The 10 Most Common Travel Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them)
Even seasoned travellers slip up with some of these.
There’s no right or wrong way to travel – that’s the joy of it. We’re free to move whenever, wherever and however we like. Regardless of being a seasoned traveller or whether you’re prepping for trip numero uno, it’s the same tedious and tiresome mistakes that we make every time.
Few trips ever go entirely to plan, but a few simple tasks or a slight change of mind set can put you on track for a stress-free, regret-free time of your life.
#1 Not sticking to your personal travel goals
It’s all too common to return from a trip with one annoying little regret. It’s always that one thing you promised yourself – or promised your friends – that this time you would definitely do (or wouldn’t do).
Did you tell yourself you would keep a diary? Or that you would try new foods? Or step further from your comfort zone? That this time you would take more photos? Or take fewer photos? Or mingle with more locals?
Our advice: Don’t just remind yourself of your goals as the plane is taking off. Remind yourself every day that you’re away. Hell, even write them down and carry them with you. You will return home fulfilled.
#2 Not buying travel insurance
We know. Comparing and purchasing insurance isn’t fun. It’s probably the least exciting item on your travel to do list. But sorry, it’s crucial. And being under-insured is just as dangerous as not being insured at all.
Our advice: Do your research. Then, call the insurer directly to ask the all the questions. Am I covered if I hire a car? Am I covered if my flight/accommodation is cancelled due to natural disaster? Or political unrest? Is my camera/laptop/phone covered if it is broken, lost or stolen? What if I get hurt while paragliding/tubing/skiing? What happens if I get sick?
We recommend QBE Insurance, which offers a variety of flexible options to perfectly suit any kind of travel needs. QBE have partnered with Qantas, meaning you can even redeem frequent flyer points on insurance when booking your flights.
Take a copy of your policy with you as you may be asked to show it when applying for visas or crossing borders. Lastly the number one rule is – of course – always read the fine print. Don’t skimp on this. Just don’t.
#3 Forgetting to turn off your mobile data
Unfortunately most telecoms still charge through the roof for international calls, texts and data. When will it end?
Our advice: Sign up for a specific international travel plan – most providers will offer some sort of data pack for international travel. Or leave your phone on Airplane mode for the whole trip. Wi-fi is never too far away – even in some of the most remote places. Lucky us!
Rely on free wi-fi at hostels, cafes and town squares for communication, social media updates, travel research and mapping (try Maps.me for reliable offline navigation).
#4 Letting FOMO get the better of you
Letting travel FOMO get the better of you is downright debilitating. The risk is this: you pack too many activities into a day, or too many destinations into a trip that you are far too exhausted to actually enjoy them.
Our advice: Your trip will be your own. No traveller can see everything or go everywhere, even though some will try. Ignore comments like, “that’s a shame you didn’t go to [insert incredible destination here], I went and it was life-changing.” At the end of the day, someone out there is jealous of everywhere you’ve been.
#5 Getting lazy with money exchange
Guilty as charged (pardon the pun). In the mad rush, it’s easy to grab money from a 7/11 ATM or exchange cash at the airport. However every dollar lost in fees is a dollar that could have gone towards a beer on a Caribbean beach, a roomier hostel or a fancy cafe lunch.
Our advice: Don’t get lazy. Know the exchange rate and familiarise yourself with the local currency. Talk to your bank before you leave to let them know you’re travelling (no one wants to be cut from their funds by a bank’s auto-security). Ask what your international ATM and EFTPOS charges are, and ask if there are local branches or ATMs where you’re going.
One of the easiest ways to travel with foreign currencies is by using Qantas Cash travel money card, essentially a travel-friendly debit card on which you can pre-load money in eleven different currencies. It’s a great way to avoid the hassle of calculating exchange rates and carrying larger sums of cash when travelling, at the same time saving you money on nasty ATM fees, and earning frequent flyer points along the way.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Do. Not. Over. Pack. No one has ever returned from a trip and said, “I didn’t pack enough”. Regardless of the length of your trip, lugging around clothes you haven’t worn is the absolute worst.
Our advice: Less is more, always and forever. Packing light means lower baggage fees, less waiting time and more freedom to move. Worst case scenario, if you find yourself desperate for a power cable, a hairdryer or a bottle opener you can always buy it. If not, a fellow traveller will happily lend it to you.
It can be a very fine line. Of course you need to know where you want to go, how to get there and how much time you have. But the jam-packed over-detailed itinerary which can save you time on the road, may become your biggest hindrance.
Our advice: Book ahead in busy seasons, for top-rated accommodation or when you know 100 percent where you want or need to be, but leave yourself open to the advice of locals and travellers. This beats any online review in timeliness and honesty. There’s nothing worse than getting a tip for a hidden beach, a secret party, a quaint little town or a hip new hostel and be too “booked up” to get there.
#8 Forgetting to call home
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of travel and forget what matters most, especially when you’re travelling long-term.
Our advice: Take the time to surprise call your mum, your dad, your brother, your grandma, or your bestie. Tell them you’re having the time of your life and tell them stories from your travels. It won’t take long and it’s free to connect via Skype, Viber or FaceTime. It will remind you of home sweet home and may even brighten their day. A phone call trumps a Facebook post any day of the week.
#9 Forgetting the golden rules
The golden rules of travel are timeless. It is an easy mistake for a traveller to feel too confident and let the simple things slip their mind. None of us a invincible to the dangers.
Our advice: Remember the basics. Don’t put your valuables on display for pickpockets, double-check your itinerary for dates and time zones, respect local cultures and customs, keep copies of your passport and documents, don’t keep all your cash or cards in one place and remember to back-up your photos. (Try using an easy online service like iCloud, Google Drive or Dropbox). You know the drill.
#10 Being scared to make travel mistakes
When push comes to shove, the biggest mistake of all is being scared to make a mistake. Some of the most rewarding experiences come as a result of a blunder.
Our advice: Don’t be scared to take a wrong turn, take the wrong train, book a bad hostel or get lost in translation. Really, what’s the worst that can happen? It’s often a “mistake” that leads you to your new best friend or your greatest ever story.
(Lead image: Rawpixel / Unsplash)