Zina here! Even though I’ve traveled to almost a dozen countries, spent eight weeks studying abroad and planned three overseas trips as an adult, I still make mistakes. Traveling is hard, frustrating and complicated. It’s like planning a wedding – there are so many moving parts it’s easy to mess up.
Whether you’re Rick Steves or just someone who bought his book, you can read about my travel mistakes so you can avoid them yourself.
Here are the 5 travel mistakes you can avoid on your next trip, hopefully it’ll save you some cash and headache!
It’s so easy to ignore all the extra fees that come along with traveling. I try to budget so carefully that I refuse to include any margin in case I overspend. For example, in March my husband and I traveled to Denver. We rented a car while we were out there. Even though I had budgeted for that expense, I forgot to include the cost of gas. We chose to let the rental company fill up the gas, even though I later realized that was more expensive.
When you’re traveling, and especially if you’re doing something new, make sure to research common mistakes and helpful tips. If I had looked up what I should know about renting a car, I probably would have avoided that surprise.
Pack light – and leave more room
I’m a terrible packer. I hate forgetting anything so I always bring something extra “just in case.” Now I’ve learned that there’s a freedom that comes in packing light. You can move more quickly, take up less space and not get as sweaty moving from airport to airport. The only thing I’ve ever actually regretted not packing was extra underwear. You can’t plan ahead for diarrhea.
If you’re like me and like to shop while you’re abroad, make sure to leave plenty of room for your souvenirs. There’s nothing worse than finding something perfect for your home and not buying it because it won’t fit in your suitcase. Shipping things back home is expensive and going over on your luggage weight limit can make that $20 lamp unreasonable.
See what your credit card covers
For our honeymoon, I considered booking travel insurance. I didn’t want to deal with any possible emergencies during what’s supposed to be a romantic trip. While talking to my mom about it, she recommended I check to see what card I had booked the trip on. Turns out, my credit card offered basic travel insurance coverage, including baggage delays, trip cancelation and more.
I also made sure only to bring credit cards without foreign transaction fees. When you’re buying three meals a day plus sightseeing and souvenir expenses, all those fees add up quickly. Check the terms and conditions of your credit cards or consider booking one that’s recommended for travel.
Look elsewhere for options
During our honeymoon, my husband and I used Airbnb for our overseas accommodations. We stayed in some beautiful apartments, most located within a short walk of the city center. But we also realized that using Airbnb can be stressful when you’re in a country without a phone or easy access to Wifi.
When I planned the trip, I didn’t want to fork over the money for a hotel. Later I realized that a bed and breakfast can be a good compromise between the luxuries of a hotel and the local flavor of Airbnb. For people looking to save money and still have privacy, booking a one-bedroom in a hotel is a good option. For others, a hotel on the outskirts is another way to get the convenience of a hotel at a lower rate.
Don’t think you’ll be a different person when you travel
Too often the mistake I make when I travel is assuming that my habits will change abroad. I’ll still be the same type-A person who doesn’t know how to relax. I’ll still forget minor details and not know how to read a map. If you’re the type of person who hates big cities, traveling to Paris might not be the best idea for you. The more you travel, the more you find out what kind of vacation you want. Urban, rural, small town, medium-sized city.
If you know you prefer small towns, don’t be afraid to plan a trip around your preferences. Even if you’re skipping the major sights, you’ll have a vacation you’ll appreciate.