It is not unusual to make a few silly mistakes when we travel. But these mistakes sometimes lead to wasted money, lost time, and missed opportunities. Many travel writers conveniently write about “things to do”, “where to go” and “what to see”, but it creates more awareness to write about what not to do.
So, here are 40 of the most common travel mistakes you should avoid being a victim of these boo-boos. I have many of my fair share of mistakes in this list, but doing them lets you know how to do it right next time and that’s where you correct them and not repeat it again.
2) Don’t Forget To Set a Realistic Travel Budget
Your budget is the sole source on your travel to experience places creatively and authentically; not a restriction. Sticking to a realistic budget will allow you more breathing room for unexpected expenses. Traveling incurs money and you could run out of it in the middle of your vacation if you don’t set a budget for your it.
2) Don’t Pick a Wrong Travel Companion
If you are not a solo traveler, be mindful on your choice of companionship. Choose someone who shares the same mindset as you. If you are active and energetic, choose someone who is also active and energetic; don’t pick someone who is sluggish and lazy, chasing him to do “this” and “that” will ruin your precious time and ruin your trip or vacation.
3) Don’t Plan Your Vacation with an Expiring Passport
Many travelers may be not fully aware that having an unexpired passport is just not enough to enter some countries. A lot of countries have already opted the rule for passengers to travel on passports that expire in less than six months been denied boarding a flight or getting detained upon arrival in certain countries. I do know people it’s happened to and I am talking about having a passport that is not valid for long enough. So always check how long your passport has to be valid for when traveling.
4) Don’t Forget to Enroll Airline Frequent Flyer Programs
A lot of airline companies have developed frequent-flyer programs to encourage customers to travel with them accumulating points (also referred as miles) which are redeemable for air travel, or for increased benefits, such as travel class upgrades, airport lounge access, or priority bookings.
5) Don’t Travel Without Researching
Traveling abroad need not be difficult if you follow the right steps. If you are traveling to a new country, do a little online research prior your departure to learn about the visa requirements, immunizations, local laws, culture and conditions abroad that may affect your safety and security. The more research you do, the more prepared you are and the more chances you can enjoy your trip and vacation. Getting deported or turned away at a foreign country will be expensive, time-consuming, and ruin your vacation.
6) Don’t Book Everything Online
You can’t argue with a robot and win, so always talk to a human when inquiring about accommodation and transport, etc. Call hotels, request to speak with the sales manager or someone in guest relations to inquire about special offers and deals. If the place is full, there is nothing to negotiate.
7) Don’t Book Connecting Flights with Short Transit Times
Flight situations are unpredictable. If one flights gets delayed, you might need to rush through a foreign airport to make for your connecting flight, and you might not make it in time. It’s safe to book them with a sufficient buffer in between. Give yourself a couple of hours between flights to allow for any possible “delay” scenario (delayed flight, long immigration lines, distance between the terminals, etc.).
8) Don’t Forget to Double Check Your Travel Documents & Itinerary
Double-check your documents and reservations for everything from hotels, flights, trains, buses, ferries, etc. Always confirm the time and location, and make sure they are scheduled correctly.
Bonus: Check if your name is spelled correctly on your flight reservation.
9) Don’t Forget to Print Your Ticket, Boarding Pass and Accommodation Voucher
When you purchase airline tickets on the internet, you receive your e-ticket and receipt to your e-mail, and are usually able to produce the e-ticket on your smartphone or mobile devices as well. However, some airlines require passengers to present a hard-copy/printed ticket at the airport airline counter. If you have done a web check-in, you might also be required to present a print of the boarding pass.
Bonus: Keep a snapshot of your ticket, boarding pass and hotel voucher on your phone, in case you misplace the ticket, you will still be able to retrieve it from your phone. If you e-mail them, you might not be able to download them right after you land at your destination until you buy a data plan or connect a wifi network.
10) Don’t Forget To Turn off International Roaming
Once you get back home from vacation and see your phone bill while you had international roaming turned on, that’s when you realize how costly the service is. So check the roaming rates with your telecom company before you leave on vacation, and if you don’t have time for that, just keep the roaming service turned off to be on the safe side, otherwise be prepared to pay the bill.
11) Don’t Forget to Notify Your Bank of Future Foreign Transactions
If you want to avoid your bank having your debit card or credit card cancelled due to “suspicious activity”, notify the bank in advance of all the countries you will be travelling so they are aware it is you who is using the card.
Bonus: Check with your bank for transaction fees on foreign purchases.
12) Don’t Forget Your Chargers
While you are travel, you might want to check your e-mail, instagram a photo, or just a tweet to let your friends and family know that you have arrived, then you find out that your phone battery is running low and cannot find the charger, because you forgot to pack it.
Your phone, camera, or laptop comes with a single charger. If you lose it, or forget to pack it, you will need to get a replacement charger anyway. So keep a spare phone charger in your bag until you need it while traveling.
13) Don’t Forget to Carry All Your SIM Cards in a Single Container
You could be a frequent flyer to a particular destination or even more, and the moment your flight lands, you’re ready to switch your SIM cards and get connected to the local telecom network of the country you arrived to. Having a mobile safe case will provide you the convenience of storing SIM cards, Micro SD cards and other mobile tools all in one place.
14) Don’t Overpack
Pack only what you need and definite about its use, not what you think you will use. Buy anything else at your destination. Once fully packed, review everything you have and try to reduce the load a little bit more. You wouldn’t want to end up high baggage fees for accidentally exceeding the allowed weight limit.
Bonus: Buy baggage allowance on your return flight (if you have to), not for the flight you leave to your destination to.
15) Don’t Skip Travel Insurance
You can run into inconvenient and terrible situations while travelling. That’s why travel insurance is important and a must, it can cover cancellation fees, delayed departures, personal articles, emergency medical expenses if your current plan does not cover it outside your country.
I recommend World Nomads, their coverage is wonderful and can easily be extended as many times as you’d like, reporting claims is easy, and their website is user-friendly.
16) Don’t Forget To Tighten the Shampoo Caps
Shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, soap and other toiletries are very handy, until they explode open in-flight, messing up everything inside your bag. I have done this mistake more than once. Contain these items to your cosmetics bag – it will be easier to clean than all your clothes and the interior of your bag/suitcase, you also need to ensure that it’s in a waterproof case.
17) Don’t Change Money at the Airport
Many people change money at airports because they need local currency in cash when they arrive at a foreign country. Stop exchanging cash at airports unless it’s necessary, you will get better rates at downtown banks and money changers.
18) Don’t Forget To Check How to Get From the Airport Before Your Departure
You may assume that there will be a Tourist Information desk at the arrival airport, but depending on the size of the airport and how busy the environment is, there may or may not be one. And you don’t want to rely on that. If you don’t find a Tourist Information desk, how will you find the cheaper taxis and the more expensive ones? Of course, there will be public transport, but this requires prior research for you to know where to get off and how to get to your destination from where you got on the bus or train. So check the airport website in advance for transportation options, or make arrangements with your hotel or travel agent for pick up.
19) Don’t Forget To Double Check the Name of the Place You’re Going
This sounds too plain and apparent, but hear me out. When I used to work at SriLankan Airlines, customers who purchased their air tickets and need to book hotels would come to me requesting to book rooms at the Watergate. Well, there is an Amari Watergate and a Grand Watergate, and both of them are located at Petchburi Road and in the district of Pratunam.
If you are from the Maldives, you will know better, we have a Gan in Seenu atoll as well as another Gan in Laamu atoll. This is just an example and this type of mistakes are more common than you really think. So check that the place you’re going to is the place you actually want to be going to!
20) Don’t Trust the First Directions You Get From a Local
Ask more than one person for directions to the same place. If the person looks unfamiliar like looking left and right, kindly accept their help and look for more help from someone else.
21) Don’t Ignore a Local’s Advice
Get tips and advise from locals, consider them and evaluate it – maybe their advice will save you from getting robbed or help you save a couple dollars here and there.
22) Don’t Forget About Scams
Scams are an unfortunate part of everyday life everywhere in the world. People search for crooked ways to make money, at someone else’s spending, loss, and sometimes with terrible suffering. Many of these people are very smart; they know how to cheat and get away with it within loopholes of the country’s justice system.
I once got on a metered Tuk-tuk in Colombo, after a few minutes I started noticing that the meter was skyrocketing, obviously the driver had it tampered.
23) Don’t Arrive in a New Location After Dark
A new place will always be much challenging in the dark than in daylight – particularly for a solo traveler. Arrive early during the day at a new location so that you will have sufficient time to check out your accommodation to make sure that you are satisfied and if you don’t find it to your liking, you will have time to change it.
24) Don’t Rule Out Hostels
A lot of people assume hostels are dirty and for poor college students because it’s a cheap option for accommodation. It was also common stereotype misconception perpetuated on TV and classic movies. Nowadays, most hostels offer a variety of amenities, from swimming pools, billiard tables to entertainment rooms, gaming consoles, computers, and laundry, as well as guided tours, excursions, free Wi-Fi, and small private rooms with bathrooms.
25) Don’t Skip the Local Tourist Office
They provide the most up-to-date advice on current events, festivals, and off-the-beaten-path information that you will not get from any guidebook or even from a travel agent. Their job is to know everything about the destination and inform and answer tourists. Moreover, they often offer free or discounted access to museums, attractions, public transportation and sometimes free SIM cards.
26) Don’t Plan Too Much
It’s good to have a general idea about what to do in a place where you’re going. Having everything planned out from your breakfast to sleep can end up restricting you. You will not be able to see and explore the whole country in one visit. It even risks missing out places people have not written about on the internet.
27) Don’t Get Consumed By Paranoia with the Feeling of Being Unsafe or Lost
This usually happens for new travelers, and mostly the solo ones. If you have traveled to a new destination and start getting that eerie feeling of being lonely, unsafe or lost – you will have to fight that feeling on your own. Book your accommodation in a hostel, you will find other travelers in your new environment and soon blend with them. There is no such thing as ‘getting lost’ while you are traveling. You can’t be sure of all the places you will be seeing, so heading in a wrong direction isn’t much of a difference either. Every place you go when you are abroad, even unintentionally is a new experience you are adding to your encyclopedia.
28) Don’t Forget to Backup Photos and Documents
How many times have you heard of an occasion where someone lost all their travel photos because of a lost phone or a stolen camera? This is a very heartbreaking mistake, especially when memories are one of the most valuable things you get from your trips, so it’s best to avoid it. Backup photos and important documents on Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive or with any other cloud/file storage provider. Should you lose the original documents, copies can help you facilitate your identity verification and quicken the renewal process.
29) Don’t Go to the Wrong Airport or Terminal
When traveling in big cities that have more than a single, double-check your reservation to confirm the correct airport and terminal.
Kuala Lumpur International Airport has two terminals, the main terminal for the legacy carriers and klia2 terminal for the low cost carriers. A lot of people confuse KLIA and KLIA2 for two separate airports, they are not two separate airports, they are two separate terminals.
30) Don’t Stick to Guide Books and the Tourist Trail
A lot of people get themselves into the most swarmed spot of the most swarmed area in the most swarmed month (Orchard, Singapore, September) — and complain about the crowds. They dine at the most expensive street at the most chic restaurant with the most popular sales pitch in the menu, then feel disappointed with the huge bill and unsatisfied food. You will enhance your trip by wandering around the back streets and away from the tourist area. You will find better hawker food stalls full of happy Singaporeans and tourists six blocks away from Orchard.
Guidebooks are to guide you, not for you to define them. Put away the guidebooks and interact with the locals and other travelers at the destination. Tailor your own unique experiences off the beaten path; don’t re-do what others have written about and did.
31) Don’t Expose Your Valuables
Don’t carry cameras, laptops, and other expensive equipment, if you don’t need them. Many hostels offer lockers, and some leave you without a way to protect your valuables, that’s when you need a secure backpack (better if with an expandable mesh cover) that will wrap around your backpack and make it difficult to get anything in or out of it. You can also have it locked on to a bed post when you go to sleep.
32) Don’t Have All Your Money in a Single Place
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Do not carry a lot of cash and store all of it in one bag or one pocket, store them in various “safe” places.
33) Don’t Drink Tap Water
The quickest way to fall sick is by drinking unsafe and contaminated water, due to the presence of pathogenic organisms: bacteria, viruses and cysts. They are responsible for the causes of ailments and diseases such as diarrhoea, typhoid, cholera, hepatitis A – and can be present even when water looks clean and safe to drink. Stay safe and drink bottled water, and when buying bottled water check if the seal is unbroken and the water is clear.
34) Don’t Get Mad at the Foreign Country
Just because people at the country you arrived don’t do things the way you were used to, doesn’t mean they are not right. Even if you had a lousy time and were not treated up to your expectations, consider it as an experience and learn from it. You can express your frustrations if you need to, but keep in mind that you are a tourist in a foreign country.
35) Don’t Engage in a Fight with a Local
This is common sense, but it’s happening everywhere. Do not get yourself involved in a fight with a local wherever you are. You don’t want that local to bring his friends and beat you up, or even kill you.
36) Don’t Be on Your Smartphone Most of the Time
A lot of people while traveling often engage themselves with their smartphones to check their friends social media activity while their partner enjoys their meal or the view alone. You can check your Instagram or Facebook when you go back home, but the moment and view won’t be. You should capture some good photos for memories but don’t be an obsessive photographer.
37) Don’t Cancel Your Booking Unless Necessary
Many airlines charge a fee for alterations to the itinerary and a fare difference, if seats on the same fare are not available, which were when you first paid for it. If you do not cancel your booking or do not show up for your flight, the airline considers you a “no-show” passenger, and if you decide to re-book after no-show, you might be asked to pay a no-show penalty, which is usually expensive. The airlines impose this rule to make sure their planes remain full and to protect their revenue structure.
38) Don’t Forget to Carry Snacks and Organic Food
Traveling can make you hungry and tired, whether by plane, train, automobile or ferry, here are some healthy foods to pack to help you eat well and stay healthy during your trip. You can’t beat packets of instant organic plain oatmeal along with a baggie filled with dried fruits. Bananas, fruit bars, nut bars, protein bars and other shelf-stable goodies are also healthy options.
39) Don’t Forget to Carry a Hand Sanitizer in Your Carry On
You will often visit public toilets and planes while traveling, these places are filled with millions of germs and bacteria. One of the best ways to clean your hands is washing them with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds and it rinses away the microbes. If you don’t have access to them, the next best thing is an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that usually contains a minimum of 60 percent alcohol (typically listed as ethyl alcohol—available in gels, foams, sprays, and wipes, and convenient since they don’t require water). It kills most (not all) bacteria and viruses on contact. Carry a small bottle with you when you’re on the go.
40) Don’t Dwell on Your Mistakes
If you fall victim to any of these mistakes, don’t get upset or demotivated; use them as a learning experience. I made many of them, and they have helped me grow and learn as a traveler. Everyone makes mistakes and the best gift you can give yourself is not to dwell on them, instead learn from them now so that you don’t repeat them. They can be good stories to share with friends and family.