It is common to make a few careless mistakes when traveling and exploring the unknown. But sometimes these mistakes can turn your trip into a disappointing and money wasting experience. Here are 24 of the most common travel mistakes. Let’s hope these tips can help you avoid falling victim of these boo-boos.
1. Having an over-ambitious itinerary
Instead… Be flexible; don’t be afraid to change your plans due to weather or money shortage. Be aware of the time it takes to get from “A” to “B” (not by distance, but by travel method: car, bus, train, etc). Factor additional time for possible delays as well as extra time to rest. Remember, you don’t need to see the whole country in one visit; planning to do so will make you feel unaccomplished.
Instead… Pack only what you need and know you’ll use, not what you think you’ll use. Buy the rest at your destination (possibly at a fraction of the price). Once fully packed, review everything you have and try to reduce the load a little bit more. Check out 15 things you don’t need to pack to avoid carrying that extra weight.
3. Blindly trusting the first directions you get from a local
Instead… Cast a broad net of directions. Ask more than one person for directions to the same place. If the person hesitates or looks up like searching for an answer, kindly accept their help and look for additional help at the next street. Go with the general consensus.
4. Relying totally on Guide Books
Instead… Guidebooks are made to inform your travels, not to define them. Put the guidebook down and interact with other travelers and people at the destination. Allow yourself to explore and use on your own initiative; there is a lot more to a place than what is in any guidebook.
5. Forgetting the budget and running out of money
Instead… You should consider your budget as a as a way to experience the place more creatively and more authentically; not as a restriction. Create a realistic budget you can stick to and allow some breathing room for unexpected expenses. If traveling long-term, schedule weekly transfers from your savings to your checking (like a paycheck), so you know exactly what you are allowed to spend.
6. Not backing up pictures and losing them due to a stolen camera or virus
Instead… Backup pictures on a CD/DVD/USB Drive on a regular schedule or host them online on sites like Picasa and Flickr, or at your own blog’s FTP. This mistake is very heartbreaking, so it’s best to avoid it. Your memories are one of the most valuable things you get from your trips. If possible, backup more than once.
7. Booking connecting flights with a short transit time, thus, missing your flight
Instead… Give yourself at least a couple hours between flights to allow for any possible “delay” scenario (flight delay, long customs line, long distance between terminals, etc.).
8. Not double-checking your documents and bookings for errors
Instead… Double-check your documents and reservations for everything from hotels, flights, trains, buses, etc. Always corroborate the time and location, and make sure they are scheduled correctly. Also, check that your name is correctly spelled on your flight reservation.
9. Not Buying Insurance
Instead… Spending those extra few dollars will give you the benefit of feeling more secure in case something happens (lost baggage, trip delay or cancellation, medical emergency, etc.). Read the fine prints to see what is included and if it suits your needs. You can learn more about travel insurance here.
10. Not notifying the bank of future foreign transactions
Instead… If you want to avoid having your debit card cancelled due to “unusual activity”, notify the bank beforehand of all the countries you will be visiting so they know it’s you who’s using the card. Plus, many international banks have foreign branches and joint ventures that will forfeit their ATM fees.
11. Not factoring the different time zones when booking your trip
Instead… Corroborate the different time zones between places “A” and “B”, how long does it take to get there, and how many time zones are you crossing. Factor this in your reservations’ scheduling. Also, consider the possible effects of jet-lag during your first days, or better yet, learn how to prevent jet-lag.
12. Not making copies of important documents
Instead… Have a hard copy of your documents (passport, IDs, travel insurance policy, credit cards) with you, and a digital copy safe (if possible, as a password protected .pdf) on a “secret” email account you can easily access. In case of losing your original documents, copies facilitate your identity verification and quicken the renewal process.
13. Making large currency exchanges before leaving home
Instead… Exchange just enough to cover you until you get to the first ATM or good-rate exchange kiosk at your destination. Or, withdraw money from an ATM right when you get there, but don’t use the airport exchange kiosks. They have horrible rates and fees.
14. Arriving at the wrong airport
Instead… When traveling on big cities that have more than one airport, double-check your reservation to corroborate which is the correct airport and correct terminal.
15. Sticking to the tourist trail
Instead… Dare to explore outside the commonly done and seen. Create your own unique experiences; don’t just follow what others have done. Go off the beaten path, often time the best experiences and the biggest opportunities are hidden there.
16. Tempting pickpockets with flashy items
Instead… Use common sense and don’t expose your valuables. In fact, if you don’t need them, don’t wear them. As for DSLR cameras, laptops, and expensive gadgets; carry them with you, hidden in a locked pack and use them as necessary.
17. Being culturally insensitive
Instead… Try to understand the culture and the surrounding in which you are traveling. Having an open mind will help you blend better, enjoy and absorb the culture in a more interactive way, and avoid insulting them unintentionally.
18. Having all your money in a single place
Instead… Don’t put all your “eggs” in the same basket. Avoid carrying too much cash and store it in various “safe” places.
19. Not knowing the hidden foreign charges in your credit card
Instead… Call your bank to make sure what the transaction fee for foreign purchases is. Have in mind, even when foreign companies charge you in your normal currency (i.e. US dollar), they still can charge the “foreign transaction” fee. This page explains more about the best credit cards for travel.
20. Not doing research
Instead… Avoid arriving to a destination a not knowing what to do by at least doing a small Google search. Get information of possible things to do and interesting history of the place. The more research you do in advance and the more you know; the more chances you have to enjoy the place.
21. Drinking too much
Instead… Drink in moderation and find other ways to relieve the stress and have fun! Drinking too much will not only sucks all your money, it will also put you at a higher risk of getting robbed or injured.
22. Ignoring local’s advice
Instead… Pay attention to what locals say; put into consideration and evaluate their advice. Who knows, maybe their advice will save you from getting robbed or help you save a couple dollars here and there.
23. Getting angry at the foreign country
Instead… Even if you had a lousy time and were not treated as expected, consider it as part of your experience and learn from it. Sure, express your frustrations if you need to, but remember, you are a guest at that country. Just because they don’t do things the way you’re used to, doesn’t mean that they are wrong. Practice patience and tolerance.
24. Having unrealistic expectations
Instead… If something goes not as planned, go with the flow. Have a realistic expectation and don’t expect your trip to be perfect. Better yet, don’t create an image of expectation and arrive with a fresh and open mind that will help you accept things as they come.
If you fall victim to any of these mistakes don’t get disappointed. Keep enjoying your wanderings and use it as a learning experience. Hey, I’ve made most of these mistakes, if not all of them, but they have helped me grow and learn as a traveler and person.
Which mistakes have you made?