We’ve all made mistakes when it comes to travelling, from misreading flight times to packing too much stuff and missing out on the best deals. Here we’ve rounded up some of the most common blunders and how to avoid them.
▪ OUTDATED PASSPORTS AND IDENTIFICATION
The number one mistake that people make is failing to look at the dates their passport is effective. You can’t get out of the airport without having a valid passport for international travel, and it can be expensive to pay for rush processing on your passport. Make sure you check on the valid dates for your passport several months before travel so that you can get the renewals processed if you need them. It’s also important to remember that your passport needs to be valid until the date you re-enter the country, not just the date you leave. That seems like obvious information, but again, even the obvious can slip up when you are dealing with complex travel plans.
▪ HAVING AN OVER-AMBITIOUS ITINERARY
Be flexible; don’t be afraid to change your plans due to weather or money shortage. Be aware of the time it takes to get from “A” to “B” (not by distance, but by travel method: car, bus, train, etc).
Factor additional time for possible delays as well as extra time to rest. Remember, you don’t need to see the whole country in one visit; planning to do so will make you feel unaccomplished.
▪ FORGETTING THE BUDGET AND RUNNING OUT OF MONEY
You should consider your budget as a way to experience the place more creatively and more authentically; not as a restriction. Create a realistic budget you can stick to and allow some breathing room for unexpected expenses.
If traveling long-term, schedule weekly transfers from your savings to your checking (like a paycheck), so you know exactly what you are allowed to spend.
▪ NOT DOUBLE-CHECKING YOUR DOCUMENTS AND BOOKINGS FOR ERRORS
One of the easiest ways to ensure a smooth journey is by checking your flight time, date and terminal, with enough time to correct mistakes. It’s no use finding out you mistook 18:00 for 8pm or Terminal A for Terminal B, after heading to the wrong place at the wrong time. Copy details down in your diary as soon as you’ve booked and be clear on when and where you’re heading from the start. Double-check your documents and reservations for everything from hotels, flights, trains, buses, etc. Always corroborate the time and location, and make sure they are scheduled correctly. Also, check that your name is correctly spelled on your flight reservation.
▪ FORGETTING TO BUY TRAVEL INSURANCE
It’s not the most exciting part of booking your holiday, but it’s still essential. Go away without insurance and you could face hefty medical bills if disaster strikes. Or you’ll end up out of pocket if a natural disaster gets in the way of travel plans.
Spending those extra few dollars will give you the benefit of feeling more secure in case something happens (lost baggage, trip delay or cancellation, medical emergency, etc.).
You might think that traveling is safe enough that you don’t need extra coverage because of existing insurance policies you have, but you need to check to make sure those policies cover travel related issues, and you will also want to see what kinds of additional travel riders you can add. Alternately, you can conveniently purchase travel insurance through a broker who specializes in it to make sure you have the coverage you need on your trip without having to adjust your entire insurance plan.
▪ FORGETTING TO NOTIFY YOUR CREDIT CARD COMPANIES
Paying for currency exchange in country can be expensive, but when you use your credit cards, the exchange rate is calculated for you and charged properly in your home currency. If your card allows for cash advances, these can also be used as a way to sidestep the fees that come from exchanging your money. Many credit cards are wary of foreign activity on an account, though, and that can lead to automatic activity suspensions that complicate your travel. The best way to get around this is by letting your credit card providers know that you will be traveling and where you will be traveling. You might even find out that there are rewards and other perks for travelers that you didn’t know about! Some higher end cards have even been known to offer special pricing deals on travel insurance, too, so this step could be a major help to your planning process.
▪ NOT READING REVIEWS
Avoid arriving at a destination and not knowing what to do by at least doing a small Google search. Get information about possible things to do and interesting history of the place. The more research you do in advance and the more you know; the more chances you have to enjoy the place.
Read the reviews for valuable insight into which are the best (and worst) rooms, as well as handy pointers about things like pool temperature. After all, there’s no point in forking out for that turquoise infinity pool if it’s too chilly to swim in. Make sure you check out travellers’ photos too – the reality might look markedly different to the cleverly marketed website.
▪ DRINKING TOO MUCH
Avoid starting your holiday with a hangover by taking it easy and drinking plenty of water. Drink in moderation and find other ways to relieve stress and have fun! Drinking too much will not only suck all your money, but it will also put you at a higher risk of getting robbed or injured.
▪ PACKING TOO MUCH STUFF
When you know you will be far away from home for a long period of time, it’s easy to convince yourself that you need to travel heavy to make sure you are ready for any situation. Often, travelers bring clothes for any weather, including inclement weather, along with a number of other personal aides that they don’t absolutely need.
Next time, lighten your load by laying out your packing, then cutting the quantity in half. Be realistic about what footwear you really need and decant toiletries into smaller bottles.
▪ LIVING BY THE GUIDEBOOK
When it comes to getting an overview of your destination, guidebooks can be invaluable, but try not to rely on them entirely or you might find yourself missing out. For the most current information on what’s hot and what’s not, chat to locals and other travellers. The chances are a new café or attraction will have opened since your guide went to print.
Guidebooks are made to inform your travels, not to define them. Put the guidebook down and interact with other travelers and people at the destination. Allow yourself to explore and use on your own initiative; there is a lot more to a place than what is in any guidebook.
▪ BEING CULTURALLY INSENSITIVE
Try to understand the culture and the surrounding in which you are traveling. Having an open mind will help you blend better, enjoy and absorb the culture in a more interactive way, and avoid insulting them unintentionally.
To get the most out of your tours, you need to be proactive with your planning to make sure you have the right resources, and you need to be open to adding and improvising when you are in-country to make sure you grab the chance to try as much as possible while you are abroad. That way, you can make your trip into a memorable and personal experience that you treasure for years to come.