Sometimes I get “Travelers Block” while planning an EPIC backpacking tour. It’s a lot like “writers block,” but it happens when I get overwhelmed with how many places I want to go to and can’t decide where to start and where to end. To plan or not to plan? That is the question! My most epic backpacking trips have always relied on spur-of-the-moment decisions, but I won’t deny that there’s a certain amount of planning that needs to happen before I take off to make sure I’m not sleep outside… unless that’s the point. So here’s cheat sheet for all of your backpacking needs! Plan loosely and enjoy the process.
1. Pick A Continent
The cheapest way to travel for long periods of time is to stay on one continent and move around by ground transportation. I LOVE buses because I can turn off my brain for long periods of time.
2. Find A Place To Sleep
Everyone has his or her own style. I prefer hostels so I can make new friends, but I know a few of my friends have had issues with people…er… getting too friendly in the dorms. I’ve always had a GREAT experience with hostels except for that one time this older guy was snoring like a beast for hours. It wasn’t ideal.
I’ve never tried Couch Surfing before but I’m pretty skittish after a potentially life-threatening situation in India (but that was in a cab) so I try to hop around areas where I know I have contacts on the ground OR companies to sponsor my trip. AirBnb is also pretty awesome because it allows you to have home-like accommodation for cheaper than hotels. Click here for a FREE $25 USD voucher to use on AirBnb. A few other good bets include: Hostel World, Hostel Bookers, or Trip Advisor.
If you’re looking to live “the luxury blogger life,” you can check out luxury (but still discounted!) accommodation on jetsetter.com.
3. Determine Your Budget
Everyone runs out of money. After Southeast Asia, I came home with $50 USD in my account. No lie. After factoring transportation and accommodation, figure-out what you can spend on a daily basis and guesstimate when you’ll have to head home. If you have a credit card with no debt, you can afford to be a bit more risky with your money and bet high. With all of my transportation and accommodation already paid for, I knew that if I got into any trouble I would have a safety net.
4. Figure Out How To Get From Point A to Point Z
There’ is a fantastic website called Rome2Rio which allows you to guesstimate different ways to get to one location! I normally use this for international travel, but it gets difficult when you hit rural areas and “take a donkey” isn’t an option that’s listed. If you’re traveling through the United States, I would recommend Wanderu, which helps you buy bus tickets cheaply and easily.
You won’t always have wifi while traveling. *GASP* I know. So it’s important to have resources that you can wield when you’re off-line. Lonely Planet has some of the best books BAR-NONE that I’ve used through southeast Asia after stealing them from friends or acquaintances. The Lonely Planet series is basically “The Perfect Travel Blog” because there is a ton of detailed information, in one place and organized by location, AND they’re constantly being updated for the most accurate information possible. You’ll have access to maps, key phrases in the local language, and options for food, shelter, and fun.
An easy to upgrade your backpacking trip from “cool” to EPIC is to find a local to show you around. They know all the hotspots and you’re sure to leave with a new friend and buddy. Try posting on your social media outlets an announcement of where you’re going to be when. Hopefully someone has a connection some where! You could also try to meet locals, new friends, and dates on Tinder… hear me out. I’ve written a helpful guide for women on Tinder, but in all seriousness, it’s an easy way to meet people you actually want to spend time with.
And potentially make out with.
6. Travelers Insurance
I’ve been taking a world-wide tour of international hospitals and clinics since I started traveling… maybe not by choice, but it’s been an experience none-the-less. I would 100% recommend getting travelers insurance because you never know what could happen. From monsoons to muggings, I was unfortunate enough to travel without travelers insurance a few times and learned the HARD WAY that health insurance isn’t the only type of insurance you should have. At all times, I’m traveling with $2-3,000 USD worth of equipment and if any of it is stolen, it would be a double financial hit for me because 1) I wouldn’t be able to create quality content for Wander Onwards and my brand would suffer & 2) I’d have to shell out upwards of $1k USD for new equipment! I can recommend Allianz Travel Insurance for Americans and Benefits Alliance for my UK citizens.
If you’re not from the US or the UK, I recommend doing some research about the program that’s right for you.
7. Travel Gear
“Maybe I’ll need…” is a traveler’s worst enemy. You can only travel with as much as you can carry without hiring help. Pack light and remember that you can buy anything you need along the way! A great central location for nearly EVERYTHING you could “need” on a trip is The Backpack Travel Store. Backpacks, quick-dry clothing, awesome space-saving gadgets; this place has everything!
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About Vanessa Elizabeth
Vanessa Elizabeth is a cultural chameleon currently based in London. She enjoys sports (such as CrossFit and dating), cooking, and demolishing her savings account. When she's not busy blogging about her feelings, she works full-time and practices Chinese with her English/German friends.
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