Travel Mistakes can be very expensive or deadly, all of us writers are always giving you advice on what you should do during your travels. “You should definitely pack this!” Or “you absolutely must visit this place!” However, avoiding common travel mistakes that will make your trip and vacation feel more like work is something that doesn’t come up a lot. And honestly, it should. There are tons of travel mistakes that we’re all guilty of that can lead to extra costs, lost time, and some sorely missed opportunities. Once again, it’s easier to tell you where to go and what to do than it is to tell you what exactly to avoid.
While you’re probably familiar with some of the age-old travel wisdom like book early, use traveler’s checks, and shop around most of these aren’t even relevant anymore given the digital age. Even if you decide to go on a mini vacation with two days notice to a popular tourist spot during peak travel season, you’re not going to struggle too much with finding a place to stay thanks to websites like Airbnb. “Back in the day” this would have been a problem but now, not so much. Traveler’s checks also used to be a must-have but with currency exchange sites and ATMs that are able to exchange your currency, they’ve become a thing of the past. Checking airline fees on a public browser is also travel mistakes that a lot of people either don’t know or don’t believe.
So how do we prevent these travel mistakes and others from flying under the radar? How do you avoid them and better yet, how do you even know what they are? Well, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most overlooked travel mistakes that can cost you big. By avoiding the list we’ve provided, you’ll spend more time enjoying your vacation and less time nursing that travel mistakes headache:
1. Don’t Skip Travel Insurance
We get it. You’re trying to cut corners to maximize your vacation without spending more than you need to. And one of the corners that usually gets cut is travel insurance. Most people assume that is just another way for companies to skim you out of your money but honestly, travel insurance should be mandatory. While the fees can be a bit high, keep in mind that travel is unpredictable. You never know what’s going to happen during your trip. You could break a bone, lose a valuable item, deal with lost luggage and an airline company unwilling to do anything, or have to flee a destination because of a natural disaster.
Without travel insurance, you’re at the mercy of your own bank account and if something is lost, it’s on you to deal with the company responsible. And if you’ve ever tried to get back lost luggage from an airline company then you know how big of a pain this can be. Travel insurance protects you, especially when you’re overseas. Going to the hospital can be a huge expense, especially since overseas hospitals tend to charge tourists more and don’t expect them to take your American health insurance either. This can be big out of pocket expenses.
So for some peace of mind and the safety of your wallet, spend the extra bucks to get travel insurance. If something happens, you’ll be glad you did.
2. Don’t Book Your Trip too Early
It’s easy to get excited about the thought of your trip and if you’re at work, it can be incredibly tempting to start booking everything immediately. After all, it starts to feel “real” once you pick your hotel, flight, and start putting everything together. However unless you’re planning on leaving in a few days or a week, you shouldn’t book your travel expenses early. And while it’s definitely tempting to scoop up that hotel or Airbnb that only has one availability for the week of your travel and there are 100 other people checking out the same dates and place as you don’t get lured in. This is how these companies rope you in and you’ll end up paying far more for the same accommodations that you could have snagged on sale if you’d waited. So be patient!
So when should you book? Personally we suggest waiting three or four months before your trip to book your flight. This is when airline companies begin to lower and raise their prices based on current demand. For tour groups and cruises, wait until the last minute. Even if it’s a popular cruise ship, chances are there are still going to be cabins available and the ship will offer some serious discounts last minute in order to fill them. You can also score some coveted ocean view rooms for a fraction of the cost this way.
3. Don’t Bypass the Tourist Center
Admittedly, this is one we were guilty of for a long time. Once your plane lands and your vacation starts, you’re ready to start exploring and diving in. This usually means skipping the tourist center and going straight to the action. And you guessed it- this is a huge travel mistakes! The tourist center should be your first stop on any trip. They can clue you to current events, festivals, and hidden information that you won’t find in the guidebooks. And if you’re looking for that “living like a local” experience, they can help you out by pointing out all the hot destinations that the locals frequent.
The tourism office can also help you find some killer deals. If you’ve spotted a local concert that you want to check out but the prices are too high, talk to the tourist center. They might have discount cards or know a way to slash those prices. The office can also let you know about some serious sales and discounts on things you want to do or places you want to visit in the city. So if you’re looking to save money and find some unique things to do, make this your first stop.
4. Don’t Fill Your Time by Taking Tons of Pictures
You’re on vacation, you’re seeing tons of cool stuff and your first thought is probably “I should document this so that I’ll remember and also so that my friends on social media can see what’s up!” Don’t do this. We’re not telling you to avoid taking pictures altogether, but we are cautioning you to not overdo it. You can end up missing some really cool stuff and if you’re always on your phone looking for the best shot and hashtag, you’re also missing out on your vacation. You’re here to relax, unwind, and make some memories. You don’t need 50 pictures of the sunset over the beach waters to remember it. Chances are, that image will be in your head forever so take a few shots but then get back to the action.
So in other words, don’t get so wrapped in finding the perfect angle of you standing are great, but the memories you create outside of your phone will be even better.
5. Don’t Book a Short Layover
This probably sounds counterintuitive, but bear with us. While sitting at the airport is probably the last thing you want to do on your vacation, we highly recommend avoiding flights with really short layover times. It’s tempting to think about getting to your vacation spot that much faster, but you can really screw yourself over with these short layovers. If you have a limited amount of time (IE just enough time to snatch your bags and run to the next gate), then you’re not giving yourself enough time for setbacks. For example, how many times have you stood for what felt like hours at the luggage carousel waiting for your stuff to show up? How many times has the airline had issues getting the luggage out on time?
Also, what happens if your first flight is delayed? This happens a lot and if you don’t have ample time between flights, you could easily miss your second one. Obviously this translates to lost money since you’ll lose out on the cost of that flight and need to book a new one, but you’ll also be out valuable time. Because of this, we highly suggest finding a layover that’s at least 90 minutes. While you might end up killing time at the gate, it’ll be worth it just in case the unavoidable happens.
6. Don’t Leave Your Credit Card Company in the Dark
This advice also applies to your bank. Before you leave on vacation, you’ll want to notify both your bank and your credit card provider that you’re traveling. Nothing can slow you down faster than trying to make a purchase only to have your card declined because your bank or credit card company thinks you’re a victim of fraud. This can mean stepping out of line and calling your bank or credit card (hello overseas cell fees) and letting them know. This takes valuable time out of your vacation so plan ahead! Let them know before you leave.
You’ll also want to tell them where you’re traveling. Most banks and credit card companies can make a note on your account with this information. While you might not think it’s important to let them know, it can help protect you from fraud while you’re out. If you tell your bank that you’re traveling overseas but not where, they’ll clear purchases that go through other countries; including ones that you aren’t currently visiting. While this is unlikely to happen, you can be a victim of fraud anywhere at any time. By letting your bank know where you’ll be, they can filter out possible fraudulent purchases in other areas.
7. Don’t Overbook Yourself
You have a limited amount of time at your vacation destination and you want to make the most of it. You want to see everything you possibly can and attend every single event so you jam pack your calendar with stuff to do. Even your meals are planned around your activities! While this probably sounds great, it can also make your trip incredibly stressful. You might get so caught up in trying to do it all that you forget to really take your time and enjoy yourself. Let’s say that you’re visiting your dream destination. You want to see all the sites! Since you have a limited amount of time there, you plan to be at each location for about an hour. This means that if all goes well (no delays), you’ll only be spending a set amount of time at each spot. So if you fall in love with a location and want to spend more time there, you’ll be stuck either leaving early or sacking another spot to free up more time. This translates to a lot of unnecessary stress!
So pick some things you really want to see, but let the trip unfold naturally. You’ll enjoy yourself far more! Plus, you’ll be allowing yourself some down time that can end up being very much needed after a long day of site seeing.
8. Don’t Check Your Medicine and Other Necessities/Valuables
This probably sounds counter-intuitive as well. You want your medicine and other items that you need with you on your trip, right? Right! But checking them isn’t the best idea. They can easily get lost or mishandled, which can lead to some serious consequences and unpleasantries. Plus, it’s a hassle and a half! The safest and best place for these items is to stay in your carry-on. This way, it’s easily reached but you aren’t in danger of having it stolen, lost or tampered with. The last thing that you want is for something you need to not make it to the same destination as you.
Keep in mind that this doesn’t just apply to your medication or other things that you need on hand. You should also keep your iPad, phone, expensive jewelry and any other item(s) of value on your carry-on. This insures that you know where it is at all times and prevents theft and damage.
9. Don’t Leave Your Valuables Unsecured
Once you leave the airport and enter your hotel room, it can be tempting to just set down your luggage and start exploring the city. If you’re on a cruise, you might be tempted to drag your suitcase into your room and hit the pool. Or maybe you’ll go exploring instead of waiting for them to drop off your luggage at your room. Don’t! Your cruise service will not bring your baggage into your room; it’s left at your door instead. This means that any other passenger in the hall can swipe your suitcases. So even though it takes a bit of time for your stuff to arrive, you should definitely wait on it.
You should also secure or hide your valuables. Most rooms, including ship cabins, have a safe where you can store your expensive items. Don’t assume that housekeeping and others who enter your room are going to be honest. Keep your stuff put up and out of sight.
10. Don’t Over Pack
Obviously you want some options for your trip, but you don’t want to over pack either. Not only is hauling your overloaded luggage through the airport or to your hotel a pain in the butt, but re-packing all of your mess can be time consuming when you’re getting ready to head home. And if you’re planning on checking your bags, this can be a big issue since over packing means that you could easily tip the airline’s weight limit.
You can prevent this by planning out what you’re going to wear for your vacation. Make sure to also include one or two extra shirts and a pair of extra socks and underwear but don’t go overboard. Most of the clothes, even the outfits you planned, will probably still go unworn. And if you’re worried about wearing something that’s gotten dirty, chances are your hotel or cruise ship has a way of cleaning it for you.
Bonus mistake to avoid:
Not Checking Reviews
This is probably something you do already for cruises and hotels/Airbnbs, but you should also extend it to other aspects of your travel as well. If you’re thinking of going on a particular excursion via your cruise ship, check out what others have said about it on TripAdvisor. Just because the title, description, and pictures make it look super appealing doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy yourself. People might have had a bad experience with it because the guide was less than friendly or maybe you don’t get as much time as they advertised. You want to make the most of your vacation, so check the reviews!
Also, check the reviews on restaurants before you try them. Just because the place looks and smells good from the outside doesn’t mean you’ll have a good experience. People might have discovered that they severely overpaid for the same quality of food that they could have gotten a few streets down. So learn from their mistakes and travel savvy!