Travel Lessons Learnt So Far

Thursday 4 February 2016
Image from Unsplash 

Planning to go away anywhere for a long period of time can be stressful enough, but I have found preparing to go backpacking pretty difficult. There are so many more things to factor in when backpacking for a couple of months than with a standard 2 week holiday, things that I wouldn't normally consider or even know about!
We haven't even left the country yet and we've already made a few mistakes, so I can only imagine how many we'll make when we're actually out there!

This is part of the reason why my word for the year is Embrace. While we're away I want to embrace the fact that situations will change quickly, that we will make mistakes and that nothing really is in our control. We're going to have to let go of the reins and just go with the flow, something that I'm not all that used to doing. I don't want our travels to be ruined by whatever mistakes we do make, so that means embracing them, changing my outlook and my attitude, accepting that things won't always go the way we want them too, and moving on!

So far I have learnt 2 things in regards to preparing for a long term trip, and no doubt as time goes on I will learn many more things!

1: Don't Be Too Hasty!
My biggest regret so far is not booking return flights at the very beginning of our planning. At the time we didn't know which country we would be flying home from, so we just went ahead and booked one-way flights, figuring that we could get cheap enough flights home at a later date.

Literally about a week later we decided to fly home from Bangkok. We decided on doing a full circle, starting our travels in Thailand and then finishing in Thailand 3 months later by going some island hopping and making our way back to Bangkok to fly home.

If we had just taken a little bit more time to think through our planning and our route, and just waited a couple of days we probably could have saved ourselves a lot of money and hassle! Instead we were too eager to book flights, and the rush of having one-way tickets to the other side of the world was too heady to ignore.

We contacted FinnAir to see if we could change our one-way journey to a return journey, expecting there to be some form of charge and then paying the difference between tickets, but actually the airline said is just wasn't possible. If we want a return journey we would have to make an entirely new booking. It just so happened that a return flight with FinnAir cost way more than what we were willing to dish out.
Instead, we've booked a flight to London with a layover in Germany, and a connecting flight to Belfast. It's a bit more complicated and stressed me out way more that in should have but it actually worked out so much cheaper! Plus, there are now no nasty 19hour layovers which is always a bonus!

As much as I would've loved to spend a day in Oslo, the thought of being stuck in an airport overnight was not an appealing one. I've already done that once in my life, and that's more than enough. (Blizzard of 2010, I'm still traumatised.)

While we saved money by flying London-Belfast, we would've saved even more by just booking a return flight at the very beginning!

2: Do Your Own Research!
Or, ask for a second opinion. Our Travel nurse gave us such bad advice that nearly ended up costing us over £300!

Firstly, we were told that we needed to get the Yellow Fever vaccine, which costs £58 each, plus a mandatory phone consultation each for £20.

We don't need a Yellow Fever vaccination. SE Asia isn't an area that suffers from Yellow Fever, at all. You only need proof of this vaccine if you are arriving from a country that does suffer from Yellow Fever eg. Central Africa.

So we don't need this at all, and yet our Travel Nurse was quite insistent that we get it. We decided to ring the clinic that administers the Yellow Fever vaccine, just to double and triple check, and the doctor there told us that we were right. We didn't need to get it!

Secondly, I was advised to get Hep A vaccine combined with Typhoid, and get the Hep B vaccine separate. Hep A and Typhoid are both available on the NHS, but Hep B has a charge because you can only get it privately, apparently.

Hep B cost David and I £15 each for the prescriptions from the clinic and £58 each for the vaccine from the pharmacy!

After I'd got these from the pharmacy I was chatting with Sarah on Twitter, and she informed me that if I had gotten the Hep A and Hep B combined vaccine, there would have been no charge, and the Typhoid vaccine is available on the NHS anyway.

Obviously by this stage I had already bought the vaccines from the pharmacy, so it was too late to change them or do anything about it.

Annoyed is not the word! Purely because we trusted the advice of the Travel Nurse in our health clinic and didn't look into it ourselves we ended up spending £150 that could have been saved and used for something else.

Make sure that you look into everything yourself, just to double check the advice that you've been given! I was absolutely fuming that our Travel Nurse would've had us buying and taking vaccines that we don't even need!

That's it so far, but I'm sure the next 3 months in SE Asia will one giant learning curve, filled with lessons and mistakes!

If you've been travelling, what's the biggest lesson you have learnt on your travels?