Over the years, I learned how to avoid a few careless mistakes that can turn a vacation into a disappointing and budget busting experience. Follow these 10 tips to help you avoid some of the most common mistakes travelers make.
- Packing too much
Pack only what you need and know you’ll actually use. This is especially important if you are flying since extra baggage fees can quickly turn a bargain airfare into a big expense. Even if you are traveling by car, you will have a better experience if you aren’t lugging too much stuff with you. Over the years, I’ve developed a packing list that works for me. I plan for comfort and practicality more than anything else. Unless you are traveling to an extremely remote part of the world, you don’t have to pack for every possible emergency. I’ve never been anywhere in the world where I couldn’t find a convenience store to stock up on toothpaste, pain reliever, etc.
- Trying to do too much on one trip
I see people wearing themselves out and stressing their budgets because they are trying to do too much on one trip. A vacation is supposed to be fun not work! Plan ahead but be flexible. Factor in enough time to get from point A to point B without exhausting yourself and your travel companions. You don’t actually need to see and do everything on one trip. I’ve found that I enjoy trips more when I slow down and spend more time experiencing a place rather than rushing from one place to the next.
- Relying only on guidebooks
Guidebooks are great for planning but they should not be your only resource. Put your guidebook down and talk to people at your destination. Locals and other travelers are great sources of information. There is always more to a destination that what even the best guidebook contains. My favorite guidebooks give me enough information to decide what I am likely to enjoy and what I should avoid. I am particularly fond of Lonely Planet and Frommer’s guidebooks.
- Not having a travel budget
Nothing is more frustrating than running out of money or overspending while on vacation. Create a realistic budget and stick to it. I have kept track of our travel expenses for years and I know that our average vacation costs between $150.00-175.00 per day all-inclusive. Some trips costs far less than that if we have free hotel nights to use. I don’t consider traveling on a budget a restriction – I research and plan ahead so that I can enjoy my trips and not worry about overspending. I won’t go into debt for a vacation.
- Not double-checking your travel documents for errors
It is always easier to correct any errors before you begin your trip. Double-check all of your reservations (airlines, hotels, rental cars) and travel documents for the correct dates, times and locations and make sure they are scheduled correctly. If you are traveling across time zones, be sure that you have factored in time changes when making reservations.
- Not having paper maps on a road trip
In the age of smartphones and GPS, it is easy to forget that you could easily travel to places with spotty reception. I always have paper maps for those times when we need to navigate the old-fashioned way. AAA members can get free road maps for the United States and Canada. Local tourist information offices usually have free maps available.
- Attracting pickpockets and thieves
Use common sense and leave expensive jewelry and watches at home. Don’t flash large amounts of cash. If you really don’t need to bring a computer, iPad, or other electronic devices, leave them at home. If you do need them, don’t leave expensive items exposed in your vehicle. Thieves target vehicles in popular tourist destinations because they know there are likely to be expensive electronics in the trunk. Be careful about where you park and make sure you aren’t leaving expensive items exposed in your vehicle. Roll up the windows and lock the doors even if you are only stepping away for a minute to take a photo – a little caution will keep you and your valuables safe.
- Getting angry when things are different
Part of the fun of traveling is having new experiences. Expect that food, customs, and people will be different anywhere you travel. Practice patience and tolerance and you will have a much better experience. If you aren’t open to new places, people, food and customs, you will probably he happier at home.
- Not doing any research about the place you are visiting
I notice some travelers appear to be completely confused about the place they are visiting. You don’t have to do a lot of reading to make your trip easier and more enjoyable. You can avoid arriving to a destination not knowing what to do with an easy Google search. The more research you do in advance, the more likely you are to enjoy the destination.
- Having unrealistic expectations for your trip
If you expect your trip to be picture postcard perfect, you are likely to be disappointed. Bad weather, bad hotel rooms and bad food happen no matter how well you plan – one poor experience doesn’t have to ruin your entire trip. Some of my most memorable travel experiences are the result of the unexpected things that happened along the way. Plan ahead and think about what you will do if the weather is bad one day of your vacation. On a long trip, expect that your travel companions will get grumpy, tired, or sick. You can decide to let it “ruin” your vacation or go with the flow and realize that the next day will be better. Travel with the right people and an open mind – I guarantee you will have more fun no matter where you go or how much money you spend.