The 10 Worst Travel Mistakes You Can Make

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Travel can be complicated. While we love to explore new cultures and places, the hassles of finding the best price, planning an itinerary and dealing with airport security and regulations can be overwhelming.

If you can avoid these ten travel mistakes, you’ll be well on your way to a fun, enjoyable trip.

View of St Martin from the Airplane St Martaan

St Martin from the Air

  1. Failing to triple check your flight’s date, time and departure airport. This can lead to all sorts of disasters, including missing flights, long layovers and even trying to leave from the wrong airport. Many cities have two or more airports, and your airline may book your departure from a different airport than your arrival.
  2. Overpacking. These days, most airlines charge close to $50 for each checked bag and some even charge for carry on luggage. If you go over the weight limit, you’ll pay a big penalty. Cost aside, schlepping heavy, overstuffed bags through crowded airports and airport security is a nightmare. You’re traveling to be carefree and get away from everyday life, right? They why would you carry all of it with you on vacation?
  3. Not getting travel medical insurance. Accidents or a sudden illness can happen any time, to anyone, even if you’re young and healthy. Travel insurance is especially important if you’re traveling to a country like the United States where a routine medical emergency, like a broken leg, could set you back over $15,000. We like World Nomads travel insurance, as they offer good prices and good coverage to travelers from over 140 countries.
  4. Overscheduling. You may be excited about your next trip, but there’s no surer way to spoil getting away from it all than trying to cram in every possible activity and sight. Most of us are crunched for time in our daily lives. Why would you want to do that to yourself on vacation?
  5. Forgetting to check visa requirements. Many countries require your passport to be valid for six months before they’ll issue a tourist or visitor’s visa. You’ll need the six month validity on your passport even if you only plan to stay a week. Other countries require an outbound ticket before you’re allowed in the country.
  6. Traveling during peak season. Peak season costs more, and attractions are more crowded. If you can reschedule your trip, consider traveling during shoulder season, when prices drop, there are fewer people around, and you’ll have a better choice of accommodation.
  7. Getting frustrated because the language and customs are different.  I’ve lost count of the travelers I’ve seen in restaurants and hotels who are irritated because the staff doesn’t speak perfect English. Imagine how you’d feel if a tourist came to your country and demanded that you speak their language perfectly. Travel can be a way to grow by learning another language and getting a feel for the differences in culture.
  8. Not taking local holidays or major events like conventions into account. We’ve done this more often than I’d care to admit. We’ve had trouble booking trains in Thailand during the Songkran Festival and Chinese New Year because they were full, and have overpaid for hotels in Canada because we forgot to check for major conventions. Look into local holidays at your destination before you go, as attractions and even restaurants can close during major holidays.
  9. Not reviewing the rules for what is allowed in your carry on luggage. This is especially important for liquids and gels. Rules can change often, and it’s a real bother to have to have to throw away something not allowed on your flight or pay to mail it back home (that is, if you have time).
  10. Allowing your phone to roam. Cellular roaming fees can be astronomical. You can avoid them by buying a SIM and phone credit in your destination country (this only works with unlocked phones). If your phone isn’t unlocked, try calling your provider to set up a temporary international plan with reduced fees. Better yet, use WhatsApp, Skype, Google Hangouts (our current favorite) or something similar if you can find free/cheap WiFi. You could even just turn off your phone and really escape from your everyday life.

Can’t seem to avoid making mistakes? Don’t worry, mistakes can be some of the best parts of travel. Check out one of our favorite blogs, A Backpacker’s Tale, for some fun tales of misadventure.

What were your biggest travel mistakes? We’d love to know!

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30 Responses

    • Micki Kosman

      Hi Tracey, We’ve come within inches of missing our flights, too. Going to the wrong airport is just such an easy mistake to make, especially when there are multiple airports in the same city.

      Reply
    • Micki Kosman

      Hi Arti, I have to admit, we learned about these the hard way. We’ve come close to making almost every mistake on this list. I have to admit I’ve even been that irritating tourist who starts speaking louder when noone understands my terrible Spanish. 🙂

      Reply
  1. Francoise

    Mine is shoes! I used to pack too many and now I pack too few and they’re usually wrong. One day I’ll get it right but I wish I could afford to pack none at all and just buy what I need at my destination. One day!

    Reply
    • Micki Kosman

      Francoise, that’s hilarious. I have to admit to a shoe weakness myself. Though we’re probably more guilty of overpacking electronics.

      Reply
  2. JPM (Lotus Artichoke)

    totally true! i’ve heard so many horror stories about flying across the world without a visa, arriving at the airport a day late, obscene fees for an extra suitcase, no insurance disasters, roaming charges nightmares, peak season circuses and so on. Thanks for spreading the wisdom for the less-initiated and experienced!
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    Reply
  3. JPM (Lotus Artichoke)

    ps. asides from the friend who flew to India with no visa and was put on the next plane back to the US (poor guy!) my favorite nightmare travel story is a different friend who went to the airport only to be told he was at the wrong airport: he’d booked his trip (both outgoing and return flight) in the wrong direction! eeek!
    JPM (Lotus Artichoke) recently posted..Veg Pakoras & Apple-Tamarind ChutneyMy Profile

    Reply
    • Micki Kosman

      Hi JPM,
      Your poor friend! I can’t imagine how he felt having to turn around and fly right back to India.

      Honestly, my biggest travel stress is when I hit the send button when purchasing my tickets. I must reread the dates, times, connections, and travel information 10 times (no exaggeration!). I’m very fond of airlines that have low change and cancellation fees – it’s saved our bacon a few times.

      Reply
  4. Wrabbit007

    A big mistake my husband and I made was not bringing enough cash with us when we ran away to Costa Rica to get married. We were getting married on a beach in a tiny little village, and just before the wedding, realized that between the two of us, we didn’t have enough cash to pay both the JP AND the photographer (only one or the other). There was only one ATM in the village, and it didn’t work! It was Saturday, so the bank was closed. We took them out for lunch and groveled, and then paid them on Monday when the banks finally opened. OOPS! Felt like total losers!
    Wrabbit007 recently posted..Backyard Bucket List: Explore Alberta’s EM-TE TownMy Profile

    Reply
    • Micki Kosman

      Oh no! Glad all turned out well. 🙂 Wedding days are always a complete blur. I swear the reason most people have groomsmen and bridesmaids is to keep track of things like that on the wedding day! I bet you have some wonderful photos! Costa Rica’s such a beautiful country.

      Reply
    • Micki Kosman

      Simon, we’ve been lucky with the passports so far, too. Knock on wood. I’m so worried about it that I check my purse every 15 minutes for them until we’re on the plane.

      Reply
  5. Paola Estrada

    So useful! I discovered the hard way how expensive roaming is. Your tips are so practical, perfect to make a checklist before any trip

    Reply
    • Micki Kosman

      Charu, roaming charges are a killer. Since we have an unlocked iPhone, we usually just by a SIM, a data plan, and some minutes wherever we go. Not really great for a lot of calls, but perfect for emergencies and data.

      Reply
    • Micki Kosman

      Abby, you and me both! I’m always so excited to travel that I have grand plans of seeing way too much. The kids usually rein me in though. 🙂

      Reply
    • Micki Kosman

      Steph, I have to admit I’m a travel insurance nerd. Maybe it’s because I’ve ended up in the hospital on the road before :). I get insurance to make sure we’re covered for major medical emergencies, or if one of us needs to be airlifted home. Thanks so much for stopping by!

      Reply
  6. 30Traveler

    This is a great list. Not taking into account public transport running times and public holiday closures is an expensive mistake I’m made (e.g,, in student days, I spent night at Heathrow airport on Christmas Eve because tube wasn’t running on Christmas Day and had a Christmas Day flight).

    Also, forgetting you have a piece of fruit in your bag is an instant $400, no excuses fine when entering New Zealand.
    30Traveler recently posted..How Does Your Politics Influence Your Travel?My Profile

    Reply
    • Micki Kosman

      Yep, we’ve made similar to mistakes, though I’m not sure I’d want to spend Christmas Eve in Heathrow 🙁

      Wow – $400 for an orange? Remind me not to mess with the Kiwis 🙂

      Reply
  7. Nigel Clifford

    I think that overpacking and checking visa requirements are the two biggest mistakes friends and I have made when going on long trips, wish I’d read this before 😛

    Reply
  8. noel

    Great tips, those are good advise. I usually travel just with my hand carries so I’m forced to bring as little as possible and just buy what I need when I’m traveling.
    noel recently posted..Travel Photo Mondays – #2My Profile

    Reply
  9. Mark

    Somehow a tweet caught my eye and landed me here. Good list. In addition to visas, you may want to add having enough blank pages on the passport. If you are down to one blank square on your passport, the odds are pretty good you are out of luck here. A good friend of mine was denied entry because he forgot to add new pages to his passport and did not realize it until he arrived. Naturally, they put him to the next plane back and his travel insurance wouldn’t cover the cancellations.
    Mark recently posted..5 Reasons to Travel Solo in IndonesiaMy Profile

    Reply
    • Micki Kosman

      Mark, that’s a great tip. I’ve heard of quite a few people who have been burned by not having enough room on their passports for stamps.

      Reply

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