5 Top Travel Tips From a Backpacking Pro

Always good to get as much help as you can when it comes to gap years 

Backpacking is one of the most exciting ways to travel; the freedom of having all your gear on your back and hopping from train to train is incomparable. It can, however, be daunting for first-timers. Here are few handy tips to help you make the most of your first trip and ensure that you get the most out of the experience!

1. Pack light

While this one might seem blindingly obvious, it's amazing how often it’s overlooked by novice backpackers. Often they use the ‘I’ll-take-it-just-in-case’ method of packing and end up carting a load of useless items around. That extra book might not seem so heavy at first, but when combined with lots of other light little items, the weight begins to add up. One tip is to take the ‘light’ versions of items; think flats instead of heels, and a kindle instead of books. When packing, ask yourself: ‘Do I really need this?’ If the answer is no, ditch it! Before you’ve even started your trip do a quick trial run to test the weight of your bag. Even better if you can jog up and down the stairs a few times – this will give you an indication of how you’ll manage if you’re running late for the train!

Loads more packing tips here. 

2. Find the balance between spontaneity and planning

One of the brilliant things about backpacking is having the freedom to be spontaneous; it’s often the last-minute decisions that can lead you to the best shops, restaurants and bars. Never be afraid to take the road less travelled by tourists, or make spur of the moment sightseeing decisions. However, while planning might seem dull and unattractive, there’s a lot to be said for being prepared when travelling - picture being stranded in the middle of the night because you forgot to check the last train. Not so fun, right? Before you go, get a rough idea of which routes you’ll take from A to B, especially if you know that you’ll be travelling late at night. If you can, book tickets in advance; not only do you have a guaranteed seat but it will save you any extra at-the-counter booking fees which some companies charge. It might mean that you’re bound to leave at a certain time, but you can relax knowing that your travel plans are in order.

3. Enjoy the bigger picture

Bull on top travel tips

Cameras are so accessible nowadays and perfect for capturing those unforgettable moments. Whether it’s a camera on your phone or a professional SLR, you mustn’t forget to take a camera - there’s nothing better than flicking through old holiday snaps and remembering the fun that you had. However, if you look at a city through your camera lens alone you risk missing out on the bigger picture. Make sure to put your camera down every so often and a take a good look around. Even better if you have time to find a window seat at a coffee shop and spend a few hours people-watching. This is a great way to get a really good insight into the habits and routines of the locals!

4. Keep a dry pair of socks close to hand

Nothing ruins a day like wet socks on wet feet. Nothing is more aggravating than realising that your dry pair is stuffed right at the bottom of your backpack. If you end up with waterlogged socks you’ll either need to waste time unpacking and repacking your backpack, or suffer with damp feet until you have time to stop. Both options are rubbish, so keep a dry pair in a pocket near the top of your bag. That way, if you do happen to walk right into that giant puddle, your solution is close to hand.

5. Stay positive

Life, as we all know, is full of variables; knock one thing out of place and a whole host of other things have to change. If this happens on your trip, don’t panic. Take a step back, breathe, and work on plan B. Rather than waste time trying to place the blame, be ready to accept the situation and move on quickly. You will have a much better trip if you keep a smile on your face and a positive attitude in your head. So what if the museum that you wanted to visit is closed for refurbishment? Rather than sulk, rejoice in the extra time you have to visit other attractions!