upon entry into another country. For many countries, citizens of the United States can have free entry for up to 30 days. Each country has different requirements however, so it’s important to educate yourself on what type of visa you will need, and if it’s something you need to apply for prior to your trip. It would be a huge disappointment to arrive at the airport prepared for your trip, only to find out you don’t have the right visa to get in. A little research goes a long way while travel planning!
9. Create a packing list. It’s overwhelming to think about fitting your life for the next few months into a backpack. To minimize the stress that comes with the thought of packing, create a list at least a month prior to your departure. That way you will have more than enough time to purchase the packing essentials.
Organize your list into sections. For example, a packing list for several months may look like this:
Clothing: 4 shirts, 2 shorts, 1 dress, 1 long skirt, 1 jacket, 1 rain jacket, underwear
Shoes: 1 pair of sneakers, 1 pair of flip flops, 1 pair of nice sandals
Electronics: GoPro + charger, Macbook Air + charger, battery pack, iPhone + charger, external hard drive
Toiletries: Travel-sized shampoo, deodorant, soap, fast-drying towel, toothpaste, toothbrush, medications, first aid kit
Travel Supplies: Laundry detergent, ear plugs, combination lock, converter, adapter, backpack cover
Travel Essentials: Passport, driver’s license, credit cards, booking confirmations, proof of vaccinations
It’s important to think about the essentials while making your list. You will want to travel as light as possible, so you’ll have to make some decisions on what to bring and what not to bring. Will you really wear all ten shirts you want to take? Will you ever wear those heels? Do you really need all of those purses? Probably not. Narrow your clothing list down to those items you will wear and use most often. Bringing a small amount of clothes you can mix-and-match is always a good idea so you aren’t re-wearing the same outfit day after day. It also means you won’t be carrying around an extra heavy backpack full of items you regret bringing.
By creating a packing list, you will feel more at ease knowing everything you need to purchase prior to your trip. While packing, you can simply cross the items off the list that you’ve already packed, so you won’t have to double check your bag at the last minute. It makes life much easier having a written list to go through rather than packing based on memory.
10. Read travel blogs. This is one of our favorite things in the planning process. There are endless blogs online these days written by backpackers who have done a similar trip to yours. They often have great insight on the most worthwhile places to visit, best restaurants, cheapest way to get around, and more. It will get you more and more excited reading about their experiences and knowing you will see the same amazing places.
The pre-travel planning process should be a fun experience for you. By following these ten guidelines, it will make your planning go a lot smoother and you’ll feel more comfortable knowing you have the essentials covered. So good luck, have fun, and start planning!