Alright – so you’ve decided to turn those travel dreams into reality and seek out new adventures and memories overseas.
Whether you’re a first-time adventurer or a travel aficionado, there is a lot to think about and plan. Luckily, with just a little bit of preparation, you can make sure you have the ultimate backpacking adventure. Here’s how.
For this article, we’re going to assume you already have experience backpacking domestically. If you need to brush up on your backpacking skills, you may like these articles:
- What to Consider When Buying a Backpacking Pack
- What to Buy FIRST for Your First Backpacking Trip.
- Getting into Shape Before a Backpacking Trip
- Guide to Buying a Backpacking Tent
- The Ten Essential Systems for Outdoor Travel
The Fine Print
Sure, it’s not as fun to think about as what kind of gorgeous views you’ll take in while you’re adventuring, but it’s very important to think about the legal requirements for travel.
The first thing you’re going to need when traveling overseas is a passport. Keep in mind these can take a couple of weeks to obtain. So, if you don’t have a passport, put getting one to the top of your to-do list.
If you do have a passport, check that it has a minimum of six months’ validity, even if your planned trip is not that long. If it doesn’t meet either of that requirement, it’s best to cancel it and get a brand new one.
The second thing to think about is what visas or other requirements there are to gain entry to your destination(s). Nothing will bring your adventure to a swifter end than being turned around at the border!
So, give yourself plenty of time to research visa requirements – noting again that while many countries have ‘visa free’ policies, worst case scenario you may be required to send your passport away to get processed. Therefore, again, do this as early in your planning as possible.
The old adage is ‘if you can’t afford insurance, you can’t afford to travel’. We have to agree, especially if you are planning on participating in any cool activities like hiking or rock climbing.
Even if you don’t use it, travel insurance gives you some peace of mind to know you’ll be okay if something gets stolen, your bags get delayed or you get injured or sick. Plus, if something actually does happen, it can save you – or your family – from financial ruin, making it a definite ‘must’!
Depending on your travel style, you might like to have everything ready and organized when you land at your destination, or you might prefer to wing it. Either way, there’s going to be at least a few things you’ll need to book before you get your feet on foreign soil.
For most destinations, you’re going to need flights. Luckily, the age of the internet has made finding great deals on flights way easier than ever before. Don’t be surprised if one website carries an identical flight at a much, much cheaper price than another.
Just be aware that not all flights were created equal. Sometimes those super cheap flights are cheap for a reason – such as they have a l-o-o-o-n-g layover in a pretty boring airport. It’s about weighing up whether the time (and comfort) you lose is worth it for the dollars you save.
You’ll also want to think about extra hidden costs for things like bringing bags (definitely not free on budget airlines) or changing your flight (if there’s any chance your plans might change, it may be in your interests to go for a more expensive flexible ticket).
Where Do You Want to Go?
Think about whether you want to pre-book your accommodation or figure it out from the ground. Both options have their pros and cons – pre-booking gives you more peace of mind, but booking on the ground might mean more options and better deals.
If you do book ahead online, make sure to check a few different websites to get the best possible price. You can also read through the reviews online, although it is best to look for patterns and trends and treat individual reviews (especially if they are excellent or terrible) with a pinch of salt. Not all reviews are created equal, either!
If booking on the ground, we still recommend making a bit of a short list before you go so that if you get stuck, you have a few options.
Once the time has come to start loading up your trusty backpack, expect the excitement of your impending adventure to really hit you!
Every airline ticket entitles you to some carry-on luggage – usually a small bag about 7kg in weight, although you should check with the airline directly.
You might want to include a few items to keep you amused on the plane (especially if it is a long flight). A pen for filling in hardcopy immigration forms is also a must!
You should also bring hard-copies of important documents, including your flight itinerary as many international airports will ask to see proof that you do plan on returning from your adventure!
There are a few things to leave behind, though. Liquids above 100ml are prohibited for international flights, so leave them at home or keep them in your checked baggage. Similarly, ditch any sharp items or you’ll be asked to throw them away at security.
This is where the bulk of your gear is going to be, so it requires the most attention. Wherever possible, traveling light is recommended, however, you also need to make sure that you have everything you need.
This is especially true in more remote locations where shopping is likely to be limited. In these places, you’ll want to make sure you bring supplies such as camera batteries, thermal clothing, sleeping bags and insect repellent – all things that might not be easily obtained on your adventure. If in doubt, browse online forums or travel blogs to see what other travelers’ experiences have been like.
There are some items that you may have to buy once you’re on the ground. For example, if you’re planning on camping and using butane gas, that is not going to be allowed on the plane – even in your checked-in baggage. You might want to research some places to buy it ahead of time or come up with a Plan B.
Once you’ve had a good think about what you need to bring and what can be left behind, it’s time to start filling up your backpack.
Many travelers have their own preferred methods for packing – whether it’s the neatly folded or tightly wound up strategy for clothing. Whichever you choose, the main thing is just to be organized so that you spend less time fumbling around for what you need, and more time soaking in the amazing adventure!