Travel Mistakes To Avoid
1. Flying solo or with friend/group - you have to be in sync.
The big question, do you really want to share your vacation?
Some people thrive on company: whether it be the other half of a relationship (who may just be paying for the holiday), the girls/boys having "time out", the family because no one wanted your brats to look after, or because you are just too scared to go it alone.
If your entourage cannot agree on the place and the entertainment prior to departure, then they are not going to be happy traveling companions.
The first biggest mistake you can make is to take someone with you who is boring, a hypochondriac, scared of their own shadow, who snores, likes to argue for the sake of it, is a tyrant and it is their way or not at all. If you are not prepared for a certain amount of compromising with your traveling companions, then going it alone might be the start of a new you.
So do not utter these words in moments of unwitting love of thy neighbour "Oh, you should come with me, it would be so much fun." Think very carefully before you utter those often, regretful words.
2. Pick your own holiday and do not be swayed by a friend.
You casually mention to a friend that you are planning on taking time off work and before you know it, you are booking a holiday that they went on a year ago, despite the fact that your interests are poles apart. You want to laze on a sun kissed beach and do nothing. Now you find you are hiking the Alps in the dead of winter as your hyper active extreme sports friend did. Be honest with yourself and do what you want to do.
3. Travelling alone or on tour?
This decision is a personal one:
Base it on -
- Do you enjoy being in the constant company of other people who may have like interests (but they may pick their nose at the dinner table);
- Do you like to be one of a group that is told where to go, when to go and what you can or can't do;
- Do you like to follow a person holding up a particular coloured umbrella or flag so that it is easy to spot the group leader hence very limited chances of getting lost.
Don't get me wrong, some tours I have heard are exceptionally good and you can design them to be just a "meet and greet" type, or you can play "follow the leader" on others. For novice travellers it is a comfortable and safe way to travel. It is better than spending your two weeks holiday with a peanut butter sandwich in front of the television. You can have pseudo friends for the duration of your sojourn. You can then follow them for the next six months on Facebook; before you get around to realising that you really don't have anything in common, apart from following a waving yellow flag and getting on and off a bus together.
If you are not one for the masses, then do not contemplate "mass" tourism.
4. Internet = we are our own travel agents!
We have been conned into thinking that we can get the cheapest prices, the best deals, know what hotel to go to, and what activities are available by the plethora of Internet travel sites available. Unless you have hours to spend on research on your holiday destination, talk to a travel agent who specialises in where you want to go. Planning can be half the fun and build up the anticipation for the holiday you are wishing for, but it can also lead to many travel mistakes. I can remember researching a destination so much that just prior to going, I canned the idea, as I felt that I had actually been there.
Travel Agents can actually save you time and money and give general advice so that you avoid making mistakes. Also you have someone else to blame if something does go wrong on the booking side, and not your own impatient itchy keypad fingertip that has left you sitting in an airport for 12 hours waiting for a connecting flight.
You need to know: -
- There is sufficient time between connecting flights
- What transport is locally available
- Which are the cheapest flight routes without being a milk run
- Which airlines are the best (those that don't crash as frequently)
- Which airport transfers are not the wait around for half a day or the next plane variety
- Exactly what your visa requirements will be
- Your passport is valid for at least 6 months from your date of travel and you have sufficient blank pages
- Which hotels are actually in 'the city' when you want in 'the city', not the babble of "real estate speak" of "close to" meaning it is half an hour away
- Destination time zones for arrival/departure
- What travel insurance suits your circumstances
So in other words if you are not a competent researcher, leave it to an expert. A travel agent will remember to point out to the hotel that it is your wedding anniversary/birthday/honeymoon and an up-grade would be appropriate.
An agent will even print out your itinerary for you in as many copies as you may wish, hand you your travel tickets, required visa and wish you a happy, relaxed holiday.
If you DIY (do it yourself) remember to check before clicking on that key.
NB do not make bookings when in a hurry or stressed out.
- Double check flight times and dates and what restrictions apply to that dirt cheap airfare you found;Is the hotel really where it says it is;
- Are the dates for the hotel correct;
- Can I apply for a visa on-line or is it obtained on arrival;
- What travel insurance suits my trip and my circumstances (in other words am I going to be driving a car, riding a motor bike, carrying an expensive camera etc. etc. or do I have a pre existing medical condition;
- Can frequent flyer points be used - the airline is not going to remind you;
- Do I need to book an airport transfer, especially if arriving late at night
Once that brilliant holiday is sent off into cyber space, ask yourself, "Do I really feel confident that I have done everything?" If there is even a hint of a nagging fear in the pit of your stomach, check and check again to ensure that you are not caught in a planning disaster of mammoth travel mistakes.
5. Mobile me - staying in touch.
I am not going to waste time here on this issue, as there is a whole article on The Wise Traveler in relation to this topic. The important point is, do yourself a financial favour and check what plan your mobile cyber toys are hooked up to.
6. Show me the money.
Panic automatically sets in when the ATM does not respond by spitting out cash after you gleefully type in your pin code when in a different country. Did you remember to notify your credit card company of what countries you will be traveling to? They are only trying to protect your money, not deny you access to it, as they want the fees.
Know your currency exchange rate, it is an easy exercise to do on the Internet prior to your departure.
Before leaving the airport of your destination, change some money into small local currency so that you can at least buy a packet of mint sweets to freshen your breath on arrival, or tip the cute concierge when you arrive at your hotel. Convenience alone makes it worthwhile, even though you are at the mercy of the greedy percentage hungry airport moneychangers. The ultimate in travel frustration is being cashless and caffeine starved as you search the streets for that elusive moneychanger who will give you the rate that you want.
My personal code of money/credit card safety whilst traveling is to have several "hidey hole" places. I carry two wallets, one with home currency, one with the currency of the country in which I am, credit cards and extra cash are either in my bra or boots. I have also been known to shove notes down my undies on some occasions. You just have to be discrete when retrieving money for a costly purchase.
The golden rule is to never have your credit cards and cash in one place. I find money belts too obvious, and they also ruin the line of that outfit I may have on. Any potential muggers would have to strip search me to get it all and hopefully they would let me keep my undies on.
7. Pack then unpack......ruthlessly cull.....and pack again!
You are the picture of satirical elegance, with your attire a harmony of fashion excellence. When away, making a fashion statement is not the priority. At home you want to be noticed, whereas when away, you want to blend in.
Whilst traveling you don't need to change your clothes three times a day. Really, whom are you trying to impress? Don't pack anything you don't want to lose. So for that reason alone, less is better. The other reason being at some point you may actually have to carry your bag. Ladies please, the tiara and Jimmy Choos belong in your wardrobe, not in your suitcase.
Calculate the amount of clothes on getting at least two wears out of everything.....and I do mean everything! Showers become great laundries when there is no service offered, so don't horde those stinky clothes in your luggage, wash each night.
Pack For Contingencies
Always have a change of clothes in your hand luggage on the off chance that your luggage may be sent for an entirely different holiday to that which you are. I once had a bag land on an entirely different continent, let alone being delayed for a number of hours. My errant luggage turned up at my home airport when I did a week later!
The next time you raid the hotel's toiletries on checkout, think twice about whether the bottles are actually travel seal proof. Liquid toiletries of any description have a mind of their own when put into luggage. They literally take a perverse pleasure in exploding.
I always put any bottles of liquid into plastic seal top bags and then into a toilet bag. I double the insurance against the free flow gremlins.
Can't Live Without Items
So many inconsiderate people these days do not want to wait at the luggage carousel and only take carry on luggage. Hence the overhead plane lockers are full, for their convenience only. You and your normal sized backpack do not get a look in and no, you can't put it at your feet.
Always have those indispensable items that your very life exists on, in a smaller bag that can be quickly removed. Then you can give the attendant a big smile as he/she whisks away with your backpack to another far-flung area of the plane.
Here are some more Travel Mistakes in Part 2 of this series including shopping scams, eating and communication.