When traveling for the first time, a lot of people get stressed about all the things they can do wrong when in an unfamiliar country. If this is exactly how you feel as a newbie traveler, then relax…it is not strange. We have made many mistakes while traveling and even the most experienced travelers sometimes make really cringe-worthy mistakes. It comes with the desire to explore the unknown. So, to help you navigate your next travel destination smoothly, here are the top 10 mistakes you should never make as a traveler.
- Keeping a cluttered itinerary
We get it…you want to see everything while on this short trip. You have been dreaming of going to Paris for years and finally got the chance. So, now you want to visit the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, Notre-Dame Cathedral, and watch an opera performance even though it will be a very tight fit into your schedule. This is a terrible idea. Kati and I used to make this mistake A LOT. A cluttered itinerary is a recipe for disaster. So, as tempted as you are to cram everything up into your three-day stay at one of those fancy destinations, try to be flexible instead. Calculate how much time it would take to move around by bus or train or whatever available means of transportation. Don’t forget about all those times that you would be delayed or the possibility of bad weather disrupting your plans. Don’t worry, you don’t have to see the entire country in just one visit. Pick out the best sites and spread them out properly to give you the chance to recover smoothly from any unforeseen circumstances without ruining the entire trip.
- Packing more than necessary
Do you really need a backpack filled with makeup or more than two luggage of clothing for just a week? How about those numerous pair of shoes you’re forcing into your bag, are they really that necessary? These are only a few of the many things travelers pack for trips when, in reality, they do not need them. Overpacking is an extra weight that could pull you back and also add a lot to your travel bills. It won’t be cheap to have that packed into the plane, and neither will it be easy lugging it around when you’re on the move. You can enjoy your trip better when you’re lighter. So, pack only the items you know that you would absolutely need and not what you think you will use at some point. You can even buy these items cheaper at your destination. So, if you’re traveling for just a week, pack a week’s worth of essentials and only a few extra to account for the possibility of things going wrong.
- Taking too much alcohol
Never ever forget that you’re in a foreign country. While it’s okay to relax and have some fun with a couple of drinks, always make sure that this is done in moderation. Drinking so much that you lose control of yourself will only lead to trouble as you will be at a higher risk of getting injured or robbed. Also, it won’t be easy on your pockets either as you may run out of money faster than you expected. So, relieve stress by enjoying the nightlife of those awesome cities and their taste in alcohol but never until the point where you lose yourself.
- Traveling without a budget
It may sound impossible, but some people think it’s okay to just wing it when they travel. A huge aspect of traveling is planning for your expenses and sticking to that budget. Don’t just put together a few dollars and tag it as “trip fees.” Instead, break it down into sizeable chunks and put a decent allocation for each activity. Budget for your feeding, transportation, accommodation, and those places that would charge a few to experience the sights. Make sure that your budget is as realistic as possible so that you will have enough breathing room for unexpected expenses. With a decent and realistic budget, you will be able to get an authentic and creative experience wherever you are. It will save you a lot of future heartaches, especially the pain of running out of money in a foreign country thousands of miles away from home.
- Being more touristy than necessary
When you see someone in khaki clothing, a camera slung over his neck, and he’s walking around with his nose buried most of the time in a map…then you know for sure that that’s a tourist. However, this stereotypical image is not necessary. Your dressing or attitude doesn’t have to scream tourist but try to blend in as much as possible with the locals without making it forceful. Yes, it’s a new environment, and you don’t know anywhere. However, that doesn’t mean that you must stick to the tourist trail all through your trip. Be adventurous. You have seen countless blogs that mentioned the same top ten sites to visit in that country, but you’re allowed to create your unique experience as well. Most times, this is the way to create some of the best experiences. Also, ask for directions when you feel lost, and you’ll definitely see someone willing to help. However, don’t trust the first direction you get. Ask at least three different people and then go with the general consensus. It will keep you from getting lost. Remember, take some time to put down the guidebooks and maps, and explore freely.
- Being too flashy
Never neglect your safety or put yourself deliberately in dangerous situations. One way to do that is to avoid tempting the wrong kind of people with your flashy valuables. That expensive DSLR camera doesn’t have to be around your neck 24/7, even when you’re not taking pictures. Not everyone needs to see that you have a great laptop or other expensive gadgets while you’re walking down the street. Instead, have a moderately sized backpack where you can put in these valuables and lock them in for extra safety. Bring them out only when it is absolutely necessary. This way, you won’t be attracting unwanted attention and eventually get noticed by pickpockets. Also, you don’t need to carry too much cash around. Instead of putting your money in one place, have various safe spaces that are as secure as possible. This way, if you, unfortunately, get robbed, you won’t be stranded and have to endure an even more traumatic experience.
- Ignoring time zones and the need for document backups
When booking a trip, one of the mistakes travelers make is not factoring in time zones. If you’re moving from one time zone to another, there is every possibility of being hit with jet-lag. If this is not managed effectively, it could ruin your entire trip. So, always corroborate your different time zones by checking how many you are crossing and how long it would take. This should be a significant factor when scheduling your reservations. Now, taking a trip means you will also be moving about with some pretty important documents like your passport, pictures taken on the trip, and travel insurance papers. Never underestimate the power of making backups. So, have a secured email handy where you can upload soft copies of all your relevant documents. Also, backup your pictures here or to a USB drive. The key here is to ensure that these essential documents are not all in just one place. Imagine what would happen if you lost your passport and didn’t have any other copy close by? It is even more heartbreaking to lose your pictures as this is what accounts for all the memories you’re making during your fantastic trip. So, keep them safe and don’t make the mistake of being flippant about your documents.
- Picking cheap over value
This is a common mistake with first-time travelers. We get that you want to reduce costs as much as possible, but there will be a lot of regrets when you find yourself spending the night on a rocky bed because the hotel costs $10 per night. Since a lot of people travel on a budget, we can’t blame you much for this. You want to find the cheapest food, transport, accommodation and pretty much everything. However, this is not worth the potential suffering that could put a damper on your experience. This doesn’t mean that you should spend extravagantly on your trip. What we’re saying is that you should check your options carefully after narrowing them down to affordable prices, and then pick the one with the best value. The truth is that there will be really cheap options in these countries. You will most likely find a hotel that offers as low as $5 per night or a plate of food that doesn’t cost more than $15. However, those hotel rooms will likely be unlivable. From lousy internet connections to bad locations, the possibilities are endless. Instead of allowing the price to cloud your judgment and making you think that it may not be all that bad, you can pay just a little more for a clean and comfortable room with so much value. Value is not only limited to hotel rooms alone, but it also involves transportation. There is no reason why you should pay for a cheaper bus that will take 14 hours to get to your destination when you can pay a little more for a minibus that will get you there in half that time. Choose your comfort first, and you will realize that it will be worth it. No matter what your budget is, you can also get the best value without overspending.
- Ignoring your instincts
If you keep feeling like something isn’t right, that’s probably because it isn’t. Sometimes, our subconscious tries to warn us about potentially dangerous situations, and this manifests physically in the form of a queasy stomach or any other sign. When this happens, don’t ignore your instincts. When you’re about to get into a vehicle, and you have a feeling that the passengers are hiding something, trust your instincts, and look for an alternative. When you’re about to walk down a street, and suddenly you’re overcome by goosebumps, pick a different route. It doesn’t have to be something dramatic before you pay attention. Your travel instincts can save you from a world of trouble. These are danger cues that only your subconscious mind is picking up, but that gut feeling is your physical signal. Pay attention to every situation, and the more you travel, the more accurate your instincts will become.
- Being insensitive to the local culture
Every country or location has a local culture, and the odds are that it’s completely different from what you’re used to in your home. So, when traveling, you need to do the proper research on the local culture of your destination. Try to blend better into your surroundings by having an open mind. You don’t have to feel awkward, the locals will understand that you’re an outsider. When you encourage polite conversation, you can interactively learn more about the culture. You never know what you may do that the locals will find insulting…especially when it comes to tipping. Different countries around the world have different tipping rules.
Not every restaurant staff will ask for a tip, except they are very straightforward. They instead would expect that you know about their tipping culture. So, if you have already done the necessary research, you would know if you’re meant to tip or not. Doing this wrong will give you a bad impression, and you don’t want to go around disrespecting restaurants when feeding is still big on your list. While some countries automatically add tips to your bill, others expect you to leave them on the table when you’re done with your meal. Even more interesting are countries like Japan, where it could be considered an insult to leave a tip. Countries like New Zealand and Australia don’t expect tips, but it’s okay to drop them if you feel like it. So, with how different the tipping rules are, make sure that you read extensively on the one that applies to your chosen destination.
11. Covid (One more to remember)
Be aware that not wearing a mask or refusing to get vaccinated is really a first world problem. Kati and I have traveled to Africa this past year and almost everyone would be happy to get vaccinated if they had access. Also, almost everyone that we came in contact with were wearing masks. Even in the rural areas. For the majority of people in the world, getting vaccinated or wearing masks is just good business, and in many places they just wish that they had access to and can afford a vaccine. It helps bring back tourist money that they desperately need. Be respectful. No one cares about whether or not you feel that masks are unfair, or vaccines don’t work. They just want to be able to give you good service and to stay safe.
Our Final Word
Remember that every trip is also a learning experience. So, don’t worry so much when you make mistakes as it’s a chance for you to grow. However, with this guide, ensure that you keep a note of these mistakes that you should never make as a traveler.
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