I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve made most (if not, all) of these travel mistakes over the past 30 years. Even the most perfectly planned trip can fall astray; but with a little insider know-how, you can save yourself time and stress on your next trip by avoiding some of these common mistakes.
1. Not Arriving at the Airport Early Enough
Between traffic jams and long line-ups at security check points, there are so many things that will be out of your control. The best way to deal with it, is to prepare for it. Always assume you’ll have to wait in line, and if you happen to whip through the airport and arrive at your gate with time to kill, the universe just started your trip off on a positive note. Embrace it!
We recommend arriving minimum 2-3 hours before your flight which will give you enough time to check-in, get through security, and relax before your flight. If you’ve got lots of time to kill, try out an airport lounge!
2. Assuming Your Passport is Valid Until it Expires
All to often we see people get turned away at the airport because their passport is near the expiry date. It’s important to note that for most countries, your passport needs to be at least 6 months from the expiry date to be valid. Never assume your passport is actually valid until the date it says it expires. That being said, make sure you give yourself enough time to renew your passport before your trip.
3. Over Packing
Just remember you’re travelling, not moving so there’s no need for you to pack your entire wardrobe into your suitcase. Arriving at the airport with an overweight suitcase could cost extra money you didn’t plan on spending before take off. Check the weather reports for your destination to help determine what items you really need to bring with you.
Mix and match your outfits by recycling various pieces of clothing (for all you ladies – leggings can be worn with dresses or used as pants under a long shirt or sweater and be worn with boots or flats). Don’t forget to leave room in your suitcase to buy clothing and souvenirs from the destination you are travelling to. For tips on how to pack everything into a carry-on, be sure to watch this video.
4. Drinking Too Much Alcohol on Your Flight
I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve been stuck beside ‘that drunk passenger’ who’s eyes light up the moment they find out there is free alcohol on the flight. Just because it’s free, doesn’t mean it’s all-you-can-drink. If you need a glass of wine to help relax, then by all means go for it. But know when to draw the line, and make sure you’re drinking lots of water to balance it out; both air travel and alcohol can dehydrate you (leaving you with a nasty hangover).
It’s also important to remember that when you’re flying, you’re in a less oxygenated environment because of the low pressure and high altitude which will in itself already make you feel intoxicated (less oxygen is being circulated to the brain). Drinking too much alcohol on a flight will no doubt make you feel terrible when you land (trust me). Just remember you’ll have to get through customs, and then get to your actual destination both of which require you to be alert and aware.
My general rule of thumb is that for every alcoholic beverage I drink, I make sure I have two glasses of water with it. But keep in mind, this means you’ll be making frequent visits to the toilet. If you have an active bladder, grab an aisle seat so you’re not bothering your fellow passengers beside you.
5. Failing to Buy Travel Insurance
Whether you’re taking a round-the-world trip, or simply jaunting off for a weekend getaway, things always happen when you least expect it. Winding up in a foreign hospital without insurance can be a huge blow to your bank account. Your provincial insurance won’t always cover you so make sure you have medical insurance first and foremost and understand exactly what it covers.
6. Withdrawing Cash from Your Credit Card
Most credit cards charge you a fee for withdrawing cash (generally around 21.99%), but if you read the fine print, you also get charged a conversion rate for when you make overseas transactions. So if you make a cash withdrawal from your credit card overseas, be prepared as it can cost you an additional 25% interest on your bill.
Also, be sure to let your credit card company know in advance when and where you plan on travelling. If they notice transactions taking place on your account in a foreign country, they may suspect fraud and suspend your card. Not having access to your credit card while abroad can be a huge hassle and one that can be easily avoiding with a simple phone call or through your bank’s app on your smartphone.
7. Failing to Acquire the proper Visa for the Country you’re Travelling to
After booking your flight, it’s important to make sure you are aware of the proper visa requirements for the country you are travelling to. While some countries allow you to purchase it upon arrival, other countries like Australia require you to apply for one online, in advance. If you can in fact purchase your visa upon arrival, make sure you are aware exactly how much it costs and what currency it is required to be paid in. It’s even important to make sure the condition of the bills you are using are in good condition as well. If your bills are ripped or damaged, they will not be accepted. I learned this the hard way in Kenya.
8. Not Getting the Proper Vaccinations/Medications for your Trip
It’s important to understand the region you are travelling to and prepare yourself as best you can to prevent any possible illnesses. Make sure you visit a Travel Health Clinic before your trip and let them know where you are travelling to. They have the most up-to-date information on what outbreaks or diseases are going around in a particular destination.
Some countries require you to receive a vaccination before arrival and provide the paperwork to prove it. You will be asked to present your paperwork to airport personal upon arrival and departure, so make sure you keep your vaccination records in a safe place.
9. Failing to Disable Data Roaming on your Phone
The moment you board your flight, get into the habit of putting your phone on airplane mode and leave it there for the duration of your trip. Failing to do so could cost you big time since you’ll be charged a ‘roaming fee’ from your service provider. Make sure your data roaming and cellular data are turned off and manually turn on your WIFI so you can connect to the internet in destination.
Alternatively, you can contact your service provider in advance and inquire about overseas fees and packages for voice, text and data. If you’re travelling for a longer period of time, consider buying a cheap pay-as you-go phone/SIM card in destination and top it up with minutes.
10. Trying to Do Too Much in One Trip
Do you ever come home from travelling feeling like you need a vacation from your vacation? That’s probably because you’ve packed way too many things into a short period of time. While I can appreciate your enthusiasm for wanting to do it all, there’s no shame in hanging out in cafés and taking things one day at a time. Before you plan your vacation, think hard about what you want your trip to be and then follow your itinerary.
If you’re on a group tour and you’re feeling run down, simply tell your tour guide you’re going to sit out of an activity if you’re not feeling it. It’s their job to make sure you’re having a good time, and most of them will take the time to understand what you’re hoping to get out of the trip and do the things that mean the most to you.