Most Common Travel Mistakes: Part 1

Traveling is an experience full of countless adventures and experiences, many pleasant, but some comparable to your worst nightmare. As a solo traveler, I have ventured out to almost 100 countries around the world. Through this wild experience, I have had my share of laughs, cries and moments of sheer frustration and panic.

I sometimes look back and wish that I would’ve read up and learned from other people’s travel mistakes in order to prevent my own. However, each and every situation has taught me valuable lesson and has shaped me into an even stronger person and solo traveler. 

I will be honest from the beginning: I have made more mistakes than the average traveler. With this being the truth, I desire to help others to avoid the same mistakes at all costs by speaking about my own personal experiences.  Making smarter choices and learning from others can save many uncomfortable moments, grey hairs and thousands of dollars in unnecessary costs. 

Dont forget to check out part two of this article to see my worst travel mistakes so far!

1. Not checking to see the requirements of the country you are planning to visit.

Every country has their own specific requirements for entry. Some of these include:

  • Return or onward ticket
  • A valid passport that has at least 1 full clear page and is not close to expiration
  • Yellow Fever Certificate (certain countries)
  • Hotel reservations
  • Health Insurance
  • Proof of sufficient funds during your stay

In the Philippines, I was not permitted to get on my plane unless I had a continuing flight.  I had to quickly book at the gate from my Iphone without having any time to compare prices and organize my next destination. Given the lack of preparation, I ended up paying triple of what I would of normally paid.

Avoid situations like this and always check each countries requirements before you travel and it will save you a world of problems.

2. Not uploading ALL pictures and videos you take each day to the internet

Out of all of my travel mistakes, this was one the hardest that I had to learn from.  Capturing my special moments on camera is one of my favorite aspects of my travel. I am constantly taking videos and photos, all to which I use to share my experience with people from all over the world.

Backing up your photos every single day online (not your computer) when you get to your hotel is must.  No matter how safe you try to be, sometimes unfortunate situations come knocking at your door. I was robbed in one moment of my laptop, professional camera and all of my sim cards, without backing up all of those special moments on my Google Drive. It was a hard and emotional hit, but I will never make that same mistake again.

3.  Overpacking and paying extra airport fees

Packing light may seem like an impossible task for many travelers, especially women. If you are traveling between many types of climate, this can be especially difficult.

I have traveled in the same day where the temperature where I boarded the plane was -10 and landed at 40 degrees (104F)  in the next. One of my biggest pieces of advice is to pack light and buy as you go, especially if you’re traveling to cheap countries.

I once had to pay $75 at the gate for my bag that was just a little over the limit on the way to Iceland (which was only a bit less than what I paid for the actual flight).  Check your airlines baggage restrictions, and if in doubt, check a bag online while doing your check in. You will usually find that there is a big difference in price between what you pay online and at the gate.

4. Short layovers

It’s a common mistake to jump on the search engines and to choose the cheapest flight, only to find out that it has a 30 minute layover. This does not leave any room for any delays that your previous flight might have.

If you decide to fly both legs of your flight with the same company, then you would be able to rest assure that the company will cover any missed flights. However, if you have two flights with two different airlines you might be asked to cover the missed plane cost.

The first time I was placed in this situation and asked to pay for my second flight due to delays I was very unhappy and felt it was unfair that I would have to pay as a result of my previous delayed flight. I made this common mistake and had to learn the hard way.

5. Not informing your bank about your travel plan

This is something so simple that only takes a few minutes. In El Salvador I was hit by a motorcycle in my rental car and desperately needed money as quick as possible. I rushed to the bank: REJECTED.  I went throughout the town from bank to bank, with very little time to get my problem solved and absolutely no way of getting money out.

If I didn’t have my portable wifi box in hand in order to call my bank and get the problem resolved, I don’t know what I would’ve done, because the town was absolutely dead. Inform your bank before of all of your travel plans so this does not occur. 

6. Leaving without travel insurance 

As you travel across foreign countries, you will be exposed to things that your body has never come up against before. For that reason, you never can actually know how you are going to react, no matter how much you feel like you know your body. Something as simple as a small dinner could leave you lying in a hospital bed for 5 days for food poisoning.  

Personally, I had to get an emergency visit to my Couchsurfing home due to a very serious infected spider bite. Other moments, I had to run to the emergency room with a Rabie scare, due to being attacked by a dog late night in Sri Lanka. Maybe you’ll be one of the lucky ones that have no problems, but you don’t know what might come your way.  

7. Not turning off roaming when entering in the country

I can’t tell you how many travelers I have heard complaining about horrible experiences of returning home only to find a bill of $2000+. To avoid this problem, its best to buy a local sim card when you arrive. They are cheap and you will have no worries about possible problems with your local phone company. 

8. Not carrying at least 2 (minimum) money cards

When I say TWO minimum cards, I mean minimum. I arrived in Cuba, quickly to find out that ATM machines will not accept any type of American card. The only other card I had with me was my Spanish debit card and for some reason it was malfunctioning. I had absolutely no money to exchange had no idea what to do. Wi-Fi was not available and I had not 1 cent to buy a SIM card to make a call.

In other countries I have had a card stolen and the second card not working either, which left me stranded. For the first time, I had to use a Western Union in order to get a friend to send me enough money until I got my card situation figured out.

9. Not carrying a copy of your passport picture

Keeping a copy of your passport in your luggage can save you a lot of problems, especially in the case that someone robs your handbag with your passport inside. Having this extra copy can speed up the process at your local embassy in order to get a new passport. 

10. Not carrying local currency

The fact is that many places accept cash only, especially in more rural areas. I have been stuck in different villages with only my cards and no local currency. Due to waiting to find a place to exchange money or find an ATM, I have missed a flights and busses.  Go as prepared as possible by having your debit card, local currency and some US dollars to change just in case.

11. Losing an entry ticket of a country

Many countries will not only give you a stamp in your passport, but also a little piece of paper which will serve as your exit ticket out of the country. In Mexico I was given that little ticket at the airport for the first time. They never instructed me to hold onto it, and I simply tossed it into the trash and continued on with my travels.

I ended up traveling overland from Mexico to Belize, and then onto Guatemala. When we arrived at the Mexican border at 3 o’clock in the morning,  the man firmly looked at me and asked for my entry ticket. I was clueless on what he was talking about and was unable to talk my way out of this situation. 

A bit panicked, I asked where I could take out money from the ATM, given that I had no local currency on hand,  and he told me that I could withdraw money until they opened at 0700, which would leave me at the border alone all night and missing my bus. I searched and searched in my luggage and to my luck found a $50 in one of my pants pockets and was able to pay the fine that was given to me. This is one of many many countries that will give you an entry ticket, so hold onto it with all of your life.

12. Trying to do too much in too short of time

I had this experience whenever my mom went to visit me in Europe. She was set on two weeks of seeing Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales. I was not so keen to the idea, but it was her vacation and so she made the final decision. Although we had an amazing trip together, it was too many countries in such a short time.

We were running around so much that we didn’t have so much time to enjoy each other and the places we visited due to time restrictions. Sometimes it’s better to pick a few places and spend a bit more time, especially if you have only one or two weeks of vacation a year.

13. Not taking time to read reviews

It is easy to pick the cheapest place and fail to read the reviews, which results in a negative and unpleasant experience. Many hostals have a terrible reputation for being loud, dirty and countless cases of robbery. By not reading reviews you may go blindly into something that could be prevented.

14. Not packing extra clothes and necessary items in your carry on.

I have spent many long hours in transportation suffering because of this mistake. Always carry a small jacket in your carry-on, especially when traveling by bus,  because they can get ice cold. Not being prepared has caused me to spend many long hours shaking until I arrived at my destination.

15. Putting valuables in your checked luggage

Never put anything in your checked luggage of value. You may think since its in the hands of the airport workers that it will be okay, but many travelers end up with missing items. If you are in doubt, spend the extra money and wrap your bag. This can be done at most airports around the world.


Do not forget to continue on reading to part 2 of “Most common travel mistakes” to find out my worse 2 mistakes yet!





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