12 Common Travel Mistakes & How To Avoid Them
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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)”.
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?