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What to Take Travelling

Deciding what you should take on your gap year is an important part of your travel preparations. What you remember (or forget!) now will affect how smooth your travel experience is, so plan ahead and get it right!

Choosing a good backpack

A good backpack is the most important thing to take on your gap year. After all, you’ll be living out of it for the next few weeks/months/years! It is definitely worth investing in a strong backpack which is well-made, safe and waterproof. For more advice, check out our guide on choosing a good backpack.

Choosing a daypack

You will also need a good daypack to take on your gap year, for days out, day trips or day treks. Get a useful pack with lots of pockets and the ability to zip up or be padlocked shut, so you can keep your belongings safe and keep the essential items close to you at all times.

Will I need a sleeping bag?

Deciding if you need to take a sleeping bag will depend on the activities you will be doing while you are away. Some trips involve camping out and will require you to bring a sleeping bag, whereas other programmes will provide bedding so your own sleeping bag is not necessary. Find out if you need a sleeping bag.

Write a kit checklist

Think well in advance about what you want to take and write a list. This will help you avoid forgetting vital items or wasting money on things you don't need. Use the packing checklist below to help you:

Essential Documents

Don't forget to take any of these essential travel documents:

  • Passport and visas
  • Vaccination certificates
  • Travel insurance policy
  • Flight tickets
  • Booking confirmation for any trips/accommodation etc
  • Driver's licence
  • Photocopies of all the above
  • Credit and debit cards
  • Cash in local currency
  • Prepaid travel card (if you have one)


The most essential part of any kit, gap travellers need to get the right luggage so you can travel light. We recommend you will need:

  • A sturdy backpack
  • A daypack
  • A waterproof cover
  • A waterproof liner (only necessary if your backpack is going to be exposed to the elements for a long period of time, for example during a hiking trip)
  • Travel document wallet
  • Plastic bags to help keep your kit dry or to separate your dirty laundry
  • Vacuum bags to store really compact items such as clothing or sleeping bags


You need to look after your health while you are away, and make sure that you have access to any medications that you might need while travelling. Our suggested health checklist includes the following essential items:

  • Prescribed medication (if any)
  • Condoms
  • Insect repellent
  • Sun protection and after sun
  • Lip balm to protect against the sun
  • Malaria tablets
  • Mosquito net
  • We suggest you take a First Aid Kit with the following items:
  • Waterproof plasters
  • Antiseptic cream
  • Antihistamine cream
  • Paracetamol
  • Small nail scissors
  • Water purification tablets
  • Anti-diarrhoea pills
  • Re-hydration sachets to use after diarrhoea / sickness
  • Sterile needle pack


It's best to take only the bare minimum of versatile clothing, so you aren't carrying too much with you in your backpack. Remember, you can always buy more items of clothing as you go, or swap items with fellow travellers - it's all part of the fun of gap travel! Here are a few essential clothes items to take with you:

  • T-shirts / vest tops
  • Long sleeved tops
  • Fleece
  • Trousers
  • Shorts / skirts
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Swimwear
  • Sarong
  • Underwear and socks
  • Something to wear in bed
  • Sun hat
  • Trainers/flip-flops
  • Hiking boots


Safety is a top priority abroad, and we suggest you take these items to stay safe on your gap year:

  • Money belt
  • Padlocks
  • Cable lock
  • Personal alarm
  • Door wedge (in case your hostel door has no lock)


A few basic toiletries will come in handy, especially as you may not be able to get hold of your favourite toiletry brands or items while travelling:

  • Wash bag (ideally one that you can hang on a hook)
  • Shampoo
  • Shower gel
  • Razors
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Hairbrush / comb
  • Travel wipes, handy for freshening up especially if you have to go without a shower for a few days
  • Antiseptic hand gel
  • Toilet tissue - you can buy handy compacted ones
  • Flip-flops for when you just don't want to put your bare feet in a shower!

Female travellers

Female travellers might need to consider taking a few extra items in their luggage, such as:

  • Tampons / sanitary towels
  • Contraception
  • Small mirror
  • Makeup
  • Tweezers - also handy to have in some first-aid situations and are included in some kits
  • Nail scissors/emery board
  • Hair conditioner

Other useful items

Here's a rundown of some other useful items to consider packing before you set off on your gap travels:

  • Sleeping bag and sleeping bag liner
  • Small mirror
  • Sunglasses
  • Contact lenses / glasses (take spares if you use them)
  • Phone and charger
  • Camera and plenty of memory cards (take a spare battery)
  • Electric plug adaptor/voltage adapters (see country descriptions). It is often vital to buy these before you leave the UK, as it may be difficult to locate UK compatible adapters once abroad
  • Batteries for torch/camera etc
  • Torch / head torch
  • Alarm clock
  • Playing cards
  • Duct tape (useful for mending rucksacks, covering holes in mosquito nets and for sticking up the nets)
  • Universal sink plug
  • Travel wash
  • Pegless clothes line
  • Ear plugs (a blessing in communal sleeping areas!)
  • Eye mask
  • Reading book
  • Travel guide
  • Small note book
  • Journal and pen
  • Laptop
  • Water bottle
  • Travel towel, small and quick drying

Why not print off this checklist and keep it by your luggage, so you can make sure you haven't missed out on any essential travel kit items?

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