The ultimate guide to finding travel accommodation on a budget

The ultimate guide to finding travel accommodation on a budget

Adoration 4 Adventure’s ultimate guide for finding travel accommodation on a budget.

In addition to flights, one of the biggest costs associated with travel is accommodation. I am always looking for ways to save money and rarely ever pay the full price for a hotel or hostel. This means that I can travel to more places or spend longer in destinations for the same amount.

Here are the methods that I regularly use to find low-cost or free travel accommodation.

Working for food and accommodation

What if I told you that you could get free accommodation by working for a few hours a day? The idea of an exchange of goods or services is not new, however, there are now websites that make these transactions even easier to find.

The most commonly known platforms are Help X, Workaway and WOOFing. Each of these usually has a yearly subscription fee but once you sign up, you can then browse for exchange opportunities in the location of your choice. I’ve used another platform called Worldpackers, which charges a small fee for each assignment. By referring friends you can receive discounts off your placements.

Sign up for Worldpackers and search for your first host.

Alternatively, you can search for exchanges the old-fashioned way by contacting the host directly. We all have skills that can be valuable to others. Consider your own experience and what could be useful for an accommodation provider then get in touch with them to see if they are interested in the offer.

Jobs can range from manual tasks (such as cleaning and construction) through to experienced (such as website design and photography). Depending on the level of skill required, each job will have different requirements and provisions. The higher the skill you have, the fewer hours you will need to contribute and the more you can expect to receive in return e.g. meals, drinks, activities, etc. It is important to note that as these are exchanges, usually no money is paid and it is up to you to secure the correct visa for that country.

Worldpackers exchange in Barcelona Spain

Paying with points

If you participate in any points programs (hotel or air miles) then you may be able to redeem these points for a stay in a hotel. When visiting Portland, Oregon I used my frequent flyer points to pay for a two nights stay in a 3-star hotel with no extra cost for tax or fees.

Before choosing this option, I would recommend considering the value of the points as there may be better ways to spend them, for example, flights with a greater monetary value.

Discounted hotels and hostels

Last minute booking sites will often give great discounts on hotels. In the U.S.A., I mainly use Priceline or Hotwire, however, I’ll still shop around at other websites to see if I can find a better deal. By using a discounted hotel website, I was able to stay in a luxurious hotel on the Vegas strip for a fraction of the normal price.

The Luxor, Las Vegas

I also like Booking.com because it’s easy to use and usually has a flexible change and cancellation policy (check before you book). While on a 5-week backpacking trip around Europe, I had to cancel 5 hostel bookings which I did with a few clicks in the app and no penalty fees.

Make your next Booking.com reservation and receive a $15 USD ($20 AUD) credit after your stay.

When using booking sites, always make sure you check for additional cleaning fees, resort charges, and taxes which may not be included the advertised price. I have been caught out before and had an exorbitant cleaning fee waived because it was not obvious when I booked online.



Booking.com

Hotel alternatives

For long-term stays (3 nights or more) I like to use Airbnb. This is a great concept where you pay to stay in someone’s home. Depending on your budget and level of comfort, you can rent a whole house, private or shared room. For my first month in Vancouver, I rented a master bedroom with en-suite through Airbnb. It was great because it’s fully furnished and the utilities are included in the costs. I received a discounted rate because I booked for a whole month.

Airbnb also has a program that lets you earn credits towards your next stay when you refer friends or family. They receive a credit by signing up and you also receive one. By using my Airbnb credits, I was able to rent a private room in Barcelona, right near La Rambla for less than AUD $20 per night.

SIgn up to Airbnb and receive a $20 USD ($28 AUD) credit for your first stay.

Most Airbnb property profiles are filled out in full, however, you can also read references left by previous guests to get a better idea of the owners and the property. As with the booking sites, check for additional fees before booking.

Airbnb-Barcelona-Spain

Camping

While on road trips, I will camp as often as I can (weather permitting). There are often free campsites which you can find on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) website in the U.S.A. or using the Wiki Camps app in Australia.

Camping in National Parks will often have a nightly fee attached however it’s a small price to pay to experience the wonder of being close to nature.

Mt Ashland, Oregon, USA

Camper van

For the ultimate freedom, try hiring a camper van for your next trip. Not only will you have your own set of wheels, but also a bed and cooking implements. This can help you save money on accommodation and eating out.

Read my six day road trip itinerary for Ireland and Northern Ireland including budget breakdown.

Aces-Wicked-Camper-Wicked-Campers-Belfast-Northern-Ireland-Chantell-Collins-Adoration-4-Adventure.

Hospitality exchange websites

Hospitality exchange websites are more than just about a free place to stay – it is about a cultural and sociable experience where you will spend time with and get to know your hosts.

Since 2010, I have used Couchsurfing to host over 20 surfers, stay with over 20 hosts, and make countless friends all around the world. Other hospital exchange websites include BeWelcome and Warmshowers, however, have not personally tested them.

Before sending a CS request, I would suggest doing the following:

  • Make sure that your profile is completed in full. Tell your future hosts and surfers who you really are!
  • If you don’t already have references, ask a close friend or family member to give you a personal reference.
  • Use the filters when searching for a host. I personally only look for hosts who have their profile set to “Yes” (not “Maybe”) and only contact hosts who have over an 80% response rate.
  • Read your potential host’s profile very carefully. Are they someone that you can see yourself getting along with? Do you have interests in common?
  • Check their references. Even if they don’t have negative or neutral references, it pays to read the positive references to get more of an insight about the person.
  • When sending a request, include a short introduction about yourself and why you are traveling there. Highlight why you think it is a good match. Make references to multiple points on their profile to show that you have taken the time to read it.
  • Avoid sending copy and paste requests. And don’t forget to include their name at the beginning!

See an example of a completed Couchsurfing profile.

Once you are accepted by a host, I would also try to take a gift along (such as wine, cake, etc.) as a token of our gratitude. Some surfers will offer to cook a meal instead, to say thank you. Recently I couchsurfed in Ibiza, Spain for three nights and we shared many meals and good conversations together.

Couchsurfing-in-Ibiza-Spain

Staying with friends and family

One of my favorite things about traveling is the people you meet along the way. I have made some incredible friendship connections which have lasted long-term from a long distance.

While traveling in Europe on a 5 week backpacking trip, I planned the majority of my stops around where my friends were living. I loved hanging out with them in their city and having a personal tour guide.

I have been so lucky to have such amazing friends and been welcomed by incredibly kind hosts, whom I hope we can also return the favor when they come to visit.

Staying with friends in Edinburg, Scotland


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Adoration 4 Adventures ultimate guide for finding travel accommodation on a budget. Methods I regularly use to find low cost or free travel accommodation.

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Saving money on clothing to spend on travel – Part 2

Saving money on clothing to spend on travel – Part 2

Adoration 4 Adventure’s recommendations on saving money on clothing to help you travel more and for longer.

I want to do more than just inspire you to travel, I want to help you make those dreams a reality. And one of the biggest barriers to travel can be funds.

This is part 2 of how to save money on clothing to spend on travel. Some tips may seem simple, while others a little radical, however, you can pick and choose what works for you. The important thing is that you are making positive changes to the way you spend and putting it aside for your goals.

For more budget tips, read recommendations for finding travel accommodation on a budget.

1. Wear your clothes until their dead

A good way to save money on clothing is to maximize your use out of the items you already own. Basically as a piece of clothing starts to get worn, re-purpose it into clothing that you wear to go to the gym or clean the house.

When packing for my travels, I will often take older items of clothing. On my 9 week backpacking trip to Central America, I filled my backpack with clothes that were due to be trashed/donated. And then as I traveled and no longer needed the item, I would discard them, returning with a near-empty backpack.

This idea is great for so many reasons – firstly a lot of clothing would have gotten worn or damaged during the activities I was doing anyway. And secondly, this makes room in your backpack to pick up some nice souvenirs or local crafts! (Just make sure resist the urge to fill up your bag with more impulse-bought clothing).

Playa-de-la-Malvarrosa-Valencia-Spain-Chantell-Collins

2. Borrow and swap clothes

I will try everything I can think of before actually investing in a new item of clothing. I avoid it at all risks! Not only because I don’t like the activity of clothes shopping (who else hates trying on clothes?) but also because I would much rather spend that money on a trip!

Rather than buy new clothes, consider swapping or borrowing. Think about who is in your family and friendship circle that you could borrow or swap clothes with. I often borrow or exchange things with my Mum, as we have a similar dress and shoe sizes. I have also borrowed from a boyfriend’s wardrobe on more than one occasion.

While living in New York City, I used to attend regular “clothes swapping” events (found through the website Meet Up). These events had strict guidelines about the quality of clothing and swapping process (donate one, take one) to ensure fairness for all. Try searching online for clothes swapping event near you, or even start your own with some friends. I’ve also heard of these being organized for high-cost designer wear and handbags. It’s a great way to increase your wardrobe, while getting rid of clothes you no longer like, without spending a ton of money.
Staying with friends in Edinburg, Scotland

3. Thrift Stores

If I have to shop, then I prefer to hit up thrift stores (Op Shops). Often you will get better quality of clothing for less money. And the items are always well-washed and often in great condition. I’ve purchased many lovely brand-name sweaters (jumpers) and corporate-type clothing from thrift stores in New York City, Vancouver and now in my little city in the north of Spain.


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Adoration 4 Adventure's recommendations on how to save money on clothing to help you travel more and for longer. Part 2 of 2.

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Saving money on clothing to spend on travel – Part 1

Saving money on clothing to spend on travel – Part 1

Adoration 4 Adventure’s recommendations on saving money on clothing to help you travel more and for longer.

I am sharing my methods of reducing your clothing expenses. Although these will be from a female perspective, the suggestions can be applied to most lifestyles. I am by no way a fashionista so this won’t be a list of places to buy discount designer brands but rather practical changes that can be applied to everyday wardrobes.

So let’s get started! Here are some easy tips on how to save which can be used for any situation, not just for your future travels.

For more budget tips, read recommendations for finding travel accommodation on a budget.

1. Minimize the contents of your closet

Knowing what you already own is the first step to being able to control your clothing costs. And it’s hard to be familiar with your inventory when your closet is packed full of clothes that you don’t even remember buying. I suggest doing a major clean out (have a supportive friend with you if necessary).

1. Go through each item in your closet and assess when the last time you wore it was.
2. If you haven’t worn it within the past 6 months – it’s going (12 months if the item is seasonal).
3. Establish 3 piles: Keeping, Donating and Trash.

Be ruthless! It may seem difficult at first, but you are really just getting rid of things that you don’t use. Also, you will feel so much better and in control when you can see and remember what is in your wardrobe. This makes it easier to make smart purchases and quickly match-up outfits.

Once you have a more slim-lined, functional wardrobe it’s important not to fill it back up with impulse purchases. Try implementing a “one in, one out” system, where you have to discard an item when you buy a new item.

colorful-clothing-save-money

2. Make sure it’s a match

Now that your closet is sorted, you will know exactly what’s in it. So when you do go shopping, make sure that you are looking for items that are versatile and work with your existing inventory. My rule is that the item must match with at least 4 other pieces in my wardrobe (I also apply this to when I am packing for a trip). There’s no point of cluttering up your closet with statement pieces that you will only wear once to a party and never be able to wear again.

3. Buy basics

Make your wardrobe even more versatile by purchasing clothing in block colors and avoiding patterns. I also steer clear of white as it tends to get marked or stained more easily. If you do decide to purchase something with a pattern, try to keep it simple by sticking to 2 colors e.g. stripes or polka dots. This will make it easier to match up with existing items. There’s nothing worse than buying a great new shirt and then realizing you only have one pair of pants that you can wear it with.

I love having basic pieces like scarves and tights. These are really functional and multi-purpose. Scarves can be used as a shawl, beach towel, sarong and pillow (a must for plane travel!). With tights, I can wear them with a shirt or under a dress. I prefer owning tights over jeans as they are also lighter to pack, take up less space and usually cheaper to buy. If tights aren’t your thing, consider buying cotton or khaki pants as an alternative.

Our packing list for cold weather travel

4. Choose quality over price

Buying cheap clothing can be a real temptation and I’m just as guilty as the next person. However, in my experience, the majority of inexpensive clothing starts deteriorating pretty fast. Not good for the environment and not good for your wallet. I would recommend choosing quality (bonus if it’s locally made and Fair-trade!) over price, for a good long-term investment.

Of course, there will be exceptions to these rules, after all, we need to get dressed up for fancy events on occasion. However, I am confident that if you apply these guidelines you will save money on clothing which you can put towards your future goals (travel or otherwise).


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Adoration 4 Adventure's recommendations on how to save money on clothing to help you travel more and for longer. Part 1 of 2.

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How much does it cost to backpack Central America?

How much does it cost to backpack Central America?

Adoration 4 Adventure’s budget breakdown of costs to backpack Central America.

If you are contemplating a backpacking trip in Central America, then this is a great place to start! After spending 9 weeks traveling to each of the 7 countries, I am sharing what I know. This is the total trip costs broken down to help you budget for your own Central American adventure.

How much does it cost to backpack Central America?

The countries in Central America will vary in price difference, as will some cities – the more touristic locations attracting higher costs. As a general rule of thumb, the cheapest countries to travel within are Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Nicaragua is slightly more expensive and gets more pricey the further south you travel. The more expensive countries to travel in are Belize, Costa Rica, and Panama.

Each country has its own charms and uniqueness so it is a shame to skip any based on budget restrictions alone. For example, I cooked more in Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama but in the other countries enjoyed the street food instead (USD $1-2.50 each for a meal). By using this article as a guide, you will be able to set your budget and expectations for whichever Central American destination you are heading to.

I traveled on a backpacking budget, e.g. hostels, budget hotels, street food and local transportation. I also traveled during the rainy season which meant off peak prices, particularly for accommodation. Although I wasn’t as strict as I could have been – splurging on ice creams, beers, and the occasion shuttle bus. So feel free to take that into consideration and adjust your budget estimates accordingly.

My average daily spend: $27 USD per person ($35 AUD as of 11 August 2016).

To help you plan your trip, I have included below:

  • The locations I stayed in
  • The daily cost for each country
  • Resource links for more information
  • Tips on how you can save even more
  • Screenshots of my budget breakdown for Entertainment, Food, Travel (Transport), Vacation (Accommodation), Health Care (I caught a bad cold!) and Automobile (Car Hire).

How much does it cost to backpack Belize?

Places I stayed: Caye Caulker, Ambergris Caye and San Ignacio (10 days in total).

Average daily spend: $40 USD per person* ($51.90 AUD as at 11 August 2016) excluding the ATM Caves tour and cost of accommodation on Caye Caulker.

*This daily amount could be reduced by sticking strictly to street food or cooking your own meals. Budget rooms on Caye Caulker start at around USD $50 per night.

Resources to help you plan:

How much does it cost to backpack Guatemala?

Places I stayed: Flores, Lanquin (Semuc Champey), Antigua and Lake Atitlan (12 days in total).

Average daily spend: 244.25 Quetzales per person* ($31.71 USD /  $41.15 AUD as at 11 August 2016).

*This daily amount could be reduced by taking local transport (see itinerary post for alternative methods), sticking strictly to street food or cooking your own meals. 

Resources to help you plan:

How much we spent backpacking Guatemala

How much does it cost to backpack Honduras?

Places I stayed: Copan Ruinas.

Average daily spend: 728.75 Lempiras per person* ($31.46 USD / $40.82 AUD as at 11 August 2016) excluding accommodation costs.

*This daily amount could be reduced by skipping certain activities or spreading them out over a longer period of time to reduce the daily cost. Budget double rooms in Copan Ruinas start around USD $15 per night.

Resources to help you plan:

How much does it cost to backpack El Salvador?

Places I stayed: Juayua, El Tunco and El Cuco.

Average daily spend: $11.30 USD per person* ($14.66 AUD as at 11 August 2016) excluding the cost of accommodation.

*Budget double rooms start around USD $29 per night. There were problems with bed bugs in Juayua, which is why I received the full refund – make sure to check your mattress carefully before taking a room.

Resources to help you plan:

How much we spent backpacking El Salvador

How much does it cost to backpack Nicaragua?

Places I stayed: Leon, Granada, Omtepe and Playa Marsella (16 days in total).

Average daily spend: $17.90 USD per person* ($23.23 AUD as at 11 August 2016) excluding the cost of accommodation in Playa Marsella and two nights’ accommodation in Granada.

*This daily amount could be reduced by sticking more strictly to street food or cooking your own meals. Budget rooms start around USD $18 in Granada and USD $20 in San Juan Del Sur.

Resources to help you plan:

How much we spent backpacking Nicaragua in USD

How much we spent backpacking Nicaragua in Cordobas

How much does it cost to backpack Costa Rica?

Places I stayed: San Jose and La Fortuna (4 days in total).

Average daily spend: $38.24 USD per person* ($49.62 AUD as at 11 August 2016) excluding the cost of accommodation in La Fortuna.

*I decided to rent a car from San Jose to La Fortuna. You could opt to travel by bus which would save you money upfront but could end up costing more if you have to catch taxis to get around the town. Budget rooms in La Fortuna start around USD $25.

Resources to help you plan:

How much we spent backpacking Costa Rica in USD

How much we spent backpacking Costa Rica in Colones

How much does it cost to backpack Panama?

Places I stayed: Bocas del Toro and Panama City (8 days in total).

Average daily spend: $20.50 USD* ($26.60 AUD as at 11 August 2016) excluding the cost of accommodation in Panama City and two nights’ accommodation in Bocas del Toro.

*The daily cost could be reduced further by sticking strictly to street food or cooking your own meals. I cooked a lot in Bocas del Toro but not in Panama City. Budget rooms start around USD $15 in Bocas del Toro and USD $30 in Panama City.

Resources to help you plan:

How much we spent backpacking Panama

All photos in this article are the were sourced from Pixabay and are free of copyrights under Creative Commons CC0.


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Adoration 4 Adventure's budget breakdown for our costs to backpack Central America. My 9 week backpacking trip broken down so you can plan yours.

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10 travel mistakes and how to avoid them

10 travel mistakes and how to avoid them

Adoration 4 Adventure’s top 10 travel mistakes and how to avoid them.

When traveling, something is bound to go wrong at some point. It happens to everyone. The following are mistakes that I have made during my travels and ways they can be avoided.

Want to avoid major travel blunders? Check out a collection of travelers’ scariest stories – “Close to death”.

10. Miscommunication

One of the best things about traveling is experiencing different cultures. With that often comes different languages which can be truly interesting but also challenging. On a recent outing in the north of Spain, I was having lunch with some friends and wanted to ask for some olive oil to have with my bread. I bravely attempted to ask the waiter but instead of saying the Spanish word for “oil”, I said the word for “sprain”. Needless to say, the waiter was very confused and my friends were laughing hysterically.

How to avoid: Try to learn at least a few words of the native language for the country that you are visiting. Don’t assume that everyone will speak English, carry a phrase book or have access to a translating app while you travel.

9. Painful Sunburn

A gorgeous day on the beach can often lead you to forget all your worries, including reapplying sunscreen. During my backpacking trip to the Yucatan Peninsula, I made this exact mistake and ended up painfully sunburned. For the rest of my time, I had to stay covered up and out of the sun which is not something you want to do on a beach holiday.

How to avoid: Don’t scrimp on the sunscreen. Apply every day before you go out into the sun and reapply as directed. It’s not worth the cost of spending the rest of your trip in the shade.

beach-chairs-pixabay

8. Border Crossing Confusion

Border crossings can be confusing enough and with the added challenge of a foreign language, it is easy to make mistakes. I am embarrassed to admit that I paid for my tourist visa twice when I entered into Cambodia. In my defense I was extremely sleep deprived after a big night out. That extra $20 USD would have gone a long way in a country that sells fifty cent beers.

How to avoid: Read about the border crossing process from other travelers online by googling “border crossing in ___”. This will give you a sense of what to expect and what you will need to do so you can avoid making mistakes.

7. No place to stay

Traveling without a plan can be fun and very freeing. However it also means that transport and accommodation can be booked up before you’ve had a chance to secure your place. Recently I took a last minute trip to the south of Germany. It wasn’t until after I booked the ticket that I found out there was no hostels in the town I was visiting and that the hotels were all quite expensive. Luckily, I managed to find a Couchsurfing host at the last minute, which totally saved my trip.

How to avoid: Consider booking at least a few days ahead, especially if it is the high season and there is a high demand in the city. In some locations you will have no problem with finding accommodation last-minute, however, make sure you have a couple of backup options and a general idea of where they are located. Read our top 6 tips for finding travel accommodation on a budget.

6. Over-packing

It can be difficult to know what to pack for a new location and all too easy to over-pack. On my first trip to the U.S.A., I over-packed and then had to suffer the consequences of lugging my bulging bag around for two months.

How to avoid: It is always better to under-pack then over-pack. Ideally, traveling with a carry on sized bag will make it easier to cart your stuff around with the added bonus of avoiding checking a bag. For packing tips with a carry-on bag, check out my packing lists for cold weather travel and warm weather travel.

the-suitcase-overpacking-travel-mistakes

5. Getting sick

After months of planning and saving, it can be exhilarating to finally go on that trip that you have been waiting for. It is so tempting to go out each night with those great people you met at the hostel or on the free walking tour. But be careful that you don’t burn yourself out. Whilst on a group tour, I made the mistake of staying out late every single night. Then the following mornings, having to drag my sorry self onto the tour bus. Inevitably I got sick and was bed bound for two days, unable to use my pre-purchased ticket for Universal Studios.

How to avoid: Don’t go too hard too fast. Have the mentally that it is a marathon, not a sprint. After all, you can drink in your home town anytime but you won’t have the same opportunity to go to Universal Studios. Also if you are traveling where there local water is not safe to drink, make sure that you are purchasing pure bottled water. For more remote destinations consider investing in a water filter or iodine tablets.

4. Injuries

Getting injured sucks. Getting injured while oversees can be an absolute nightmare. Last year I hurt myself twice whilst traveling. Once I fell backwards while climbing up some rocks of a ruin. Luckily, I avoided a serious injury. Then on my trip to Anchorage, Alaska I slipped on ice and badly hurt the index finger on my right hand.

How to avoid: Take it slow and steady. Watch where you are walking. If you are going on a trip that includes hiking or climbing ruins, make sure to pack appropriate footwear. Beware of slippery surfaces and hold the handrail when taking stairs in icy climates.

3. Missing a flight

When it comes to taking transportation, travelers can be divided into two groups: punctual and tardy. However it is not always in a backpacker’s control and often transport delays can lead to missed connections. I fall into the tardy travel category, which I like to believe is because I am an optimist. During my recent backpacking trip around Europe, I missed many buses and trains due to oversleeping or just poor judgement of the time it would take to get there. The most costly of my mistakes, was when I missed my flight from New York City to Edinburgh.

How to avoid: Don’t be a tardy traveler (like me). Research the time it will take you to get from your current location to the airport, bus or train station. Include plenty of time for delays, traffic, queues and border control.

london_heathrow_t5_ab1_wikimedia

2. Losing a passport

A passport is one of the most valuable things that a traveler will carry with them. Losing a passport can mean being stranded in a country until an emergency passport is issued. This also leads to additional costs for the replacement passport and travel disruption. Whilst living in New York city, I was out on the town using my passport as identification and lost it. I applied for a replacement passport at the Australian Consulate-General which involved a hefty fee and a ton of paperwork. I also had to cancel my upcoming trips to Toronto and Montreal with no refund.

How to avoid: Keep your passport in a secure place at all times and avoid taking it out with you. Most countries will accept a foreign license as identification, however check for that specific country what their requirements are as it can vary from country to country.

1. Being robbed

Even the most seasoned travelers will either know someone who has been robbed or been robbed them-self at some point during their travels. Depending on what is taken, the repercussions could be as little as a financial loss or much more serious. I had my bag stolen once during a beach party at Coney Island, New York and my wallet stolen in my own home city of Brisbane, Australia. Both times I was not paying attention and let my guard down.

How to avoid: It is so important to remain on alert and conscious of your surroundings at all times. Take the time to research your destination to become familiar with any known tourist scams or frequent crime areas. Consider getting a wallet with a chain attached to your bag.

foreign-currency-travel-mistakes-pixabay

All photos in this article, except the feature image, are the were sourced from Pixabay and are free of copyrights under Creative Commons CC0.


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Adoration 4 Adventure’s top 10 travel mistakes and how to avoid them. When traveling, something is bound to go wrong at some point. It happens to everyone.

What are some of your biggest travel mistakes? Tell us about it below! 

And if you liked the post – share it with your friends on social media.