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 to 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 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 your pictures on a USB drive or cloud storage like iCloud, Dropbox, or Google Drive on a regular basis.
Or host them online on sites like Google Photos, Flickr, and EyeEm, to name a few, or at your own blog’s FTP. This mistake is very heartbreaking (from my own experience!), so it’s best to avoid it.
Your memories are one of the most valuable things you get from your trips. If possible, back up more than once.
7. Booking flights with a short layover, thus, missing your connecting flight
Instead… Give yourself at least a couple of hours between flights to allow for any possible “delay” scenario (flight delay, long customs line, long distance between terminals, etc.).
For example, Philadelphia airport states to arrive at the airport 2 hours before a scheduled flight departure.
When it comes to booking flights, I recommend using WayAway. They also offer their WayAway Plus membership, which helps you find the cheapest flight and offers cashback (deposited straight into your PayPal).
But additionally, they offer premium support where local experts help you navigate all these logistics like how long of a layover you need at this or that airport, where to stay in X city, what are the best restaurants at your destination, or which documents are needed to get a visa for X country, 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 canceled 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 in the different time zones when booking your trip
Instead… Corroborate the different time zones between places “A” and “B,” how long it takes to get there, and how many time zones you are crossing. Factor this into 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 in big cities that have more than one airport, double-check your reservation to corroborate which is the correct airport and correct terminal. Trust me; this mistake could cost you a lot.
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.
Keep 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 at a destination and not knowing what to do by at least doing a small Google search. Get information about possible things to do and the 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 stress and have fun! Drinking too much will not only suck all your money, but 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 of 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 in 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 realistic expectations, 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 them 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?
Original images by – reuben –, swamysk, jaaron, stuartpilbrow, and ohhector respectively, taken from Flickr’s Creative Commons.
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Excellent list Norbert. This should be required reading for all travelers.
Thanks Tandem World! I though it would be good to share this. Of course, we all learn from our mistakes, but I guess it would be cool to learn before making them.
Very well put. I can’t stop wondering how many mistakes it took to get all this list together 🙂
Ha! Believe me, most of the previous 24, and more… 🙂
Hahaha, I thought so! It’s a nice piece, thanks for sharing!
#1 is the greatest lesson I’ve learned over the years. So when my husband and I went on our honeymoon to Borneo this summer, we allotted 16 days split between two places. Know what I learned? Sometimes you can be overly ambitious to spend a lot of time in one place! Eight days is WAY too long to be in the Kota Kinabalu area, for example. But hey, now I feel no need to ever go back!
lol… Good to know about Kota Kinabalu (for the future!). I’ve had that situation too, where I have too many days on a single place that can be seen in just a couple days. Sometimes I just suck it up and enjoy it, but other times I manage to be flexible, cut the days short, and move to another place of interest.
Also, as a guidebook writer by profession, I will agree with you on that one, as well =) There are so many great places I’m either not allowed to put in the guides because then we’d have to add a whole other city section just for them (and don’t have the space) or either keep out on purpose as I don’t want them overrun by tourists!
Thank you so much for sharing that information. Yeah, I guess guides are always a balancing act of what should be included (publishing wise), saved for other versions/alternates, or simply kept out of the “tourist masses”. I’m sure the picking process must be really hard. I wonder how many great little “jewels” are kept out on purpose? 😉
Luckly I avoided many of those on the list. But it’s still hard, for example catching up your budget. It’s easily forgettable. I consider my travels as relax as possible. Not just lying there and sleep-relax, think easy and consider many factors come to me. 🙂 Great list Norbert!
Haha! Nope, not me… I did make most of those. But luckily, I learned from them. 🙂 I agree with what you said, just think easy and let things flow… that’s the best way to have a great travel experience.
This is SUCH a great post for all travelers whether seasoned or beginners.
Thanks Andi! We are always learning on the road. 🙂
Tend to be super guilty of number 1 – have to visit every art museum a city has to offer, and even when dreaded museum fatigue sets in, I still keep on going…haha. I’ve gotten better lately – no more than 2 museums a day.
Great list! I always cringe when I see people do #7 – missing my flight is one of my biggest fears when traveling.
lol… I’ve done #1 so so so many times… lately I’ve been taking it easy by doing less things on a single day, but enjoying them more, and being more flexible. Oh dear #7, the first (and hopefully last) time I did that one was last month with my connecting flight to Cuzco. lol
This is very well put together, I have to learn how to be flexible because I always want to do everything on my list at the same day..lol
Thank you Sarah! I think we all suffer from that. lol… But, who can blame us, we want to get the most of each destination… 🙂
Haha Yes Norbert! When was in Montreal for 3 days only, I try to see every museum I can see and I always end up so tired when I went back to the hotel and fall asleep within 5 minutes. hahah
haha yes, when I have really active days I end the day so tired that I have no energy to see the city during the night, or to experience the nightlife.
haha I agreed! When I’m back couple of friends was asking, how was the bar or club there. I was like I didn’t go anywhere, and the were like shocked. They think that’s the fun part! haha
hahaha… yeah, there are places I’ve been where I wish I explored the night life a little bit more. 🙂
Yep! think I have done most of these. Great post Norbert and very helpful to those about to embark on their first travel adventure or as a refresher to those going again
Thanks Caz! This is our almost inevitable learning process while on the road. 🙂
Nice piece! I bet a lot of us went – oh yeah. :))
Cardinal sin #1 in my book – drinking Starbucks in coffee capitals of the world, such as Paris.
Thanks Pola! Lol… what a sin! I don’t drink coffee, but that would be a no-no for me if I did… But, Starbucks is everywhere. I guess it’s somewhat unavoidable to not drink their coffee or go into their store. 🙂
This is a great list. Was fun making sure I had everything in order. Thx!
Thank you Brooks. Ha, great you can now avoid a few of these… 🙂
Great list of common mistakes, wise advice. 1 and 2 are the most common mistakes, and can be real killers.
Thanks Trans-Americas… True, 1 and 2 can slowly kill the excitement of your trip.
Fantastic article, thank you… sums up absolutely everything nicely. I think number 14 is just outrageous, but I know people it’s happened to – I personally double and triple check all the time, I would be extremely stressed if I missed a flight or a train… Phew, just thinking about it has my palms all sweaty 😉 So yup, double-checking and follow-ups are essential.
Thanks Ira! Thanks God I haven’t done #14 yet. Hopefully I never will since, like you, I double and triple check my departing hours and locations. 🙂
Very useful info! After reading it, i think i will never forget again to take a copy of my passport with me!
What is a common mistake too is to plan exactly the whole trip and then dont have time to do everything as planned because or we spend more time doing something than we thought we would, or on the way we find something interesting to see/do, too.
You’re totally right! That’s what happens when we overplan. We make everything so tight that breaking the plan becomes unavoidable. It’s always good to leave some free time to play with and bump extra activities we didn’t think of before.
we have to admit that we commit the mistakes, i appreciate that you have revealed the mistakes now it makes it easy to avoid them. nice stuff
Oh yes… we commit mistakes, and I still make many of them. But, one thing that’s great about traveling is that you learn through those mistakes. 😉
Thanks for this list. One more, if I could be so old as to suggest, is to check dates on things like passports and credit cards. There seems to be more scrutiny on how far out your passport is going to expire to be allowed to cross. Also, credit cards expiry is something to watch.
Oh yes, that is a good one to add, especially if you’re traveling long term. You don’t want to start a long term trip and find out that two months in your trip your credit card expired and have no way of getting a new one abroad. Same with passport…
I’ve made several travel blunders as well, and I wrote about them here at my blog:
http://www.postcardsandpassports.com/dont-buy-a-dagger/ If nothing else, you can get a laugh out of my mistakes while learning from them!
Thanks for sharing your travel mistakes with us, Tami!
I have a similar post on my blog. I focused on the planning portion of a trip, but I like how you extended your post to include both planning and the mistakes to avoid during the actual trip. I love #23 and #24. Going with the flow is a must! Things happen, we have to adjust and be OK with that. Also, it is so easy to fall into a negative trap by judging the things other cultures do and thinking they are “wrong” for the ways that they run things. Embracing those differences can actually make the trip so much better, so much more enjoyable. I mean is that not why we travel? To experience new things and see the ways others live. 🙂 Tolerance and patience — you are EXACTLY right.
A very resourceful post. Love your ideas and tips. I will try to follow these tips.
Keep up the great work 🙂
Throughout our years of travelling we’ve definitely made the “Not Being Sun Smart” mistake (a few times) before! I’m sure every traveller can relate to at least one of these, unfortunately, haha.
I agree with taking it slow. Adding my own to tip towards that –
If you’re going to a theme park, try splitting the visit into several shorter ones. Many places offer a multi-day ticket that isn’t that much more expensive. When we visited Legoland California with the kids back in 2009, adding another day only added $10 to the price of the ticket. It was well worth it. We went twice and felt like we had a LOT of time to explore at leisure.
I also agree about vacation rentals. It provides you with space and also means you stop at the same place for longer, giving kids time to settle in and relax (well, ok, it’s good for the grown-ups too ? ).
This article was very useful! Thanks for putting this together and sharing!
Some of the mistakes I already did, yet doing them showed me how to do it right next time and that is the place I ideally correct it and not planning to repeat any of them.
You learn by making mistakes!
Thanks for sharing with us your experience and tips to avoid during travel, I hope we will take care and follow these tips to make our journey beautiful and enjoyable. Thanks a lot.
Some of the mistakes I already did.This article was very useful!
Excellent list!! I really agree with these mistakes. Overpacking is the biggest mistake I have done over the years. I also repeat some mistakes every time I travel somewhere.
I always make mistake in currency exchange or less sleeping in 1 2 days I tired and go to rest and spoiled my trip
I thought it was interesting when you mentioned that it is a good idea to create a realistic budget when you are traveling. If you are going to be going out to eat while on vacation, it might be a good idea to plan what restaurants you are going to go to in advance. Doing this in advance seems like a good way to save money while on vacation.
Thanks for sharing! I’ll often buy plane tickets and book my first few nights but then improvise the rest. Although “not planning” doesn’t mean “not doing research,” at least not for me. I’ll still take some time to read about things I could do and places I could go, and I’ll also take some time to read about safety precautions to take in specific places.