Travel mistakes are just a part of the game; they’re part of the (sometimes frustrating) fun of travel. While we all make them and we’ve all done things we feel silly about while traveling, there are a few travel mistakes you can avoid with the proper knowledge. So roll your sleeves up, get your pen and paper out (or iPhone, whatever!) and get ready to take some notes!
1. Not bringing an empty water bottle
This is especially true if you’re traveling within the US. Now-a-days, most US airports have water filling stations after you get through security. Not only does it save money, but it helps the earth a little, too!
I always bring my handy dandy Brita water bottle with me around Europe, as well. You should definitely check if where you’re going has safe drinking water, but a many places throughout Europe do! If they don’t, your hotel or hostel’s lobby might have a big water cooler for you to fill your bottle at.
2. Putting fashion over comfort
I’m continually shocked, and honestly amazed, at the amount of women that are just totally fine wearing heels out for a day of traveling. It can’t make their travels fun! To this I say get yourself some good shoes, I promise you won’t regret it.
For summer, I generally like to wear my Birkenstocks. They are a bit pricier (I spent about $140 on mine), but they are so worth it. I walk miles a day when traveling, and my feet barely ache at the end. Birkenstocks just have such great arch support!
For winter, I got myself a pair of Steve Madden leather booties. They were around $80, and I’ve had them for about two and a half years now with no complaints. Mine even have a tiny bit of a lifted heel, and I can still walk all day in them. They’re really high quality shoes that’ll last you a really long time!
3. Picking a destination out of your budget
I’ve always been a very budget conscientious person. When I first started traveling, I learned very quickly that even though places like London and Paris seemed super glamorous, they definitely weren’t glamorous on my wallet. In these places it’s extremely easy to blow your budget extremely fast.
If there are other places on your bucket list, tick those off while you save a bit for the more expensive places. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather travel around eastern Europe for a couple weeks instead of a three day weekend in Paris.
If you need some help picking your destination, you can read our post on things to consider when picking your next destination here!
4. Not going somewhere out of fear
This is a scary time we live in. It seems anywhere can be a potential target for another attack. But PLEASE don’t let that stop you. Live your life without fear, especially when it comes to travel!
While I’d argue that you shouldn’t travel to places like Syria at the moment, don’t let the media scare you into thinking the whole world is unsafe to travel. Danger is everywhere, even in your very own city; so don’t let that stop you! Live everyday like it’s your last.
5. Having expectations and following those expectations
I don’t know where “Fettucine Alfredo” was first invented, but I can tell you it definitely wasn’t in Italy. So when people come to Italy and ask for Fettucine Alfredo, I always cringe a bit. They’re just robbing themselves of what real Italian food and culture consists of based on their expectations.
If you’re going somewhere new, give yourself the gift of going in with an open mind. Experience this new place based on how it is, not how you think it is.
6. Not traveling because you don’t have anyone to go with
Solo travel is hands down the most rewarding experience you will ever get. It instills so many qualities in you; confidence, self-awareness, trust, courage… The list goes on and on! I encourage you, at least once in your life, go somewhere by yourself and do it for yourself.
While traveling with your friends and family is great, nothing will feel as great as managing to get from point A to point B, using just using real map, all by yourself. You don’t need to wait for someone else to experience the world, all you need is you!
7. Eating out all the time
Don’t get me wrong, eating out is an essential part of travel. But it gets a little expensive after a bit. To curb the cost a bit, go to the local grocery store! You get a more realistic sense of what life in that city/town is like, and it saves you some money. It’s a win-win!
When I was doing a solo trip in Ghent, Belgium, I got a carton of juice, a container of strawberries, a nice sized block of cheese, and crackers for about six euros and it lasted me two meals. Not only did this save me a bunch of money, but it was so cool being able to taste the local cheese and chow down on some fresh fruits grown right in Belgium.
8. Thinking you can’t afford travel at all
This is the biggest mistake of them all. While there will always be situations that require your money and your time, you only have one life. You have one chance to get it right, and if traveling is something you want to do, you can make it happen.
It might take a while. Even if you can only put away $1 day, you are making progress to make your dream of travel a reality. After two years of saving $2 a day, you could go to Europe and spend a couple weeks doing what you’ve dreamed of.
Living a life of travel is truly a privilege, and one that I’ll always be grateful for. Chances are that if you’re reading this, you’ve beeen granted a good amount of privilege, too. Even if it takes you years, you have a good chance of one day being able to afford your dream vacation.
9. Hanging out in the touristy area for too long
This is a mistake that a lot of people make, yet it has so many consequences; less quality food, more expensive food, risk of being pick-pocketed, too many people, etc. While it’s great to see all the sites, there are so many other things to see outside of the tourist hot spots. There’s real life going on outside of these areas that you can witness if you walk even just a few blocks away.
On top of being able to witness real life in a new place, everything will be cheaper! The food, the gifts, the clothes, everything! Your wallet will definitely thank you.
10. Being on a diet
If your diet is optional, take a break while you’re traveling. Enjoy the flavors of the food and experience the culture that the food describes. To get even more help, you might want to check out our article “The How to Guide: Eating Abroad”. It’ll help you choose the best foods while on the road guaranteed.
11. Not packing light
No one enjoys waiting for their luggage to get off the bottom of the plane and finally make it onto the carousel. You know what’s worse? When it doesn’t come at all! Make it easier on yourself and if doable, just pack carry-ons! You’ll be in and out of the airport in no time!
12. Spending more than $10 for a souvenir
If you absolutely love something, you do you girl. But I will say that after all my travels, my receipts and plane tickets are still my favorite souvenirs! Things like these that cost no money often bring back the best memories; like that time you had a crepe at a food truck in France, or that time you flew around Southeast Asia and now get to look back at those plane tickets with a big smile on your face… Those are the things you want to keep!
13. Looking exceedingly like a tourist
This is purely for safety reasons. If you’re in crowded, touristy places like Rome or Paris, there is an inherent risk of being pick-pocketed. A great way to avoid this is not sticking out and wandering around like you have no idea what you’re doing. Pick-pocketers are smart. They know what they’re doing. Do yourself a favor and leave the fanny pack at home.
14. Not informing people back home what your plans are
This is especially true if you’re traveling solo. But even if you’re not, always inform someone from back home what you’re plans are for that day. Keep in touch with them. If something goes wrong, and you didn’t tell anyone where you were, there will be no place to search for you. It sounds scary, but it’s really just a way to be overly safe.
15. Being so caught up in the moment you forget about your surroundings
It’s so easy to forget where you are and forget about your surroundings when you’re staring up at Big Ben or the Eiffel Tower. The problem is, pick-pocketers know that. They know where people tend to let go of their bags just a little bit, and they know where it is easiest to take from you. Enjoy what’s in front on you, but don’t forget that you are still in a foreign country so you need to be even more cautious than you would be at home.
Always make sure to have your hand tightly and securely over our bag. Make sure valuables are never in your pocket, and make sure you’re always holding onto your electronics. Better to be safe than sorry!
16. Spending too much time taking pictures and not enjoying what’s in front of you
A couple years I took a picture at the Trevi Fountain, except it wasn’t of the Trevi Fountain. It was of all the people taking pictures of the Trevi Fountain. No one was looking at it or enjoying the art that it is, they were just taking pictures. While I have also been guilty of this many times, it’s a habit that needs to be consciously thought about to avoid.
By all means, take pictures! But don’t spend your whole trip behind a screen.