I’ve decided where I am going next. Next week I will be chilling by the beach, do a lot of surfing and drink many fresh fruit shakes. Conni and I spontaneously booked a cheap flight to backpack in Nicaragua to launch our upcoming Blog Camp Online Course next week.
Nowadays, everything goes really fast. I pick a country, choose a cheap flight, pack a few hours before departure and off I am into a new adventure. I know what I have to do!
It wasn’t like this always. Back in the days, when I started backpacking I packed my bags weeks before. And since I didn’t want to pay for excess baggage, my mum always had a look at what I packed and convinced me to leave half of the things at home.
Backpacking for beginners is a great adventure. These are some tips I learned throughout the years that will help you if you are a backpacking newbie:
1. Which hemisphere are you traveling to?
I have to admit, that I did this mistake only a few weeks ago when I planned a flight to Argentina for June this year. What I didn’t think was, in June it’s nice and warm here in Europe and cold in Argentina. Because that’s the time when it’s winter down there.
Make sure you know when you are traveling where and what the weather will be! You don’t want to pack your summer clothes for a trip to the arctic!
2. Pick your destination
Where do you want to go and why? Are you going because of a special place or event? Maybe you want to visit this special retreat?
Nowadays, I do things very spontaneous. I’m so confident in the things I do, that even today things go wrong. As I said, I’m traveling to the pacific, the retreat I wanted to visit is fully booked for the next two months… that sucks!
Make sure you inform yourself in advance. If you want to go because of a special event, ask if there are any free tickets and then start booking the flights etc…
3. Find and book cheap flights
Finding cheap flights isn’t difficult. You just have to know where to look for!
I always check my flights at Skyscanner and also book them directly via their site. When the ticket is offered by a site that I don’t know and trust I go to the airline directly and check the prices there.
If you are flexible with your schedule you can check the flights per month and pick the cheapest flights. You can find some great bargains there.
Something that isn’t that common but will help you finding cheap flights are so called Open Jaw Flights. Fly out from one airport and return to another.
Momondo is a great platform to do this!
I recently flew Brussels – Bangkok – Dusseldorf with Etihad Airways for 420 €!
4. How to pack a backpack? By leaving half of the stuff at home!
I already mentioned this. Back in the days, when I started traveling, I packed weeks before departure and then my mum went through everything convincing me to leave at least half of the things I packed. Nowadays, I know what to pack for which destination but I had to learn it the hard way.
Here some tips that will make your travel more comfortable and easier:
Compression Packing bags – Makes it easier to categorize your belongings and faster accessible. No more unpacking every time you need something!
Tempur Sleeping Mask – Developed by NASA. This thing, keeps the light outside…
Bose QuietComfort Noise Cancelling Headphones – They are expensive but effective. Now you can sleep in the crowded and loud dorms again. You won’t notice anything with these headphones on.
Travel Towel – Lightweight and dries really fast!
Inflatable Pillow – As big as your fist but will make your sleep and travel much more comfortable.
Relax Ally – You don’t really need it, but will make your life on the road so much more comfortable. Are you also that uptight after sleeping in a plane or in a bus? This invention from Finland helps you to relax your shoulders when sleeping!
5. Best Backpack Size
The bigger, the better!
The bigger your backpack, the more you will pack!
It might be difficult but I recommend to buy a smaller backpack with only 40-50 litres instead of a 70 litres one. I promise you, that you will use all 70 litres while 50 would be enough too… You will hate it to run around so much stuff on your back!
Here is a list of best backpacks for traveling long term during your next adventure!
6. Backpacking beginner? Pick an easy country to start with!
If you haven’t backpacked before, pick an easy country to start with. Thailand is great for beginners and so is Australia. Both countries welcome thousands of backpackers every year and the infrastructure is great. Try one of them before going to India or China.
The culture shock is also not that bad like in other, more extreme countries!
Check out my Thailand posts, I have written down many tips for your first backpacking adventure!
7. Don’t plan your whole trip!
Don’t do it! Never…
Imagine following scene: You arrived somewhere and booked an accommodation for two nights but you are having such a great time that you don’t want to leave. The problem: You’ve already booked flights and accommodation for the next two weeks and would loose all the money… So you will leave this place that you like so much and leave behind the people that you just met but get along so well and keep doing the things as you planned them from home, ticking off one thing after another on your bucket list!
Allow time for spontaneity. Less if more! It is better to have a few more intensive rather than many superficial moments!
You can always come back and do the rest you’ve missed on your next trip!
I’m flying to the pacific next week. I’ve booked accommodation for the first three nights, afterwards we’ll see what I do, I might stay there because I like it or I keep moving until I find a place I love…
8. To travel with a partner or a good friend
When you decide to travel, be 100 % sure that you are also going to be a couple when you travel. If you aren’t better postpone it or do it alone. There is nothing worse than getting into fights when traveling.
Same for friends, make sure you are really good friends and that you know what the other person wants… At home, you might see each other every day for a few hours each day, when you travel you will be together 24/7. Are you sure you can handle this?
Check out this post how to pick the perfect passenger for your next road trip, it might help you for your next adventure!
9. Which travel insurance is the right one?
There are many insurances. Make sure to check what and how much they cover. Do they cover rides on a scooter? Often they don’t if you don’t have a driving license. But you will probably ride a scooter in Thailand…
What about outdoor injuries?
Don’t be cheap with a travel insurance. I have a great insurance in Germany called Signal Iduna and they saved my ass when I got hit by a car in Australia a few years ago!
In Germany there is also a good one called Hanse Merkur!
Make sure you find a good one in your home country!
10. Best Bank for Traveling
Do you also pay expensive fees every time you withdraw money from an ATM abroad? I used to pay 10 € withdrawal fee for a very long time. Nowadays, I don’t do this anymore!
With the DKB Credit Card I don’t pay any banking fees and I pay 0 € for withdrawal with my credit card!
The signup process is very easy and within a few days I had my credit card with all information in my mailbox!
11. Jetlag – Why am I so tired?
Sometimes I’m still shocked about Jetlag myself when I’m tired for days and don’t feel like doing anything except crawling back into bed… Get ready for this, and know that it isn’t a disease and that its normal that you feel this way when you travel across a few time zones.
I know people that went to the hospital looking for treatment because they had no idea what jetlag is 🙂
12. Australia & New Zealand – Drive on the other side
Make sure you book a van with insurance. A friend of mine was too cheap and rented a car without insurance. Drove around the corner and into a different car, shortest and most expensive trip EVER!
13. Go to the right airport!
Might sound easy, but many big cities have more than one airport. Often there is an international airport and an airport for LCC’s (Low Cost Carriers).
In Bangkok for instance all AirAsia flights fly from Don Mueang and not from the main airport Suvarnabhumi.