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Our Mistakes with Full-Time Travel: 9 Months In

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Last Updated on June 5, 2024 by Leslie Stroud

We just hit our nine-month anniversary of full-time travel. I’m going to blink, and it will be a year!

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When we first set out, we said a year was it. That’s all I could bite off mentally and emotionally.

As we started brainstorming Asia, however, I could see it would take a year just for our US locations and Asia. There are still so many places we want to go and won’t even see at this time. Basically, what we’ve learned is that the more you see, the more you realize how little you actually see and how much of the world is still left to see.

Dad and son parasailing over the ocean

Even after all these months of traveling full-time, we are still making mistakes.

Sometimes little, sometimes big. As I write this, I’m on a train in Taiwan. We decided to get out to a National Park of Taiwan for a couple of days. We were a little tight on time, but we were going to make it when I realized as we boarded the subway that I left the train tickets at home!

Chris ran to our house and grabbed them. We ran onto the train, barely making it. However, turns out we got on the wrong one! We had missed our actual train by just about 30 seconds. Thankfully for us, the train we got on was still going the same way. However, instead of 2 hours of high speed, we are on a local 3-hour version.

Oh well. I get to write and the kids love tablet time. We did get booted out of our assigned seats, but figured out pretty soon you can just use any open seat. We found six open seats fairly close to each other and it’s been fine!

The point of this? Pretty much all mistakes can be worked out! I stressed and stressed about this train ride and, sure enough, we made a big mistake. But we are still getting where we need to go and it’s fine!

That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t learn from our mistakes. So I wanted to share some of ours in hopes it will save you some headache.

1. Bank stuff. We didn’t properly prepare our bank or our accounts/credit cards for us leaving. We should have set up A LOT more before we left. We were only going around the US for the first six months, so I didn’t worry about it. However, we should have checked a few things:

  1. Let your bank know when you are going international. Your credit card and ATM card will likely be denied otherwise and you’ll spend a lot of time on the phone. We bank with Chase and I have loved them, but they are not good for international. So we are shopping a new option.
  2. They will want a return date to the US. Since we don’t have one, we have to keep calling. And even when we do update them, our card is still denied for almost all online purchases outside engines. We couldn’t buy train tickets in Taipei online or Disney tickets in Hong Kong online.
  3. Our ATM card is charging us ATM fees and foreign transaction fees. This is adding up fast. Cash isn’t very big in the US, but it’s the primary payment in Asia. We have to grab cash all the time! I just had to pay for a $300 excursion IN CASH. So check out fees on your credit card and ATM card before you go.
  4. Speaking of cash, bring some! I didn’t bring nearly enough and had to have my mom bring some to Bali. Depending on your length of stay, it’s not bad to have a thousand or more. Don’t go over $10K USD since this runs into customs issues.
2 of our kids on a plane, Grave in a car seat in the window seat and Harrison in the middle seat

2. Confirm both airfare and lodging before booking either. These have to go hand in hand, and it’s best to confirm that both are available before you book either one. We bought a cheap flight in Japan and never could find the right accommodations, so we lost that money. Transportation is less important, so don’t worry about that as much. We’ve always been able to figure that one out, even super last minute.

3. Don’t book too fast. Sometimes we are in a hurry, only have a few minutes before bed, or just need something to get resolved. When you travel full-time, things get sloppy. We have very little time in general to even figure out where we are going tomorrow! Do some research and let it stew for a while. Learn from us and don’t be as sloppy 🙂

4. Don’t over-plan or under-research. We’ve done both. Sometimes we run too hard and try to see too many things. Day after day of excursions, even when you love them, will wear you down.

  1. On the flip side, don’t under-plan. Have some idea of where you are going, how to get back, how long you’ll be there. It’s okay to play it out when you get there, but you need basic info to get there and get back. Sometimes you can’t get any signal for your phone, your pocket WiFi (a must in Asia!) is dead and you can’t find anyone to help you for a while. Make sure you know when parks/zoos/museums open. Or that they ARE open on the day you go!

5. Bring some essentials in carry-ons on the plane. I used to be 100% checked luggage and would only bring my entertainment for the airplane. We’ve changed our packing and luggage situation many times, but one of my new hard rules: bring enough to survive at least two days. Everyone brings at least one outfit, extra undies and a swimsuit. Also a toothbrush and diapers/wipes for at least two days. It is SO hard when your luggage is lost or delayed.

A classic example for us: Our first trip with five kids was a cruise (also a first for our family). Grace was only 6 months old and needed formula, baby food, and diapers. I wasn’t sure what would be available on the cruise ship (it turns out nothing baby-wise. You can pre-buy this thing to be delivered to your room at a big premium), so I decided to go the route of being prepared. I packed all the formula, baby food and diapers we MIGHT need for that week. It was an entire checked bag! I was horrified. Chris teased me to no end.

Well, I got the last laugh. Guess which bag was lost when we flew (after a flight cancellation in Denver, a re-routing through Las Vegas and a very LONG delay) to Florida? We arrived at 2 am with only a few diapers and no more formula or baby food. And no bag.

We got to our hotel to discover that they ran out of baby cribs. I was about to lose it. It was now 4 in the morning; Grace was starving, and we had nowhere to put her to bed and nowhere to go! I just started walking around. It wasn’t totally safe, but I was a mom on a mission! I finally found a convenience store and got some applesauce and whole milk. We fed her what we could and made a bed in the closet. She slept great.

We squeezed through to the next morning and boarded our cruise. Still no bag. I was getting cold sweats… what in the world would I do for a week with no formula? We started calling the staff to see if they had ANY on the ship. Nope. Thankfully our bag showed up literally minutes before the ship embarked!

The whole family standing outside of the Harmony of the Seas cruise ship

We squeezed through to the next morning and boarded our cruise. Still no bag. I was getting cold sweats… what in the world would I do for a week with no formula? We started calling the staff to see if they had ANY on the ship. Nope. Thankfully our bag showed up literally minutes before the ship embarked!

6. Bring snacks and water. I’m usually very good about this, but sometimes it slips. We have many times when we have to skip a meal due to lack of time to find something. Travel days are the worst, and this is really common. It’s not a big deal for the adults and even the older kids, but babies and toddlers get very grumpy! They are usually already tired and stressed, so don’t add hunger into the mix. Even if I am stopping at 7-Eleven and grabbing nuts and chocolate, I try to always have some snacks and water to stretch out mealtimes. Also critical? DIAPERS. You can go without wipes and make something work (I’ve used many wet napkins), but diapers are impossible to replace.

We arrived in Singapore with NO more diapers. I had to put Grace to bed in multiple bottom layers and run out and find some diapers late at night. Thankfully, the grocery store was only about a mile away, still open and had diapers! (Note: Formula is also very hard to find sometimes in a weird travel emergency. We left after Grace was on milk but had other trips before this where we didn’t have any formula. VERY STRESSFUL).

7. Make sure you confirm dates a few times! I booked out the first few months of our trip long in advance. Turns out I booked us to check out of our Airbnb a day BEFORE our flight our of Los Angeles. I didn’t even realize this until days before we needed to leave. Thankfully, our host let us stay an extra night for some cash on the counter. But it could have been really hard trying to juggle the rental car, flights AND somewhere to stay last minute.

8. Know beforehand where to go when you get sick or hurt. Travel throws off your routine and getting sick is really common. You are sleep-deprived, stressed, and in a germ factory (hello, airplane). I usually expect some minor illnesses after any travel. Do a little research with your insurance on where to go. Big resorts usually have a nurse on staff, so not as much of a worry. Airbnb is a regular neighborhood, so do just a little research. If it’s a foreign country, especially a developing one, make sure you know where the top care is. Sometimes, you can find American or Canadian-trained medical professionals, and the care is great! We haven’t had any big issues pop up yet outside the US (one ER visit in Portland for Grace), but it’s bound to happen. Expats can be a great resource for this!

9. Get out of your comfort zone food-wise. Many chains show up around the world. The biggest? McDonald’s. We’ve also seen TONS of KFC, Dominos, Coldstone, Starbucks, etc. Even in little tiny towns in Asia! This blows my mind. It is really tempting to go somewhere comfortable when you are tired and hungry, but we strongly suggest you don’t do this. Especially if your time is limited in this new place you want to get to know. You usually only have to walk a street or two to find something else. It will not only be delicious and introduce you to more of the culture, but it’s better for you! A lot of street food or “hole-in-the-wall” restaurants are using produce grown locally. Or go somewhere nicer. Yes, the market itself isn’t always as sanitary as we are used to in the US. But just order something hot and no fruit or veggies that you don’t peel first. You’ll be fine! Oh, and drink bottled water 🙂

Bonus: You’re supporting someone who needs it, and you might make a local friend or two. Happens to us all the time!

Grace drinking out of a coconut through a straw

10. Don’t be afraid to splurge. Sometimes, we are all so focused on the $$ that we miss out on a HUGE delta in how much we will enjoy something. Maybe just a few dollars more a night or that excursion that you are having a hard time justifying in your mind… these things can really change your whole perspective on a trip (or, in our case, a location). You are already shelling out SO MUCH MONEY. I get it. However, don’t skimp now. We didn’t splurge much and still don’t very often, but when we do, it makes a HUGE difference. We talk about those memories for years.

11. Memories are the real souvenirs of travel. Just like having kids, somehow, all the bad things sort of fade from your memory and you have this glorious nugget of joy to review for the rest of your life. You forget the delayed flight, the blown-out diaper on the plane, the tummy bug for 24 hours (OK, not totally forget, but you get my point). You remember the feelings and the emotions of joy and fun and adventure.

Chris and Leslie on a hike with a foggy beach view in the background

11. Memories are the real souvenirs of travel. Just like having kids, somehow, all the bad things sort of fade from your memory and you have this glorious nugget of joy to review for the rest of your life. You forget the delayed flight, the blown-out diaper on the plane, the tummy bug for 24 hours (OK, not totally forget, but you get my point). You remember the feelings and the emotions of joy and fun and adventure.

I found it so interesting one night as I attended a preschool intro night for Lincoln. The families there were all of different income levels and backgrounds, and ethnicities. When asked to draw a picture of things their family enjoyed doing, I think 11 out of 12 of the families ALL had travel as a favorite thing. These people were not traveling the world. In all likelihood, they probably did a lot of things close to home or visiting family- which is what most of us do for travel. Yet, all expressed it as a passion for their family. Do you ever stop to think why?

I do. I try to figure it out a lot. I have to… it’s what keeps me going every day!

I don’t have all the answers, but I know that our souls love so many things about travel. The adventure, the discovery, the memories made. Pure gold.

Keep on planning and traveling. I’m rooting for you!

Leslie

P.S. Let me know if you’ve made any travel mistakes in the comments. Let’s commiserate together!

Catch great fare deals from Booking.com, Skyscanner, Kiwi.com, or Expedia

Find a family-friendly hotel for your next trip from Expedia, or Vrbo, (we also love Tripadvisor and Hotels.com)

Have fun while traveling through exciting activities from GetYourGuide, Airbnb Experiences, or Viator

Need to rent a car to navigate the city? Visit Rentalcars.com.

Get insured while traveling with World Nomads.

Want to have a family photo shoot while traveling? Check out flytographer.

Capture your best travel memories as we do with a GoPro, Sony camera, or our favorite drones: DJI FPV, Air, and Mini

Check out your travel necessities from a comprehensive list of all the 7Wayfinders Travel Must-Haves. Click Here!

Additional Reading

Essential Tips for Visiting The Top Of Europe in Switzerland With Kids

Taking a Greek Cruise as a Family

Enjoying Ljubljana With Kids: 18 Ideas To Explore

3 Comments

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