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Top Tips for Packing and Getting Organised for Your Gap Year

Written by Jenny McWhirter on 01 / 09 / 2016

Gap Year Advice

Have you heard of the saying ‘prior preparation prevents poor performance? Otherwise know as the 5 p’s? Well, this really rings true when it comes to packing and getting prepared for your gap year travels, so we thought we would help you along by grilling some seasoned gap year travellers who have recently returned to hot showers, home cooking and a clean bed. Bliss.

Our question to them was this “if you knew what you know now, what would you pack/organise differently?”…

So, in no particular order:

1.Take Earplugs

Essential. Every hostel and journey that they came across on their gap year was noisy, so sleep deprivation was the norm. They wished they had several pairs of the really good gel ear plugs that they could literally ram into their ears to guarantee some peace and quiet. Also, while we are on the ear subject — they wished their headphones were the noise-cancelling type — not everyone seemed to like their taste in music!

The Digital Silence DS-101A is a rare example of an affordable, noise-cancelling, in-ear headset that actually works relatively well but don’t expect the quality you’d get from the £260 Bose-manufactured equivalent, but at just £18 it’s so much cheaper so you can’t really go wrong.

2.Pack a Duvet Cover

Wished they had left their sleeping bag at home and took a single duvet cover instead. Simply brilliant idea that other gap year travellers had where they literally climb in and button up. Mozzie and bed bug proof. When you’re buttoned up you won't worry too much about borrowing the old, smelly blankets that seem to be the usual offering in standard gap year hostels.

3.Use a Money belt

We know they're not cool BUT hey they are so practical. Get one immediately. Go for the slim, under the t shirt version and you will be good to go. The Gap Year Travel Storehas a great selection — the deluxe option gets my vote.

4.Ditch the Walking Boots

Really work out whether you need to take a pair on your gap year as they are heavy, hot and take up so much space. A walking shoe or sturdy trainer usually do the job brilliantly for all forms of treks unless it's a technical trek or climb. Try something like this from the hip lifestyle brand Ridgemont.

5.Photocopy Your Passport

Essential. Photocopy and put in the bottom of your ruck sack. You will be amazed how many gap year travellers lose their passport. This will take the pain out of the replacement horror. And while you are at it take some extra passport photos with you just in case...

6.Side loader Ruck Sack

Normal top loading ruck sacks are really annoying and everyone knows that however hard they try to pack the essential items on the top — it never works out and the desired item is always at the bottom. A side loading ruck sack is the way forward. Also, while we on the topic of ruck sacks — so much better to take one than a suitcase on your gap year. Ruck sacks are soft so they can be squished into corners, used as pillow, popped on the back to give you 2 free hands and easier to run with when you late for the bus. Just saying.

7.Bags within Bags

A life saver once they got organised. They bought dry bags in an assortment of sizes but they also coveted friends ‘cube bags’. This allowed them to keep dry, wet, clean and smelly clothes in separate places so everything didn’t get contaminated by the wet, smelly items.

8.Back Up Charger

The power monkey was the most coveted item that other gap year travellers had up their sleeve — this is a portable battery pack that uses solar energy to charge phones, laptops or tablets. Amazingly, it holds its charge for up to a year. Brilliant back up. You can buy your PowerMonkey from manufacturer PowerTraveller for £65, or head to a decent high street outdoor shop like Millets.

9.Universal Plug Adaptor

Wished they had taken just the one and not several thrown in at the last minute, half of which they never used or could find when needed. The Lindy All-In-One Travel Adapter is the best of the bunch. You can pick it up from Lindy’s website for £15 or get it on Amazon for marginally more.

10.

Blow up Pillow


Was used the whole time and they wished they hadn’t skimped on comfort and size. Amazon sells all shapes and sizes but I have found this website for a luxury evolution option!

11.

Sports Bra’s

One for the girls. Sports bras are the way to go on your gap year — they are more comfortable, practical and easier to wash than normal bras. Think long bus journeys, long treks…which would you rather be wearing?

12.Quick Drying T-Shirts and Towels

Wished they had packed more. All sports shops sell the quick drying t-shirts — sport t-shirts and an excellent towel review is here from the Gap Year Travel Store.

All Packed and Ready to Go?


So there we have it useful tips from some veteran gap year travellers to bear in mind when you are packing and getting organised.

But finally, remember the simplest packing rule of all: lay everything out that you want to take… and only take half. Shame this guy didn't read this blog!

Need more help with planning your Gap Year? Here to help. Download The Gap Adventure Blueprint Our comprehensive gap year advice guide, which contains several chapters on destinations, fundraising, things to do...

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