If your passport has more stamps than my Cold Stone Creamery punch card (hint: a lot of stamps), you are always jetting off to some exciting city, or you fly to Iceland every year for a private viewing of the Aurora Borealis, this maybe won’t be your jam.
(Or, maybe you want to stick around for the inevitable comic relief? Everyone’s welcome.)
Either way, this post is for newbie travelers and the truly inept who never seem to learn (I fall into both categories, BTW).
So, here are some super obvious (to Tammy Traveler) travel tips for the amateur or idiot traveler:
1. Not only do you need a plug adaptor, but you also need to check the voltage on your appliance
I thought I had done extensive research on how to work my can’t-leave-for-the-weekend-let-alone-the-country-flat iron for my first trip to the U.K. I knew for certain that I’d need a plug adaptor to be able to use it and all of my other necessary hair appliances and other electronics.
What Rick Steve’s travel forum and other travel sites need plastered on their front pages in gigantic, glaring letters is “YOU ALSO NEED DUAL VOLTAGE APPLIANCES, UNLESS WHAT YOU’RE GOING FOR IS THE FRIED LOOK, DUMBASS!”*
This’ll be mind blowing to anyone who wasn’t already aware, but there is this thing (some kind of force) called voltage that varies from country to country. In the US, we use 120V and much of Europe 230V.
What happens if you try to use your flat iron only meant for 120V in an outlet meant for 230V is you’ll burn up your device and your hair will be hideous for 95% of your trip (because, you might get in a day or two before you almost burn down your hotel).
I’m not sure you’ll actually really explode anything, but you will ruin your $100 hair appliance and isn’t that just as bad?
I had to wear this stupid hat almost everyday after I blew out my flat iron.
2. You don’t need to buy everything new before a trip
I’m the kind of traveler who feels compelled to buy an entirely new wardrobe, new toiletry bags, state-of-the-art sound canceling headphones, and a Mulberry silk neck pillow before a big trip.
I’m also the traveler who wonders why she can never afford to travel.
I try to think if I had the opportunity to travel to one of my wanderlist sites like right this very second, so I had to take my horrific clothes that I own currently, along with my old luggage, would my trip really be made less awesome?
No, man. It would still be amazing.
For the upcoming trip I’m planning for this summer, I’m trying really hard to validate with a normal person’s rationale if I really need a $20 eye mask just because it says, “Wake me up when we get there” or another cross body purse when I already have 15. I ask myself if the purchase will make or break my trip.
Sound canceling headphones so I can try to get some shut eye on the flight? Yes. Proceed.
New, snazzy luggage when my battered, but perfectly usable suitcase will do? No. Put the floral-print Jessica Simpson suitcase down and back away.
(Besides, luggage is practically mauled to death during its voyage to your location. Buying gorgeous luggage that might get some dings and too much wear and tear gives me heart palpitations.)
Super cute mint-colored packing cubes? No. Get your extra ass out of Target and on a travel site where they offer free packing advice.
Comfortable, yet stylish Adidas walking shoes found at TJ MAXX? Yes, girl. You’re thrifty and your feet will thank you. (Converse are cute, but they have no arch support and they’re flatter than a gluten-free pancake.)
OK, so I bought a new bag for my toiletries, too.
3. Learn how to read a damn map, yo
Back before everyone and that homeless man on the corner had a smartphone and a GPS device, people had to actually rely on paper maps.
In 2010 (right around the time that poor woman showed the world her AT&T iPhone bill that weighed 83 pounds), my boyfriend at the time and I bought a Blackberry specifically for our trip abroad because we were explicitly told it would work in the U.K. Guess what, folks? It didn’t.
Even if it had, it wouldn’t have helped us much in getting from point A to B, because the Google Maps app for phones wasn’t even a thing at the time.
The first purchase we made when we got our rental car was a road atlas. That wrinkled, coffee-stained God-send really came in handy (that is when the boyfriend was using it. My other travel friend did not have map reading skills at all, thus a very comical drive into Blackpool late in the night. Wait for a post on that adventure).
Again, even in our über modern literally-everyone-owns-a-smartphone 2018, the first purchase we will be making at the very first petrol station we come to will be a paper road atlas.
(I’m really going to need to bone up on my map reading skills which are basically non-existent, currently.)
Want to know why we won’t be running our Map apps during our five weeks of car travel all over the British Isles? Because we aren’t bazillionaires, that’s why.
The very helpful assistant at Verizon told me that a travel plan would cost me $40 extra for the month I’m abroad (not bad at all), but that would only cover calls and texts, not data! He very emphatically urged me not to use my phone for anything other than calls or texts unless I’m on WiFi, because if I do, I’ll be receiving a really expensive bill for overseas roaming. Unless the entirety of the British Isles is a WiFi hotspot, I think we are going back to 2010, baby!
So, even though we all now own truly “international” phones, that doesn’t mean your phone will be as useful as it is in your home country.**
4. Check the amenities that may or may not be offered at your hostel or house stay
I hate to break it to you, ya’ll, your house rental MIGHT NOT PROVIDE TP!
When my mom and I realized the houses we will be renting won’t likely have toilet paper, she wrote down in her travel journal, “Costco in U.K.?????? *shocked face*”. I fully understand her fear as I’m a massive toilet paper over-user.
It’s just a good thing we read the fine print and we can be adequately prepared by buying a pallet of TP once we arrive.
Even if house rentals don’t typically provide paper products, most do provide towels, linens, and washing machines, which is a lot more than hostels can say.
Our first hostel stay during our 2010 British Isles trip was an independent hostel. Because I was not exactly gung-ho on the idea of hostels, I had done zero research on them. So, for your convenience, I’ll just say that with independent hostels you’ll be lucky if they provide you with sheets, let alone the damn bed.
DO YOUR RESEARCH.
So, needless to say, this hostel was a real trip. I can’t wait to write up my experience at The Rainbow.
I’ll just give you a little sneak peek:
Do you see the towels drying on the back seats? Those are car towels (you know, the kind that has scrubby mesh on one side and are the size of a hand towel) bought at a petrol station. We had to use those to dry off after showering in a coed shower room. Fun.times.
5. Don’t forget to pack extra underwear in your carry on for the trip back
Maybe this is a huge NO DUH from most, but I’m an idiot. Also, I’ve always figured, I’m heading home to where more underwear lives, so it’s no big deal.
Well, let me tell you, at least from my experience, the trip home is always ten times more painful, uncomfortable, and much longer than the everything-is-still-so-exciting trip to wherever you’re going.
On the return of the previously mentioned trip, our plane was a little delayed getting into Toronto. Then, due to an exceptionally long wait in the customs line, we almost missed our flight to Denver. Almost to Denver, our flight had to be re-routed to an abandoned landing strip in Adobe, otherwise known as the middle of nowhere, for hours due to a severe thunderstorm. Thankfully, all flights were delayed going out of Denver, so when we finally made it to Denver, we didn’t miss our connecting flight. Still, we didn’t get into Reno until the early morning hours when it was originally scheduled to arrive around 10 PM.
What does this long-winded story have to do with needing underwear in a packed bag?
Well, after a hell trip home, the cherry on top was that they lost my baggage and I was still four hours from home, as I was living in Elko at the time.
Ya’ll, I had to wear a pair of my mom’s granny panties.
Sure, they were clean, but, *shudders* sharing underwear gives me the heebie-jeebies.
So, if you don’t want to have to wear a pair of your mom’s Hanes Cotton Comforts, pack a damn pair of underwear for the return trip!
6. If you’re squeamish about sitting bare-assed on a public toilet seat, prepare yourself now
I discovered while in the U.K. that toilet seat covers are essentially non-existent there. I had brought with me ONE travel-sized seat cover, so that was basically useless. After a few trepidatious days of testing the waters of sitting bare assed on an alien seat, my butt cheeks did not spontaneously explode, so I started living the way the locals did.
My travel friend? He never mastered the art of just letting it rest. One afternoon in a pub in Oxford he was in the restroom no less than 45 minutes. I had finished two ciders before he came out sweaty and looking like he had just been given a diagnosis of Toilet Seat Hepatitis.
I said, “What in the hell were you even doing? I’ve just finished two ciders and now I’m too day drunk to go site-seeing!”
His response, “You know how there’s no seat covers? Well, I kept trying to lay toilet paper on the seat, but it kept falling in. I used up all of the toilet paper.”
Day drunk in Oxford! There’s that hat again!
Folks, if you’re like my friend, you better start training now if you have a trip abroad coming up!
I hope this has been even a tiny bit helpful to someone out there. If not, I hope it was at least mildly entertaining to read while you tried to gag down your kale salad on your lunch break.
*This really would only apply to those living in countries, like the US, that have such different voltage when compared with other nations.
**This might be entirely different depending on the country you’re from or your phone carrier. Maybe Verizon just hates me.