I made 9 big mistakes while traveling across Australia and New Zealand for 21 days, from not checking a bag to visiting in winter
In June, I traveled more than 9,000 miles from my home to explore New Zealand and Australia alone.
I made plenty of mistakes during the 21-day trip.
Looking back, I should've visited during the region's summer and packed a checked bag.
I'll admit it — I make mistakes. And let's just say I made plenty on a solo 21-day trip to Australia and New Zealand.
Over a decade ago, I embarked on my first international trip.
Fast forward to today, and I'm a full-time travel writer who spends several weeks on the road.
Even after all those work trips and vacations, I still make mistakes while traveling. Recently, I made a good majority of them while traveling solo across Australia and New Zealand for 21 days.
My itinerary kicked off in June with a few days in Auckland, New Zealand, where I gained a first glimpse of Air New Zealand's redesigned plane cabins.
From Auckland, I headed to Waiheke Island, New Zealand, to taste wine and explore abandoned WWII complexes.
Then, it was off to the adventure capital of the world: Queenstown, New Zealand.
From there, I hopped on a plane to Sydney, Australia, and, finally, ended my trip exploring parts of Queensland, Australia.
It was my longest solo adventure yet, and throughout the entire journey, I made plenty of slip-ups. From forgetting to check for Wi-Fi at Airbnbs to not having rainy day plans, here are nine mistakes I made.
My first mistake started at the airport. Prior to my long-haul flight to Auckland, I didn't drink enough water and ate unhealthy snacks.
To get to Auckland from my home in Denver, I first flew to Los Angeles where I then boarded a 13-hour business-class flight to New Zealand that was easily the most glamorous plane ride of my life.
But even with luxuries like a lie-flat seat, complimentary toiletries, and endless food, there were mistakes I made on the flight, which in turn, made adjusting to new time zones tough.
For example, I should've consumed much, much more water. According to The Aerospace Medical Association, travelers should drink 8 ounces of water for every hour they're in the air. With that in mind, I didn't come anywhere near the 104 recommended ounces on my 13-hour flight. In fact, I doubt I drank much more than 32 ounces during the entire trip.
My lack of water was also paired with poor eating. Before boarding the flight, I scarfed down a Wetzel's cinnamon-sugar pretzel, devoured a bag of chips, and slurped up a bowl of ramen in an airport lounge.
These mistakes became clear as soon as I disembarked the aircraft. I arrived in New Zealand feeling dehydrated and low on energy, which made the full day ahead feel more daunting than thrilling.
Next time, to combat a lack of energy, I'll guzzle water and opt for healthier snacks.
I insisted on packing a carry-on, but I should've checked a suitcase.
I was determined to fit everything I needed for 21 days in a carry-on suitcase and small backpack. I didn't want to stand in extra lines at airports to check a bag or sit around waiting for my suitcase to come out on a conveyor belt when I landed.
I magically made 21 days' worth of clothes and items fit in a carry-on, but as soon as I boarded my first flight in New Zealand, I realized all my careful packing was worthless.
I had a standard US-sized carry-on, which was 22 inches by 14 inches by 9 inches and weighed around 35 pounds. However, I did not know that New Zealand and Australia have different weight limits for their carry-on luggage. While most of the airlines I flew with would've allowed the size of my bag, they all had a 15-pound limit for carry-ons and my bag was double, if not triple, the weight limit.
So, the carry-on bag I packed wasn't deemed a carry-on in both New Zealand and Australia, which meant I had to check my bag for every one of my flights.
Next time, I'll pack a larger suitcase. That way I could bring more for my trip. And even more importantly, I'd have the space to bring back souvenirs, boxes of Tim Tams, and other Australian childhood snacks.
Visiting during the off-season had benefits, but next time, I'll travel during the region's summer.
Australia's and New Zealand's winters are flipped from the US, so while I was missing sunny summer at home in Colorado, I was able to explore winter in the Southern Hemisphere.
Fortunately, winters are mild in Australia and New Zealand. Temperatures hovered around 60 degrees Fahrenheit for most of my trip, and there were a few chilly days in the 40s in Queenstown.
With this mild winter came a few benefits. It was shoulder season, and according to locals, I faced fewer crowds at attractions and shorter lines at popular restaurants.
But the worst part about visiting in the winter for me was the shorter days.
In Auckland, for instance, the sun rose each morning around 7:30 a.m. and set at 5:15 p.m.
That meant I had just 9.5 hours of daylight. I often arrived at my accommodations after dark and started my days before the sun was up. I was disappointed that I didn't always get to soak in the full views from the incredible places where I was sleeping.
For example, I stayed at the five-star The Darling hotel in Sydney. By the time I checked in after a day of exploring, I had missed the daylight views of the city's skyline. The next morning, I was out the door heading to walk the Sydney Harbor before the sun was up.
Beyond my hotel rooms, I was frustrated I didn't have longer days to explore the cities in daylight.
Throughout the 21 days, it felt like I was squeezing 12 hours' worth of activities into 9 hours.
In retrospect, I wished I opted for more crowds in exchange for longer days in these countries.
I didn't make rainy day plans and wasted precious time as a result.
When I landed in Australia, much of what I hoped to explore was outdoors. In Sydney, I wanted to visit the nearby Blue Mountains and its Scenic World amusement park. Outside of Cairns, I planned to take a train to Kuranda, Australia, and explore the region by boat.
But I learned that storms and subsequent flooding meant that many of those attractions were closed. According to The Guardian, I had bad luck, and the rain and flooding I experienced in July was a rare third La Niña year in a row, which set new records for rainfall in Australia.
Sometimes I learned the hard way that attractions were closed. For example, when I didn't spot anything online indicating that Scenic World's railway and skyway were closed due to rain, I still attempted to go. I traveled two hours by train, only to learn that the downpours resulted in a closed park. Locals told me my best bet was to turn around and head back to Sydney, and I did just that. The result was nearly five hours of wasted time.
Other times, I was met with tough-last minute decisions. For example, floods caused my train ride in Kuranda to be canceled, and I had just 10 minutes to decide whether I wanted to hop on a bus to visit the town or stay in Cairns.
Without enough time to plan another way to spend my day, I got on the bus. When I arrived, I learned that some attractions and activities were also closed because of the storms.
I wish I had spent more time before the trip researching indoor activities in each city. That way, I could've had a solid rainy-day plan and avoided wasting time traveling to closed attractions.
For future trips, I'll make sure to do that research and have back-up plans.
I made plenty of mistakes driving on the left side of the road for the first time.
In New Zealand, in the name of adventure, I rented a car and drove on the left side of the road for the first time on Waiheke Island and in Queenstown.
By not relying on public transportation, I could explore areas less traveled. I was able to visit an abandoned WWII complex on Waiheke Island thanks to my rental car, and in Queenstown, a few remote accommodations like a tiny house and geodesic dome would've been impossible to get by bus or train.
It took me a few days to get comfortable behind the wheel, and during that time, I made a handful of mistakes.
I almost always turned on windshield wipers instead of turn signals because everything about the steering wheel was reversed from what I was familiar with in the US.
And once I finally got my turn signal on, I often left it on for far too long, since I wasn't as familiar with meters, which is what they use in New Zealand instead of miles.
Luckily, none of the mistakes I made were major, and I was ultimately glad I rented a car since it allowed me to explore other regions of the country.
Although next time I rent a car in a foreign country, I'll take some laps in the parking lot first to get more comfortable behind the wheel.
I forgot to check for Wi-Fi at my accommodations before booking.
I can't remember the last hotel or Airbnb I stayed in that didn't have Wi-Fi, and I wrongly assumed that every accommodation I booked would have some sort of internet access.
But since some of my accommodations were more remote — like a cliffside tiny house on Waiheke Island — I realized my assumption was wrong.
And I realized it too late.
It wasn't until I checked into the tiny house that I found out it didn't have Wi-Fi. I was hoping to upload images and start writing stories about my travels but couldn't.
After looking back at the listing, it was a detail I overlooked. So, I took it as an opportunity to disconnect and soak in the stunning views around me.
Next time, I'll double-check my accommodations to see the Wi-Fi setup beforehand, especially if I plan to work on the road.
I didn't check to make sure the activities I planned were open on the days I was visiting.
When planning my trip, there were a handful of things I was insistent on doing. I wanted to go bungee jumping in Queenstown and walk through the tunnels of an abandoned WWII complex. But I made a rookie mistake when I failed to make sure those activities were open seven days a week.
Fortunately, most activities, including like bungee jumping, were open. However, a few were not.
For example, Fort Stony Batter on Waiheke Island, which is an old WWII complex with underground tunnels open to the public, was closed when I visited. I made the best of it by exploring the always-open, above-ground section of the property but left disappointed that I didn't step foot in any of the massive tunnels.
This happened a few more times throughout my 21 days in New Zealand and Australia. I'd arrive at a restaurant and learn it was closed for the night or show up for an activity and realize it wasn't open. Sometimes it was because the activities had limited availability during the off-season, and other times it was because a restaurant or place just wasn't open on the day I arrived.
For future trips — especially during the off-season — I'll double check to make sure everything is open when I plan on visiting.
Eating out for all my meals and not working out started to wear on me toward the end of the trip.
Minus a grocery store salad and a few Australian passion fruits gifted by an Airbnb host, I ate out every single day during the 21-day trip.
About two weeks into the trip, I decided to pop into a McDonald's to try some of the menu items I can't find in the US. After my meal, which included a crème brûlée pie, macrons, and mozzarella sticks, I left feeling ill.
I realized that I was indulging in yummy — yet often greasy and unhealthy food — for too many days in a row. Similar meals like a massive burger and fries at Fergburger in Queenstown and the dozens of Australian candy bars I ate started to make me feel sick.
Pair that with an inconsistent workout schedule since I was staying in hotels, Airbnbs, and sailboats without gyms, and I noticed it starting to take a toll on my mental and physical health.
To combat my mistake, I started ordering side salads at every restaurant and incorporated morning runs as part of my exploration.
On future trips, I'll make sure to start these healthy habits happen at the beginning instead of at the end when the negative effects have already set in.
And like every city and country I've ever visited, my trip wasn't long enough.
Twenty-one days split between four regions might seem like a lot of time, but I thought it wasn't nearly enough time to see everything New Zealand and Australia have to offer. Given the opportunity, I would've extended my trip for another week or two.
But not having enough time to explore and travel is also always a welcomed mistake. It just means I'll have to plan a trip back.
And in stunning places like Australia and New Zealand, I can almost guarantee I'll be back sooner rather than later.
Read the original article on Insider