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The popularity of the gap year has seen a rise in students and teenagers travelling abroad have fun and get away before they start work or university.

While teenage independence abroad can be a worry for parents and grandparents, having suitable travel insurance makes the experience less stressful.

John Brady, Head of Commercial at John Lewis Insurance answers your questions about backpacking and how it affects your
Travel Insurance.

Q & A with John Brady

Q. What's your background and what experience do you have that makes you an expert on Travel Insurance?

A. I've worked in financial services for 20 years, including banking, credit cards and insurance. The last five years have been spent at the John Lewis Partnership, where I helped to launch and develop John Lewis Insurance, including our personal insurance cover for homes, cars, pets, weddings, events, and of course, travel. I love travelling and know how important it is to feel reassured that any potential problems are covered by travel insurance when you’re abroad.

Q. How much do I need to take with me when backpacking?

A. The key is to travel light, as you’ll be carrying your bag around most of the time. If your bag’s heavy you’ll get tired quickly and if your bag is bulky you might annoy people on trains and buses. A 35 or 50 litre bag is probably best as this will fit all your essentials and won’t scream tourist.

Quotation MarksBackpacking is a great way to see the world without spending a fortune. It’s a chance to meet new people and experience many
different cultures.Quotation Marks

Q. What are the essential items to pack?

A. If you’re travelling in Europe or the USA then you won’t need to be quite as prepared, as you’ll be able to buy most essentials en route. However, it’s always worth taking:

  • First aid kit (keep it simple and make your own)
  • Water bottles
  • Small torch
  • Travel towel(s)
  • Swiss army knife (although don’t put it in your hand luggage)
  • Water purifying tablets and mosquito repellent

Don’t take any valuable or non-essential items such as a hairdryer.

Q. What sort of clothes should I take?

A. Again the answer is to travel light, so don’t take too many pairs of shoes. If you’re going to be doing a lot of walking then hiking boots or shoes will be useful, but as these are heavy you might prefer some comfy trainers. For hot countries, it’s worth taking a robust pair of sandals as well.

You will be able to wash clothes so just take a couple of T-shirts, a long sleeved top, lightweight trousers and underwear. I’d also suggest swimming things, a hat, fleece and waterproof coat as weather can be unpredictable. Choose clothing that can be rolled up and takes up very little space.

Q. Is backpacking covered with normal travel insurance?

A. If you're going away for a long period of time then a single trip policy is better for you. John Lewis Travel Insurance Single Trip policies cover trips of up to six months. However, we don't provide travel insurance for one way trips.

Q. Will I be covered if I want to try bungee jumping or scuba diving?

A. Travel insurance will usually cover you for a variety of sports while abroad - John Lewis Travel Insurance includes trekking (up to 2,500 metres altitude), scuba diving (up to a depth of 18 metres) and camel riding. If you'd like to try a more adventurous sport, our optional Hazardous Sports Cover will cover you for things like bungee jumping, canoeing and white water rafting. 

Q. What other expert advice can you give me?

A. Before you go:

  • Make sure your passport is in date and has at least six months left.
  • Check with your doctor about any vaccinations you will need.
  • Find out if you need a visa to enter any of the countries you are visiting.
  • Photocopy your passport and leave a copy with someone.
  • Speak to your insurer if you plan on doing activities (such as swimming with sharks) that may not be included in your policy.

During your trip:

  • Keep all valuables, including your passport, on your person at all times
  • Divide your money between your bag and various pockets
  • Contact family regularly to stop them worrying
  • Drink plenty of water to stop yourself getting dehydrated

For further tips and advice, please see our quick guide (PDF).

John Lewis Travel Insurance homepage

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