A beginner’s guide to hostelling: top 10 packing essentials
You’ve heard it a million times- pack half the clothes and twice the money you think you need. And that’s sound advice. But if you’ve never gone backpacking before, you might not know what else to bring. Here we leave out the obvious, like sunscreen or a swimsuit, and include the things you might not have thought of.
10. A padlock and flip flops
These are such hostel essentials, I’m combining them. You need a padlock for your locker and flip flops for the shower. Enough said.
9. A guidebook
I talked to someone the other day who was going traveling and had never heard of Lonely Planet. That’s when it occurred to me that this wasn’t an essential for everyone. But for me, I would never head out on a trip without my trusty guidebook at my side. It gives the most commonly-needed directions (like how to get downtown from the airport or train station), suggests places to go sightseeing or eat or shop that I might not have been aware of, gives little history lessons, and also tons of sensible advice. And now that you can download guidebooks as apps, you can both lighten your load and not instantly peg yourself as a tourist.
8. The clothes you feel comfortable in
For some reason, travel stores try to sell you a whole different wardrobe for traveling, as if in a different city you’re going to be a person who likes zip-off pants and vests with a million pockets and hiking boots. Just wear jeans. Who cares if they “take up too much space” and “don’t dry quickly”. You’ll feel more like yourself and fit in better in cities. As general advice, just try to make sure everything mixes and matches pretty well, so you can make more outfits out of fewer clothes.
7. Packable raincoat
Ceri recommends an umbrella in her post, but I prefer a raincoat because they leave your hands free and in some places it’s too windy to use an umbrella. Also, bring a thin fleece to layer underneath and you’re sorted for overcoats!
6. A second pair of shoes
When your feet are sore from tramping all over, it’s not going to feel better the next day when you slide them back into the same shoes. A fresh pair of shoes won’t hurt your feet in the same spots, and you’ll be a lot happier for it.
5. Castile soap
A tiny bottle of this stuff goes a long way. Castile soap is ultra-gentle and natural and can be used to wash your face, body, hair, dishes, clothes, dog, baby...need I go on? I actually just use it to wash my water bottle in the sink, but it’s good to know what else I can use it for in a pinch.
4. Ear plugs and a sleep mask
These are truly essential in a dorm room. Block out snorers, early risers, and late arrivals fiddling with bags and flashlights at 2 am.
I use a ziptop bag in my carryon to make taking my liquids out a breeze, and in my toiletry bag to prevent liquids from exploding and making a mess (although since I decant everything into travel Nalgene bottles like this, that doesn’t happen so much.) I’ve just started trying compression bags, which have been pretty helpful so far- I save them to use on the way home, when it’s harder to pack tidily and my belongings have magically expanded. I also hoard any shopping bags I get along the way to use for laundry or to separate shoes from clean clothes.
2. Travel wallet
I’m an organized lady, and I love my travel wallet. (This is mine.) It keeps everything essential organized in one spot: passports, printouts of itineraries and reservations, any tickets and receipts as we get them, the emergency credit card, postcards or business cards I collect along the way…It stays in my carryon when I’m in transit, and securely locked in the locker when I get there.
I hate to tell you to get this really expensive device, but it does so many things and it’s so small. It’s your e-reader, your map, your guidebook, your internet, your email, your Skype, your photos, your games- it’s just too darn useful not to mention.
Give us your own suggestions in the comments! We’d love to hear them.
Photo credit: Flickr user Elderleaf