8 Mistakes Most People Make When Travelling

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Wherever you next adventure might take you, you don’t want to make these classic travel mistakes.

1. Packing More Than You Need

No matter whether you’re travelling for an extended period of time, or just a few days,  the amount you pack is absolutely critical.  No-one wants to lug around more than they need when they’re travelling! Classic travel mistake right there.

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The best way to make sure you aren’t caught out lugging an elephant through airports, hotels and the like….is to use a packing list.  Packing lists are invaluable tools when preparing for any kind of trip.  You can make your own, find one on the web, or follow our new series all about packing lists designed by locations and seasons (launching 7th of Feb 2018!)

If you don’t want to use a packing list, try this to avoid this travel mistake –

  • Take out everything you want to take on the trip
  • Organise the items into categories (shirts, pants, underwear, shoes, etc.)
  • Then take exactly half of the items from each category, and neatly place them back in your wardrobe (you’ll thank me in the end!)

The only exception to this travel mistake rule is socks and jocks/knickers/panties.  You can never have too may of these, especially if you are travelling where you won’t be able to launder things easily.  Always make sure you have one light jacket or cardigan just in case.

On the Never Forget List are, medications, a small first aid kit, a small sewing kit, sunscreen, and aloe vera.  You would be amazed at how many times these few items have saved us!

2.  Exchanging Money in the Wrong Places

Everyone that travels needs to exchange money at some point.  However, not all exchange options are as good as the next.  In most developed countries mainstream banks offer some of the worst exchange rates around.   We avoid them like the plague! They are a huge travel mistake.

We recommend you put an app on your phone to ensure you know the daily exchange rate, this way you know what you’re looking for when you go to exchange your cash.  We use XE, which you can use via the web or as an app on your phone or tablet.

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What we look for when deciding where we should exchange our money when travelling, so we avoid this common travel mistake, are the following things.

  • Are we able to receive any points/miles by exchanging at this location?
  • Is there a service fee?
  • If there is no service fee, is the exchange rate altered to hide the service fee? (this is where XE comes in very handy!)
  • Is there a deal available if we exchange left over foreign currency on our return?
  • Will we be safe exiting this currency exchange with the cash we have exchanged?

Airport Currency Exchange

Often airport currency exchanges have high fees and/or lower exchange rates, so be careful when looking at a foreign airport.  However, weigh that up against the safety of the country you have arrived in.  Exchanging money in lesser developed countries can pose a real risk for tourists and travellers.  It’s better to get a worse exchange rate and continue on to enjoy your trip, then it is to get the best exchange rate but lose the money at the door to thieves!

Airport currency exchanges, in most developed countries, often offer incentives to exchange with them.  These could include a better rate if you return home with some of the foreign currency and change it back with them.  These deals are worth looking at if you think you are taking more cash then you are likely to use.  Having said that though, we would discourage all travellers from taking significantly more money than they needed for their planned trip. That’s a travel mistake all by itself.

3.  Flashing Valuables and Cash

Camera Gear

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Everyone loves a good photo, but carrying expensive camera gear in a foreign country can quickly attract the wrong kind of attention.  If photography is your jam, and there is no trip without your camera gadgets, then try this.  Make a plan with your travelling companions (if you are not solo) to make sure that someone is always holding the gear whilst shots are being taken.

If you are a solo traveller, then invest in a slash proof back pack that can hold your gear in a less obvious way.  Keep the backpack on you at all times though.  No point paying for a great backpack if you leave it on the ground while you snap away.  That baby will be gone by the time you turn around! #TravelMistake

If you want to take a shot of you as a couple or group, that includes all of your fellow travellers, then invest in a good hand held device that you can attach to your camera and take the shot yourself.  Otherwise, ask a tour guide, or a member of the airline, hotel, or cruise staff to snap it for you.

Jewellery

Nobody loves good jewellery more than we do…but we now prefer to leave it at home when we travel.  Obviously there is theft to worry about, but there’s also the unexpected event!  So, if you can live without it, then leave it at home and you’ll avoid this classic travel mistake.

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Let me give you some reasons why that’s a good idea, by sharing some travel events that have happened to us…

  • A carry-on bag fell out of the back of a (supposedly) secure trailer that was being towed by the transport company transferring us from our hotel to the airport.  They had one job, right!!!  Well that lost us a laptop, all of my jewellery at that point, and a range of other valuables.  Lesson learned (the hard way)!
  • Numerous necklaces, rings and earrings lost on thrill rides, boat tours, rafting, etc.
  • Bracelet slipped off on a very long flying fox ride.

#Don’tBeLikeUs

Cash and Cards

You might think you’re like a ninja when you get that cash out from under your shirt or jacket…but you’re probably not.  Sorry to dispel your long held ninja dreams!  But everyone can see those body pouches and where you hide them, the minute you try to buy something!

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Ways to Stop the Cash Flash That are Worth Considering

  • Put your money on a travel card that gives you good exchange rates and low fees, but do your research on this carefully before you choose one.
  • Invest in a slash proof backpack and/or shoulder bag (if you go with the shoulder bag, make sure you wear it across your body like a satchel).
  • Put a small amount of cash into a coin purse that is securely attached to the inside of your back pack or shoulder bag. Many of the slash proof bags will have a built in one for you to use.  Look for that feature when shopping for your bag.
  • Only top up your coin purse in a safe environment such as your hotel room, your cruise ship cabin, a bathroom (when out and about).
  • If you use a body bag or body belt then use the same principle.  Put a small amount of cash in your most secure pocket and only top it up in a safe place.
  • Never flash credit cards, especially ones that are well known as exclusive to high income earners, when travelling.  If you want to use a credit card then use it inside restaurants, hotels, etc. Flashing high value credit cards is a sure way to get express kidnapped!
  • If you do pay with a credit card make sure the establishment brings a wireless card reader to your table / the reception desk, etc.  If they don’t have one, then accompany your card to make the payment.

The best general rule to avoid this classic travel mistake is to leave any valuables that you don’t absolutely need, at home.

4.  Not Heeding Local Customs

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There are some absolutely amazing places to see and experience in this world of ours….but not all of them, in fact not many of them, will be like your home country.  Whether we like or agree with them or not, every culture has a set of cultural norms and expectations that are better to know before you go. It’s easy to avoid this travel mistake with a little bit of research.  For example –

  • Do I need to have my shoulders or head covered in sacred places? (The Vatican is one such place)  
  • Can we use open toed shoes? 
  • Is it impolite to give the thumbs up sign? (In many countries this has rude  or negative connotations)
  • Can I buy alcohol on a Sunday? (You can’t do this in Ecuador)
  • Is it a dry country or city? (As in, no alcohol is sold)

You will have a much more enjoyable time away, if you spend a little bit of time before your trip researching the cultural norms of the places you plan to visit.  By doing so you will make sure that you can see everything you want to see with the least amount of hassle.

5.  Over Bartering

We are big supporters of haggling down at your local retailer in your home country, to ensure you get the best deal on your new TV, car, etc.  However, we advise caution with haggling when you are travelling. 

If you are visiting a developing country we recommend you consider haggling over price as an optional experience, thus avoiding this travel mistake.  The few dollars (or cents in some cases) you will save yourself could mean the difference between food for the seller’s whole family or not.  Try to leave these places better than you found them, in whatever small way you can.

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There are of course, places when travelling where bartering over price is completely acceptable.  Such places, for our money, are mostly in developed countries where you are looking to buy high-end jewellery, homewares, furnitures, antiquities, art, etc.  These are places you can really get your haggle on!

The most important thing to remember about bartering is that both parties should be able to afford the price change.  Other than that…barter away and buy to your heart’s content.

6.  Expecting Everyone to Speak English

Those of us that speak English are very lucky when it comes to travel.  There are so many places in the world where English is the native language and many others where large portions of the population speak English as a second language.  However, if we want to travel far and wide, experiencing all this amazing planet has to offer, we can’t expect that everyone will speak English.

In many countries tourism industry staff speak English to varying degrees, which is very helpful.  However, there are also many places in the world where they don’t.  As a traveller you have to understand and anticipate that possibility.  It does you no good to get upset when you are not able to make your self understood.  Remember you are a guest in the country you are visiting.  It’s also not a requirement for those you meet to speak your language.

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What we recommend is that you avoid this travel mistake by using Google Translate.  You can use this service via a search engine or by downloading the app onto your phone or tablet.  For Android devices you can get the app on Google Play and for Apple devices you’ll find it in the App Store.  You can also download the languages you need before you travel so that you won’t need wi-fi, or use any data, when you need to translate something on the fly.

Google Translate is a totally awesome tool for travellers, and one you shouldn’t travel without.  It’s like having a multitude of foreign language speakers in the palm of your hand.  You can use it to translate from spoken language, written language (such as menus), or you can type text into it.  Whichever way you use it, you’ll be asking yourself why you’ve waited so long!

7.  Not Asking for an Upgrade

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This is an easy travel mistake to avoid if you plan in advance.  Our rule is – it never hurts to ask.  However, there are ways to ask and then there are winning ways to ask!  We highly recommend the latter method.  In order to have the best chance to get the upgrade that you’re asking for, try these simple tips –

  • Dress the part – Don’t expect to get an upgrade if you’re wearing your favourite pair of board shorts and flip flops.
  • Choose your moment wisely – Don’t ask the ground staff for an upgrade when they have a huge line of waiting passengers.
  • Smile and be gracious – Whilst obvious sucking up is not likely to work, a genuine smile and a gracious demeanour go a long way to winning an upgrade.
  • Use your status – Most airline frequent flyer programs operate based on status.  The higher status you have, the more likely you are to get the upgrade (especially free ones).
  • Use your points – If a free upgrade is not possible you might be able to get one on points.  With some airlines you can register online for this sort of upgrade with a chance to get it all the way up to departure time.

8.  Thinking That You Can’t Afford to Fly Business Class

There is no denying that on many routes and with many airlines, business class is out of the reach of the majority of people.  However, if you are smart about how and when you travel, and which airlines you choose, you can definitely travel business class even if you’re on a budget.  Some of the ways that we avoid this travel mistake, and travel business class without paying out the big bucks include –

    • Having a credit card/s* that accumulates miles/points on regular purchases, bills, etc.  Shop around for the best deal in your location, be on the look out for the card that gives you the most rewards for the lowest fees.
    • Being a member of the airline points/miles programs on the airlines, or alliances, that we travel with.
    • Using booking sites like hotels.com where we can accumulate free nights.


Hotels.com

      • Using AirBnB who offer Qantas Frequent Flyer points in Australia.  Check with AirBnB in your home country to see what they offer.
      • Use flight booking sites like Sky Scanner where you can compare hundreds of fares in one location.  There are often amazing business class deals to be had on this site.

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        So get researching in your country and sign yourself up to start earning points/miles/free nights whenever and however you can.  That way you can use them to buy business class tickets, or better yet to upgrade from your economy or premium economy fare to business class.

        If you’d like to learn more about flying business class on a budget then read our post –  No, You Don’t Have to Pay a Motza to Fly Business Class!

        *Before signing up for any credit card you should consult with your financial advisor about whether doing so is right for you.

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