I’m definitely not claiming to be an expert when it comes to planning for travel. I’m not an organised person, and I tend to go with the flow more than thinking and planning ahead. But after nearly 2 years backpacking and returning home on a couple of occasions, before heading off again. I’ve had the chance to learn from experience and do things differently the next time around.
For my first backpacking trip understandably I was super excited. So I read loads of blogs on what to pack. Come across loads of travel hacks. And ended up going way over the top. I went out and bought all the things I thought I would need. And as it turned out quite a bit of it was shoved in a pocket of my backpack the whole time and barely even used.
I had also changed my mind on a 24 hour stopover in Mumbai, and so purchased another flight out sooner than the second flight I had initially booked. Only to be told at the airport that I wouldn’t be able to take my checked luggage from the plane in Mumbai. So I found myself on the floor at the Airport before I’d even left, sorting through my backpack and throwing away half the toiletries I’d just been out and bought, so I could take it on as hand luggage.
It’s safe to say I learnt pretty quickly, and by the time I was packing to leave the second time. Lots of unneeded stuff had been removed from the packing list. Take a look at my streamlined packing list
So here’s a few packing tips & tricks I’ve learnt along the way. The essentials you shouldn’t forget and things that you can probably leave behind.
What not to take
Shower gel – Use bar soap instead. It lasts longer and so saves you money. Plus you won’t have to throw it away when travelling with only hand luggage. And of course your doing your bit for the planet.
Dry shampoo – Your always going to be able to wash your hair when you want anyway. Unless your on very long hiking trips – even then your likely to find a natural water source to wash your hair.
Too many shoes – They take up too much room. I’ve got a pair of adidas trail running shoes that are great for hikes & treks and look nice enough to wear as casual trainers when hanging out in cities and towns at day or night. Nearly 2 years wearing them most days and still going strong. Only shoes I have to fit in my backpack are a cheap pair of flip flops.
Plug adaptor – Unless you have any electronics with a fixed plug from back home. Nearly every plug is usb these days. Get a 2 prong plug which will be good for most places – and if you need a different one at some point it will be cheap and easy to find where ever you are.
Camera – Unless it’s a really good quality DSLR. I bought a fairly cheap camera but ended up just using my Iphone anyway as the quality is just as good.
Sun cream – It’s expensive in most countries and in a lot of South East Asian countries it has added whitening.
Notepad & pen – Phone battery can die on long bus journey’s – writing down the address of your hostel on paper can be useful.
Day Pack – To keep valuables with you on bus journeys when your main backpack is stored underneath.
Photocopy of passport – I know I wouldn’t trust myself carrying my passport around all the time. But there is a chance in some countries your going to get asked to show it to police. A photocopy will usually satisfy.
Jeans – (Especially if your in Asia) Bit of a personal choice but I live and die in them back home. After a big debate with myself I decided to leave them behind the first time – when I got to North Vietnam in winter I regretted the decision. And even as a size 8 UK at the time, when I finally managed to find some that fit me they were the biggest size in the shop.
Leggings – Even in hot countries if your on a bus with air con chances are you might get a bit chilly – and they are way more comfy for long journeys.
Passport photos – For visa on arrival. So you don’t have to wait to get photos taken and pay for it.
US Dollars – A lot of countries with visa on arrival have to be payed in US Dollars. It’s worth having some with you so you don’t have to worry about converting money, before flying between countries.
Personally in most cases I don’t think you need anything bigger than a 40l backpack. It fits as carry on and as far as I’m concerned is plenty of room for what you need. However long you are travelling for you need the same amount as you just do laundry. Under 10kg is standard hand luggage limit for most flights.
I think the only reason to take more than a 40l is if you need to take specialist equipment for long hiking trips or sports. Or if you are going to be camping.
I have a Kelty redwing 40l and I love it. I love the amount of pockets and compartments I have in it (I’m not naturally an organised person so this helps). Plus it’s turquoise blue and always stands out if I do happen to check it on a flight.
I use packing cubes and roll clothes rather than folding – (tip: unpack and repack a few times before you leave and see what works best – where the weight is in your backpack does make a difference.
Once you’ve worked out the best way stick to it – it makes packing easier and you know where things are if you arrive at night when people are sleeping and need to try to find things in the dark.