The itinerary had been gestating for over a decade but finding the time with our separate careers was harder than ever. We love travel and there were far-flung friends we’ve been waiting to see. When our travel stars finally aligned we ended up spending Valentine’s Day in an airport lounge, trading pre-printed greeting cards, and toasting with a local Fijian brew. I couldn’t have been happier if we’d had a candlelight dinner in my favorite restaurant back home.

Everyone wants to come home glowing with satisfaction, healthy, and bursting with new stories to share. However, even as well-seasoned travelers, we set up an impractical trip. Visiting remote islands on both sides of the equator and what it takes physically to cover the long distances in between took its toll. Still we love travel although the rosy glow I imagined returning home with was a red nose from a nasty head cold.

Chilly morning in Hong Kong with only a thin windbreaker.

My chilly Hong Kong morning when I had to buy a sweatshirt or freeze.

Sadly, it’s a common problem according to new data from Global Rescue, a leading travel risk and crisis response provider. They just released their 2024 Winter Global Rescue Traveler Sentiment and Safety Survey after surveying more than 1,500 current and former members in January 2024.

The survey verified that overly ambitious itineraries and failing to leave unscheduled time during trips are frequent mistakes that travelers make. Before the pandemic, 40% of respondents admitted they created itineraries that did not include free time. That rose to second place on the list of biggest traveler mistakes this year. Wanting to do it all is never a good idea – especially in new environments.

Two Americans happen upon the Prime Minister of Fiji at a roadside coffee stop.

Two Americans happen upon the Prime Minister of Fiji at a roadside coffee stop.

Going Solo Becomes We Love Travel Together

I launched into solo travel over the past couple of years. These were quick trips to places I needed to see in this lifetime. (You can read a bit about them here.) I also traveled on my own to keep my budget low and see things that my SO wasn’t interested in (India) or had seen already (Egypt.)

When we finally could travel together it marked a milestone – the first time that my partner Dave could ever get away for more than two weeks. Founding and running his business for over forty-five years has meant that most of our couples trips were few and quick. This big trip marked his ‘semi-retirement’ as he’s still involved in fisheries issues but there are no more worries about staying online to take calls or emails.

I met new man on this trip! His playful side emerged again since our first dive trip in Cozumel over 15 years ago. I knew he was in there somewhere, but life was demanding and we made the most of our shorter trips together.

Elaine stops at a beloved Banyan tree on a long layover in Waikiki.

Elaine stops at a beloved Banyan tree on a long layover in Waikiki.

Cue the music

Do you know the Bones duet by Maren Morris and Hozier? I could be humming it now but island hopping and six flights over 27 days can put any body and relationship to the test. But it reminded us how much we love travel.

We first met right after I returned from a trip to Peru, and he was back from an underwater photo trip in the South Pacific. Our initial conversations were about exploring the world and he reeled me in with his amazing stories. He was also a commercial sea urchin diver and fishmonger. I never could have imagined that he’d invite me to become a diver as well and that we’d eventually explore the underwater world in locations around the planet. Happily, we came home closer than ever although lack of sleep and nagging congestion hijacked the trip buzz.

Packing Conundrums and Opportunities

Another problem we had involved packing. I’ve been a travel-only-with-carry-on gal but that gets more difficult when you’re on the go for weeks at a time. Harding Bush, associate director of operations at Global Rescue, advises travelers to “pack light, and buy what you need there.” I did that recently and bought a new, slightly larger, wheelie bag cheaply in a Kowloon alleyway. Other than that purchase, we pack as light as possible – focusing on lightweight fabrics and toiletries. We spent little time shopping, preferring to be out and experiencing each new destination as fully as possible.

Overpacking is by far the biggest traveler mistake, according to the world’s most experienced travelers responding to the 2024 Winter Global Rescue Traveler Sentiment and Safety Survey. More than a third of respondents (35%) said overpacking was their biggest problem. Even though I’ve traveled for decades, packing well is always a chore. Don’t leave it to the last minute. Every time I do, I end up stressed and wondering what I was thinking when I took extra shoes (the worst for weight!)

Pre-dawn taxi drive with a tech obsessed driver in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong taxi driver and his tech obsession.

What Matters Most

Not everyone can travel well with their life partner. It’s telling and I admit to cracking a few jokes about how Dave and I might weather our long trip. Importantly, Bush advises travelers to plan a trip that aligns with your travel style and interests, making sure to prioritize what is important to you. “You don’t need to do what others say to do. But you must accept that you won’t see everything and that is okay,” he said. For me, that meant planning time with WiFi to take care of my nomadic work needs. The only place that I found it in American Samoa was on the breakfast patio at Sadie’s By the Sea. The staff kept my coffee cup filled and Dave had fun catching up on his photo editing in the air conditioned room. We each got what we needed.

KISS Formula for Lowering Carbon and Avoiding Layover Mistakes

Today, the second most reported traveler mistake is flying with connections instead of nonstop, an error that had not been made on the list in any past Global Rescue survey. Twelve percent of the respondents said air travel that required stop-overs or layovers was an error they’d avoid in the future. I aspire to travel directly unless I’m using a long layover to my advantage. Stopping in Singapore for ten hours on the way to India gave me time to decompress between long flights with a few hours in a transit hotel and still, I walked over 10,000 steps while exploring the huge Changi Airport.

Booking separate flights to a destination also increases the risk of losing baggage or unexpected flight delays. I arrived in Changi with ten hours between flights on different airlines. It didn’t look like it would be a problem to pick up my bag and go through security again to get on the next flight. However, I didn’t factor in my fatigue after a 17-hour flight in economy seating. Was it hubris or poor customer service that led a flight desk worker to say, “No problem, we’ll forward your bag?” The sticker she put on my boarding pass was incorrect and my bag didn’t show up for two days. I was lucky it did at all.

Gray haired man pets a display peacock in Kowloon.

Dave pets a display peacock in Kowloon.

Don’t Make These Other Travel Mistakes

Before the pandemic, more than a third of travelers (38%) reported that forgetting to obtain medical or security travel protection was their biggest mistake, ranking third in the top 10 most common mistakes made by travelers. In 2024, it’s the last on the list. Dave and I took care of it for the year by purchasing a multi-trip health insurance program. Luckily again, we haven’t needed to use it.

Forgetting an international plug adapter, leaving prescription medicine behind, failing to change a cell phone data plan, and drinking or using unsafe water have each remained on the top 10 list of biggest traveler mistakes since before the pandemic, all garnering low, single-digit responses in the Global Rescue survey.

All’s Well That Ends Well

I’m mending from my cold. Dave’s still editing his masses of pictures and drone footage. Life is returning to familiar patterns, but we love travel still but with a fresh perspective on how fortunate we are to be together. We know we’re blessed and when the next trip starts, hopefully, we’ll avoid past miss-steps.