10 tips to remember before setting out: Backpacking 101

Everyone will likely go on a trip and everyone has their own idea as to what are the best items to take along with them. After stopping through 16 countries and half of the US later I

A stack of luggage on the bus to Ao Nang.

think I may have started to get the hang of packing for a trip. When I fly, even if it’s for a destination wedding, I carry my 56L pack as a carry-on and a personal bag that I tend to use as a day bag.

Here are a few things that I found make traveling a little easier, hopefully others will find it useful as well.

10. Put your favorite music/movies on your ipod. There’s nothing worse than sitting on the bus or at an airport with nothing to do expect stare out of a window into darkness. You may even end up at a party or meet someone that you can share the tunes that are playing on all the airwaves back home. Don’t forget your charger.

9. Contact your bank/credit card companies. Nothing could be worse than running out of funds or needing to book an emergency flight only to have your transaction declined. It may be wiser to carry a credit card rather than a bank/debit card due to the fact that all your funds will not be compromised in case you lose it while backing through India. Personally, I carry a card for emergencies only.
8. Map out an itinerary. Whether you printed out a few general maps or have taken a highlighter to your brand new guidebook you should def make note of things you must check out during your travels. It’s best to leave some leeway for changing plans in case you find some hidden treasure that you must check out.
7. Make copies of all your documentation. Make a couple copies of your license, passport, and debit/credit cards. Keep a copy tucked away in your luggage, e-mail yourself a copy, and leave a copy with a trusted friend or family member back home. If you lose your original, you can begin the process to recovering your information and protecting yourself.
6. Carry extra passport sized photos. When crossing borders and applying for visas you will likely need one or two passport sized photos. Rather than pay the a few bucks for a couple photos you can use a program like: ePassport Photos to load a photo and print at your local Walgreens or Duane Reade for less than a $1 for five photos, it’s a great bargain. I have used this service and traveled with the photos in several countries with no problem.
5. Don’t take valuables. Although you may cherish your class ring or favorite diamond studs and can’t imagine going anywhere without the items on this may be the time to rethink leaving home with them. If you lose either while swimming off the coast of Australia it will set you back a lot more financially compared to forgetting a “Go Bulls!” t-shirt in the guesthouse you were staying at.  Consider carrying a cheaper alternative in regards to jewelery and expensive clothing options in case something does go missing.
4. Tell your friends and family. Be sure to let your friends and family know that you will be away. Whether you plan on blogging your journey or occasionally calling them via Skype be sure to share the information with them. You would hate for them to ignore your call because a strange number showed up on the caller id.
3. Pack cash and traveler’s cheques. In most parts of the world, cash is king! There is no reason to rely on your cards when you face 2-10% charges each time a charge is processed. Not to mention the chance of your card

$100 worth of kyat

being duplicated or overcharged. Crisp $100 bills and a few smaller notes go far in most parts of the world. Traveler’s cheques tend to provide added security as they can be replaced withing 48 hours, as long as you have not signed both signature blocks and you can provide the cheque numbers that were lost. The $1-2 charge for cashing a traveler’s cheque is reasonable when you factor in the potential for recovering the funds quickly.

2. Pack something fun. Whether it’s a pack of cards, a rockband video game guitar, or a rubber duckie you take to the bar with you on a leash. On one of my most recent trips I took a bunch of NYC Condoms that I would give to people I met along the way. It was something that was unique to where I was from and it also promotes safety!
1. Repack your backpack. You probably only need 50% of the items that you have packed in your bag initially. Many items can be purchased while you are traveling. In most countries you can purchase travel sized toiletries

7 countries into my trip...56L with room to spare.

for a fraction of what they cost in the US and most of Europe. Sunglasses, plain t-shirts and towels can also be had for cheap in most developing nations and you may bring back some interesting items that may or may not work where you’re from but they may make for cool costume accessories. You will also have space to bring back souvenirs that you bought for friends and family along the way.
Of course, no one list works for everyone but this should provide most people with a start to what to do in addition to practical things like turning everything in your house off, auto-paying your bills, stopping mail if no one can check your mail for you, and checking out cellular options while you are away.
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One thought on “10 tips to remember before setting out: Backpacking 101

  1. Thanks for visiting my blog and for the comment! I really enjoyed reading this post – and I’ve bookmarked it for safe keeping! (It’s a safe bet that it will be quite some time before I do any travelling – I’ll need the refresher.) 😀

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