Top 20 worst travel mistakes and how to avoid them

It is common to make a few careless mistakes when traveling and exploring the unknown. Even the most meticulously planned trip is subject to glitches, but with a little insider know-how, you can avoid making the common mistakes that can derail a vacation. Read on for how to avoid those traps, as well as other common mistakes that even the smartest travelers make time and time again.

Stick to the guidelines below, and you’re more likely to have a trip that’s memorable not for lost luggage and rushed sightseeing, but for the thrill of discovering a new place and savouring it.

1. Having an over ambitious program

Be flexible; don’t be afraid to change your plans due to weather or money shortage. Be aware of the time it takes to get from “A” to “B” (not by distance, but by travel method: car, bus, train, etc). Factor additional time for possible delays as well as extra time to rest. Remember, you don’t need to see the whole country in one visit; planning to do so will make you feel unaccomplished.

2. Handing your most indispensable possessions to a stranger.

You never know when you might be forced to gate-check your hand luggage. Place your jewelry, iPad, camera, house and car keys, medication, and anything else you can’t live without in a thin pack or pouch inside your carry-on so that, if you must surrender your carry-on to a flight attendant at the last minute because the overhead bins are full, you can remove the smaller bag and keep an eye on it beneath the seat in front of you.

3. Over packing

Pack only what you need and know you’ll use, not what you think you’ll use. Buy the rest at your destination (possibly at a fraction of the price). Once fully packed, review everything you have and try to reduce the load a little bit more. Check out what to pack when you are studying abroad list

4. Assuming your passport is valid until it expires.

You checked the expiration date on your passport to make sure it precedes the date of your flight home, but you forgot that certain countries—China, Russia, and the U.A.E., among others—¬require that passports be valid for six months past the date of your flight home, and 26 European nations require that passports be valid for three months past.

5. Relying totally on Guide Books

Guidebooks are made to inform your travels, not to define them. Put the guidebook down and interact with other students and people at the destination. Allow yourself to explore and use on your own initiative; there is a lot more to a place than what is in any guidebook.

6. Not backing up pictures and losing them due to a stolen camera or virus

Backup pictures on a CD/DVD on a regular schedule or host them online on sites like Picasa and Flickr, or at your own blog’s FTP. This mistake is very heartbreaking, so it’s best to avoid it. Your memories are one of the most valuable things you get from your trips. If possible, backup more than once.

7. Not making copies of important documents

Have a hard copy of your documents (passport, IDs, travel insurance policy, credit cards) with you, and a digital copy safe (if possible, as a password protected .pdf) on a “secret” email account you can easily access. In case of losing your original documents, copies facilitate your identity verification and quicken the renewal process.

8. Not Buying Insurance

Spending those extra few euros will give you the benefit of feeling more secure in case something happens (lost baggage, trip delay or cancelation, medical emergency, etc.). Read the fine prints to see what is included and if it suits your needs.

9. Booking connecting flights with a short transit time, thus, missing your flight

Give yourself at least a couple hours between flights to allow for any possible “delay” scenario (flight delay, long customs line, long distance between terminals, etc.).

10. Not double checking your documents and bookings for errors

Double-check your documents and reservations for everything from hotels, flights, trains, buses, etc. Always corroborate the time and location, and make sure they are scheduled correctly. Also, check that your name is correctly spelled on you flight reservation.

11. Not notifying the bank of future foreign transactions

Classic mistake. If you want to avoid having your debit card cancelled due to “unusual activity”, notify the bank beforehand of all the countries you will be visiting so they know it’s you who’s using the card. Plus, many international banks have foreign branches and joint ventures that will forfeit their ATM

12. Not factoring the different time zones when booking your trip

Verify the different time zones between places “A” and “B”, how long does it take to get there, and how many time zones are you crossing. Factor this in your reservations’ scheduling. Also, consider the possible effects of jet-lag during your first days.

13. Making large currency exchanges before leaving home

Exchange just enough to cover you until you get to the first ATM or good-rate exchange kiosk at your destination. Or, withdraw money from an ATM right when you get there, but don’t use the airport exchange kiosks. They have horrible rates and fees.

14. Arriving at the wrong airport

When travelling on big cities that have more than one airport, double-check your reservation to corroborate which is the correct airport and correct terminal.

15. Not knowing the hidden foreign charges in your credit card

Call your bank to make sure what the transaction fee for foreign purchases is. Have in mind, even when foreign companies charge you in your normal currency (i.e.€ Euros), they still can charge the “foreign transaction” fee.

16. Tempting pickpockets with flashy items

Use common sense and don’t expose your valuables. In fact, if you don’t need them, don’t wear them. As for DSLR cameras, laptops, and expensive gadgets; carry them with you, hidden in a locked pack and use them as necessary.

17. Being culturally insensitive

Try to understand the culture and the surrounding in which you are traveling. Having an open mind will help you blend better, enjoy and absorb the culture in a more interactive way, and avoid insulting them unintentionally.

18. Having all your money in a single place

Avoid carrying too much cash and store it in various “safe” places. Don’t put all your “eggs” in the same basket.

19. Not doing research

Avoid arriving to a destination a not knowing what to do by at least doing a small Google search. Get information of possible things to do and interesting history of the place. The more research you do in advance and the more you know; the more chances you have to enjoy the place.

20. Having unrealistic expectations

If something goes not as planned, go with the flow. Have a realistic expectation and don’t expect your trip to be perfect. Better yet, don’t create an image of expectation and arrive with a fresh and open mind that will help you accept things as they come.

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SML team.

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SML_Suomi Kielimatkat

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