Do your research to avoid these 10 travel mistakes before hitting the road.
Travelers often spend so much time researching what the should do before a trip that they often to forget to look into what they shouldn’t do. There are a lot of “do’s” and “don’ts” to keep in mind when traveling. Of course, they vary depending on where you’re headed. Different rules will apply if you’re going abroad, staying in the country, staying in state, etc. Regardless, there are a few major travel mistakes you should do your best to avoid.
Here are our top 12. Follow these tips on how to avoid travel mistakes and we guarantee you will travel smarter, cheaper, and more frequently because of it.
1. Do NOT eat near major tourist attractions
If you dine near major tourist attractions, you may as well be throwing money out the window. Restaurants near any major tourist attractions almost always double their prices on the menu. Not to mention they offer half the flavor that you would find at a local, affordable vendor. Restaurants do this because they know that you will not be coming back. Most of the people dining there only chose the restaurant because it is near the attraction.
When restaurants are catering to convenience instead of trying to build up regular customers, they won’t put in as much attention to the food they’re serving. But they will double its prices, because they know they can. In other words, restaurants near major tourist lack an incentive to be the best. So if eating good, authentic food is important to you while you’re traveling, then this is one of the top travel mistakes you should avoid!
Instead, opt for venturing to a part of town where the locals eat. Eating locally is the best way to dine when you travel. For starters, if locals are eating there, then you know it’s good. Additionally, eating local means you are eating food that is authentic to the culture. And to top it all off, it will be way less expensive than a mediocre restaurant near a major tourist trap.
How to find quality restaurants when you travel
The best way to find a great place to eat in an unfamiliar place is by asking around. After all, who would be better to ask about good local restaurants than the locals themselves? Another great way to find local restaurants and eateries is by going to hostels. The people that work at hostels are trained to know and recommend good restaurants for tourists to check out. And in many cases the people working at the hostels are locals themselves. So they are usually a reliable resource to ask.
These websites and apps are great, genuine resources for finding the best restaurants in most towns and cities.
- Yelp – People offer reviews and ratings of restaurants, business, hostels, and more on Yelp. So this website/app can give you an idea of what’s on the menu and if the restaurant is worth checking out. Many reviews also include photos of the food, as well. So you can get a sneak peek of what you’re going to eat before you even arrive.
- Foursquare – Foursquare is a website/app that works the same as Yelp. The mobile app lets you search nearby restaurants or eateries nearby. And you can read reviews from previous diners who will help you decide whether or not a restaurant is worth your time.
- OpenRice – This app is similar to both Yelp and Foursquare. But it only applies to restaurants and businesses in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines.
2. Do not exchange money at the airport
This is one of the top travel mistakes to avoid right off the bat. If you want to get the most bang for your buck, NEVER exchange money at the airport. You will get the worst exchange rates for your dollar if you do. This is because a lot of airport exchange services primarily make their money through offering bad exchange rates. To get the best rates, use an ATM or credit card.
In sum, never exchange your cash at an airport if you don’t have to. And if you plan ahead (which is one of the most important tips to follow for any kind of travel!) you should never have to.
If you can, go to the airport with just your ATM or bank card. This will be fine to use at the airport until you leave. It’s unlikely you’ll need to use your card on the plane. Then once you arrive at your destination, find the nearest ATM and get money then. This is a preferable option to bringing cash with you to exchange at your destination. Because it’s never a good idea to carry too much cash on you when you travel.
How to avoid exchanging cash at an airport
Like we said, if you plan ahead, this should be one of the easiest travel mistakes to avoid. If you decide you don’t want to wait to get to an ATM at your destination to get cash out, you still have other options. If you want to exchange currency before leaving the United States, your bank or credit union will be your best bet. But keep in mind this is not something you can do last minute. Banks and credit unions typically need at least a week to process this transaction. So plan ahead!
You can also try to order cash pickup in advance. Some currency exchangers offer a pickup service where you can order (and pay for) foreign cash online. Then you can collect it at the airport without paying absurd airport exchange fees.
Before you go, look up what services are available at your destination airport, and see if they let you do this. This options takes a little bit more effort, but it will likely save you some money in the long run.
3. Don’t use a bank or credit card that has fees
Using a bank card with fees is one of the easiest travel mistakes to fall into. A $5.00 fee withdrawal fee at an ATM may not seem like much in the moment, but they can certainly add up. And you never want to carry too much cash on you when you’re traveling. So it’s likely that you’ll be visiting an ATM at least once a week. And unless you incorporate that extra $20 a month into your travel budget in advance, you may find yourself running out of funds sooner than you thought!
Many credit cards charge a transaction fee of around 3 percent for any exchange that happens outside the U.S. And sometimes you don’t even need to leave the states to hit this fee. If you make an online purchase from a foreign company — such as an airline ticket from an airline without a U.S. website — you could find an additional foreign transaction fee added to your transaction.
As a solution, bet a bank and credit card that has no foreign transaction fees. This way you can avoid ATM fees and other surcharges. There are a lot of different banks and credit card options out there that have no bank fees. So do your research and figure out which one works best for you.
Transaction fees by major banks
Some major issuers out there, including Capital One and Discover, do not have foreign transaction fees on any cards. But many of the big issuers out there do:
- American Express: 2.7%
- Bank of America: 3%
- Chase: 3%
- Citi: 3%
- U.S. Bank: 3% (but 2# for U.S. dollar transactions
- Wells Fargo: 3%
Banks and credit cards without any fees
Those were just the transactions fees for the major issuers out there. So if one of those issuers was your bank, don’t lose hope yet! There is still a way for you to avoid this mistake and many other travel mistakes when it comes to accidental spending.
Below are some of the best bank and credit card options to avoid fees on the road:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Chase Sapphire Preferred
- Citi Premier Card
- Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Card
- The Platinum Card from American Express
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
- Bank of America Premium Awards Credit Card
- Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
- Discover it Miles
None of these cards have transaction fees. Additionally, all of these cards have their own perks and points you can add with them. Which is great, because points mean you can get free things like hotel stays and flights for free! If you plan on becoming an avid, regular traveler, having a bank and credit card with fees is one of the top travel mistakes we suggest avoiding.
4. Never, EVER rule out hostels
Ruling out hostels as a lodging option is one of the worst travel mistakes you can make. And we know why that is. A lot of first-time travelers – or travelers who have only ever stayed in a hotel – have a negative view of hostels. They think hostels are dirty, unsafe, and a great place to stay if you want to get your passport stolen.
Hostels may have been like that in the past. But today, staying in a hostel is one of the most affordable – and often most fun – lodging options out there for travelers. Not only that, but hostels are incredibly accommodating for travelers of all kind. Most hostels come with lavish services like free Wifi, laundry rooms, game rooms, dorm rooms, pools, bunk beds, kitchen spaces, and some even have rooftop gardens.
Financial factors aside, hostels are also one of the best lodging options to stay in because they’re a great place to meet people. Overall, hostels are hubs for like-minded people. Staying in a hostel will help you save money and make new friends. It’s a win-win situation.
5. Do not forget to get travel insurance
This is one of the most popular travel mistakes made by first-time travelers. After you have spent so much money on gear, flights, hostels, etc., it can be tempting to save a few extra bucks by forgoing travel insurance. But trust us, getting travel insurance is always a good idea for any trip.
One of the most beautiful parts about traveling is that you never know what is going to happen. And that’s also one of the most dangerous parts about it. You could easily break your leg while hiking El Camino de Santiago. Or lose a camera in a hostel. There’s always the chance you have to flee a country in case of a natural disaster. And in all of these cases, the worst travel mistakes you could make is not getting insurance.
Travel insurance can protect you when you are overseas. And this extra precaution should not be avoided. Don’t skip out on travel insurance just to save some money. Because if you don’t get it and something does happen, you’re likely to spend way more money in the end.
What to look for in a travel insurance provider
Travel insurance is there to protect you from both medical and non-medical emergencies. Not getting travel insurance is one of the worst travel mistakes many first-time travelers make. However, picking the wrong travel insurance can be just as bad.
Here’s what to look for when choosing a travel insurance provider:
- Make sure your travel insurance offers a high coverage limit on your medical expenses. A good travel insurance company will provide up to $100,000 in coverage care. The reason high coverage limits are important is because if you get sick or injured and need to go to a hospital, you want to make sure that high bills are covered. That’s why another one of the top travel mistakes to avoid is getting a cheap travel insurance plan.
- Make sure your travel insurance policy also covers emergency evacuation and care that is separate from your medical coverage. If you are backpacking through a national park and break your leg. you will need to get evacuated and transported to a hospital. It will be cool to fly in a helicopter; it will not be cool if your travel insurance doesn’t cover evacuations. The same goes for being in a foreign country when a natural disaster hits. Make sure you travel insurance plans covers evacuation expenses at least up to
- Look for added perks. A great travel insurance plan should offer more than listed above. The best ones will cover you in most countries, provide coverage from some electronics or stolen possessions, cover cancellations on bookings, and more.
6. Don’t waste time simply to save a few bucks
It is really easy to stress about money while you’re traveling. And that’s one of the worst travel mistakes you can make for a variety of reasons. For starters, stressing about money will take you away from the incredible experience you are having. Secondly, it can lead travelers to wasting time simply to avoid spending a buck or two.
We are always in support of minimalist, budget-friendly, conscious traveling. But not at the expense of wasting time and missing opportunities. So don’t opt to walk six hours somewhere if a bus ticket will cost you just $5. You know what they said: time is money. And that rule applies to traveling, as well.
Say you have the opportunity to save $50 on a flight. Is it worth it if it means adding two connections to your journey? Sometimes it’s worth spending the extra money to save your body from unnecessary wear and tear. Plus, it isn’t worth it to save money if it leads you to being tired and frustrated every time you arrive somewhere new. Treat yourself within reason while you’re travel.
7. Do not look at U.S. based searched engines only
One of the best travel mistakes to make to limit your travel research is to exclusively use U.S. based search engines. So don’t spend all your time searching with only the most popular travel portals. Only using popular search engines will limit your searches when hunting down hostels, flights, things to do, etc. And this will reduce your chance of finding a good deal.
You will come to find that many sites and search engines do not feature smaller budget airlines or seasonal carriers. And while we certainly don’t think smaller budget airlines and less popular flight search websites are the best options all the time… It’s a bad idea to rule them out entirely. Or to accidentally rule them out by only using U.S. based search engines.
So don’t let this be one of the travel mistakes that you fall into. Dig through some search engines that are off the beaten path with deals you will not want to miss.
Other search engines to use
If you’re looking for cheap flights, here are three great search engines to use to find great deals:
- Momondo: This is one of the best search engines you can use. Momondo is almost always able to find the airlines that are offering the best deals. And their calendar allows users to view which days that month are the cheapest to fly. Another reason Momondo is great is because they search smaller booking sites that bigger search engines won’t look for.
- Google Flights: This is one of the most reliable flight search engines out there. Google Flights has you enter when you want to depart your home airport and when you want to return. It then offers you all of the available flights that day, ranging from cheapest to the most expensive. You can tailor Google Flights and simply put in a day that you want to leave with no destination in mind. It will then list all of the cheapest places to fly on the day you selected.
- Skyscanner: This is an extremely reliable website that searches a variety of different airlines. We like Skyscanner because it searches both major and small budget carrier alike. So you are more likely to find the best deal using Skyscanner than other major search engines.
All of these tips on how to avoid major travel mistakes now leads us to our next point…
8. Do not book your trip too early!
The early bird gets the worm – but not when it comes to booking your flights. Booking your trip too far in advance is one of the more popular travel mistakes people make. It also ends up being one of the pricier travel mistakes out there that causes you to unnecessarily spend money. So don’t be overeager on booking and making reservations. Save money and wait for that sweet spot to book all your flights.
The best time to buy flight tickets is about three to four months before your trip. Typically, this is when flights will be the cheapest. And that’s because this is around the time airlines start to raise or lower prices based on demand.
However, the 3-4 month rule does not apply to cruises. If you want to go on a cruise, book your trip until the very last minute. Cruise companies have to fill up their boats and tours. So to fill up the last few seats on a ship, they tend to offer amazing last-minute deals.
Do your best to avoid travel mistakes that will make you throw away money you didn’t need to spend. This will help you have a bigger travel fund for this trip and trips to come!
9. Don’t dress immodestly or disrespectfully
As a rule of thumb, it’s best to avoid dressing too flashy when you’re traveling abroad. Noticeable outfits make you stand out more in a crowd. And this will make it easier for thieves and scam artists to seek you out. But one of the more common travel mistakes people make is dressing immodestly.
This is most common when American travelers visit places like the Middle East, South East Asia, and Islamic countries. One of the most disrespectful travel mistakes you can make it being unaware of cultural norms in these countries. Therefore you should always be aware of the dressing norms when visiting a new country. If a culture prefers you do not show off your legs, then make sure to bring along plenty of comfortable, light weight pants to respect their standards. If public displays of affection are frowned upon, wait until you return to your room for the evening before taking part in anything of the kind.
Additionally, you need to be extra aware of dress codes in religious sanctums. And if you choose to travel to Middle Eastern countries or other destinations with strict dress codes, it’s a good idea to always have an extra scarf in your bag.
10. Don’t forget to visit the local tourist office
We don’t know why, but this is one of those travel mistakes that even veteran travelers often make. We understand how eager people usually are to get out and start exploring when they finally arrive to their destination. But it never hurts to take a moment and visit the local tourism office, first. In fact, this is one of the best places to visit to start getting a sense of what’s going on around town! Travel mistakes people always make is not doing enough research before arriving. As a result, they miss out on so many activities and opportunities they could have read up on before.
So even if you did your duty and researched the destination before you arrived, stop by the local tourism office anyways. They are sure to have advice on current events, festivals, and how to get off the beaten path that the guidebooks don’t show you.
Plus, local tourism offices can often give you good deals on different activities around town. It also doesn’t hurt to ask the people working at your hotel or hostel for ideas on things to do.
Avoiding these 10 travel mistakes will help ensure you have the best trip of your life.
Slipping up on travel mistakes is one of the easiest ways to lose money and waste time while you’re away. So do yourself a favor and read up on common travel mistakes people make – and learn how to avoid them! It is nearly impossible to avoid any kind of slip-up while you’re away. But if you put in the effort to avoid major travel mistakes, you’re sure to have one of the best adventures of your life.
What travel mistakes have you ran into in the past? How do you solve them? Leave us a comment and tell us your travel stories!
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