Yes, even avid travellers makes mistakes. One of the humbling things about being a regular traveller is that no matter how many times you’ve flown, travelled, and adventured about, you still mess up. I feel like every travel has taught me a new lesson, sometimes ever re-taught me. But I would rather avoid any future slip ups.
A trick I use to get by through life less clumsily is to learn from other people’s mistakes! So we’re spilling the beans on all out travel mishaps as well as mishaps we have seen other travellers make, and how you can avoid them on your next trip. Here we go!
1.Losing Stuff by Not Double Checking
Whether it is a wallet in an Irish restaurant or a cellphone on an airplane, the time you are most likely to lose something is in transit, usually right as you are leaving somewhere. Always have a mental checklist that you go over before you leave a place. Take the extra 30 seconds to check your seat and pockets. It can make all the difference! And yes, I have accidentally left both my wallet and cellphone behind…twice. Only lost a cellphone on a train that never returned.
2. Not Drinking Water
When you are always on the go, or if it is winter time, you can forget to drink a proper amount of water. In the summer you might cool off with a beer or lemonade, but water is the best for a mobile traveller. In most places, tap water is not potable so it is important to get your water from a clean source or to have a bottle that filters for you.
3. Not Validating Tickets
The system of validating tickets is not common for some people but it is extremely common in Europe in one degree or another. Pay attention to signs that say “Validate”, or for machines sticking out of the ground just before your platform. It might seem like you can just walk in and no one would be the wiser (because it’s true), if you do get caught, it’s a sting in your wallet. Maybe you simply didn’t know how it works, your innocence and good intentions won’t persuade the control officers, so try to be aware and ask for help if you need to.
Read more about Europe Travel Tips
4. Not Checking Exchange Rate
As soon as you arrive in new place, one of the first things we want to do is exchange money. Usually, the first place you want to exchange will likely be the one closest to where you got off, and it will likely be the most expensive or the one that will give you the worse rate. This is especially true of most airports.
Know your rate as close to the day you arrive as possible, and don’t be desperate to exchange at the airport by being prepared and already having some local currency on you! If you know the rate, then you will know if you found a good place to exchange the rest of your cash.
5. Forgetting to Pack Something
There isn’t much quite as annoying as being on your way only to realize you forgot to pack something useful or important. I have a whole blog post dedicated to exactly that, which includes a travel list you can download and use yourself for your next trip to make sure you don’t forget to pack something!
6. Packing Too Much
This has only happened to me once or twice, and is not a huge issue, but if you are on a fairly long travel and moving about, it can cause a nuisance. I have managed to come up with a formula to know if I have enough clothes for my journey.
If you are travelling for 1 week:
- you only need 3-4 outfits in colder seasons
- 4-5 outfits in warmer seasons.
If you are travelling longer than 1 week:
- you need 5 outfits for winter
- 6-8 summer outfits
The reason I pack more in the summer is because I find I sweat a great deal more in hot weather and it wears out my clothes that much faster. Also summer clothes take up much less space than bulky sweaters. Even if you are travelling for a month, you don’t need to pack more outfits than that, because each outfit should have 2-3 wears or more. The key is to find the time and place to do your laundry, and also to have room in your luggage for any new items you might fancy on buying as a souvenir or just because.
7. Not Resting
For those new to travelling, it is very easy to think of it as a sport or marathon, or how it is in the movies. What they don’t show in the movies is the downtime, the day you sleep for 12 hours straight to recover from a hike, or the half day you spend in your hostel doing laundry and catching up on emails. While life might feel a bit surreal when you just saw the Great Wall, don’t wear yourself out in a desperate attempt to ‘not waste time’. Time taken to rest and relax will help you keep going longer than dragging yourself around with sore blistered feet, possibly a cold, and smelly clothes…
Read more about how to feel refreshed after an overnight flight!
8. Cutting It Close
It’s been said that being ‘on time’ means you’re already late. When it comes to catching transportation, it never, ever, EVER hurts to arrive early. Now, don’t arrive 3 hours early. A minimum of half an hour for things like buses and trains will help make travel that much less stressful. You never know if you hit traffic or realize the metro stop you were going to get off at is currently closed off. I have yet to miss something, but we have had close calls, and all the running, huffing and puffing could have been avoided. Those being said, if you are late, RUN! Run like your life depends on it. You just might get lucky, and our odds have been pretty good!
9. Staying Only 1 night
Nothing taught me more of the disadvantage of staying one night more than our recent stop in Bratislava, where (you guessed it) we stayed only one night. Something to always keep in mind is the time it takes when in transit. The time it takes to figure out how to get from point A to point B, to get to the hotel or hostel, to set up or settle in. So if you only stay one night somewhere, you’re not really exploring the whole day.
Also, unless the city or town is strictly a connection point, I find there is always enough to see to take two days. If you have things pre-booked and arranged, it is very hard to change your plans suddenly, so do a 2 night rule and explore what could be a diamond in the rough.
There are many things travellers have to worry about: timing, money, and safety being the biggest ones. I have a blog post dedicated to how not worry or stress about safety as you travel, some simply tips to put your mind at ease. Life is already not meant to be lived with worry or stress, much less your travel experience. Have faith, do some planning, be aware of your surroundings, and embrace the fact that the road might be bumpy, that there might be detours, or hiccups along the way, but remember this ever cheesy quote: “Travel is not about the destination, but about the journey”.
Read more advice on how to travel worry and stress-free.
11. Wasting Time in Lines
This is especially painful if you are travelling during a high season and only staying somewhere for a short amount of time. While it may seem wildly romantic to travel purely on a whim and go about as unplanned as possible, unless you are a full-time traveller on a 6 month journey, you’re probably like the rest of us who have limited vacation time.
12. Keeping all Money in same place
If you stay in a hotel, use the safe that comes with your room. We try to budget how much we will use in day’s outing, and leave the rest, along with passports and other important things behind. Bad things happen sometimes, and at least this way you minimize the damage. Should something get lost or stolen, it’s best to not put all your eggs in one basket.
13. Not Picking a Good Travel Buddy
Avoid this overly common travel mistake. Going with someone that isn’t going to be a compatible travel partner is something that happens ALL the time. Fortunately for me, I have always had great travel friends, but it did take a while for my husband and I to find a good rhythm and develop a similar travel style. Travelling with your spouse is not the same as with a friend, so make your choice carefully.
Read more about what not to do when travelling with a buddy
14. Forgetting to the Call Bank
If you plan to pull out local currency or use your MasterCard abroad, make sure you let your bank know before you leave. Doesn’t have to be much more than a couple days before your trip, but it definitely saves embarrassments , hassle and long-distance phone calls.
15. Not Checking Visa Requirements
Barely 3 weeks before our trip to Russia, I suddenly remembered about Visas. Being Canadian, we’re fairly spoiled when it comes to travel in that there are not many places that we require a visa for, but Russia is not one of them! Between limited working hours the Embassy (they only had specific days of the week for visa applications) and the fact that the school I work at is 45 minutes away, it was a miracle that I was able to steal away from work and make it to the Embassy to apply. Unfortunately, I missed a document, so we had to run around a bit in downtown Cairo to get it all. Our visas were ready just days before our flight!
I hope you feel super prepared for your next trip! These won’t guarantee it will be flawless, life never is. But now you can keep some key things in mind to make sure you are not the reason your trip is full of bumps along the way!
Have you done any of these mistakes? Do you have some travel wisdom you would like to share? Let us know in the comments below or ask some questions!