I’ve been traveling the world for years, and BELIEVE ME it hasn’t always been pretty. I’ve made more than my fair share of mistakes when traveling abroad and I’ve learned a lot of things the hard way. So this week I’ve written up allll the common travel mistakes you should avoid, based on my experiences and things I’ve seen other people do wrong.
Some of these travel mistakes will only be a minor inconvenience, some will totally ruin your trip, and some will prevent it from even happening at all! They’re all important reminders of what NOT to do when you travel.
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1. Not Checking Visa Requirements Beforehand
Those of us with strong passports are pretty used to [the immense privilege of] visiting most countries visa-free. But there are still plenty of countries (ex. Australia or Turkey) where you need to get a visa BEFORE your trip.
No visa, no vacation. They won’t let you on the plane without it. So for the sake of your holiday, make sure you check requirements and get your visa sorted well in advance.
FYI – most countries also require your passport to be valid for at least 6 months after your last date of travel. If your passport is about to expire, you might not be allowed into the country.
(Also, please triple check that you have your passport before you leave the house, lol. I’m begging you)
2. Forgetting About Time Zones
This is one of the biggest travel mistakes to avoid, and it happens more than you’d think! I recently got a surprise solo day in Istanbul after my friend forgot about time differences and arrived for our trip a day late.
Never, ever book a trip without considering the time differences between your departing/arriving countries. Make sure your activities and hotels are based on the time/date at your ARRIVING destination.
3. Always Choosing Value over Convenience
One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is that it’s not always worth it to save money. Sure, you can take the cheaper 5 am flight, flight with 3 connections, or hotel that’s an hour outside the city centre — but is it really worth it?
From my experience, it isn’t. I always end up tired, stressed, and wishing I’d just splashed out a few extra bucks to make my life easier.
4. Thinking You Don’t Need Travel Insurance
When we read travel horror stories, most of us go “that sucks, but it would probably never happen to me.” But EVERYONE thinks that. Up until they’re the one crashing their scooter in Bali, getting robbed, missing their flight, or being hospitalised for a severe allergy they didn’t know they had.
That last one happened to me — by some miracle, on the first trip I’d ever bought travel insurance for (I use World Nomads, it’s stupidly cheap and covers all the necessities). Now I never travel without it.
Not getting insurance is one of the biggest mistakes when traveling abroad – it’s one of those things you never think you’ll need until it’s too late.
5. Traveling with the Wrong People
Not all good friends make good travel partners. Do they love planning, but you love winging it? Do they eat exclusively at McDonalds, but you enjoy tasting alll the local food? Are they on a tight budget, but you wanted tasting menus and 5-star hotels?
Consider beforehand if you and your friend(s) will be compatible, or you will NOT have a good time. Even compromise has limits. If you guys have totally different travel styles, I suggest either a) not going (lol) or b) agreeing to do some activities apart.
My friends know that I despise early mornings, and if they want to do shit in the morning it’s going to have to be a soloventure. They get to do their thing, I get to sleep, everybody wins.
The last thing you want is to haul a heavy suitcase around and end up using less than half of what you brought. My golden rule is that once I’m finished packing, I take out 1/3 of everything I wanted to bring. You really do not need as much stuff as you think you need.
Bring lightweight items, plan a capsule wardrobe, and think hard about if you REALLY need that fourth pair of shoes.
You might also like to read: Minimalist Packing 101: How to Pack Light and Still Look Good
7. Trying to Visit Too Many Countries
As an example, when many people visit Europe for the first time, they come up with an itinerary like this – “2 days in London, 1 day in Amsterdam, 2 days in Barcelona, 2 days in Berlin, 2 days in Paris, 2 days in Prague”. NO!!! 🙁
That sounds great –but what it really means is that every day or two you have to pack up and move. You get one full day (if that) in each destination. You run around trying to see the sights and end up failing to properly experience any of them. You’re rushed, overwhelmed, and don’t get much of a holiday at all.
Trying to “see it all” rarely works from my experience. I genuinely believe you will have a MUCH better trip if you slow down and allow yourself the chance to really explore a city.
8. Planning Too Much
Every single time I’ve planned too much I’ve regretted it. I’ve wanted to stay in certain countries or cities longer but couldn’t, and been locked into activities when I’d have preferred to hang out with new friends.
If you plan a super regimented itinerary where your whole day is mapped out hour-by-hour, you don’t give yourself ANY wiggle room to change your plans if a cool opportunity comes up. I recommend allowing at least one completely unplanned day in your trip. I guarantee you’ll find a way to fill that time regardless, but you’ll be grateful for the freedom.
On the other hand, you shouldn’t just COMPLETELY wing it. I’ve had a few “I don’t know where I’m sleeping tonight” trips, and they aren’t ideal, lol. You should have your accommodation booked for at least the first city or country of your trip, and at least a general sense of what you want to do, see, and eat!
9. Not Researching Your Location
Too often people wildly misjudge the size of cities, and the distances between them. Take Australia, for example, where I live. If you didn’t research beforehand, you might think you could just pop over to Melbourne, the Great Barrier Reef, and Uluru from Sydney — not realising that Australia is HUGE, and you’ll spend half your trip (and budget) flying around.
Even within cities you need to consider where you should stay and how you’ll get around. Cities like Sydney, Tokyo, or London are absolutely MASSIVE and you could easily book a hotel an hour+ away from any of the places you want to see.
10. Getting Your Cards Frozen
On the first day of my FIRST EVER solo trip, BOTH my cards got skimmed. I ended up having to call my credit card company to authorise every. single. transaction. for the next three weeks. It was…not ideal, lol.
You should always keep a backup card (or two) + some cash handy in case something happens to your first one. You do not want to be in a foreign country with all your funds frozen. It’s not fun.
Always notify your credit card company beforehand that you’ll be traveling abroad. Otherwise you may end up getting your card blocked and having to deal with sorting it out while you’re supposed to be on vacay.
11. Getting Ripped Off at the Currency Exchange
You should also avoid changing money at the airport currency exchange if possible – the exchange rates there are really bad. I always change over a small amount of cash at the airport – just enough to get through my first day or over to my hotel. Then I exchange the rest of my money at a bank or withdraw local currency from an ATM.
12. Getting Ripped off in General
Research typical costs beforehand so that you have at least a general idea of what you should be spending on things like taxi rides, shopping, etc. Be prepared to pay a “tourist tax”, meaning you’ll probably always be overcharged to some degree, but don’t let people completely take the piss.
Taxi drivers are notorious for jacking up rates for tourists – you’ll literally get quoted $10-15 USD for what should be a $1-3 USD ride. Always haggle and make it known that you know what things actually cost. Research common scams in the area, and be on the lookout for shady people trying to sell you crappy products.
13. Eating the Wrong Food and Getting Sick
Not all foods are made equal, and eating the wrong meal is a guaranteed vacation ruiner. This kind of thing is often really subjective – I’ve never gotten sick abroad, but I have friends who get really sick every time they go to Bali. To some degree it depends on your stomach.
But there are some general rules you should always follow. Before you head abroad, do some research on local food and street food. Don’t eat raw meat or raw veggies. Don’t drink tap water. If you have a sensitive stomach, stay away from street food.
14. Not Unlocking Your Phone / Reviewing Your Phone Plan
Unless you have an international phone plan, you’ll probably have to swap out your regular SIM for a local SIM card at your destination… Which you won’t be able to do unless your phone is unlocked.
Unlocking a phone is a simple but annoying process because you have to contact your phone provider to do it. You definitely don’t want to be dealing with phone issues when you’re abroad with no service, so sort it out while you’re home.
15. Looking Like a Tourist AKA Walking ATM
This is a SUPER common travel mistake. Sticking out like a sore thumb (wearing inappropriate clothing, flashy jewelry, carrying a map, etc) is a surefire way to get ripped off at best, and targeted by criminals at worst.
Learn to blend in. Research how people dress in your destination, and pack accordingly. Leave your nice, sparkly jewelry at home. If you’re lost, duck into a shop or restaurant to check your phone/map, instead of doing it on the street.
I hope these tips were helpful for those of you who aren’t experienced travelers! Let me know if I missed anything, and don’t forget to PIN this post if you liked it 🙂 Thanks for reading!