Even the most seasoned travelers, myself included, have fallen prey to travel blunders over the years. From dining at bland tourist traps to getting lost (although my husband would say that makes travel more fun), mistakes are bound to happen. Let’s count down a few of the most common (and easily fixed) mistakes travelers make…
Saving Money at the Expense of Your Time
Don’t book that flight with three stopovers just to save $200, when it will eat into 36 hours of your journey. Think you want to take the local transit instead of a short taxi ride? Be certain you’re well versed with the directions, stops, and duration of your travel – it’s often far longer (and more complicated) navigating public transit in foreign countries, especially if you don’t speak the language or if you’re hauling luggage with you. However, public transit is often a great way to travel like the locals do, see different parts of a particular city, and immerse yourself in local culture. Just make sure it doesn’t take all day.
Having an Overly Ambitious Itinerary
I get it…if it’s your first time to Europe it can be tempting to want to see 10 countries in 14 days, but I would discourage this. Not only is it exhausting, but you also don’t get a true sense of each destination without immersing yourself in it, and that takes time. Rome is so much more than just the Colosseum, and Paris much more than the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Elysee. Spend some time really getting to know a particular country, city, or region, and I promise you’ll come away richer for it.
That being said, I’m personally guilty of wanting to pack in as much as possible on each trip. It may be fine for you if you’re an experienced traveler and know your limits/capabilities; if that’s you, then feel free to maximize your travel time, but know that you may need a “vacation after your vacation” when you get back home!
Not Leaving the Tourist Areas
Of course, when you travel to Rome you want to see the Colosseum, or see the Eiffel Tower at sunset while in Paris. But that doesn’t mean you need to stick only to the major attractions. The areas closest to world-famous attractions often have overpriced (and under seasoned) restaurants catering to tourists and they don’t showcase local culture the same way other neighborhoods do. By all means, take in all the major attractions, but also take some time to explore further afield and visit some neighborhoods that are filled with restaurants, shops, and markets the locals use regularly.
One tip I’ve found helpful when trying to find a good restaurant….avoid the places near the tourist attractions with huge menus. That’s usually a sign that they are catering to tourists and the food quality will be average, at best. Another tip is to observe where the locals go for lunch, dinner, etc. While eating lunch in Rome one day, I watched a steady stream of locals on their lunch break walking by our table with the same brand of gelato cups and cones. That evening, we tracked down that particular gelato stand, and to this day, it’s the BEST gelato I’ve ever had (so good, in fact, we had to wait in line just to get some)!
Not Leaving Your Comfort Zone
Wonderful things happen outside your comfort zone, and this especially applies to travel. Sit at an old bar in a small town and chat with the locals (I could tell you a hilarious story of a place like this in a remote area of Spain where nobody spoke English and they had a chicken wing-snatching cat). You’ll learn far more about local life and culture than you could ever read in a travel guidebook. Hop on that zipline above a canopy of trees in the rainforest, even if you’re scared of heights. Pushing yourself out of what you would do in your day-to-day life is part of what makes travel so memorable and gives you the stories you’ll share for years to come.
If you snap away on your iPhone everywhere you go, make sure your photos are being backed up to the cloud or synced with Google photos. The last thing you want is to lose all your travel memories if your phone gets lost or stolen.
With connectivity being a priority for so many travelers, consider getting a travel plan through your cell phone provider that gives you some data for checking emails, texting friends or family, or going on social media while away. The last thing you want is to return home to a huge phone bill.
If you don’t want your account frozen for suspicious fraudulent charges, be sure to inform your credit and/or debit card company of any impending travel you have planned. Some travel credit cards no longer require this, but it’s worth confirming with your credit card company or bank before you go, just to be safe.
While you’ve got the bank or credit card company on the phone, find out what the foreign currency transaction fees are on purchases abroad. Many credit card companies these days waive foreign transaction fees, so it’s worth looking into one that does if you’re planning a trip abroad, as it can result in significant savings on your purchases.
If you are going somewhere with a different currency, you can exchange some money in advance at your local bank, which typically has better rates than the airport or private exchange companies in the tourist zones.
However, my preferred (and least expensive) method of getting local currency is using a debit card at an ATM in your destination. The airports usually have them in the baggage claim area, so you can easily grab some local currency while you wait on your bags to arrive. You can also find ATMs around the cities, just like back home. As noted above, be sure to notify your bank in advance if you will be using your debit card overseas, as they are the most likely to be flagged as suspicious transactions when used while traveling abroad.
Glitz & Glam Can Backfire
Don’t be a walking target for pickpockets and criminals. Depending on where you’re going, you may wish to wear stand-in jewelry for your engagement or wedding ring – or omit them altogether and opt for lesser-expensive costume jewelry. Ask your travel advisor (hopefully that’s me!) about local culture, customs, and crime wherever it is that you’re going, and decide from there if you should bring along your Louis Vuitton handbag or 2-carat diamond ring, as it may draw unwelcome attention.
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