In the last 6.5 years, we have have been to 6 countries (we’re about to make it 9 by the year end) and 38+ states together. We’ve traveled at all times of the year, all times of climates, by train, by car, by boats and ferries, and we’ve walked a lot. We’re made plenty of rookie traveling mistakes that made our vacation less enjoyable or more difficult than what we were initially planning. Well, I’m going to share the 5 things I learned as a rookie traveler with you in hopes that you can have easier vacations than we have had 🙂 .
1 | WEAR GOOD SHOES
I hate the way tennis shoes look and I have for a very long time. They feel heavy and I always feel very clumsy wearing them. As ridiculous as it is, I have gone to extreme measures to avoid wearing tennis shoes unless I am working out in the yard or exercising. Well, you know what? We walked 8-10 miles everyday on cobblestone according to my FitBit in Europe last summer. After this experience, I decided shoes, whether they are tennis shoes or not, are worth every bit of their investment. I’ve never been a shoe person before we started traveling, but life is too short to spend time nursing your feet that clearly feel like they are going to fall off on your vacation. I am becoming obsessed with finding shoes that are both extremely practical as they are attractive. Bonus: if the shoes are water proof, comfortable, and attractive then they have hit a trifecta point in my book.
2 | PREPARE FOR WEATHER
Sunblock is your friend and so are hats. I am always terrified of getting sunburned and having to spend the rest of our trip staying out of the sun. You’d be surprised at how much time you spend outside during a trip! We used SPF 50 1-2 times a day and wore hats the whole time we were in Europe and we did not get a single sunburn despite our exposure. If you don’t feel like carrying hats on the airplane, we found so many great priced travel hats on our vacations!
Get water proof gear and don’t be afraid to buy umbrellas!
It ended up raining the whole time we were in Germany and my shoes became wet quickly and took a very long time to dry out. Shoes were too expensive to buy there and it became a really hard part of our trip. I could have prevented this by taking two pairs of shoes with one of them being water proof.
In addition, try to take clothing that will dry very quickly. We wash our clothing in our hotel room sinks when we travel and it takes a very long time to dry blue jeans (2-3 days). Also, blue jeans are horrible for chaffing when it is really hot outside. I decided that I will be wearing exercise leggings that are water absorbent, easier to dry, and will prevent chaffing in the future.
After living in Utah for five years, I learned that umbrellas work surprisingly well for keeping your hair dry when it snows. Layers are also essential because it can definitely warm up and surprise you; make sure to wear a pack that can easily hold folded clothing so you don’t end up too hot or warm. I highly recommend waterproof shoes as well for cold weather!
3 | SAVE SPACE FOR SOUVENIRS
We backpack without checked luggage when we travel. With this being said, we take a very minimum amount of items with us and we take a very minimum amount of items home. Prior to going, we knew that we were more interested in spending money on tours and food than souvenirs to bring home. The souvenirs we bought reflected the space we left for them: we brought home fridge magnets and a few non-breakable Christmas ornaments. No regrets here! If you foresee that you want more souvenirs, you can easily check an empty bag to make it easy to take everything home 🙂 .
4 | ALWAYS CARRY A WATER BOTTLE
We saw a woman hyperventilating in Rome due to heat stroke; she was being attended to, but it made me realize we couldn’t afford to be casual in preparing for the weather and/or drinking enough fluids. My husband grew up in the dessert portion of Arizona so he always makes sure we stay hydrated, but we took a water bottle everywhere. ANYTIME we saw a fountain, we filled up our bottles and we made sure to drink a lot of water. We found out that water is not always free so we made sure to fill up water bottles to save up money when we went to restaurants! Not drinking enough water while you’re exposed to the elements isn’t something you can afford!
5 | ALWAYS CARRY KLEENEX
DO NOT FLUSH KLEENEX as it can cause a plug in the drain, however, you can put it in a trash can! Ever been stuck in a bathroom without toilet paper? Why yes, I have, and so many times. When we drove through Death Valley without cell phone service for hours, I had to dig my own place in the sand to use the bathroom after we realized we weren’t going to find one. I felt like a cat in a litter box and I was half way embarrassed and half way laughing really hard. I’m grateful we planned ahead!
Also, there are a surprising amount of places you will find yourself without toilet paper. I ended up without toilet paper on a toilet IN THE VATICAN. I started to cry, I said a prayer (this is not sacrilege, I literally did), and I ended up finding a pocket with Kleenex in my purse that I had overlooked. I was so freaking happy I found this Kleenex.
FOR WHEN YOU’RE SICK
Ever been sick in a foreign country? I have and you don’t want to spend the whole time with your nose raw from using toilet paper. The climate change from Georgia’s humid climate to Mexico’s dry one was too much and I spent the whole time with the sniffles.
TO COOL OFF
I have a tendency to get horrible heat rash and I could easily dip a Kleenex in our water and wipe my face off. I have never done this in the past because the napkins I have typically carried have made my skin feel raw.
FOR COMPLETELY RANDOM MOMENTS
There have been two times I distinctly remember crying in public while while traveling and I could have used a Kleenex. I don’t drink alcohol for religious reasons and I realized my gelato had alcohol on it right before we had to board a train; I threw away my gelato and was so sad I didn’t have time to get some more stuff. I also openly cried walking down the streets after I was robbed in Mexico; my phone had almost all of my pictures from the trip and since we don’t buy phone plans when we travel, it meant nothing was backed up to the cloud. Thankfully, just a hour previously, I had sent my husband two photos I had taken.
On a less serious note, I’m also a fan of a good napkin bib when I am eating red sauce on pasta.
Be sure to click on this link here for a coupon code for Kleenex Go Anywhere! The pouches are easy to clip on to your car head rest or onto your purse (like I did above). I love that the containers are sturdy enough that I could fill them up with more Kleenex in the future too!
I’m sure we will keep learning more and more tips to make things easier for us as we travel, and I’d additionally love your tips if you have any in the comments section below!