Preparing for a round-the-world trip requires more forethought than booking flights and flinging a few things into a rucksack. Trust me. I’ve been there, binned the excess t-shirts, and done a sterling job of busting my budget through bad planning.
I’ve compiled five things that made a real impact on my journey. No matter who you are or where you’re headed, I’m sure these top backpackers’ tips will help you to enjoy a hitch-free trip and ensure you make the most of your precious money.
No matter how stringent your travel planning, things change. You never know what’s around the corner or who you’re going to meet, and that’s what’s so amazing about a long-term overseas trip. Amazing, except when it comes to changing the dates of your flights that you were so sure were set in stone, and now you’ve got to sacrifice a chunk of your budget to do it. Make sure you book flights with a round-the-world agent such as STA who can offer you unlimited or a set number of free date changes. Travelling is all about the unexpected, so don’t let it hinder your journey.
Pick the right plastic. It makes cents.
I spent a good year scrimping and saving for my trip, and a fair proportion of it choosing which cards to take with me. Most banks and building societies will charge you each time you draw money from an ATM – sometimes as much as £3 – as well as adding a fee to overseas transactions. In many south-east Asian countries, they also slap on an extra withdrawal fee – usually around £3 – on top of your own bank’s charge. Your hard-earned savings will slowly dwindle away on, let’s face it, helping to keep those bankers’ accounts nice and flush.
Norwich & Peterborough building society offers free worldwide withdrawals and transactions with its Gold Light and Gold Classic accounts. You could also opt for a pre-paid currency card – good ones are FairFX and Caxton FX – where you top up as you go and can avoid withdrawal and transaction charges.
It’s probably not sensible to rely solely on a credit card, but it’s an extra cushion if you find yourself in a sticky situation. Halifax’s Clarity card won’t charge you for foreign transactions, nor will the Post Office’s Platinum card. Don’t forget to apply for new accounts well in advance of your leaving date – it will take most companies around three weeks to process an application and send out your card/s.
Backpack: your best friend. Or your enemy, if you fail to choose wisely.
You wouldn’t buy a house in an area you didn’t like, would you? Essentially, your rucksack is the closest thing to home during your trip – so it’s mightily important that you do your research and buy informed. Head down to your local camping shop and get a feel for the style and brand of backpack you’d like, even if you plan to buy it online. Your worldly possessions will be hauled around with you for miles – in blistering heat and over all types of terrain – so spend that little bit extra and make sure it’s sturdy, comfortable and the right size for the job. I went for a Gelert, and it’s still going strong now.
Yeah, dead simple. But you really will live and die in those trainers/sandals/flip flops/boots. I thought I’d packed the perfect selection: trainers, flip flops and a pair of Birkenstocks. When my former manager asked me if I was taking my walking shoes, I shrugged it off naively. I only discovered when I was trekking up a mountain in the jungle – and you’ll do a lot of walking if you plan to explore properly – that my meagre pair of plimsolls weren’t up to the job. And I had the blisters and bloodied feet to prove it. I eventually forked out on a pair of hiking boots, which would’ve cost a lot less back home, and my feet were as happy as I was. My wallet, not so much.
Invest in a tablet PC or iPad.
It may seem like an unnecessary outlay when you’re working hard to top up your savings, but I really couldn’t have lived without my iPad. I bought it originally to keep in touch with family and friends via social media and Skype (and make them suitably jealous) while I was gallivanting around the globe. It turned out to be invaluable in a whole host of other situations, too.
Almost everywhere – and I mean everywhere – has wifi, often free. So you’ll make good use of your device when you want to keep track of your money situation – ATMs in many countries don’t display your balance … research your next destination … book yourself a bed for the night – and one without bugs, thanks to TripAdvisor … edit and upload your snaps to the web … keep reading material in one handy place with apps like Kindle or Kobo … blog about your adventures … the list goes on …
This guest post was written by travel blogger Ross Barnard. Check out his own blog, Little Ross on a Big Adventure, to follow his journey around the world.