Passport and visas
WHAT ESSENTIAL ITEMS SHOULD I PACK FOR MY GAP YEAR?
Deciding what to pack for your gap year can be a fun part fo the process but essential items are often not the fun bit. Some things are universally useful whilst others are specific to certain types of travel, locations or climate. We’ve compiled the list below to help provide a starting point and to highlight the items we think you really should be taking with you.
We’ve grouped the list of things to pack into useful documents, toiletries & health care, clothes and shoes, safety items and general stuff.
OUR TOP 10 ESSENTIAL ITEMS
Passport and visas
Travel insurance policy (yes, the full small-print and don’t forget to take the 24/7 medical emergency telephone number too!)
Flight, train or boat tickets
Accommodation booking confirmation
Driver’s license if you have one and are planning on driving at any point
Photocopies of all the above documents (don’t just rely on digital copies)
A travel document wallet or plastic folder for keeping these in. Ideally something waterproof.
A money belt that is worn inside the clothing for concealing documents from pick-pockets.
In addition to taking these documents and photocopies of the documents with you, we strongly recommend that you have an electronic copy of all of them saved securely in a cloud document storage system such as Dropbox, Google Drive or OneDrive, not just saved to your phone. This means that you will be able to log in and access them should you need them at any time, even if you lose your phone…
A wash bag (the best ones are those that can hang from a hook)
Any prescribed medication
Contact lenses/glasses (and spares)
Toothbrush & toothpaste
Shower gel & shampoo
Antiseptic hand gel
Sun cream & after sun
Insect repellent & antihistamine cream
Mosquito net (and malaria tablets if travelling to a malarial zone)
Hair brush and/or comb
First aid kit including plasters, antiseptic cream, paracetamol, rehydration sachets and anti-diarrhoea medication, sterile needle pack (this will need to be in your hold luggage)
Toilet tissue or pack of tissues
Tampons/sanitary towels (if needed)
Small nail scissors or nail clippers
Quick drying travel towel
If you are the sort of person who usually wears makeup, the chances are high that you’ll want to wear makeup whilst you’re away but if you can manage with a smaller selection than normal we’d recommend paring down your makeup bag to the essentials.
We recommend that you don’t overpack for your gap year – nobody enjoys carrying unnecessarily heavy luggage around with them! This is tricky as you will probably be packing for a longer period of time than you have before, and it may include lots of different activities or even climates that need different clothing. Choosing to pack versatile clothing that you can use in multiple situations is strongly recommended and of course, you can always buy clothes or hire cold weather gear when you are there. It’s also worth thinking about how long your clothes take to dry – the quicker the better! Whilst the precise clothing that you will take will depend on where you’re going, what activities you’re planning on doing and your own personal style, here’s some essential items to get you started:
Underwear and socks
Pyjamas or something to wear in bed (you may find yourself staying in a dorm room in a hostel and nobody wants to be *that* person!)
Warm jumper or fleece
Trainers and sandals (better than flip flops). Hiking boots if your activities are likely to include hiking, climbing mountains etc.)
T-shirts/vests/long sleeved tops (pack at leats one long sleeved top so that you are able to cover up from the sun or protect your arms from insect bites)
Packing cubes (some people can’t see the point but we find them really useful for keeping clothes easy to organise and taking up less space in our luggage. Plus, if you’re travelling through a variety of different destinations you may find that you want to keep some things separate so that they’re not in the way until you need them
We also think that a large scarf or sarong makes an excellent addition to any packing list as it serves so many useful purposes from wearing as an extra layer when it’s cold or as a cover up on the beach or if entering any religious sites that require covered shoulders to using as a beach towel or balled up as a pillow on the train.
There may be times when you need to keep money or documents on you whilst you walk around or while you’re asleep and so we’d recommend a money belt. Being able to lock your luggage is also highly recommended so don’t forget a padlock or cable lock that you can use for this. You may also find that you stay in a hostel where the door has no lock and this is where a door wedge is invaluable. A small battery powered smoke and carbon monoxide alarm might not be the first thing you think of but might be needed. And on the subject of alarms, a personal attack alarm is definitely worth packing. It can obviously be used to scare someone away and draw the attention of the people who may be able to help you. It might sound a bit ‘James Bond’, but with models where you pull a cord to activate the alarm, you can also use your trusty gaffa/duct tape between your bedroom door and the frame to sound if someone forces their way into your room or if they have a spare key that you don’t know about.
Whether it’s staying in touch with friends or family back home, making plans with new friends, staying clean or keeping entertained you’ll find there’s a whole heap of other general stuff that you might want to pack for your gap year. Here’s our list:
Mobile phone and charger (you might want to consider a portable, perhaps solar, charger for any longer periods of time when you’re without electricity but want to have a way of getting in touch in emergencies)
Electric plug adaptor (theres no point remembering your charger but not being able to use it!)
Touch or head torch and spare batteries
Travel wash, a travel sink plug and something to hang clothes on (such as a peg-less clothes line)
Eye mask and ear plugs (particularly useful if you’re spending time in hostel dorms!)
Something to read
Something to write in and a pen
Plastic bags for keeping dirty washing in or waterproofing the inside of your bag
Sleeping bag and liner
Finally we’d definitely recommend strong gaffa / duct tape (the sort with fabric interwoven inside). Why? Duct tape can fix holes in rucksacks, suitcases, shoes, mosquito nets and more. In addition that you can use it to hang up peg-less clothes lines and mosquito nets, and even as a way of securing your essential documents within your bag. Plus, if you’re the person with the duct tape, you’ll always be needed by others – an excellent ice-breaker!
gap year safety training course
FIND OUT MORE
SAVE 10% OFF YOUR COURSE
if bought at the same time as a TravelAid subscription