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10488281_10152577516412617_3157113265465079401_nWhen packing for an extended trip, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the serious lack of space in your rucksack. Whether you’re someone who wants to squeeze in their entire wardrobe, or someone who just can’t stand to leave behind those chunky books, it’s never easy to decide what makes the final cut. I remember when I was first packing to come away and had no idea what to bring – luckily I ended up vetoing a lot of things because when I reached Asia I started to wish I had left it all behind and bought it cheap out there! I have met so many people on the road who have told me all their travelling secrets for packing light and keeping things simple – so many of these pieces of wisdom have had a huge impact on my journey. From rolling your clothes and stuffing your socks in your shoes, to finding multi-purpose gadgets that will cut back on the weight of your bag – there’s so many ways to slim-line your life when cutting it down to a 65l bag. Trust me, any shortcuts you find at the beginning will change your life further down the road.

Gadgets are a great way to make your life easier when on the road and a whole range of fantastic products are now available from travel and outdoor shops. I’ve tried out a few since travelling and felt conflicted over others, but I can’t deny that some of them have been a godsend when it comes to last minute packing, overnight bus journeys and any little crisis along the way. Here are some of my favourites, and a few that I’ll be investing in next time I’m on the move:

International Adapter

The most valuable item you will ever pack – not only will it work in every country so you won’t have to pack several different plugs, but they are usually very streamlined to fit neatly in your bag. It’s a good idea to get one that offers surge protection as quite often the power is unreliable or can overpower items plugged in, this will stop any of your electrical from being damaged if there is a storm or surge. Check out this one from Gap Year Travel Store for just $5.99.

Travel Towel

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I bought a travel towel when I first left home and absolutely loved it – it was lightweight, dried me twice as quickly as a regular towel and never felt damp. It made it all the way round Asia with me and was a fantastic space saver in my bag, friends who were carrying bath towels always felt a bit foolish when comparing the size of it to mine. They always come in cute colours – my first one was purple and I’m loving this new pink Solotrekk Microfibre Travel Towel that was sent to me by The Gap Year Travel Store. It’s going to make a huge difference to my packing when I get rid of the beach towel I’ve been using since Sydney, despite it being the same size, and I love that it comes in this neat little travel pouch. At just $8.99 it’s one of the cheapest and best additions to your travelling gadget collection.

Weighing Scales

I’ve never owned a set of these but have luckily always run into someone who did when I needed them most. It’s the sort of item that only one person has but the whole hostel borrows when they leave for the airport. Particularly in Australia, I’ve found certain airlines are a bit tight when it comes to hand luggage allowance and stick to the 7kg rule, even weighing to check. I’ve had o move a few things into my big bag before – and we all know how embarrassing it is to dig through your bag in the airport queue. The good thing about these is it’s just a hook so it can pack away nice and tiny when you’re ready to move on. Here are scales for just $6.99.

Waterproof Camera

My waterproof camera has been one of my favourite and most treasured possessions since coming travelling. From snorkelling and swimming with sea turtles, to splashing around in waterfalls and tubing down rivers, it has been everywhere with me capturing every moment. On so many occasions I have been the only one with a waterproof camera and afterwards all of my friends have been over the moon to see photos of all our hilarious and beautiful memories. My particular camera is a Nikon Coolpix which I would really recommend if you don’t fancy a GoPro. I actually had a GoPro as well and sold it because I found this camera a lot more quick and effective to use, plus I much preferred the picture quality.

Kindle

I’ve been conflicted over Kindles ever since they came out, I’ve been an iPad girl for quite a while so that I didn’t have to take a laptop while travelling. But I’ve always hated reading off a screen, I’m more of a traditional girl who likes the feel of a book in her hand. I’ve spent much of my time in Asia relying on book swaps, but I have to admit the books I like to read are often pretty chunk and weigh a lot. Even my Australia travel guide is huge, it would be great to cut back on the weight and space by having a Kindle to read on.

It’s amazing how such small items that seem so insignificant at home can have such a huge impact on your travelling life, but going prepared with items such as these can really help you from the second you step off the place. There’s nothing more annoying than trying to buy a cheap adapter in Bangkok as your phone battery is dying then getting one back to the hostel to find it doesn’t even work! Gadgets are one time when it is good to go prepared or make sure you buy them from a reputable company – leaving them to the markets in Asia can often mean the quality is less. Packing just a couple of these items could save you a lot of backpack space, plus a lot of time and stress later on, and who doesn’t want that? Looking for something that could make your backpacking life run more smoothly – look no further than Gap Year Travel Store for all the essentials.

What gadgets have helped you on your travels? Which items would you suggest leaving at home, and which ones should you definitely not forget?

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*This post was a collaboration with The Gap Year Travel Store, but all views remain my own.

imagePacking is one of the hardest parts of preparing to go travelling. In your mind you dream of gallivanting on a beach with your slender, tanned frame draped in gorgeous, floaty fabrics looking like something out of an advert for Free People. The reality is, there’s just not much space for outfits like that in a 65 litre backpack! Suddenly your dreams are shattered when you realise how little space you have to pack up your whole life and carry it around with you for the next year. There’s a reason I never wrote a packing list until now, and it’s because I really do think it is difficult to provide a general one for all as each person values different items at different amounts, plus if you’re travelling to different places it makes it difficult to pack for all weathers. I had an easy job at first because I was packing for South East Asia where I knew I would be needing just very light clothing, swimwear and sandals. I packed extremely lightly and decided to buy stuff along the way if I needed more clothing, and most of the items I took with me were ones I already had instead of buying new when I knew it would be cheaper in Asia. But when it came to arriving in Australia I was totally unprepared – I had no clothes for city life just hippy tie-dye dresses and flip-flips. I had to buy jumpers and even a coat just so that I could stay warm in the Sydney winter. But I didn’t mind this too much because it just meant that I hadn’t needed to carry the items around Asia for five months with me.

I’ve definitely noticed over time that there are some items that I packed way back when I first set out in January that have stayed with me ever since and remain as useful as ever, while a lot of other things I brought with me have since found their way to the bin or charity shop. These are the things I want to talk about because some of these things are the ones you might not think of when packing your bag, but they might turn out to be the things you need most. Check out my list below:

  1. One pair of leggings, jeans and tights. These have been a saviour and are still used all the time – the jeans were my saviour when I arrived in Sydney and it was freezing, while the leggings are the comfiest thing ever to travel in on long bus rides or flights when the air con gets a bit much. Tights are just great – they can go under any dress, playsuit or shorts and help to make them look a bit smarter or just keep you warm but take up no room at all in your bag.
  2. Sportswear and a good pair of trainers. You might not be the sportiest person in the world, but when you’re walking everywhere, you’re trekking through jungles or up mountains, or you’re walking on uneven ground, trainers are a godsend. They do take up a big of space in your bag, but if you get super cute and comfy ones you’ll end up wearing them most of the time when you’re travelling, or just tie them on to the bag. Sports shorts, yoga pants and sports bras are great because they not only look really good, they’re comfy for travelling in and for doing all kinds of activities. (M and M Direct)
  3. A scarf or pashmina. Pick up one in Bangkok’s markets, they’re gorgeous. This is such a fantastic item to have in your hand luggage or handbag at all times – throughout Asia I never left the hostel without it. It’s so good to have one on a flight or bus when the air con gets too cold, or just to have it to sling around your shoulders as a mark of respect if you stumble across a temple or shrine you just have to explore. With so many religious sites in Asia, it’s always good to be prepared.
  4. Padlocks. I say plural because it’s always a good idea to have one larger one and a few smaller ones – it was so important to have a larger one to lock up your valuables in Asia because there were thieves around and your money/passport/iPad is worth a lot more there. But it’s also good to have some smaller padlocks for your bag when travelling on buses or trains. It gives you peace of mind more than anything.
  5. Memory cards. Always pack a few of different sizes just in case one is unreliable or decides to let you down when you’re in the middle of nowhere and see something incredible. You don’t want to be stuck without enough storage when you’re travelling – there’s just too much to capture.
  6. If you’re travelling in Asia, you might not arrive with it but you should definitely pick up some coconut oil. It’s amazing stuff and I swear by it – you can use it for anything, your skin, face, hair, nails, lips… And it all comes in one bottle. Trust me, when backpacking the less bottles you have weighing you down the better, plus it’s cheap over there.
  7. More than one adapter – luckily I packed three because when I arrived in Asia, I found that one of them would only work in certain plug sockets while the other would work in all of them, and my other one was specifically for Australia. Now remember you can buy them along the way so don’t carry them unnecessarily, but it’s always good to have a spare.
  8. When I first went travelling I packed make-up remover wipes, now I swear by baby wipes. They’re cheaper, come in bigger packs, better for your skin and you can use them for anything. They’re so great for when you’re travelling long-haul on a flight, bus or train and just want to feel clean again.
  9. Tiger balm or bite cream – just accept it, when you go travelling everything will be trying to eat you alive. Mosquitoes, midges, sandflies, bed bugs and all the rest – you’ll get to a point where you’ve been bitten so much your legs are a mess and you wonder what it was like to not feel itchy. It’s unpredictable and annoying but always best to be prepared – depending on where you are, you will use different products but carrying them with you is a must.
  10. Medical kit – now I’m not talking swabs and gauze, but plasters, Imodium, painkillers and antiseptic wipes can be such a saviour if you fall off a motorbike or are in a car accident and have to clean yourself up, if you become ill or get food poisoning. Just having basic supplies with you can mean the difference between infections and smaller scars, it can mean avoiding an uncomfortable night spent squatting over a train toilet.

When it comes down to it, these are definitely the items that have been used the most out of my backpack and interestingly only two of these items are actually clothes – the most practical. Bear that in mind if you’re packing for a long trip, I know it feels like the most important thing is to look the part but you can buy clothes all over the world and not many people actually care what you look like when you’re travelling – they’re more interested in the smile on your face and the stories you have to tell. I know girls who rocked up to Australia with their hairdryer, straighteners, curlers, a shedload of makeup and a whole wardrobe of going out outfits – I’ll be honest and say you don’t need it. It’s nice to have some of that stuff so you can actually make an effort sometimes, but you don’t need a suitcase full of the stuff, why not save the space and make your bag lighter for travelling further? Plus when you’re moving between places so often, nobody ever realises you’ve been wearing the same outfit on the last 10 nights out. When you’re camping in the outback and haven’t showered for a week, it really doesn’t matter what label you’re wearing. Get back to basics and enjoy it. My best advice, if you plan to travel to Asia, just pack as light as possible and buy everything there – you’ll save a fortune and you’ll only end up buying all the clothes anyway!

What are your most useful items? What do you wish you had packed on your last trip? What do you never leave home without? 

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festDeciding to go backpacking is one of the most exciting decisions you will make in your life. You’re giving up everything you know to venture across the world and live a life of freedom and exploration for months on end. All those daydreams are finally becoming a reality. For me, finally booking my flights and quitting my job after months of saving and waiting was pretty special. It meant it really was finally happening – that it wasn’t just a pipe dream or something I talked about with my friends. I walked around for a week or two with a real rosy glow, and nothing could touch my good mood. And then reality hit. I couldn’t go travelling and spend my days visiting temples and lounging by the pool unless I first organised a huge list of REALLY BORING stuff. Dammit. So close. Nobody tells you when you daydream about a gap yah quite how complex it all is to organise, especially if you’re doing it alone!

Doing it all by myself has been hugely exciting so far and I’m really glad that I am because it means I have to take responsibility for everything. But that doesn’t make it any less complicated and long-winded. Thankfully doing a lot of reading of books, blogs and travel websites, and talking to some experts has really helped me to make sure I do all the boring things I just wouldn’t have thought of on my own. There are so many things you don’t even realise you have to do until you start researching, and it is easy to not even realise how much work, effort and time goes into planning your trip. Of course it all pays off in the end, but it can be a lot of work in the meantime, and it all stands between your and the trip of a lifetime. So what exactly do you need to remember? Well I’ve created the boring backpacker to-do list – no bikinis and fancy flip-flops here – just the things you are might forget in your excitement:

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 RESEARCH

I can’t stress this enough. The more you read and speak to backpackers or travel specialists – the more you will be prepared. They will be able to tell you where to find the best deals, give you recommendations etc. Preparation is key and will make your life a lot easier and a LOT more relaxing on your trip.


 VISAS 

If you book your flights through a company like Trailfinders (like I did) you will find they have a visa department. Speak to them and find out all you need to know about the different types of visas available – in case you want to work or stay for an extended period – when you need to apply for them and what you need in order to apply for them. All information is available online if not – get these sorted early.


 BANK ACCOUNTS

Make sure you have a card you can use abroad that won’t charge you the earth to use. Also, set up a back-up account with another card and make sure you split your funds between them in case your card ends up being nicked or frozen. Make sure the bank are aware you are leaving the country for some time and that they have a log, so your card will not be frozen. Get a credit card, if you can be trusted, and use it for emergencies.


 INSURANCE

This is a biggie. Your life will be on your back and I’m sure you’ll be carrying some precious cargo in things like cameras, phones, laptops/iPads – so it is important to make sure they are all covered in any situation. You never know when you’re going to be pick-pocketed and it’s always best to be prepared. Also make sure you are covered health-wise, especially if you are planning on any extreme or winter sports which are often separate.


 BACK-UP

Make sure all those photos, documents, blog posts and books are all backed up online. It is so easy these day to back then up not only online but between devices as well just to be safe. For example, I have two cameras, an iPad and my phone – all are connected through WiFi and will automatically copy across everything without me needing to worry. That will save me from any terrible losses.


 HEALTH 

Make sure you contact your doctors surgery as soon as possible to speak to the travel or vaccinations nurse – they will be able to make an appointment and plan what jabs you need according to your travel plans. The earlier you do this the better as for some jabs you have to have a course of injections – like I did for rabies and hepatitis. They will also be able to advise on and prescribe malaria pills – very important if travelling to parts of Asia.


SECURITY

When packing, make sure you take basic security items – a doorstop under the inside of the door can help you feel safe while you sleep, as can padlocks on your locker and bag. Give family your intended route, keep them updated of changes as you travel, and set up contact (Skype or Facetime, or even email). & a rough schedule – say you’ll check in once a week unless otherwise stated – that will put their minds at rest and keep you safe if anything happens.


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So now I’ve thought of all the boring bits for you, you’re free to plan in those jungle treks, yoga retreats, elephant rides and all the rest of the exciting fun stuff you really want to be thinking about…

Can you think of anything I’ve forgotten? Why not comment below and add to the to-do list?

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 PS. I’d love if you would vote for me in the UK Blog Awards by clicking here and here.

togaI’ve read a lot of panicked Facebook and Twitter posts in the last week – fears about starting university in the coming weeks, not knowing what to expect as a Fresher, and the biggest worry of all seems to be what to pack and take with you. As someone who has graduated, but who still remembers her first day at university as clear as a whistle, I figured it was only right to give a little extra help to the graduates of tomorrow, by helping them work out what they need to take with them. Here’s my must-haves list:

bunniesMost of all just remember to have fun, enjoy it, throw yourself into every moment, experience and night out – even if you don’t drink, it is a great way to meet people in those first few weeks when everyone will be out every night. Treat every person you meet like your new best friend – but you may well have a completely different group of friends by second year so don’t worry if you don’t really connect with some people.

What are your biggest fears about university? Has this list helped with your packing?

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