12 Common Travel Mistakes & How To Avoid Them

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Understanding The Most Common Travel Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

Traveling can be a lot of fun. Whether you’re a first-time backpacker or a seasoned explorer, traveling is all about discovering the unknown, growing as a person and sharing in rich experiences. But it’s not always smooth sailing.

Travel mistakes are common, and you’re likely to make some small ones on your journey which is normal. However, if you’re not careful, sometimes these travel mistakes can turn tragic and make your trip a disappointing, money-wasting experience that will leave you wishing you had never left home in the first place.

Here are the 12 most tragic travel mistakes you should be aware of and avoid. If you can learn them here, you’ll save yourself a lot of unnecessary stress, time-wasting and costs.

1. Traveling too quickly 

I’m very guilty of this one. I would often create overambitious itineraries, only to find they limited my ability to understand and properly appreciate the place I was currently in. It was all just one big hurried blur! I also found that traveling too quickly for longer periods of time was detrimental to my physical health.

Instead, travel slower and factor in some unscheduled time so you can truly immerse yourself in the local culture, make friends, and share authentic travel experiences.

2. Losing the currency exchange game

R0011561

It still surprises me how many people exchange currency at the airport. This is the surest way to lose money in currency exchange transactions as fees and rates are usually highest at the airport.

Avoid airport currency exchange shops like the plague. Instead, watch the fx markets as soon as you book your holiday and convert a small amount in your home country before you go. Then shop around in a major city when you arrive and negotiate for the best deal. XE Currency Converter is a useful source of live exchange rates and has an app you can download.

3. Blindly trusting directions from the first local you ask

I am a big advocate of local travel. That means connecting with locals whenever you can, and often, asking them for directions. But just because they’re locals doesn’t mean they are giving you the best directions.

I learned my lessons first-hand in Italy. I’d follow the first set of directions I received, only to find out I was heading in the opposite direction, going to a shop that was long-closed, or to somewhere that didn’t even exist!

Instead, when you’re lost, ask multiple people and go with the general consensus.

4. Saving money and paying with time

So many people focus on saving every penny while forgetting that their time is an equally (if not infinitely more) valuable and scarce resource. You’ve spent your time saving money back home so you can take this trip; take advantage of the time and experience your destination fully. I can’t stress how common this travel mistake is amongst travelers who often compete with who can have the cheapest trip. This is nothing more than a race to the bottom. 

It’s worth paying for admission to an attraction rather than visiting on a free day and suffering the slow lines and crowds. Likewise, paying extra for accommodation that is centrally located will make your time so much more enjoyable and stress-free. If there is any time when time is more important than money, it’s when you’re trying to get the most out of your trip abroad. 

5. Not backing up media 

External hard drive for backup storage
 

You made it all this way, had all these awesome experiences, captured the moments, and now you smashed your smartphone or had your camera stolen. Now all those digital memories are gone! I’ve had my camera stolen and believe me, it truly, truly sucks.

Instead, schedule time to back up your media online via cloud storage or physically to an external hard drive and put it in a safe place. Services such as pCloud offer cheap and convenient cloud storage. It’s a small price to pay to avoid the headache and heartbreak.

6. Forgetting to notify your bank of overseas travel

Credit card issues when traveling

Almost all banks have automated fraud-protection that flags suspicious transactions from overseas. If you don’t announce your travel plans beforehand, expect for your card to be automatically blocked when you need it most, and subsequently have to figure out how to call your bank and unblock it from overseas. Not fun.

Thankfully, it’s easy to avoid this issue. Just call your bank or use their app to notify them of the countries you plan to visit before you leave. Use this handy Pre-departure Travel Checklist to check this off (point #5) before you go.

7. Waiting in line when you can book ahead

Tourists Queueing In Line

Queues are unavoidable at big attractions like the Colosseum or the Eiffel Tower. What you can avoid though, is a seemingly obvious travel mistake – standing in line for hours to purchase tickets. 

Nowadays, many popular tourist sights sell advance tickets online. These tickets often incur a small booking fee, and will guarantee you admission at a certain time. This means all you have to do is show up at your allotted time and walk right past the people standing in line who didn’t think that far ahead!

8. Never venturing off the tourist path

Tourist-Zones

A very common travel mistake is people visiting the most crowded spots during the most crowded months. Whilst you may want to visit them at some point, these destinations tend to be crowded, inauthentic, and loaded with overpriced tourist-traps. Likewise, people eat out at the most expensive place with menus in 5 different languages, and then complain that the food was disappointing or expensive.

Enrich your trip by wandering the back streets. Here you will experience lesser-known attractions, create meaningful connections with locals, and discover foodie-secrets that are both more affordable and far tastier than on the tourist strip. Always talk to locals and consult local travel guides for an invaluable insight which will point you to local favourites that tourists don’t often know about.

9. Not buying travel insurance

Sure, you can travel without insurance and potentially never have any issues. But when something does happen, you’ll be paying dearly for it and wishing you had spent those few dollars a day to avoid the drama and out of pocket expenses.

Buying travel insurance will give you the security you need in case something happens (e.g. flight cancellations, lost luggage, stolen valuables, medical emergencies etc.). You can learn more about travel insurance here.

10. Being unaware of scammers and thieves

It’s easy to get caught up in the bliss of travel, but don’t forget to be cautious and alert. Whilst physical harm is fairly unlikely, scammers and thieves are waiting for any opportunity in most big cities. 

Beware of taxi drivers padding your fare, beggars on the street wanting just money, and pickpockets working the lines at crowded sites or on public transport. Store your passport, cash and credit cards in a money belt. Don’t flash expensive cameras or jewellery in public.

11. Overpacking

Overpacking-Stuffed-Luggage

Are we still talking about this? Yes! So many people (including seasoned travelers) simply pack way too much stuff.  Lugging around a huge, overpacked suitcase or backpack can put a serious dampener on your holiday. It means more time spent packing and unpacking, a sore body, and more stress. 

A good rule of thumb is to pack only what you think you’ll need – then halve it. You can always wash your clothes more often (getting quick-dry clothing is beneficial), or purchase the rest at your destination (sometimes for a fraction of the price).

12. Not learning some local phrases

For many of us, learning some local phrases and then actually going up to a stranger and speaking it, is a big comfort zone challenge. Sadly, most people rarely do this when visiting another country – and they’re missing out big time.

Forging authentic connections with people is what enlivens your travel experience, and one of the best ways to do this is to learn some basic phrases, even if English is widely spoken in the destination you’re visiting. 

I have found that you get treated better, get more help, and generally have a far more enjoyable time when you can speak a few words in the local language. I’ve made many friends this way and ended up living with them or having wild adventures which would have never been accessible If I hadn’t learnt some basic phrases in the first place.

My go-to resources are the DuoLingo language app and making simple searches online for e.g. “basic phrases (country)”.

Group of happy travelers in Sorrento, Italy
A day spent exploring the beach coves of Sorrento with some Italians and Erasmus students I met the previous night at a language exchange

These are some of the most common travel mistakes I’ve encountered myself and seen other travelers make when on the road. It’s easy to lose your cool when you make a mistake or get ripped off, but try not to let it ruin your trip. Remember that it’s always better to laugh and learn, enjoy your trip, and make some friends along the way.

Which travel mistakes have you made?

This Post Has 29 Comments

  1. Hi,

    I mostly overdo number 11.
    Packing half of my home while getting ready to travel… lol
    These are great tips to keep in mind while travelling. Thanks for sharing,
    Really liked your blog.

    1. Yeah, that’s probably the most common travel mistake. Easy to fall into the trap while you’re at home, pumped for your trip, and not actually carrying anything yet. Not so fun when you actually need to carry your luggage around during those travels. Glad you’re liking the blog, Anshul!

  2. GREAT tips!!! I remember when I traveled to Turkey with my family. My brother was taking photos and I remember him going through them and then… HE ACCIDENTALLY deleted ALL OF THEM! He was so so so so so so so so so mad and upset, oh man. I was actually really sad for him too because he did get some great shots. But that just goes to show your tip of BACKING UP your content = 10000% a must!

    1. Oh man! I am distraught reading that! Sorry to hear that for your bro, Gigi.
      Yep, the solution in this case too is to just back up your content online or on an external hard drive.

  3. I think I’ve done many on this list. It helps you to learn from the mistakes. These are tips I would definitely suggest people read before traveling.

    1. If people read this it will definitely save them stress, time and money, that’s for sure.

  4. It’s always important to win and not lose the currency exchange game. i research and check the currency exchange a week before my trip. Also, i make sure I learn some local words for me to get more closer to people.

    1. Exactly, Emman.

  5. These are all really great travel tips! Sadly I’ve made quite a few in the past haha, but not again! You definitely learn from your mistakes. #4 speaks to me!

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience Carolyn. We live, we learn, right!

  6. It’s nice information and I like to travel. Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts with us.

    1. Pleasure!

  7. Good thing that I know most of those on the list. Though there is one thing that I forget most of the time, backing up my media. Or like having enough space for photos and videos during my travels. But I’m working on not forgetting it the next time I travel.

    1. Glad you’re familiar with most of these! Regarding the media back up – fortunately, this has a simple solution. The only thing to be aware of is to perform the backups frequently or according to a schedule. Otherwise, there is no point having the cloud software or external hard drive in the first place.

  8. Oh yes number 1, absolutely! I always tend to plan overambitious itineraries but I’m learning 🙂 I also traveled to the Middle East one time with just 1 bank card which avered not to work in the region. So now I always have at least 2 cards with me and sometimes some cheques as well.

    1. That’s nuts, Fred! How did you cope without any working bank cards?
      Good to have at least 2, as you mention.

  9. Nnniiiccceeeeeee…I guess the spirit of laziness gets the best of us when it gets to currency conversion and end up suffering in the end!

    1. Haha, yep. We’ve all been there at least once.

  10. These are are some really good travel tips to consider. I am a fan of travel insurance.

    1. Thanks mate. Agree – you’ll be thanking yourself if and when something does go wrong.

  11. Nothing is worse than being abroad and having an emergency. These are great tips to avoid that.

    1. Very glad you’ve found this post useful, Wendy. Thanks for sharing.

  12. It’s so true about trusting locals with directions. I don’t know what I’d do without my map app.

    1. Yes – you’ve got to verify the info and not just follow it blindly!

  13. i have learned over the years not to overpack. I still get my currency at the airport, but I know there are better places I could do the exchange to save money.

    1. When it comes to travel, it is always better to underpack than overpack. You can always buy what you really need at your destination.

  14. This is a great post! I have always wondered about things that could go wrong and what to do about it. Thanks for the tips.

  15. These are definitely some common travel mistakes. Thanks for sharing because it gives travelers something to think about.

    1. Pleasure.

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