Travel Tips For Idiots

If your passport has more stamps than my Cold Stone Creamery punch card (hint: a lot of stamps), you are always jetting off to some exciting city, or you fly to Iceland every year for a private viewing of the Aurora Borealis, this maybe won’t be your jam.
(Or, maybe you want to stick around for the inevitable comic relief? Everyone’s welcome.)
Either way, this post is for newbie travelers and the truly inept who never seem to learn (I fall into both categories, BTW).
So, here are some super obvious (to Tammy Traveler) travel tips for the amateur or idiot traveler:
1. Not only do you need a plug adaptor, but you also need to check the voltage on your appliance

I thought I had done extensive research on how to work my can’t-leave-for-the-weekend-let-alone-the-country-flat iron for my first trip to the U.K. I knew for certain that I’d need a plug adaptor to be able to use it and all of my other necessary hair appliances and other electronics.
What Rick Steve’s travel forum and other travel sites need plastered on their front pages in gigantic, glaring letters is “YOU ALSO NEED DUAL VOLTAGE APPLIANCES, UNLESS WHAT YOU’RE GOING FOR IS THE FRIED LOOK, DUMBASS!”*
This’ll be mind blowing to anyone who wasn’t already aware, but there is this thing (some kind of force) called voltage that varies from country to country. In the US, we use 120V and much of Europe 230V.
What happens if you try to use your flat iron only meant for 120V in an outlet meant for 230V is you’ll burn up your device and your hair will be hideous for 95% of your trip (because, you might get in a day or two before you almost burn down your hotel).
I’m not sure you’ll actually really explode anything, but you will ruin your $100 hair appliance and isn’t that just as bad?

I had to wear this stupid hat almost everyday after I blew out my flat iron.
2. You don’t need to buy everything new before a trip
I’m the kind of traveler who feels compelled to buy an entirely new wardrobe, new toiletry bags, state-of-the-art sound canceling headphones, and a Mulberry silk neck pillow before a big trip.
I’m also the traveler who wonders why she can never afford to travel.
I try to think if I had the opportunity to travel to one of my wanderlist sites like right this very second, so I had to take my horrific clothes that I own currently, along with my old luggage, would my trip really be made less awesome?
No, man. It would still be amazing.
For the upcoming trip I’m planning for this summer, I’m trying really hard to validate with a normal person’s rationale if I really need a $20 eye mask just because it says, “Wake me up when we get there” or another cross body purse when I already have 15. I ask myself if the purchase will make or break my trip.
Sound canceling headphones so I can try to get some shut eye on the flight? Yes. Proceed.
New, snazzy luggage when my battered, but perfectly usable suitcase will do? No. Put the floral-print Jessica Simpson suitcase down and back away.
(Besides, luggage is practically mauled to death during its voyage to your location. Buying gorgeous luggage that might get some dings and too much wear and tear gives me heart palpitations.)
Super cute mint-colored packing cubes? No. Get your extra ass out of Target and on a travel site where they offer free packing advice.
Comfortable, yet stylish Adidas walking shoes found at TJ MAXX? Yes, girl. You’re thrifty and your feet will thank you. (Converse are cute, but they have no arch support and they’re flatter than a gluten-free pancake.)

OK, so I bought a new bag for my toiletries, too.
3. Learn how to read a damn map, yo
Back before everyone and that homeless man on the corner had a smartphone and a GPS device, people had to actually rely on paper maps.
In 2010 (right around the time that poor woman showed the world her AT&T iPhone bill that weighed 83 pounds), my boyfriend at the time and I bought a Blackberry specifically for our trip abroad because we were explicitly told it would work in the U.K. Guess what, folks? It didn’t.
Even if it had, it wouldn’t have helped us much in getting from point A to B, because the Google Maps app for phones wasn’t even a thing at the time.
The first purchase we made when we got our rental car was a road atlas. That wrinkled, coffee-stained God-send really came in handy (that is when the boyfriend was using it. My other travel friend did not have map reading skills at all, thus a very comical drive into Blackpool late in the night. Wait for a post on that adventure).
Again, even in our ΓΌber modern literally-everyone-owns-a-smartphone 2018, the first purchase we will be making at the very first petrol station we come to will be a paper road atlas.
(I’m really going to need to bone up on my map reading skills which are basically non-existent, currently.)
Want to know why we won’t be running our Map apps during our five weeks of car travel all over the British Isles? Because we aren’t bazillionaires, that’s why.
The very helpful assistant at Verizon told me that a travel plan would cost me $40 extra for the month I’m abroad (not bad at all), but that would only cover calls and texts, not data! He very emphatically urged me not to use my phone for anything other than calls or texts unless I’m on WiFi, because if I do, I’ll be receiving a really expensive bill for overseas roaming. Unless the entirety of the British Isles is a WiFi hotspot, I think we are going back to 2010, baby!
So, even though we all now own truly “international” phones, that doesn’t mean your phone will be as useful as it is in your home country.**
4. Check the amenities that may or may not be offered at your hostel or house stay
I hate to break it to you, ya’ll, your house rental MIGHT NOT PROVIDE TP!
When my mom and I realized the houses we will be renting won’t likely have toilet paper, she wrote down in her travel journal, “Costco in U.K.?????? *shocked face*”. I fully understand her fear as I’m a massive toilet paper over-user.
It’s just a good thing we read the fine print and we can be adequately prepared by buying a pallet of TP once we arrive.
Even if house rentals don’t typically provide paper products, most do provide towels, linens, and washing machines, which is a lot more than hostels can say.
Our first hostel stay during our 2010 British Isles trip was an independent hostel. Because I was not exactly gung-ho on the idea of hostels, I had done zero research on them. So, for your convenience, I’ll just say that with independent hostels you’ll be lucky if they provide you with sheets, let alone the damn bed.
So, needless to say, this hostel was a real trip. I can’t wait to write up the experience I had at The Rainbow.
I’ll just give you a little sneak peek:

Do you see the towels drying on the back seats? Those are car towels (you know, the kind that has scrubby mesh on one side and are the size of a hand towel) bought at a petrol station. We had to use those to dry off after showering in a coed shower room. Fun.times.
5. Don’t forget to pack extra underwear in your carry on for the trip back
Maybe this is a huge NO DUH from most, but I’m an idiot. Also, I’ve always figured, I’m heading home to where more underwear lives, so it’s no big deal.
Well, let me tell you, at least from my experience, the trip home is always ten times more painful, uncomfortable, and much longer than the everything-is-still-so-exciting trip to wherever you’re going.
On the return of the previously mentioned trip, our plane was a little delayed getting into Toronto. Then, due to an exceptionally long wait in the customs line, we almost missed our flight to Denver. Almost to Denver, our flight had to be re-routed to an abandoned landing strip in Adobe, otherwise known as the middle of nowhere, for hours due to a severe thunderstorm. Thankfully, all flights were delayed going out of Denver, so when we finally made it to Denver, we didn’t miss our connecting flight. Still, we didn’t get into Reno until the early morning hours when it was originally scheduled to arrive around 10 PM.
What does this long-winded story have to do with needing underwear in a packed bag?
Well, after a hell trip home, the cherry on top was that they lost my baggage and I was still four hours from home, as I was living in Elko at the time.
Ya’ll, I had to wear a pair of my mom’s granny panties.
Sure, they were clean, but, *shudders* sharing underwear gives me the heebie-jeebies.
So, if you don’t want to have to wear a pair of your mom’s Hanes Cotton Comforts, pack a damn pair of underwear for the return trip!
6. If you’re squeamish about sitting bare-assed on a public toilet seat, prepare yourself now
I discovered while in the U.K. that toilet seat covers are essentially non-existent there. I had brought with me ONE travel-sized seat cover, so that was basically useless. After a few trepidatious days of testing the waters of sitting bare assed on an alien seat, my butt cheeks did not spontaneously explode, so I started living the way the locals did.
My travel friend? He never mastered the art of just letting it rest. One afternoon in a pub in Oxford he was in the restroom no less than 45 minutes. I had finished two ciders before he came out sweaty and looking like he had just been given a diagnosis of Toilet Seat Hepatitis.
I said, “What in the hell were you even doing? I’ve just finished two ciders and now I’m too day drunk to go site-seeing!”
His response, “You know how there’s no seat covers? Well, I kept trying to lay toilet paper on the seat, but it kept falling in. I used up all of the toilet paper.”

Day drunk in Oxford! There’s that hat again!
Folks, if you’re like my friend, you better start training now if you have a trip abroad coming up!
I hope this has been even a tiny bit helpful to someone out there. If not, I hope it was at least mildly entertaining to read while you tried to gag down your kale salad on your lunch break.
*This really would only apply to those living in countries, like the US, that have such different voltage when compared with other nations.
**This might be entirely different depending on the country you’re from or your phone carrier. Maybe Verizon just hates me.
Fatty McCupcakes has been nominated in the Funniest Blogger category for the Annual Bloggers Bash Awards. If this gave you a chuckle, I’d really appreciate the love! You can vote HERE! Thank you, and as Leslie Knope would say, “I love you and I like you.”

153 thoughts on “Travel Tips For Idiots”

  1. Lots of good advice indeed!
    If it can reassure your mom… The UK has Costco (a few) but I promise other stores sell TP in large-ish quantities. πŸ˜‰
    And regarding data, you can buy a SIM card here in the UK and use data. The only problem is that the UK lives 50 years ago (Brexit is the proof of that) and it’s not rare to no have any access to a network, even in the middle of the city… So, yes, a map is probably good idea!
    I’m really enjoying those travel posts of yours, I can’t wait to read more!

      1. I think it would work, but I can check for you to be sure. But I think that’s what I did when I came over the first time… Is your phone unlocked?

          1. If your phone was unlocked, you could have gotten a Pay As You Go SIM card. Mine was like Β£8 for a month for 3G of data I think; that’s roughly $16. But I don’t know how unlocking phones work in the US… I know it was expensive back home in Canada so if it’s the same in the US, it might not be the best option for you.

  2. I’ll save you a little more money. Rather than getting international packages on your phones, just purchase a new SIM card once you get to the country you are traveling to. I was just in Taiwan for a week and paid $11 a piece for our phones while we were ther and had access to everything.
    I’ve done the same in Turkey and Japan. It is SO SO SO much cheaper than paying for international rates.

  3. Good info, although I probably won’t be needing it unless I miraculously break my record of not having been on a plane since 1987. But if Hades would happen to experience an ice storm, I AM the kind of traveler who would definitely need this info! As always, I enjoy the comedy πŸ™‚

      1. I’m not crazy about it but I would get on a plane if I had an opportunity. During most of those years I was married and we were always β€œstrapped” and traveling did not make the priority list. Now that I COULD do it, I’m single and traveling alone holds no appeal. 😊

        1. I totally get it. I’ve traveled alone, but only to Philadelphia and only for one night and half of the next day until my sister picked me up πŸ˜‚. It was actually very liberating. What sucks about traveling alone is that you miss out on those Groupon vacation packages, because you have to have at least two people. THAT’S aggravating!

  4. A year ago when I went to England, I paid AT&T $60 for a month of ‘regular service’ to be used internationally. Granted we were only there for a week, but I was able to use my phone like I normally do, so I had access to my GPS which was awesome. The only downside was that my battery only lasted about 2 hours fully charged and wouldn’t charge in use.
    And I found out about the voltage difference the hard way too. My bangs in all my Euro 2017 trip were quite fluffy.

    1. I wonder if AT&T provides better service internationally?! Ugh. I was specifically told if I used Maps the whole time I’d get a very unpleasant bill!
      Your bangs looked fluffy πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ I don’t mean to laugh, but that is FUNNY!!

      1. Laugh away! I do anytime I see pictures from that trip. I was rather impressed with my service abroad, but I was also told by many to just get a burner phone and local sim card while you’re away. You may want to consider if you think you’ll need it.

          1. Nowadays… probably. Back in 2010… probably not. I know we have them here. Like Tracphone has a smart phone with GPS. I don’t see why Europe wouldn’t have them too.

  5. 1. Costco is for business owners only in the UK, but toilet paper is cheap in all the supermarkets in the UK or try finding a Wilkinsons, Aldi or B&M for super cheap shizzle (soz if you know this already).
    2. I can’t believe you’ve been to Blackpool, yet I still haven’t managed to make it there myself.

    1. NOOOOOO! Why isn’t it for the common folk?! Ya’ll are missing out big time! That sucks πŸ‘ŽπŸ»
      I can’t believe I’ve been to Blackpool either πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚
      I’m sure I have the name of the pub in the travel journal I kept! I have no idea off the top of my head. It was really modern, so not the idea I had of English pubs.

      1. I know, it’s rubbish. You have to take proof you own a business then you get given a special card, so that you can shop there.
        If you go back to Oxford again and need a list of proper, traditional pubs there- I’m your gal xx

  6. Totally good advice!! I try to pack at least one change of clothes in my carry-on just in case my luggage gets lost. The first time I flew to South Korea, I put in my “first day at work” outfit, plus my pjs and essential toiletries that I would need to make it a few days just in case. thankfully I’ve never had my luggage lost or damaged. *knocks on wood*
    Oooo speaking of damaged luggage, you can always get luggage covers. They are super cheap and are just fabric that slips over the outside and snaps or zips closed. Then it LOOKS all new and fancy but it’s really not. And at the end, you just throw them in the wash and BAM clean again.

    1. I always pack an extra entire outfit for the trip over, but never for when I’m heading back home!!
      Gah! You’re giving me another reason to buy luggage I don’t need πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

          1. I meant to say “does” in my previous response. I love how WP allows us all to look like morons since we can’t edit comments once sent πŸ€¦πŸ»β€β™€οΈ. I will definitely check those out. Maybe I’ll just get a snazzy new cover!?

          2. Oooo you CAN edit comments!! Lol go to your dashboard and if you scroll down you can see the most recent comments on your blog and can edit them 😎
            Snazzy new cover will be soooo much less than a whole new set haha

  7. I’m super impressed that you flat iron your hair while traveling in the UK. There isn’t a flat iron strong enough to keep my ridiculous hair straight. I just try my best to rock a white girl afro and go with it. Really, I just end up looking like Hermoine Grainger 1st year.

    1. “Hermoine Grainger 1st year” πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ I’m actually over the flat ironed look. I’m all about those effortless-looking waves/curls that take me 20 minutes to do πŸ˜‚

  8. Good advice!
    I think Japan has the same voltage as you in the US, so you can take your hair straighteners there! πŸ˜€
    On your next trip to the UK, are you going to York by any chance? One of my friends just set up a B&B there and I think you would LOVE her! If you’re heading that way I’ll put you in touch. Ooooh also, if you are going to Liverpool, I have another friend who set up a boardgame cafΓ© that serves amaaaazing cake. If you’re going there, you need to pop in (mostly for the cake…but you’ll loooove everything there!!)

    1. LOL!!! I’ll remember that for whenever I might get to Japan ☺️
      I think we’re going to York!! Not too sure about Liverpool yet!! I’ll let you know ☺️☺️

          1. She has pink hair and loves and cakes and unicorns. You have a similar sense of humor so I think you’d love her. <3

  9. I had no idea about the voltage thing. That is good to fucking know! Also, there isn’t really much of anything you can pick up from sitting on a toilet seat and those paper covers don’t offer any protection anyway. If it looks wet or there’s something on it, just wipe it off with toilet paper. I’ll only use them if I’m on my period because sometimes I’ll bleed through and blood will get on my legs/butt and I don’t want to get any on the toilet seat just in case. Otherwise, I never bother and I still haven’t contracted herpes or syphilis or AIDS or the plague or whatever people are so afraid of.

    1. BUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! I learned the same thing when I was over there and after watching a show on how they do next to nothing. But, guess who still uses one every time they have to use a public restroom?! πŸ™‹πŸ»

  10. Hanes Cotton Comforts!
    (laughed out loud)
    And laying the TP on the toilet seat reminds me of Grandna Fran…a skill I mostly remember her demonstrating at outhouses😊

  11. IPhones definitely work with SIM cards – you can contact AT&T to purchase an unlock code for the duration of your trip. Or you could pick up a phone over here, cheap smart phones start at about Β£60 or for the same price get an unlocked iPhone 4 from CEX
    If you are going to York there is a very, Uber famous cake shop / cafe called Betty’s. You absolutely can not be in York and not go.
    Other handy fact, as well as all sorts of very important historical stuff, like once being the capitol etc. York is home to Terry’s Chocolate Orange. Food of the Gods.

    1. I have Verizon 😫😫😫. I’ll check to see if they do the same thing!!
      I’ve actually eaten cookies from Betty’s!! One of my blogger friends sent them to me!! Can’t wait to visit there, though!!!!

  12. Excellent travel tips! The clean underwear in your carry on is a must. I can’t tell you how many delayed flights have been less painful because I had clean underwear and a clean shirt to wear because the flight back took sooo much longer than expected!

  13. Favorite line (of many, but I’m limiting myself to one): “So, if you don’t want to have to wear a pair of your mom’s Hanes Cotton Comforts, pack a damn pair of underwear for the return trip!”
    First, a shameful admission: I actually OWN some Hanes Cotton Comforts. (They come in a three-pack, like my Hanes Men’s Size S tee-shirts; at least I don’t wear MEN’S Hanes underwear.) Second, I agree: the thought of (gasp) SHARING UNDERWEAR — even clean ones– is a total nonstarter.

    1. I’m SO close to being to the point of life where one owns Hanes. They ARE so much cheaper and more comfortable than my Victoria Secret cheeky bastards that cut into my fat. I’ll learn eventually to just succumb to being halfway to 40 and thus accepting of the Old Lady Hanes era that never ends. Yeah, I don’t care if you’re freaking Jennifer Aniston or the woman who owns a vagina I came out of, wearing your underwear is a HORRIFIC, therapy-inducing event!!!

  14. I just LOVE your writing, Katie, and I hope we get to meet up some time. πŸ™‚ First of all, you look super cute in that “stupid hat” of yours. I hope you still have it. You never know when you’ll have to go without the flat-iron πŸ˜‰ And, I’m right with ya regarding the need to buy new things before a trip. Why? I have no idea, but I end up packing way too much of it too. Great post!!!

    1. Awww!! Thank you! I hope we can meet someday, too! Maybe there will be a US bloggers meet up?! Yeah, that hat was a God-send, but it had to be laid to rest due to its smell and condition (too many dirty hair days 😱). Yup, I have to buy new everything and it’s ridiculous!!! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

  15. iPhones have SIM cards. Micro sim. It’s in the side of the phone and you need a sharp pin to open it and you can replace it. Definitely recommend getting a cheap sim and then you can use data!

  16. I’ve never understood the adaptor thing and ruined everything I plugged into it. Sure, I haven’t been to Europe in 20 years but hopefully someday I can get it right. I think you and I were on the same wave, talking about travel tips. How funny!

        1. As long as you get a dual voltage one, you’re good. My mom is a thrift store queen and just found me a brand new dual voltage curling iron for $5 πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘ŠπŸ». The adaptor just allows you to plug your differently shaped plug into their differently shaped outlets.

  17. Look, if it’s any consolation… I travel a lot (mostly for work) and still make these mistakes and more every time. I am a complete liability.

  18. When I was preparing to backpack in South America, I was told the Peruvians didn’t use loo roll so I brought 15 rolls on my backpack much everyone’s amusement.
    They weren’t laughing when we were up the Andes I can tell you!!

  19. Funny. Some great tip. I am off to France soon and will take these on board especially not buying everything new!! And yeah USA and UK toilets are really quite different! Jillx

  20. Great advice – even for a frequent traveller (who has now TWICE forgot to pack a travel adapter and now has a collection of ridiculously expensive locally bought travel adapters – I should start etching them with where they were purchased and use them a souvenirs…)

  21. Too funny!
    Use Waze when you travel to Europe next time. It even knew the tiny little roads in Scotland! I use the squat method. Good for the thighs. πŸ™‚
    I used to buy a ton of clothes before a trip. Now I pack light and buy a ton of clothes on the trip. They’re my souvenirs!

  22. Love your blog, I’ll be going on a 4 month trip around Cuba, Jamaica, Costa Rica & Guatemala next Thursday if you want to look out for my adventures πŸ™‚

  23. Dude I love these tips! I travel a fair bit but have never left Europe so didn’t even know about the change in voltage… and that underwear scenario sounds unpleasant to say the least.
    Wandering Everywhere

  24. Great advice, turns out I’m an idiot πŸ˜‚ I’m going travelling in a campervan around Europe in May, and even though I’m from England (oxford) this was actually helpful! And funny πŸ™‚ I like your style of writing! I’m new to blogging but I’ve just done a few posts if you could check it out that would be awesome! X

        1. Gosh, I’ve never really done any hardcore blogging during my travels. I do do most of my blogging via the app on my phone, though, so having/doing that would help! Also, definitely make sure you are on WiFi!! Good luck!

  25. Oh my god yes, great tips and they’re funny! Funny! Do you know how many “1. pack light 2. check the exchange rate 3. book in advance” things I’ve read? I dream in boring travel tips.
    I just took a trip and spent hours shopping online and ended up buying 6 pairs of sunglasses. Because apparently I needed a new pair for every new margarita I was having, which is definitely more than 6. πŸ™‚

  26. Great post ☺️ i am also the type of idiot traveler who is buying a new set of clothes every time … and traveling few times a month in different parts of the world doesnt help my budget much

  27. I think my biggest potty revelation was the squat toilets in the highway restrooms in France. “uh excuse me…there’s no toilet in the toilet”

      1. That was my response haha! It wasn’t the most common type that I saw but there were a few roadside potty break spots that only had squat toilets. 18 year old me was not please.

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