Travel can mean many things to people. It can be fun and relaxing. Exhilarating and enlightening. But none of us want travel to be awful. Keep travel firmly in the “fun” category by avoiding these disastrous travel mistakes.
Most of us have probably made some travel mistakes. As for me, I’ve made just about every single one of the travel mistakes below.
While these travel mistakes have helped me to grow and learn, they are not mistakes I want to repeat in the future.
So learn from my mistakes and avoid the disastrous travel mistakes below. Happy, fun, and safe travels!
1. Wearing new shoes or clothing
My friend Lindsay vividly remembers the time she wore new shoes on a trip to France. She got horrible ankle rub and had to ditch the shoes for flip flops for the rest of the trip.
Many of us use an exciting trip as an excuse to buy new shoes and clothing. But your trip should not be the first time you wear those items.
New shoes can cause ankle rub and blisters. New clothes can be unexpectedly uncomfortable.
2. Not allowing time for relaxation
I make this disastrous travel mistake way too often. When I’m touring a place, I want to see absolutely everything.
That sometimes means that I’ve jammed an insane amount of activities into a very short time period. And over the course of that time, I start to enjoy myself less and less.
This negatively impacts my experience and memories of the trip.
What I’ve learned to do is schedule relaxation moments at least once a day and sometimes for an entire day.
When I do this, I find I enjoy my trip much, more more – even if I didn’t end up seeing absolutely everything a location has to offer.
3. Packing a heavy day bag
You know you shouldn’t overpack in general, but what about packing your day bag?
I’m always seeing people walking around tourist sites with ridiculously giant backpacks.
The backpack-wearers look uncomfortable and the people around them are constantly dodging the swinging mass of the backpack.
Plus, there are many museums and tourist locations that don’t allow big backpacks.
So next time you’re playing the role of tourist, pack a light day bag with just your essentials. Your back (and those around you) will thank you for it.
4. Not checking vaccine requirements
You could be in for an unpleasant surprise if you don’t check a country’s vaccine requirements before your trip.
Some countries require you to have certain vaccinations before you enter the country. That means you might be denied entrance to the country if you’re not properly vaccinated.
In other situations, your own country may recommend that you get certain vaccinations or preventative medications before visiting another country.
To make matters even more complicated, some vaccinations require multiple doses. So you may have to plan your vaccinations months in advance of your trip.
This list will tell you what vaccinations are required or recommended for each country. To get the vaccination, you can either check with your primary care doctor or search for a travel clinic in your area.
5. Forgetting to check visa requirements
Unfortunately, a plane ticket does not mean automatic entry into every country.
Some countries require that you have a visa before you can enter their borders.
Sometimes you can get the visa at the border. Other times, you need to get the visa in advance. When getting a visa in advance, options might include getting it through a tour company in that country or visiting that country’s embassy in your home country.
In some countries, you may get a visa in advance and still have pay a shady visa fee in cash at the airport.
Regardless of how you get the visa, you’ll need to know well before your trip whether you need a visa to enter a country.
Otherwise, you may find yourself unable to board a plane or turned away at the border.
6. Getting horribly sunburnt (one of the worst disastrous travel mistakes!)
Why is it that horrible sunburns always come at the *beginning* of a trip?
It seems there’s always one person who fails to effectively apply sunscreen on day 1 of the trip. That person has definitely been me far too many times. I then spend the rest of the trip covering up in excessive layers and applying aloe vera.
Do your best to avoid getting sunburnt. Apply sunscreen before you go outside and reapply it frequently.
7. Using a credit card that charges foreign currency fees
In our digital world, I don’t think there’s any reason why a credit card company should charge you a foreign currency fee.
But unfortunately many still do. And I unfortunately let this happen to me for far too long.
Before you go on your next international trip, check your credit card terms and conditions. If you don’t have a credit card that waives the foreign currency fees, then I recommend you get one.
I’ve been using the Chase Sapphire Preferred for my international travels, which happily does not charge foreign currency fees.
8. Not signing up for trusted traveler programs
Shorter lines (which means fewer missed flights) and less invasive security checks await you once you’re approved for these programs.
So stop what you’re doing right now and sign up. Simply fill out the form and schedule your interview.
It’s not nearly as painful as it might seem. And the benefits are glorious.
9. Not having the right plug adapter or voltage converter
You’ll likely run into a number of different electrical plugs while traveling internationally. That means the standard chargers you use at home might not fit the plugs in another country.
Make sure to bring a plug adapter like this one so that you can charge your electronics while traveling.
If you’re an American or Canadian traveling to another country, you may also need a voltage converter.
The rest of the world uses different voltage than the U.S. and Canada. This isn’t a problem for most electronics. But it’s deadly for hairdryers, curling irons, and straighteners.
10. Letting your passport get too close to the expiration date
Your passport expires in four months, so you’re good to travel, right? Unfortunately, that might not be the case.
Many countries won’t let you enter their country if your passport expires within six months.
Keep track of your passport expiration date and consider starting the renewal process a year in advance of its expiration.
That way you’ll have your passport renewed in plenty of time and won’t face any travel disruptions.
11. Failing to check the weather at each point of destination (one of my most frequent disastrous travel mistakes!)
Many people who have been to San Francisco have the sweatshirt to prove it. That’s because first-time travelers to San Francisco are often surprised by how cold it is. Believe me, I was one of them.
Even if you check the weather ahead of time, you may find certain places at your destination are colder than others. This is especially true when moving between high and low altitudes.
A packable down jacket takes up very little room in your luggage and helps you to prepare for unexpectedly cold weather.
12. Not knowing the clothing requirements
Many religious sites and some tourist locations have specific clothing requirements.
Some locations may require that your torso and legs are covered. Other locations may require business professional dress.
My friend Lindsay couldn’t enter the Monte Carlo Casino because she was in flip flops. Another friend couldn’t enter the Grand Palace in Bangkok because her shoulders weren’t covered.
Don’t miss out on fantastic cultural experiences because you don’t meet the clothing requirements.
13. Straying too far from your normal diet and schedule
When we travel, many of us want to experience as much as we can of a new place.
We want to eat all the delicious food, stay up late to see the show, and wake up early to see the sunset.
But our bodies really don’t like it when we suddenly stray too far from our normal diet and schedule.
Headaches, stomachaches, cramps, lethargy, and just about every other symptom in the book can hit us hard when we don’t treat our bodies right. You don’t want to spend your vacation in pain. Or worse, at the doctor’s office.
So while you should still experience what a new place has to offer, try to avoid getting too carried away.
14. Not having electronic back-ups
Before going on a big trip, I like to save an electronic copy of my passport, visa, credit cards, and itinerary to a secure electronic folder.
This will help you to be in the best position possible if these items are unfortunately lost or stolen.
While some people like to make hard copies, I want to guarantee that I’ll be able to access something electronically even if I don’t have access to a hard copy.
15. Bringing valuables
I’ve had valuables stolen out of my checked luggage. While none of it was irreplaceable, it was still a frustrating experience.
I should have just left the valuables at home.
It’s also possible that you could innocently lose your valuables.
When you’re traveling from airport to airport, hotel to hotel, it’s unfortunately easy to leave something behind.
Rather than risk losing your valuables, I recommend leaving them at home.
16. Being unaware of local customs
When you visit another country, it’s important to be respectful of local customs and norms.
What may be perfectly acceptable in your home country may be a grave insult in another country.
In extreme circumstances, violating a local culture or norm may even land you in jail.
Be sure you research the local customs, culture, and norms before you start your trip.
You’re never, ever going to say, “wow, thank goodness I packed all those shoes!”
Lots of clothing and shoe options may seem like a great idea before a trip. But it’s not so fun to lug heavy luggage around airports, up Airbnb staircases, or through crowded train stations.
What’s more, if you pack so much that you have to check one or more bags, you risk the chance of losing that bag forever to lost bag purgatory. Then all your clothing and shoe options will be gone anyway.
Believe me, I know from lots of unfortunate personal experience.
Stick to the basics when packing. If you’re going to be traveling for an extended period, plan on doing laundry mid-way through the trip. You can either find a local cleaner or bring some detergent packets for a quick sink wash.
Phew, that was a lot of disastrous travel mistakes! I hope hearing about my disastrous travel mistakes has helped to prepare you for your own travels. Here’s to safe and happy travels ahead!