Looking on the Light Side of Travel Frustrations
If travelling through Europe in the last few years has taught me anything, it’s that
sometimes frequently, you’ll get pissed off.
Minor frustrations can mount up over time until you explode over the smallest of things, like using the last of your pesto and having to buy a full new jar a day before your next location. (Why is travel sized pesto not a thing?)
Today’s post is aimed at helping you to recognise and avoid common travel frustrations that can turn a great trip, into a great trip with a few hiccups.
If you love countdown posts, you might enjoy this top 10 post on procrastination.
Here’s the Countdown from #13 Downwards… Enjoy the Ride
#13 – Roaming Data Problems
Although phone companies are getting much better at providing packages aimed at people who are abroad, there are still a lot of limitations. For example, take Three, my current provider.
They advertise a plan that you can use anywhere, perfect for the digital nomad. What they don’t tell you, however, is that if you are outside of the UK for more than 90 days, the package no longer applies.
Oops, let’s hope you didn’t sign up for a 12-month contract!
For a 3 month or less trip within Europe, I’d check out Three or Vodafone. If you are heading outside of Europe, or you are going to be travelling longer than 3 months, I’d just pick up a new sim card when you arrive in the country.
If you can get a local to help you, so you don’t get slammed with tourist prices, even better!
#12 – Washing Your Clothes Costing a BOMB
Okay, maybe a slight exaggeration here. Although, if your daily budget is strict, the cost of washing your clothes can certainly mount up. Especially if you are travelling light like me, and just carrying a 40litre backpack.
Here is a neat trick I picked up from a dude I met in a hostel. Take a shower with your clothes! Seriously, this dude convinced me it was quick and easy to wash your t-shirts in the shower with you, just using regular body wash.
His advice: “After three or four washes they begin to get a little funky, so I’d do a proper wash then, but honestly it’s saved me a fortune in washing costs for my t-shirts.”
You can also get a hold of some travel washing soap, which is awesome for washing your clothes in the sink. Say goodbye to extra washing costs!
#11 – No Address, No Mail
This problem may be more important if you plan on working whilst travelling. Sometimes, you need an address to send mail to. It could be an important document or even just something from a family member or client.
You can use a mail forwarding company. It’s different for every country (if you are in the US check out this awesome post which gives details on getting mail and voting as a nomad).
#10 – Bad Cooking Facilities, Ooh…Burn!
When we travel, we want to be grateful, and we want to be understanding. But sometimes our patience can only stretch so far.
AirBnB’s, hotels and hostels sometimes have limited cooking facilities and when you’re on a budget or travelling in a more expensive area…that sucks! It’s easy enough to cook a simple pasta dish at home when you have access to a stove and some hot water, but what about when your hostel only has a kettle and a microwave?
So much for that healthy meal you envisioned.
Always check ahead to your desired travel location and figure out the kitchen situation. If it’s sub-par, look into if it’s cheap enough to eat out.
It’s also worth considering the price of hostels you are picking. For example, would it be better to spend £3 extra on a hostel per night with much better cooking facilities?
Or would that £3 you saved actually be able to buy you lunch and dinner (I’m looking at you Vietnam).
#9 – Airport Restrictions – 100ml Limit & All Fitting in a Clear Bag?!
If you’re a fan of lotions and potions, this one may be more difficult for you than it was for me. I know my sister and some of my friends have a plethora of cosmetics and toiletries.
Shampoo, conditioner, body scrub, moisturiser, deodorant, body wash, foundation, eye-liner, make-up remover, hair spray, toothpaste, mouthwash: the list can go on! How on earth are you going to make it through customs with all of that in your carry-on backpack?
Minimise like crazy and look at some simplified alternatives. For example, Lush now do some amazing shampoo & conditioner bars you can use instead of liquids.
Maybe grab a body wash bar instead of a liquid (they will definitely go a lot further). Ditch spray deodorant in favour of smaller roll-on deodorant.
Also, consider some natural alternatives; I read about a lady who ditched shampoo and face wash altogether and washes her hair in baking soda. Crazy? Maybe, but she swears by it.
#8 – Airport Restrictions – Luggage Weight, Size & Cost
Geez, airports huh? Another massive frustration that a lot of travellers experience is airport restrictions on luggage. If you are country hopping on a frequent basis, especially with low-cost airlines, checked baggage costs can soon become painful.
If your luggage is overweight, extra costs. If it’s too big to carry on the plane, extra costs. If it’s larger than the designated size for carry-on luggage, extra costs.
Nothing is more frustrating than purposefully not taking a bigger bag, spending hours carefully cramming everything in in an effort to save yourself some money, only to find the airline charges you extra anyway.
Always check your airline’s luggage terms & conditions. For example, Ryan Air has recently changed its rules regarding hand luggage: its standard size has been reduced, resulting in extra charges if you hadn’t done your research.
Some airlines will let you have a normal sized 56x45x25cm carry-on bag, as well as a smaller personal item. I use this Osprey travel light bag which I can easily tuck into my main bag, or use it as a separate bag if I need to bring down the size and weight of my main Osprey 40 litre backpack.
Consider how big you really need your main backpack to be. It’s my recommended back-pack for all travellers, you can pick one up here.
I’ve managed fine with just a 40litre rucksack for the last 8 weeks, and I plan to keep using it for the rest of my 2-year trip. If you can manage, save yourself some time and money in luggage fees, and go with a backpack you can take onboard.
#7 – No Sharp Knives in the Hostel
Jesus Christ! For someone who likes to cook, this used to be my pet hate with almost every hostel or AirBnB that I visited. Nobody likes soggy, squashed tomatoes in their omelette because you couldn’t find a sharp enough knife.
This awesome, amazing, handy travel knife sharpener has changed my life. Never did I think such a small thing could bring me so much joy.
Not only will you be able to sharpen any knife on the go, but it’s also a fantastic social tool. Trust me on this, your hostel buddies will be all over you for sharpening the communal knives.
You’ve not just enriched your cooking life, but everyone else’s too. Well done you, what a team player.
#6 – Overseas Costs for Debit and Credit Cards
Extra costs are a traveller’s worst enemy. Converting currencies, ATM fees, working out exchange rates and trying to find the best exchange merchant can honestly be a damn nightmare.
On top of this, if you use your regular bank-card abroad you can be hit with extra fees and costs including bad currency exchange rates and then extra bank charges to boot.
Invest in a travel credit card. In the UK, we have a few truly amazing travel cards that have minimal fees and extras.
I use the Halifax Clarity credit card and the Barclaycard Travel credit card. Halifax gives me almost perfect exchange rates in any country when paying with the card.
The reason I have the Barclaycard Travel credit card is that it gives me fee-free cash withdrawals from foreign countries. Just make sure to opt out of any exchange rate options you are provided at the ATM – always let the bank work out the exchange rate, don’t choose to pay in GBP at the ATM.
#5 – Power Converters, Don’t Have a Voltage Crisis
Something to be wary of when travelling abroad and using devices from different countries is the kind of power converter that you are using. It may be tempting to go for a cheap and cheerful option, but trust me when I say nobody wants to be in the position of plugging in their expensive iPad or MacBook to then smell a strong burning odour, followed by a laptop that won’t turn on.
Trust me on that one, I’ve sadly had the first-hand experience.
Always make sure to research what type of voltage each country’s power sockets are, and what voltage your devices need. Buy a power converter that will convert the voltage that’s coming out of the wall to the correct voltage your device needs.
The travel adapter I use has been awesome: it’s compact, adaptable and damn reliable, not to mention cheap! Check it out here.
#4 – Overpacking with Things You Don’t Need
Oh boy, this is a biggie. Hoarders, beware! You may think that you simply can’t live without your hair-straightener, your boombox wireless speakers, or your limited edition Gameboy colour.
But there are some things you simply will not need whilst travelling.
You may think that you simply can’t live without your hair-straightener, your boombox wireless speakers, or your limited edition Gameboy colour. But there are some things you simply will not need whilst travelling.
What’s really frustrating about overpacking is the process of re-packing and transporting your luggage. I’ve seen travellers have full meltdowns in airports, train stations and even in the middle of the street.
One girl threw her back-pack to the ground, kicked it and ran off in the different direction. Seriously, you do not want to be this girl.
I’ve often felt really relieved when walking between hostels with other travellers; I see how heavy their packs are, and throw my lovely, light backpack on and walk off with a spring in my step.
When you are packing, think about what you need, not what you want. Get rid of those extra pairs of shoes. You don’t need 10 different tops, and you almost certainly won’t need a blazer or a pair of dress shoes.
If it’s not a necessity, get rid of it.
The reality is, you simply don’t need most things. Luxuries are just that, luxuries. You don’t really need them, you’ve just become accustomed to having them all the time.
Challenge yourself to go without the extra things you think you need, and if it comes to it, you can buy most things you would need on the road. You know, just in case your worst nightmares come true, and you suddenly need that 8kg guitar you had been lugging alongside your backpack for the last 2000 miles.
#3 – Not packing Things You Do Need
Just like overpacking, underpacking can also be a problem. I remember when I first left the UK, I had packed about 6 short sleeve t-shirts and loads of shorts and light button-up shirts.
My fashion choice was great for variety; however, when I arrived in a colder country I was screwed. I didn’t have any warm clothes. (After I left half of my clothes in Germany on a road-trip, I realised I actually only needed 2-3 t-shirts anyway.)
Decide where you are going to visit, and take a moment to figure out what is really important to pack. You can always buy cheap clothing from thrift shops whilst travelling, cheap, quality warm clothing can be hard to find.
I’d suggest packing some thin, thermal under-shirt clothing such as Under Armour, so that you can layer up to keep warm, without taking up loads of space.
I’d also think about what is going to be difficult to get ahold of in foreign countries. Deodorant and shampoo are easy to get; however, it may not be easy to find tampons, good quality sunscreen, or the right kind of contact lenses.
#2 – When You Plan Ahead and It Doesn’t Go to Plan
This is the number two slot for a reason. I’ve spoken to so many people whose biggest travel frustration has been booking flights and accommodation in advance, only to end up wanting to change their plans.
Maybe somebody suggested something awesome once they got there, or they just felt like heading somewhere on a whim. It can be a nightmare, and nobody wants to be left wandering the streets of a foreign city with nowhere to stay.
When booking, always try to use flexible options; for example, when booking with Hostelworld, you are given an option to use a flexible booking for an extra £1. These fees can add up over time, but there have been so many situations where I’ve wanted to change my plans, and been stuck with a non-refundable booking. Blargh.
#1 – Plumbing Issues – Forget Toilet Paper, Get Ready for the Bum-Gun!
It may be surprising to some, but toilet paper isn’t universally used around the world. I know?!
Especially in Asia, you will come across a wide range of plumbing options that may make you question the very nature of reality. From squatting toilets, no toilet paper, to good old-fashioned bum-guns (the loving name many hostels give to the water hose you will use to wash your behind in parts of South-East Asia).
Squatting toilets are actually widely available across Asia due to the number of health benefits associated with squatting whilst using the loo! You can get accustomed to squatting on the toilet in advance by investing in the Squatty Potty.
Squatty Potties, dubbed ‘the stool for better stools’ also has the added benefit of having
one of the most hilarious marketing campaign in the history of toilet humour, check it out!
On a more serious note, if you’re really worried about getting accustomed to different toilet cultures around the world, you can always bring a toilet roll in your bag, or keep a pack of baby wipes handy. Just make sure you buy these in the country you’re visiting instead of before, packing space is a premium!
What’s Your Best/Worst Travel Frustration or Memory?
Let me know in the comments and we will see if anybody can top experiencing a bum-gun for the first time!
P.s. If you liked the style of this post, let me know in the comments and check out this other awesome countdown post.