10 Biggest Travel Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

The world is finally starting to open back up, and us travelers are chomping at the bit to get back out on the road.  Our travel muscles, however, haven’t been flexed in a while, so it’s time for a bit of a refresher course before we make a critical travel mistake. A little pre-planning can help you avoid these common mistakes that travelers make, and keep your trip smooth and headache-free!

Travel Mistake #1: Booking Flights Too Close Together

If you’re traveling to a far-off destination, chances are, you’ll be flying through a massive airport at some point. 

Even if 30 minutes between flights is doable at your local airport, flying through a place like Schiphol or Heathrow, it’s simply not possible.  You’ll want to try to book flights with about two hours in between them, so you don’t find yourself sprinting through an unfamiliar airport, before rushing on to another long flight.

Travel Mistake #2: You’ve Overpacked

I get it, you want to be prepared for any scenario.  The reality is, you likely need far less than you actually think you do. Add that to the fact that, depending on where you’re going, you might be hauling that heavy suitcase all around, up and down stairs, over cobblestone, you catch my drift. 

Pack staples that can be re-worn and used for multiple purposes.  When needed, you can always do a little laundry along the way.  If an exceptional situation arises, chances are, you’ll be able to pick up whatever you need at your destination, and if it doesn’t, you won’t be lugging it around the entire trip!  Bonus: careful, strategic packing should keep your luggage under the weight limit saving you from overweight baggage fees, or worse, the horror of being that person rearranging your baggage in the middle of the airport.

Travel Mistake #3: You Didn’t Plan Out Your Money Situation

While we all love using our credit cards as often as possible while traveling (miles, baby!), many places still operate on cash only, so exchanging currency is, simply put, a fact of traveling. 

Currency exchange booths at international airports, while convenient, often offer the worst exchange rates and are rarely open 24 hours. So, you hit the ATM at the airport, right?  Well, what if you’re at a tiny airport, you need cash to get to where you’re staying, and the ATM there doesn’t work with your card?  Get a little cash ahead of your flight (given enough notice, your local bank should even be able to order your international currency in so you can exchange there), that way, you have the peace of mind that, no matter what, you’ll be able to get to your destination where you’ll hopefully have more currency exchange options. 

Travel Mistake #4: You Over Scheduled Your Trip

This is a once-in-a-lifetime trip. You want to see and do everything, so you book up every second of your trip, right?  Wrong.  Sure, the tours, historic sights, and museums are fantastic, but more often than not, the most memorable parts of your trip happen in the in-between times.  The unscheduled moments. 

Be sure to leave plenty of time for aimless wandering.  You never know what surprises you might stumble on.  What fantastic local street food you will find, what interesting people you’ll meet.  It’s these days where you get the true essence of a place, and that is what traveling is all about!

Travel Mistake #5: You Didn’t Make Photocopies of your Documents

I can assure you, if you’ve ever lost your passport abroad, you’d never forget this step again.  Having photocopies of your documents handy can make the process of dealing with a lost passport in a foreign country INFINITELY smoother. 

I generally keep a set with me, and leave a set with someone I trust at home that I can easily reach, just in case.  If I’m traveling in a place where pickpocketing is a concern, I’ll bring my photocopies with me instead of my official documents.

Travel Mistake #6: Not Calling Ahead to your Credit Cards

With the rising instance of credit card fraud, your card company monitors your activity, and might freeze your account if unexpected foreign transactions occur.  That’s not what you want to happen if you’re abroad. 

Give them a call and alert them of your travel itinerary so you have no issues with using your card. While you’ve got them on the phone, it’s a good time to check if your card has foreign transaction fees.  If you plan on traveling abroad frequently, be sure to find a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees – those savings will really add up over time.

Travel Mistake #7: You Didn’t Check your Cell Phone Plan

Doing a little research into how your cell phone plan handles international roaming fees. They can be a VERY unwelcome surprise when your bill arrives.

If they’re not included in your plan, turn off your data before getting on the plane (don’t worry, you’ll still be able to connect to wi-fi).  If you’re going to need data internationally, consider switching to an international plan, or purchasing a SIM card at your destination.

Travel Mistake # 8: You Didn’t Think About Plugs

Did you know that there are 15 different types of plugs that are used around the world?  If you don’t have a converter, you’re going to run out of power real quick with no way to charge up. 

While you can get around this by charging devices with a USB cord, which is universal, it’s going to take significantly longer to charge anything than it would being plugged directly into a wall.  For a one-time trip, you can probably get away with a universal converter – but they can tend to be a little clunky and fall out of the wall, depending on the local sockets.  If you’re going to be a frequent traveler, we recommend something a little more substantial like this Ceptics All-in-one unit. You can check out our in-depth dive into travel adapters and converters here, so you can be sure you’ve got exactly what you need.

Travel Mistake #9: You Didn’t Think About Voltage

If you don’t want to fry your devices, knowing the voltage in the country you’re visiting is critical.  Most American devices are at 110 volts, where Japan, most of North and South America, and the Caribbean are 110 – 125 volts, while the majority of the rest of the world uses 220 Volts. 

Most modern travel gadgets can handle dual voltage (meaning you’d just need a plug adapter, not a voltage converter – in fact, using a converter on a dual-voltage device might damage it), So be sure to know what your devices require, and if you’re planning on traveling frequently, seek out devices, specifically, that are dual voltage.    

Travel Mistake #10: You Didn’t Look Into Local Customs and Laws

Did you know that it’s illegal to chew gum in Singapore or that it’s illegal to swear in the UAE?  That it’s Illegal to wear camouflage in Trinidad & Tobago, or that it’s considered rude to blow your nose in public in Japan? 

There are thousands of these laws and customs around the world, and unless you want to risk getting in trouble with the law in a foreign country (we can’t stress this enough – this is NOT something you want to test), do a little research into your destination. It’ll save you a world of hassle!

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