We’ve completed our first TWO years traveling full time now and yes, we’ve been having a wonderful time BUT it doesn’t mean we didn’t make a huge amount of mistakes. Trust me, we did. We made lots of mistakes.
And I’ll list them down here so you can learn from our mistakes and, well, avoid them.
By the way, here’s the top 10 list of the mistakes we made during our first few months of travel.
*Post Updated in April 2018 to add the second year too!
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Want to see it all
This is probably the worst thing to do IF YOU’RE TRAVELING LONG-TERM. It’s the best way to get a terrible travel burn-out and make everyone feel like going home.
We did that a bit, although we’ve always known we needed a day in after a tiring day, sometimes it just didn’t happen. Sometimes we did go out way too much, and what we got from it was grumpy kids, upsetting outings, bad days, and sometimes, weeks. Not worth it. At all.
If you’re on a short vacation, though, that’s a whole other thing. I recommend taking a day off every now and then, but still, go enjoy your holidays.
Our measure is one full day out, one day in. If we go out for a few hours, then we manage to go out on the next day too. If we stay the whole day out, then we need a rest day afterward.
Then we come to trying too hard to please, to entertain, to educate, to whatever.
Just stop, take a deep breath, and watch. Are you guys having fun, even though it’s 3 pm and the only thing you did was go to the playground or bake a cake? Are you all enjoying the rainy day wearing PJs the whole day and having popcorn? This is what counts most.
Sure, including something for everyone is good and I’ve said that before, but you don’t HAVE to ALL THE TIME. Really.
I mean that. We don’t NEED TO anything all the time. Yes, sure, kids need to learn stuff, have fun, and they do need to enjoy traveling if traveling long-term is what you want to do but sometimes things suck and all we need is a whole week watching movies and playing board games.
Or even each person go to their beds and spend the day working – on workbooks, on a project, actual paying job, research, whatever.
There’ll be times when we don’t think we’re doing enough education-wise or there’s nothing they like. It happens. Finding balance is the key.
Right now, we have full days where we take them to amazing places, we talk about incredible things, they work on their projects and interests, and we also have the time to do absolutely nothing at all. The best of it is that we’ve learned to know that they are all equally important!
Buying all the cheapest plane tickets
When we were just starting out, we bought a huge set of a year worth of tickets. We bought all the cheapest ones we could find taking us to where we wanted to go.
Turns out some of them weren’t worth it. 6 am flights are a nasty thing, it means you’ll need to be at the airport at 3 am, so you’ll need to be up at least an hour before that if everything is already packed and ready to go.
We’ve tried sleeping at the airport, sleeping and waking up after a few hours, or just not sleeping at all. They all sucked, really. From the end of that batch of tickets on, we just stopped buying horrible hour tickets, even if it cost us more.
Overnight flights are fine for us, so any flight that departs at 2 am is doable for us but later than that, no.
We also decided we want to arrive at our destination during the day and NOT having super long travel time is the best. We’re now aiming at a 15 hours maximum. It may sound like a lot, but if there’s a connection and there’s in-flight entertainment, time will fly (oh, see what I did here?).
Every family is different, so you’ll need to think about what’s best for yours. If your kids don’t sleep in airplanes, avoiding overnight flights may be best. If they don’t eat airplane food, then you’d do better with shorter flights, and so on!
Research well before booking
This is a very important step to every trip. We booked everything just because the plane tickets were cheap and ended up spending SO MUCH in accommodation that it was not worth it.
At the very least, check out the country you’re planning on visiting for the weather and accommodation price. Like in Uruguay, if we had visited a month later, we wouldn’t have paid half of what we did for the same places.
Carry too much stuff
We used to carry too much stuff. Way too much, really.
We donated half of our stuff already and we still carry too much. We received lots of gifts from hosts, family, and friends, and we just can’t be parted with some stuff because we have an emotional attachment to lots of them. We’re still moving toward leaving stuff everywhere we go – hopefully, we’ll manage it this year!
Since sometime after the first year, we decided to travel carry-on only. It was a big change for us and we’ve had to leave lots of things behind. We thought we’d need them but… we didn’t.
We use what the accommodation offers and it’s been a great learning source!
When we’re on vacation, we eat fast food, cheap outings, and all that. And we kept living like that a lot of the time.
Eating unhealthy food is fine for a week or two, but if we cross that line, we always end up getting sick: allergies, skin rashes, colds and flu, stomach issues…
Eating well isn’t something we can negotiate on if we’re traveling long-term. So we’ve learned our lesson – hopefully.
We bought ours after we did a few hikes in NZ. We used them quite a few times for hiking, but most of the time, they’re our airplane shoes just because they’re too heavy to be put in our bags.
If you’re not gonna hike a lot, don’t buy one. A comfortable walking shoe is just fine. If you are gonna hike, though, you might want one. Or just go and hike, make it worth it!
Right now, we’ve definitely ditched them and each of us has 2 pairs of shoes. Easy to pack, comfortable walking shoes. It works.
Each of our kids has one. They use it a lot, and I really think it was money well spent. BUT we bought 2 Kindles and 2 Kobos and that was stupid. The Kobos were because we could get books from the library and the Kindles were because of the books they could only find on Amazon.Click here to see the latest prices of the e-readers!
The Adobe Reader, needed to read the library book in the Kobo, stopped working so we can’t really get library books anymore. The books we could only find on Amazon are now everywhere.
We should’ve gotten the same thing for everyone – it’d be easier to share books. Plus, for Coral, we should’ve just left her with her tablet because the e-readers we have are in black and white and she likes the colors.
Be scared of hospitals/doctors
Okay, confession time. I was afraid of going to a hospital somewhere and have a really bad care, get worse, or whatever.
Except for the price and the language, of course. But it’s the same care basically everywhere! The doctors and nurses ask the same questions, run the same tests, come to the same conclusion. Check if it’s clean enough and go for it, because it should be fine! We’ve had no problem health wise.
We have a wonderful travel insurance that covered everything for us so far and they’re extremely helpful. Every time we feel like we may need a doctor, we send an e-mail asking for a suggestion of a hospital or clinic nearby and they come back super quickly with a list. We highly recommend it.
Check the box below to see how much it’d cost you!
If you’re going to a developing country or going abroad for the first time in your life, you’re probably gonna be scared. Robbers, assaults, drug dealers, kidnappers, murderers, scams, whatever. Someone will have a horrifying story about that certain place, certainly.
Just like parenthood: there’s nothing as scary as birth stories from people who experienced obstetric violence and think they’re normal.
The thing is you’re not likely to have any bad experience. Most people don’t.
I taught my kids how to carry their bags, how to show you’re alert all the time, to walk between dad and mom, to get in and out of the car quickly, and a lot of other stuff. But we didn’t need it. Not once. We even set up a password for when someone spotted something suspicious. We don’t even remember it.
We traveled around South America for 9 months and we didn’t use any of the stuff I taught them. We felt SO SAFE everywhere! We slept on an overnight train in Bolivia, took cabs everywhere, walked at night, played Pokémon Go everywhere, spent afternoons lazing while our stuff was all around in a public space, used ATMs everywhere, never had an RFID blocker, etc.
Of course, being alert isn’t a bad thing, but you don’t have to overdo it.
Face it, face your fears, leave them behind, and you’ll see the world. It’ll be worth it!
The world is a friendlier place than we think it is.
To finish it…
I really hope to have learned a few lessons from our list, and hope they can help you!
You can travel, and you’ll make mistakes. That’s OK. It’s life. Learn with and from them – and move on!
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