6 Common Mistakes All Travelers Should Avoid Making
Make Your Trip Better for Others and For Yourself
Traveling is full of excitement, from immersing yourself in a new culture to seeing remarkable sites. While no one can blame travelers for their determination to have the best experience they can and make the most of their trip, this kind of mindset coupled with the giddy nerves that come along with being somewhere new can result in some unseemly habits.
Many people forget that the locations they are visiting aren’t just there for the enjoyment of tourists; they’re people’s homes and you’re a guest in their land. Beyond being disrespectful, inexperienced travelers are also prone to making decisions that will lower the overall enjoyment of their trip.
So how do you make sure you are respectful of your surroundings and make decisions that will result in the fewest frustrations and most enjoyment? We have the answers, of course! Here are some common travel mistakes to avoid committing on your next trip.
1. Packing Too Much
Many new travelers make the mistake of overpacking simply because they don’t yet have an idea of what they do and don’t need on a trip. For this reason it’s one of the more common mistakes while traveling.
The old saying advises that when you are packing for a trip you should lay out all of your clothes and money, then take half of the clothes and twice the money. This is good advice, because packing too much stuff with you is a big mistake.
When you have an overloaded suitcase you will need to pay more money in baggage fees and you will exhaust yourself dragging it around and lifting it up the stairs or onto public transit. Because your luggage is heavy it will slow you down and will make you stand out more as a tourist.
Plus, over-packing your bag will make it more likely to rip and break, leaving you stranded. Pack a lighter bag and you will be much happier.
2. Showing Too Much Skin
It might be hot outside, but it’s important to consider whether the clothing you are wearing is appropriate for the culture and setting you are in. There are many conservative cultures in Asia and the Middle East where short-shorts and tank tops are inappropriate. One of the biggest tourist mistakes is without a doubt dressing inappropriately.
It’s equally important for men as it is for women to make sure they are dressed appropriately, so do some research before you go and be sure to bring suitable attire. This is especially important if you are visiting a sacred site or a temple. Your shoulders and legs should be covered in order to show respect for your holy surroundings.
3. Getting Annoyed When People Don’t Speak English
It’s true that English is widely spoken around the world and that in many travel destinations you will find people who speak it. However, it should never be something that you expect and it’s not fair to get mad at someone in another country if they don’t speak English.
If the staff in your hotel or anyone else you interact with understands English, that is great; but if they don’t, there’s nothing wrong with that either. Be patient and make yourself understood as well as possible using communication tips, whether that means learning a few phrases in the local language, using hand signals, using a translator app or asking someone else to translate.
4. Taking Photos at Inappropriate Moments
Of course, when you are traveling the world you will want to capture your experience by taking as many photos as possible. However, there are some scenarios where snapping photos might be considered rude — so be sure to think about this before you start clicking away.
For example, think twice about taking photos of people in religious ceremonies or people who are praying or meditating; they might not appreciate their solemn and sacred moment being interrupted by your flash. Also, some indigenous tribes have superstitious beliefs about cameras such as believing that when you photograph someone you steal their soul.
If you are in doubt as to whether or not you should photograph a situation, always ask first.
5. Getting Too Drunk
Experiencing the local nightlife is part of seeing your destination, but getting so hammered that you throw up on a monument and pass out on a bench just makes you a public nuisance. Another thing you should not do while traveling is drink to extremes as doing so in a foreign country increases the odds that you will do something culturally disrespectful or cause a problem.
Also, it makes you more vulnerable to being robbed or scammed. By all means, have a few drinks and enjoy the atmosphere — but just know your limits and stay within them so that you can get yourself back to your hotel room safely without causing any trouble.
6. Being Overly Cheap
If you are a budget backpacker it’s good to be budget-conscious so you can stretch your travel fund and keep yourself on the road as long as possible. However, it’s possible to be overly stingy on your travels.
I’ve seen travelers get into heated haggling debates with souvenir sellers and taxi drivers over amounts of less than a dollar. You don’t have to haggle so hard to save yourself that extra few cents, especially because it will make much more of a difference to the local person’s income than it does to your budget.
Be reasonable and friendly when negotiating prices and find a middle ground that works for both of you.
7. Not Reserving Seats on a Train
Another travel mistake not to make is failing to reserve a train ticket ahead of time. Although in some countries you can buy train tickets without reserving a seat, do yourself a favor and reserve one anyway. For smaller countries, this may not be as big of an issue, but for tourist destinations, it’s always a good idea.
Without a seat, you have to rely on what’s available when you get there. Even if you arrive super early, last-minute seat reservations may appear, kicking you out of your seat.
Train rides are no fun when you’re sitting in the aisle or cramped up next to the bathroom.
8. Trying to Shop for Essentials Late at Night
Even in smaller American cities, a lot of businesses close earlier than their big city counterparts. However, in large European, Canadian or Asian cities, many grocery stores and pharmacies close before 7 p.m.
Do your grocery shopping early in the morning to avoid the huge rush of commuters making purchases, or go past lunchtime when hungry workers will have cleared out. Try to bring your own first aid kit in case of small emergencies as well as sanitary pads and ibuprofen.
In addition to early closing pharmacies, other countries might not carry exactly what you’re looking for due to stricter regulations or cultural differences.
9. Paying For an Expensive International Phone Plan
While you don’t want to get caught up without being able to communicate with your travel companions, or friends and family back home, it’s actually pretty unnecessary to buy an international phone plan when abroad. Some carriers will even try to block your WiFi unless you download their special app.
There are plenty of destination-specific, pay-as-you-go phones available that are a lot cheaper than what the wireless carriers in the United States provide. If you’re in Europe, there is free WiFi almost everywhere and you can also use WhatsApp to send free messages and videos to people.
10. Not Buying the Right Sized Bag
Besides just not bringing too much stuff with you, buying the right bag is necessary to avoid a lot of grief when traveling. If you plan to fly with some of the smaller budget airlines in Europe, such as Ryanair or Wizz Air, you may have to bring a smaller carry-on bag than normal.
Additionally, personal items may not be included the way they are with a lot of U.S. airlines. To avoid a potential disaster when flying with one of these budget airlines, always check their baggage policy before purchasing.
11. Trying to Bring Home Agricultural Products
Most people are aware that you can’t bring foreign plants or produce into the United States. However, did you know that most animal byproducts are also restricted by TSA rules?
That means all of those delicious salamis and sausages you intended to have a feast with when you got home will get confiscated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. If you’re really intent on enjoying foreign meats, eat them in their home country and avoid wasting your time and money in customs.