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39 Tips Every Backpacker Should Know

The world is big, but your suitcase doesn't have to be.

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1. Research the environment in advance.

Flickr: pfly / Creative Commons

Research your destination and environment before you leave! Know the local wild life, and focus in on dangers! What local snakes are poisonous, what spiders are poisonous, and are there any predators you should be aware of!

Submitted by Sarah Kate, Facebook

3. Don't be afraid to travel alone.

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There are SO MANY solo travelers out there that are totally cool with hanging out with a buddy, even for just a few days, even if you'll never see each other again. Hostels almost always have pub crawls or barbecues or bars or something and you'll meet people.

Submitted by Melissa Schmidt, Facebook

4. Be careful not to overstuff your itinerary.

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If you're traveling for 10 days, don't plan 10 things to see. You'll burn out by the end of the first week. Make some plans, but be spontaneous the rest of the time. Being a part of the culture and meeting other travellers or locals will be far more memorable than seeing another church, mosque, museum, etc and you won't feel constrained by time or feel that sense of "go go go" all the time.

Submitted by Jeremy Thompson, Facebook

5. Budget for an emergency fund.

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Always have an emergency fund, whether you keep it in your make-up bag or at home with someone who can readily transfer it to you if need be. Things can and will go wrong, and although you can't prevent it, you can prepare for it.

Submitted by Alex Hay, Facebook

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6. Make sure your phone is travel-ready.

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Talk to your network provider before you go out travelling, unlock your phone's International Access barriers and consider buying a temporary or top-up SIM card for your chosen country's best phone coverage and signal.

Submitted by issief

7. Look into all your transport options.

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If you're backpacking Europe look into Eurolines vs taking the train from country to country. A $300 bus ticket will get you to all the western countries for a month. No hidden fees – just check in 24 hours before your departure to the next country.

Submitted by hannahw4fda86f1b

8. And make sure a cheap plane ticket is actually the best option for your budget.

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When travelling from one city to another, check the rates of the transportation to get from the station/airport you are arriving at to your hostel area. Sometimes what seems like a cheap flight ends up taking you to a suburb airport and you might spend a lot more than you expected to get to your final destination.

Choose your accommodation based mostly on location. Don't save and stay at some far-away hostel to save $5 a night – you will end up spending them on transportation.

Submitted by Tomas De Simone, Facebook

9. Stick with a carry-on-sized bag.

BBC

Your backpack should be small enough to carry on flights. if you're going to europe and planning on using the budget airlines (Ryanair, EasyJet) then you'll save a fortune on baggage fees! Plus you really don't need a huge backpack weighing you down!

Submitted by Alex Hay, Facebook

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10. And make the most of it.

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Take a backpack that zips all the way open, not a top-loading one. Roll your clothes instead of folding, use maps from tourist information instead of lugging around a Lonely Planet guide, and take some decent earplugs.

Submitted by louisah4f8128b7e

11. Factor in comfort when buying your bag.

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Shoulder pads can be a lifesaver – even having padded straps on your rucksack will not be sufficient. After several hours the straps will begin to bite.


Submitted by kirstinpeter82

12. Get some handy organisation tools.

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Stuff sacks or packing cubes. You can organsze your clothing, toiletries etc. into different stuff sacks. If you colour-code them you will always know where to find things! I always do one for socks/underwear, tops, bottoms, and so on.

Submitted by Lauren Attorp, Facebook

13. Avoid overpacking.

Don't pack for every eventuality, otherwise you'll be carrying around 60 pounds worth of gear for a month. Take comfortable clothes (forget fashion) and your basic everyday items. If you decide to go on a hike but it's not until day 30, you don't want to be lugging around hiking boots for 30 days before the hike.

Submitted by Jeremy Thompson, Facebook

14. In fact, just cut your packing list in half.

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Lay out all the clothes that you'll think you'll need...then only take half. Less IS more when you're overseas, and you don't want to have a bulky sweater become a pain in your back.

Submitted by Alex Hay, Facebook

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15. Stock up on napkins and wet wipes.

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I always carry dry and wet napkins in my handbag. Toilet paper can be a luxury – sometimes it just doesn't exist, it costs money, or they'll give you one square. With wet napkins I can clean off on long flights, wipe off public toilet seats, or clean my hands if there's no running water near by.

Submitted by namik2

16. Duct tape is essential.

quickmemes.com

I bring a roll of duct tape on every trip. I have mended suitcases with it, hemmed up pants, and fixed my hair iron after it broke in two during transit.

Submitted by lisaabrahamd

Duct tape is strong enough to tape string to walls that you can hang up some light clothing on to dry indoors.

Submitted by salsasandwich

17. And fishing line is super helpful, too.

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Fishing line is more compact and incredibly strong & can be used for a drying line as well, and also repairs to your pack/bag if you bring a large sewing needle.

Submitted by saraha68

18. Pack a few plastic bags.

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Ziploc bags can be a lifesaver. They waterproof your things if you get stuck in a downpour. They're useful in a toiletry bag to prevent leaks and you can use them to store small things like hairbands. And of course they're great for storing food, and making a packed lunch for a day out is a great way to save money!

Submitted by Béatrice Bernard-Poulin, Facebook

19. Bring a pair of extra shoelaces.

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They can get gross pretty quickly and if they break it can be a real bummer.

Submitted by annav48e068f16

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20. Carry a sturdy water bottle.

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ALWAYS bring a refillable water bottle. If the tap water is drinkable (which it is in a surprising number of places), it saves so much money. If it isn't drinkable, there's a chance your hostel might have a water-cooler or something and you can refill it.

Submitted by Melissa Schmidt, Facebook

21. Pack a couple of shower curtain liners.

stanfords.co.uk

Buy a few shower curtain liners at the dollar store. They are the size of a deck of cards but can be used as an impromptu picnic blankets and more. Poke a hole and make a poncho, or even wrap a hostel mattress that isn't the cleanest. I still keep one in my purse and car. Swear by them.

Submitted by klrnole

22. Invest in a sarong.

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Take a sarong as it's light but has many uses: towel (thin and dries fast), picnic mat, beachwear over wet bathing suits, blanket on a cold bus/train or a dodgy looking hostel bed. You can also hang one over your hostel bed as a curtain if you're in the bottom bunk.

Submitted by Kathryn Davies, Facebook

23. Ditch your make-up.

Bravo

Be willing to sacrifice what you look like. My first backpacking trip, my make-up and my non-backpacking clothes got thrown out two hours after we started. I wasn't used to anyone seeing me without at least some make-up on, but I didn't wear it for two months and I never cared once.

Submitted by Jerika Coleman, Facebook

24. And your hair care.

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If you can, go no shampoo. I did and saved so much space, weight, money, and time.

Submitted by mirandau2

25. Or collect small sample-sized cosmetics.

Birchbox

Sample products, like the kind you get in magazines, are amazing: shampoos, conditioners, facewash, hand cream. It's all so much cheaper and tidier than taking spillable, bulky bottles and tubs, plus you can get often get multipacks from 99p shops!

Submitted by BeckyStothert

26. Invest in a menstrual cup.

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Saves a ton of money and space by not needing to pack anything other feminine hygiene products. Helped out a ton when I was working odd jobs with odd hours with no guaranteed bathroom break or while doing multiple-day hikes!

Submitted by Cynthia Ibarra, Facebook

27. If you're hostelling, swap a sleeping bag for a thin and light duvet cover.

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I took a single duvet cover and pillow case with me when hostelling in Australia. I just didn't trust how clean the linen was. I slept inside the duvet cover like a sleeping bag and always knew I had my face against something clean.

Submitted by Karen Wilson, Facebook

28. Take an inflatable pillow.

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A good, small, preferably rollable/inflatable pillow can make all the difference in the way you sleep while backpacking. When you sleep better, you also tend to be less miserable and irritated by small setbacks/annoyances.

Submitted by nabilakhouri

30. Be a minimalist.

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Don't take anything you won't feel comfortable throwing away.

Submitted by Nataliya Bondavera, Facebook

31. Be as organised as possible while travelling.

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Keep scans of your important documents easily available online (passport, flight ticket, itinerary, maps etc). Know the nearest embassy in every city you are travelling to. Update your family of your current and next destination.

Submitted by Moniker Pang, Facebook

32. Take care of your feet.

Kapulya / Getty Images

Break in your hiking boots before your trip. You want to make sure that the footwear you bring along is going to be as trouble-free as possible! If your feet are wrecked with blisters and sores your trip is going to come to a screeching halt.

Take care of any hot spots that could become blisters before they get bad, with moleskin, waterproof first-aid tape, or duct tape.

Submitted by Sarah Anderson, Facebook

33. Opt for minimalist souvenirs.

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Forget about buying a bunch of tacky souvenirs and try to get something small if you don't want to add tons of weight to your stuff. I started doing it with pins for my small day-to-day/carry-on backpack, though I've seen some people do patches for their big backs as well. It's also a really interesting conversation starter; I can't count the number of friends I've made in hostels that's basically started out as, "What, are those the places you've been? Can I see?!"

Submitted by Melissa Schmidt, Facebook

34. Line your pack with bin bags when it rains.

Disney

Instead of putting a plastic rain cover over your bag (which can leak around where it doesn't fully cover straps etc), line your pack with a big plastic garbage bag and put your stuff into that. Your pack will get damp but your clothes will be dry!

Submitted by ursaminor

35. Be flexible.

Flickr: satbir / Creative Commons

Be willing to adapt. If things do not go exactly as planned (be it a delayed flight, lost at the train station, booking a hostel last-minute), try to just take a minute to collect yourself and realise that you will survive with the situation even though you may not have anticipated it.

When travelling, things will not always go exactly as planned. Rather than panic, take the time to think a little bit. You might just impress yourself and learn something new.

Submitted by Bailey Spears, Facebook

36. Make use of free tours.

Universal

Many hostels have a free walking tour that comes through every morning. Do that on your first day! Not only will you get a quick overview of the whole city and find out which places you would like to spend more time at, you'll also make new friends. And don't forget to tip your guide!

Submitted by kobem

37. Step out of your comfort zone.

gifnation.net

If you don't ask, you don't get. Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and be the first to introduce yourself (ask to sit next to someone!) or ask for directions, lifts, or places to stay, or barter for goods.

Submitted by Devon Aylward, Facebook

38. Cut yourself some slack.

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You don't have enjoy every single second. There's this pressure because it's a unique and life-changing experience to make sure you have an amazing time. But sometimes you will be tired/grumpy/homesick, and that's OK, it's normal. Take a day off from sight-seeing to recharge, get a hotel room instead of hostel dorm to make sure you have a good night's sleep, eat at a restaurant that sells Western food. Doing this once in a while will make sure that you enjoy the rest of the trip.

Submitted by np638

39. And follow your heart.

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One of the best tips I ever got when I was travelling was to cherish the places I loved and take my time there. I was travelling around Asia and wanted to see EVERYTHING, but I fell in love with Bali so much I stayed there for five weeks instead of two. Because even if you go a thousand places just to go there, you really don't see them. So if you fall in love, don't stress, just take time and enjoy the moment.

Submitted by namik2

These submissions have been edited for length and clarity.

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