Traveling with a notebook and something to write with is very handy indeed. If you’re like me, you may find you get a lot of ideas on the road and having a way to record your thoughts is invaluable. Journaling is a great practice to have whilst traveling as well. A single journal entry can transport you back in time to that very moment when read several years later. Your memory is never as good as your same-day notes are. I follow a bullet-journal system. I find myself constantly writing down bits of information (not just because I’m a writer). Plus, if you always have paper, you never have an excuse not to write a letter to someone.
All destinations around the world have awesome free things to do. You don’t need to spend any money on activities to have a good day. Here’s a wholde damn list of things you can do for free:
Portable water filters like a Grayl Geopress are extremely useful at times when clean water is scarce. They take up virtually no space within your backpack. Also, using a water filter is a great way to avoid buying single-use plastic containers. Whether you are hiking or in a city, water filters save you money, keep you healthy, and help the environment. Think of it this way, for the price of buying a months worth of plastic water bottles, you can own a water filter that you’ll use again and again. Check out our roundup of the best filtered water bottles or just skip the fuss and buy the best – a Grayl Geopress!
If you can manage it, traveling by yourself can be an extremely rewarding experience. You’ll have the freedom to go where you want, when you want, and how you want. You’ll experience local cultures without any filters that may be created by compatriots. Best of all, you’ll really get to know yourself. But traveling alone can be difficult because it can be:
Part of a well-stocked first aid kit should include some basic antibiotics. On a recent trip to Pakistan, I needed antibiotics within a few days of arriving into the country. Instead of having to go to the hospital with a horrible illness, I was able to mitigate the situation by taking antibiotics as soon as I broke out in a fever. In big cities of developing countries, antibiotics are cheap and readily available. If you did not have time to pick up antibiotics before leaving your home country, absolutely pick some up in the city where you arrive. That way you don’t find yourself out in some far-flung corner of the country—sick as a dog—without any proper medication. I tend to carry amoxicillin.
Having a well-stocked first aid kit is always a good idea. Inevitably you or a fellow backpacker will slip with the knife whilst chopping onions, burn a hand on a hot stove, have itchy bug bites, get a scrape from a hiking fall, or twist an ankle after a drunken mishap on the stairs. Shit happens. With a first-aid kit handy, you’ll have everything you need to manage minor incidents as they happen without having to rely on other people (or an unnecessary trip to the local hospital).
A nightmare scenario for backpackers involves losing a passport. Nobody wants that. That said, it does happen and having copies of your passport and other important documents will really help you get by until you have a replacement passport. Furthermore, in certain countries like Pakistan, you need to have copies of your passport on hand to give to police at checkpoints. An expert traveler has this mentality: hope for the best, prepare for the worst. It’s a very important piece of advice for backpacking. Even if you don’t end up needing copies of your passport during the course of a trip, it is always a good habit to have them around anyway.
In addition to your other camping necessities, buying a headlamp is very important when traveling in areas prone to power cuts or if you plan on camping. There are countless practical uses for a headtorch. From cooking in the dark whilst camping to finding your way to the hostel bathroom in the middle of the night, you will find yourself using your headtorch for one thing or another every single day. This is a number one backpacking tip: do not skip the headlamp. I cannot stress there imprtance enough.
One of the truest and most tested international travel tips out there is that you should take advantage of off-season prices. Seriously, some of the most famous cities in the world can look completely different in low season. Museums will be deserted, streets will be inhabited by locals – not tourists – and prices will be much more reasonable. If you plan your backpacking trip very acutely, you can even have your cake and eat it too. Shoulder seasons – the period between high and low – are great times to travel because you’ll benefit from thinner crowds AND comfortable weather. This is my preferred time to travel.
Typically, the best time to book airplane tickets is 1.5 – 3 months in advance. Booking plane tickets one year in advance is not a good idea in terms of price or flexibility. Of course, waiting until the last second won’t get you the best price either. Finding that sweet spot is a challenge. Airline fares are constantly changing and there is no set formula regarding how to get the guaranteed best price. I recommend checking out price comparison websites like Skyscanner.com. You can easily check prices by the whole month, which can help you decide which day of any given month has the cheapest flights. For how to find great deals on flights, check out this article on secret flying.