Travel Lessons from the year passed


With 2016 behind me, I’d be lying if I said I could look back without regret, knowing that I made mistakes and continued to learn lessons whilst on the road. The beauty of retrospect is that nothing feels as bad as it did at the time, but when you wind up without any option but to pay a $300 cab fare from one town to another in order to catch your train on time, you know first hand how much it sucks to be underprepared or have over planned. So here are the travel lessons I learned in 2016 (some are really, really stupid!)


Always pack an outfit in your carry-on

The first lesson came on a safari trip to Tanzania. I arrived to meet my friends Brooke and Hermione, who were also travelling from Australia but taking an alternative route through Kenya. Having lost my bags previously on the continent of Africa (somewhere in Ghana I am lead to believe – they eventually made their way to Johannesburg and caught up with me), I should have known better and packed an emergency fresh set of clothes in my carry-on. Luckily for me but not so lucky for my friends, my bags arrived on time at every stop. Unfortunately for them, their bags went missing and arrive on the second last day of our trip. And so the lesson struck a cord with me: always, always, always pack a toothbrush and spare set of clothes in your carry-on.

Never book a flight last minute (cha ching!)

Early in the year I asked my dad if he would like to travel with me through Japan. It would be our first trip together since our tour of Europe when I was 17, so I was excited to show him another completely new experience in a country he never dreamed of travelling (other than the trip with me through Europe, he has only visited Thailand).

We had so much to look forward to – sushi, sitting on the floor for meals, ancient traditions, crazy cities like Tokyo and Osaka, and of course more sushi. What I did forget to do until five days before the trip was to book his airfare! I know it sounds silly and typing it publicly makes me feel pretty vague, but I got so caught up in planning all the fun activities that I forgot to book his flight (mine I had already booked some months earlier). So when I went to book his flight from Australia to Tokyo and back, I found that prices were at least triple what I had paid for my airfare some time ago. Suffice it say he didn’t get much for Christmas this year (a wheelbarrow), ha!

Some destinations are better enjoyed with others

Another trip taken early in the year has been a dream destination for me, for a very long time. I have always dreamt of visiting the Maldives – snorkelling in crystal clear waters, travelling to different islands, sipping with a straw flung in to a coconut for breakfast… believe me when I say the Maldives was all that and more! But this is a destination I knew I would not enjoy as much solo.

The Maldives is a honeymoon destination, mostly filled with couples on their honeymoon or enjoying an escape away from it all. If I were by myself I would have needed a whole library of books to keep myself entertained and I most likely wouldn’t have navigated rough waters on a jet-ski, gone couples kayaking (duh!), or perhaps even left the sanctuary of a private pool villa on stilts at all! Lesson learned: some destinations are to be saved and better enjoyed with others.

Learn to trust others (even with your life!)

Another destination I took my partner to last year was a trip through Switzerland, Italy and France. Each of these countries I have visited in the past but we were on a mission to visit new cities + towns neither of us had travelled to and make memories of our own.

One such location was the Amalfi Coast in Italy, where we decided to rent a vespa and drive the coastline from town to town. Now for anyone who has been to the Amalfi coast, you will know this is a little crazier than it sounds: the streets are narrow and experienced drivers fly around corners like it is nobodies. Despite the romanticism of riding a vespa around the coastline, it can be a little (okay, a lot!) hair-raising at the best of times. Luckily for me I was not in control of the vespa, or else I’m sure we would have been travelling at 10km per hour, glued to the centre of our lane. My partner has ridden motorbikes his whole life so I put myself in his hands and let the rest take care of itself. Looking back it is one of the most incredible memories I have from Italy and all of Europe!

Postcards from Italy

There’s a fine line between under-planning & over-planning

On the same trip through the Amalfi Coast, I learned first hand that there is a fine line between under-planning and over-planning. As someone who tosses between one approach and the next, I found myself completely overestimating public transport when I believed we could travel from Positano to Naples seamlessly, finding that it would in fact take at least half a day to do so and multiple transfers (which would have been fine if we weren’t glued to a train ticket time to reach Milan by that afternoon!)

Lesson learned: don’t look at a map and judge the distance as an indication of how long it will actually take to travel when relying on public transport. It is not worth the $300 cab ride to make it to your train on time.


The best kept secrets are the ones you’ve never heard about

I’ve made it no secret that my favourite discovery last year was an island off the coast of Australia known as Norfolk Island. Before visiting the destination I had no idea the place even existed (blame my Southerly location in Aus), nor had I read about it in travel guides or heard about it from anyone who had visited. And yet despite it being completely off the grid to me, when I arrived I fell head over heels in love with the place. Untouched, unspoiled and a world away from reality.

Lesson learned: the best kept travel secrets are those you haven’t ever heard of.

South_Boulevard_Houston Texas | World of Wanderlust

Don’t walk everywhere in the Texas summer

Last year I ticked another all-time bucket list destination off my list: Texas. For what feels like forever I have wanted to visit Texas and travel around the Lone Star State. Unfortunately for me (ever the optimist), I discovered a little late in the piece that the weather here is excruciatingly hot in the summer – way too hot for walking everywhere.

I learned this lesson about 2 kilometres in to my walk from a shopping centre back to my hotel, when I had no other way of getting back and no data to book an uber. Thankfully I saw light at the end of the tunnel about half way through my endeavours. It came in the form of a Starbucks sign, free wi-fi, and a stinkin’ hot uber ride back to my hotel (ha!)

Never skimp out on Travel Insurance

Over the past year I have also been working as an advocate for travel insurance with Southern Cross Travel Insurance. After numerous claims (flight delays, cancellations, hospital in South Africa, hospital in North America), I knew I had “made the most” out of having travel insurance and should make sure my readers have the same peace of mind.

This past year I enjoyed a pretty carefree ride on that front, but having racked up tens of thousands of dollars in hospital bills in previous years, I still stand by the claim that if you travel, you absolutely must have travel insurance. I learned my lesson with burn out, a kidney infection, missing flights and smashing my laptop screen when travelling. All have been covered through my insurance policy, no questions asked. #winning


London is still expensive

For my 25th birthday I wanted to not only do something special, but to also be somewhere special. Thus when a trip to Norway fell around the time of my birthday, I made plans to visit London either side of the trip and invite my mum along on the trip, for she has a slight obsession with Scandinavian architecture and design, so I believed she would also love this trip as much as I would.

Upon arriving in London I was reminded in a matter of hours just how expensive London is. Our first order of business was to jump on the “Hop on Hop off” Sightseeing bus, as my mum had never visited London before and I still believe this is a quintessential London experience for first timers. With the conversion back to Aussie dollars, I was up for about $100 for our tickets – at least double what you would pay in other cities! Despite the reminder that London is still one of the most expensive cities to visit in the world, it is still one of my faves!

The more you try, the better you become

I have a confession to make: I am the world’s worst skier. That may be a slight exaggeration, but for my snow-loving boyfriend I’m sure he would almost certainly agree. Last year we travelled to Zermatt, Switzerland, for a few days of skiing amidst our Europe trip. I hadn’t really told him how bad I was, thinking that in some way my over-confidence might lead me to be a few ranks better than I was the year before when I had first stepped on skis in Arosa, Switzerland. Turns out this wasn’t the case.

The first day was filled with stumbles, tears, and walking down the mountain for fear of flying off (in my defence we were on a red slope – not entirely beginner friendly!) The following day I awoke with a kick of adrenaline, determination and fearlessness. By the end of the day I was flying down the red slopes (okay, maybe more like rigidly navigating my way down), but enjoyed it nonetheless. If you never try, you never know.

Over to you! What travel lessons did you learn in 2016!? 

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    Gretch W
    January 29, 2017 at 4:07 am

    This is great! You never know what could happen while traveling. When we were at the Marrakech airport, our friends were told that they were on standby when they checked in at the counter (2 hours beforehand) because everyone else had already checked in and the flight was full. (Even though they purchased their flight 6 months ago and reserved their seats.) We learned that day the importance of checking into a flight as soon as you are able.

    Siggi Einarson
    January 27, 2017 at 9:06 am

    This is a great post. You had a very eventful year, I took a lot away from this 🙂 Looks like you had a really great time.

    January 22, 2017 at 6:03 am

    What an awesome year you had!!! And awesome tips thank you!

    January 14, 2017 at 9:50 am

    Love this post! Great tips 🙂

    January 10, 2017 at 10:35 am

    Great tips! Definitely always have a change of clothes (and swim suit, if you’re going somewhere warm), as I have had my luggage lost so many times! But, if you can lay by the pool with a pina colada, the wait doesn’t seem as bad 🙂

    the adventurer
    January 9, 2017 at 4:55 am

    These are all so great! Traveling teaches you so many new lessons =o)

    Heather van der Ven
    January 8, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    I am terrible at snowboarding/skiing too! My boyfriend and I go every few years to our local mountain (Mount Shasta) to snowboard and every time I go I just can’t seem to figure it out. It takes me FOREVER to make my way down the mountain haha 🙂

    These are some great lessons to keep in mind, thanks for the post Brooke!

    January 8, 2017 at 10:41 am

    Great tips! You’ve clearly learnt a lot this year, whoever says travelling isn’t educational clearly doesn’t know what they’re talking about 😉 I’d say that booking last minute flights has worked out pretty well for me though this year! My lesson for this year was that if you check in online, you don’t need to queue! Stupid, I know, but I queued for an hour at the airport before realising I’d checked in online and only had hand luggage with me so I’d wasted an hour. Sigh…

    Twinkle Pennant
    January 7, 2017 at 8:16 am

    You’re right about travel insurance Brooke! Absolutely cant afford not to have it. I also learnt to check passport validity last year it can easily get overlooked, my husband kept delaying to renew his passport and never did until the flight date. We have to change our itinerary to save the whole trip, flew to London from Germany so we can get express passporting in the Australian embassy then flew again to Eastern Europe to continue our journey.
    Lastly I also learnt that Frankfurt Hahn is way too far of an international airport to be called specifically a Frankfurt airport. Allow lots of time.

    Tina - Following Sunsets
    January 7, 2017 at 2:04 am

    Great lessons learned! Ours were “choose backpack over suitcase” and “expect less and you’ll receive more”. And of course the old one proved itself again – everything happens for a reason 🙂

    January 6, 2017 at 9:28 am

    Great lessons! I always believe that travel is the best way to grow!

    Aoife Marie
    January 6, 2017 at 5:25 am

    As someone who lives in Texas, I really understand how excruciating that walk must have been! Hopefully that didn’t ruin your trip!

    Pia Petersen
    January 5, 2017 at 12:40 am

    Hi Brooke!
    I travelled to Costa Rica, through Italy and to Oman in 2016. Nearly missed the flight from Muscat to Dubai, Omanis usually take their time on flights. Also learned the lesson that camping in Costa Rica in summer season isn’t the best idea, humid and hot, the whole tent and equipment was wet after just one hour…
    Safe Travels for 2017

    January 4, 2017 at 9:40 am

    Oh goodness, I’m still trying to find the balance between being under and over prepared! Sounds like an amazing year though with lots of useful lessons learnt – il make sure to keep spare clothes in my hand luggage from now on! Xxx
    Lucy @

    January 4, 2017 at 8:58 am

    Hi Brooke !

    I moved out from Paris to London this year so I can only agree with the fact that London is wayyyyy to expensive (let’s not talk about the rent for instance).

    Kenza from

    January 4, 2017 at 8:18 am

    I loved this list Brooke!

    I too learnt that I am not the best skier (also in Zermatt – but I have a theory that skiing in Switzerland is a little more…. errrr difficult than Australia haha).

    I learnt that Switzerland is incredibly expensive to visit. But worth every penny.

    I learnt that visiting cities and destinations off the beaten track, and away from the usual ‘tourist hot spots’, can be amazing.

    I learnt that I won’t love EVERY city I visit (that was a hard one to accept!).

    I learnt that train travel is by far my favourite way to get from A to B.

    And most importantly:

    I learnt how to turn my travel for passion into my career (albeit as a travel agent – not a blogger, one can only dream!).

    • Brooke Saward
      January 4, 2017 at 3:09 pm

      Haha the skiing is definitely more difficult in Zermatt – I struggled to find beginner-friendly slopes! All fun and games tho 🙂 Truly agree with not loving every single city – you’ve gotta have lows to make room for the highs! 🙂

    April Bishop
    January 4, 2017 at 7:47 am

    Be flexible.
    Our flight back from Paris was cancelled earlier this year, so we were offered the option of flying back early in the morning (a no go) or the original time the next day at accommodation cost.

    Staying the extra day meant we had more time to explore Paris and visit the Catacombs, and it was definitely worth it.

    • Brooke Saward
      January 4, 2017 at 3:10 pm

      Love the optimism 🙂 I haven’t been to the catacombs before – still on my never ending list for Paris!

    The Dame Intl
    January 4, 2017 at 6:35 am

    I went to Brighton, Salisbury, Stonehenge, Budapest and Santa Teresa, Costa Rica this year and my top tip is pack long cycling short type shorts if you have thick thighs and you’re going to a hot country! 😀

    • Brooke Saward
      January 4, 2017 at 3:11 pm

      Budapesssssst <3 Love that city so much!

    January 4, 2017 at 12:34 am

    Great travel lessons Ms. Brooke and your couple photos! LOVE! Totally with the first two 🙂 Safe travels and more adventures on 2017. We wish you all the best 🙂

    January 3, 2017 at 11:40 pm

    Thanks a lot for sharing these lessons! Pretty useful 🙂

    January 3, 2017 at 9:03 pm

    hahahahah “London is still expensive”
    never a truer sentence spoken.

    Tanja (the Red phone box travels)
    January 3, 2017 at 8:29 pm

    oh yes, London just gets more and more expensive:)

    Taste of France
    January 3, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    I pack two changes of clothes in my carry-on since my bag was lost once and I got it back a full week later.

    January 3, 2017 at 3:27 pm

    I learned to trust others as well. Trusting someone is always hard. But my experience with my solo travel and couchsurfing experience helped me realise that good people are everywhere. Also a travel with my friend to a mountainous area last October where we wandered around by a motorbike also taught me the same lesson.

    January 3, 2017 at 11:46 am

    I loved this!! Some of these tips are things I wouldn’t have even thought of so thank you! And the travel insurance was a big one, I only recently started traveling with it and it’s been a big help!

    January 3, 2017 at 11:24 am

    These are great tips! Especially love the tip to pack a second look in your carry on. So important! Xo,

    January 3, 2017 at 11:02 am

    Thank you for your authenticity! Much of travel is the journey, and it’s good to see that there’s always something new to learn even if it’s not fun at the time. Happy New Year and best of wishes for your travels in 2017!

    Marie - Miles of Happiness
    January 3, 2017 at 10:55 am

    Ah ah ! Some funny anecdotes here! 🙂

    Edith & Juan
    January 3, 2017 at 10:31 am

    Those are some great lessons you learned. We’re beginners in traveling and we learned our lesson that a Mexican passport has different visa requirements than a U.S passport (even though hubby is a U.S resident). We had to change our flight and whole trip from Thailand to Costa Rica (while at the airport) and it cost us….!! Happy travels for 2017 Brooke!

    January 3, 2017 at 9:59 am

    Biggest lesson: check uber exists in a city before planning that as your route to the airport – as I opened the app to get a ride from my hostel to the airport I found out Frankfurt had no uber! Thank god my hostel was literally down the road from the train station otherwise I’d have probably missed my flight home to Aus. Also always check how windy the day will be before wearing a short, flippy dress – I flashed probably the entire population of Prague in one day!

    • Brooke Saward
      January 3, 2017 at 10:28 am

      OMG I learned that too in Austin, TX! Totally forgot about that! I was dropped in the suburbs by a bus and had no way of getting a cab! Definitely lesson learned!

    January 3, 2017 at 9:48 am

    That’s a good amount to learn in a year! I think I learnt that as well as planning, time is precious and so am going to start making the most of my weekends!