Updated June 1, 2020.
No one likes to be corrected–perhaps especially not me! But no one also likes to do the wrong things–perhaps especially when traveling and being outside of what is familiar. So I’m my sweet, traveling husband and I have put our heads together to come up with a list of mistakes we and others have made when traveling to give you a heads-up for your next trip!
Not Having a Hardcopy
It’s great that so many things are electronic these days; it makes the world so accessible! But it’s by no means fool-proof. Phones die, passwords are forgotten, and sometimes it would just be easier to hand over a hard copy when you make your way to your hotel and they tell you that you don’t have a reservation. Print out a hardcopy for flight itineraries, hotel reservations, theater receipts, etc. Whatever might be handy to have with you. Paper takes up very little space and adds almost no weight!
Not Checking Your Calendar Before You Book
I’ll admit it, I’ve done this before, and I felt like a big dummy! You and I will save ourselves an awful lot of trouble, expense, and pride if we just glance at a calendar before we book tickets, make reservations, or apply for coveted tours!
If you’ve been following the blog for any amount of time, you might already know that I’m the world’s most out-spoken advocate for packing light and going carry-on only! But I know that’s not for everyone, so check a bag if you feel the need. But overpacking only makes more work for you when you could be enjoying your vacation and results in expensive fees at the airport. So check out my Packing Page, and follow the rule of thumb to pack half of what you think you’ll need. You’ll be impressed with yourself!
Everything you need to know: How to Pack the Perfect Carry-on
Not Asking TSA
On the subject of packing, don’t get so caught up in going carry-on only that you end up with something illegal in your bag! If you’re not quite sure if something you need to bring is allowed in your carry-on, just Tweet or Facebook your question to @AskTSA.
Keep reading! The Best Apps for Travelers
Giving Up When Flights Get Delayed or Cancelled
Don’t give up! If you’re already at the airport, through security, and have somewhere to be, by all means try to find out what your options are before you give up and head home. There will be another flight (perhaps not until the next day, but find out for sure), there will be some solution, and where there’s a will, there’s a way! And just so you can be as prepared as possible, here’s a post about What to do When Your Flight is Cancelled!
Cancelled or Delayed Flights in Europe? Get Your EU 261 Compensation
Not Drinking Enough Water
I know just as well as anyone that needing to use the restroom while traveling is incredibly irritating. I mean, when will the pilot turn off the fasten seatbelt sign? How are you going to crawl over two sleeping people to get to the lavatory? Why, oh why, do you have to pay in exact change to use the public restrooms in Europe? Why is there no toilet paper? How do you use an Asian-style or Turkish toilet anyway?
Irritations and discomfort aside, it’s very important to get enough water while you’re traveling. Dehydration can even happen in the winter time, and flying is much more dehydrating than you may think. Drinking enough water will help you fight jet lag, too! Shoot for a gallon a day (around 4 liters).
Not Trying to Acclimate to the New Time Zone
Hydration is very important, but managing your sleep is very important, too. Instead of taking a “quick nap” that turns into eight hours in the middle of the day, try to stay outside so the sun can set your internal clock, and don’t go to sleep until a normal time for your destination. You should always listen to your body, but your body will thank you in the long run for getting on the right schedule as soon as possible! For more, take a look at Jet Lag: Your Secret Travel Weapon.
Only Eating Things You Can Get at Home
Personal preferences are fine, but if you refuse to even try some of the local food wherever you travel, you are missing out on a whole aspect of the culture. Give it a try!
Need more foodie inspiration? Check out my World Foods Page!
Not Dressing Appropriately
This is especially important in more conservative countries like some in Asia and the Middle East, and it is particularly important for women. Girls, this is not your moment to prove your femininity or impose your beliefs on a culture different from your own. If you don’t dress conservatively, you will be heckled and run the risk of being sexually harassed.
Aside from that, you never want to stick out too much wherever you travel. So find out what locals wear these days wherever you go, and try to blend in. I actually love it when someone mistakes me for a local because I look like I belong!
Keep reading: What to Pack for a Conservative Country
Not Learning “Thank You” in the Local Language
“I can do it by myself.” –Quote from 2-year-old Quick Whit. We’d all like to think we can make it on our own, but as life and travel have taught me time and again, I need some help once in a while. It will mean so much to whoever helps you if you simply try to say “thank you” in their language. If you don’t learn anything else before you go, please learn “thank you!”
More here: Words to Learn in the local Language
Being Glued to Your Phone
We all want the perfect pictures, we all like to think we’re so essential that those work e-mails just can’t wait, and we all feel compelled to post our whole trip to social media. It’s just the truth. But please refrain from getting so caught up in what’s happening on your phone that you miss this incredible place you’ve travel so far to experience!
I went on a week-long cruise with a girlfriend several years ago, and she was constantly checking e-mail, taking calls, and getting really angry because she wasn’t back home to handle everything. I didn’t let it ruin my vacation, but she sure could have been having more fun in the moment!
Letting Your Phone Die
Ok, so I just told you to stay off your phone. But if you’re like me, your phone is also your camera. There’s almost nothing that scares me more than watching my phone die right in the middle of something I really want to have a picture of–a luau, a concert, a whale-watching trip, a scenic helicopter flight, etc. Don’t let that happen to you! Put your phone in airplane mode (you can turn on the wifi while it’s in airplane mode when necessary, but that also uses battery life), turn on the “Low Power Mode” feature for maximum life!
Want more tips like this? Check out Top 10 Travel Hacks!
Right City, Wrong Airport
It happens. Many major cities have more than just one airport–my adopted hometown of D.C. claims three airports! When booking your airline tickets, make sure the airport codes match. Do an Internet search for the 3-letter code to make sure you know for sure which airport you’re flying into. And by all means, check your reservation again before you leave the hotel for the airport!
Is that cheap ticket worth the trouble of finding your way to a different airport for your connect? Read Budget Blunders (and how to avoid them)!
Thinking You’ll Figure It Out When You Get There
Sometimes that works out. And for some people, it’s like their whole life just works out that way. But for the rest of us, just do a little digging before you go. Use Trip Advisor to find things you want to do, places to eat, and accommodations. What are the opening hours and days for the attractions you want to see? Do a quick Internet search for transportation options–is Uber, public transportation, or a taxi best?
Just knowing those things before you arrive will get you well on your way to having a wonderful trip with positive memories–instead of regrets about missing something you really wanted to see or do for lack of planning!
That said, it is possible to over plan in your efforts to not under plan. Just plan a few things close to each other each day instead of trying to fit a zillion things in that will have you back-tracking and running all over the place for your whole trip. Want more? Check out How to Plan a Trip!
Not Letting Travel Mates Have Space
This one is detrimental to marriages, families, friendships, and any other relationship you can think of. Even if you’re traveling for the sake of being together, work in some time to let everyone have some space. There’s no shame in that. But let it be a planned time and not one that comes up after an argument–it’s already too late then! For more, check out How to Plan Travel with a Group!
Still want to love your travel buddy after traveling together?
Read What to Know About Your Travel Buddy!
Not Checking to See If You Need a Visa
It’s all fun and games until you have to pay for a flight home without leaving the airport. Think you can just jet off to Australia with just a ticket and you’re good looks? Think again! Australia’s visa process for Americans is an easy and instantaneous one, but you have to have it before you get there. Planning a leisurely trip to Ha Long Bay, Vietnam? Better start your visa process early! Don’t let a visa stop you from going somewhere you want to go. For all things visa, check out How to Get a Tourist Visa!
Running Out of Money
Do not panic! Don’t let yourself run out of cash while you’re abroad. An ATM inside a bank is usually best, but don’t be afraid to use ATMs elsewhere as well. Keep an eye on how much cash you have on hand, and get more cash when you get down to the equivalent of 20 USD. Don’t let yourself go below that, just in case.
Not Paying in the Local Currency
If you’re asked whether you’d like to pay in the local currency or in U.S. dollars (or whatever your country’s currency is), always choose the local currency. You’ll save on the exchange rate and possibly fees as well.
Essential info: The Ultimate Guide to Travel and Your Money
Not Having a Backup Card
Sometimes the card you want to use doesn’t work, and sometimes there’s no explanation. Always carry a backup card with you on travel, just in case. Whether that’s another credit card or your debit card, have a second option.
Still not sure you even need a credit card? Check out
The Beginner’s Guide to Credit Card Points!
Not Bringing Entertainment for the Flight
Even if you think you’ll have access to movies and TV in-flight, sometimes it’s broken or there’s just nothing you want to watch. Be sure to bring a book or something else to help yourself pass the time. It’s ok to be bored sometimes, and it’s wonderful if you’re one of the lucky ones who can sleep on a flight, but I recommend having an option, just in case!
How can you know what’s playing on your flight?
Check out my Tips for Flying United!
Was this helpful for you? Have these things happened to you? Comment below!
Want more? Check out my Travel Planning Page so you can travel your best!
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5 thoughts on “Travel Mistakes (You May Be Making)”
Some valuable tips here,
Thank you! I always want to be helpful! ♥️
Always have a hard copy!!! Digital isn’t always better. On my trip to Chicago, I have a spreadsheet with confirmation numbers, hotel phone numbers, flights, even the times for my baseball games! Yes, i’ll have it on my app, but i’m printing it out, too. Amtrak only take physical tickets!
Nice points. Im guilty of a few of these. Finally after years i’m opting out of the “Show up and see what happens” mentality, its proving fruitful.
Haha! Gotta get your mind right! 🤣 Glad you liked the post! I think all travelers make some or all of these mistakes, at least at the beginning!