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Planning For Your Backpacking Trip

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Making the decision to go backpacking is a big moment in anyone's life; however, while it is no doubt a big moment and subject of much consideration and deliberation, deciding to go is actually the easiest part. The hard part is setting that plan in motion.

While there are people out there that believe that 'getting lost is part of the fun', let me assure you that it isn't. Getting lost without a plan in a country that you do not know is anything but fun. Backpacking around the world means that you are going to be away from home for months, maybe even years. This sort of trip cannot be done on a whim; it must be thoroughly researched and meticulously prearranged in order for it to run anywhere near smoothly.

Of course, planning a trip does not mean that you won't encounter troubles along the way, but it will stand you in good stead should something go awry.

Making a Budget
Before you set out deciding the fun parts of the trip - where to go, what to do - you will need to work out if you actually have the funds. Everyone travels differently, so there is no one-size-fits-all budget that suits everyone. Unless you're made of money, or don't mind a few thousand pounds worth of credit card debt though, you're most probably going to need to do things on a shoe string budget and rely on a few jobs here and there to get through your trip.

The biggest part of your budget will be flights to your initial destination. Look at the living costs of each country that you intend to stay in. Money will stretch much further in Asia and South America than it will in Australia and USA, so it may be worth starting your trip in the more expensive places, so you can survive easier later in the trip when funds are lower.

Make a list of various pre-departure expenses: flights, visas, and travel kit, and budget for items needed for the road: accommodation, food, excursions, attractions, souvenirs.

When drawing up a budget, make sure that you dedicate some time to shopping around for the best deals on everything: flights, transfers, travel kit, currency - everything!
Decide where to go
As we mentioned earlier, it could be in your best interests to spend the first part of your trip in a more expensive country. Whether that is North America, Oceania, Asia, or Europe, make sure to research every aspect. Actually deciding on a country and particular city to visit is one of the hardest decisions you will have to make.
Get Travel Insurance
Travel Insurance is one of the most important aspects of any backpacking trip and you should not step foot on a plane without it. Insurance gives you the peace of mind that should anything go wrong, you are covered.

Travel insurance policies vary in both price and terms, but will generally cover the following:

medical care
lost luggage
cancelled flights
personal liability
travel abandonment
repatriation (getting you back home)

There are a number of companies that offer tailored backpacking insurance, giving you the opportunity to customise insurance around your needs. As well as the basic level of cover, it may be worth investing in additional extras, such as:

dental emergency care
lost or stolen money cover
emergency cash
loss of passport
gadget cover (i.e. smartphones, cameras and tablets)

You shouldn't hold off on travel insurance until the last minute, as policies are very in-depth and come with a lot of small print detailing what you will and will not be covered for. In addition, insurance policies are subject to constant change and you need to invest some time in shopping around to find the best deal.
Get immunised
If your trip involves travelling to more exotic climes, you should waste no time in heading to the doctors to be immunised. Many of the shots you will probably have had as a child, but boosters will often be needed.

If you are heading to a country in the developing world, you will typically require one or more of the following injections:

meningitis A+C
hepatitis A

If you are visiting Africa or South America, you may also need a yellow fever jab. Anti-malaria medication will be needed if you plan to visit Asia, Africa, or South America.
Plan the pace of the trip
The length of your trip and how long you spend in each town/city will depend on what sort of traveller you are. If you are the type that likes to soak up the culture of a city and spend days relaxing in cafes with locals, you will need to factor in more time. If, on the other hand, you prefer a whistle-stop tour around the best attractions before moving on the next exciting adventure, you may be able to visit more places. Remember though, the more you travel, the more the trip is going to cost.
Finding a job

Most backpackers will wait until a lack of funds requires them to find a job before looking for employment. They will then take any sort of cash-in-hand job that comes their way. If you are going travelling with the intention of working during your trip, it is probably in your best interests to make finding a job part of the planning process.

Working holiday programs and teaching English - two of the most popular work options for travellers - both require visas, and employment opportunities are best arranged before leaving for your destination. There will be no shortage of jobs available during your trip but having something in place before travelling will help ensure you have a guaranteed income to fund your trip.

Going backpacking will be the most challenging, memorable, and enjoyable thing you will ever do, and will help you discover more about the world and yourself - but only if it is planned. Planning may not be as enjoyable as travelling, but your trip is made all the more fun for doing it.