Like with most things in life, there’s an easy way and a hard way to do something. Packing for travel is no different. To date, I have travelled to well over 50 countries, each time picking up new backpacking hacks and travel tips that help me travel, stress-free. And today I’m sharing this with you.
Of course, you could find out the best travel hacks yourself, by learning through your own mistakes. Or you could save yourself the hassle by following a travel checklist like this.
This extensive list is filled to the brim with over 70 of the best backpacking tips that you can put into action, right now. I’ve refined the way I travel over the years, mostly based on trial and error and then learning from my mistakes. Now, you can learn to pack like a pro whether you’re going on a short city break or a full-blown round the world trip.
Not a backpacker? no problem. Many of these backpacker hacks will give you ideas on how to pack for many other styles of travel. I guarantee, whatever your travel style, you will discover some absolute gems in this article.
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At A Glance - My Top 10 Travel ACCESSORIES
It’s time to delve into the best backpack hacks for travel. Because this list is so extensive, at the top you’ll find my top 10 travel hacks. The main list of backpacker hacks has been divided into categories, so you can scroll down to the relevant section
71 Awesome backpack hacks for you to try
TRAVEL TIPS & BACKPACKING HACKS ON GADGETS
1. Noise cancelling headphones – I’m rubbish when I don’t get enough sleep, whether it’s on a plane because of a baby screaming, or in a dorm room with what sounds like King Kong snoring the place down.
Earplugs are one option, but I don’t like the feeling of something inside my ear. So, I’ve opted for a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. Hellloooo peaceful sleep.
2. A portable charge bank – This is invaluable as a backup plan for every gadget owner to have an emergency power source. Not all aeroplanes or buses have charge points and sometimes at an airport, all the charge points are in use or you just don’t have time to wait for charge.
There are loads of charge banks on the market, but it’s best opt for a power bank with a high capacity and with multiple charge ports.
3. Utilise an offline map app – There are loads of off-line maps out there, heck, even Google does it. My personal favourite is Maps.me for any overseas navigation. It’s free and super easy to use, just download the app on your phone in a wifi area, add the maps of the specific area you are going to, search for your destination and then drop a pin. You can even add personal notes to the pins you drop. I’ve used this app so many times when I am outside of a wifi area. Give it a go!
4. Universal power adapter with multiple sockets – Every seasoned traveller’s been there. A dorm for 8 people, but with only enough power sockets for 4! Thankfully, lots of the newer hostels are cottoning on to this and if you’re lucky you’ll get your own personal socket next to your bed. Backpacker Bingo! However, with multiple things to charge, it’s a ball ache only being able to charge one thing at a time.
Get around the problem with a worldwide power adapter with multiple USB charge points on it.
5. A Lightweight mini-tripod – As much as I love solo travel, it can be kinda annoying when I want to take photos of myself in locations. But if I don’t want my arm in the photo, then what? If there is someone else about to take a photo, then easy, ask them. If you’re on your own, makeshift props using a bag, a wall, rocks etc, has to make do…or not.
A great backpacking hack is to use a portable tripod with bendable legs so you can mount it on any surface.
The JOBY GorillaPod series are the best quality ones to go for. They come in a range of sizes, even mini tripods that support up to 3kg of weight! Twin this with an app linking that links your camera to your phone, and voila, who needs a photographer?!?
6. A clothes peg to stop headphone cables getting tangled – Although I love my wireless noise cancelling headphones, sometimes I still opt for my old-skool style ear bud style ones, with the cables on them. Yes, I know they aren’t super cool but, bear with me, they are perfect to take to the beach, or anywhere near the sea. I don’t mind them getting covered in sand, saltwater and suntan lotion. Plus, no one’s going to nick a pair of old skool headphones if I leave them lying about.
My biggest pet hate with them is that the cables get tangled. A super simple backpacking hack to wave goodbye to those tangled up cables is a single humble clothes peg. Clip the ear-bud section into the peg, wrap the cable around the peg, and then clip in the jack. It’s the perfect solution to keeping them tidy!
7. High Capactiy SD Cards – I love my adventure sport and soon realised that travelling with a GoPro and recording every scuba dive, white water rafting, a climbing experience that my SD cards were constantly out of space. After two months in Costa Rica, I’d filled over three SD cards. Buying them at airports cost me a fortune!
8. Make use of free wifi – If you’re reliant on wifi, then international go-to’s for decent and free wifi are Starbucks and MacDonald’s. It’s also worth checking out some of the bigger hotels, town squares, cafes, museums also allow you to connect for free.
9. Organise cables in a sunglass case – No doubt you will be taking electronic items with you which means the potential of having to carry lots of different cables. A top backpacking hack and handy way to keep these organised is by packing them into a sunglass case (either the hard case or soft zip-up pouch). You’ll always know where they are and this will stop them getting tangled up and damaged.
TRAVEL TIPS & BACKPACKING HACKS ON FOOD & DRINK
10. Take a food container and travel cutlery – There’s nothing worse than being stuck out on a day trip or on a long journey with overpriced and uninspirational food.
11. Book hostels or accommodation with a kitchen – This top backpacker hack is great for anyone with dietary requirements, as well as saving you a mini fortune. Cooking your own meals takes a little bit of time for sure, but think how much money you’re literally devouring each day, everytime you eat out. For long term travel, you’ll become a whiz at knocking up quick, cheap and nutritious meals.
12. A portable coffee maker – If, like me, you’ll understand the NEED for your daily caffeine fix before you’re even capable of facing the day. If you’re lucky, your accommodation might supply you with some sachets of brown granules they call ‘coffee’. Frankly, it tastes like piss and certainly does nothing towards hitting the spot.
13. Eat the street food – Ask the staff at your accommodation for the best non-tourist places to go for authentic food.
The main worry people have is, particulalry with street food is, ‘is the food safe?!’ On the whole, yes! A good indication is that if there are a lot of locals eating there then the food is cheap, safe and tasty.
14. Use a water bottle with an intergrated filter – The world does not need more plastic waste, however, this can be difficult in countries where you can not drink the water. To combat this invest in a water purification filter bottle.
These ingenious bottles filter out 99.9% of waterborne pathogens and allows you to drink the water from taps or freshwater sources like rivers!
15. Take some Herbs and Spices with you – Hostel kitchens can be basic. Sometimes all you’ll find is a few old pots n pans, a chipped plate and a bent fork. If you’re lucky you might find an old box of salt to add some seasoning. To be frank, you’re more likely to find a lump of unicorn poo in a hostel kitchen than some decent herbs and spices!
There’s only so much bland food I can tolerate on a long-term trip. A handy trick is to put some spices and dried herbs into little pots or zip bags. A bit of basil or chilli powder can turn a bland dish into something super tasty.
16. Carry a dietary information card – Whether it’s an intolerance, an allergy or a dietary requirement, it’s handy to have the phrase ‘I cannot eat……’ written in the local language. Ask the staff at your accomodation to help you if you are struggling with Google Translate.
Alternatively, pictures of items you cannot eat with a cross through (a bit like a road sign) can also be really useful if you are unsure of the language and want to avoid certain items.
17. Discount drinking – Backpackers love to drink. However, drinking out at bars can be expensive, unless you can find a decent bar that offers a happy hour. A great backpacking hack is to suss out the local shop and drink elsewhere, like the sunset on the beach. Just remember to check street-drinking rules for the country you are in! Don’t forget to pack a little bottle opener too!
18. Free breakfasts – Everyone likes free food right? Some hostels offer amazing breakfasts, others are minimal (white bread or toast, bland jam and watery coffee). It’s also just more convenient.
Set this as a search option when you are booking your accommodation.
TRAVEL TIPS & BACKPACKING HACKS ON GETTING ABOUT
19. Use incognito mode to get the cheapest flight deals – Skyscanner is my go-to for cheap flights. When you’re searching make sure you do it in ‘incognito’ or secret mode. You know when you look at a flight and it’s one price, then go back later to check it and it’s going up – that’s because of the algorithm your device is sending to Skyscanner. Searching in secret mode stops this from happening.
20. Book your flights at the optimum time This is usually at around 6-8 weeks before departure, often on a Tuesday or Wednesday at mid-afternoon.
21. Avoid using taxis hailed down off the street – This is a sure-fire way to an expensive journey. Depending on where in the world you are, there is a multitude of ‘taxi’ apps, Grab (Asia), Bolt (Baltics) and Uber are all much cheaper than the regular cabbie.
22. Lift-share – Put a notice in reception or check-in desk or simply mention it to the staff at a hostel that you’re interested in lift sharing.
Lift sharing is also a great way to meet likeminded travellers. Who knows, you might even stumble across some off-the-beaten-track place on your journey and with comfort in numbers, go explore someplace you’d never considered.
23. Don’t dismiss public transport – Sometimes, the quickest and cheapest way to get around is via the public trasnport system.
Depending on which country you are in public trains and buses can range from budget to full-on luxury. Unfortunately, pickpockets exist everywhere. Just be careful to keep an eye on your stuff on certain routes by using a anti-theft secure bag, like the options here
TRAVEL TIPS & BACKPACKING HACKS ON MONEY
24. Notify your bank that you are travelling overseas – During my trip to Austrailia, I was locked out of my cards. It was the most frustratingly infuriating thing ever.
A big phone bill later from calling UK help-lines, I did manage to get my card unlocked but I could have saved myself the frustration if notified them I was abroad.
25. Set a budget – Depending where in the world you are travelling, this will vary big time! For example, in most of South East Asia, I can get by on about $20-30 a day to cover my accommodation, food, travel and activites. However, switch the destination to Europe, I struggled with keeping within $50 a day limit.
It’s a sensible idea to set a daily or weekly budget before you go, and really try to stick to it. It’s great to have the credit card as back up for unexpected costs or impulsive purchases, but just be aware of the mounting cost.
The worst thing after coming back from an epic trip is checking the dwindling bank balance and a huge debt to pay off.
26. Don’t be scared to Flashpack once in a while – For the bulk of the time, I travel on a budget – for food, accommodation, transport. If I can find a way to be thrifty, you can bet I’m doing it.
Unless you’re in the fortunate position of having some big funds behing you, most long-term travellers are on a budget. BUT it’s exhausting.
Just once in a while, you’ll feel backpacker burn out. It’s times like these when it’s ok to splash out a little bit and get a tiny bit of luxury in your life for a couple of days to recoup.
To keep in budget, offset your splurge days with a few days either side of spending next to no money at all. Chilling on the beach is a good way to achieve this.
27. Use a currency converter app – So, there are easy currencies to work with, for example, Dollar, Pound Sterling and Euro. The currency comes in fairly small denominations.
On the other hand, Vietnam and Cambodia, just HOW many zero’s on their bills?
I found it so confusing having to count up the number of zeros on the end of a number to discover it was actually only worth a couple of pounds!
But it’s this confusion, that makes tourists a prime target for being short-changed when instead of paying the equivalent of $2 for something, you pay $20!
Use a simple currency converter app on your phone to stop this happening.
28. Stash some emergency cash – It’s a good idea to keep a bit of emergency money with you and keep it hidden somewhere safe in case of emergencies. You might lose a bank card, or be stuck somewhere with no ATMs.
29. Don’t be afraid to haggle – As a tourist, regardless of how skint you think you are, you will be seen as a walking money bank. In a lot of countries, the whole concept of travel is a pipeline drea.
Because of this, you’ll learn quickly that there is what’s known as the ‘local price’ and then the ‘tourist price’.
As a rule of thumb, the first price you’re offered will be at 10x its actual value. Learn the art of haggling.
An Ethical Note on Haggling
If you are haggling for something which has been handcrafted (as in it’s not been mass-produced in a factory and has a ‘made in China’ sticker on it) do take into account how much time and effort has gone into the piece.
As a traveller, you’re already better off finacially than a lot of others in the world.
Regardless to whether it’s a rug, scarf, bag, artwork etc. That extra dollar you are trying to bargain down could mean the difference between a meal for a whole family or not.
So yes, do haggle, but just be ethical about it.
30. Use clips to separate and organise money – If you are on a multi-destination style trip you will come across lots of different currencies. To keep them all organised, use a money clip, but paper-clips work just as well.
31. Make the most of free stuff in each location – Pretty much every city I’ve been to offer a free city walking tour. Not only a great way to meet other travellers, but also to get the lo-down on the layout of the city and some insider nuggets of information.
These tours do operate on a tip basis, so if you enjoyed it or found it of some value then don’t forget to tip the guide!
Other things to look out for are free museums, live music and public events happening.
Hostels staff or the local tourist board (either tourist information shop, or online) are usually pretty good at divulging this type of info.
Want to find out other amazing travel hacks? Why not check out these great articles?
- Ridiculously easy ways to save money for travel
- How to make travel stress-free
- Simple wasys to keep fit while you travel
TRAVEL TIPS & BACKPACKING HACKS ON CLOTHING
32. Use Packing-Cubes to keep stuff organised – Looking back, I don’t even know how I managed without the use of these amazing packing cubes.
Not only do they add an extra layer of protection to keep your clothes clean and dry, but they are also amazing for keeping your stuff organised. They also have a handy zipper round the outisde which squishes everything down, so you can fit loads more stuff into your luggage.
33. Roll your clothing – Rolling your clothes actually takes up less space than folding it, according to research it also helps to keep clothing more crease-free. A win-win situation!
34. Co-ordinate your packing – If you are limited by how many items you can pack into your rucksack, then make sure you pack items with colours or patterns that can easily be mix and matched. Likewise, try and pack multi-purpose clothing; a casual beach dress by day can be smartened up for the evening by twinning it with a pretty shoal and strappy sandals. Accessories are also a good way to add diversity to a bland outfit.
35. Invest in a large sarong…and know how to use it
- A large sarong is less bulky than a towel for trips to the beach, a sarong can be made into a quick fix sun dress to wear until you get there.
- Temples often require you to cover up yor shoulders or knees, a quick fix is to tie your sarong over your shoulders, or wrap it over your shorts so it covers your knees .
- On chilly flights and long bus journeys, your sarong can be used as a lightweight blanket.
- If you are going camping, a sarong can be bundled up and used as an emergency pillow.
- You can make a privacy curtain if you are staying in a dorm room on a bottom bunk.
- A pretty sarong can be knotted, twisted and tucked in a multitude of ways to make a funky dress, top or skirt.
36. Dress for the culture – This goes for guys and girls. Do a little research on the dos and don’ts in a country. For example, my trip to Jordan. Despite it being hot, it’s not as culturally acceptable to walk about in a mid-drift top and little denim shorts.I packed clothes suitable for the middle east.
Likewise, in Thailand, you can not enter a temple unless you are appropriately dressed.
Wear what you like, yes – but just remember how you dress at home could be seen as incredibly disrespectful, or promiscuous to people in other parts of the world.
37. Pack light – You won’t need as many clothes as you think. Trust me.
Before you go, lay out everything you’re planning on taking on the floor. Go through everything with the aim of ditching at least 1/3 of it. If you can get rid of a 1/2 then even better!
Be strict with yourself. Having to lug a 15kg backpack around, when it’s a 30minute walk in the scorching heat isnt fun.
38. Use shower caps as shoe covers – I’m not sure who uses shower caps for their actual purpose BUT they are fabulous for putting around the bottom of a pair of dirty shoes and keeping the contents of your backpack muck free.
TRAVEL TIPS & BACKPACKING HACKS ON HEALTH & FITNESS
39. Take basic loo kit – In many countries around the world, public amenities such as toilets aren’t up to the standard we’re used to in the west; especially on long road trips in lots of Asia, Africa and South America. I highly recommended you keep a little ‘loo kit’ in your day bag – toilet paper, wet wipes and hand sanitizer – you’ll thank yourself when nature calls.
40. A washbag with a hook – Frequently, bathrooms in hostels lack hooks. You’ll be tasked with the balancing of finding somewhere dry to put your towel, clean clothes, dirty clothes and any toiletries you might be using.
Take care of one of these problems by opting for a travel toiletry organiser bag with a hook to keep everything off the floor.
41. Keep hairpins in an old mint container – Hairpins get everywhere. If bobby pins are part of your daily hair routine, then keep them organised in an old mint tin.
43. Use solid shampoo instead of liquids – Bottles of liquid are heavy and bulky, pluse can be prone to leakages. Solve all three of these problems and use solid blocks of shampoo and conditioner instead.
44. Take a mini first aid kit – Most towns will have a shop that ‘might’ sell some basic first aid stuff but it’s handy to carry some essentials with you.
Take a basic first aid kit and add to it antihistamines, paracetamol/ibuprofen, diarrhoea tablets and rehydration powder, bug-bite cream and travel or sea sickness tablets. This gives me a pretty comprehensive travel first aid kit which comes on all my trips.
45. A compact travel towel – If you’re staying in hostels, most likely, you’ll have to provide your own towel.
Go for a microfibre one which are light weight and quick drying. Not only that, they are super soft on your skin and take up next to no space.
They also come in a range of colourful fun prints. The perfect travel towel!
46. Use a bulldog clip over the end of your shaver – Probably the most annoying of all cuts are shaver cuts on your fingers as you are rummaging about your toiletry bag. If your shaver doens’t have a protective cover, then use a bulldog clip over the blade instead. You fingers will forgive you.
47. Use headscarf or bandana for bad hair days – Granted, there are going to be some days when your hair looks like you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards. Use a multifunctional headscarf to transform your bed-head look into something more presentable.
Messy buns and a headscarf, that’s backpacker chic you know!
48. Go minimal with the make-up – Humidity, sweat and makeup never bode well. Save the hassle, bulk and weight and just take the bare minimal with you. For me, that’s a little bit of concealer, a neutral shade of eye shadow, waterproof mascara and lip balm.
TRAVEL TIPS & BACKPACKING HACKS ON SAFETY
49. Always keep your day bag in sight – Busy areas are prime territory for pick-pockets. If your back isn’t secure, then carry it on your front. Better still, use an anti theft backpack.
Also, try to get out of the habit of leaving your bag slung over the back of a chair or sat on the floor when you’re sitting at a table. These places make it easy for someone to walk past and grab it. Instead put your rucksack on the floor in between your legs, with your own leg or the chair/ table leg hooked through the strap. If it’s a smaller bag, keep it on your lap.
50. Use a decent quality lock – The majority of hostels or hotels will proveid somewhere safe to keep your things. In hostels, you ususally have to provide your own lock. Buy a decent quality padlock before you go. Hostels will often sell them, but cheap nasty things at a hugely marked up price.
52. Don’t flash expensive stuff about – I always think this is a common sense travel hack, however, I’m always amazed by how much bling some people take travelling with them. If you’re going to walk about looking like a jewellery shop or a designer clothes horse then expect to be a target to thieves. This includes if you have gone shopping and are walking about holding a carrier bag with a designer brand on it, you’re a walking beacon to would be thiefs.
The same goes for technology, be sure you know exactly where your phone and camera are. They can be easily snatched out of your hand.
TRAVEL TIPS & BACKPACKING HACKS ON PACKING & ORGANISATION
53. Use a travel organiser wallet with LOTS of compartments – Most things, thankfully come in a digital format now. However, you will always have important documents which you’ll need to keep to hand, such as your passport.
Keep your important documents in order with a multi-compartmented travel organiser.
54. Bring a small laundry bag – Any small and lightweight bag will do. Canvas tote bags are perfect for keeping your dirty stuff together and squishing into your backpack. When you need to do washing, just grab the whole bag and drop it to the laundry.
55. Reuse plastic bags – I’m not a fan of single-use plastics, so keep hold of any plastic bag you use, and reutilise it. For example, the ones that your blanket on the airline is wrapped in is perfect! You never know when you might have wet or muddy clothing to pack away. It gives a second use to a would-be landfill item.
56. A foldable duffle bag – Use this to overflow into, espeically if you’re planning on travelling long term. Naturally, you will a few bits along the way.
These foldable bags are so compact and lightweight, they fit easily in your regualr bag. They can also double up as a pillow to use on a long bus ride – stuff it with a jumper and voila, you have a great place to rest your head.
57. Wrap tiny items in tissue paper – Stop your jewellery getting tangled and lost by wrapping them in tissue paper.
58. Pack the heaviest items first – Bigger items like shoes, can be filled with smaller stuff before being packed. Pack the big items first and then fill in any little awkward and annoying gaps with small squishable items.
TRAVEL TIPS & BACKPACKING HACKS ON BACKPACKING ESSENTIALS TO MAKE LIFE EASIER
60. Bring a small notebook journal and pen – As much as I love my phone and laptop, sometimes it’s nice to have an electronic detox and to be able to sit and write down my thoughts and feelings on old fashioned pen and paper.
If the idea of a totally blank note book scares you then why not go for a Travel Journal with sections and prompts to help you plan and document your whole adventure.
61. Pack a length of cord – Super useful if you have wet stuff after getting caught in a downpour, or done some emergency washing in a sink. Sometimes there is just no-where to hang stuff up. Tie a length of cord between the posts of your bed, between a trees, wherever, to give yourself an instant washingline.
62. Take fishing line and a basic sewing kit – If you only have to do a basic repairs on clothing, then regular cotton thread is fine. However, for anything that’s weight-bearing, like your rucksack straps, you’ll need something stronger. Fishing line is your answer.
64. Research before you travel – Although I love the spontaneity of exploring somewhere new, it can be useful to know just a little bit about what’s in the region.
This is particularly the case if something needs to be booked in advance, or there are limited opening hours.
65. Mingle with the locals – For a more authentic experience, be sure to hang out where the locals go. The vast majority of people you’ll meet can’t want to show off and tell you about their country.
Who knows, they may tip you off about a delicious locally known restaurant or somewhere that the tourists don’t venture too because it’s not advertised. Even just saying hello and a smile goes a long way.
66. Get a waterproof phone case – Although most phones are somewhat waterproof now, I’m still not convinced of how well they are.
Also having an additional water proof case for your phone is handy for slightly wet boat rides, days at the beach when you want to go for a swim or even taking pics while you’re snorkelling.
You might also be interested in this article on choosing the best SIM for using your phone aborad
67. A pack of cards – As rubbish as I am at playing card games, they are a universal way of interacting with other travellers you meet.
There’s nothing quite like bringing a group of strangers; great for long journeys, drinking sessions at the hostel or staying in the middle of the jungle.
69. Travel insurance – I know it’s an added expense, but it really is worth it. Protection against theft, cancellations and illnesses is priceless.
70. A universal sink plug – I know it’s not very exciting, but a simple item like the humble universal plug for the sink can feel like a luxury commodity in some countries. Often, they are non-existent. If you plan on being on the road for a long time and need to wash clothes, you will 100% need one of these.
71. Don’t forget your sense of fun and adventure – For many, the chance of travelling the world is a pipeline dream. If you are privileged enough to be able to travel, make the most of every opportunity. Head off the beaten track, try new stuff and open your mind to every new experience possible.
WOW! You made it to the end! That was a pretty epic list of backpacking hacks, well done for persevering. Now ypu know exactly how to pack like a pro, you’ll be totally equipped for every eventuality.
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Are there any other awesome travel tips or backpacking hacks that should be on this list? I’d love to know, comment in the section below.