When we first started traveling, we found out quite quickly that everyone has some advice about travel. It’s taken us a few years and more than a few miles to realize that a lot of the travel myths we heard were just simply wrong.
Here’s a list of the top 25 travel myths that have cost us time and money, or given us headaches during our trips.
To get the best deal, you should book your vacation months in advance.
If you have a bit of flexibility in your dates and destination, we’ve found that last minute deals with airlines and all inclusive packages almost always beat booking a few months ahead.
Board early with kids.
While this may be great for parents with babies, as our kids get older, the last thing we want to do is spend an extra half hour on the plane. Instead, we let our little ones run around in the airport’s play area to burn off some energy. We’re usually some of the last people on the plane.
Bring travelers checks for emergencies.
These days, travelers checks are nothing but a cumbersome pain in the arse. It’s hard to find someone to accept them, and getting them usually means wasting time in a bank. ATMs are almost everywhere worldwide these days. Better advice is to keep a couple of hundred dollars cash well hidden for emergencies.
Travel is expensive.
Vacations, where you try to cram 52 weeks worth of relaxation and fun into two weeks at a resort in the Caribbean, are expensive. By traveling off season, renting apartments instead of hotels, and eating locally, you can actually travel for months for less than your last vacation.
Street food will make you sick.
We’ve had some of the best, freshest meals from street stalls in Thailand and Mexico. Make sure your food is well heated (or refrigerated), and look for the stand with the longest lineup, as the food is probably fresher and cooked to order.
Mexico is dangerous.
You could substitute Mexico for many countries, including Jamaica. You can travel to almost anywhere in Mexico or Jamaica and be safe. There are some areas that are unsafe within each country (Citidad Juarez in Mexico for one), but there are unsafe areas in North American and Western Europe also.
Return flights are always cheaper than one way tickets.
For the most part, we’ve found that airlines don’t offer a discount for return flights these days. There may be exceptions, so always double check.
Trains are the cheapest way to travel through Europe.
Low cost airlines like Easyjet offer rock bottom flights within Europe, making them much cheaper for many journeys than taking the train.
Getting upgraded to first class is as easy as asking nicely and dressing like a movie star.
Airlines guard their first class cabins with fervor these days, saving the few upgrades for when their planes are overbooked, and only to their most loyal customers.
Cruises are all inclusive.
Many cruises have a steep charge for Internet access, and you’ll pay extra for non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks, upgraded meals and shore excursions.
You’ll need an international drivers permit to drive anywhere overseas.
In many countries, especially Western Europe, a driver’s license from your home country is plenty, as long as you’re there less than six months.
Travel before you have children, because you can’t travel after you’ve had them.
While you may want to travel at a slower pace and plan a bit for long haul flights when you have kids, the truth is that kids make great traveling companions. We heard this myth constantly before we had our children, and honestly, it irritates me to no end. We’ve taken our children all over the world and I’m always surprised with how happy and adaptable they are on the road.
Currency conversion rates are better at your bank at home.
Fact is, many banks offer poor currency conversion rates and tack on surcharges and commissions. We’ve found some of the best currency conversion rates by using our credit cards overseas. Just call your credit card company to ensure that they don’t have any fees for transactions made overseas (some companies charge 2 to 3% on every transaction). Also beware of dynamic currency conversion, where foreign merchants charge you a hefty exchange rate to convert your bill into your local currency.
Airports and terminals also tend to charge a bit more to convert cash than a place down the street. If you can, only change what you need for the immediate future once you land in a foreign city and convert the rest later. Even better, find an ATM and just grab some cash directly from your account. Usually the rate is as good as you’ll get at home (sometimes even better if the money is fluctuating). Just beware of extra fees if your bank charges differently for foreign ATM transactions, and know the foreign ATM may charge an extra fee.
Locals always know the best restaurants, hotels and attractions.
While we’ve found some real gems by asking locals, not every local is an expert. In fact, locals on the road are a lot like at home. Some know their stuff and some don’t. Also, how often do locals stay at a hotel in their own city or even go to certain attractions? Sometimes you’re better to ask a fellow traveler.
You’ll be pickpocketed in a foreign city.
Sure, and you could be pickpocketed at home, too. You probably have as much chance of being pickpocketed at a busy event in your home town as you do in a random city overseas. Sure, some areas are well known for pickpockets, but most of the world is as safe as at home. Take some basic precautions like using a money belt or neck wallet in areas known for pickpockets.
Jet lag can be cured by getting a lot of sleep.
No, no and no. What you need to do is reset your circadian rhythm. We’ve always battled jet lag by trying to get as much sunshine and exercise as we can manage on our first few days in a new place, and making naps as short as possible. Works like a charm to reset our inner clocks.
Take a tour, and you’ll be shuttled around like cattle and have a horrid, inauthentic experience.
While some tours hold true to this stereotype, there’s a growing movement toward small group tours led by experienced local guides. A good tour guide can give you priceless insider information.
English is a second language everywhere.
While English is widely spoken, there are large portions of the world where you’ll find that not a single person around you speaks a word of English. We’ve found this to be more true in rural areas, and areas that aren’t visited by many tourists. The good news? It’s amazing what a few smiles and pantomiming can get you.
Duty free shops are always cheaper.
Sometimes duty free is a great deal, but many times duty free shops are more expensive than buying locally.
Luxury hotels are worth every penny.
While some luxury hotels are overflowing with amazing rooms, stunning locations, and stellar staff, many are a big fat ripoff. Don’t assume that a big price tag means stellar service, free hotel amenities and top notch accommodation. We’ve also found that the more expensive the hotel, the more likely they’ll charge for conveniences like WiFi, parking and breakfasts.
Package deals are always the cheapest.
While package deals are often an amazing deal, especially all inclusive packages, many deals are just marketing ploys. Do your homework and price out all the components of a package separately, and you may be surprised that you’re paying more for the package.
Stand by fares are a great deal.
While this may have been true in the past, airlines these days are just as likely to ask for a premium for that last minute fare. And don’t expect to get a last second cruise deal. Because of increased security concerns, most cruises need to have their passenger list several days before sailing, so the best deals are a week or so before sailing.
Hotel key cards have all your personal information coded on them, including credit card numbers.
Nope. Hotel key cards just have a code that will open your door and some basic personal information. If you’re worried about it, just keep the card and destroy it when you have the chance. Hotels don’t usually care if you give the cards back or not.
You need to stay in a hostel, eat street food and wander the streets aimlessly for hours on end to have an authentic travel experience.
While we’ve had some amazing adventures doing just this, we’ve also had experiences where we connected with the local people and culture when we rented a comfy condo, ate at local restaurants, and even (gasp!) took an organized tour or two.
It’s not safe to travel alone.
Traveling by yourself can be intimidating, but it’s entirely possible, and certainly possible to do safely. Check out Solo Traveler for some great tips.
Have you been burned by a travel myth? If so we’d love to know!