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The Ultimate question every backpacker asks themselves before they go travelling… “Should I take a suitcase or a backpack?”

It used to be a given that backpackers would take a backpack travelling with them but, as Bob Dylan said, the times they are a-changin’ and backpacking no longer means packing all of your stuff into a backpack. Lots of backpackers are now opting for a suitcase instead.
So which option is right for you? There are a few things to take into account when deciding:

    • Will you be travelling around a lot?
    • Are you planning on settling in one place for the majority of your time to live and work?
    • Are you heading to Southeast Asia or other not so developped destinations?

It can be a tricky decision to make, as the majority of people don’t know exactly what they’ll be doing during their gap year: that’s the whole idea right!? So to help you make your decision, here’s a list of options and pros & cons so you can decide for yourself:

The ‘Trusty’ Suitcase:

Perfect for:

The ‘I’m going to Australia/New Zealand to live & work for a year’ backpacker; The ‘I’ll be travelling around but to mainly tourist destinations’ backpacker and ‘The flashpacker’.

Pros:

Wheels – Who would have thought such a simple invention could bring you so much happiness!? As you’ll be rolling your things around, you won’t suffer from the dreaded backpacker back aches or back sweats. You can access your clothes and belongings easily and quickly and relax happy in the knowledge that your padlock is keeping your stuff safe and secure! If that’s not enough to sell it.. your suitcase will double up as a handy seat!

Cons:

Stairs will be your enemy.  Those ‘backpack’ w*nkers you were laughing at earlier won’t seem so silly after you’ve dragged your suitcase up to the 5th floor of your hostel. Suitcases aren’t ideal for travelling to places such as the Red Centre, Northern Territory or Western Australia either. Also, as suitcases are normally heavier, you may find yourself having to monitor your flight allowances more!

Tip:

Opt for 4 wheels if you can – that way you can push your suitcase along instead of dragging it. Also, go for a good quality hard case as it will probably take a bit of a beating during your gap year!

The ‘Modern’ Backpack (front loader)

Perfect for:

The ‘I’m travelling around Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Southeast Asia and everywhere in between’ backpacker.

Pros:

The front opening backpack gives you easy to access to your clothes and belongings. Backpacks are normally durable and can be thrown around a bit – perfect for boat trips through Southeast Asian islands and other ‘off the beaten track’ tours. Backpacks fit a lot in, can be squashed into small spaces and lets not forget..backpacks make a great pillow for those nights you’ll spend sleeping at the airport!

Cons:

If you pack too much, backpacks can be really heavy. I struggled to carry my oversized, heavy backpack for a year which meant carrying it for longer than 5 minutes at a time gave me back ache. These front opening backpacks are also generally more bulky than the top loader packs.

Tip:

Get your backpack fitted properly to your body. 80% off the weight should be carried by your hips, not your shoulders to avoid back pain. Lots of these backpacks also come with a mini backpack zipped onto the front – useful for day trips when you want to take a smaller bag.

If your backpack is too heavy you'll get back ache

The ‘Old School’ Backpack (top loader)

Perfect for:

The ‘I’m travelling everywhere and I’m not that fussed about getting to my belongings very often’ backpacker.

Pros:

These backpacks are generally less bulky than other backpackers and are easier to carry around. Most have sections you can open at the top and the bottom and smaller pockets on the back to find things easily.

Cons:

Be prepared to pack & unpack, pack & unpack and pack & unpack your bag. Safety can also be an issue with these backpack. As there two different sections to open along with separate pockets, you’ll have to padlock each section to keep your valuables safe.

Tip:

Get your backpack fitted and try on a few different sizes before you buy!

The Wheely ‘Wheely Uncool’ Backpack

Perfect for:

The ‘I’m doing a bit of everything and I want convenience over style’ backpacker.

Pros:

Wheels? Tick. Problems with stairs? Nope. A backpack with wheels = genius! This backpack has it all..You can roll it around, wear it on your back, open it from the front, throw it around, lock it up…the list of backpack benefits goes on.

Cons:

This backpack doesn’t look as sexy as other backpacks. It’s normally quite bulky and can be heavier than other backpacks too, so it’s best used for rolling rather than carrying a lot.

Tip:

If you’re travelling to Southeast Asia, this is a great option!

What else do I need to think about?

Quality

Getting a good quality, durable case or backpack is essential for your gapyear. It will most likely take quite a beating throughout your travels and you don’t want it breaking half way through your trip!

Extra bags

Along with your suitcase or backpack you’ll probably want to bring a smaller, day pack with you. Small holdalls are great for hand luggage on flights but can be tricky to carry around with you after if you’re doing a lot of travelling. If you decide to go for the front opening backpack, choose one with a small day pack zipped to the front. Some days when you’re feeling extra cool, you may even find yourself wearing the extra backpack on your front!  Girls, a side bag can be used as a small handbag for the day and for nights out!

The most important packing tip you’ll ever get!

Don’t pack too much! If you can’t walk around comfortably for 5-10 minutes at home with all of your luggage, you won’t be able carry it all whilst you’re travelling. Remember, what you bring with you is yours to carry for the duration of your trip so don’t overpack. Not being able to pick up your backpack without someone else’s help is not a good look! 😉

via GIPHY

So are you team backpack or team suitcase? Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below!

Planning your gap year? Check out our arrival packages in Australia, Thailand and Vietnam and get in touch for help planning your trip!

Check out our other blogs for more travel tips, advice and inspiration!

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1. You can’t remember the last time you shared a room with less than 4 other people.

2. You’ve tried all of the different Goon bags and have decided on your fave (Fruity Lexia -obvs!)

3. Eating Subway (footlong) for breakfast, lunch and dinner is the norm.

4. Finding half a bottle of shampoo in the hostel shower excites you way more than it should!

5. Long journeys no longer faze you.

6. You know all of the best drinking games..

7. ..and have become and absolute pro at the limbo.

8. You don’t know how you ever lived without your sunnies permanently attached to your face.

9. You know the happy hour of all the local pubs and wouldn’t dream of spending your booze money on a fully priced meal.

10. You’ve got used to dressing in the dark and tip toeing into your dorm room at 4am to avoid waking your dorm buddies up!

11. You’ve mended your flip flops more than once.

12. You never thought you would become a ‘roller’ but you’ve started rolling all of your clothes to avoid creases..or..

13. ..you’ve completely given up on worrying about creases in your clothes and have started shoving your stuff back into your backpack.

14. You’ve been wearing the same anklet for the last 11 months & you can’t count how many bracelets you’re wearing.

15. You’ve accumulated so much stuff along the way, you have to have a ‘backpack spring clean’ at least once during your travels!

16. You get excited about small things. Having a clean towel brings you so much comfort & happiness.

17. You’ve got a million new friends on FB..

18. ..and added a million new travel photos to your account.

19. You’ve lived off Pot Noodles, beans on toast and some simple yet effective pasta combos (tuna & pasta, tomato & pasta..the list goes on)..

20. ..so walking past someone handing out free food/drink samples without stopping becomes an epic fail. Desperate times call for desperate measures!

21. You’ve learnt to get changed anywhere & in front of people whilst maintaining your modesty…most of the time!

22. You’ve sat inside McDonalds or outside the Apple store for hours using their WIFI.

23. You can sleep anywhere. Your mates floor, the airport, in a bar..backpacking can be tiring, people!

24. You’ve tried sneaking into clubs by rubbing your mates stamp on your wrist. Do people actually pay $30 entry to get into clubs these days?!

25. You started a blog/journal but have forgotten to post/write for a few weeks now- you’re just having too much fun!

26. Clean toilets & hot showers become a luxury and you can’t even remember what a hot bath feels like!

Dog really enjoys bath time - Imgur

27. You’ve been carrying around the same water bottle for 3 months and refilling it at any opportunity.

28. It’s strange to you when people don’t wait for their change at the bar. That could buy you half a schooner of beer!

29. You’ve got used to the heat and now anywhere with air con feels like the Antarctic.

30. You’ve heard someone having sex no more than 3 feet away from you. Oh the joys of hostel living!

31. You’re constantly battling your room mates for the free plug to charge up your phone.

32. You have constant tan lines even though you haven’t been sunbathing in a while.

33. You’ve got $9.70 in your account but still go out on the piss – where there’s a will there’s a way!

34. Your backpack is so heavy, you’ve started dragging it as much as you can and are seriously contemplating fashioning some backpack wheels.

35. When you aren’t going bare foot your, flip flops are your best friend.

36. Luxuries such as perfume & aftershave are a distant memory.

37. You memorised your passport number a long time ago but..

38. ..You still feel guilty walking through customs at the airport  no matter how many times you’ve done it. Did someone plant something in my bag!?

>

39. Sleep is no longer a necessity. You’ve learnt to survive on 4 hours a night. You can sleep when you’re dead right?

40. You agree with most of these!!

Can you think of any more? We want to hear from you. Comment below!

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Australia has something for everyone, whether you want to relax on its idyllic sandy beaches, quad bike through the Outback or dive with Great White sharks…the options are endless.

So before you embark on your trip down under, you should ensure that you’ve packed all the essentials that you will need for your trip. As Australia is a modern and westernised country, you will have no issues finding items such as toiletries and even clothing, so don’t worry too much if you leave something behind!

We know that packing all your belongings into a backpack is daunting, stressful … not to mention difficult! (It just won’t fit!!) So, in case you’re wondering what to pack, we’ve put together a list of what we think will be important when you get here, to help you get started:

Sun Protection & Aftercare

This one is a no-brainer, Australia is well-known for its scorching hot temperatures and the sun can be unforgiving during the summer, especially in the Outback! Make sure you pack some sun cream to get you started and some after sun, preferably with Aloe Vera, to soothe your skin. If you run out, you should have no problems picking some more up in one of the stores over there.

A handy little tip … put your after sun in the fridge if you can, it feels so nice on your skin after a day in the sun!

Insect Repellent

Australia may not carry a Malaria risk, but mosquitoes are still a problem that plagues many travellers. And unfortunately, it is not just pesky mosquitoes that are looking to make life uncomfortable for you during your trip.

Sand-flies are also prevalent in Australia and are often found at beaches, lakes and swamps; these little critters can also cause pain and discomfort if they manage to bite you. Packing an insect repellent with DEET can help to repel mosquitoes, sand-flies and other insects, helping you to avoid uncomfortable insect bites.

If you are unlucky enough to attract these creatures, we can absolutely sympathise! There is a really good relief cream called “Itch Eze”, found in most chemists … tried and tested by yours truly and it’s the best we’ve found so far!

Australia Travel Adapter

If you want to be able to use appliances and recharge your mobile phone, camera and other electrical items, an Australia travel adapter is an absolute must have item for your packing list! These adapters have two slanted flat pins, which form an upside down ‘V’ shape.

It is better to get these in your home country as they will not cost as much as if you were to buy them in Australia!

Dry Bags/Zip Lock Bags

This one is for the water sport enthusiasts and those who plan on spending a lot of time at the beach. Storing your belongings in a dry bag or zip lock bag will help keep water and sand off your stuff. (Honestly, it gets everywhere!!) Dry bags are great for storing wet swimsuits separately from the rest of your gear and zip lock bags can be used for items such as phones, documents and guide books that you want to protect from spillages and wet items in your bag.

Travel Towel

This is a popular item on many packing lists, the quick drying, compact and lightweight alternative to standard towels from home. Travel towels take up a fraction of the packing space of a normal towel and they dry much quicker. Some towels on the market also feature a special anti-bacterial coating, which helps to prevent odours from developing when the towel is damp.

Travel towels come in a range of sizes. For Australia, we would recommend packing a giant or body sized towel, so you can use it at the beach as well as back at your hostel.

Photocopies of Important Documents

You should always photocopy your passport and other important travel documents before you leave, as you’ll be in a bit of a mess if you somehow manage to lose them (it’s easily done!). The copies should be stored somewhere different to where you’re keeping the originals. The process of obtaining an Emergency Travel Document can take days and will also tap into your travel fund!

See our past blog for tips on other things to do before you go travelling here

Camera

Another obvious choice for your packing list. You should never travel without a camera, as they help to capture your experiences, so that you can look back on them once you’ve returned home. If you’re travelling with your laptop, you can also upload your pictures to Facebook and other social media platforms, so family and friends can see what you’ve been up to in Oz…and most likely be seething with jealousy!

We would always recommend that you store this in your hand luggage … you don’t want to miss a photo op!

Locks

As with any travel destination, locks for your backpack or luggage are a must. Many padlocks on the market are designed to fit through most luggage zips and are a great way to prevent zips from opening in transit and for keeping thieves out of your bag.

If you get one that has a code, rather than a lock, you won’t need to worry about losing your key – nightmare scenario avoided!

Hopefully, this will give you somewhere to start when packing for your new adventure! Got any questions, (packing related or otherwise)? Give our UltimateOz team a shout, you can email us or pop us a post on Facebook and we’ll be happy to help!

Australia has something for everyone, whether you want to relax on its idyllic sandy beaches, quad bike through the Outback or dive with Great White sharks…the options are endless.

So before you embark on your trip down under, you should ensure that you’ve packed all the essentials that you will need for your trip. As Australia is a modern and westernised country, you will have no issues finding items such as toiletries and even clothing, so don’t worry too much if you leave something behind!

We know that packing all your belongings into a backpack is daunting, stressful … not to mention difficult! (It just won’t fit!!) So we’ve put together a list of what we think will be important when you get here, to help you get started:

Sun Protection & Aftercare

This one is a no-brainer, Australia is well-known for its scorching hot temperatures and the sun can be unforgiving during the summer, especially in the Outback! Make sure you pack some sun cream to get you started and some after sun, preferably with Aloe Vera, to soothe your skin. If you run out, you should have no problems picking some more up in one of the stores over there.

A handy little tip … put your after sun in the fridge if you can, it feels so nice on your skin after a day in the sun!

Insect Repellent

Australia may not carry a Malaria risk, but mosquitoes are still a problem that plagues many travellers. And unfortunately, it is not just pesky mosquitoes that are looking to make life uncomfortable for you during your trip.

Sand-flies are also prevalent in Australia and are often found at beaches, lakes and swamps; these little critters can also cause pain and discomfort if they manage to bite you. Packing an insect repellent with DEET can help to repel mosquitoes, sand-flies and other insects, helping you to avoid uncomfortable insect bites.

If you are unlucky enough to attract these creatures, I can absolutely sympathise! There is a really good relief cream called “Itch Eze”, found in most chemists … tried and tested by yours truly and it’s the best I’ve found so far!

Australia Travel Adapter

If you want to be able to use appliances and recharge your mobile phone, camera and other electrical items, an Australia travel adapter is an absolute must have item for your packing list! These adapters have two slanted flat pins, which form an upside down ‘V’ shape.

It is better to get these in your home country as they will not cost as much as if you were to buy them in Australia!

Dry Bags/Zip Lock Bags

This one is for the water sport enthusiasts and those who plan on spending a lot of time at the beach. Storing your belongings in a dry bag or zip lock bag will help keep water and sand off your stuff. (Honestly, it gets everywhere!!) Dry bags are great for storing wet swimsuits separately from the rest of your gear and zip lock bags can be used for items such as phones, documents and guide books that you want to protect from spillages and wet items in your bag.

Travel Towel

This is a popular item on many packing lists, the quick drying, compact and lightweight alternative to standard towels from home. Travel towels take up a fraction of the packing space of a normal towel and they dry much quicker. Some towels on the market also feature a special anti-bacterial coating, which helps to prevent odours from developing when the towel is damp.

Travel towels come in a range of sizes. For Australia, we would recommend packing a giant or body sized towel, so you can use it at the beach as well as back at your hostel.

Photocopies of Important Documents

You should always photocopy your passport and other important travel documents before you leave, as you’ll be in a bit of a mess if you somehow manage to lose them (it’s easily done!). The copies should be stored somewhere different to where you’re keeping the originals. The process of obtaining an Emergency Travel Document can take days and will also tap into your travel fund!

See our past blog for tips on other things to do before you go travelling here

Camera

Another obvious choice for your packing list. You should never travel without a camera, as they help to capture your experiences, so that you can look back on them once you’ve returned home. If you’re travelling with your laptop, you can also upload your pictures to Facebook and other social media platforms, so family and friends can see what you’ve been up to in Oz…and most likely be seething with jealousy!

We would always recommend that you store this in your hand luggage … you don’t want to miss a photo op!

Locks

As with any travel destination, locks for your backpack or luggage are a must. Many padlocks on the market are designed to fit through most luggage zips and are a great way to prevent zips from opening in transit and for keeping thieves out of your bag.

If you get one that has a code, rather than a lock, you won’t need to worry about losing your key – nightmare scenario avoided!

Hopefully, this will give you somewhere to start when packing for your new adventure! Got any questions, (packing related or otherwise)? Give our Ultimate Travel team a shout, you can email us or pop us a post on Facebook and we’ll be happy to help!