Back in 2012 me & the Mr made the decision to take some time out from work and it was the best decision we ever made. My husband loves a spreadsheet and immediately set about planning our time away and I set about finding out what snippets of advice I could online. We found such good information through blogs and through talking to family and friends who had travelled before, we actually found these options more useful than the classic Lonely Planet guides. We had such an awesome time away, here are my top tips for travelling the world that I want to share with you.
Talk to people! Honestly, this seems so obvious but this is the best bit of advice to give. Once you’re on your trip, if you’re staying in hostels like we did, get chatting to your fellow travellers. They might have been to places you’re heading too and have tips or advice, or they might have done a particular tour that was worth doing. In Australia we weren’t going to head to the famous Fraser Island for one reason or another, but got chatting to some people we’d been on a boat trip with and they wholeheartedly recommended it. They gave us a tour operator to try and this ended up being one of the best experiences from our trip. This would’ve been something that we would’ve missed out on, had we not got talking.
Call in favours. Going travelling, however you budget generally ends up being an expensive trip, so now is the time to call in the favours. Contact that cousin twice removed, that friend your mum knows in America or that distant relative in Asia. We did this and it paid us dividends. We got to stay with family in Auckland, New Zealand, family in Los Angeles, and old friends in Sydney Australia which obviously saved us money but gave us that bit of home comfort and familiarity too. Also through just talking about our trip to a work colleague, my husband managed to get us an amazing discount on a boat trip in Australia. You never know who knows someone in the part of the world you are travelling too! My husband and I have always said that where possible, we would always return these favours if ever asked. Don’t be proud, get asking.
Don’t be afraid of hostels. I would say that 90% of the hostels that we stayed in were really good, and I mean good as in they had a decent bed, helpful staff and clean shared bathroom and cooking facilities. We always stayed in a double room, what with being a married couple and all, so dormitories are obviously a different story and I can’t vouch for those, but you get a general vibe of a hostel as well when there and we really liked every one we stayed in. There were just two dodgy ones, one in Australia Mission Beach which was just rough and one in New Zealand South Island where the owner had a go at us for using his facilities, weird! Anyway, it’s fair to say that Australia and New Zealand are pretty well set up for travellers as you would expect. We used Trip Adviser to book hostels and found the reviews accurate as far as we were concerned.
Investigate camper vans before you go. If you’re looking to book yourself a camper van, do some ground work before you go. Look at Trip Adviser and trawl blogs to find your best option. We decided against a van in Australia assuming we’d cook in the scorching heat, but knew that we wanted to spend four weeks in a camper van in New Zealand. I spent a long (looooong) time looking online doing my research for this. I found Rankers which is a New Zealand based website for camper van reviews, through this and a little blog I found (which I can’t for the life of me find now) I discovered Camper Co. They were fantastic, really helpful and as we booked our little van quite a few months in advance, we got a good discount.
Budget. This is an obvious one but set up a spreadsheet and work out your finances before you go. Figure out how much money you have to spend roughly per day (this really helps) and know what you could spend on your credit card if needed. If you are going to use a credit card when you’re away then it’s worth seeing if you can set up a direct debit before you go to pay off a certain amount whilst you are away, or we asked a family member to pay the minimum amount for us. Also make sure you have a buffer of money just in case you fancy doing some crazy things, like jumping out of a plane or flying in a helicopter over glaciers. Knowing your budget before you go, takes some of the pressure off once you’re away.
Don’t over plan your trip. This seems like odd advice, but hear me out. We only had three weeks in Australia travelling down the East Coast towards Brisbane and a flight from there to Sydney. We knew roughly which towns we wanted to stop in and my husband wanted to book up hostels in advance in each town that we were aiming for, however I didn’t want to do this. I wanted a little more freedom to our somewhat tight schedule, freedom to maybe stay in a different town if we wanted or to keep driving if needed etc. After some discussion, we agreed to book up the first nights stay i.e. when we landed in Cairns, then from there using hostel wifi, we found roughly three hostels in the next town that we were aiming for and gunning on the fact that they would probably have double rooms free we just drove and booked once there. If the hostel didn’t have a room free, we’d try the other two. This worked out fine in the end. Don’t plan the fun out of everything 🙂
Give yourself enough time in each place. If like us, you have quite a strict schedule then this one is tricky but where possible try and give yourself at least a few days in each place, with the option to extend somewhere should you like it or abort should you not like where you are. We only had three days in Cambodia and this wasn’t enough, we managed to jam in some amazing things but in hindsight we needed at least a week to not feel so rushed. On the flip side, we then had a week in northern Vietnam and we didn’t enjoy this for various reasons however we were stuck due to a set flight out of the country. It’s hard as you will need to probably book yourself some fixed flights but try and keep travel in-between flexible where possible.
Pack economically. We had to be able to carry everything in large rucksacks, so this meant really thinking about what we took i.e. nothing too heavy or bulky. For starters, get yourself those microfiber travel towels, they are fantastic. They feel a bit odd on your body, but dry really quickly and fold up incredibly small. My wardrobe was pretty basic but my essentials were an H&M hoodie, two bikini’s and some simple t-shirts. Jeans were also needed as we experienced cold weather in Asia and at night in New Zealand. Remember if needed you can always buy whilst away, my husband cleverly tied my bikini to a boat mast to dry on a trip and it blew away (my favourite one!) luckily I had a spare but I still needed to buy another! Toiletries wise, a good tip is to take a little plastic box to put all your toiletries in because if you’re staying in hostels this was useful for the cubicle showers, it keeps everything together, it doesn’t matter if it gets wet plus it stops any leaking in your rucksack. Take a torch and head torch for those night wee’s if you’re staying in a tent or camper van, sporks always come in handy and sleeping bag liners (we used these alone, sleeping in a tent in Oz) and ditch the nice jewellery. If you’re married think about leaving your rings at home and taking cheap, plain silver bands instead. A final tip is to think about buying a cool box to keep your food in, if you’re in a location for a long time and space allows it. We did this in Australia so we could buy daily essentials for our long car journeys.