The Top 10 Mistakes We’ve Made When Travelling (And How You Can Avoid Making Them Too!)

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So 50 countries, nearly 30 with the kids, you’d think we’d be travel experts right? Well yes AND no. Even though the majority of our travels run smoothly, we’ve also made mistakes along the way and had some near disasters.

Here are some of our best bloopers for you to enjoy from the comfort of your armchair – and top tips for how you can avoid making the same mistakes as we did!

We lost our passports….twice!

The number one document you don’t want to part ways with is your passport. Without it, you’re pretty stuffed, and we’ve lost ours not once but twice! The first time was on a bus trip in the Netherlands where we left them at a McDonalds roadside services.

Cue high embarrassment as the bus is forced to do a three-point turn in the middle of a busy highway to circle back and retrieve the passports. Luckily the staff had picked them up.

The second time was a few years later in France when we stopped to get some petrol. With a full tank we crossed into Switzerland – and then half an hour later realised the passports were nowhere to be seen.

The last place we could remember seeing them was when we checked we had them earlier in the morning when we left the hotel. So we headed back to the petrol station to find some kind soul had found them on the forecourt and handed them in.

We figured out afterwards that we had them in the door storage well and they’d fallen out when we’d opened the door. To say it was a silent journey was an understatement!

Lesson learned:

We’re now super cautious with our passports, and do a ‘check, check, double check’ whenever we’re leaving somewhere to make sure we have them on us.

We’ve also got a sturdy passport pouch that we keep our passports in to keep them safe from water damage. We now keep them around our necks or in our Pacsafe travel handbag which never leaves our sight.

Our favourite passport pouch is the Venture 4th Travel Neck Passport Pouch.

The Venture 4th passport pouch – our favourite!

We love that it’s durable as well as breathable which is important in hot climates! It’s also got full RFID blocking technology to prevent anyone scanning our personal data. And it fits four passports which is perfect for us.

Check out prices and buy the VENTURE 4TH Passport Holder Neck Pouch here

It’s also important to take a scan or photo of your travel documents and email them to yourself so you have all the details on hand to get an emergency passport in case the worst happens.

 

We went on a four-month Asia road trip with the kids – then one of them got chronic travel sickness

Sophie had occasionally had the odd bit of travel queasiness, but we put it down to New Zealand’s windy roads and didn’t really think about it. But two weeks into our four month long Asia trip, predominately travelling by road and sea she got terrible travel sickness.

The poor thing had several unpleasant episodes – one on a public bus in Cambodia where we had to stop the whole bus, another time in the back of a van in Sri Lanka (with accompanying cleaning fee!) and a little bit of nausea on ferries in the Philippines.

We quickly found some great motion sickness remedies and even got some sent over from New Zealand!

Lesson learned:

Ailments that don’t necessarily affect you at home can sometimes strike on the road. If you want to be prepared for the possibility of travel sickness, here are the remedies we’ve found that work a treat and we now don’t leave home without them.

SeaBands: These amazing wristbands sit on the Nei-Kuan acupressure point which according to Chinese medicine is thought to help with nausea.

It certainly helped and she now always wears them on car and sea journeys. They come in both adult and child sizes.

Sophie wearing her Sea Bands on a ferry in the Philippines

Find out more about SeaBands and buy here

Gin Gins: are small ginger candies. Ginger has natural queasy-quelling properties which help with nausea and also taste great!

Find out more about Gin Gins and buy here

MQ Motion Sickness Patch: These small patches get placed behind the ear 10 minutes before travel, and give relief from motion sickness between 1-3 days! People swear by them, especially those going on a cruise. They’re safe to use in kids four years and over.

Find out more about MQ Motion Sickness Patches and buy here 

We got caught in a seven-hour traffic jam in a blizzard

One Christmas we were driving back to the UK from the South of France when snow suddenly started falling really thickly in the afternoon. Within minutes it had piled up instantly turning to ice when it hit the ground. Traffic ground to a halt on the autoroute – and we were stuck there for SEVEN hours before the road could be cleared.

By this stage it was nearly midnight, everything was closed and we went from hotel to hotel trying to find a room for the night – along with everyone else who had the same idea! We ended up in some horrible old hotel with a lumpy mattress and a ham sandwich for dinner from the petrol station across the road!

Lesson learned:

While we look back now and laugh at that experience, it could have been a lot worse if the kids had been with us. It always pays to have some snacks and water in the car, particularly if you’re on a long road trip. You never know when traffic incidents can strike!

We’ve been pickpocketed

We like to see the good in people and 99% of the time we feel safe. But unfortunately, there have been a couple of times when we have been pickpocketed.

The first time was in Barcelona when we were on a train and a gang of thieves separated us and quick as a flash took a wallet from Mike’s pocket.

The second time was in Rome – again on a train – where a light-fingered guy managed to zip open our bag and take our phone out while Kylie was occupied looking after the kids. It wasn’t until we were off the train and going to buy gelato that we realised what had happened…

Lesson learned:

It happens so quickly that you truly don’t realise until it’s too late. So the best advice is to take the best care of your possessions that you can. Luckily we only had our evening money in the wallet so while we lost 50 euros, we didn’t lose credit cards or large sums of cash.

We now carry our Pacsafe Citysafe Anti-Theft Travel Handbag whenever we’re out, particularly in large cities.

We love this bag for so many reasons – it’s small and lightweight but contains slashguard wire throughout the bag and strap to prevent people slashing and running.

The girls at the entrance to Tsjuiki Fish Market

The girls at the entrance to Tsjuiki Fish Market in Tokyo with our trusty Pacsafe Handbag

The turn and lock security hooks mean the zips can’t be discreetly pulled open (what happened to us in the Rome metro) and the inside wallet compartment has full RFID blocking technology.

Check out prices and find out more about the Pacsafe Citysafe Anti-Theft Travel Handbag here

The saddest thing about losing the phone was the photos on it – we’ve now got to go back to the Trevi Fountain and Colosseum to get some snaps with the kids in them!

We missed a flight due to a vomiting child

We’d had an amazing holiday in Fiji and were due to fly out that evening, when Sophie started complaining of feeling ill at lunchtime. Not long after she vomited then promptly fell asleep (which never happened with that 4 year old bundle of energy!)

Unfortunately the vomiting continued into the evening, culminating in an episode at the check-in counter! We were told she wasn’t fit to fly (fair enough) but only one adult was able to stay with her.

So while the boys hopped on the flight back to New Zealand, the girls embarked on a late night adventure to the after-hours doctor in Nadi – not a great experience – if you’ve ever been to Nadi at night you’ll know what I mean, and with the mission of trying to find a hotel for the night at 11pm.

Lesson learned:

Thank goodness for travel insurance – it covered the cost of the doctor’s visit, taxi transport, a night back at the resort and the missed flights, well over a thousand dollars. And that was just for a vomiting bug, I can see how quickly costs would add up for something more serious.

We recommend World Nomads Travel Insurance. You can buy and claim online, even after you’ve left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from 140 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.

Get a quick quote here!

 

Another top tip: always keep your phone charged in case of emergency. We were trying to call hotels to see if they had a room available with 5% battery left on the phone – not ideal in an already stressful situation. We now always carry a full charged backup battery pack like this one  in case of situations like these.

 

Pool at the Radisson Blu resort, Fiji

Happier times in Fiji!

 

Fiji’s an amazing family-friendly destination. Read more about the perfect family holiday in Fiji here.

We always take too much stuff

No matter how hard we try, we always seem to take too much stuff. With every trip, we get better and we’ve graduated to carry on luggage a few times now. There’s a secret weapon in our arsenal to help us fit everything in and we now never travel without them:

…PACKING CUBES…

These have literally changed the way we travel. I had heard other travellers rave about them but was sceptical until I tried them!

They’re so good at condensing everything down to fit into your bag, and making it easier to pack. It also means you don’t need to drag everything out of your bag and repack it at every stop – just pull the packing cube out, get what you need and pop it back in. If it doesn’t fit in the packing cube then it doesn’t come

There also great for overnight stops on road trips – we condense our pyjamas, clothes for the next day and basic toiletries into one or two packing cubes, meaning we don’t need to lug 4 bags into a hotel and repack them the next day.

Our favourite packing cubes are AmazonBasics. The two medium, two large set is ideal to start off with, and you can add to it as you go.

 

We LOVE our packing cubes!

 

Find out more about packing cubes and buy them online here.

 

We came to New Zealand with leaves in our bag…and narrowly avoided a fine

If you’ve been to New Zealand or Australia you’ll know about the strict biosecurity laws the countries have to avoid unwanted pests and diseases getting into the country. We’re always super vigilant about making sure we have no fruit, fresh food or wooden souvenirs on us.

Until that time we came back from Europe and the sniffer dogs pounced on one of our bags…

At first, we thought it must have been the remnant scent from some apples we’d had in the bag a few days earlier but the handler was adamant there was something else in there from the dog’s reaction.

Sure enough, when we went through the bag we found a book full of lovely leaves that the kids had collected on a riverside walk a few weeks earlier in Italy. Eek!

Lesson learned:

Luckily we got a really friendly reminder about bringing plant material into New Zealand and didn’t receive a fine, but you need to be careful.

The rules are there for a good reason – to protect our unique flora and fauna – but it could cost you $400 fine even if you accidentally forget to declare plant, fruit or wooden products.

We’re now pretty studious about checking everything when packing our bags to head back to NZ.

Find out more about New Zealand biosecurity laws here.

 

We took a baby stroller to SE Asia

We agonised over whether to take a baby stroller with us to Asia for four months, but we decided to take an umbrella one with us at the last minute. The kids were just on the cusp of being able to handle big walking days, so we thought we’d best err on the side of caution.

Well other than being useful in airports, it was a complete waste of time.

The pavements and sidewalks of SE Asia are generally terrible (talking about Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Bali). They’re either non-existent, full of potholes, covered in garbage, covered in electrical wires (!) or in the case of Hanoi covered in people sitting eating their lunch!

No way a stroller is going to navigate this footpath!

 

Lesson learned:

A far better solution for transporting kids is to take a baby carrier with you.

We absolutely loved our Tula Ergonomic Toddler Carrier and got so much use out of it for both our 4 and 6 year olds. It folded right down into a day pack, and we could just get it out and strap it on when the kids got tired.

Kylie is only 5 ft and could still manage to carry 18kg Sophie easily on her back and Mike got the privilege of lugging her up Little Adams Peak in Sri Lanka! Definitely one of our favourite travel with kids products!

Making good use of our Tula Baby Carrier while hiking in the jungle in Kep, Cambodia

 

Check out prices and buy the Tula Ergonomic Carrier here

 

You can also read more about our SE Asia adventures here.

We had a car crash in Cairo and went under a truck in India

The two travel destinations where we’d think twice about getting in a car again are Egypt and India!

In our downtown Cairo taxi, we had a small fender bender, but the driving was like nothing we’d ever seen (this was before we visited India). Road rules don’t seem to apply and it was even worse as we visited during Ramadan so people everywhere were rushing on empty stomachs to get to where they needed to be to eat at sundown.

After our crash, the two drivers got out, yelled at one another for about two minutes and then drove off again. Apparently, there is no car insurance available?!

The Indian crash was potentially much worse. We were in rural Rajasthan touring around in a 1950’s Ambassador car when the truck in front of us suddenly stopped.

Our driver was too close as he was trying to make a passing manouever and we went straight under the truck.

India car crash

Crunch!

Luckily we weren’t going so fast or it could have been a terrible situation. This wasn’t the only incident in India – we frequently drove down dual carriageways in the wrong lane, went around roundabouts the wrong way, drove into an open manhole, had a small collision with a man on a bike (he was ok) and spent so much time dodging cows, dogs and monkeys wandering all over the road.

And it wasn’t just our driver, it’s just what happens in India! Homemade cars weren’t an unusual site and trucks often drove in the pitch black with no headlights to conserve energy… (the mind boggles at that one!)

I’m pleased to report I found South India much safer on my recent trip there and felt very happy I was in a big bus!

Lesson learned:

Carrying a first aid kit is a must. You never know when you could be caught up in an incident, and while there’s a tiny chance of it happening, having the basics such as bandages, splints and a cold compress to tide you over until you can reach medical care is important.

Our crash in India was a long way from the nearest city so had the situation been worse we would have had to rely on our own resources for a long while until we could get proper medical help.

We love this best selling ideal first aid kit with 299 physician recommended supplies (but that’s still small and lightweight enough for your backpack or suitcase!)

 

Paying for accommodation with a bank transfer

Over the years we’ve booked accommodation directly with a property owner or hotels who require a bank transfer for a deposit and/or final payment.We also have another overseas bank account that we like to transfer funds into from time to time.

We’ve learned the hard way that doing it via a bank transfer is incredibly expensive and inconvenient.

Firstly you get charged an extortionate fee for the transfer, and then no matter how many times we seem to say ‘please charge all fees to us’ the recipient gets whacked with a fee at their end, which they then inevitably and understandably pass onto us.

Lesson learned:

No more are we at the mercy of banks! We now use TransferWise for any international currency transfers that we make.

The fees can be up to 8% cheaper than using a bank, and we’ve found it to be incredibly fast, efficient and a safe way to transfer money.

There is a little bit of admin involved in setting up an account initially (for good reason – to comply with all the international money laundering laws) but once you’re set up it’s incredibly easy to transfer money to all major world currencies.

It normally takes 2-3 days for our payments to process which is faster than the week long process with a traditional bank.

TransferWise has over 2 million customers, and you can track your money throughout the process so it’s very safe!

Find out more about TransferWise and sign up here – (please note this is a compensated link – if you use this link we both win, you will get up to $500 USD worth of free transfers and I get some credit towards my account :-)).

So there you have it, some silly mistakes but some genuine ones that we’ve learned from and hopefully you’ll get some helpful hints from our misfortunes!

 

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