Every Trip Makes You a Smarter Traveler

When we look back now to our very first overseas trip many years ago and compare it to the way that we travel these days, it was very different. We spent two weeks traveling to Paris, London, Stratford-Upon-Avon, and Manchester, spending anywhere from four nights to as little as one night in each location. It was November, so we knew that we would have a variety of weather conditions, so we packed two full suitcases, one large and one medium, each. We took a variety of shoes to account for outfits, casual, dressy, etc., so that we prepared for walking during the day and going out to a nice dinner at night. There we were, dragging suitcases through airports, train and subway stations, and getting glaring looks from taxi drivers who had to put a suitcase in the passenger seat because they wouldn’t all fit in the trunk/boot. To make things worse, we had to pay overweight luggage charges on the flights and then we bought souvenirs throughout our trip. We ended up buying another duffle bag just to fit the things that we bought. Hard to believe, but true.

Palace at Versailles
Tower Bridge in London

Clearly we were not savvy travelers. We have learned so many things over time. Now we try to get everything into a carry-on bag if we can and we can’t, we put everything into a single suitcase that we share between the two of us. In order to do that, we limit what we take. One or two pairs of shoes at the most, choosing a single color tone so that you don’t need different belts, shoes, make-up, etc. If the weather is going to fluctuate, take clothes that can be layered so that the same clothes can be used multiple ways. We have even found laundry sheets for travel that can be used to wash clothes in a sink and then hung up to dry. We will also take advantage of dry cleaning or laundry services at hotels.

Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford-Upon-Avon
Eiffel Tower in Autumn

We try not to change hotels every few days. Sometimes that means that it costs us a little extra to have a home-base and then making short, overnight trips from that location. Even if we are moving around, limiting the amount of stuff that we carry with us means that we have less to lug around, less to pack and unpack, and less to worry about getting lost in transit. We also roll our clothes so that they take up less space in the suitcase. It makes no sense, but rolling really works, you can pack more in less space. We bought a luggage scale and always weigh our suitcases after packing them to be sure that we never get surprised by an overweight charge by an airline.

Warwick Castle
Westminster Abbey

We have learned a lot of other things, such as how to relate to different cultures, and how to dress appropriately for the country that you are visiting, and how not to look like a tourist when walking streets of a foreign city.Β  We also ensure that we learn the basics of hello, goodbye, and thank you as well as other key phrases in the language of the country and always try to be a friendly traveler. There are many other lessons that we have learned since that first, comical adventure, but it is fun to reminisce about how naive we were during our first trip to Europe.

14 thoughts on “Every Trip Makes You a Smarter Traveler

  1. So true. It’s amazing how little you need to be comfortable. We packed two suitcases each for our trip (two month roadtrip from Pittsburgh to San Diego, two months in Cuenca, Ecuador). We were smart enough to set aside one specifically for the roadtrip (single color scheme, lots of layers), so we only had to lug one bag through hotels or campsites. Now that we’re in Cuenca and our wardrobes have doubled, we’re a bit overwhelmed with it all.

  2. Ha ha! Love your story of the luggage on your first trip. We’ve never quite packed that much, but it’s true that over time, we’ve learned to take less and less. For short trips, we now only take carry on bags, partially motivated by the extra charges airlines make for hold luggage, but also because it’s less to carry at the other end! For longer trips, we make do with one hold suitcase between 3 of us, and the rest carry on bags. Only for skiing holidays with all the thermals etc, have we put a suitcase each in the hold. Also agree learning pleasantries in the host language can make such a difference. People usually appreciate the effort.

    1. We have never made that mistake again :). Agree, the airlines charge way too much for hold luggage. Also, by just having a carry on, whenever possible, also means we don’t have to wait for luggage to be delivered from the plane. People definitely appreciate it when you try to use a few words in their language and can even help us to learn more.

  3. Nice post. Oh yes, we travel very differently as well. When we first traveled to Europe, we were in a different hotel almost every night. Now we are like you and do day trips from where we are staying.

  4. Very funny story, and it all sounds very familiar! I still had the gigantic suitcase I took on some early trips, but it had gathered dust for years until finally our daughter was able to use it when she started working on long projects in Africa for a month or more (she loads it with peanut butter and other foods as well as clothes!).

  5. Love your post. I have also realized that not going overboard with packing too many clothes and shoes is really helpful. Learning a few keywords in the local language does help a lot πŸ™‚

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