Starting to travel is incredibly exciting but there are a number of classic beginner traveller mistakes you should avoid.
There is no way to plan for every travel mishap! But as a beginner traveller, there are some steps you can take to prevent common travel mistakes making your trip more difficult than it needs to be.
Here is our list of 16 classic travel pitfalls and how you can avoid them.
1. Always going for the cheapest option
This is a classic traveller mistake made by backpackers in particular. One of the golden rules of travel is that you get what you pay for! Even if you are travelling on a budget don’t always go for the cheapest option. It might lead to you having awful experiences and dampen how you see a place or its people.
When you’re looking for hostels or hotels make sure that it has everything you need, decent facilities and it is in a good location that is safe. If that means paying a few extra dollars a night so be it! It will be money well spent. Always check reviews as these will give you a good idea of what the accommodation is really like!
When it comes to transport like flights, buses and trains take into account what time the various options leave and arrive, if it is overnight and the length of layovers. If you end up spending 12 hours on a cheap overnight bus in India with no aircon and plastic benches you are going to wish you spent a bit more!
2. Packing way too much stuff
This is a big beginner traveller mistake, especially for the ladies. You will be surprised by how much you actually need and use on a regular basis when you are travelling!
Only pack what is absolutely essential and be ruthless when you are packing. Pack clothes that you love, are comfortable in and know you will wear. Tell yourself you can buy whatever you need once you are there.
Forget fancy shoes, make-up, and excessive toiletries. Always wear your bulkiest items while you are travelling.
You will also want to leave space for shopping obviously!
3. Having a rigid travel itinerary
It is so tempting for some people to plan every detail of their trip out of pure excitement! But don’t fall into this trap and make this traveller mistake. Travelling is all about embracing the present moment and crossing paths with new people and places.
Not having a set daily itinerary gives you the freedom to change your plans, tag along with new people and visit amazing places that you may not have ever heard of before you arrive.
This is where the true beauty of travel happens, when you open yourself up to be spontaneous you have the opportunity to make incredible life long friends and have experiences of a lifetime, which come to you completely unexpectedly.
Embrace flexibility. Don’t be afraid to change plans, go somewhere different or do something you never thought you would. Also, make sure you allow yourself to rest! Having a detailed plan full of activities will wipe you out and stress you out!
4. Creating high expectations
When you are excited to travel to a destination you have been dreaming about it is easy to set high expectations. But this is actually a traveller mistake. While it can be difficult not to have expectations of top bucket list destinations, try and go to each new place as a clean slate.
Peace begins when expectation ends. Try and let go of expectations you may have about a certain place or people. Try and visit places that are more off the beaten path and not so touristy. Don’t build a place up in your mind and try not to over-research a place before you go.
This way your expectations will always be exceeded and you’ll end up seeing things you never planned to. Some of the best travel experiences come from following fellow travellers' advice to new places you’ve never even heard of! Little unknown places have the potential to completely blow.
5. Wasting money on currency exchange fees
When you’re travelling, especially for extended periods of time, you could waste a significant amount of money on exchange fees and ATM fees. This is an annoying traveller mistake to make! To minimise this expense always convert your currency when you arrive.
Avoid using your regular bank and instead, use a prepaid travel card like Monzo or Revolut to withdraw funds at local ATMs at great rates. That way you can withdraw cash when you need it and enjoy lower fees without having to carry around a ton of cash with you.
Avoid exchanging large amounts of cash in your home country or converting currency at the airport where the rates are terrible.
Do some research on online banks in your country that cater to travellers and people spending money in multiple currencies.
6. Worrying too much about what’s going to happen next
Worrying is easy to do when you are travelling! You are stepping into a whole world of the unknown with seemingly endless risks involved around every corner. You may be concerned about your safety, your health or whether you’ll make any friends. Don't fall for this traveller mistake. Worrying about things like how to get from point A to B, what a destination will be like or simply the weather will suck the joy out of travelling!
Bad situations are bound to happen during your trip but this is all part of the travel experience. Travelling is about getting out of your comfort zone and overcoming challenges as much as it is about having an amazing time. Plus there is no point in wasting energy worrying about things you can’t control.
When you change your mindset and recognise that travel is about the experience, connection and discovering new ways of living the small stuff won’t bother you as much. Remember that whatever happens along the way you will be able to deal with it if it does happen. You will find help and support around every corner so there is no need to be afraid, everyone has your back. Focus on exploring, adventuring, experiencing and enjoying being in the moment.
The best thing about travelling is that it forces you to live in the present moment. This will result in an immense feeling of liberation and freedom. The mundane everyday tasks and worries of your old life become the last thing on your mind, so don’t let the habit of worrying creep into your travel life. Fully engage with your surroundings and see the magic happen before your eyes.
7. Not being prepared for getting sick
Accept the fact before you leave that you will probably get sick at some point on your trip. Whether it is food poisoning or you get homesick.
If you do fall sick make sure you tell people around you and they will 100% take the best care of you. Eating the way locals eat will help your stomach and immune system get stronger.
Homesickness is real and it can feel debilitating. Get a SIM card with plenty of data and call home every day or whenever you feel down. The longer you go on your travels the less you will miss home. Home will always be there, it will never change and worst-case scenario you go home!
8. Booking short layovers
Having a short layover is one of the most stressful situations you can put yourself in when travelling and a huge beginner traveller mistake. Short layovers mean a short flight delay or long security queues could easily result in you missing your connecting and leaving you stranded. This is particularly true if you book two flights on different tickets, as you will need to recheck your bags and the airline has no responsibility of helping you get to your final destination!
Imagine being stranded for 24 hours in a country that you don’t even have a visa for! Not to mention the cost of rebooking another flight last minute. That scenario is much worse than just allowing yourself a few extra hours to wait at the airport.
Allow yourself at least 4 hours between flights to be on the safe side!
9. Not buying travel insurance
Don't make the beginner traveller mistake of not buying travel insurance. There are plenty of people who never get travel insurance and travel the world without it with no issues. But you only realise how crucial travel insurance is when you really need it (which hopefully doesn’t happen!).
It is definitely worth the extra expense to have yourself covered. Sure it can be difficult to get cover for personal items that may be lost or stolen but if you end up with a broken leg in Bali because of a scooter accident you will wish you had insurance cover!
Medical bills in foreign countries can be crippling and some hospitals won’t even treat you if you don’t have insurance cover. In case of a significant mishap, it is always safer to have the assurance of travel insurance. Prevent your epic adventure from turning into a nightmare and at least get basic medical cover.
10. Sticking to the tourist trail
Tourist traps are a big beginner traveller mistake. When you are travelling in a foreign country you are a tourist but that doesn’t mean you have to go to the touristy places and get stuck in all sorts of tourist traps. When you travel you want to experience the authentic essence of what that place is! Doing all the super touristy things is basically the opposite, plus you are bound to be ripped off time and time again.
Sure there are some touristy things that are definitely worth it (I’m looking at you Santorini and Machu Picchu), but many times touristy things are overcrowded, overrated, overpriced and full of terrible restaurants. So pick your tourist traps wisely!
Make the most of your time abroad and explore the amazing places, hidden gems and local favourites. Talk to locals, wander through the backstreets, try the street food and ask other travellers what they recommend doing. You will have an extraordinary time, collect incredible travel memories and save some cash!
11. Not checking your destination’s visa requirements before travelling
This one is huge and could result in your trip ending in disaster before it has even started! Every country has its own entry and visa regulations which differ for different countries and can change regularly.
Before you even open Skyscanner check the visa requirements for your passport and make sure you can obtain a visa for your travel dates in time for when you want to leave. Organise the visa and then book flights- never the other way round!
The last thing you want to happen is to arrive at the airport to check in to your flight and be denied boarding the plane.
During COVID times it has never been more crucial to check visa requirements thoroughly.
Your government’s website and the immigration website of the countries you want to visit should clearly outline visa requirements and processes. So do your homework!
12. Saving money at the expense of your time
When you are planning your trip think of your time as money. This will help you make better decisions about where to spend extra and where to save. If taking a bus instead of a flight saves you $100 but requires you to take 1 or 2 days out of your trip, is it really worth it?
Consider paying extra for attractions to skip queues, getting help with bookings from an agent and taking options that are more convenient instead of the cheapest! Your time is as valuable as money, especially if you are limited on time. You’re already investing a lot of money to travel so make sure you are making the most of your time and actually enjoying it.
13. Trying to do everything a destination has to offer
When travelling FOMO is real! There are so many epic things to do at every destination you will go to, which you will become acutely aware of if you like to spend a lot of time researching and planning. However, trying to hit 5 attractions in a day to fit everything in with the time you’ve got, you’ll end up exhausted and unable to actually enjoy what you are doing!
Trying to squeeze everything in is one of the biggest mistakes you can make as a traveller as it can really ruin your trip.
To combat this, don’t over research and plan a detailed itinerary. Decide on a few non-negotiable attractions and for the rest just wing it. Leave plenty of room for rest and for spontaneity. Plus when you travel slowly, you will have more time to really soak up a destination and will be able to uncover what is going on below the surface. This is what travel is all about!
Besides who wants to come back from holiday more burnt out than when they left.
14. Not notifying your bank of future foreign transactions
Before you go overseas you need to let your bank know to expect foreign transactions on your account. The last thing you need is your card being declined when you’ve got no cash on you due to the bank freezing your account because of unusual activity.
Depending on your bank it can be a real nightmare even contacting them from a foreign country to let them know it was you.
15. Not factoring the different time zones when booking your trip
This is an easy traveller mistake to make. Travelling across different time zones can be extra confusing. So before you book flights, buses and hotels, be super clear on which day and what time you actually arrive to avoid missing flights or showing up to your hotel a day early!
16. Arriving at the wrong airport
Big cities tend to have multiple airports that are miles apart from each other. Double-check your booking to confirm the exact airport and terminal you are arriving at. This mistake could cost you a lot!
This is crucial if you are booking a connecting flight. The last thing you need is to land at an airport with a connection leaving in an hour only to discover the airport you are supposed to be at is over an hours drive away! At big airports terminal can also take ages to travel between so double check which terminal your flight is landing and departing from and check you can get to the next one in time.
When you first start travelling it is easy to make traveller mistakes! It is all part of the experience of exploring the world, learning and growing. However, it is best to avoid these mistakes to stop your trip from turning upside down.