How To Steer Clear Of These 10 Common Travel Mistakes

by Shelli Stein

I make them, you make them. That’s why they’re called “common” travel mistakes. I don’t think we’ll ever avoid all of them. But more often than not, there are ways around the common travel mistakes we make. Sure, it might be way more fun to talk about all the room upgrades we score, the elite status benefits we enjoy, or the deal for flights that DIDN’T get away, but let’s face it, we’ve all made a bunch of travel mistakes. So let’s air them and have some fun laughing at ourselves and commiserating with each other. Here’s Part 1 and Part 2 of the series.

The Most Common Travel Mistakes

No matter how much we plan or how well we assume we’ll carry out those plans, there’s always a lot that’s not under our control. I started asking around and found that some of the biggest travel mistakes are more common than others. And some people agree on how best to avoid those travel mistakes, but not always. Based on my own experience as well as that of many other frequent travelers, here are the common travel mistakes and how to avoid them.

1. Passport Issues

common travel mistakes

This one surfaced for a friend of mine just last month. Passports have an expiration date, that’s obvious. And in general, they are valid up until the day they expire. But not always and not everywhere. Some destinations require at least 3-6 months remaining on your passport in order to travel. If you need a visa for your trip, these remaining months are essential. It’s good to have a beginning of the year checklist for travel. Or maybe start your checklist on your birthday so it coincides with your passport. In either case, do put checking your passport dates on that travel to-do list.

2. Not Doing Your Homework

This is a tricky one because I fall right in the middle of the planning spectrum. My cousin has a trip planned to Paris and she’s already got opera tickets, Eiffel Tower tickets, and three city tour tickets all paid for and booked. For me, that’s way too much planning ahead.

I’ll do some planning, but I like to get somewhere and see what I feel like doing and how I want to spend my time. Maybe I’m lucky, but I’ve never had trouble getting an opera ticket or city tour when I’ve made plans from my destination rather than planning so far ahead. If you don’t do your homework though, you may miss out or create stress for yourself.

Case in point is hotel rooms, or lodging in general. Though some people can wing that, I do prefer to know where I’m going to stay and how I’ll get there when I arrive.

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3. Not Reading Reviews

biggest travel mistakes

The choice of seat can make all the difference in the world.

A similar mistake can be reading too many reviews and believing what you read. I think the more we travel, the better we get at discerning information and whether or not it applies to us. There are, of course, reviews that are helpful and mention information that’s useful.

Reading hotel, tour company, and things like seats on plane reviews can save us a lot of time, money, and disappointment. And if I’m paying cash for a hotel stay, I always use Pruvo to monitor for price drops to save even more money.

4. Not Reconfirming Plans

Sometimes I think I go overboard reconfirming things. Not because I’m a nervous traveler, but rather because I think it’s a good habit to have. The first time you forget to reconfirm and your plans get messed up, you’ll never not reconfirm again, right? Of course even when I’ve reconfirmed, plans still get messed up.

5. Not Double Checking Your Plans

I’m thinking if you are good about reconfirming you’re also the one who double checks, and maybe triple checks all the plans and itineraries. It’s weird how you can read the same thing over and over again and not notice a date or time until during one reading you say aloud, holy cow, how did I miss that!

For instance, you have a 12:05 AM flight and like most fliers you think that is the middle of the night on Thursday when it was actually the crack of dawn on Wednesday the day before. Oops, missed your flight by 24 hours.

Unfortunately, this happens all the time. I always make a note to myself jotting down the DAY of the week for my flights so as not to get those hours confused. Time zones and daylight savings time changes are tricky too.

Make sure someone in your travel group is the double checker. You do know the story of the guy who got on the plane to OAK when he should have been on the plane to AKL, or the travel blogger who picked up the wrong car from the wrong rental company at AKL. Ooops, that would be me, and that’s an embarrassing story I’ll save for another time!

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6. Not Packing A Change Of Clothes In Your Carry-On

common travel mistakes

Don’t put everything in your checked bag.

If you’re one of the few lucky ones who has never lost a bag or arrived days before your bags did, I’d like to meet you! I’ve made this mistake numerous times and each time I do, I swear I’ll always pack a change of clothes in my carry-on. Of course, this is a mistake that’s not necessarily going to ruin your holiday, but it still is a major hassle when it happens.

7. Putting Valuables Or Medicine In Checked Baggage

It’s called a “must have with me” for a reason and though this one is an easy mistake to make, it’s one we all need to pay attention to. Of course, at some point, you have to decide what absolutely does not belong in checked baggage. It’s also important to know what you can and cannot carry in your carry-on luggage. After all, you can’t wear all your favorite clothes and shoes on the plane with you… or can you?

8. Overpacking

This is definitely one of the biggest travel mistakes that almost everyone I speak with makes, no matter how experienced a traveler they become. I once swore I’d never travel with my cousin again unless she stopped overpacking. But I’m fun to travel with, so she stopped lugging so many bags!

To be honest, I still think I overpack and struggle with it on every trip I take. And I do sense I’m improving and getting my packing style grooved in. When I see what other people travel with, it doesn’t look like I overpack, but it’s more my perception. Overpacking and how to keep from doing it should be a blog post all by itself!

9. Using Your Cell Phone Without An International Plan

common travel mistakes

Do your research on how to stay connected while abroad

I remember having lunch with a friend who told me she didn’t realize she was so addicted to using her phone until she forgot to get a good cell phone plan before she left on her trip and then saw her bill when she got home. If I told you the actual dollar amount she’d never speak to me again, so let’s just say her bill for the week was hundreds of dollars.

Remembering to use airplane mode is a must. And whether you use an economical plan from your carrier, a SIM card, or just free Wi-Fi with a VPN when you can access it, it’s essential to have a plan as to how you’ll use your phone so you don’t spend your whole coffee budget and then some, on cell phone charges!

10. Not Getting Off The Tourist Trail

I’m a walker when I travel. Walking is the best way to get to know a place, whether that’s your home neighborhood, or a ‘hood half way around the world. I also love getting lost. I don’t use GPS for just these reasons.

Do I see the tourist sites? Of course, I do. I just know that in every country I visit, and on every trip I take, I find wonderful sites, restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, and parks by letting my instincts, rather than just a guide book and  technology, tell me where to roam. I even have a t-shirt that says, “All who wander are not lost.”

Final Thoughts

It’s true that mistakes can mean learning the hard way. But it’s the learning that’s important! Have you made any of these mistakes I mentioned? How do you avoid them?

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