Photo Credits: Gap Year Solutions
1. Notebook/Journal. According to the Gap Year Association, a journal can be incredibly useful while you’re on your gap year, and can be a helpful place for processing, documenting, and occasionally venting too. We agree and highly recommend all gappers make this a habit during their year.
2. Hiking Boots. Regardless of your terrain (city, farm, mountain, jungle), it is essential to have a pair of strong, comfortable, waterproof shoes. Gappers tend to do tons of walking, hiking, and generally moving around while on trips. Depending on the type of travel, durable trail running shoes can suffice. But there’s really no substitute for hiking boots – and remember to get them sooner than later – break them in BEFORE you travel!
3. Copy of Your Passport. Not exactly the most fun or exotic item to take while traveling, but it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED that gappers make copies of their passport. Bring several to stash in carry on bags and your backpack, and leave a couple copies with family back home too. It’s also not a bad idea to bring copies of your driver’s license as another form of ID.
Photo Credits: vagaband.com
4. Vagaband Wristband. Vagaband wristbands easily and safely store personal medical information such as allergies, vaccinations and blood type. We love this old school approach to giving doctors, first responders and other travelers essential patient data in an emergency: “no dead batteries, no cracked screens, no lost signal- this is technology that never fails!”
5. Mini-BlueTooth Speaker. Many of our gappers tell us that while they enjoy being outdoors and away from the culture and influences of “home,” they still enjoy listening to their own music while traveling. The portable speakers found everywhere allow music to be a community activity, and enable gappers to quickly learn new singers, songs, and trends. These speakers can be super small and still pack amazing sound!
Photo Credits: Tabasco
6. Food. It may seem obvious, but food outside your hometown (even inside the U.S.) won’t be what you are used to eating everyday. We receive many suggestions from gappers about how to “smuggle” food along the way. Power Bars and Clif Bars are excellent for replenishing in a pinch. “Flavor drops” (Mio) and powder packets (Gatorade, Arnold Palmer) are easy to pack. Our personal favorite is mini tabasco bottles- sometimes the food just needs that little something extra!
7. Favorite Book. Gappers should consider bringing a couple paperbacks on their travels- whether on a city bus commute, long distance drive to a new destination, train, plane, or simply down time. Digging into a great book is a terrific way to pass time, relax and learn. Groups often share favorite books, and they can be left behind with host families.
8. Phone Accessories. While some structured group trips ask students to put phones aside, others do not, and like it or not, our phones are also our cameras now – they are how we record our lives. Airplane mode and other tricks help to prolong battery life, but no matter how hard we try, phone batteries just don’t seem to last the day. Consider bringing a portable battery charger. Yes they add a little weight, but so worth it! Also suggested – extra charging cords (super easy to lose) and a Lifeproof case. And don’t forget to back up those photos whenever you get a wifi connection!
9. High-Quality Rain Jacket. According to our gappers, it is worth splurging on a couple items for your travels. One of these is a high quality, dependable rain jacket. Between multiple-day treks, sleeping outdoors, and hiking in any conditions, it is essential that your rain gear hold up no matter what. It is also smart to invest in a waterproof pack cover for trips that have you living out of your backpack!
10. Sharpie, Duct Tape and Rubber Bands. One of the truisms of travel is that “packing light” wins every time. However, anyone who has had to make hard decisions before stuffing that pack, duffel or rolling bag knows it can be incredibly hard to decide what to bring and what to leave behind. Fortunately, gappers have discovered many ingenious hacks passed along by programs and peers. One of our favorites is the sharpie wrapped with duct tape. A stash of rubber bands helps too. You’ll thank us later!
11. Pepto Bismol. It is inevitable that food or sickness will cause some gastric distress while traveling, and it is so nice to already have some Pepto Bismol on hand! Since it can be incredibly difficult to find this in a pinch, it is a great idea to bring some with you. Also, consider bringing your razor blades, deodorant, and other items that can be hard to find outside the U.S.
Photo Credit: @simonmigaj
12. Sturdy-Frame Backpack. As with the splurge on the rain jacket, our gappers say to invest in a high quality backpack for outdoor adventures. Sometimes gap year trips will include city activities, and only have some portion of the trip set aside for trekking and camping. Avoid the temptation to skimp on the backpack. Expect to spend $250-300+ for a quality pack and accessories such as a waterproof cover.