A is for AIR-CONDITIONING
Stopping in Asia or Australia? Or anywhere remotely hot or humid? Trust me – in room air-conditioning is worth every extra penny you might pay for it. It’s like walking into your own private fridge. Pure bliss. After stopping in Bondi Beach during a heatwave and only having a crappy in-room fan, I’ll always opt for AC now because during those 4 days… we were actually melting.
B is for BAGGAGE
Airlines will charge you extra for just a couple of additional KG’s in your bag, so if you think you’re going to be over the agreed limit, call ahead (or look online) and book yourself extra weight. It’ll cost you half the price than the “un-planned” fees at the airport. This especially applies if your airline is a budget one.
C is for CURRENCY
We’ve been drained dry by currency charges and bank charges whilst travelling (so much so I almost get tearful just thinking about it). Just one cash withdrawal in the states (doesn’t matter how much we take out, small or big amount) ends up costing us about (NZ)$30. That’s $7.50 from our bank, $24 from the US bank and $4 from the ATM machine. It’s like a slap in the face. So make sure, when budgetting, you include stuff like this in your calculations.
D is for DEET
If you’re going to anywhere with Mozzies, then try and get your hands on some Deet. It’s not sold in the UK (at least, I don’t think it is) so I’d never seen it before moving to NZ. When travelling though, I’m always a prime target for insects, and seem to get bitten and bitten. Like I’m some kind of buffet. Deet is the strongest repellent out there – and really helped my sanity when we were travelling through Oz and Thailand because it meant I wasn’t paranoid about being bitten every time there was a bug in the vicinity. It made the top of my packing list.
E is for Eggs
The best, easiest, yummiest breakfast you can get. They fill you up. They’re cheap. They’re healthy. You can get them (without fail) in every country you go to. Mmmm Eggs.
F is for FEAR
We’ll have been on about 22 flights in total once these nine months are over, and for someone who is scared of flying (more about that here, if you’re curious) – this is a big deal. I thought I would’ve overcome my fear by now, but the truth is, I haven’t I’m working on it – but it’s going to be a long journey and it’s one I’ve only just started on. One thing I have learnt, is that you can’t let fear stop you or prevent you from doing anything. Fear is a choice, and sometimes you just have to choose to leave it at the door.
G is for GREYHOUND
If you’re in Australia, the easiest and cheapest way to see as much of the country as possible is to book a greyhound pass. It was so hassle free, and it just works. Plus, it’s such a blessing not to drive those long distances yourself. Sleeping in the back of a coach is way better than falling asleep at the wheel.
H is for HOSTELS vs HOTELS
If you’re in Australia or NZ – your money will go much further if you opt for hostels over hotels as Oz and NZ are REALLY expensive. But fear not – hostels are actually pretty sweet – some of the hostels we stopped in have been like little boutique hotels or B&Bs! Saying that though, in places like Thailand and Malaysia you’ll be able to afford a decent 4/5* hotel for what you’d have paid for a hostel in Oz. Money is so contextual, and you’ll be able to afford much different standards in different places, so make sure you research this properly. Don’t assume you have to slum it everywhere – because you probably don’t. Also – our new favourite website is AirBnB – where you can rent out rooms and apartments – we did that in NYC and saved so much money and stopped right in the heart of Manhattan.
I is for ICE
In Thailand I got sick most days because I was drinking the local water without even realising it. Because of the ice in drinks (buckets in Thailand are a prime culprit for this). So be careful. If you have a sensitive stomach, avoid ice in your drinks and just buy sealed refrigerated bottles. You should never drink tap water here, and always drink bottled. You shouldn’t really even brush your teeth with the tap water, so if you’re like me and have a super sensitive system, make sure you’re cautious with water in places like this.
J is for JOURNAL
I started my travel journal in January – and it’s where I keep literally everything to do with our trip recorded and noted down. At first it’s where I planned everything, not it’s where I write down memories, or stick in photos, or note down awesome restaurants we ate at. I just want proof of what we did – and although having this blog is great, and having Facebook albums is good too – having something tangible really appeals to the writer in me. I’ll treasure my journal forever now – and it’s so great to read through all the random musings I made months ago.
K is for KINDNESS
Whether you’re a traveller or a local – kindness goes such a long way in this world. During this trip I’ve really been surprised by how kind some strangers have been, and it has reminded me to always be understanding of tourists and travellers in my hometown of London. I’ll always try and help people out if they look lost, but now I’ll make a more conscious effort and maybe look out for people who look like they need pointing in the right direction. It take nothing to smile, or to help someone out, and I think we all need to remember that at times.
L is for LATE CHECK-OUT
The gold-dust of hotel or hostel extras, having a late check-out option is the absolute best. There is nothing worse than having to check out at 10am, and then hanging around until 6pm for your next flight, with not only your huge suitcase but your hand luggage too. We learnt pretty fast to always ask if it was an option when we checked in or booked the room online.
M is for MAPS
Oh my goodness. Get yourself a map. First thing we do when we get to a new place is grab a map from our hotel or our hostel reception. Or (when you’re stopping with family) make them draw you a map, like I did in Singapore with my Uncle David. Even if you don’t use it – it’s so worth having it on you. Just in case. In countries when English isn’t the first language and isn’t widely spoken – having a map is going to be more reliable than asking the locals too – because there is always the chance they didn’t understand you, or they misheard you, or you misheard them, or they don’t even know the way anyway.
N is for NOISE CANCELLING HEADPHONES
For long haul flights, I really can’t big-up noise cancelling headphones enough. If you’ve never tried quality headphones like this – as soon as you do you’ll never look back. They do require a bit of an investment (a good pair will cost about £150+) but they are worth every penny as it means when you’re flying you can actually block out all the plane and engine noise – and genuinely hear your music or TV shows and films. For me, they actually calm my nerves a lot too, and I put the headphones on during take-off and landing just to silence all the air-craft noises around me, which means I panic less.
O is for an OPEN-MIND
Having an open mind about everything when you travel is so important. Whether it be some food you haven’t tried before (or a drink – like the photo below) – a funny looking route to your destination or even a questionable looking hotel… you never know who you might meet or what you might discover. Saying that though, I think you should always trust your instincts – if something feels off, trust your gut. Better to be safe than sorry.
P is for PROOF
Lots of countries will require printed proof of your onward travel before you enter the country – so make sure you have this printed out. Australia, New Zealand and the USA are big sticklers for this. Make sure you have confirmation of your exiting flight, as well as your entering one, because that’s the one they care about. As long as they know you’re leaving at some point – they’ll let you in!
Q is for QUEEN
Bohemian Rhapsody is the ultimate road trip and travelling song, and will be the one song that bonds any group of strangers together almost immediately. So if you find yourself flung together with a group of people on a group tour – just whack this on the CD player. You’ll all be BFFs before the 5 minutes is over.
R is for REGRETS
As soon as you board that plane, you’ll realise you’re doing the right thing. No one ever regretted travelling – it’s one of those experiences that well and truly defines you. I know, especially for Pad and I, it has defined our relationship too and made it a million times stronger than it was before we set off. All of my favourite moments from travelling were when I pushed myself to think outside the box, or challenged myself or faced my fears – I can’t imagine how much regret I’d have had if I’d passed up any of those opportunities. So just bite the bullet.
S is for SWEAT TOWEL
In Asia, it became pretty obvious that it was impossible to be outside for more than 5 minutes without your face dripping with sweat. That’s kind of gross – but it’s the brutal truth of Thailand, Singapore and other places round there, and the kind of humidity and temperatures we were coping with. I started taking the flannel or face cloth from the hotel bathroom with me wherever I went – as a quick wipe-down tool for myself (and everyone else I was with…) and we started referring it to the ‘sweat towel’. Yes, It was pretty gross – but I think we were all pretty relieved to not look like we were melting all the time.
T is for TV
When you’re travelling for a long time, in a non-English country you really do miss English and American TV. This applied to us big time when we were travelling through Thailand and Hong Kong – as we usually only had one English channel in the hotel room. The truth is, you’re not going to want to go out every night, and as a long term traveller you do occasionally crave a night in. Pick a box set before you set off so you always have something to watch on those rainy days, jet lagged days or days when you can’t be bothered to go out in the humidity.
U is for the UPGRADES
Upgrades are NOT totally out of reach for the normal traveller – and we soon realised this. Sure, we never got upgraded to first class (DAMN YOU VIRGIN AIRLINES!) we did get upgraded in our hotels quite frequently. My biggest lesson I learnt, was to always ask.If you don’t ask, you don’t get. In Las Vegas we upgraded our standard room to a one-bedroom suite for the tiny amount of $20 a night additional… which was a bloody bargain. And it made a huge difference too – we could literally do cartwheels around the living room, it was so big.
V is for VIEW
All of my favourite hotels we stopped in had incredible views, and now (whenever we travel) the view from the hotel window is going to be top of my list. Sounds like a silly revelation to make – but it’s such an amazing start to the day when you wake up to something beautiful.
W is for WATER
Always carry a bottle of water with you wherever you go, because you never know when you might need it. Especially in the heat, you’ll find yourself getting dehydrated quicker than before – so carrying one around with you is so important. Also, take one on long-haul flights with you too, those little cups they give you are never enough.
X is for X-RAY
Oh come on. Coming up with things that begin with X is super hard. I will find a way to tie this in though. X-Rays are bad and expensive… so get travel insurance before you leave for your trip. Otherwise you’ll end up paying out of your ears if anything goes wrong.
Y is for YOU
Keep in mind when you travel that this is your trip and you’re there to enjoy yourself. It’s easy when you travel to keep doing all the things you feel like you should be doing – and then you end up not enjoying it and wishing you’d done something else. We had this with Fraser Island in Australia. I knew the camping option wouldn’t be the right thing for us to do (because I HATE bugs and the island is riddled with them) so I opted for day option instead. Even the day option was a bit disappointing and we both agreed afterwards we would rather have stayed in Noosa a bit longer and just skipped past Fraser Island completely. I guess what I’m trying to say is, it’s your memories you’re making – so make sure you make yourself happy. If that means sipping coffee on the beach, instead of camping on a cliff – so be it.
Z is for ZZZZZ’s
Sleep is so important. I learnt the hard way in Las Vegas when I burnt my candle completely out. I crashed one day at 4pm in the afternoon and didn’t wake up until 11am the next morning, sleeping through a Cirque Du Soleil show we had tickets for. That was my body’s way of saying, time for a rest. Jet Lag can be a real bitch, so don’t push yourself too hard. If you need to sleep, then take it easy – otherwise you’ll end up sleeping through a Cirque Du Soleil show and kicking yourself for it the next day.
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