Whether you are planning for your first trip abroad or are a seasoned traveler, you are bound to make mistakes on your trip, the key is to make sure you don’t let these issues ruin your trip. Here are the biggest mistakes we have made (or seen others make) with our tips on how to avoid them!
- Trying to cram too many destinations into your itinerary – Rookie travelers are prone to make the mistake of trying to visit too many cities on their trips. Doing this will result in spending more time travelling and packing than you get to spend actually exploring. While a quick layover may make sense in select situations, try to stay in most cities for at least three days. This enables you to hit the highlights, gives you flexibility for unforeseen obstacles and gives you a bit of time to recover from flights or long train rides. If you find yourself struggling with wanting to visit too many destinations look to see if you can visit any as day trips – this way you can still see all of the cities on your wishlist without having to pack up every other day.
- Overplanning – One of our favorite parts of traveling is spontaneity. There is excitement in having the flexibility to walk through a local market without thinking about how much this diversion will push you off of your schedule. You should find what works best for you, when we first began travelling we had trips jammed pack with unrealistic amounts of attractions to visit. We now plan activities for each day as a suggestion, but spend time at breakfast each day determining what we are in the mood to do – sometimes we stick to our plan, sometimes we trash it and sometimes we find some combination of planned and new activities.
- Automatically taking the cheapest route – On our first Europe trip, we made the mistake of taking an overnight bus from London to Paris on our first night after flying into Europe. Hearing children crying with no climate control on a speeding bus did not make for a great night of sleep and severely deterred our mood on our first day in Paris. While it only cost us 5 euros (and saved us by not needing a hotel for one night), in retrospect we would have gladly spent the additional money to fly or book tickets on a high speed train to get between the two cities. Be careful when booking the cheapest route, as you will often have to make sacrifices (whether that is a bad night of sleep, having to travel to an airport outside of the city or being nickel-ed and dime-ed for every service). We suggest trying to save on some of the big purchases, so you have some flexibility to go with pricier options. Be sure to look at trains, planes and buses to make sure you are getting the best balance of cost and comfort.
- Not planning enough – While overplanning can limit your flexibility on your trip, not doing any research can mean you waste time and money on your vacation. Attractions may be closed during national holidays, their may be certain areas of the city to avoid, common tourist traps or even days when attractions are open for free to the public. You won’t know any of this if you depart for your trip with out any prep work. It’s up to you to find the right balance of flexibility and planning that suits you and your group.
- Spending money on currency exchange – One of the biggest ways to waste money is to spend it on currency exchange fees at the airport or at your bank. Look into credit cards with no foreign transaction fees as well as debit card from banks with no international and ATM fees. When you are at your destination be sure to look for ATMs which don’t charge fees for usage.
- Overpacking – Unless you are traveling to a remote part of the jungle or to Antarctica, you can generally buy anything you need at your destination – so travel anxiety free, and if you forget something its easily solved with a quick trip to the nearest convenience store or mall. Look for clothing combinations you can mix and match to create multiple outfits. A lighter bag will make it much easier to care for your luggage especially if you are travelling between multiple cities on your trip.
- Going to the wrong airport – If you are booking with budget airlines they can often leave from remote airports which require planning to get to. Further more many cities have multiple major airports (Rome and Paris for example), so double check the airport you are flying to and from to make sure you head to the correct airport.
- Forgetting your budget – It’s easy to get captured in the excitement of visiting a foreign destination and completely overspend what you had budgeted. By researching your destination you should be able to estimate how much you will spend each day. Looking for deals on the big purchases like hotels and flights will give you a buffer to spend on your actual trip.
- Eating in tourist traps – Enjoying local cuisine is a perk of travel you can’t always get in your hometown. But if you only visit fast food restaurants or cafes marketed towards tourists, you are likely to overpay for sub-par food. We use sites like TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet as well as local food blogs to find hidden gems and high quality local options in each neighborhood we are planning on visiting. While we generally don’t visit all of the places on our list, its good to have several options in different parts of the city, so you can get a good meal no matter where you are that day.
- Not having the proper documents – You can’t assume that your passport will get you into any country on your trip. Each country has its own visa and passport requirements depending on what type of passport you hold. Be sure to look up well in advance of your trip if you need to get any special visas or fulfill any special requirements like immunizations before you depart.
What are your best tips for rookie travelers, leave a comment below with your suggestions!