5 things I learned as a rookie traveler

This post was sponsored by Kleenex, but all opinions expressed are authentic. 

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 πŸ™‚ .

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

SUNNY 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! 

RAINY WEATHER

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.

Getting rained out in Munich, Germany

COLD WEATHER
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 πŸ™‚ .

Monte AlbΓ‘n archaeological site: Monte AlbΓ‘n was once the economic center for Mesoamerica for 1,000 years. The site is breathtaking and definitely one to see in Mexico! | via The Spirited Violet

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

BATHROOM NEEDS
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!

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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!

What are some of your rookie travel mistakes or expert tips?

  • Christine .

    So many good tips! I am serious about shoes and such when traveling. While they might not be pretty, I remember the worst day of my life walking around Puerto Rico in shoes that didn’t work. I had blisters for days. Lesson learned!

    • Shoes are everything and so are clothing that prevents chaffong 😡😡😡!! I’ve been really looking for nice shoes that have great arch support for just everyday. Lessons are being learned πŸ˜‚.

  • Christine .

    So many good tips! I am serious about shoes and such when traveling. While they might not be pretty, I remember the worst day of my life walking around Puerto Rico in shoes that didn’t work. I had blisters for days. Lesson learned!

    • Shoes are everything and so are clothing that prevents chaffong 😡😡😡!! I’ve been really looking for nice shoes that have great arch support for just everyday. Lessons are being learned πŸ˜‚.

  • Stephanie Ramsey Abbott

    When I did my traveling to Europe I packed less clothes than needed and then bought shirts and sweatshirts as my souvenirs.

    • Smart!! It was 100 degrees when we were in Italy and I wanted to die being modest πŸ˜‚. I’ll definitely be finding different fabrics for next time!

  • Stephanie Ramsey Abbott

    When I did my traveling to Europe I packed less clothes than needed and then bought shirts and sweatshirts as my souvenirs.

    • Smart!! It was 100 degrees when we were in Italy and I wanted to die being modest πŸ˜‚. I’ll definitely be finding different fabrics for next time!

  • Great post and lovely photos! Here are my travel hacks:

    1. When washing clothes in a hotel room, whether they are jeans or undies, one way to make them dry faster (a LOT faster) is to lay them out on a towel, roll up the towel (with the garment inside), and then step all over the rolled up towel. This forces the towel to drink up the excess moisture, and they both dry pretty fast after that! This also works to dry out wet bathing suits faster.

    2. I take a bandana on every trip. It might stay wadded up in the bottom of my purse or backpack, but if I need a rag, a kleenex, or even something to hold a bunch of little things (you know…put the little things in the center and then tie the opposite corners on top and then the OTHER opposite corners on top. (this is a really common way to carry things in Japan, by the way), It could also be a bandaid in a pinch, a hair band, etc. etc. Plus I just like travelling with a bandana πŸ™‚

    3. Regarding your “leave room for souvenirs,” before I went to Guatemala earlier this year, I got this backpack on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01GAA2B5U/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1 and I tossed it into my suitcase. It is very lightweight, holds a TON, and the whole thing packs into itself and zips up, and takes up about as much space as a t-shirt. It was in case I ended up coming back with more than I started with. which DID end up happening, so I ended up coming home with my checked bag AND a backpack full of lovely Guatemalan textiles (including a whole wool blanket). I also used it as a day pack and could put only what I needed in it without having to unpack all the “stuff” in my other pack. The other good thing about it was that most of the pockets had double zippers, which meant I could put my wallet and/or passport in one pocket and lock it with a cheap combination lock. That lock would not have kept out someone who really wanted to steal something, but at least I would have KNOwN if someone had gotten into it (it would have been cut).

    4. after years of searching for the perfect “Toiletries” bag, I gave up and just use ziplocks. One is for “everyday” (toothpaste, comb, meds, earplugs (another travel hack!) and stuff I literally use every day. One is for other stuff, “Just in case” stuff like eye mask, little bottle of dr. bronners for emergency laundry, playing cards, clothes pins, a few plastic shopping bags (for trash or nightlight (so when I wake up in the middle of the night in some strange hotel or room I can get my bearings and find the bathroom, etc! ) and stuff like that, and then one for “first aid” type stuff that I throw in the day pack….bandaids, sunscreen, insect repellent wipes, tissues, PLUS a cheapo thin plastic rain poncho. All in ziplocks…easy to SEE what I’m looking for, easy to toss in wherever, and easy to replace when they get funky smelling like those cosmetic bags always do eventually.

    5. I keep extra money and passport in small double zipper compartment on my suitcase once I get where I’m going. Same thing..it deters “sticky fingers” in hotel/hostel rooms. And I take a color copy of passport with me on day trips from the hotel/hostel.

    6. I put pieces of plastic bag between the cap and the bottle when I tighten up the shampoo, hair gel, and any other liquid just in case they feel like leaking. It is another layer of protection.

    Whew! Sorry for going on forever!

  • Such great tips! I definitely had to learn some of these things the hard way when I was living abroad for a year. So awesome that you and your husband have done so much traveling together! Off to dream about gelato now…

    • We have really lucked out the last few years! I imagine it will definitely slow down, but I’m enjoying it while it is happening for sure πŸ™‚

      That is awesome you lived abroad for a year!!

  • Such great tips! I definitely had to learn some of these things the hard way when I was living abroad for a year. So awesome that you and your husband have done so much traveling together! Off to dream about gelato now…

    • We have really lucked out the last few years! I imagine it will definitely slow down, but I’m enjoying it while it is happening for sure πŸ™‚

      That is awesome you lived abroad for a year!!

  • Lee4

    Just discovered your blog (from the Currently link-up). I’m from AR & Heber is beautiful–enjoy your upcoming trip. I love traveling & agree with your tips! Tissues and wet wipes are always in my purse when we travel. So many times, we’ve been in restrooms lacking soap. Ugh! I also use the wipes for cleaning off table tops or other places if/when needed. I pack lots of ziplock bags too. They come in handy for holding and storing all kinds of items. Bandaids are always with me too.

    Regarding shoes, I’m with you on not wearing tennis shoes, but I do like slip on sneakers (I have a pair from Keds & a Sperry pair) with no-show socks. They are comfortable but not as bulky as regular tennis shoes. A pair of Born sandals rounds out my 3 pairs of shoes for traveling & I always wear the heaviest ones on the plane.

    • So exciting to meet another Arkansan! I grew up in Kentucky, but all of my summers, holidays, and family events were celebrated in Arkansas. I think the state is so beautiful!

      I carry a lot of ziplock bags for international travel as well. I think it is an excellent idea that you take wipes- there are so many times those are definitely needed! I really need to try out the shoes you’ve suggested because I also am not a fan of socks that show. I’ve heard of Born sandals, but after this recommendation I’ll have to research more πŸ™‚ . Thanks for your comment!!

      • Lee4

        I felt like I needed to come back after recommending the Sperry’s. Unfortunately, I’m returning mine:((. The new pair squeak horribly on any flooring other than carpet! These are the Pier View sneakers & my old pair did not do that, so I’m not sure what the issue is. I’m sad to return them b/c they’re so comfortable but when I took them out for a test walk today, the squeaking drove me crazy.

        My Keds are a slip-on style (like Van’s, for example) that I bought over a year ago. I love them–they are canvas with a leopard print & go with so many outfits! I’m thinking I’m going to buy a similar pair in a cognac leather.

        https://www.keds.com/en/crashback-leather/14354W.html?#cgid=women-styles-slipons&dwvar_14354W_color=WH52244&start=1&sma=sm.00000ld8sseltbddiykcdl6i04dfi

        Ok, sorry for all my extra comments. I love shoes & would hate to mislead anyone on a bad pair.

        • I love all of the extra comments, thank you!! My crocs that are flats do the squeaking thing too and it drives me nuts. I’m checking out these keds now, thank you so much!

  • Lee4

    Just discovered your blog (from the Currently link-up). I’m from AR & Heber is beautiful–enjoy your upcoming trip. I love traveling & agree with your tips! Tissues and wet wipes are always in my purse when we travel. So many times, we’ve been in restrooms lacking soap. Ugh! I also use the wipes for cleaning off table tops or other places if/when needed. I pack lots of ziplock bags too. They come in handy for holding and storing all kinds of items. Bandaids are always with me too.

    Regarding shoes, I’m with you on not wearing tennis shoes, but I do like slip on sneakers (I have a pair from Keds & a Sperry pair) with no-show socks. They are comfortable but not as bulky as regular tennis shoes. A pair of Born sandals rounds out my 3 pairs of shoes for traveling & I always wear the heaviest ones on the plane.

    • So exciting to meet another Arkansan! I grew up in Kentucky, but all of my summers, holidays, and family events were celebrated in Arkansas. I think the state is so beautiful!

      I carry a lot of ziplock bags for international travel as well. I think it is an excellent idea that you take wipes- there are so many times those are definitely needed! I really need to try out the shoes you’ve suggested because I also am not a fan of socks that show. I’ve heard of Born sandals, but after this recommendation I’ll have to research more πŸ™‚ . Thanks for your comment!!

      • Lee4

        I felt like I needed to come back after recommending the Sperry’s. Unfortunately, I’m returning mine:((. The new pair squeak horribly on any flooring other than carpet! These are the Pier View sneakers & my old pair did not do that, so I’m not sure what the issue is. I’m sad to return them b/c they’re so comfortable but when I took them out for a test walk today, the squeaking drove me crazy.

        My Keds are a slip-on style (like Van’s, for example) that I bought over a year ago. I love them–they are canvas with a leopard print & go with so many outfits! I’m thinking I’m going to buy a similar pair in a cognac leather.

        https://www.keds.com/en/crashback-leather/14354W.html?#cgid=women-styles-slipons&dwvar_14354W_color=WH52244&start=1&sma=sm.00000ld8sseltbddiykcdl6i04dfi

        Ok, sorry for all my extra comments. I love shoes & would hate to mislead anyone on a bad pair.

        • I love all of the extra comments, thank you!! My crocs that are flats do the squeaking thing too and it drives me nuts. I’m checking out these keds now, thank you so much!

  • These are great tips – especially wearing good shoes. That’s one I’ll often forget because I want to look cute and then I’ll kick myself for it when my feet are dead!

    • Saaaame here. When I was in grad school I was walking around the city so much and that is when I realized that shoes are so worth the investment. Shoes have meant such a different thing to me ever since.

  • These are great tips – especially wearing good shoes. That’s one I’ll often forget because I want to look cute and then I’ll kick myself for it when my feet are dead!

    • Saaaame here. When I was in grad school I was walking around the city so much and that is when I realized that shoes are so worth the investment. Shoes have meant such a different thing to me ever since.

  • Yes! Wear good shoes! That is why I always wear my Chacos when we travel!! SOOO perfect for walking around all day long!

    • I have never had a pair of chacos, but it really sounds like they are something I would be a huge fan of!!

  • Yes! Wear good shoes! That is why I always wear my Chacos when we travel!! SOOO perfect for walking around all day long!