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Adoration 4 Adventure’s 10 mistakes travelers often make. See what are the most common and costly travel mistakes, that you should try to avoid.

Whether you are going on your first trip or your fourteenth, there is bound to be something that goes wrong. The best defense is preparation. So to help you avoid losing time and money, here are 10 mistakes travelers often make and how you can avoid them.

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10. Mistranslation or miscommunication

One of the best things about traveling is experiencing different cultures. With that often comes different languages which can be interesting yet challenging.

When backpacking through Central America, I underestimated how uncommon English would be especially when trying to travel on a budget. To take local transportation, knowing at least a few words in Spanish including numbers is necessary. In this case, I was lucky that I knew basic Portuguese which is somewhat similar and was able to fumble my way through.

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.

How to avoid mistranslation on vacation

9. Sunburn on vacation

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 and use 50+ if you can. Apply every day before you go out into the sun and reapply every few hours. It’s not worth the cost of spending the rest of your trip in the shade.

Looking for ways to reduce your cosmetic expenses? Read my backpacker’s guide to saving money on beauty.

8. Border crossing fees

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 and any known scams.

Border crossing fees and scams

7. No accommodation

Traveling without a plan can be fun and very freeing. However, it also means taking the risk that your preferred transportation and accommodation might sell out. Only after booking my bus tickets to the south of Germany did I realize that all the accommodation there was beyond my budget. 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. Make sure you have a couple of backup options and a general idea of where they are located.

6. Getting sick on holiday

After months of planning and saving, it can be exhilarating to finally take the trip that you have been waiting for. It is so tempting to go out every single night with the fun people from your hostel. 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. 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 hometown anytime but you won’t have the opportunity to see the same attractions you’ve been saving for. If you are traveling a remote or developing destination be careful that your food is cooked properly and that the drinking water is clean. To save money on bottled water, you could invest in a portable water filter.

Getting sick on holiday

5. Overpacked suitcase

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. Not to mention the added baggage fees for taking domestic flights.

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.

If you are a serial over-packer, read my guide to choosing the best carry-on luggage and ultralight packing tips.

4. Missing a flight

When it comes to taking transportation, travelers can generally be divided into two groups: punctual and tardy. I fall into the tardy traveler category, which I like to believe is because I’m an optimist. During my recent backpacking trip around Europe, I missed many buses and trains due to oversleeping or poor judgment. 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.

Missing a flight

3. Injuries

Getting hurt sucks but sustaining any injury while overseas can be an absolute nightmare. When traveling in Alaska, I slipped on ice and badly hurt the index finger on my right hand. I was lucky not to have broken it but it affected my holiday and I was in pain for months after.

How to avoid: Take it slow and steady and 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.

2. Losing a passport

A passport is one of the most valuable things that a traveler will carry with them. Losing one 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 bars in foriegn countries will accept a foreign license as identification and sometimes even a paper or digital copy.

Losing a passport on vacation

1. Being robbed

Even the most seasoned travelers will have been robbed at some point or know someone who has. 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 and my wallet was stolen in my own home city of Brisbane. 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.

Originally published in 2016, completely rewritten and updated in 2018. All photos in this article, except the feature image, were sourced from Pixabay and are free of copyrights under Creative Commons CC0.


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