You are finally going on the backpacking adventure you've dreamed about for years. But before you stuff everything into your pack and rush off to the airport, there are a few things you need to take care of. About two or three weeks before you leave, go through this checklist for backpacking abroad, and make sure that everything is in order.
This is one of the most essential parts of your trip. Check your passport's expiration date. If your passport hasn't expired yet but it's close, you may want to go ahead and renew it. It is usually recommended that a traveler's passport remains valid for at least six months after the trip has ended. Make sure that you have a money belt or similar method to keep your passport safe and on your body at all times.
You should factor in other safety precautions, as well. Before you leave for your trip, make a color photocopy of your passport and stash it somewhere safe. Bring along a few more of those passport photos you had to take. Travel Independent, a website for travelers, by travelers, takes copying more seriously: "[Prepare] photocopies of everything important (passports, traveller cheque numbers etc.), leave a copy at home, on the internet (internet mail account) and (if possible) with your travelling partner. This will come in handy if you happen to lose your passport and have to replace it."
Also, consider taking an old expired passport with you. You may run into a situation where someone wants you to leave your passport as collateral. Instead of giving them the passport that you can't do without, you can leave your old one and not worry about it.
Again, check and re-check that you have your passport on your body before you go to the airport. While you're traveling, make passport checks a regular part of your routine. It may sound silly, but losing your passport is something that can be prevented with some simple precautions.
Are your vaccinations up-to-date? Do you have your vaccination record with you? Bringing a photocopy of your record is a good idea. If you are traveling to a country that requires you to get certain vaccinations, having the record will make going through customs a breeze. Plus, if you happen to get sick, it's always best to have it on hand for the doctor to refer to. It doesn't take up much space, so pack it with your other travel documents in a dedicated folder.
Don't forget an adequate amount of your prescription medication. Talk to your doctor and explain the situation. Usually it's quite easy to obtain a supply for a trip, so don't be afraid to ask. Another option is to have your doctor issue you a prescription to take with you. However, filling prescriptions overseas can be difficult, so bringing enough medicine is probably your best option.
Check your backpack before you leave. Do you have everything? If you're sure that you haven't left anything out, ask yourself this: is there anything in here that I can do without? It's a good idea to lighten your load as much as possible to cut down on back strain and leave room to bring back souvenirs.
Try out your backpack a few weeks before you go. Take it on a day-long excursion and see how comfortable you are. Do you need to reduce the weight? Are the straps too long or short? Put it through a test so that when you're backpacking for real, there are no unpleasant surprises.
Once you've gone through this list, you should be set. While you may inevitably forget something, you will at least have the essentials in place and will be ready to deal with anything. Keep your backpack light, your passport and travel documents close, and remember have fun!