Our best hints and tips
If you, as a family, feel inspired to embark on a longer journey somewhere in the world, but are not really sure how to proceed, you might find some answers here on our list of experiences. They come in no particular order, however, categorized in “before leaving home” and “during the journey”. They are our personal experiences and opinions, so you might find other solutions that work better for you. In general, proper preparation WILL give you a much better experience and lots of more fun during your travels!
Before you leave:
Do not pack too much!
- and leave vanity at home! Whatever clothes you carry in your backpack will be your wardrobe for the entire journey. There will most likely not be too much room for variation. Live with it, or stay at home! Packing your suitcase or backpack is actually a bit of an art. For shorter travels we have a tendency to pack way too much. “Just in case...!” But when you are traveling for longer periods of time you do not have that luxury! But rest assured, it will get easier as you get the experience. Be prepared to do your laundry at least once a week, unless you are traveling in areas where you can just turn in your dirty laundry for cleaning, and pay your way out of it. We did this in Thailand, as we were staying in hotels. Bring with you t-shirts, socks and underwear for one week. Two pairs of pants. A pair of good hiking boots/shoes, sports/running shoes and hiking sandals. If going somewhere on the beach or by the pool, bring thongs as well. Bring a pullover and/or a hoodie. Use layers! Several thin layers is the key here! A fleece jacket, a thin down jacket and finally a thin wind- and rainproof jacket. Use and mix these layers as needed. Before leaving home, put everything you THINK you need for the journey on your dining room table. Make a test and see if it will all fit into your backpack. If so, GREAT! You have done well! Oftentimes you will have to cut down and take aside some things. More than once! And even then you will eventually, as you travel, be surprised as to what you really use and what is, in fact, just “dead weight” in your load. Be very critical and get rid of everything you really do not use! Eventually you will want to buy something new, and just a few inches of spare room will then come in handy!
Pack in cells!
We are particularly fond of this advice. It has really helped us to keep our clothes sorted and organized during our entire journey. The smaller, square “compartments” help you sort and categorize your clothes so that you can stow away summer clothes when not needed, and vice versa. And you always have underwear, t-shirts etc within easy reach. We also keep Antons clothes in separate cells. Good when fumbling around on a dark and wet camping site!
We are not talking about any specific brands or anything. Depending on where you are headed it may actually be a good idea to tone down the brands and logos on your clothes! Buy clothes and equipment that properly suit your needs. Let it be well developed, thought through and tested things that will be right for your style of traveling. Try sticking to lightweight clothing. You WILL be glad that it does not weigh and fill very much. In this case, do NOT be cheap! If you can afford to travel long and extensively, you can also afford to buy the right equipment!
Pack for the seasons!
We are traveling through an entire year and will of course go through all seasons. Again, lightweight clothes will be the thing to carry! The quality of thin-layer clothing has developed tremendously in recent years, so there really is no excuse to be too cold or warm. Winter clothes should be stowed away in warmer months and vice versa! (See the point of packing in cells!)
Bring OTC (non-prescription) drugs with you!
By far the most of what you will ever need will also be available locally, but if you are not confident in the local language, it might be good for you to have instructions etc in your own, preferred language. Furthermore, the need for these things often comes when the local stores are closed and you have no chance of buying anything until the next morning! If you need to carry any prescription medicine, check before you leave if you are even allowed to bring this into the countries you will be traveling through. Bring all the required documentation. Ask your own doctor!
Bring flashlights, reading lights, chargers etc!
- and do NOT forget a universal adapter! We are also carrying a three-socket box so that we can charge more devices at any time and still use just one adapter. In hotels and in our campervan there are only very few power outlets, so the more sockets you have, the better!
Skip the local SIM card!
Only if you are an absolute online junkie or if your job requires you to be online we regard this as a necessity. More and more camping sites, cafés and hotels are offering free wifi for a shorter or longer period of time. Public libraries as well. Other places will charge you by the hour, day, week or even month. This can be VERY expensive! If you can get used to a bit of off-line life for just a while, enjoy it while it lasts. If not, you can buy a local SIM card with a data plan that suits your needs and use a smartphone as hotspot.
Blog about being online around the world!
If you need to carry a laptop, iPad or the like, bring only the absolute essentials with you! Or pay for it in extra kilos! We have all of our devices filled with apps like Skype, WhatsApp, Viber etc for free communication with friends and family (when we are online!). Films and podcasts are only downloaded when we have truly unlimited wifi (unlimited data as well) which is extremely rare!
We are using backpacks as these have proven to be the best solution for our way of traveling. Others might prefer suitcases or trolleys. We do not recommend that you use “hard” suitcases though, as they are not really “flexible” and “bendable” and require much more room! We chose to spend a significant amount of time and money to find the right ones for our needs. And we used great advice from several experts!
Whether you are enthusiasts or just casual photographers, remember to bring a camera! You can use smartphones for the quick and easy shots, but when you are embarking on the journey of your life, why not spend just a little money on a proper camera? You will be so much more happy with the results when you get back! Also, as the photos start to fill on your laptop, bring an extra hard-drive with you for backups and storage. Spend a bit of money here as well as the quality of drives on the market vary! You may also consider a “cloud-account” for uploading photos. This does, however, require you to be online with a substantial data plan!
NEVER leave home without it! EVER! Chances are you will most likely not use it at all, but should an incident happen you do not want to be without it! Especially when traveling with children this is obviously mandatory! Children will catch colds, get infections and rashes when playing on the beach or at playgrounds. They pick up stuff and do not think of being careful. It is nice to be able to pay a visit to a local doctor should you get anxious or in doubt. Unfortunately, on a longer journey insurance is a substantial post in the budget! We cannot recommend that you try to save money here! Our insurance covers not only health and treatments, but also assaults, robbery, many accidents and insurance in most car rental cases. Also, if someone in your immediate family were to die during your absence, you can get back to a funeral with no extra costs involved. Or if one of you should die, a member of your family can come and be by your side if needed. Unfortunately we have had the need for traveling back home to attend a funeral, and would have hated not to have this opportunity. Do ask your local travel agent and make sure you find the right solution for you!
If you are traveling with children, we have a few extra tips that might improve your experience:
Travel through countries where it is safe!
Do not play with destiny, and take into consideration that you might want to travel without too much stress. The trips through the South American jungle or the Central African Republic are most likely not places to bring your small children. They may be interesting destinations, but we recommend that you save them for another time.
Start with an easy destination!
When we had our very first meeting with the travel agent, we had never thought that we would be spending time in Thailand, before traveling onwards to Australia. But they recommended staying in a nice and warm place, just to “mellow down” before going to Australia. The idea is to get into the “life on the road routines” as a family. Living in a backpack, in different locations etc. We spent 3 weeks in southern Thailand doing nothing but relaxing, bathing and enjoying the sun. It was great and the perfect way for us to start a trip around the world!
Hiking, relaxing or something in-between?!
If you have decided to climb mountains, remember that your children cannot cope with the same amount of physical work and hiking distances as you can. Anton is by now sort of used to hiking, and he even appreciates an occasional hike. But it is still not the same distances as we might have done if we were just the two of us alone. Plan your journey accordingly!Find destinations that have “a bit of everything” if you want some physical activity. But make room for relaxation and playtime!
NOTHING is impossible and most airlines have policies and guidelines to follow when you are traveling with a stroller or pram. We have a “sports stroller”, a bit of an “off-road thing”, with large wheels (with tires) so that we can literally go almost anywhere. It is not really an easy thing to carry along, but it can be folded and the wheels unmounted so that it does not take much space. Oftentimes we have the feeling that we are just carrying around some (very) heavy weight for no purpose, but those days or weeks when we are staying in a city or even when we are at an airport, we are actually quite happy to have our stroller with us. Anton cannot yet manage the same walks as we can, so we will put him in his seat and walk along. He often falls asleep, and this is our chance to visit a museum or a café. Just an hour for ourselves! When we are flying we are often allowed to bring the stroller all the way to the gate. If you need a normal pram, make sure it is not one of the largest models! They may be good for Oxford Street or the like, but they are not good for the narrow alleys in Bangkok. Important: Do not overestimate what your child can accomplish! If you are in doubt, bring the stroller with you, and dispose of it if you are really able to do without it. And remember, a stroller CAN be useful also in the wild nature. You do not have to stay in cities, if you have a model with large wheels (preferably with inflatable tires)!
For the smallest children we recommend that you use a harness for carrying the child on your chest. Nowadays there are many good solutions for carrying children along, even if you are backpacking. A stool for carrying the child on the back is also an option. But then you have to consider the fact that your ability to also carry a large backpack will be dramatically reduced. After all, everything will add kilos and there are limits as to what you should carry! For mountain hiking a harness or stool will be the best solution, but in general you should spend your days on more “family friendly activities” and keep those hikes to a minimum. Having said that, you should definitely try shorter (3-4 hour) hikes.
During the journey:
Do not plan too far ahead!
We are traveling on a “Round the World Ticket”. This means that all major destinations are fixed and that we can only change dates and times within limits, and for little or no fee. All the weeks in between our flights are blank. Completely! Usually we have booked the first couple of nights in a new country or region, but apart from that, we keep everything open. We like to plan as we move along. It allows us to fill the days with exactly what we feel like doing, and we avoid the stress and frustration of not being able to make it all in time. Of course you can settle on some of the bigger things. You should definitely see the Sydney Opera House when in Sydney, or the “Twelve Apostles” when driving along the Great Ocean Road. But if everything is too planned and all dates are too fixed, you will not enjoy anything very much and you will feel stressed, and that you are missing out on all the “impulsive stuff”. Do not forget to enjoy the present! This is also why we never read too much ahead in the guidebooks. We focus on “here and now” and although we do read ahead for inspiration, we try not to think too much about it, until we are actually there. Obviously you need to do the basic homework, but avoid setting the bar too high! Find a balance that suits your family and the daily rhythm once you are on the road!
Safety! - always important!
If you are into wildlife camping in national parks, do check with local authorities and guides as to where and how you may camp. You might have chosen a place where it is illegal to camp. It may also be dangerous for various reasons. ASK! Do not assume! When traveling with children you need to be extra cautious. On the other hand, you should not transfer your own fears into your children. Explain to them why it is not a good idea to just run into the tall grass or the bushes, if you are in an area with snakes and other nasty things. There is no need to be stupid. Keep an eye on your children if you are on a beach where crocodiles may be present, and follow local advice at all times. Do not let them play near the water! In general, just keep an eye on them and stop them if something dangerous is evolving. They do need room to just be children and play, so it will always be a balance act.
Renting campervans or cars!
In some cases it can be a good idea to book this well in advance through your local agent. But then again, we have all this long term planning, which is not how we like to do things. Experience has already learned us, that if we are just 1-2 weeks in advance, we can usually get what we want at a reasonable price. During peak seasons a bit more time is advisable. EVERYONE will try to sell you extra insurance, with FULL coverage for everything. Read very carefully WHAT is included and what is not. Oftentimes you can make a general travel insurance from home, much cheaper, that will cover all costs for insurance. This is a widely used way for the rental companies to make some extra money. But for you as a customer, it may often end up costing you twice as much as the initial rental fee! Be critical!
Blog about campervan/car rentals around the world!
Keep a journal!
During the journey you well get all these tiny, small and funny experiences that will eventually start to flow into one another and you WILL forget many details. Write them down as often as you can. Preferably on a daily basis, although we must admit that we are sometimes forgetting to do this. We have this site here, but even though it helps us to remember many things, we still need the journal! Keep old tickets, maps, restaurant bills etc etc and make a funny scrap-book when you get home!
Again, some additional hints if you are traveling with children:
Travel in a slow pace!
- and do not set goals too high! When you are traveling with a child you cannot expect to see much within a short period of time. Children will stop, observe, pick things up... Explore the world around them. They will get distracted from all the impressions. And just as you are walking down the street, spotting something interesting in a bookstore or the like, you may as well get used to your child wanting to do something else or at least force you to speed up your search in the store for that particular book you wanted to check out. It’s playground time! Oftentimes we will chose to stay more days in a beach area or on a good campsite with other children. Simply to let Anton have some free playtime. It took time to find the “inner patience” with Anton, and to be honest it is sometimes still hard, but by now we know that everything just takes longer! Thankfully we have made our itinerary so that we have plenty of extra time at each destination. We should not get stressed because we are traveling slowly. Also, we try to avoid too many hours behind the wheel driving from one place to another. This is not always easy. After a long day on the road, we usually have a slow day.
Think of the children first!
When you, as an adult, are planning your travels, you may sometimes forget the children when flipping through the beautiful, coloured guidebooks. But what do they want to see? Are there family friendly accommodation available where you intend to go? Family attractions? Of course everyones wishes and needs should be taken into consideration, but try to keep the boring visits to the art museums to a minimum. Or split up, so that one of you can enjoy the art, while the other one stays at the playground babysitting. Next day you do it vice versa. Evening meals in restaurants and trips to bars are, obviously, not possible. You could find a babysitter for the evening, but this is something we do not recommend. Instead we have a cozy time in the campervan or the hotel room, when Anton is sleeping. We consider this a small price to pay during such a trip. Furthermore it gives us some quiet time to reflect and digest all the impressions of the day.
Try to maintain some “steady surroundings” or boundaries!
We have seen that the campervan really works for us. We have our little home on wheels, even though we are constantly moving around. Anton always knows where his things are and where he sleeps. It just takes a few days before everything has its own place, but then it really works quite well. It’s tiny and crammed, yes, but it doesn’t really matter. Children need some steadiness and stability, and this is how we can provide just that. Occasionally we will check into a hotel just to have just a bit of indulgence and luxury. Then we enjoy these stays all the more. And it’s absolutely OK to do this! Camping day in and day out CAN be a bit of a hard and sad life due to the lack of comfort.
Probably not really a surprise to most parents! Even during a trip around the world, steady routines are essential! Eating, bathing, toothbrushing, reading etc. It’s all a part of life and should be done at fixed hours if at all possible. It will make the journey all the more pleasant for everyone. Particularly in the beginning, where everything might still feel like a normal vacation, it is important to insist on bedtimes and other boring stuff.
Flights / Long trips in the car!
Anton has been used to flying since he was just 6 weeks old. In general we have never had any problems with him, but all children are different! Pay attention when ascending and descending, as the cabin pressure changes which may cause pain in the ears. Especially for small children this can be very painful and it can be almost impossible to explain to a screaming child what to do to ease that pain. Try to have some fun with “ugly faces” or the like, and make sure that they move their chin. This will normally ease the pressure in the ears. Needless to say you need to think of entertainment. On most long haul flights, the airlines provide in-flight entertainment, also for children of all ages. However, whenever there is an important announcement in the cabin, the system halts and this is very annoying for the children. As they are used to everything “on demand” these days, the available entertainment may not suit their mood. Fill up iPod’s/iPad’s with games and movies that they know and love, and bring it along. This can also be a good diversion if they are afraid of flying. Dress comfortably, also the adults, and for the adults you might want to consider “flight socks” that will ease restless legs. NEVER forget your children's favourite teddy bear! It can be difficult to be considerate to other passengers when traveling with one or more children. Especially if they are bored or screaming. Try to prepare accordingly. You CAN prepare for the most - if not then at least mentally!
Blog about flights in general!
Last, but not least: Enjoy and have fun!
If you would like to read more in depth about the equipment we are using for our current journey, you are welcome to click here!
If you would like to read more about traveling with a small child, click here!