If there is one thing that hasn’t changed over the years, it’s my passion for travelling. I have always enjoyed visiting new countries, getting to know different cultures and experiencing new adventures.
But I have to admit that while traveling so frequently, I’ve had more than my fair share of mistakes flying around the world. Based on my experiences and things I’ve seen others do wrong, today I want to share with you the most common travel mistakes to avoid.
Some of these travel mistakes could only be a minor inconvenience, but others might totally ruin your trip. Regardless, they’re all important reminders of what NOT to do when you travel.
Packing more than you need
The first mistake you should avoid is pretty obvious, yet happens all the time (especially to us girls) - packing way more than we actually need. Yes, I get it, you want to show off your new outfits and rotate your wardrobe (especially if photos are involved) but it’s just not practical. At the end of the trip, you’ll realize that you didn't wear half of the things you packed!
I try to pack lightweight items, pieces that I can combine, and think hard about if I REALLY need that fourth pair of shoes. What I usually do is lay out everything I’d like to bring, then once I finish choosing everything - I take out ⅓!
Not checking visa requirements beforehand
No visa, no vacation. If you have a strong passport, (and by strong I mean that you usually don’t need a visa, or get a visa on arrival for most countries) you might be used to the privilege of travelling to lots of countries visa-free. But, there are still plenty of countries where you need to get a visa BEFORE your trip, regardless of where you’re from.
That’s why I recommend you always check the requirements for entering your destination country and to get your visa sorted well in advance. Also, most countries require your passport to be valid for at least 6 months, so double-check the expiration date otherwise you might not be allowed into the country!
Not double-checking your documents and bookings for errors
When you book a plane ticket, hotel room, tour tickets or tickets for a show (or any other activity for that matter), make sure to double-check the dates and your name before making the reservation. Little mistakes happen easily and that’s why you should always double and triple-check the details.
Once I accidentally booked a train ticket for the 19th of February instead of the 19th of January. Since I didn’t check properly when booking, we ended up with no place to stay and it was super stressful because it messed everything up! We had to get last-minute tickets which were super expensive, just because I didn’t confirm the dates before purchasing them.
Underestimating time required for security at the airport
If it was up to me, I would always be at the airport at least 3 hours early. Doing things last minute makes me super nervous, and I just risk forgetting something or leaving stuff behind. Since we always travel with laptops, cameras, drones and loads of other equipment, I prefer to be organized well in advance. We have to take everything out during the security check, and if you’re in a hurry it becomes so stressful and you may leave something behind.
Try to organize your travels with time to spare for any potential hiccups or unexpected issues. There is no need to go to the airport at the last minute. If you are with friends or with your partner, you just risk getting into an argument or you will be stressed for absolutely no reason. You can use the excess time at the airport to organize the last details of your trip, plan the content you want to shoot (if that’s the case) or research some more places you want to visit.
Booking flights with a short layover
Now I know we all hate a long wait between flights, but a trip with a short layover can backfire. So although booking your flights as close as possible to your connecting flight can be tempting, any delay in your flights could throw off the rest of your trip!
Where possible, try to give yourself at least a two-hour layover so you have time in case of any possible scenario. Your flight could be delayed, there might be a long line at customs or the terminals are super far apart. During the time between flights, grab some food or stretch your legs - without the stress of rushing to get to the gate.
Arriving at the wrong airport
When travelling in big cities that have more than one airport, (like London or Paris for example) always double-check your booking and make sure you have the correct airport and the right terminal. You don't want to arrive at an airport and realize the one booked is 40km away!
The same thing can happen when you have a connecting flight. Even if it’s in the same city, sometimes you need to change airports. This once happened to me in Venice, and the amount I spent on a taxi getting to the other airport would have been enough to cover a direct ticket. So always make sure you check which airport you need to go to before leaving the house, or before getting your connecting flight tickets. If a switch of airports is inevitable, make sure you have enough time to travel from one airport to the other and check for your transportation options offered at the airport (train, shuttle, bus etc).
Not having a return ticket
This hack might sound a bit sketchy but it’s 100% legal and legit. A few countries, such as Peru, New Zealand, UK, United States, Philippines, Indonesia or Brazil, require documented proof that you have either a return ticket or proof of onward travel. However, if you are not sure for how much time you want to stay in one of these countries, or if you are backpacking and just want to see where life takes you, you might not want to buy an expensive return ticket that you will probably not even use.
To avoid that, you can buy a real flight ticket for around 10 euro which is valid for 72h and you’ll find these on pages such as bestonwardtickets for example. They provide real reservations from a legit travel agency; ideal for digital nomads, virtual entrepreneurs, and perpetual travellers.
Bonus: acquiring an onward ticket can also be used as a supporting document for a visa application to the country you’re travelling to.
Losing money in exchange transactions
Travelling to a country where they have a different currency? Changing your money at the airport is the surest way to lose money in exchange transactions. The rates and fees are generally much higher at the airport, which is why we prefer to pay everything with our cards and withdraw cash at our final destination (we use cards like Revolut or N26).
If you still think it’s better to have a bit of cash on hand once you arrive, and have no other option than to change it at the airport, try to only change a small amount of cash - just enough to get you through your first day or even just to your hotel. You can exchange the rest of your money at a bank, or withdraw local currency from an ATM.
Don’t be too ambitious
One of the most common mistakes is creating an overambitious itinerary, especially when travelling to a new country. Usually, we want to see and do everything on our first visit,\ but sometimes that’s just not possible.
This is especially common when we are on the other side of the world, like in Southeast Asia. We create our itineraries according to the distance. Although we typically check Google Maps to see how far things are, we sometimes don’t consider the method or transport, or even getting stuck in peak hour traffic!
Back home, it might take us less than 1 hour to travel 100kms while going 100km/h. But depending on the traffic and road conditions, in other places, this could take you 4 hours! So do a little bit of research before, be flexible and don't create crazy expectations.
Also, what often happens for non-Europeans visiting Europe for the first time is that they want to see lots of cities in a short amount of time - 2 days in Paris, 3 days in Barcelona, 1 night in Amsterdam, a quick stop to London and then 3 more days in Lisbon.
That might sound great, but what it really means is that every day or two you’re packing up and moving again. You won’t be able to take in the city and enjoy it to the fullest. You’ll just end up running around trying to see the sights while failing to properly experience any of them.
Instead of trying to “see it all”, slow down, and allow yourself the chance to really explore a city. You can always visit the rest another time.
Having all your money in one single place
Maybe you’ve heard of the saying “don't put all your eggs in one basket”. Well, this couldn’t be more true, especially when it comes to carrying money and other valuables. Avoid having too much cash with you, and store it in various safe places. In the worst-case scenario that someone tries to rob you, or if you misplace your purse, you won’t lose everything you have.
Leaving belongings behind
Every trip must come to an end (just like this blog post) and that’s why the last mistake you should avoid is: don’t leave any belongings behind. Before checking out, make sure you don't forget any of your documents in a drawer or the safe, or anywhere else in the hotel! Do you have your passport, ID, drivers license, your credit cards, phone, computer, AirPods, chargers?
I could make a long list of everything I've accidentally left behind just because I didn’t take the time to double-check my hotel room, train or aeroplane seat pocket. But in this case, prevention is the best protection for this rookie mistake and in my opinion, you have 2 options.
First, after you’ve finished using a personal item, put it right back in your bag. Make this a rule. Anything you touch has to go right back to where you took it from. If you continue this habit all through your trip, you’ll avoid leaving items at the airport, hotel rooms, or anywhere else you go!
Option number two is to have a checklist of the most important items and always check it before you leave. It’s easy to get distracted while travelling, so it’s really important to follow these rules - even better if you use both methods combined, just to be extra safe!
And that completes my Travel 101 blog post. I hope these tips were helpful for those of you who aren’t experienced traveller!