You鈥檝e finally convinced your best friend to ditch their responsibilities and go on an exciting backpacking adventure with you this summer. Now that you鈥檝e booked your plane tickets, looked up breathtaking fairy-tale castles you can visit, and spilled the exciting news on social media, it鈥檚 time to start looking up all the nitty-gritty details so you can make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. From what essentials to pack to the unwritten etiquette of staying in a hostel, here are 19 crucial things you need to know before setting off on your backpacking adventure.

A woman checks a map as she waits for a train

1. Go backpacking with friends you鈥檙e comfortable with. There are so many things we love about traveling 鈥 breathtaking destinations, delicious grub, spontaneous adventures 鈥 but traveling the world isn鈥檛 always as seamless as it looks on Instagram. Whether it鈥檚 a stressful encounter at an airport or a crucial navigational error, there鈥檚 going to be times when the stresses of traveling get the best of you. That鈥檚 why if you decide to go backpacking with a companion (traveling solo is always an option), it鈥檚 best to find someone who can handle you at your crankiest. While we鈥檙e all for making new memories with acquaintances, it鈥檚 best to ensure the person that you鈥檙e going to be traveling with for an extended period knows you extremely well. If they don鈥檛, perhaps consider going on a short road trip first to test out your travel dynamics before you commit to weeks or months abroad together.

2. Consider splurging on a slight upcharge at your hostel for a private room 鈥 especially if you鈥檙e an introvert. Backpacking is as much about meeting awesome people as it is about seeing incredible places, but sometimes you just need a moment to recharge from being around people ALL THE TIME. At many hostel locations, you can usually book a private room for you and your travel companions for a small upcharge (it鈥檚 usually somewhere between $20 and $40). Though we definitely recommend bunking with fellow travelers for at least part of your backpacking experience, this is definitely a cheap option if you鈥檙e in need of some quiet alone time.

3. Bring a combination lock. Most reputable hostels have some sort of storage locker where travelers can leave their backpacks if they鈥檙e staying for more than the night. While the lockers are usually included in the price of the room, most require you to bring your own combination lock. Just make sure to keep the actual combination somewhere you won鈥檛 forget (perhaps text it to your mom just to be safe). Trust us: After lugging around all of your possessions on your back, you鈥檒l be thankful you to give your body a rest for the day.

4. Don鈥檛 be afraid to chat with the locals. We totally understand that trying to converse with someone in a language you barely speak is daunting, but chatting with locals is a great way to find hidden gems, learn the vibe of the city, and make lifelong friends. One of my favorite memories during my time backpacking Europe was mustering up all the French I learned in high school and chatting with a retired police officer in a Parisian park. Just try your best and be friendly!

A woman and a man walk through a city

5. Pack things specifically for entertainment. Just because you鈥檙e traveling to see some of the greatest sights in the world doesn鈥檛 mean there isn鈥檛 going to be down time. Odds are you鈥檙e going to be spending a lot of time on train rides, internet-free airplanes, and in long lines for tourist attractions. Be prepared for this by packing things that you know will entertain you, including an old-school deck of cards, various playlists, and fun apps to play on your phone. Also, be sure to check out the book exchange in your hostels 鈥 there are often tons of hidden gems you can find with cool inscriptions from other travelers.

6. Invest in a travel journal. Backpacking is often a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that you鈥檙e going to want to remember forever. Taking photos and videos is definitely a must, but we also recommend journaling during your time abroad. I journaled every day during my time backpacking Europe and, to this day, I still love looking back and reading what we did each day, the delicious food we ate, and the fun inside jokes that only my travel companion would understand (green hot dogs, Caitlin, if you鈥檙e reading this).

7. Weigh your data plan options. There鈥檚 no question that the advancements in data roaming have changed the way backpackers travel. While you can totally make use of your usual cell phone provider鈥檚 data roaming deals, also consider getting a local SIM card for the place you鈥檙e traveling to. You can either wait to get a SIM card once you arrive or preorder one from places like GoSim. Just remember to do your research before you leave to find the best deal with the coverage you鈥檙e looking for.

8. Pack light, and leave your valuables at home. It can be super-tempting to bring your most fabulous clothes with you on this unique vacation (we鈥檙e always thinking of the 鈥榞ram), but you should avoid packing heavy items that you only plan on wearing once. Try to stick to basics that you could style multiple ways, and don鈥檛 forget to pack essentials like a light windbreaker, good quality socks, and a quick-drying travel towel 鈥 The Savvy Backpacker has an awesome guide to what to take with you. You should also consider leaving your valuables at home. A good rule of thumb for backpacking is to only pack things you wouldn鈥檛 be too upset about ruining or losing.

9. Make a budget before you go. Even if you鈥檙e staying in the cheapest hostels and scrimping on food, backpacking is still mega-expensive. To avoid having to call your family or friends for a short-term loan, we highly suggest making a budget before you start your trip. A few quick tips: Be generous when budgeting for food expenses, and always account for tips, accidents, and incidentals.

A backpacker crosses the street in a busy city

10. If possible, splurge on at least one fancy hotel room during your stay. We promise; it鈥檚 not cheating! After months of staying in dingy hostels with shared bathrooms, uncomfortable beds, and roommates who keep you up all night, you鈥檒l be so glad that you pre-booked a fancy hotel halfway through your trip. Spend some time enjoying all the amenities of your hotel (pool time and extra-long showers are encouraged) to recharge your batteries so you can thoroughly enjoy the rest of your backpacking adventure.

11. Download a translator app and practice a few key words before you leave. If you鈥檙e going to a country where you don鈥檛 speak the native language, downloading a translator app is a must. We鈥檙e particularly fond of Google Translate (free on iOS and Android) and iTranslate Voice (also free on iOS and Android). But just because you have a handy translator in your pocket doesn鈥檛 mean you should skip practicing before you leave: Do your best to memorize a few key words that you might need to know while you鈥檙e abroad. Also be aware of whether your translation app requires a data connection to work 鈥 you might want to back it up with a phrasebook, just in case.

12. Grocery store meals will be your best friend. We know that one of the major perks of backpacking is getting to experience amazing cuisine from around the world, but traveling on a shoestring budget may mean that you have to sacrifice your dream of eating at a different Michelin-starred restaurant every night. Especially if your hostel has a kitchen, getting grub at a local grocery store is a great way to stay on budget during your travels. Do your best to try local brands, and attempt to make authentic cuisine from your grocery store finds 鈥 from cheese fondue in Switzerland to sushi in Japan, the sky鈥檚 the limit!

13. Plan out your first few days before you leave. One of the many benefits of backpacking is being able to spontaneously travel to a new destination just because someone staying at your hostel told you it鈥檚 remarkable. That being said, we highly suggest planning at least the first few days of your trip in advance, including booking your accommodations and transportation. Once you get the hang of the whole backpacking thing and feel more confident, you can totally start winging it if that鈥檚 your travel style.

14. Learn hostel etiquette. With up to a dozen people sharing a living and sleeping space, there are few etiquette rules you should be mindful of before you spend your first night in a hostel. If you鈥檙e planning on arriving to the room late, make sure to leave the lights off, and be as quiet as possible. In addition, make sure to keep your belongings confined to your space, be respectful of your temporary roommates, and make an effort to chat with your fellow travelers 鈥 especially if they鈥檙e traveling solo.

Two women hike along a mountain lake

15. Keep free mementos like museum tickets or transit stubs. If you鈥檙e trying to stay on budget but want physical souvenirs of the cool places you鈥檝e visited, hold on to your ticket stubs. Not only do they make for great bookmarks, but they鈥檙e also an awesome way to remember your trip.

16. Bring good camera equipment (the lighter weight, the better). Even though most smartphones are now able to take high-definition photos, make sure you pack camera equipment to take photos you鈥檒l be proud of in 10 years. If weight and space are an obstacle and DSLRs are out of the question, consider investing in an attachable lens for your phone or a pocket camera that takes high-quality photos. These memories are going to last a lifetime 鈥 make sure the photos do too.

17. Download offline maps before you travel. Despite having amazing data roaming and more free WiFi than ever before, it鈥檚 always smart to have an offline map with you. While it鈥檚 totally a good idea to carry a physical map, you can also download digital offline maps to help you look a little less touristy and save on data usage.

18. Keep an eye out for pickpockets and scammers. No matter where you travel, safety should always be a concern. Backpackers are especially prone to pickpocketing in Europe and Southeast Asia, so always be sure to carry your money and identification in a money belt or similarly safe space. We also advise backpackers to read up on popular scams in the places they鈥檙e planning on visiting (here are a few popular scams in Europe and Asia) so you鈥檙e prepared before you travel.

19. Know that not everything is going to work out according to plan. We hate to break it to you, but even if you have the most detailed plan in the world, there are going to be times when your itinerary just doesn鈥檛 work out. Whether the place you want to visit is closed, the weather becomes extremely uncooperative, or you have to change your accommodations at the last minute, know that you鈥檙e probably going to have to edit your schedule at least once during your trip. Take a deep breath, talk it out with your travel companion (or call your bestie back home if you鈥檙e traveling alone), and take solace in the fact that every backpacker before you has experienced the exact same thing.

Are you planning a backpacking trip this summer? Tweet us about it by mentioning @BritandCo.

(Photos via Getty)