8 Travel Mistakes You Can Easily Avoid

8 Travel Mistakes You Can Easily Avoid

Everyone can travel these days. But only some people do it right.

 

You would be surprised by the number of travel mistakes made every day. Most of them are very easy to avoid, once you are aware of them. Seasoned travellers may find them obvious, but mistakes happen to all of us!

 

Let’s see how many common travel mistakes you are making…

 

8 Travel Mistakes You Can Easily Avoid

 

1. Not learning the basics of the local language

2. Not doing research about the local culture

3. Only going on guided tours or visiting spots you found on the Internet

4. Travelling in the high season

5. Not comparing prices

6. Buying souvenirs in commercial shops

7. Overpacking

8. Carrying valuables in exterior pockets 

 

1. Not learning the basics of the local language

 

You may think, why waste time? After all, most people speak English, wherever you go. And, depending on your travel destination and what other languages you may speak, there’s no point learning the local one, right?

 

Well, not quite.

 

Knowing the basics of the local language may save you from missing out on some great opportunities. First, don’t assume everyone everywhere speaks English.

 

It is possible that people, including those working in services and hospitality in certain places, don’t know much English if that’s not their first language. And not just in faraway corners of the world, but that can be the case even in Europe!

 

For example, I once called to book a table in an Austrian restaurant, speaking in English. It was a highly touristic place, so even though I don’t speak any German, I assumed I should be fine with my other language skills. 

 

When I got there, it turned out the restaurant staff hardly spoke English and the person I talked to on the phone hadn’t understood me! There was no booking under my name, and it was really difficult to explain this when I didn’t speak German, and the staff didn’t speak English. 

 

Being able to communicate simple things such as asking for directions or ordering a meal in a restaurant can make your life so much easier. Not to mention, it might make you feel better.

 

It was really humiliating trying to prove my point with the language barrier. I am fluent in four languages, but German just doesn’t happen to be one of them. I’m usually happy with my linguistic skills in general, but at that moment, all the other languages I spoke didn’t matter. 

 

I felt judged through the prism of not speaking that one particular language, rather than speaking multiple others. It wasn’t a pleasant experience.

 

In such a scenario, not speaking the local language might be interpreted as ignorance. Taking the time to learn the basics of the official language of the country you’re going to is a simple sign of respect. 

 

Nobody expects you to invest in a full-on language course, on top of paying for your holidays. All it takes are simple phrases, such as “How much is it?” or “The bill, please.”.

 

Access to such information is so easy these days, it won’t even take much of your time. There are dozens of free language apps, where you learn the most common phrases literally during the first lesson. If not, simply googling “most useful phrases in x language” will provide you with millions of results.

 

Pro tip: If you’re not very good with languages, don’t stress about remembering all of the basics. You can simply make a list where you will be able to quickly find the phrase or word you’re looking for. 

 

Of course, there are online translators available, but looking everything up beforehand and organising it in a short list will be much quicker than awkwardly typing in entire sentences. Avoid the risk of sounding silly when the hasty machine translation turns out to be incorrect!

 

Additionally, bear in mind that you may not have internet access everywhere you go. Your data plan might only be valid in your home country or in certain places, while using it anywhere else may come with additional charges. There is also the issue of a lack of signal or slow wifi, so avoid unnecessary stress by preparing beforehand!


2. Not doing research about the local culture

 

First, we want you to learn the local language, and now are trying to force culture studies on you on top of it? 

 

Okay, but hear us out. 

 

Everyone travels in a different way, with different goals in mind. But for many, the full cultural experience is an important part of any trip. It's a particularly essential element of the practice of slow travel.

 

Think about it: what’s the point of going all the way somewhere, only to have your dinners at McDonald’s? It’s true that the menu is slightly different in every country, but is that really enough? It’s fun going to investigate once - any time after that, it simply gets old. 

 

Believe us when we say that croissants taste different in France. Tapas will never be the same after you’ve tried them in Spain. Poutine tried in Canada brings cheesy chips to a whole new level. 

 

In order to enjoy all the traditional delicacies your destination has to offer, you need to first know what they are. Similarly, if you’d like to visit important places, you need a bit of historical background. 

 

Again, taking the effort to find out more about the local culture is a sign of respect towards the place you’re visiting and its citizens. The trip will be more meaningful and gain a whole new depth if you do your homework beforehand. 

 

Visiting a historical site will be more impactful if you know the story behind it. Perhaps a battle was fought there, or the ground you’re standing on was once walked by a national hero? Only by knowing that can you pay the proper respect and fully appreciate the place’s cultural and historical value. 

 

What sounds more impressive:

 

a) I visited a church 

 

b) I visited a church where a famous monarch was coronated


 

Or

 

a) I took a walk on a field

 

b) I took a walk on a field where a key battle took place during World War I


 

We think our point here is made.


3. Only going on guided tours or visiting spots you found on the Internet

 

We have just gone on a tirade about how important it is to pay due respect to historical sites. But we didn’t say that’s all you should see during your trip.

 

One of the most common travel tips is only going to see places you saw on Instagram or Pinterest. While they’re no doubt cool, they’re most likely also popular, to have made it to your feed. 

 

And, as a consequence of being popular, they are also crowded.

 

Travel bloggers know when to go to a certain spot to take a picture of it with no people and have great Photoshop skills. Those are the only reasons why some places look so much better in photos than they do in real life.

 

The feeling of disappointment at discovering something we’ve been excited to see isn’t as impressive as we’d expected is common in every traveller. This is usually to being unable to appreciate a site or a monument due to the sea of people surrounding it. 

 

That doesn’t mean you should cross such places off your travel bucket list completely. If you’ve already paid money to go somewhere and see them, you may as well do it. Just don’t make popular touristic sites the only places you visit.

 

It all goes back to the full cultural experience. As exciting as being able to say “I’ve been there and saw that” is, simply wandering the streets of the city can be just as fascinating. 

 

Getting lost in the hustle and bustle of your destination is a valuable experience. When you stray away from touristic hotspots, you discover the real life of the locals - the good, the bad, and the ugly of it all. 

 

Strolling down the streets with no goal in mind is how you discover hidden gems and make precious memories. Similarly, travelling a bit further away from your main destination and exploring its surroundings off the beaten path is also a great way to beat the routine. 

 

Whether you prefer to try living like a local for a day or to reconnect with nature a short train ride away, make space in your travel itinerary for non-conventional ways to discover your destination. 


4. Travelling in the high season

 

There is a way to minimise the risk of your trip being ruined by huge crowds. It's called off-season travel.

 

June to September is called a high season, aka the worst possible time to travel, especially for tropical destinations. It’s the most popular among families with children since it’s when students enjoy their summer holidays. 

 

Spring and autumn months tend to be a bit less crowded, but still, they remain popular due to the nice weather in most places in the world during that time. 

 

The off-peak season starts in November and ends in March. Of course, that’s unless we’re talking about skiing holidays, for which that time, in turn, would be the high season. 

 

However, for travel not related to winter fun on the slopes, wintertime is the best time to travel. The less-than-perfect weather is compensated by smaller crowds and, most importantly, lower prices.

 

It is fascinating to watch the prices of flight tickets and accommodation skyrocket over the summer months. It is a rough estimate, but you could probably go on two separate trips in the off-peak season for what you would pay for just one in the high season. 

 

Of course, the prices rise again around Christmas and Easter as that’s many people travel to spend the holidays with their loved ones, so beware of these seasonal traps as well. 

 

While it’s true that the weather may not be ideal in the off-peak times, this also heavily depends on where you aim to go. Many regions in southern-European countries experience milder and shorter winters. Not to mention, there are destinations in other parts of the world which always enjoy sunny weather.

 

New Zealand and Australia experience summer when Europe is plunged into winter. And, for contrast, places up North such as Canada or Iceland endure long-lasting winters, which may linger way past the off-peak season. 

 

When making the decision of when and where to go, you will need to decide on your priorities. Below, you can find the iron triangle of top travel goals. It’s hard - bordering on impossible - to achieve all three of its requirements:

 

If the weather is nice and you didn’t pay much, expect crowds, because this combination will attract a lot of people. 

 

If there are no crowds and the costs are low, it’s likely you’re travelling during off-peak times and, depending on your destination, the weather isn’t perfect.

 

If the trip was relatively cheap and there are no crowds, it’s probably because the weather is keeping everyone from leaving their homes. 

 

Which aspects matter the most is a very personal issue, but just be aware that you might have to make compromises to avoid making major travel mistakes. 


5. Not comparing prices

 

Going with the first offer you can find is a rookie mistake. Price research is an essential part of any travel planning process.

 

Asking an agency or a tour planner for help might come with additional costs, but it would take a lot of the stress related to the logistics of your trip off your shoulders. Many trip organisers also have agreements with airlines or accommodation providers which grant their customers discounts, so the costs of hiring professional help might even out!

 

If you decide to take on the planning process on your own, do make sure to never limit yourself to one source only. The Internet is full of sites allowing you to compare the prices of flight tickets and accommodation. Many of them offer discounts, especially upon registration, so checking out all of them is definitely beneficial. 

 

Purchasing your flight tickets directly at the airline’s website is usually the cheapest option. A third-party booking website may charge you additional fees for their services, which you will not even be aware of until you compare directly with the provider. 

 

However, that is not to say that booking services are no good. They often launch exclusive sales where they offer tickets to specific destinations with huge discounts for a limited time. It’s good to sign up for their newsletters or download the apps and turn on the notifications to be the first one to know about a great sale coming up!

 

When it comes to finding accommodation, entire apartments usually turn out cheaper than hotel rooms - especially when travelling in larger groups. Not to mention, a studio provides you with lots of space to yourself and a kitchen where you can prepare your own meals.

 

This will prevent you from having to eat out every day - and save you a lot of money, as dining usually takes up a huge part of overall travel expenses.

 

Another cheap alternative is, of course, hostels. They don’t offer much privacy, but they’re a great spot to meet fellow travellers. That’s why they’re often a popular choice for people embarking on solo trips.


6. Buying souvenirs in commercial shops

 

We are all guilty of doing this. With how accessible and cheap they are, it’s impossible to avoid commercial shops.

 

However, if there is any part of you that cares about sustainable travel, you will reconsider doing so.

 

There is nothing wrong with mass-produced souvenirs, per se. The main problem with them is, they are not authentic. 

 

Their environmental impact is highly negative, as they are usually produced in Asia and shipped to their final destination. The strain on the environment such transport produces is enormous.

 

Not to mention, given how they were produced in countries known for cheap labour, it’s likely that the people who crafted them were not paid fairly for their work.

 

Stimulating the local economy is a crucial part of travelling responsibly. Local manufacturers create souvenirs which are 100% authentic. It’s true that you will usually be required to pay a little more for them, but they’re worth the extra cost.

 

At least, you can be sure that you’re paying a fair price to the person responsible for crafting your souvenir, and don’t contribute to the negative impact of mass transport of items on the environment. 

 

And in any case, you’ll probably be able to make better-looking souvenirs by yourself. For example, you could turn your travel photos into personalized cards for any occasion, be it for birthdays, weddings, or just because you want to catch up with your family at home!


7. Overpacking

 

First-time travellers often feel the need to bring all of their best clothes with them.

 

They fill their suitcase to the brim, envisioning the beautiful pictures they will be able to take once they reach their destination, with a new, wholesome outfit for every occasion. 

 

The truth is, luggage on planes is a steal. 

 

It puts things into perspective when you realise taking a 10kg suitcase on board is twice as expensive as shipping a 30kg cardboard box. And while you can’t exactly ship your luggage ahead of time for a short-time trip, you can reconsider what you actually need to bring with you.

 

It’s true that weather forecasts are not always reliable. That’s why it is a smart move to bring a raincoat, even though it’s meant to be sunny, and vice versa. However, it’s probably safe to say that you won’t need a winter jacket if the weather app tells you to expect around 20°C.

 

Be reasonable. 78% of people claim to never need at least ⅓ of the things they had packed for their first trip. 

 

Okay, we made that statistic up. We’re not sure if research on this topic actually exists, but we can bet you anything you want that if it does, it’s very close to our estimation. 

 

Of course, you can’t exactly not bring any luggage, either. A small backpack or a handbag comes with the original price of the flight ticket. We realise this might not be enough for most and paying extra for a carry-on would be necessary.

 

However, all airlines offer different options for check-in luggage. You can go from the smallest suitcase of up to 10kg, all the way to the huge, 30kg one. It’s your choice: you can pay triple what you did for the actual ticket and bring your biggest suitcase with you, but is it really necessary?

 

The ideal travel set is comfortable, reasonable clothes suitable for every weather, cosmetics, and essentials.

 

Bring a book if you want to, or cards to play in the evenings. Don’t chuck in a collection of board games and an entire trilogy of novels. You will see that you won’t be spending much time in your accommodation and won’t want to waste precious minutes on using things you now think you may need. 

 

Again, everyone is free to bring whatever they wish. If you feel more comfortable being prepared for every possibility, even a blizzard in the middle of July, go for it. Just be aware that more luggage equals more inconvenience in carrying it and, primarily, more money. 

 

It’s one of those things you won’t be convinced of until you learn from experience, so we understand if you’re not sold on this one quite yet. This might change in time, though!


8. Carrying valuables in exterior pockets

 

This one is very intuitive, but still, it’s one of the common travel mistakes. 

 

Never, ever carry any of your valuables in the exterior pockets of your jackets or bags. Not your phone, not your money, not your documents. All you should trust to carry around in your coat’s pocket is a packet of tissues.

 

Pickpocketing is still running rampant - in certain places more than in others. Even if your destination is considered generally safe, it’s better to be safe than sorry (pun fully intended).

 

Place all things that matter in the pockets on the inside of your bag or coat. They will be harder to reach once you need them - but they will also be harder to reach for someone who is not supposed to touch them. 

 

Another helpful piece of advice is to always carry copies of your documents with you. We recommend leaving the originals in your accommodation. You can bring the actual ID just in case, but make sure to hide it somewhere safe. It’s best that your passport doesn’t leave your accommodation or hotel room.

 

The same applies to money. If you use cash, never bring all of it with you. Store it in a secure spot in your accommodation, and only take out however much you believe you might need that day. 

 

Most of us have effectively switched to mobile payment, so make sure to keep an eye on your phone at all times. Set up a pin code or face recognition to lock it, so that it doesn’t unlock on its own in your pocket and become vulnerable to unwanted contactless payments.

 

Pro tip: fanny packs are the object of many debates, but the truth is, they are quite useful. As you usually carry them in the front and by default monitor them all the time, they are much safer than backpacks. 

 


 

Did any of these common travel mistakes surprise you? Once you know about them, it's very easy to avoid them! Make your next travel more pleasant by staying aware and open-minded. 

 

There's always space for improvement, and it doesn't have to be hard! One step at a time, you can become a pro traveller in no time. 

 


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