Top 17 Most Common Travel Mistakes To Avoid

Usually, you must have heard people talking about how bad their vacation was and how much money they wasted while traveling. Such common travel mistakes could turn a potentially memorable experience into a nightmare. Traveling abroad always requires some planning ahead.

The idea that travel is an adventure is one of the oldest clichés in the book. But, it’s a cliché because it’s true. And, on adventures, things go wrong. Often.

I’ve made so many mistakes while on the road that it would be impossible to recount them all. I’ve worn the wrong footwear on hikes and had blisters as big as my heel. I’ve been pickpocketed not once but twice. I’ve taken a metro in the wrong direction a dozen times. The mistakes never end.

But that’s also what I love about travel: the constant sense of exploration, trial, and error, and sketching out new terrain on your mental map.

In this post, I will reveal some of the most common mistakes new travelers make and how you can easily avoid them. So, without further ado let’s get into it (:

common travel mistakes

In a hurry?

Here are the most common travel mistakes to avoid to make your trip enjoyable:

  • Overpacking
  • Forgetting To Get Local Currency
  • Not Budgeting Your Trip
  • Using A Third Party To Organize Your Travel
  • Not Knowing About The Culture
  • Not Getting Travel Insurance
  • Forgetting To Switch Mobile Plan
  • Not Talking To Your Bank Before Traveling
  • Not Carrying The Important Documents
  • Not Carrying Essential Medication
  • Underestimating Time Required For Security
  • Carrying Too Many Valuables
  • Not Learning Any Local Phrases
  • Living On Social Media During Your Holiday
  • Leaving Belongings On Modes Of Transport
  • Not Checking Weather Forecast
  • Forgetting About Time Zone Differences

The 17 Common Travel Mistakes & How to Avoid Them (Explained)

For an unforgettable trip. Here are some of the most common travel mistakes you should avoid:

1. Overpacking

Overpacking is a common issue for many travelers. It may be tempting to bring everything you need for your trip, but lugging around a heavy suitcase can be inconvenient and even prevent you from fully enjoying your vacation.

There are several reasons why you should stop overpacking. To begin with, carrying a heavy suitcase is inconvenient, especially if you are taking public transportation or walking to your hotel. Overpacking can also be costly, as many airlines charge fees for checked bags.

By packing less, you can save money on these fees and avoid the risk of lost luggage.

Overpacking can also be restrictive, as you may have to leave some belongings in your hotel room while exploring. This can be inconvenient and frustrating. Packing less gives you more freedom to go out and do things without being burdened by your belongings.

One of the most important ways to avoid overpacking is to plan your outfits. Before packing, think about the activities you will be doing on your trip and plan your outfits accordingly. This will help you pack only the clothes and accessories you need and avoid overpacking items you won’t wear.

Because the weather at your destination may change unexpectedly, bring a few layers that can be added or removed. A lightweight jacket, cardigan, scarf, or pair of leggings may be appropriate. You should also plan your clothes and color scheme, which can help you mix and match your clothes to maximize your options.

When packing, accessories are put on the back burner. Aside from the weight issue they might pose, you also want to avoid taking any chances by leaving a huge bulk of them in your bags that might attract the wrong pair of eyes.

Classic pieces that go with any style and outfit are your best bet, or if you really must bring several pieces with you, consider packing them in your carry-on instead.

When you do not overpack, it all comes down to thinking about how and what you pack. Putting a little extra time in on the front of your trip can save you money — and headaches — during your travels and help make that vacation feel like an actual vacation.

2. Forgetting To Get Local Currency

Traveling to a different country requires getting their local currency to buy anything. This is very important to remember before you enter your destination country. You need the local currency to pay for your transport, buy food, book hotels, or buy souvenirs.

Once you arrive at the airport, it is essential to remember to change your native currency into the local currency. There have been many instances where travelers must remember to carry the local money and pay using their credit cards.

This ended up being a costly affair due to the high-interest rates. Even using your credit card to withdraw money from an ATM in a different country would be very costly.

There would be many places where credit cards might not work. Such places are the local markets, cabs, small shops, etc. Countries such as India, Thailand, and Morocco require you to carry cash while surfing the local streets for locally produced goods.

Airports and hotels notoriously upcharge tourists with additional fees and expensive exchange rates. Don’t fall victim to extra fees just because exchanging money at the airport is convenient.

When planning your trip, take the time to order foreign currency from your local bank. Not all banks keep foreign cash on hand, so budget a couple of extra weeks for the money to arrive at your bank.

This may not be the most time-efficient tip, but you’ll get the latest exchange rate and avoid high fees from airports or hotels.

If you do your due diligence, you may only need a little cash for your vacation. Even though it can be tempting to go overboard and exchange all your vacation money for the local currency, you may find it unnecessary.

Do a little research beforehand about the local culture and see what places only accept cash. For example, street vendors and small merchants may prefer payment in pesos in many areas across Mexico. However, in many European countries, many businesses only accept credit cards.

3. Not Budgeting Your Trip

Many travelers have experienced a scenario where they were completely out of money while traveling to famous destinations. Such unplanned trips might create havoc on your finances and savings.

The best practice is to budget your per-day cost of living in a tourist destination. Getting the correct information about food, transportation, accommodation, and shopping costs can take a lot of work.

However, there are enough resources on the internet to give you an excellent idea of how much budget you would need when you travel to a particular city.

Another best practice is holding on to impulsive buying until the last few days of your vacation. If you have some local currency left in the last days of your vacation, you can decide to spend it as per your needs.

Impulsive buying is necessary to know your budget to avoid much stress on your finances.

To learn more techniques of budgeting, I recommend you check out my previous article in which I revealed some effective tips to travel on a low budget.

4. Using A Third Party To Organize Your Travel

When buying plane tickets, using a third-party website or service to find the best deal can be tempting. While these websites can be a convenient way to compare prices and book flights, they can also come with hidden fees and other drawbacks. For example, less flexibility with any changes needed.

Suppose you have dealt with customer service after booking a flight through a third party. In that case, your experience was much like most: grueling and unhelpful.

If you have an issue with your flight — delays, cancellations, or weather problems — an airline will solve the problem directly, whereas a third party likely won’t.

Aside from the lack of useful customer service, third-party sites don’t have the same coverage an airline would if anything happens to your flight. Fees can be more expensive and not as accommodating to the customer.

If something goes wrong, for instance, a flight cancellation. You will need to re-book your flight, the airline will have you go through your original purchase method for help. As just stated, these companies don’t have the best customer service.

However, suppose you’ve booked through the airline directly. In that case, they will immediately work to accommodate you and get you on the next available flight to your destination.

So what should you do instead?

Booking your flights or hotels directly is often the best option to avoid potential issues. This helps ensure your bookings are legitimate and you don’t incur additional unexpected costs.

Purchasing direct can also make it easier to resolve any issues that may arise – like having to repurchase flights last minute because you can’t make changes outside of their suggested timeframes.

Be sure to do your research on the airline’s policies, such as flight cancellations, delays, and lost baggage, as you wouldn’t want to end up needing to incur extra costs if anything changes!

5. Not knowing about the Culture

Unsurprisingly, the world is full of different cultures based on various ideologies. This cultural diversity is what adds attraction to a foreign land. This is one of the reasons people travel so they can experience something different than their own culture.

However, before traveling to a foreign country, you should learn more about the local laws and cultural practices the people practice. You should keep an open mind while traveling to a new place.

There might be events or situations to which you might not agree to. Local traditions and customs may go against your belief system. However, being offensive to the local culture intentionally will not be appreciated.

Diversity can be defined as “the state or quality of having many different forms, types, ideas, etc.” This is an important factor you should understand about your destination before traveling because it affects everything from their daily lives and activities to some specific traditions they practice.

If you’re visiting an Asian country, for example, it’s best to know some of its cultural diversity. This can help you understand why certain things are done the way they are in that part of the world, helping you appropriately interact with the locals.

When traveling to a new destination, you must do your homework beforehand. Make sure you understand the country’s culture before you go and talk to others who have traveled there for advice on what vaccinations or other medical precautions are necessary.

Figure out if there’s anything in particular that interests you so that when planning your trip with an expert, they can offer activities suited for people like yourself. It is also essential to pack appropriately. All these are geared towards ensuring that you have a better travel experience.

6. Not Getting Travel Insurance

You’ve got your tickets, checked your passport, and sorted your holiday money. The camper van is packed, and you’re all set for your next big trip. Not so fast, though! What about your travel insurance policy?

Regardless of how carefully we plan, several things must be corrected while traveling, especially exposing us to unfamiliar terrain. The cost of a medical emergency that we had not budgeted for may cause financial hardship, turning the entire vacation experience into a nightmare.

This is when travel insurance comes in handy. It provides coverage for medical emergencies.

Travel insurance, also called trip cancellation insurance, is a type of insurance coverage that can provide some financial protection if a traveler experiences a covered emergency.

Covered emergencies vary by policy but may include problems such as injuries, illnesses, lost luggage, unexpected trip interruptions, and trip cancellations.

You may need to cancel your trip arrangements from time to time. What are the odds you won’t be able to take the trip you’ve planned for months? You may have requested time off work, scheduled everything perfectly, and completed all the documentation.

However, factors are beyond your control. Having travel insurance means that you can use trip cancellation coverage if something unexpected happens, you may get your money back or reschedule your vacation. Travel insurance serves as a safety net.

You can be reimbursed for lost, stolen, or damaged baggage or personal things with personal baggage coverage in travel insurance.

When your bag goes missing, travel insurance comes in handy. Suppose baggage is delayed or misdirected by a common carrier for 24 hours or longer. In that case, baggage delay benefits may pay you for the reasonable extra purchase of essential items during your trip.

Based on the restrictions in your insurance policy, baggage loss or damage benefits can compensate you for the total price, actual cash worth, repair, or replacement of your lost or damaged things, whichever is less.

One of the reasons individuals seek travel insurance is the fear of having to cancel their trip and losing the money they’ve already paid for it. Life is unpredictable, and you never know what will happen between when you arrange a vacation and when you leave.

Note: When choosing a policy, consider which types of events are covered by the policy, the reputation of the travel insurance company, the cost of the policy versus the cost of the trip, the allowable upgrades, and more.

Some companies allow travelers to customize their coverage by allowing them to upgrade their base plan to cover additional events. This means travelers can focus their insurance coverage in areas where they feel their trip presents the most risk.

7. Forgetting To Switch Mobile Plan

If you plan to travel internationally, making sure your mobile phone plan will work for your destination is important. Sorting this out early can also save you the time and stress of worrying about it during your trip.

Depending on your plan, you may be charged ridiculous fees for making calls, sending texts, or using data abroad.

So how can you avoid this?

Switch to a travel-friendly phone plan, such as an international roaming or pay-as-you-go plan. However, these costs could add up and be more expensive.

Also, you can purchase a new SIM card in your destination country, which can be a cheaper way to stay connected while traveling. This can help you call local cabs, use local apps to make reservations, or call any acquaintances you may have in your destination country.

Just be sure to research your options and compare prices to find the best deal, plus make sure you’re not signing up for a plan that will continue after your trip.

You likely will find that going for a local plan is cheaper once abroad. This especially depends on your destination. For example, you can get an unlimited data sim card in Thailand for just $30 over four months.

Mind you, the best way to scout the best cell phone plans for international travel before you arrive would be to join ex-pat community groups on Facebook or any social media group based in your destination city.

You can use the search function to find relevant information on SIM cards and travel cell phone plans to compare and contrast prices before you take off.

8. Not Talking To Your Bank

You’ve packed your suitcase, planned your itinerary, and checked into your flight. Surely you’ve done everything necessary to prepare for your vacation, right?

One small but crucial step that people often need to remember before traveling abroad is notifying the bank. One main problem foreign tourists need help with is getting their debit cards canceled.

The bank usually considers using the debit card beyond the borders of the customer’s residence country a security risk. To avoid this, they block all transactions done from the debit card outside of your country.

When you let your bank know you’re leaving, they add a record to your account and share it with their fraud detection system. This prevents your “abnormal” spending patterns from triggering a block on your card.

Every bank works a little differently. If you already use online banking, there’s likely an online travel notice where you can enter your destination and the length of your trip. If you’ve got multiple countries on your itinerary, you can also specify that.

If you don’t have online banking, call your bank to set up a travel alert on your account. You can also speak with a representative face-to-face in a branch.

Holidays are a time to focus on desires outside work and home, whether sightseeing or merely taking a break from the 9-to-5 grind. The last thing you want to worry about when you are away is dealing with money stress.

While this step is less fun than planning your vacation itinerary, spending a few minutes out of your schedule tying up this loose end may make the actual trip infinitely more enjoyable.

common travel issues

9. Not Carrying The Important Documents

When people find themselves far away from their homes and in new countries and locations, it is important to adhere to the laws of the foreign land and carry ID and some papers in case of emergency.

Several documents are essential for a safe, smooth trip. However, the documents to carry vary depending on the trip one is planning and the countries involved.

It is important to understand the documents required for each journey. Here are some of the most important documents to carry when traveling:

  • Passport
  • Travel Visa
  • Driver’s License
  • Identification Documents
  • Travel Itinerary Plan
  • Travel Insurance Certificate
  • Air Tickets
  • Children’s Birth Certificate
  • Tickets to Events
  • Vaccination Certificates

In some countries, you might not need some of the documents I mentioned above. So it all depends on your next travel destination.

Therefore, it’s crucial that you do some research beforehand, and watch some Youtube videos of people who have been there you will definitely learn some tips you didn’t know.

10. Not Carrying Essential Medication

Suppose you wish to travel to a country you know very little about. It is best to expect that there will be situations where you may contract some infection or disease.

It is always best to do a lot of research on your tourist destination and what are the potential risks of getting allergies, infections, or diseases.

An example of a popular case of ‘Delhi Belly’ is when foreign tourists visit India and eat foods with spices they are not used to. This may cause many tourists to experience digestion and stomach-related issues.

Someone who has researched this common issue will most likely carry all the necessary medication to help them combat the infection. Some other common risks, such as Typhoid, can also be avoided if you are properly prepared before your journey.

11. Underestimating Time Required For Security

Too many travelers have missed flights because they didn’t give themselves enough time to get through security. Nothing sends the blood pressure skyrocketing like watching your flight time creep up while you stand helplessly in the queue.

In most cases, you should arrive at the airport three hours before an international flight departs. If you’re traveling at a busy time of year (such as school holidays), expect longer lines than usual. It never hurts to be early for your trip, so you can find a spot in the airport lounge to relax ahead of your flight.

So next time you travel, make sure to be presented at the airport hours before the flight departs to avoid missing it or any other unexpected issues.

12. Carrying Too Many Valuables

When you carry expensive jewelry, cameras, and other pricey items, you may attract the attention of pickpockets. Even if theft isn’t a problem at your travel destination, it’s too easy to lose things while traveling, so it’s best to leave any irreplaceable items at home.

However, if you need to carry some valuables, make sure you do it mindfully. Consider bringing a jacket with zip pockets or a bum bag to carry your cash and credit cards.

Remove any items from your wallet or purse ahead of travel, such as loyalty cards or work passes. Extra cards will make your wallet fatter, which could attract the notice of thieves.

It’s important never to leave your items unattended, as this could mean you wouldn’t be covered if they were stolen.

13. Not Learning Any Local Phrases

You can feel completely helpless in a new place without a few local phrases. Even worse, the locals may not be willing to help you if you don’t try to learn to say things like “thank you” and “please” in the local language.

Most people would agree that learning the local language of a destination often makes for a better experience. You can easily get by in many crowd-favorite countries with only English.

And yes, more often than not, locals are quite welcoming and accommodating to foreigners who don’t speak their native tongue. But wouldn’t it be better when you don’t have to worry so much about miscommunication, especially in a place where English is not widely spoken?

Learning the basics of the target language before traveling to another country can make all the difference for travelers who want to take their discovery experiences to the next level.

Communicating with natives in their language is an eye-opening experience. It can truly make you feel like one of them. After all, isn’t that the most authentic way of exploring a new country?

Learning a new language is often challenging. And while you don’t have to be a fluent speaker by the time of your trip, knowing at least the basic terms and phrases would be a huge difference.

I am not saying you must master the language, But at least you should know basic local phrases such as “Thank you”, “Please”, “How much is this?”, “where is the toilet?”, “Is this spicy?”, “what’s your name?”, “Nice to meet you” and so on.

To help you even more, it would be better if you use a fun way of learning like a language app or watching a Youtube channel because those ways are much more effective than traditional boring learning methods.

If you’re an introvert, then don’t forget to check out my previous article where I shared some easy travel tips for Introverts to help you have a great journey abroad.

14. Living On Social Media

When taking beautiful pictures and loving every minute of your trip, it’s tempting to want to post as much as possible on social media, but this is another common travel mistake.

Social media will still be there when you return home from your trip, but you can no longer soak in your holiday’s sights, smells, sounds, and tastes.

Try to limit the amount of time you spend on social media while you travel. Oversharing on social media can also show that you’re away from your home, which could put your home at risk of being robbed. So, adjust your privacy settings if you plan to post content online.

Disconnect from social media enjoys peace, and take care of yourself and every tiny detail of your trip. After all, travel is one of the most unique experiences in life.

15. Leaving Belongings On Modes Of Transport

It was a great flight! You met an interesting person, took a little nap, and collected your luggage without problems. That’s when it hits you: you left your phone in the seat pocket on the plane.

This can also happen on any mode of transport, whether you’re in a taxi on the way to your hotel or exploring your destination by bus or train.

Prevention is the best protection against this rookie mistake. After you’ve finished using a personal item from your bag, put it back where it belongs. Continue this habit throughout your trip. You’ll avoid leaving your items on buses, in hotel rooms, and everywhere else.

16. Not Checking The Weather Forecast

Since you’ll be packing light or may not want to overpack, you’ll need to make sure your clothing is weather-appropriate. Otherwise, you may suffer from being too hot, cold, or wet all through your holiday. That’s no way to spend your vacation.

Even if you know your destination well, check the weather forecast regularly in the days leading up to your trip.

Make adjustments to your packing if necessary, and consider whether you’ll need to change your itinerary. For example, if the forecast calls for rain, you might want to trade a day at the beach for a day at a museum.

Preparing yourself emotionally to travel abroad away from home is crucial. Also, a good travel plan will help you reduce any errors.

17. Forgetting About Time Zone Differences

Last but not least, one of the biggest travel mistakes you can ever make is not accounting for time zone differences because it can cause confusion and make it difficult to manage your schedule.

A lack of awareness of the local time zone might result in missed appointments, delayed meetings, or even missed flights. Time zones can vary widely depending on the location of the traveler’s destination.

Before you leave on your trip, do some research on the time zone of your destination and make any required adjustments to your routine and electronic equipment based on what you find out.

You should think about configuring your devices to the appropriate time zone for where you are so that you are always aware of the current time. You might also utilize an application on your mobile device or a website that offers time zone conversions.

When planning flights, meetings, or any other events that require precision in timing, it is essential to take into account the different local times.

Bear in mind that jet lag may also have an effect on your schedule; therefore, it is a good idea to plan properly and give yourself some time to acclimate to the time zone of the new location.

During your journey, you can avoid misunderstanding and better manage your schedule if you take into account the many time zones that you will be traveling through.

Final Thoughts

In summary, when it comes to traveling, mistakes can be made that can cost us time, money, and even our sanity. Whether the mistake was made out of inexperience or due to a lack of research, there are certain strategies and processes that travelers can use to minimize the possibility of making travel mistakes.

Many sites like the one you’re reading now provide helpful tips for money-saving tricks and itinerary advice. Seeking out different opinions can also be beneficial; this way, travelers are exposed to ideas from both first-timers and seasoned veterans.

Most importantly, successful travelers maintain an attitude of flexibility; problems arise whether we plan for them or not, and in those cases, you must trust your own instincts and knowledge.

When mistakes do occur it’s best to approach them using collective experience; this just may lead you on a much richer journey than if no mistakes were ever made at all.

Thanks for reading all the way to the end.

Stay awesome (:


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The Editorial Team

Optimos Travel is a travel blog to help you travel the world, and explore different lifestyles, traditions, foods, and everything in between.