Top 7 Travel Mistakes and How to Prevent Them

You might think that you’re too smart to make these seven travel mistakes, but my guess is that you may be surprised at how many of them you’ve made.

Heck, a lot of these you might even make before you even hop on the plane!

My confession? I’ve made six out of seven of these, and I travel a lot. How many of them have you made?
common travel mistakes

Top Seven Travel Mistakes

1) Not Having a Passport Valid for the Required Length of Time

I’m not talking about having an expired passport and being denied boarding – although I do know people it’s happened to, I’m talking about having a passport that isn’t valid for long enough. Case in point. Last year I was planning a trip to Sri Lanka and thought since I was close – relatively speaking, I may as well go to India afterwards. As I was filling out the visa for India, I realized that my passport needed to be valid for six months in order to be allowed entry. Mine was only valid for 5 months and 22 days! As I didn’t have time to renew my passport before finalizing my travel plans, India didn’t happen.

How to Avoid this Travel Mistake:

Always check how long your passport has to be valid for when traveling. There are a surprisingly number of countries that require it to be valid for at least six months.

2) Not Buying the Complete Travel Insurance Policy

Adventure Travel - Elephants family at Kaudulla National Park in Sri Lanka

You never know what can happen when you’re around wildlife.

I’m assuming that you know why you need travel insurance for medical reasons, but in addition, full coverage can also save your butt under other circumstances. Remember that ash cloud in 2010 from Iceland that had a massive interruption on travel plans? Or how about if a war suddenly breaks out in the place you were planning on visiting? Or what if you get sick right before your trip and are unable to go? Not only is this incredibly inconvenient, but it can cost you hundreds, sometimes even thousands of dollars, if you have pre-booked everything at your destination from your hotel to your rental car to tours! That’s where a complete travel insurance policy like Allianz’s Classic Plan with Trip + comes in. Not only that, they have 24 hour assistance and will help you figure out how to catch a missed flight or make the arrangements for your medical evacuation. I’ll confess, that while I always (after a very expensive lesson learned in my early travel days) have medical travel insurance, I’ve been lazy about getting the complete policy. I’ll be changing that in 2016!

How to Avoid this Travel Mistake:

Research your options and purchase a complete travel insurance policy, not just one that only covers medical expenses.

3)Not Checking How to Get From the Airport Before Your Departure

Now obviously this one isn’t nearly as serious as the previous one, but it could end up costing you a lot of extra moola! You may assume that there will be an Information Desk when you arrive, but depending on the size of the airport and when you arrive, there may or may not be. And you don’t want to count on that. Otherwise, how will you know which taxis are the unofficial (and more expensive ones)? Usually (but not always) there are public transportation options, but this requires some prior research so that you know which stop to get off and how to get to your destination from your stop. You also don’t want to rely on wi-fi, which may, or may not exist, and you also don’t want to count on being able to buy a country specific SIM card for your phone at the airport.  Admit it, we’ve all probably done this one, but as an example a taxi from the Munich airport costs a whopping ~€80 to the city centre, while a train ticket costs €10.80 and it takes almost the same amount of time to get there.

How to Avoid this Travel Mistake:

Check the airport website beforehand for transportation options, or make arrangements with your hotel for a pick up.

4)Being too Scared to Travel to an “Unsafe” Destination

travel mistakes like being afraid of going to certain destinations

I felt very safe in Istanbul, Turkey.

This one is really relevant at the moment with the U.S. Department of State’s Worldwide Caution alert. I admit it, it’s easy to give into the hype…until you realize that you really need to do your research. Earlier this year I had been invited to speak at a conference in Antalya, Turkey. Then a few weeks before the conference, Turkey shot down a Russian military jet. I started to question, Is it safe to visit Turkey? The short answer is yes – with the exception of the provinces that border Syria and as long as you are not within 10 km of the Syrian border. Thanks to a quick search in Google maps, I discovered that Antalya was 1000km away from the Syrian border. Based on this, I didn’t cancel my trip. I’ve also travelled to Lviv, Ukraine (again, it’s only one part that’s not safe, the rest of the country is fine) and Kazakhstan, despite the Canadian government’s Advise a high degree of caution. In each case I felt safe. This is the only travel mistake listed here that I have NOT made, so whew, I have one redemption!

How to Avoid This Travel Mistake:

Not every country or region is safe at any given moment, but with a little research or crowd sourcing on Twitter, What’s XXX destination really like at the moment?, you may find that your travel fears are unfounded. If, on the other hand a destination really isn’t safe, then by all means don’t go.

5) Not Turning off International Roaming

All it takes is for a shocking phone bill to realize how costly this mistake is. I once racked up over €250 in charges just talking to my husband over a few days. Yikes!

How to Avoid This Travel Mistake:

Check the fees with your phone carrier before you travel, or if you don’t have time to do that, turn off roaming to be on the safe side, or be willing to pay the price.

6) Not Tightening the Cap on Your Bottles of Liquids and Putting them in a Waterproof Case

I’ve made this mistake more than once. I pack in a hurry, throw everything into my cosmetics bag and arrive to conditioner all over everything! It’s not just enough to ensure that the cap is on tight, you also need to ensure that it’s in a waterproof case. I don’t know whether it’s due to pressure or what happens, but there have been times where I’ve sworn the cap on my conditioner or shampoo was on tight…only to find it otherwise upon arrival. If this does happen, you at least want to contain it to your cosmetics bag – easier to clean than all your clothes and the interior of your suitcase.

Solution:

Pack toothpaste with a screw-cap rather than a flip-cap (I’ve had really bad luck with flip-caps coming open) and put everything in a sealed bag, or waterproof case.

7) Not Double Checking the Name of Where You’re Going

travel mistakes like going to the wrong destination

Antigua in Guatemala, not Antigua the island in the Caribbean

This sounds obvious but hear me out. Many years ago, I made an impromptu trip from Annapolis Maryland to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Falling Water house. I googled the name of the town and figured that I’d ask the Information Office for more specific instructions once I arrived. I didn’t have data on my phone or a navigation system in my car and made my way with a good old-fashioned map. When 5 hours later I arrived at the Information Office and asked for specific directions of how to get to Falling Water, I was met with a very quizzical look. I was in the wrong place, but one that had a similar name to where I was going. I drove like a mad woman to the correct place, but it was now closed and I missed seeing this incredible piece of architecture. I curse myself to this day!

This type of mistake is more common than you think. I was recently in Antigua, Guatemala, and my guide said that at least once a year, he waits for a tour group that never shows up. Several hours later he gets a phone call – they’re in Antigua, the island in the Caribbean – an 11 hour plane ride away!

In Germany, where I live,  you have to be very careful of the double naming option. There is Frankfurt am Main (the one you are familiar with), but there’s also Frankfurt Oder. Now if you’re flying, it wouldn’t be an issue, but if you were taking the train or driving, it could be a different story since they’re over 600km apart!

Moral of the story:

Check that the place you’re going to is the place you actually want to be going to!

How many of these seven travel mistakes have YOU made?

Don’t be shy, it will be our little secret! 😉

Laurel Robbins is the founder of Monkeys and Mountains, an adventure travel blog and company that helps people plan their active holidays in a sustainable way. Although Canadian, she lives in Germany. You can find her in the mountains on most weekends.
2017-09-25T15:08:51+00:00

4 Comments

  1. Claudia December 18, 2015 at 9:10 am - Reply

    Another common mistakes travelers make is that of not making copies of their passports. It is actually quite important, in case they lose it – at least they have something to show to the embassy when they need to get a new one issued. Since I am a smart girl, I realized when I was crossing Central America that I didn’t have a copy of my passport. Before crossing the border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, I went to a copy shop to get a copy. Then went to wait for the bus, a good 10 minutes walk away. Before the bus arrived, I decided to check that all my documents were in order. Ticket? Check. Insurance? Check. Copy of the passport? Check. Passport? PASSPORT? Gone!! I had obviously left it at the copy shop. That’s when I got on a bici taxi and told him to take me to the copy shop RAPIDOOOO! The guy from the shop saw me from the window and was already holding my passport to hand it to me, laughing. So my recommendation is: do get copies of your passport and do make sure that after doing that, you also take your passport back!

    • Laurel December 18, 2015 at 9:33 am - Reply

      @myadventuresacrosstheworld – Excellent point! SOOO glad that you got your passport back – whew!

  2. Eric March 21, 2016 at 8:36 pm - Reply

    This is at the airport, and although it’s never happened to me, it’s happened to a friend of mine:

    Get to the airport at least two hours ahead of time. A friend of my dad’s likes to get to the airport early, and my dad never understands why. But I think I do. The reason for this is that you may be walking to your check-in, security, and especially to your gate. The friend I mentioned was bumped because she didn’t arrive at the gate on time. She got to the airport just fine, but she dawdled and got bumped because she got there five minutes too late. Ultimately, she made another flight, but she made sure to avoid that mistake.

    • Laurel July 14, 2016 at 10:04 am - Reply

      @Eric – Great tip, thank you for sharing.

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