First of all let me say this - I am by no means an expert on travel. Sure I spent a year away but I didn't live exclusively out of my backpack, I HATED the hostels and I didn't actually make that many friends. Regardless of these points, I still had an incredible experience so today I thought I would share some little titbits of advice that I picked up on my travels.
(FYI these probably apply more to long term travel rather than holidays ok?)
1. Make copies of EVERYTHING (just to be safe!).
You'll be surprised how many times you get asked for a copy of your visa so it always helps to have some in your bag incase you don't have access to a printer. I also made sure I had copies of my passport, copies of any flights/hotel/excursion confirmations and a couple of spare passport photos just incase. They don't take up a lot of space and you can guarantee when you don't have them, you'll need them.
2. Suitcase or backpack is up to you, but keep your destination(s) in mind.
What kind of luggage you take largely depends on what you have in mind. If you're going to Australia to work and travel then a suitcase will probably be fine but if you're going to South East Asia and are going to be using a variety of transport modes then maybe a backpack will be easier. It all boils down to personal preference really but chances are, whatever you pick you will hate it by the end of the trip and wish you had gone for the other option.
3. Check that your bank card will be accepted in the countries you're headed for.
Dickhead over here never even thought to confirm that my bank card would work in Australia and surprise, surprise when I got there the ATM wouldn't recognise it. I had to transfer all my savings to my Mum who then transferred it to my new Aussie bank account. It was a total fuck about and I could have really saved myself some worry and aggro by checking before I left.
4. Leave the heavy guidebook at home.
When we were in Sydney we had many dorm mates pass through our room and I shit you not, SEVEN Lonely Planet Australia guides were left behind by them over the course of three months. They're fabulous for planning before you leave home but they're just an unnecessary weight once your on the road. If youreally can't live without your copy, get the e book on your phone.
5. If you really want to take your laptop, take it.
I know a lot of people say you shouldn't bother taking your laptop travelling but if you're going for a long period of time they can come in handy (especially if you can't afford a tablet or a smartphone). You can use them to update your cv, skype your family, watch Netflix in your dorm and if you blog, you can use it to blog on (obviously). Nearly everyone in my hostel had a laptop so don't think you will look like a weirdo if you do decide to take one.
6. You're allowed to book accomodation in advance, even if other people don't.
When we would get chatting to other travellers on trains, buses or boats a lot of them didn't have accomodation booked in advance and when I told them we had booked in advance they looked at me like I was stupid. Thing is I like to be prepared and there is nothing wrong with that. I like reading reviews to make sure the place isn't a total cesspit, I like knowing that I have a definite place to sleep and I like to dump my bag as soon as possible - If that means I have to pay a couple of quid more then so be it. Some people have their style of travelling and I have mine.
(I used booking.com to pre book accomodation by the way cos it locks in a price and a lot of places don't take any payment until you get there)
7.Research, research, research.
If you're going somewhere where English isn't the first language, learn some local phrases. Learn what's considered rude and what isn't (ie in Thailand don't disrespect the royal family). Make sure any excursions you want to do are ethical and don't mistreat animals, humans or the environment. It will make your trip that little bit easier and a whole lot better.
8. Don't miss out on something just because it's deemed too 'touristy' or it's 'not what it used to be'.
I heard that Pai was overrun with tourists, that it wasn't 'special' anymore and that I shouldn't go but I'm glad I didn't listen to the naysayers as the three days I spent there were the most peaceful days of my life. People flock to the Colosseum, the Eiffel Tower and the Sydney Opera House because they're incredible sights to behold. Don't miss out just because something is considered mainstream, there's a reason certain places are popular.
9. Have an idea of what you want to do and see but don't plan it like a military operation.
Instead of trying to cram everything in, pick a couple of must see's and do/see them. You won't get super stressed and you will have a much better time because you aren't rushing around and have time to soak up the ambience of the place you're in.
10. Your bank card, your passport and your health are the most important things, so look after them.
Material objects can be replaced if lost or stolen but your passport and bank card are much harder to sort replacements for so always keep them in a safe place, even if you're in a relatively safe country. A lot of travellers tend to neglect their health - drinking a lot of alcohol and not enough water, eating badly, not sleeping enough - and this can lead to you having a bad trip. Have fun but remember to look after yourself at the same time.
11. Try not to worry too much and have FUN!
At the end of the day you're going travelling because you want to have an experience that will change your life. If things are going to go wrong, they'll go wrong so try not to sweat it too much and let the chips fall where they may. Stay safe, look after yourself and make the most of every opportunity you get.
What's your number one travel tip?