How to Plan a Backpacking Trip

Of course there are many ways to plan a trip. Depending on the personality, there might be a better version. You might or might not know how to tackle this adventure and I hope my list will give you a jumpstart or at least provide potential cross reference. Here is the overview:

  1. Solo or a Pack
  2. Brainstorm Locations
  3. Safety
  4. Cost
  5. Visa
  6. Vaccinations
  7. Route
  8. Family/Friends/Acquaintances
  9. Equipment

Solo or a Pack
Do you want to go by yourself or have others join you on your journey? My friend and I are going globetrotting together. Initially I wasn’t in the equation, but after reading some studies, he discovered that traveling with people can embed more vivid memories because as events arise one can talk about them right away and rehash them in the future. In addition, there are money saving benefits. Deciding that he wanted a companion, he asked me if I wanted to join him because “I’m the least annoying out of his family and friends.” Yes, I got the title of “least annoying.” In general we operate in tandem, but opposite of me, he is very introverted.

How you want to travel is up to you. If you are solo riding, know that there are usually plenty of people you can talk to or join on excursions when staying at hostels. If you are traveling with other persons, seriously question your compatibility. Your bestie and you might get along well, but traveling is a whole other ballgame. The person you will be joined at the hip with can make or break your trip. Here are some questions you should ask yourself:
• Is the other person reliable?
• Will we want to do the same kind of activities?
• What’s more important for us, adventure or safety?
• How do we want to allocate or money? (spend on housing/food/transportation/activities/etc.)
• How well can we compromise?
• When shit hits the fan, will we be able to work together?
• Will you be ok with the person being in your personal bubble?


Brainstorm Locations
First we wanted to figure out which countries we wanted to explore. I love Asia and there are so many places I want to see there. My buddy is more into South America. Both had countries the other was concerned about due to rumors or distorted information. My recommendation is to not cross a location(s) off your list based on assumptions about costs or safety concerns. After doing research, we’ve found that some countries we had doubts about weren’t as unsafe as predicted or found a cheaper way to stay in the country. Of course few places you really shouldn’t go to at a particular time.


Safety
Making sure you can return home in one piece is vital. You don’t want to take the short cut here. Though the news can update you on the latest, I’ve learned that the media is often not the resource to turn to for rating safety. Most countries have their own department of safety where they upload information on their webpage about general safety concerns. If you have connections to a local of the area you are going to, they should be able to guide you the most accurately. Common sense will be your best friend.


Cost
Cost can vary greatly depending on how you decide to travel. In general staying at hotels will be much more pricy than sleeping at hostels. In some countries you can save by cooking yourself. There are bunch of webpages out there that outline the estimated cost for each country. My favorite resources for backpacking include www.eardex.com and Matt Kepnes’s book on “How to Travel the World on $50 a day.”

Knowing the rough budget for my trip, I calculated how long it would take me to save that amount. This might mean that you have to cut spending or if you are like me, do monthly bookkeeping to ensure you are staying on track. I don’t know how your money situation is, but the internet most likely will have some good tips if you want them.


Visa
Often countries will require visas. A visa is a document which will be added into your passport that will indicate if and how long you are allowed to enter, leave, and stay in a country. Researching the requirements is important since some countries will refuse entry if you don’t have everything met. Country’s Embassy webpages should provide you with the proper information, or I like to go to www.visahq.com for an easy overview. What to look out for:
• Is a visa required? (This can depend on type of travel, example: travel or business)
• How long before entry do I need to apply for the visa?
• How many passport pages do I need availably for the visa? (The most I’ve encountered is 6 pages for a country)
• How much will the visa cost?
• Will my passport be valid for required duration?


Vaccinations
A vaccination is a process used to prevent catching particular diseases. Some countries, like India, require you to get specific shots before you enter, but I would recommend to check with your doctor which vaccinations they’d suggest depending on travel destination. Not all countries require immunizations even though a specific sickness is prevalent there. My basic vaccinations were up to date, so I only needed to get yellow fever and typhoid shots and bought some malaria and traveler’s diarrhea tablets. Take care of yourself.


Route
Knowing your estimated route helps to ensure that you don’t accidentally take a detour, need to backtrack or waste money. Flexibility being important, we can’t reasonably plan every single city in advance for a whole year. When we finished settling on our destinations, we solemnly decided on the order of countries. As we travel, we will lay out the cities and method of transportation as we go. I assume we will get epic tips from other backpackers on our path and this way we can add extra places or remove them on a whim. While mapping out your next country, I would suggest to double check on safety and make sure there hasn’t been any drastic changes in safety issues.


Family/Friends/Acquaintances
Connections. They might be able to offer a place to sleep, a free area tour or provide you with insider tips and suggestions. Try to contemplate on all the people you know at your destinations and politely contact them and see if they are willing to help you out. There was a city I was slightly concerned about on safety. A friend of mine connected me with her friend who used to live there and could give me the rundown of the city and remove my worries.

Disclaimer: Please be respectful as you visit other people’s homes. They have the heart to let you in. The least thing to be done is to clean up after yourself and ask about their house rules to familiarize yourself with their etiquettes. For example, in the USA some households wear shoes inside the house, but in Japan everybody changes into slippers and the act of wearing shoes inside is considered dirty. You might not know about the norms if you don’t ask about them.


Equipment
I plan on only to carry one backpack worth of items with me. If you bring to much luggage, lugging it around can become a pain. I looked up some guides on what previous backpackers suggested to bring with and altered according to my needs. I mostly will be heading to warmer climates and stuff like thick jackets will be useless. Buying quality hiking shoes was on top of my priorities. I’ll be wearing them every day and the wrong shoes can affect my health negatively. A microfiber travel towel will safe you lots of space compared to a regular towel. After I start traveling I will post about the items I brought for your reference.


I hope my list helped you a little. Planning is an exciting aspect of the trip and I hope you don’t overwhelm yourself trying to do everything at the same time, but break down the to-do-list in smaller doable tasks. Figuring everything out with my friend was enjoyable. We would meet biweekly. First we went over the items we researched and then divide up a few new points for our next meeting. There is a lot to figure out, but If you have questions, need me to specify more or feel like I left out an important part of planning, please leave a comment below.