How To Plan A Backpacking Trip

So we’ve gotten a few questions and emails as to how exactly we plan for our backpacking trips given that we are gone for so long.  So we thought it would be best to write up a blog post for everyone to see.  This is by no way the way everyone does it, it’s just the way it works for us. 😊

Where To Research

We usually take along a copy of the Lonely Planet Shoestring Travel Guide whenever we go off traveling for longer periods of time.  The nice thing is you can get an e-version of the book on your computer and tablets now that make it a lot easier (and lighter) to carry around.  These have the basic information and guidance for multiple countries.  We have the one for South America and it outlines entrance/exit fees, the different currencies for the countries and the varying seasons. It even gives you ideas and suggestions for possible routes to help you plan your trip.  This is usually our starting off guide and then from there we go online and we research and research and research some more!  What people don’t always realize is that travel is hard work- it’s not always sitting on a beach and soaking up the sun.  You have to plan your next move- where to stay, how to get there, which areas are safe or not.

Tip: Talk to your fellow travelers, there’s a good chance someone just came from where you are going and have plenty of first hand travel tips for you.

Route Planning

Generally when planning where we want to go we look at the seasons of the country/countries we are planning to travel to so that we aren’t hitting rainy season.  If you are traveling for an extensive amount of time, like we currently are, it’s sometimes hard to avoid the rainy seasons but we do our best.  When we started planning for South America, we went through our Lonely Planet book and wrote down the seasons for each country we wanted to visit and then tried to create a rough route around that.  Given that we booked a one way ticket we have no timelines or deadlines for things so we can move around as slow or as fast as we want.  Once you have the general route outlined in your head it makes it easier to break it down.

It’s especially important to research beforehand when crossing borders into another country.  You want to check the safety, if you should be traveling at night or during the day, what time the border crossing opens and closes so you don’t get stuck in some tiny border town with no place to stay.

Travel

When you are traveling around, especially in developing nations, a lot of your hostels/hotels will book bus tickets for you.  This can save a lot of time and hassle because often the bus depot is outside of the city and requires you to take some form of transit to get there and back.  The other option is just to go to the bus depot the day of and buy a ticket from there- they are almost rarely full and if they are the next bus is probably just a couple hours away.  I know in South America this can often be a good route to take because you can regularly barter down the price of the ticket if you go in person.

Accommodations

Tip: Do not book things too far in advance

When looking for places to stay we’d advise not to book too far in advance.  The only time we book far in advance is usually our first place after a long exhausting flight, a place we know is clean and we can go to right away to rest. 

Often when you are backpacking around you find that you love a place and want to stay longer or that you were disappointed and would like to leave a little earlier than you originally planned.  By ensuring that you don’t book too far in advance you have the flexibility to change these plans and move on without losing money on a place you’ve already booked ahead of time.  We usually only look for places a few days before we plan on moving to the next location and we ALWAYS book based on reviews.  Read the reviews- it’s saved us more than once from booking a grungy dirty place.   We usually check on hostelworld (they have an easy app to use which makes it nice for travelers) as well as on airbnb.  Airbnb can be a great option as you have the flexibility to rent a room from a local or rent an entire place which usually comes equipped with a kitchen etc..  If you want to try booking on airbnb for the first time use our code to get yourself (and us) a discount!! www.airbnb.com/c/brianneb394

The other option that we do occasionally is we don’t book anything ahead of time and instead go walk around the backpacker area and find a place that way.  This way it gives us a chance to see the room, and often you can barter down the price of the room if you are in person and ready to pay cash.  The downfall to this is you can often be walking around to multiple hostels, carrying a large backpack in the hot sun.

Budget

We get asked a lot about our budget and how we manage that.  Once again we did a lot of research on what other travelers were spending and what the Lonely Planet suggested for each country.  These are obviously just guidelines because it depends on the level of comfort- if you are ok eating street food (which can often be the best food) 3 times a day and staying in a 10 bedroom Dorm your budget will be a lot cheaper than someone who wants to stay in a private room with an en-suite and eat in restaurants.

Tip: When creating your budget make sure you budget in for transportation, day trips and tours (as those can add up fast).

Given my background in Finance (and my love for excel spreadsheets haha) we are keeping track of our expenses throughout this trip so that we will have a breakdown by country of what we actually spent.  We will share those with you at a later date!

If you have any other questions or comments feel free to shoot us a message or comment below!