Happy 2018! Do you have any fun travel plans ahead for this year? Stepping outside of your comfort zone and booking a trip to a place you’ve never been has big rewards, but it can also lead to some regrettable moments and mistakes. Over many years of travel, I’ve had more than a few mishaps. Today I’ve rounded up five mistakes that I’ve personally made in hopes that they will help you avoid the same thing.
1. Not properly researching your destination
Did you know London has more than 1 airport? Most people probably do, but as a brand new international traveler in 2007 booking my flight to Italy for a summer of study abroad, I did not. It wasn’t until weeks later that I realized I booked the first leg of my flight into a different airport than the second leg. Panic ensued; although thankfully a long layover, an international calling card to purchase a bus ticket between airports was able to straighten it out (the internet has come a long way in easing travel booking). I could have saved myself a lot of trouble by doing better research before booking the ticket. Google Maps is your friend. Ensure you travel and accommodations are close to the attractions and do some legwork on the front end to reduce stress upon arrival. Also be sure to double and triple check your dates before pressing purchase.
2. Packing too much
There is nothing worse than a long walk from a train station to your hotel on cobblestone streets while lugging an overloaded suitcase. Alternatively finding space for your luggage on a crowded train while a line of impatient travelers form behind you. I like to have a closet full of options just like everyone else, but when you are traveling it just isn’t worth it. Edit, edit, edit your packing list. Bring mix and match layers and pack less than you think you need. I guarantee the memories of your trip will not be of what you wore. However, you will remember the scarring experience of maneuvering heavy luggage through an irritated crowd.
3. Over-planning your itinerary
Although I am a fan of doing your research and some planning ahead of time, there is nothing worse than being a new place with an inflexible schedule. Beforehand, you likely won’t have a good feel for how long it will take to get around town, or how the weather will affect your plans. If you don’t leave flexible spots in your schedule for getting lost on the way, discovering a hidden gem or taking a break to stop in a pub for a drink, you will likely regret it. Some of the best memories on our travels were the unplanned moments where we stumbled on something we didn’t anticipate and could take advantage of it since our time wasn’t fully booked. It also reduces stress by not having to hustle from place to place.
4. Being cheap at the expense of experiences
One of the biggest lessons I learned while studying abroad in Italy as a cheap college student is that you must take advantage of all your destination has to offer while you are there. A train ticket to Switzerland for a weekend in the Alps seemed like a lot of money at the time, but it was negligible compared to booking a separate plane ticket back to Europe years later. Weigh the costs of the tickets for admission, or an extra leg on your trip with the barrier to entry of another long flight to your destination. Often, it makes more sense to spring for the experience in the moment when you view it from that perspective.
5. Not laughing at your mistakes
If you are venturing outside of your comfort zone to travel somewhere new, it is likely that you going to have a few blunders. Relax, and learn to laugh at yourself. Often, those make some of the best stories to tell once you return from your trip. We’ve all had the awkward encounters and misunderstandings, frustration over language barriers or fights over how many steps we had to climb carrying heavy luggage because we were too cheap for a cab (guilty as charged). Make sure to take a breath, shake it off and not let it define the mood the rest of the day. Some day, those blunders will be the memories you fondly reminiscence about and smile.
Your turn, what are some of the mistakes you’ve learned from experience during travel? Tell me below.