If you’re anything like the hundreds of thousands of young Australians who head overseas at the first sign of freedom (gap years, university breaks, post-grad escapes or even the occasional quarter-life crisis), then you’ll be thinking about what to throw into your backpack the night before (or maybe that’s just me?).
This list isn’t about how many T-shirts or pants you need to bring, these are the top ten essential things the backpacker next to you will be crying for because, unlike you, they didn’t listen to me when I said to pack the following. You can thank me later.
#1 Ear plugs
And quality ones at that. Ear plugs are top of the list for those of you who are light sleepers and don’t enjoy listening to the comings and goings of the backpacker on the bunk above you. Also, odds are if you’re travelling cheap, your trendy hostel will have paper thin walls and a rooftop bar that is doof doofing into the wee hours.
Trust me, the sounds you will hear in that 16-bed hostel dorm room cannot be drowned out by covering your head with your pillow, no matter how hard you try. Save yourself the mental scarring.
These little suckers will have you sleeping like a baby on long haul flights, when you’re stuck travelling cross country on a group tour bus or at a noisy airport waiting for that delayed flight. An eye mask is a bonus (and free on international flights).
#2 Phone and travel apps
Part-camera; music player; flashlight; travel guide; part, um, lifeline? Depending on your social media obsession, your smartphone may already be connected to you 24/7. Even though I say a holiday is the best time to get away from it all and enjoy the sights as they are, a smartphone is a given for most travellers these days. How else will you make your friends jealous without updating Facebook, hashtagging your Instagrams and Snapchatting your way around the world?
Just make sure you check out your data plan before you go. You will notice as you travel that backpackers are the bees and ‘Free Wi-Fi’ is the honey. Anywhere you see this sign, a swarm of backpackers will be sure to follow. Turn off your mobile data and find your nearest Wi-Fi hotspot (Maccas, coffee shops, even your hostel or hotel will usually have it). Tip: Download travel apps like Galileo Offline Maps (that will work offline) before you leave so you’ll always find your way – you can even track your trip as you go.