Packing for a Gap Year in Three Easy Steps

You booked your round the world tickets and thought the hard part was over. Think again… there’s still the packing to be done after all.

A year is a long time and thinking about how to fit your entire life into a tiny little rucksack is daunting. Where do you even begin? Luckily, we’ve compiled a few tips to help you through:

1. DON’T PANIC!

Is your reaction to packing – “pack everything! How much can I cram in? What’s your largest backpack size?” Don’t worry, you’re not alone. It even has a technical term – it’s called ‘panicking’. Don’t do it.

Sit down, breathe, and relax. Start a diary….

This may seem like an odd suggestion, but if you note down everything you use in the space of 7 days then you will have a clear, logical picture, of what you can and can’t live without.

Another great tip, which really helps you understand ‘how much is too much’, is to lay everything you want to take out on your bed. Then, halve it – that’s probably how much you should be packing. You’ll thank me when you’re running for the bus with two stone on your shoulders, instead of four.

2. Location, location, location…

You can’t live without Eczema cream, but you’re also going to Australia – and can probably just pick some up while you’re there. If you’re going to Ghana though, it might become more of a problem.

Researching your destination is an essential part of travel. Hopefully you won’t have just stuck a pin in a map and prayed for the best – you will have read about it first. Spontaneity is great, but when it comes to packing, it always helps to plan meticulously. Make sure you pack those really important medical things you won’t be able to get easily abroad, like the contraceptive pill.

It’s really important to research airport restrictions too. Please don’t try to take Ribena to Australia -customs will have a fit. The same with muddy shoes. Instead, if you’re packing something that you aren’t sure about, always declare it.

Style vs Substance

Usually the answer to this question would be ‘substance’. It’s only when you’ve spent the entire day walking around with your home on your back, that the true beauty of practical, comfy shoes, is realized.

But don’t underestimate the power of your favorite piece of clothing either. Having a few special stylish items will really lift your spirits when you’re tired, dirty and you’ve been wearing the same t-shirt for a month.

However, straighteners will never have a rightful place in a backpack. I don’t care how frizzy your hair is. After 30 days you will literally have forgotten what your own face looks like, let alone anything else (which is much more pleasant than it sounds!).

And remember, in the words of Douglas Adams… never, EVER, go anywhere without a towel!


Amy Heritage writes about gapyear travel for mapthegap.co.uk. She is based in London and has travelled in Europe, Australia, America and China, as well as living and working for a year in New Zealand.