TRAVEL: Backpacking Tips

I am no backpacking expert, as I have started doing it fairly recent and haven’t even done it outside the country.

But I’m sharing this anyway. Below is a list of things I do when planning a trip and things to remember when backpacking. I hope these will help you jumpstart your own adventure!

1. Read and research

I’m really bad with directions. That’s why for me, the most important thing is to get to know your destination. For my first backpacking trip in Negros Occidental in 2015, I did a lot of research a few months before my actual trip. I find that the best source of travel information are blogs. They usually provide information on the cheap accommodations, things to do and sometimes even contact persons or tour guides. Just make sure that the entries you read are recent (at least a year or two).

At Mambukal Resort somewhere in Negros 2015

If you are planning to head north, you can check out my blog and read up on my Northern Luzon adventures: www.eatpraylovel.wordpress.comScreen Shot 2016-11-21 at 7.55.52 PM.png

2. Plot and plan

After reading up on your destination, you can then plot and plan your itinerary. Get to know specific areas you want to go to and find information on how to get there.

I usually work backwards when doing my itinerary. I first determine my last stop for a trip which is usually the place I really want to go to – save the best for last! Then, I check out the places I will pass by during the trip and identify where I can do pitstops to break the journey.

Full moon in Sibang Cove, Calayan, The Babuyan Islands.

I usually prepare an excel spreadsheet that has my travel particulars: where to go, how to go there, fare prices and the links where I got my information.

Screen Shot 2016-11-21 at 6.59.04 PM.png
A portion of my Cordillera itinerary last February.

I tend to get OC when planning a trip, but on the travel day itself, my itinerary usually ends up being jumbled around. The good thing about having the spreadsheet is that you already have an idea how to go around a place (where the terminals are located, the name of the place you have to go to, the price, etc…), so it’s easy for you to get directions from locals and not get lured by tourist traps!

The terminal for Callao, Peñablanca.

I also recommend that you get in contact with your homestay or guide at least a week before your travel. Finalize homestay and guide fees beforehand and avoid unnecessary expenses when you get there.

TPS Homestay in Sentro, Calayan, The Babuyan Islands.

Having a thorough trip itinerary is important, especially if you are planning to go solo.  But always be open to surprises along the way. Getting lost is part of the fun, after all!

Before I found out that there were no more jeepneys heading out of Mainit to Bontoc.

3. Cash and kindness

I would like to believe that in backpacking, there are two currencies you can use: your cash and your kindness. The cash you will use for traveling commodities and accommodations, while kindness you will use for experience – maybe even for everything!

With Auntie Nita and Uncle Asyong, our adoptive parents in Anguib, Santa Ana, Cagayan Valley

I’ve met locals who were willing to let us pitch tents on their backyards for free to pass the night; we’ve shared meals with a family after running out of food supplies. The kindness of people are humbling, that’s why it is best to always have a little something you can leave behind like candies for the kids or medicines for adults. I recommend this especially if you are traveling to remote destinations (a.k.a. places without commercial accommodations).

Setting camp in Sibang Cove, Calayan, The Babuyan Islands.

If you don’t have anything with you, repay their kindness with yours: offer help preparing a meal or cleaning up their place, especially if you are staying in homestays, where there aren’t many hands to help the owner around.

With Ate V of Vilma’s Homestay in Maligcong, Bontoc, Mountain Province

Lastly, always check if there are available ATMs in the area. Otherwise, bring enough cash to last you for the entire trip.

4. Dress down

Backpacking requires a lot of walking, running (after jeepneys or buses), climbing, bumpy motor rides, etc… Basically, you will have to be on your feet and ready to run at any moment.

When planning your outfits, make sure your shoes are sturdy. Check weather reports and pack clothes as needed. Hot or cold, ensure that your outfits are easy to move around and are okay to get stained and dirty – all while still looking good for the camera.

Personally, I prefer dressing down and being discreet as much as I can when traveling. Dressing down allows you to avert unwanted attention. Also, the more you blend in, the more you will appear approachable to locals.

The camera gives me away. At some bridge around Kabayan. I forgot the name of the place.
me again.png
Taking a photo break at Mt. Talamitam, Nasugbu, Batangas

5. Ask a local, earn a friend

The best way to explore a new place is with a local. My favorite part of traveling is the immersion – living life just as locals do.

Working for my lunch. #ChambaSaSantaAna #LoveLocal #LiveLocal #LovelTravel2016 #Travel #philippines

A video posted by Lovel Aniag (@lovelaniag) on Apr 27, 2016 at 9:04pm PDT


Never hesitate to talk to locals. More often than not, the ate or kuya sitting next to you is more than ready to answer your questions and help you.

Ask them secret spots that they frequent, their go-to place for local food favorites, and the cheapest way to go around town. Don’t be afraid to ask. The Filipino hospitality is world-renowned after all!

Asking locals for direction. ;P

Traveling is also a great way to meet people. Some of the most fun, interesting and inspiring people I met, I met during my travels. If you come across solo backpackers, ask for their itinerary and consider traveling together. Not only will you earn a friend, it’s also a good way to maximize your budget!

Team Emperador heading to Batad, Banaue, Ifugao

Backpacking may feel overwhelming and scary – and I don’t want to say that it’s not. I do still feel overwhelmed and scared before a trip. But as long as you have an open mind, a kind heart and an itinerary, you will be fine. Decide that you will have fun, and you will. And once you get home, you will find yourself craving for the thrill of another adventure.

Ingat and see you on the road!

Know a place I should discover? Or want to travel together? Email me at



3 thoughts on “TRAVEL: Backpacking Tips

  1. Really helpful tips! I’m going back to Sagada next month, but this time I’m on a solo trip. The thought actually scares me but I really wanna experience travelling alone at least once. I’m staying for 5 days in Sagada. Do you think it’s okay to allot at least a day and go visit Bontoc? And another thing, I’m really bad at making itineraries. So far, I’ve listed the places I’m visiting in Sagada that I missed out during my first trip. I’d be glad to share it with you via email, and maybe you can make suggestions if that’s okay. Hehe. Thanks in advance 🙂


    1. Hi! I want to go back to Sagada too! When are you going? I think 3d2n in Sagada is more than enough, esp if you’ve already been there before. Bontoc is less than an hour away. You can go around the town proper for half a day, then move to Maligcong to hike Kupapey and Fato. (Chec out my entey about it!) Kupapey has its own sea of clouds and rice terraces. I suggest you go around the village of Favuyan and Fangurao too. Please email me so I can send you my contacts:


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