Steps to Planning Your First Backpacking Trip
Have you been thinking about going backpacking but don’t know where to start? If you are, no worries, because you are part of the thousands of people who have been thinking about it for years now- but who are unfortunately still thinking about it!
1. Choosing your destination and reading about it: The first step is knowing where you want to go and doing some research on your destination. You can choose to read about your destination online or you can opt for traveling books such as Lonely Planet, Rough Guides and Frommers (see our post on Guidebooks). There are a variety of books and you will have to spend some time to skim through them to find out which one suits your needs best.
2. Planning your itinerary: Once you did your homework, you’ll need to figure out what cities or places you wish to visit and how long (more or less) you want to spend at each place. But please, if you plan to go to Rome for example, don’t start planning every hour of the day! Tell yourself you will need 5 days (more or less) and you’ll decide what you feel like seeing or doing once you get there. TIP: Do not put yourself on a schedule. You are onvacation! Over-planning will stress you and that’s exactly what you don’t want!
3. Booking your flight: I would suggest you book your flight to your destination asap. The more you wait, the more you’ll pay. You can go to a travel agency or book your flight online. www.expedia.com, www.kayak.com and many many more…
4. Booking internal transportation: So your flight is booked, it’s up to you to decide whether you’ll have to take internal flights or not. This depends on how far the distance is from one city to another or how much time you are traveling for. For internal flights, you should book directly on the airline’s website. If you are going to Brazil for example, then you would surf the websites of TAM Airlines, Gol and Varig. This will also require some research on your part. If you plan to travel by bus or train betwen the cities, there is normally no need to book in advance. You may want to stay at a city longer than expected or you may want to leave sooner- so keep your options open. On a personal note, I never pre-booked any internal transportation, whether it was by airplane, bus or train. And guess what? I never got stranded anywhere! TIP: If you plan to backpack for a few months in Europe, then you should look into the Euro Pass. For those of you who are leaving for a few months and traveling to far distances, you should consider buying an Air Pass.
5. Book your hostel: Now that you know where you’re going, it’s time to book your hostel. If you want to be spontaneous, you can wait until the last minute to do this. I would suggest you book your hostel at your first destination only. Then you book-as-you-go. So let’s say I’d are leaving Rome in 1 or 2 days, then I’d book my hostel for the next destination. Do however keep in mind that if you are traveling during high season, you should book in advance. New Year’s Eve in Paris or Canarval in Rio- do not risk it! Book in advance. But otherwise, I wouldn’t worry about it too much if you are staying in relatively big cities. On the other hand, if you are going to a small village or a place where there aren’t many hostels, then I’d suggest that you book the hostel to be on the safe side. So you are probably asking yourself: “How do I book a hostel?”. It’s extremely easy! Check out the following sites, choose a destination and a date… voila! www.hostels.com, www.hostelz.com, www.hostelworld.com, www.hihostels.com
5. GO! Yes, you will be nervous before leaving. Especially if this is your first backpacking trip. You’ll get rid of those butterflies in your stomach once you arrive to your destination.
A few tips:
- Be smart & be safe: Please don’t find yourself drunk at 3Am in the morning in the streets of Rio. Or don’t walk by yourself at 1 AM in Barcelona. And just don’t flash your Birks necklace in Mexico. These are KEY when traveling but for some reason, I’ll always meet people who get themselves in these situations and then get mugged. And guess what? I don’t feel bad for them. Someone ought to teach them a lesson about showing of or acting dumb in a city they are not familiar with. Please learn from their mistakes.
- Be open-minded: You may run into some problems while traveling: the airline company may lose your luggage, or it may rain for a few days in the city you’re at, or the hostel you’re in simply sucks! And that’s ok! It will happen at some point of your backpacking experiences. You just need to be ready to deal with it. Yes, you are entitled to be annoyed for a few minutes but get over it! Don’t let it ruin your trip. It’s part of the experience!
Good luck and enjoy!