So you’ve finally decided where you want to go; maybe your destination was recommended by a friend or maybe you just spun that world globe and let fate decide. However you’ve made your decision you’re well on the way now!
So what’s that nagging voice in the back of your mind? What’s stopping you from entirely relaxing and looking forward to that uncomfortable, cramped, eighteen-hour flight that you’ve just booked? Could it be that you have absolutely no idea what to pack?
Everyone you talk to will suggest something different but this guide will help to separate the unnecessary rubbish from the essentials!
Hand luggage essentials…
It’s not just the things that go in your suitcase that are important!
- Again it may seem obvious but getting your currency converted before you travel will save you a lot of time and trouble. Even if it’s just enough to get you to your hotel and buy you something to eat, it’ll save you looking around for a bank in the middle of the night.
- It doesn’t matter how many times you’re asked “Have you got your passport?” by family or friends there’s still the possibility that you’ll forget!
- Thankfully e-tickets exist these days, so you may not have to remember to pack your plane ticket, but you will need your printed confirmation!
The basic suitcase essentials…
Depending on where you’re going you will need different things, but some excursions and holidays will require the same itinerary.
- If you’re going on holiday then one of the most important things you’ll bring back will be memories, and if you haven’t taken enough photographs you’ll always regret it. Bring a digital camera with as many memory cards as possible, and take pictures of everything: the lovely people you meet, the places you visit, and even the disgusting, poorly maintained £1 youth hostel you stayed in. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so don’t be stingy with the film if you’ve got a traditional camera!
- Make sure you don’t forget your toiletries because there are no guarantees that you’ll be able to get replacements where you’re going. Obviously, if you’re travelling to New York or Paris this isn’t going to be a problem but if you’re heading out to the Amazonian rainforest it could be troublesome!
- Are you booked on a long haul flight? An MP3 player and/or a book will help to keep you sane. If you’re going for the full backpacking experience, then you’ll be doing a lot of cross-country expeditions, which can be painfully lengthy. Admittedly, the scenery is often breathtaking, but it’ll look even better if you have your choice of music to accompany it.
Things that don’t go in a suitcase…
These may not exactly be things you need to pack but they are things you need to remember!
- It sounds obvious, but booking accommodation before you fly out is a definite must. It’ll save you a whole load of trouble in the long run. Trekking around desolate towns with your backpack weighing you down isn’t much fun, and doing it at midday with the Singapore sun beating down is even worse!
- Insurance is also essential and there are plenty of cheap, user-friendly websites which can give you free quotes in a matter of seconds, allowing you the freedom to shop around without leaving your home. You’ll need to bring your insurance documents with you (a couple of copies would be useful too).
- Depending on where you’re going, you may also need inoculations! If you’re travelling with i-to-i they’ll give you all the information you need, otherwise you should be able to find it on the Internet.
Things to consider…
- It doesn’t matter where you’re travelling a guide book will always come in handy. A lot of cities don’t have maps, and those found in guide books have saved many a lost tourist (including me).
- As I’ve already mentioned, memories are an essential part of travel and you might find that taking a diary and a pen will help you remember the little things.
Knowing what the weather is going to be like in your chosen country is probably one of the most important bits of information to have when packing. If you’re travelling somewhere cold you’ll need big, warm clothes that will take up a whole lot of space in your backpack, whereas if you’re going somewhere hot you can travel a lot lighter. If you’re doing a bit of both you may need to buy a bigger backpack!
Sun tan lotion, sunglasses, and a hat to cool you off are the obvious things for a hot country, but if you forget you should easily be able to pick them up from the shops. If you’re headed somewhere tropical you’ll need mosquito repellent, but this will be a lot cheaper and is usually better if bought in that specific region.
As for clothes, take the designer jeans and Converse trainers out of your backpack, you won’t need them. If you’re going somewhere for the sun then all you’ll need are a few vest and shorts, swim wear, and some flip flops. A few years ago I went to South East Asia and must have spent close to £50 sending packages back home to my parents full of clothes that I didn’t need.
Even if it rains in one of these countries, it won’t be cold, so a thin raincoat is all you really need. Save that backpack space for all the souvenirs and artefacts that you’ll be bringing home with you.
The winter woollies that you pull on each year in the UK or the USA may well not give you enough protection in some of the world’s colder climates. The trick here is to do your research and find out exactly what you need to bring and how many layers you’re going to need to wear. A good moisturiser is also essential because all that cold weather will really dry out your skin!
Take a spare pillow case! It’ll be a blessing if you end up sleeping in a bed that just doesn’t look very inviting!
Most holidays or treks are going to be different, so what you take will really depend on what you’re planning to do. All cross-cultural experiences will have similarities, but do the research well in advance if you’re opting for an adventure holiday that will require specialist equipment and extras.