Monday, 23 May 2011

Tips on organizing a backpacking trip

This is a long winded post about my passion for backpacking and some tips and tricks on how to organize one! ♥ If you love to travel and would like to know more about backpacking then read on ^^ I've added a couple pictures of my latest backpacking trip to Guatemala, El Salvador, Bélize, Nicaragua and Honduras for entertainment purposes because no one wants to read a big wall of text with no pictures to look at =p

The great thing about backpacking is the small amount of planning involved. Basically, backapacking is all about spontaneity, you never know where you will be heading next, what activities you will do and where you will sleep. That's what keeps things exciting in my opinion.

The beach in Caye Caulker Bélize ♥

Of course, it's a good idea to gather information about the area you will be traveling to in order to have a good idea of things/cities you do not want to miss to have a rough idea where you will be going. The greatest difference between backpacking and other types of traveling is that there are no boundaries, no fixed dates or destinations. You travel in function of how you feel, what you want to do. There is no itinary needed and that makes planning a whole lot easier.

Our little hut in Semuc Champey Guatemala

Normally, I proceed by choosing my destination first and finding a good deal on plane tickets. Once the destination is chosen, I start researching the area for must-sees on Internet and in guide books (I purchased a Central America on a ShoeString Lonely Planet guide book for my last trip and I will be using it again!). Once I know roughly what I want to do, I'm pretty much ready to go in terms of planning the trip itself.

Lago de Atitlan in Guatemala

Next, you need to make sure that your passport is up to date and will be valid for the period of time that is required for entry in each country you will be visiting for your nationality. For instance, Costa Rica requires Canadian travelers that enter their country to have a valid passport for 30 days after their entry. These admission guidelines vary greatly from country to country. Some countries ask for your passport to be valid for up to 6 months after your departure.

Purchasing a travel insurance is also crucial. If you get seriously hurt in another country it will allow you to receive medical care which will be reimbursed by the insurance. If you need medical treatment of any kind during your travel you will be glad you got insurance. I had to get rabies shots and receive treatment for a foot infection during my backpacking trips. Every time the medical fees were reimbursed by my insurance! It's a definite must have while backpacking.

If you plan on doing independent travel, you might want to purchase a guidebook for the area you are visiting. Guidebooks contains tons of invaluable information about restaurants, accommodation, transport, activities and maps. I use the Lonely planet while traveling but many also like the Rough Guides and other guidebooks. It's a matter of personal preference but either way a guide book is a life saver since you won't constantly have access to the internet for information.

The next step will be to make sure that all of your vaccines are up to date and to get vaccinated for any specific ailment that is present in the area you are visiting. In general you will need vaccination against Hepatitis A and B and typhoid fever, but in certain countries other vaccines such as against the yellow fever might be necessary. If you are traveling to a country that has recorded cases of malaria, you will also need to take anti malarial medication as well as make sure to protect yourself from insect bites particularly at nighttime since the mosquitoes that carry the malaria virus generally come out at night. Using a good insect repellent with a DEET content of about 30 is ideal. I prefer to purchase this while I'm at home because it tends to be pricey on the road.

It is also important to make photocopies of your important travel papers such as insurance papers, plane tickets (and other travel tickets if you need to travel to reach the airport), passport and ID card. Keep a copy in your backpack and leave a copy at home with someone you trust in case you lose anything.

Before you leave make sure to bring all of these, but also your vaccination report as well as any other important identification. For me, this includes my diving log as well as diver card. If you want to rent a car or other motorized vehicle during your trip, your driving licence will be necessary, but it might be a good idea to look into getting an international driving licence.

Finally, for the fun part, purchase everything you need for your trip and pack! I suggest making a list of everything you need and to keep a copy in your pack to check that you have everything before you leave and along the road. I have developed a very exhaustive list of items to bring backpacking over the years and I will share it with you soon!

View from the Pacaya Volcano in Guatemala

One of my favorite parts of traveling is packing! Especially for backpacking since you have to be careful not to overpack since you have limited space and will be carrying everything on your back. It really pushes you to truly consider what you can and can't live without. Since I'm into beauty, I bring a couple essentials with me to make sure I look my best on the road. Since space is an issue though, I have to choose carefully products that are multi purpose, portable and absolutely essential. I will probably make a post about backpacking beauty tips, would that interest you guys?

The streets of Antigua in Guatemala

I will also make a post about how I pack everything when the date of my departure is closer! Packing is one of the most important thing when backpacking, it's crucial that it is done well and should not be left to the last minute. I like to choose everything I will bring 2 to 3 weeks prior to my departure then to pack my bag at least a week before to see how everything fits and reconsider each item one last time. I often end up removing quite a bit of things before I actually leave! The bag you choose is also very important. It must not be too big or too small and must be very comfortable and fit your frame well. It's also important to consider purchasing a neutrally colored bag since anything flashy and colorful will attract the attention of thiefs. My bag is a 60L bag and is blue and grey. It suits me perfectly, carries a lot and feels comfortable on my shoulders. ^^

Anyway, I'm really excited to write more about my travel tips/organisation/packing! This will be my third backpacking trip so far and everytime I learn more about it and my trip is consequently much more comfortable!

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