10 tips for Beginner Backpackers

If you want to travel abroad, but don’t know where to begin, don’t be ashamed. Everyone needs to start somewhere! Here are 10 tips and tricks to having the best travel experience on a budget.

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1. Secure your passport

Your number one travel tool for exploring outside of the country.

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2. Decide where you want to go

You may have a city or country that’s been on the top of your bucket list, or you may have be open to suggestions. First time travelers tend to migrate to the bigger, more popular cities (London, Paris, Rome) There is nothing wrong with that, but be sure to embrace the culture and experience how locals really live in smaller/off the beaten path cities. Keep an open mind and broaden your horizons – that is why you’re exploring a new country in the first place. To find a town or city thats right for you, research ‘day trips from (location you’re visiting)’ Rick Steves and Lonely Planet Guide Books provide great itineraries and all the information you could ever need on a foreign city (Tip: buy it on your iPad or phone so you can have it with you anywhere). From history, to best places to eat and drink, free walking tours, they have it all. My favorite inspiration websites(and Instagram) are Conde Naste Traveler and Travel and Leisure.

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3. Book your plane trip abroad

Use a flight search site to find the flight with the best deal. Read my blog, 5 best airline tips, for more specific information.

4. Set a budget

The number one reason that people make excuses to travel is money. If you cut out the things you “want” verses what you “need” in the process of planning your trip, you can save more money then you think. Skip the Starbucks and 4th meal at Taco Bell, and put that money in your traveling piggy bank. Eat more meals in and pick up extra money making opportunities where you can. Matt of Nomadic Matt published a book called “Travel the World on $50 a Day.” His website provides helpful articles and and has a destinations tab, that has specific country guides. Each country is separated by city, and has typical costs, money saving tips, and things to see & do. 

5. Stay in low price accommodations in hostels or AirBnB

Hostelworld is a world renowned website for the best way to find hostels. Type in your city and dates, and a list of hostels will appear. The most important way to determine what hostel to choose is the percentage based off of total reviews. BUT, be sure to read the reviews and consider what every visitor has to say. Sometimes, hostels will pressure visitors to write positive, praising reviews (I’ve experienced it many times before) so be sure to read a few pages of reviews.

I’d recommend sticking with hostels that are rated in the high 80’s and 90 + %. Once you choose a hostel, there are different room types available. The more beds in the dorm, the cheaper the room is. But consider your sleeping priorities, the more people there are, the nosier and less sleep you will get. Ensuite means there is a bathroom in the room. That way you don’t have to walk down the hall to go to the bathroom. Mixed dorm translates to male and females are allowed to sleep in the same room. It’s a little weird waking up in the same room with complete strangers, but they’re all like-minded travelers from all around the world. Part of learning more on your trip and embracing the friendships you create.

AirBnB is another cheap alternative than hostels. With AirBnB you can have the whole place to yourself, share a room, or have a private room.

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(AirBnB in Cork, Ireland..dogs included!)

6. Transportation within the country

Research all options: train, bus and plane. Each depends on the time you have to spend on transportation, whether you’re on a time crunch or have the time to spend a full two days on a bus. Sometimes, trains aren’t always your cheapest option. If you’re crunched for time and going a long distance, consider a budget airline. Typically, Ryanair is your go-to budget airline for Europe, and AirAsia for Asia. BUT, buyers beware, being a budget airline, they’ll try to get your money any way possible. There are very specific weight and size requirements for bringing a carry on. My best advice is to check your backpack when booking your ticket online. This way you’re paying $15-25 when you purchase your ticket, instead of paying about $100 once you get to the check in counter because your bag doesn’t fit the specific requirements. Be sure to read and reread the requirements when booking. One outrageous RyanAir rule is you have to print your ticket before, and charge you a fee if you don’t. For bus or train transportation, use Google and type ‘trains from place a to place b.’

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7. Get the right gear

Step 1: acquire a backpack. The correct backpacks(meant for you) can be a tricky find. You have to find the right size and fit for you. This isn’t the easiest piece to blindly buy online. Besides researching, my best tip is finding your local outdoor store. This way an expert employee can help fit and explain to you the dynamics/straps/fit/right way to wear a backpack. The bottom of the backpack should fit right on the back of your hips.You don’t need a lot of expensive gear – pack light and keep in mind you are carrying all of it on your back. When packing, no matter how long many weeks your trip is, my best advice is to pack 7 days worth of clothes. Choose clothes within the same color scheme so you can mix and match.

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Top 5 travel necessities you wouldn’t think of :

Packing cubes – help make packing more organized and easily accessible.

Microfiber towel- necessary for hostel living since towels aren’t provided, or they are for a fee. Be sure to get one of the larger sizes. 

Lock- locks are necessary to lock up your possessions in the lockers provided in hostels. Some provide locks for a fee, but that’s money you can be spending elsewhere.

Nail Clippers – effective mini scissors at a moments notice.

Ziploc Bags- bring extra!! I can’t emphasize this enough. These are essential for organizing.

8. Take Advantage of the booming sharing economy

AirBnB – Stay in locals’ homes in a shared room, private room, or have their house to yourself. Often with rates cheaper than hotels.

Homestay- Homestay accommodation connects guests with live-in hosts who open their homes to travelers.

Eatwith – EatWith hosts share a talent for making amazing meals and a love for welcoming people into their homes to share them.

Über -Connecting riders to drivers through the Uber app, drive with a local for a lower fare than a taxi

Vayable – Discover and book unique experiences offered by local insiders.

9. Travel slow

It can be tempting to try to see it all in a short amount of time. But squeezing every city in, and rushing through 12 cities in 12 days isn’t your best bet. Your memories will be fogged by long commutes, stress and only a surface of knowledge about the places you visited. Take time to people watch, relax in a park, get lost in the streets and spend hours at a coffee shop, art gallery or local restaurant.

10. Souvenir tips

When traveling light, it’s hard to buy trinkets and knicknacks along the way. To preserve memories, I love collecting tickets, postcards, bookmarks and other light paper objects. Then when I get home, it’s fun making a DIY travel memory notebook. Use your ziploc bags or a folder with you to keep them safe.

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