I may not have travelled as much as some. However, I’ve learned my lessons! From bad experiences, people I’ve met, and sometimes being caught short, I know a lot of great practices. Follow these simple solutions to prepare, know your stuff, and stay safe. To save you some time and hassle, here they are: my top ten travel mistakes and how to avoid them.
10. Not participating in memberships.
We all hate junk mail and promotional emails. But think about it. Whether it’s a frequent flyer scheme, loyalty club, or even credit card rewards, you may be able to save a lot of money by joining and paying attention to regular offers. Stay alert for ways to maximise bonuses while planning your stay. Even non-program deals that might cost you even less than any discount your membership offers. It’s a great way to keep costs down, even on a once-in-a-lifetime getaway.
9. Not telling your bank that you’re going away.
“My card got blocked when I was on holiday and I ended up with a £200 phone bill trying to get it sorted.” I’ve heard every variation of this. It’s also one of the easiest travel mistakes to not make! All it takes is one quick phone call to your bank (usually free local-rate) to let them know the dates you’ll be away. They beep-beep-boop on their system and you should be all set to use your card abroad.
8. Not looking for a good currency exchange rate.
This is one of the biggest travel mistakes. I can’t stress this enough: it is not worth it to exchange your money at the airport. Check your local travel agents, bank, and the Post Office for the best rate. Better yet, load your cash onto a prepaid credit card or withdraw your cash abroad. Often, the surcharge for doing so will be a nominal fee and you’ll get a great rate.
7. Not packing the right things.
It’s my worst nightmare to hear, “Your bag is overweight,” at the airport. Thankfully, it hasn’t happened yet—and effective planning means that it won’t ever have to. Pack versatile clothing that you can wear more than once and buy travel-size toiletries. Make sure to also check if your accommodation has a washing machine (you’ll automatically pack less). Buy a miniature baggage scale to use at home and ensure you’re never over the limit.
6. Not making copies of important documents.
By the law of averages, all of us will fall victim to loss, theft, or another travel mishap at one time or another. Make copies of your passport, visa, bank cards, and travel documents. Store these separately to the originals. An online cloud storage service is ideal, as it can be accessed from anywhere in the world. You could even leave another set with a family member at home just in case. If you end up needing them, you’ll be glad you took the time.
5. Not leaving gaps in the schedule.
When travelling, especially to exciting areas with lots to do, we’ve all gotten a little too wrapped up in everything on offer. Holidays are your quality time! Therefore why set unrealistic expectations of your time or stress out over sticking to a rigid itinerary? You don’t have to do it all at once and run the risk of ending up more tired than usual. Leave yourself the time to sit back, relax, and promise to come back if you want to do more.
4. Not researching local customs.
Spend an evening at some point before your trip researching your destination. Take the time to learn a few polite phrases in the local language. Research appropriate clothing, and find out about local etiquette (especially tipping). While you may view burping after dinner as a sign of appreciation, it might be wildly offensive elsewhere. Also, if you’re planning to take photographs, check local beliefs. In some cultures, taking a person’s photograph is believed to be the same as stealing their soul. Travel mistakes such as these are easy to fix with a little research. They may even go so far as to keep you a little safer.
3. Not taking out travel insurance.
My boyfriend recently asked me why I took out travel insurance for our trip to Cornwall. “We’re covered for medical issues on the NHS, right?” Well, yes. But what happens if our bags get lost or stolen? What about damage? What happens if one of us has a bad accident and the doctors decide it would be better to transport us home for medical treatment? Travel insurance is often inexpensive and so worth it when the worst happens.
2. Not realising you sometimes need more than a valid passport.
A friend of mine was recently told—by her airline, no less—that because she wouldn’t be leaving the airport on her layover, she wouldn’t need a visa. Wrong. She had to rebook her flights entirely as she wasn’t even allowed on the outbound flight from London. She ended up paying nearly £1,000. Always, always check each country’s requirement on an official website such as the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. They’re set up specifically to help you avoid these travel mistakes!
1. Not being safety-conscious.
No one wants to spend a day or more of their holiday at a police station or Embassy. Particularly not in a country where they don’t speak the language. Not only is it highly stressful, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll see stolen goods returned to you. Make sure to keep important documents and valuables inside your bag in a zipped pocket. If visiting a developing country, it can also help to dress discreetly, without large pieces of jewellery on show.
No matter where your travels take you, all of these tips and tricks can be helpful in making your holiday as relaxing as it can be. And isn’t that what it’s all about?
Until next time, stay safe and travel happy!