There’s nothing you can do about a delayed flight or uncooperative weather, but you can ensure you’re as prepared as possible if your adventure becomes a misadventure. Seasoned travellers can sail through snafus like a Hollywood starlet shaking off a prison sentence.
Above are 15 common beginner travel mistakes. These aren’t the kind of small slips that make a funny story later. These are the miscalculations that cost you time, money, sanity, and dignity. Stick to our guidelines and you’ll have a trip that’s leisurely, stress-free, and unforgettable.
Because no one wants to come home feeling like they need a vacation from the vacation they just took.
Racking Up Roaming Charges
It's essential to know what your mobile phone plan covers to avoid roaming fees. If you aren't covered abroad, turn off your data before you get on the plane and leave your phone in airplane mode (the battery will last longer and you’ll still be able to connect to wi-fi). Look into buying a local SIM card if you can't bear the thought of disconnecting.
Relying On Credit Cards
Plastic may be popular at home, but cash is often king in other countries. Although it seems like a no-brainer to charge your travels to Visa (after all, it's convenient and offers fraud protection), many foreign business only deal in cash. Have backup money in your wallet at all times in case your credit card is a no-go.
Not Checking Visa Requirements
A valid passport may only be part of the equation. Some countries require your passport to be valid for a certain period of time past your departure. Others require a visa in addition to your passport (and the amount of time it takes to get one can vary drastically). Do your research and get the proper paperwork done well before you go.
Pack versatile clothing and streamline your grooming routine when you're on the road. Not only does it save you from schlepping cumbersome bags around for the entirety of your trip, it also means avoiding exorbitant overweight baggage fees. You can always do laundry or buy something you're missing at your destination.
Buying Edible Souvenirs
Kitschy keychains won't ruffle feathers at the airport, but that pineapple from your trip to the tropics? That's a surefire way to get yourself detained at customs. Fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as animal products and by-products, are often forbidden from crossing between countries. Check the list of restrictions imposed by your country before bridging borders.
Forgetting To Tell Your Bank
Fraud protection is a wonderful thing... until you fail to warn your bank about your travel plans and find yourself stranded, cashless, in a foreign country. To avoid your card being suspended for “suspicious” charges overseas, call your bank beforehand so they can make note of the places you'll be visiting and the dates you'll be gone.
Underestimating Jet Lag
Jet lag seems trivial when you're in a familiar time zone, but the struggle is all too real when you touch down in your destination. Plan accordingly. Brush up on strategies to reduce the effects of trans-time zone travel and don't expect too much of yourself for the first few days of a trip. If you can be flexible, extend your holiday to account for the lost time.
Speaking Only Your Native Language
Talking in your native tongue – only louder – makes you look like a tourist. And not just any tourist, but a colossal idiot of a tourist. There's no need to pass a fluency test in the local language, but learning a few key words and phrases saves time, earns brownie points, and opens the door to more authentic experiences.
Neglecting To Check Business Hours
There are few things more disappointing than taking your starving stomach out for a meal only to discover that everything is closed. Brush up on native business practices as soon as you arrive (your hotel or Airbnb host can help). Note when establishments typically open and close, and if there are any holidays during your stay.
Sticking To The Tour Bus
Unless you're in a band, you don't belong on a tour bus. Most organised tours are boring, uninspired, and a waste of the money you could be blowing on more meaningful experiences. Spend the bare minimum time on touristy stuff, then scour sites like Spotted By Locals and TripAdvisor for insider tips and unique activities.
Exchanging Currency At The Airport
Currency exchanges located in airports are notorious for overcharging. Check rates at your local bank before you leave for better deals, or skip the extra trip and find a cash machine in the arrival airport. Just be sure to confirm foreign transaction fees with your bank before you accidentally spend next month's rent on withdrawals.
Overlooking The Locals
Guidebooks are a good start, but they're inherently limited. The best way to see a city is through the eyes of its locals. Talk to the people who call that place home. They can direct you to its most interesting sights and best food, offer tips on saving money, and maybe save you from becoming victim to a scam.
Forgetting To Budget
We're hardly averse to holiday splurging, but it's foolhardy to play fast and loose with finances just because you're on foreign soil. Create a realistic budget that allows breathing room for unexpected expenses and occasional splashing out. If it feels like a restriction, think about how restricted you'll feel if you run out of funds.
Being Culturally Ignorant
What do you know about the culture and customs at your destination? A little research before you leave can save you from unintentionally embarrassing yourself or offending someone else. It's important to be respectful of local etiquette, and having an open mind will help you absorb the culture in a more interactive way.
You were taught that ambition is a good thing, and it is – sometimes. When you're travelling, too many plans are a burden. Make time for one big thing a day and be flexible about the rest. You’ll be less rushed, less stressed, and you'll leave room for the spontaneous decisions can be the most magical and memorable parts of your trip.