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Essential Stocking Fillers for the Gap Year Backpacker

Written by Milly Whitehead on 08 / 12 / 2014

Gap Year Advice

Are you planning on doing some travelling after Christmas? Perhaps you're a parent or close friend of someone who is? If that's the case, this article is a must-read before you finalise your wishlist or do any more shopping for gifts this holiday season.

There are, of course, many travel essentials that anyone doing a proper bit of backpacking - especially as part of a broader gap year travel plan - has to have. And I'm sure many of those have already been purchased. Sometimes excitement simply gets the better of us and we can’t wait all the way until the 25th!

That said, there's still likely to be a few gems or handy gadgets that have been missed. Believe me, some of these can be a godsend in the right situation on foreign shores. So if you're trying to come up with Christmas gift ideas, whether its to give or receive, have a look at the list I've compiled below.

A Journal to Store All Those Precious Memories

No matter where you’re going, who you’re going with or how long you’ll be away for, a travel journal is something that you simply cannot leave out of that backpack.

It's undoubtedly one of the handiest things you can take away with you, as it can be used to jot down unforgettable moments from your trip, contact details of all the awesome people you meet, interesting quotes you hear along the way and much more. Have a look at travel journals on Etsy’s website, which provides a whole range of great-looking journals, with everything from classic handmade leather to quirky modern designs.

A Compact Money Belt for Protecting Your Cash

Ok, I admit these aren’t the trendiest garments to sport, but a money belt is honestly the best way to keep your cash, cards and passport safe from the wandering eyes (and hands) of thieves. Handbags are noticeable and easy to pinch, as is that wallet sticking out of your pocket, so be sure not to fill them with any valuables.

Instead, here's a pro travelling tip: use an old wallet to store a couple of banknotes in, a fake ID card and an old, invalid debit card. This way, if you do get robbed,the culprit will leave thinking he’s won, and you’ll still have all your necessities nicely stashed away in that money belt. The Gap Year Travel Store has a selection of money belts and body wallets to suit all tastes and budgets.

Waterproof Ponchos to Keep You Dry

Again, these aren’t exactly stylish, but they make up for that by being highly practical. Even in the warmest climates, you’re bound to experience a little rain here and there, so be sure to pack a poncho to keep you and your possessions nice and dry.

My personal recommendation would be the Highlander reusable poncho, which comes in all different colours and costs less than a fiver. Bargain!

Travel Games for Long Journeys

Chess, Pictionary, Scrabble, Connect 4... whatever your game preference, I can guarantee there’s a mini version that’s perfect for when you’re on the road. Remember that there will also be moments along any trip where you won’t be climbing mountains, swimming in the sea or out spotting wildlife. These are an ideal time for getting a game out and enjoying some downtime – much nicer than playing Candy Crush on your iPad.

In addition to this, board games are a great tool for meeting people and making friends, wherever you are. Have a look for travel games on Amazon for the best Christmas deals.

Guidebooks for Sights, Phrasebooks for Sounds

If it’s your first time travelling to a particular country, you might want to use a guidebook that highlights the must-sees and dos in the areas you’re planning to visit. On top of this, most guidebooks feature maps, recommendations for places to eat, drink and sleep and an insight into the country’s culture and traditions.

Going to be spending time somewhere where English isn't the first language? Be sure to ask for a language phrasebook too – this will enable you to learn the basic words and phrases, just so that you don’t feel totally out of your depth! The Lonely Planet shop has a huge selection of destination guides and phrasebooks, and they tend to be the most popular amongst travellers.

A Brightly-Coloured Luggage Tag to Avoid Confusion

There are thousands of travellers that head to more exotic locations at this time of year, meaning there’s going to be a lot of luggage that no doubt looks very similar to yours at the airport. Want to be sure your beloved backpack doesn’t get confused with anyone else’s?

The best way to avoid this happening is with a lovely, brightly coloured tag that means you’ll be able to spot it on the conveyor belt from a mile off. I particularly like this yellow wooden one from Marks & Spencers, which includes a protective window so you can view all your important personal details.

A Handy Sewing Kit

For everything, essentially. A sewing kit is another uber handy travel companion, which I can guarantee you’ll use far more than you think, such as when your bag strap breaks, you tear those new shorts trekking, or you suddenly spot a rip in a dodgy place.

You may even use it to make your own costumes and accessories, something a number of people do when they’re on the road, often with the purpose of making money to extend their travels. Pick up a travel sewing kit from any major chemist, supermarket or department store - John Lewis has a great selection of sewing kits, for example.

An SD Memory Card With Plenty of Space

Let’s face it, we all get a bit snap happy when abroad and, if this is your first proper trip, you’ll no doubt have hundreds of photos by the end of week one.

If you're buying a gift for a gap year traveller in your life who loves taking holiday snaps, the Kingston 8GB Micro SD, available on Amazon, is the perfect choice. You can pick one up for as little as a fiver, which for a piece of technology like that is a really great deal.

Eye Mask & Ear Plugs for Uninterrupted Snoozing

Travelling involves spending a lot of time, well, travelling. If you’re rubbish at sleeping whilst on the move, you’ll probably appreciate a bit of help in the form of an eye mask, for total darkness, and some ear plugs to block out the sounds of that wailing baby just across the aisle from you.

Of course, they often give these away on long haul flights. But there's an awful lot to be said for having a more robust set, with ear plugs that don't just fall out in the middle of the night. One of the top options that fits the bill is this sleep travel kit from Go Travel. It contains an adjustable eye mask and two pairs of memory foam earplugs (just in case you drop one pair down the side of your seat), plus a useful container to carry the ear plugs in.

Anything Else?

There are of course many more travel-related things that you might want Santa to deliver to you this year. If you're looking for more, this post on the 10 best travel gadgets to pack is worth a look. Voracious readers will be better fit for this great list of 20 books to read on the road, published on

Do you have any other ideas for stocking fillers for travellers? Let us know by posting them in the comments box below!

Photo Credit: Sharon Drummond cc

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