Get ready to say goodbye to packing stress, and say hello to a featherweight backpack, full of stuff you actually need.
We asked our Facebook community to tell us which items they absolutely couldn’t live without when traveling. And along with some tips of our own, voilà! we give you — in no particular order — our top packing list essentials.
Don’t be that person who returns to the dorm room late at night and switches the main lights on; use a headlamp to make… your… way… quietly. As well as being helpful when crossing Dormland, it’s also good for hiking and exploring any caves.
2. Wet Wipes
They may seem a bit “middle-aged woman with a handbag”, but trust me — when you’re traveling, wet wipes are a gift from the travel Gods. Use them to clean up scrapes and scratches, mop dust off your flip flops, wipe the sweat off your face (nice), freshen-up if you can’t have a shower (double nice)… the list goes on! As Facebooker Ellie says, they are “the duct tape of toiletries”. Speaking of duct tape…
3. Duct Tape
Use it to patch up any rips in your backpack! Secure your mosquito net with it! Tape that annoying person in your dorm room’s mouth shut with it! OK, don’t do the last one, but the point I’m trying to make is: duct tape is really very useful. Take some with you. Thank you.
Not only will your memories be preserved forever, you know you’re just dying to be that person on Facebook who makes everyone jealous with their travel pics. Why not go one step further and make strangers jealous by sharing your photos on Instagram and tagging them #StartTheAdventure.
Unfortunately, you can’t go traveling without having a bit of money. Instead of carrying around a stack of cash, we recommend getting a card with no foreign exchange fees. When using it abroad make sure you pay with local currency to avoid stores/ restaurants dictating what the exchange fee is.
6. Driving License
While public transport will save you some dollars, sometimes to access that jaw-dropping scenery you’ve been dreaming about it’s going to require renting a car or moped which, surprise surprise, you’ll need your license for.
You won’t get very far without your passport, but before you pack it, remember to check that it isn’t about to expire! Lots of countries — including backpacker havens Australia, Thailand and Malaysia — won’t let you in if your passport expires within 6 months of your arrival date. It’s also worth packing a photocopy of your passport, and other important docs. Or if you’re feeling a bit 21st century, take Facebooker Meagan’s advice and “Email a copy of these to yourself so you always have them”. Great idea, Meagan! Remember to check whether you need a visa to get into the country you’re traveling to – our Travel Experts can help you out with one if you do need one.
8. Discount Cards
Are you either a student, under 26 or a teacher? Lucky you! You’re eligible for a discount card that you can use all around the world on up to 40,000 discounts; including things like eating out, guidebooks, and getting around.
No, not those kind of drugs – I’m talking about the medicinal kind! First up, we have the essential medicinal trifecta: Tums, Ibuprofen, and Tylenol. It’s worth taking a stash with you, since your usual brand will not always be available abroad. Secondly, we have Tiger Balm. If you haven’t discovered this versatile ointment yet, now’s the time. As our Facebook fan Lauren says, it’s “amazing for headaches and insect bites”, and you can also slap some (gently) on your aching muscles. It’s widely available in Asia, so you can pick it up on your travels. Thirdly, pack some diarrhoea medication. It’s likely that you will eat something… that, err… gotta go!
10. Sleeping bag liner
If you’re traveling on a budget, a sleeping bag liner is a must. It’s essentially a cozy thin sleeping bag, and it’ll protect you from any bed bugs that might be lurking in the slightly more questionable places you stay. Pop one in your backpack, and get a good night’s sleep instead of worrying about the state of the sheets. Pick up a nice silk one, and feel 5-star wherever you bed down.
11. Hand Sanitizer
This stuff is gold! After your first traumatic squat loo in the jungle experience you’ll be pretty thankful you brought this stuff to freshen up with. Plus, you’ll be everyone’s best friend on the bus when you mention the phrase “does anyone need hand sanitizer?”
12. Ear plugs
Whoever invented ear plugs has definitely spent their fair share of time sleeping in dorm rooms. These nuggets of genius are pretty much essential if you want a good night’s sleep in a hostel. They’re also handy for sleeper trains and buses.
13. Mosquito repellent and mosquito net
No one likes to itch, and no one likes to be covered in bright red splotches. Even if you’re one of those really annoying people who never seems to get bitten (I hate you), it’s worth spraying on some mozzy repellent and investing in a net, particularly in Malaria zones.
14. Mapsme App
This app is an absolute life saver when you’re whizzing off in a tuk tuk without really knowing what direction you’re meant to be going in. Mapsme allows you to download maps of the whole country that are then available offline – you can even save spots (eg. you’re hostel or that must-try restaurant you’re desperate to go to) and work out how to get there from you’re current location.
15. Notebook and pens
I guarantee that despite your good intentions to start a blog, by the time you get round to typing it up, you’ll have forgotten loads. Nothing beats lying on an isolated beach with a notebook in your hand, writing about your latest travel adventures and capturing how you’re feeling. As our Facebook fan Lisa says, “It would be a shame if all those amazing things will be forgotten… and you can’t capture every experience in pictures or remember every detail forever. so I write them down!”. Thanks Lisa!
16. Travel insurance
OK it’s boring, and yes, I sound like your mom, but it’s so, so important — not least because you can’t get it once you’ve left! Don’t let getting your iPod stolen or having to fork out for medical treatment ruin your trip. You can buy insurance from only $25 – especially designed with the young and adventurous traveler in mind. Get covered for over 100 adventure sports and adrenaline activities free of charge — just don’t tell your mum!
Or a similar smartphone with music-listening capabilities. Traveling without music on long bus journeys is no fun; plus, the songs you listen to will forever remind you of your travels – *wistful sigh*. Plus, you can use your smartphone to access wifi (technology these days, eh?) Take our Facebooker Amy’s advice: “Google maps was invaluable whilst I was away. Before moving to a new town I would load the map area so when I arrived I could never get too lost! Especially useful when arriving somewhere late at night.” Just remember to turn data roaming off, or risk being landed with a massive phone bill.
Take a couple of padlocks. They’ll keep your backpack secure, and you can also use them on lockers in some hostels.
19. Toilet roll
Stick some tee-pee in your bag, particularly if you’re traveling around Latin America or Asia, where the public toilets may be notably void of hallowed roll. On a toilet-related note; start practising your crouching skills, as the public bathrooms will probably be lacking in seats – squat toilets, anyone? You’ll soon get used to them.
No, not the woolly winter kind; I’m talking about a nice big lightweight scarf – we ladies call them pashminas. Gents, why not try a keffiyeh, or a less-politically-controversial-but-still-manly equivalent. Not only will a scarf keep you warm if the evenings get chilly, it can also double up as a beach blanket, and protect you against subzero air conditioning on a bus or train journey.
Make sure you’ve got your visas fixed up, or you’ll be waiting a long, long, long time at the border. If you have fewer than five days to go, no drama, that’s just about time to visit your local store and submit a fast-track visa service, for any entrance visas!
22. Shoulder bag
While backpacks are the bomb for hiking and outdoor adventures, a small shoulder bag or fanny pack is a must-bring for when you’re exploring bustling markets and busy cities – that way you can keep an eye on it and pickpockets wandering hands.