Everyone has their own unique travel style. From those crafty travellers who know how to work a budget like nobody’s business to the cashed-up luxury travellers with matching luggage and cashmere sleep socks (are those a thing?!) No matter what your travel style or experience level, there are still times you’re going to make a mistake. Now, look, we don’t claim to be perfect. In fact, we’ve messed up countless times! Which is how we know all about these 16 epic travel mistakes and how to avoid them…
1. Falling victim to common scams
Sadly, there are a lot of people out there who see tourists as potential marks and an opportunity to make a quick buck. Scams come in all shapes and sizes and a bad scam can ruin your holiday altogether and, potentially, leaving you feeling like you don’t like a destination because of your experience.
The Fix: Before you go, research common scams at the destination. A quick google search should reveal enough information for you to feel prepared and aware of what you might experience. That way, when it does happen, you’ll know how to spot it and avoid it with confidence. Read: How to avoid these 12 common scams in South-East Asia.
2. Using single-use plastics
When you start to take notice of it, you realise just how many unnecessary single-use plastics you encounter when travelling. Plastic water bottles, mini shampoo, conditioner and body wash bottles. Hotel amenities like plastic hairbrushes, toothbrushes and mini toothpaste tubes. Plastic bags, knives, forks and spoons, bowls, takeaway containers, wrappers and cling film. In a bid to offer convenience, many businesses are providing single-use plastics that have a huge negative impact on the environment.
The Fix: Be aware of single-use plastics and say no to them wherever possible. Pack a refillable water bottle and your own shampoo, conditioner and body wash from home. Don’t open or use hotel minis or plastic amenities. Carry a reusable knife, fork, spoon and straw in your day bag and ask for paper instead of plastic wherever possible. Read: 9 really easy ways to use less plastic when you travel.
3. Taking online reviews as gospel
When planning a trip, travellers often look to online review websites to see what others had to say. I’ve seen, first-hand, great local businesses be negatively impacted by bad reviews online. These reviews can be exaggerated or the person writing them has gone straight to the internet to blast the business, rather than raising their concerns with them and asking for help. Sadly, one bad review can far outweigh one good one and, often, it’s people with an issue who write reviews, not the people who loved it.
The Fix: Trust your instincts and don’t take online reviews as gospel. While it’s great to do your research and see what other people thought of the stay, what they’ve written may not necessarily be accurate or justified. If you see a business you like the look of, don’t let negative reviews turn you off if you really want to experience it.
4. Trying to pack too much into each day
When visiting a new destination there’s always the temptation to pack as much as possible into each day. When you’re spending hard-earned money on flights and accommodation and taking time off work, you want to be sure you’re making the most of your holiday. But enjoying a destination doesn’t have to be quantified by seeing and doing a certain number of things.
The Fix: Try to focus on key experiences that connect you with the heart and soul of the destination. Think about what you really want to get out of the trip and plan quality experiences that achieve that. For example, you might want to rest and relax, discover hidden spots, have a local’s experience or enjoy an adventure holiday – plan accordingly. Read: How to plan the epic Bali holiday of your dreams!
5. Forgetting to stop and look up
With so much great technology at our fingertips, we often arrive at a gorgeous spot and immediately whip out cameras and phones to capture the moment so we can remember it forever. Sometimes it’s not until you leave that you realise you didn’t actually take the time to stop and enjoy the moment.
The Fix: Don’t forget to put down the phone or camera and just sit for a while, soaking in the beauty of the moment and truly enjoy it. The chances are you may not ever come back again and while a photo is a great way to remember it, being present is the best way to enjoy it.
6. Following an ‘Insta-worthy’ itinerary
Travellers often glean travel advice from dreamy Instagram photos, adding destinations, restaurants and activities to their itinerary. Truth is, many Instagrammers are talented photographers and the images we see may be expertly edited or the photographer may have had access to a specific spot with no other people around. A photograph is a photograph and while food can look dreamy in an image, it may not be delicious in person. The temptation to visit a spot just for an Insta-worthy photo is all too real but it may not result in a true travel experience.
The Fix: Take travel inspiration from your favourite Instagrammers but do your research too and verify that destination, activity or meal is what you really want it to be. Be sure to include a range of different things in your itinerary and find your own unique travel experiences too.
7. Blowing the budget
We’ve all done it. You start your holiday with a stacked back account and an urge to spend, splashing out on fancy meals and latte’s all day, every day. Then, a few days or weeks later, you check your bank account and realise you now need to live off bread rolls stolen from the breakfast buffet. The rest of your holiday is spent saying no to things you really wanted to do and saving your pennies.
The Fix: Work out how much money you can afford to spend then travel within your means. This doesn’t mean you have to stay in budget accommodation and eat at supermarkets the whole time. Start your holiday by staying at budget spots and eating at budget-friendly restaurants and step your holiday up as you go. Save money on the first few days then stay in mid-range accommodation the next few, ending your trip with one or two nights at a luxe spot. Read: 24 incredibly helpful tips to save money on travel.
8. Seeing things from the tried and true tourist perspective
Often, the inspiration to visit a destination comes from amazing photos, books, movies and guides that show us iconic spots and well-loved tourist trails. When you visit Paris you have to see the Eiffel Tower, in Rome, it’s the Colosseum and in Venice, it’s the Grand Canal. But our sources of travel inspiration can often lead us to a specific spot, showing us these things at one tried and true angle.
The Fix: See it from that angle then find one of your own. Try to find a rooftop, window or another high vantage point to view it from. Explore laneways looking for a hidden viewing spot and find your own, unique take on a crowd favourite.
9. Saying no when you wanna say yes
I don’t know about you, but I can sometimes feel a little guilty when it comes to indulging on holidays. Maybe you want to have an extra scoop of gelato, slice of pizza or piece of pie. Maybe you want to indulge in a massage, special memento or once-in-a-lifetime experience but you feel guilty. It could be concerns about gaining weight or feeling like you don’t deserve to have or do the thing you want.
The Fix: Treat yo self! How many times will you get the chance to have an extra scoop of gelato on the streets of Rome or slice of pizza in New York? Don’t let fears hold you back, enjoy your holiday exactly how you want to enjoy it within your means.
10. Packing way too much
When packing, there’s a real temptation to pack things, ‘just in case,’ and before you know it, you’re lugging around an incredibly heavy suitcase. A ridiculously hefty suitcase is very frustrating and can test your patience at the best of times. It also means you may not have enough room to pick up some new things while you’re on holiday and you may feel stressed about checked-luggage restrications.
The Fix: Pack clothes you always wear – your ride or die outfits! Pack from your clean laundry as you know these are things you actually do wear and love. Don’t pack things, ‘just in case.’ I also recommend packing a few days before you leave, laying your clothes out on the floor so you can see them and auditing as you go. Read: 8 cool tips to help you pack light, like a pro!
11. Not protecting electronics with anit-virus software
We travel with our laptop and phones and had been connecting to cafe, restaurant, hotel and airport wifi with no protection on our phones whatsoever. Recently, we installed anti-virus software on all of these and have since become aware of just how many attempted attacks there have been on all of them! My laptop, especially, is a frequent target for people trying to access my personal information.
The Fix: Find anti-virus software that meets your needs and budget and install it on your phone and laptop. It’s a great way to protect your personal information and ensure you don’t pick up any nasty viruses on your devices.
12. Failing to backup photographs
If your travel photographs are important to you, you may want to be sure you’re backing up your images. If your computer, camera or phone were to be stolen, would you be upset at the loss of your travel memories? If yes, you need to be doing a regular backup.
The Fix: We travel with a small hard drive specifically for this purpose. At the end of each day or every few days, we backup all images to the hard drive, ensuring we have a copy of everything in case our laptop is stolen, lost or damaged.
13. Travelling without insurance
I’ve heard so many horror stories of friends and friends of friends travelling without travel insurance and ending up in terrible situations. Both Matt and I have fallen sick multiple times while travelling and have needed to rely on travel insurance for hospital bills. If we hadn’t taken out a policy, we would have been out of pocket a lot of money and been in a really bad situation.
The Fix: You absolutely must have travel insurance. Be sure to take out your insurance policy as soon as you book your tickets, that way, depending on your cover, you’ll be protected if your flights are cancelled for some reason or you can’t take the trip due to illness. We found it far more cost effective to take out an annual insurance policy for both of us, as we travel so frequently. Read: How to choose really good travel insurance.
14. Paying too much on bank fees
Withdrawing money each day from your bank account while overseas can result in huge fees being charged by your bank. Overseas transaction fees add up quickly and, before you know it, you may have spent hundreds more than you planned.
The Fix: Some banks offer free overseas transactions, if you travel a lot it may be worthwhile finding one and opening an account with them specifically for travel. We try to take out larger sums of money at a time, reducing the amount of transaction we have to make. If you do opt for this be sure to take proper safety precautions and use a safe, rather than carrying around large sums of cash on you.
15. Being culturally insensitive
Logan Paul immediately springs to mind and not just for his disgraceful suicide forest vlog but also for his other travel related vlogs where he is completely disrespectful of local culture. Of course, he is the extreme and not the norm, but I do often see tourists acting in a way that is innapropriate and it really makes me cringe.
The Fix: Before you go, do some research on the destination and find out what is and isn’t acceptable there. Some countries are more conservative than others and while it’s not necessary, dressing a certain way may be appreciated. It may also be appropriate to be quiet in social situations, like on public transport. In some situations, it may be inappropriate to touch people, for a man to be alone with a woman or for a woman to touch a man. Whether or not we agree with these beliefs doesn’t matter. I personally believe, by deciding to travel somewhere, we acknowledge there may be differences in beliefs but, as a good human, observe them and act respectfully.
16. Losing track of booking information and confirmations
Booking a holiday usually comes with loads of confirmation emails, booking reference numbers and travel details, like flight numbers, dates and times, hotel addresses and more! It can be overwhelming and hard to keep track off, leaving travellers with a mess of information and, sometimes, a missed flight.
The Fix: Go old school and put together your own trip itinerary, pulling all the information together in one place. Send it to your phone and you’ll have it on you at all times as a quick reference point for key information. There are also apps to help you with this, if doing up an itinerary doesn’t quite appeal. I’ve used TripIt in the past and loved it, you just register an account then forward all your booking emails to the app, it compiles them all for you and will even send you reminders for flight dates, times and changes! Read: 7 apps that make my travel life so much easier!
Phoebe is a travel writer and photographer with a love for storytelling and making people laugh. Matt is a videographer and photographer with a passion for the great outdoors and big adventures. Together we inspire big adventures through our guides, videos, vlogs and photographs. Find out more about us here.