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50 Travel Lessons Learnt the Hard Way

by Family Globetrotters

From Rookie Mistakes to Just Plain Bad Luck, Enjoy Our Lessons Learnt The Hard Way!

As we approach travelling to our 160th city, I’m sure you can appreciate we have had many lessons learnt along the way. Insights gained from simple stupidity, inexperience, poor planning and in most cases naivety. Some we reminisce in laughter, some were so painful we make sure never to repeat it again and a few we cringe in embarrassment.

At the risk of making light of ourselves, here are some of the learnings, shared in jest, humour, and genuine pieces of advice you may take away so you never have to endure the mistakes we made!

1) Stop buying crappy souvenirs. Seriously, how many mugs, bottle openers or T-shirts do you really need, only for them to end up in some bin later down the track.

2) Always have some tissues and hand sanitizer with you. Kids just love to touch everything and it isn’t so ideal especially when you’re travelling around Asia. Check out: 15 Travel Tips for Clean Freaks Heading to Southeast Asia

3) Pack spare clothes in your carry on because you never know when your luggage may decide not to arrive or when your children may decide to spew on you (it’s always ON us. If only they would moved their heads one single inch to the right.) Check out: 10 Tips on What Your Toddler Should Wear on Long Flights

4) Never assume your taxi will accept credit cards. We live a very cashless life at home so when we travel, we sometimes forget to have a bit on us! That costed us an extra $15 just to find an ATM.

5) If you find yourself in a sticky situation, always present a confident front even if you’re frightened out of your wits!

6) Always carry a pen. I carry 2 now. Hate having to ask strangers for a pen.

7) When booking an Air B’n’B, try arriving at a reasonable hour. Standing in the middle of a street in a city you have never been before at 1am is no fun for anyone. We couldn’t find the key in the designated spot and started to panic! Luckily it all worked out in the end.

8) Don’t compromise safety for cheap accommodation. Not when you have kids! Stay in busy areas with easy access to conveniences and transportation.

9) Don’t wear anything that will set of airport security. It’s just so cumbersome, especially when you have kids to juggle.  Do you really need to wear that belt with that metal buckle? Yes Andrew, I’m talking to you. LOL!

10) Always research the proper way to dress in highly cultural societies. I was forbidden to climb up to the Heavens in Angkor Wat as I thought a scarf was sufficient to cover my shoulders but was not. Heaps of us sitting at the bottom staring enviously at those who were permitted to go up. Here are 12 practical tips for visiting Angkor.

Angkor Wat Stairs to Heaven

I Wasn’t Appropriately Dressed So I Wasn’t Allowed Up. Anyone See Me Down the Bottom There?

11) If you’re a blended family and the child/ren have different surnames to the adults, bring additional documentation. Between us 3, we have 3 different surnames. Now I carry birth, marriage and divorce certificates just in case! Check out: 10 Tips For The First Blended Family Holiday

12) If you’re travelling on land by car or bus, travel during the day. Once I went in a cab in a small country town in Southern China and the driver took us on a “shortcut” in the middle of the night. We were terrified as he cut through paddocks and there was not another car or person in sight! We were lucky. He really was taking a shortcut!

13) Make copies of all your travel documents in case you lose yours. And since everything is digital nowadays, send your travel itinerary and bookings to someone you trust.

14) Always pack soft bags for dirty laundry. Hate it when I can’t remember what’s clean and what’s not and I also get so annoyed when they contaminate the rest of the clothing and it all smells!

15) Pack all inner and accessories items of clothing in individual small bags for every member of the family. After a while, every black sock looks the same to me!

16) Make sure you have proper TSA padlocks for your luggage when travelling to the US. Have a lost a few in my lifetime!

17) Stop reading blog posts or Facebook group posts where all they do is post bad things that happen in certain places. Yes, its good to be aware but don’t let it scare you into not going. Just be respectful of their culture, don’t be an obnoxious tourist and be polite.

18) Don’t eat uncooked street food items in South East Asia. Learnt that the hard way!

Asian market seafood fish

19) Never travel without insurance. Sounds like a no brainer but how many of you are guilty of doing this? I had an awesome camera stolen once. Did I have insurance?? NO……

20) Travelling on a bike or scooter in a 2 wheeled friendly city? You might like to take a picture of where you left it so you can find it when you return. I usually tie a distinctive ribbon on the handle so I can find mine easily.

21) Have a fluid and less ambitious itinerary when travelling with kids. This will help you avoid disappointment when things don’t pan out your way. In the early days, that was quite a hard transition moving from adult travel to family travel. Check out: 8 Tips on How to Travel as a New Family

22) Never wear brand new shoes on a holiday! Try and wear them in or at least have a backup. The pain is so not worth it.

23) If the advice is to not consume the tap water, don’t! Not even to brush your teeth with it and keep your mouth shut in the shower!

From city travel to trekking in Northern Vietnam with a local tribe, we have made sooo many mistakes during our travels. Here are some family travel lessons learnt the hard way! #familytravel Click To Tweet

24) I now leave shopping until the end of the day or at least towards the last part of the area we’re visiting. Now that we don’t travel with a pram anymore, lugging all that shopping with you everywhere you go is exhausting! Coupled with trying to juggle public transport and using the camera, it’s simply too inconvenient.

25) If travelling with other families or in a large group, make time for yourselves. It will do you good to take a break from them now and again. To all my friends I travel with ….. love you long time! Check out: 8 Tips for Surviving Group Holidays With Friends 

26) Never admit to your taxi driver you have never been to the area before. Some will take you for a loooong ride.

27) Have you checked visa requirements? In the age of self-booking flights, we don’t have the advantage of a travel agent checking these things for you. I still get mini panic attacks now and again. Changed citizenship recently? On our girl’s trips to Vietnam, my girlfriend completely forgot to check if she needed one as she had changed citizenship and got a new passport. Luckily she could get it at the airport.

28) Allow for more than 2 hours’ transit between flights, especially if it’s a massive airport with multiple terminals. Running at full speed for 30 minutes at Dubai Airport was not fun. Poor poppet got so sick she threw up on the air bridge.

29) Taking a road trip and you’re in the middle of nowhere?  Get petrol/gas if you come across one even if your tank is half full. You just never know.

30) Photos. Either download them onto your laptop or upload them to the cloud. We nearly lost all our Estonian photos and we were devastated.

Old Town Tallinn

Andrew Loving Taking Photos of Beautiful Old Town Tallinn.

31) Invest in multiple power banks. We rely on our phone for everything now, especially apps for maps and as a form of communication. Also, with kids having devices nowadays and if you’re relying on them for entertainment, pack a BIG power bank. Our daughter is a serial photo taker and drains that battery like no tomorrow.

32) Always make sure the taxi is using a meter! Or just Uber it.

33) Names of cities are different in different languages, check your tickets not your confirmation. Or make sure you really check where you’re going. Don’t want to be that guy that wanted to go to Sydney, Australia only to end up in Sydney, Nova Scotia!

34) Always register with smart traveller (or equivalent). So if something happens in a foreign country, your government know where you are.

35) Always check the weather whilst you’re packing. Once I wasn’t prepared for the rain and didn’t have enough clothes because I kept getting wet.

36) Flying budget? Pack loads of snacks. Especially for the kids. Hungry kids are no fun.

37) When booking accommodation with younger kids, have separate sleeping areas. When your kids go to bed at 8pm, what are you going to be doing? On one holiday, I read A LOT!

38) Most of the big cities have more than one airport and especially important if you’re flying budget. I made that mistake with Orly in my younger days. The flight was less than AUD$20 from Paris to Prague but the bus ride to the airport was AUD$40. Duh!

39) Check the permitted size of the luggage for your airline. Just because you can carry 40kg it doesn’t mean it can be in 1 bag. Qantas for example would not carry that.

40) Going on your first cruise? Even if you think you may not get motion sickness, pack sea sickness prevention items. You just never ever know. Check out: 10 Tips on How to Prevent Seasickness on Cruise Ships

41) Check your luggage allowance if you’re flying multiple airlines. On our last trip, the long haul flight allowed 32kg each way but the internal flights only allowed 20kg. I was very close to making that mistake.

42) If you’re travelling with your baby or toddler for the first time, make sure you have a pacifier/dummy or a lollipop for when you’re landing to help with the pressure. Or time your feeding then. Doesn’t always work but anything to help ease the pain.

43) Download Google Maps for your next destination so you can use it offline. Occasionally it takes a while for the local networks to kick in.

44) Not leaving enough time to sort out travel documentation. The wait time to get an interview at the US Embassy to get a travel visa is weeks. I almost didn’t make my Las Vegas trip and that was not a fun lesson.

45) Always carry your basic medication that you’re used to. It doesn’t help when you have diarrhea and you can’t even get out of bed to go get some. Mmmm…. Bali comes to mind.

46) Check if the time you wish to travel coincides with a big event. We nearly booked our flights to Paris during Fashion Week. Luckily my sister told me as we would not have been able to afford the astronomical accommodation prices with the city packed to the hilt. So we changed up our dates and it saved us a ton of money.

47) Prams are no good for places filled with cobblestone streets. But if you do need one, invest in a four-wheel drive version to allow for comfort and less bumpiness. I have literally witnessed a 3-year-old fall out of his umbrella stroller once in Rome!

48) Always wear sunscreen. We tend to be outdoors more than we normally would. This is regardless of the time of the year. I was re-miss in putting on sunscreen in New York once and did I pay for it! And all I did was take a stroll on the high line.

49) Always pre-book your seats. Although a child would never be separated from the adult, you don’t want the sibling and your partner sitting far away from you or you suddenly have to share the rest of the row with other people.

50) And my very last lesson learnt is making assumptions for everyone in the family about what would make or break a holiday. I forget my daughter is growing up or that my partner and I are getting older. Our tastes are changing, our needs are evolving and what we all want from a holiday is becoming more complicated. So I have stopped assuming I know what is best for my family.

So there you go. I am sure that these lessons will continue to elude me and that we will continue to make rookie errors as we start to explore new destinations. But, at least we make them together and we are becoming more adept at problem solving and just taking everything with a grain of salt. Happy family travels!


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8 Tips for Surviving Group Holidays With Friends



50 Travel Lessons Learnt the Hard Way

Disclaimer: The Family Globetrotter’s website contains affiliate links which help us to maintain this blog and assists us with our travels, at no extra cost to you. Family Globetrotters have also posted articles based on sponsored products and/or services, but all opinions are our own, truthful and unbiased.


Natalie May 3, 2018 - 1:17 pm

What fantastic tips! A few brought back memories..and not all good. I have wondered more than once why kids don’t move that extra inch in the other direction. EW! LOL! I’ve also always wondered how poop manages to get out of the diaper and all over everything…but I digress. LOL!

Family Globetrotters May 4, 2018 - 3:46 pm

Hahaha Natalie! Seriously though…. why is that. Just a few inches would save us so much heartache. And you know what, I still make some of these mistakes even though I travel so much! Its like I have too many thing sin my head and I forget sometimes. LOL!

Nathan April 1, 2018 - 12:35 am

Great tips you have consolidated here for us avid travellers! Definitely important to research about cultural faux pas and dress appropriately in foreign countries as they may treat attire very seriously especially at holy sites. Guilty of buying souvenirs though – I collect country caps, does that count? 🙂

Family Globetrotters April 3, 2018 - 6:18 pm

Hahaha Nathan! If country caps are your thing…. go for it. My weakness is Christmas decorations. Perhaps collectables don’t count as useless souvenirs!

Followingtherivera March 31, 2018 - 10:07 pm

These are excellent tips! You’re so right about the pen too; I’ve been many places and stuck when you need to fill in landing papers etc. I don’t eat uncooked food inSE Asia too, it’s too risky!

Family Globetrotters April 3, 2018 - 6:17 pm

You’d think that having a pen is like such a basic requirement and yet, I have been caught out without one on a few occasions. Maybe we’re just soused to doing evferything online or on the phone that we ave forgotten we actually have to write! LOL

Marquita March 30, 2018 - 3:11 am

These are awesome tips! Thanks for reminding me to register my trip with the government.

Family Globetrotters April 3, 2018 - 6:06 pm

You’re welcome. Yep, especially important if you’re travelling somewhere where safety may be of an issue. It doens’t hurt to do it, just in case.

Rachelle March 30, 2018 - 2:09 am

Wow, LOTS of valuable lessons learned from so many fun experiences! I also learned the hard way to always pack an extra set of clothes in my carry-on. Not because I’ve had someone get sick on me, but due to lost luggage. Never fun. Isn’t it nice to be able to look back on these often harried experiences and laugh?

Family Globetrotters April 3, 2018 - 6:05 pm

Yes Rachelle, definitely! The worse thing is, I have made some of the same mistakes twice! Sometimes there is just too much to think about. The extra clothes in carry on is a good one and you’d think I would have learnt that too considering I have lost luggae before!

Baia March 29, 2018 - 11:20 pm

These are some great tips! I always carry a hand sanitizer, not only while I travel but at home as well. You never know when you’ll need one 🙂

Family Globetrotters April 3, 2018 - 6:00 pm

I coulnd’t agree more! You just never know when you might need it, especially when we’re travelling with kids!

Swyam March 27, 2018 - 1:30 am

Dressing according to the local customs and cultures is something very many travelers miss put on. Similarly, in India, many travelers think that all restaurants accept credit and debit cards, but this is not the right case. Therefore, you need to carry adequate cash. Similarly, don’t depend on Google Maps while reaching an alien location. It helps to consult locals.

Family Globetrotters March 28, 2018 - 10:53 am

I couldn’t agree more Swyam! And yes you’re right about the Google Map sometimes. Doesn’t always get me where I need it too!

Venny July 30, 2017 - 7:10 am

So helpful and easy to read! Just started following you on IG! Thanks for the tips! I’m saving them for our upcoming trip to Europe!

Family Globetrotters August 7, 2017 - 11:22 pm

Thank you so much! Hope they come in handy! Where in Europe are you going?

Sonia July 13, 2017 - 11:36 pm

Excellent, very well written and fun. Cannot agree more on backing up the pictures and I would add: make two copies, not only one. We’ve lost all our travel (and other) pics of nearly 10 years due to a broken external hard disc….mind blowing…I have also seen a baby falling out of a stroller (in Brussels :).
Looking forward to tne next post!:)))

Family Globetrotters July 14, 2017 - 8:45 am

Thank you Sonia:) I agree about backing up the photos twice. That would have been heartbreaking to realise you lost them all… not sure I would have coped with that to be honest. Yeah, those cobblestones are nasty! Hahaha


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