Top 10 Travel Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

LAST UPDATED: 7/28/23 – Top 10 Travel Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

No trip is perfect. Regardless of how much we try, nothing will ever go completely as planned. However, with a little foresight and some planning, you can avoid the big travel mistakes. This can save you from a lot of frustration, stress, and even regret.

How to Avoid Travel Mistakes

I have traveled quite a bit over the years. In these travels, I have made my fair share of travel mistakes. I have missed planes and trains, and missed a number of opportunities to see things.

These mistakes have all dampened my trips with stress. That is why I want to pass some of my experience on to you. In this article, I have compiled a list of the biggest travel mistakes I think people make. Hopefully, it saves you from the same mistakes.

1.  Not Planning Ahead

How to Avoid Travel Mistakes
Not having currency converted can leave you in a tight spot.

One of the biggest travel mistakes that people tend to make when traveling is not planning ahead. Not taking the proper time to plan your trip can lead to unnecessary stress and even ruin a trip. The following are just some of the ways in which poor planning can negatively impact your trip.

Not Researching Visa Requirements in Advance

Not taking the time to research the visas you will need on your trip can be costly. It can lead to delays, added expenses, and even end your trip entirely. You need to make sure you have the necessary visa to enter your destination country. Not only that, but you need to ensure you have a re-entry VISA if you will be traveling between countries.

If you aren’t sure which visas you will need for your trip, there are several sites online that can assist you. You can also reach out to the embassies for the countries you plan to visit. Either way, you are going to want to make sure you have your visas squared away well in advance of your trip.

Leaving Too Little Time Between Flights

Another mistake people tend to make when traveling is leaving too little time between flights. Short layovers can be a nightmare, as they can cost you both money and time.

When booking your flights, make sure you look closely at the layovers for your flights. Most airlines start boarding roughly a half-hour before the posted departure time. So, you may not have as much time as you think to make it to your next gate.

I always try and leave at least an hour between domestic flights. If I am flying internationally, I leave at least two hours. You are likely going to have to re-check your baggage between your domestic and international flights. So, make sure that you plan for that time as well.

Not Purchasing Traveler’s Insurance

If you don’t take the time to plan your trip properly, you might also forget to account for getting traveler’s insurance. This could be one of the costliest travel mistakes you make. First, you are going to want to make sure you purchase insurance for your trip. If you get sick, or something else comes up that prevents you from being able to travel, traveler’s insurance can make sure that you aren’t subjected to costly cancellation fees.

You are also going to want to make sure that you are covered medically when traveling internationally. Depending on where you travel and where you are treated if you fall ill or get injured, your medical insurance may not provide you with adequate coverage. We strongly recommend that you look into purchasing travel medical insurance before traveling internationally. There are a number of good, reputable providers out there.

Not Telling Credit Card Companies You Are Traveling

Something that is easy to overlook when planning an international trip is alerting your credit card companies. You don’t want to get stuck in a foreign land with credit cards that are denied.

To avoid this, make sure you know the travel notification policies for your credit cards. Many credit card companies require advanced notice of when and where you will be traveling. Make sure you take care of this well in advance of your trip. You should also check to see if your cards charge a foreign transaction fee. If they all do, find out which has the lowest fees.

Not Getting Currency Converted Before Leaving the Airport

Not having currency converted when you leave the airport can leave you in a tight spot. You may need it for public transportation or a cab after landing. Even if you don’t need it immediately for transportation, it is always nice to have converted currency when you land. You never know when you are going to need it for something.

Besides, you typically get better conversion rates in the airport than you do elsewhere. So, it makes sense to take a little more time at the airport to get what currency you need. Even better, you can often find some real bargains if you monitor the exchange rate and shop around at home before your trip.

Forgetting to Get the Right Phone Service

Another travel mistake that is easily made when you fail to plan your trip properly is the phone and data service that you will need. If you are traveling domestically, this likely won’t be an issue.

However, if you are traveling overseas, you may need your phone. You may need it to keep in touch with family. More importantly, you may need it for safety and security.

Regardless of why you need it, you will need to ensure you have the right data plan. This is something you should research and take care of before you leave. Otherwise, it can result in some hefty phone and data charges.

We understand that doing the necessary planning for any trip, large or small, can sometimes be a daunting task. After all, we all have other things going on in our lives. To make this task easier for you, feel free to reference our Traveler’s Planning Checklist when planning out your trip to make sure you don’t forget anything.

2.  Over Packing

How to Avoid Travel Mistakes
Remember, you are going to need to lug around what you bring.

Another travel mistake people tend to make when traveling is over-packing. Remember, you are going to need to lug around what you bring, and that can often mean a lot of time lifting your bags in-and-out of taxis, and on-and-off public transportation when you travel from destination to destination. You may also subject yourself to excess baggage fees if your luggage is too heavy.

Before you start to pack your bags, stop and think about what you will really need. If you aren’t sure you are going to need something, then don’t bring it. As for clothes, you likely won’t need nearly as many clothes as you think.

We love pants that zip off into shorts as they allow us to pack half as many pants and shorts as we typically would. We also pack some old t-shirts and other clothing that we can either donate or dispose of as we travel so that we can lighten our load along the way.

3.  Not Being Organized

How to Avoid Travel Mistakes
Make sure the guides you use are up to date.

Some of the other travel mistakes we often see travelers make, and have made ourselves, center around not being organized when you travel. Not being organized can leave you flustered and lead to mistakes that might put a damper on your trip. Here are some of the common travel mistakes people make when traveling because they were not organized.

Not Having Reservation Details

Not having your reservation details when traveling can leave you in a real bind. It can lead to missed flights and excursions, trouble finding your hotel, and costly delays that take time away from enjoying your trip.

Before you travel, make sure you have all of your reservation details organized. Whether that means printing them out, storing your confirmation emails in a specific folder, or using one of the many great phone apps that organize your reservations for you.

We love to use the Kayak app to organize our reservations. It’s easy to use, as all you need to do is forward all your reservation confirmation emails to the email address. The app will then automatically organize all your reservations on the respective trips.

The best part is, you can then share these trips with others so that your travel companions can also access the reservation details. That way, they can help you make sure that you aren’t making any critical travel mistakes.

How to Avoid Travel Mistakes Use Kayak App
The Kayak app is easy to use and will organize all of your reservations.

Not Having the Necessary Identification

Not being organized when you travel can also lead to not having the necessary identification with you. This is a travel mistake that you definitely never want to make. Whether it is your ID card if you are traveling domestically, or passport if you are traveling internationally, not having the necessary identification, can quickly derail any trip.

Before you travel, make sure you check and then double-check to make sure everyone in your travel party has the necessary identification. This also means making sure that your identification or passport hasn’t expired and meets travel requirements.

Starting on January 22, 2018, your ID card must comply with REAL ID standards to be eligible to be used to fly, even domestically, within the United States. So make sure you fully understand the REAL ID requirements before traveling.

Also, make sure your passport is valid beyond the end date of your trip. Most countries require that your passport is valid for at least 6 months beyond the date your trip is set to end. If your passport is set to expire before then, make sure you plan enough time to get your passport renewed before you travel.

Using Outdated Guides

Another way that not being organized when you travel can manifest itself in a travel mistake is with the use of outdated travel guides and travel information. If you aren’t vigilant about which guides and travel information you are using, it can leave you in some less than desirable situations. Even the best-laid plans can go awry if they were built on faulty information.

Mix-ups in opening and closing times, misunderstanding of rules and regulations, and showing up with improper gear are just some of the outcomes that can result from using outdated travel materials. So before you start to plan your trip, organize the resources you are using and make sure you have the most current information.

Subjecting Yourself to Scams and Theft

Nothing can ruin a trip faster than being the victim of a scam or theft. While it’s impossible to completely avoid these things, there are some things you can do to help reduce the risk of them happening to you.

Things to Do Before You Travel

The most important thing you can do to ensure you don’t fall victim to scams or theft is to know the areas in which you are traveling. Before you travel, do some research on which areas have been known problem areas for theft and which scams other people have reported. We typically visit TripAdvisor and read what other travelers have to say. Doing a quick Google search can also provide resources specific to where you are traveling that can give you guidance.

Things to Do When You Arrive

There are also some easy things you can do once you arrive to protect yourself. Using a money belt, dividing up your money and cards between people or locations on your body, and leaving valuables in a safe in your hotel room are all ways in which you can mitigate theft risk.

But most important of all, you should always remain vigilant of your surroundings and your possessions. Especially in crowds, you should always be aware of where your bags and other possessions are. This is especially true when using public transportation such as trains and buses. Keep your things in your possession.

In terms of protecting yourself from scams, you should be wary of purchasing anything from someone if you aren’t completely confident what they are selling you is legitimate. Whether it is tickets to an attraction or a souvenir, you should always be vigilant in what you buy. Your hotel concierge can be a great resource in avoiding these scams and can usually assist you in finding reputable vendors for what you need to purchase.

4.  Not Backing Up Your Photos

How to Avoid Travel Mistakes
A lost phone or camera can leave you without some precious pictures.

There is nothing more demoralizing than taking a bunch of great photos or video when on a trip, and then losing them all because a memory card went bad, your phone got damaged, or someone stole your camera.  All of these things have either happened to us or to those we know, so they do happen.

Backing up your photos or video while traveling is much easier these days, so you can significantly reduce the risk of losing everything by planning ahead.  There are a few different strategies we can suggest, depending on where you are traveling and how many photos and how much video you plan to take.

Memory Card Backup Devices ($$$) – For Photography Enthusiasts

There are several excellent memory card backup devices on the market for those who take large numbers of photos or videos during trips.  These devices are especially useful when traveling overseas, where Internet access isn’t readily available.

We have used the Sanho HyperDrive ColorSpace UDMA 3 Wireless Storage Devices and they work fantastically.  They are fairly lightweight and are very reliable.  The cost of the device will depend largely on the amount of storage you will require.

In addition to using a memory card backup device, many of the high-end DSLRs on the market also offer features that allow you to save photos to multiple memory cards at once when you take a picture.  We would highly recommend investigating and using these features if they are available on your camera.

Multiple Memory Card
Some DSLR cameras allow you to save pictures to multiple memory cards simultaneously.

Photo Backup Apps ($) – For Phone Picture Takers

If you love to take pictures with your smartphone, then you are in luck.  There are a number of very affordable, if not free, apps for your phone that will help make backing up your photos quick and easy.  Some examples include Amazon PhotosApple iCloud, Adobe Creative Cloud, Google Photos, and Microsoft OneDrive.

These apps offer a variety of different storage capacities and features, giving you a lot of flexibility in choosing the one that is right for you.  Keep in mind, all these apps require Internet access.  So you may have to wait until you have reliable Internet access back at the hotel, in a cafe, or elsewhere to back up your photos in batches.

5.  Wasting Time Saving Money

Travel Lines
A long line to visit the Eiffel Tower. 

One big mistake that many people often overlook is putting too much effort into trying to save money at the expense of the enjoyment of your trip.  We are all for saving money, just like everyone else, but there is an opportunity cost to every decision we make.

If you are saving money by staying at a hotel that is over an hour away from the destination you traveled to see, then the amount of money you are saving should be worth the cost in time to travel and the possible long lines you will face by not arriving early enough.

When planning your trip, we recommend writing down all of your options for transportation, accommodations, and attractions.  Then, once you have set your budget you can determine which sacrifices you are willing to make to save money and where you might want to spend a bit extra so that you can avoid the stress of missing out on what you really want to see.

6.  Not Venturing Outside the Tourist Areas

Maasaii Village
The Maasai performing a traditional dance in Tanzania. 

We all have different comfort levels when it comes to traveling.  Some people in your group may be more adventurous, and some may be more reserved.  So the degree in which we will be willing to explore outside the tourist box, as we like to call it, is going to vary from person-to-person.

With that said, one of the biggest benefits to traveling, especially when you are traveling internationally, is the personal growth you get by putting yourself outside your own comfort zone.  If you don’t do things you are not completely comfortable with, you may be missing out on an experience you will truly enjoy.

Whether it be eating food you don’t normally eat, or touring an area that isn’t high on the tourist list, these things often bring the most fulfillment and are the things we remember most when traveling.

7.  Not Getting Out From Behind the Camera

Travel Photographer
You can miss a lot of the travel experience being stuck behind a camera.

This is a mistake that we seem to make repeatedly.  We all want to share our traveling experiences with others, and taking great pictures and videos while traveling is a great way to do that.  However, if you spend too much time worrying about which pictures you need to take or what video you need to record, you can miss out on a lot of the traveling experience.

We like to set aside a certain amount of time each day on our trips where taking pictures and videos is not allowed.  Instead, this time should be used to soak in the experiences and spend quality time with those you are traveling with.

8.  Over-scheduling Activities

It is human nature to not want to miss out on something, which is why this mistake is so easy for travelers to make.  You try and fit as many destinations and activities into your trip as possible, only to find you have very little time to enjoy any of it.  On the other hand, you don’t want too few destinations or activities and be left with regrets.

This is a hard balance to find without proper planning and preparation.  We have come up with some tried and true methods for maximizing what you see on a trip without over-extending yourself.  If you want more information on our trip planning strategies, please check out our articles on Trip Planning Advice referenced below.

9.  Not Getting Up Early

Grand Teton National Park
Sunrise is one of the most beautiful times to experience new places, and certainly one of the best times to take photographs.

We typically take vacations to get away from the grind of our everyday lives and sleeping in a little bit while on a trip is something that many of us look forward to.  However, depending on where you are traveling and when catching a few extra hours of sleep in the morning can also cost you some valuable time and opportunities.

One of the best ways to avoid long lines and congestion from crowds is to get where you are going early.  Doing that often requires sacrificing that extra sleep we were looking forward to, but it is often well worth the sacrifice.  Besides, sunrise is one of the most beautiful times to experience new places, and certainly one of the best times to take photographs.

10.  Letting Mistakes Ruin Your Trip

The absolute worst travel mistake you can make while traveling is to let a mistake ruin your trip.  It may seem like the easiest mistake to avoid, but when things go wrong, and things will sometimes go wrong, it can be really hard to remember this when the frustration sets in.

So, if something goes wrong on your trip, the first thing you should do is take a step back and collect yourself.  Don’t make any rash decisions, and don’t start playing the blame game among yourselves. 

Once you are calm and collected, take a look at your options and make the best decision you can collectively on how to move forward.  And then move forward, don’t dwell.  There will be plenty of time to figure out what went wrong and how to avoid it in the future once you get back home.

Wanderlust Travel and Photos Blog

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Categories: Favorite, General Travel, General Travel Advice, Packing and Planning Tips, Travel, Travel Planning AdviceTags: , , , , , , , ,


  1. Excellent post Josh. I will be rereading it again before our upcoming trip.

  2. very useful tips that most people make. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Great tips! I travel with my husband often and being prepared is the most important part of traveling out of the country.

  4. I really like these tips. There are several that I’m going to take to heart as I plan my next trip!

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