Backpackers have to consider many things when planning a trip. In addition to the usual list for any traveller or tourist (the weight of the suitcase, flights, accommodation, activities, etc..), they also have to consider trying to make the trip last as long as the budget, be prepared to change transport several times, and adapt to always being on the move.
Here are some of the best travel tips for preparing a successful backpacking adventure. Going to travel around Europe or hiking in the Amazon, these tips will help you make the experience unforgettable.
Although much of the experience of going backpacking should be the spontaneity and freedom of movement, this does not mean that you should stop researching your destination or destinations. Taking a look at travel guides will help you get inspired to structure your trip and at the same time, it will make you even more eager to embark on the adventure.
2. Use your head when packing
A good backpacker (like everyone else) has to abide by the restrictions of airline luggage, and also has to pack thinking that he/she will have to carry the backpack more than a common tourist. So, use your head when packing. Do you really need 40 pairs of socks? 10 books? 9 tubes of moisturiser cream? Remember that even if you’re abroad you can still use laundry and buy cleaning products or cosmetics, so save room for the things that really matter. And although you might have a tight budget, things like a digital book reader or tablet will save much space. Likewise, the way you pack your bag, can save you time. Store the essentials (the things you use the most) on top, so you can access them without having to undo the whole backpack.
3. Advance booking or not, that is the question
Here the question of spontaneity and improvisation returns. Will you plan the trip and accommodation in advance or figure it out on the go? The answer comes down to time. Are you going to take a trip of three weeks in France or a six months one in South-East Asia? Maybe if you go backpacking for a short time (two months or less), having something like an itinerary will help you make the most of your time. However, if you have months and months of travelling ahead, it is difficult to make detailed plans. A good idea might be to reserve the first two or three destinations in advance and then be inspired by the spirit of adventure.
As you travel..
4. Save money on attractions
Once you’re travelling you will realise that money flies much earlier than you thought. Do not worry, you are not being robbed (at least we hope). What happens is that you’re spending like you’re on a normal holiday, and not as a backpacker. Let’s not panic! There are many ways to save money without sacrificing the main sights you’ve always dreamed of visiting. If you have a student card remember that you can always show it, like a VIP pass, because it could be the way to go to get free or discounted entrances. Many museums have days (or hours) in which they are free too.
5. How to eat
You’ll be visiting many places and it is normal that you want to taste new things. How can you fit the budget with all that delicious food tempting you? It would be great to always eat at good restaurants but also very expensive. Treat yourself and eat in some cool place from time to time, but we suggest that most of the time you try street food (in South-east Asia and Latin America it is delicious) or buy in the supermarket and cook at the hostel where you are staying at. This last one actually, is one of the best ways to start a conversation with other travellers.
6. Do not waste long journeys
It may be easy to disconnect during long trips but it is usually a fabulous opportunity to enjoy the experience. If the person sitting next to you seems interesting, you can try to talk to him/her. Whether they are local or traveller too, they can give you some good advice. If they do not look very open, take advantage of those long journeys to write a travel journal with your impressions about the trip, to consult a travel guide, and to make up your mind on what you want to see in your next destination.
7. Talk to people
Backpackers can be described in different ways. While some relate only to their countrymen, there are also those who solely want to talk to the local people. Both have positives and negatives. Ideally combine the two attitudes and enjoy the ride. While travellers may give you advice on what they have seen, interacting with the locals can be incredibly useful.. as well as enriching.
8. Make the most of each destination
You will spend a lot of time on trains and buses passing scenery and watching films. When you finally reach your destination try to make the most of it by having no one telling you what to do except yourself. Avoid public transportation and walk as much as possible. You will discover things you would not know any other way, such as urban art, lovely shops and good cafes. Or perhaps rent a bike and take a tour of the place. Try to absorb each location as much as you can before going back to your backpack and leaving again.
9. Do not bore people
Yes, you have done the ride of your life and have many stories to tell about romances on the road, adventures, great times… but for those who have stayed at home maybe your Facebook status and photos of sunsets on Instagram are more than enough. When people ask you about your trip, try to be brief. If they want to know more they will ask. After all, you are not travelling to brag about it, right?
10. Immortalise your memories
You’ve collected hundreds of notes, pictures, tickets to places and memories of all kinds during the trip. Instead of leaving them lying at the bottom of your backpack, why not take advantage of them and create an album? Or if your memories are digital, maybe you could make a video with pictures and videos in addition to that song that you have not stopped listening to throughout the adventure. And always take home with you some physical memory such as a Japanese kimono or a fridge magnet. It’s actually a good way to start a conversation with someone… if you want to tell them more about your big trip. 😉