OK so you’ve got your gap year planned out, airplane tickets are bought, travel insurance is sorted, accommodation is booked and your volunteer placement has been organised. You’re almost ready to go, but you still need to pack. If you’ve never been away for an extended period of time before, it may be a bit daunting to know exactly what to take and what to leave behind, so here are our top tips on packing for your gap year.
1. Don’t take too much - Rule number one and perhaps the most important of them all. There’s nothing worse than taking an oversized bag travelling that you can hardly carry. Be reasonable and remember however long you’re going for you only need to pack about one or two weeks’ worth of clothes.
2. Make sure your bag is practical and comfortable - You’ll be carrying your bag around a lot, so make sure that it’s good quality and fits comfortably on your back. Suitcases are just not practical to wheel around many city streets, so you’re better off with a backpack.
3. Remember to pack a first aid kit - This is really important to remember to pack, especially if you’re going to be travelling to destinations off the beaten track, you never know when it might come in handy. Have a look at our What should be in backpacker’s first aid kit article for tips.
4. Pack personal hygiene items- Sometimes personal hygiene items can be hard to get hold of in certain countries; it’s surprising what you can’t find easily abroad. Make sure you bring things with you such as deodorants, female essentials and anything else which you may personally use on a daily basis.
5. Pack long sleeved tops and trousers - Mosquitoes are problem in many countries, especially in the evening and at night, so make sure you bring lightweight items of clothing which cover you up, so that even if it’s still hot, you will be protected.
6. Bring some warm clothes - Even in hot countries in can get chilly during the rainy season, in the evenings or in the mountains, so make sure you pack a couple of jumpers with you, especially if you don’t know where you’ll be ending up.
7. Don’t bring extra packaging - Remove any item from its plastic or other packaging before packing it. In many countries rubbish is hard to dispose of as there are no recycling or rubbish collection services. Most rubbish is burned in people’s back gardens, so don’t add to the problem by bringing unnecessary packaging into the country.
8. Don’t pack valuables - There is no point bringing anything on your gap year that is valuable both in terms of money and of personal value. With all that moving around and unpredictability things always get lost, left behind or stolen.
9. Always pack something for entertainment purposes- When it comes to travelling there is inevitably a lot of waiting around so you need to make sure you have something to do, so as not to go stir crazy on those long bus or plane journeys. A note book and pens are always handy, as are cards, reading material and audio-books.
10. Leave space for souvenirs - You will find some great and unique souvenirs and handicrafts on your travels, which you won’t want to forego because you don’t have enough space to pack them. It’s better to leave some space than pack twenty t-shirts. Remember things like t-shirts can be bought almost anywhere, but unique pieces of artwork or jewellery cannot.