I’ve now spent over half of the last 3 years travelling, on and off (yep I did the math). In that time I’ve gotten pretty comfortable planning and arranging my travels, as well as quickly settling into new destinations. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t make mistakes; I do, and generally I make the same ones over and over. Some mistakes are small and only cause a little embarrassment, while others are simply frustrating and irritating. So here are some mistakes I keep making that maybe you can learn from, because I clearly haven’t.
Speaking the Language of a Previous Country
One of the fun things about visiting a new place is adapting to new surroundings which can often mean learning a new language. Even just a few basic words and phrases go a long way. But if you’re jumping from country to country, it’s quite understandable to get a little muddled up. This usually happens to me in the first few days as I try and wrap my head around the new place, while still mentally in the last country.
Even though it’s an easy enough mistake to make, it can be a little embarrassing saying ‘Gracis’ in Portugal or ‘Obrigado’ in Spain and the subsequent tripping over your own tongue trying to correct the slip. I think the worst part is giving off the impression that the two countries are the same which can be a sore subject with say, Portugal and Spain or France and Germany.
I’ve got no advice on how to stop this, just ride it out.
Packing Unnecessary Items
Packing is a challenging thing; It must be given that there are countless blogs out there giving you packing tips. And then theres the popular adage of taking half the clothes you think you need. But pack light, you’re possibly missing something, pack everything and you’ve got a heavy bag.
I tend to pack more than less, but have noticed that every trip I’ve had a few items that I never or just barely used. It usually comes down to trying to prepare for every scenario: A pair of long pants just in case for a summer trip; a pair of good shoes in case we go somewhere nice. It’s a trade off and even though being prepared is nice, I always wish I had a little more room or a lighter bag.
Really consider what you need to bring with you; you can always buy it while you’re there.
Checking Accommodation Location
There’s nothing worse than thinking you’ve picked great accommodation and then realising you’re miles away from the things you want to see. It may be that the money you thought you saved on accommodation, will end up being spent on transport getting to and from the sights, restaurants or whatever. You lose the spontaneity of popping out to do things and instead have to plan out your movements. This is really only a problem for the planners like me who like to book accommodation in advance. If you just turn up, you’re going to have a much better lay of the land.
The fix for this problem is simple; look at a map!
Going over Budget
Being an organized and spendthrift kind of person, I work out a budget for each trip I go on. While I’m away I generally try and stick to it as best as I can. Even still, I’ve found that by the time it’s over, I’ve over spent. Everytime; and it’s usually by about the same margin, roughly 10%. Now, in the scheme of things, this isn’t too bad if I have the money. But it’s still something that I forget to factor in when I start budgeting for the next trip.
I realise that it’s difficult to expect the unexpected. You can’t factor in every little detail or every cent before you go away. But if you recognise where you’re going wrong, you can minimise the damage. For me, I seem to not budget enough for bigger activities like day trips. So in future, I’ll try and adjust accordingly.
Basically, if you don’t want to go over budget, put aside more than you think you’ll need, but also learn as you go from trip to trip.
Never shop hungry, that’s the rule right? Generally that goes for grocery shopping in everyday life, but it definitely should apply when travelling too. Far too many times I’ve gone looking for a place to eat lunch or dinner when starving and just gone with the first thing I’ve come across. This is not a smart way to decide in my book, as it ignores factors like cost, quality or reputation.
Too many times have I found myself at dinner looking at a menu and realising that everything on the menu is over my budget, but I’m too famished to leave. What I consider even more tragic is picking something mundane and internationally available for say lunch, instead of something interesting and local just because I came across it first.
The only real fix I can think of is to make a small plan a 1/2 hour before you think you’ll want to eat and scouting out options in advance.
Fixating on Price
When you’re travelling on a budget, you’re obviously going to try and make the most of your limited money. So it often makes sense to look for the cheapest option, whether it be flights, accommodation, food, activities etc. But of course if it’s cheap, it’s cheap for a reason. You get what you pay for. I tend to forget that when I’m in my planning phase, always looking for the cheapest alternative and often getting disappointed with the results.
A big part of being on holidays is about having fun and relaxing, which is probably a lot harder when you’re busy counting pennies. It’s much easier to just accept that you are going to end up spending money on your trip and to just go ahead with some restraint to ensure the trip doesn’t become a financial blowout.
Checking if Things are Open
A blessing of long term travel is in not caring whether it’s a week day or the weekend. You don’t have to go to work so who cares right? Well, it still matters a little. It’s quite common in countries to have certain day where things are closed, usually for religious reasons. That’s particularly true in Europe with Sundays, where it’s possible a lot of sights you want to see and even conveniences like supermarkets, will be closed. It sucks when the last thing you were dying to see is closed on your last day. I’ve disappointingly missed out on a few things, or had to come back another day, simply because I forgot what day of the week it was.
Pay a little extra attention to where you’ll be on these days and plan accordingly.
Factoring in Travel Time
When I’m planning a trip, I plot out how many nights I think I’m going to need in each of my stops. Generally in smaller places it’s 2 nights, with a bigger stop more like 4 nights. When I’m thinking in terms of nights instead of days, that’s when I tend to forget to factor in travel time. I forget to consider the fact that you can lose a large portion of your first day travelling from one destination to the next.
What seems like 2 nights accommodation and therefore 2 days sightseeing, could in actuality be 1 day sitting on a train/bus and only 1 day sightseeing. That’s not the end of the world, you can still see a lot of a place in 1 days sightseeing. But I hate the feeling of being in a mad rush, running from sight to sight. Worse still is missing things altogether and having that pang of disappointment hit you.
I really should try and do a better job considering my travel time, or just stay more nights in places and allow myself to travel slower.
Do you make the same mistakes I do? What other mistakes are you in the habit of making when you travel? Please share in the comments below.