10 Biggest Travel Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

Whether it’s your first trip abroad or you travel several times a year, we all make mistakes that can cause headaches or possibly even ruin your trip. The good news is that with a little planning, it’s easy enough to avoid some of the most common travel mistakes so you can spend your time enjoying your vacation.

10 of the Biggest Travel Mistakes People Make -- Plus Tips on How to Avoid Them!


10 Biggest Travel Mistakes & How to Avoid Them


1. Overpacking

It’s tempting to bring outfits for every possible occasion, but it makes it difficult to haul your luggage around, and you may get stuck with high baggage fees for accidentally exceeding the weight limit. Instead, pack your bag as usual, then take out half the clothes you originally planned. You won’t wear all of them, you don’t have to sacrifice style, and you can always do some laundry on the road.

For more packing tips, visit these guides:

Carry-On Packing List

The Ultimate Packing Guide

How to Look Stylish While Traveling


2. Not Checking Your Cell Phone Plan

It’s important to know what your plan covers to avoid data roaming fees. Not covered? Turn off your data before you get on the plane and leave your phone in airplane mode (you’ll still be able to connect to wi-fi). If data is important to you, look into buying an international plan or buying a local SIM card once you arrive.

Alternatively, for Americans, consider T-Mobile as your carrier. We now get free data in 200 countries and it has literally changed the way we travel. (Note: We have no affiliation with T-Mobile and we pay for our own monthly plans.)

10 of the Biggest Travel Mistakes People Make -- Plus Tips on How to Avoid Them!


3. Not Booking Enough Time in Between Flights

Flight conditions can be unpredictable. If one gets delayed, you might be forced to rush through an unfamiliar airport to make your connecting flight, and you might not make it in time. It’s best to book them with a safe buffer in between. If you are traveling through Heathrow in London, plan for at least a two-hour layover here since you have to go through security just to get from one flight to another.


Not Grabbing Some Local Currency at the Airport

As soon as you leave the airport, you’ll need local currency to take public transportation or cab rides in many countries. Taking out money from the airport’s ATMs gives you better exchange rates, so get what you need there, and maybe a little extra for emergencies.

We use our credit card whenever possible, but we always keep cash on hand. Visiting local markets is a must when we travel — and many of these places don’t accept credit cards.

10 of the Biggest Travel Mistakes People Make -- Plus Tips on How to Avoid Them!


5. Not Informing Your Credit Card Company of Your Travel Plans

Credit card companies flag foreign transactions in case of credit card fraud and may freeze your account, so be sure you inform your company ahead of time. While you’re at it, find out if they charge a foreign transaction fee, so there are no surprises.


6. Not Buying Travel Insurance

Travel insurance covers cancellation fees, so if you unexpectedly can’t make your vacation or business trip, you won’t be out hundreds of dollars. Some plans also cover emergency medical expenses if your own health insurance plan doesn’t cover you outside your country. (We use World Nomads.)


7. Not Checking Visa Requirements

Being turned away at a foreign checkpoint will be expensive, time-consuming, and possibly put an end to your trip. There are several websites that list visa requirements for different countries, like this one, so find out ahead of time. For more tips for traveling abroad, visit our checklist for overseas travel.

10 of the Biggest Travel Mistakes People Make -- Plus Tips on How to Avoid Them!


8. Packing Too Many Activities or Countries Into One Trip

This limits your opportunities. You’ll be too busy to find hidden gems or follow up on tips from locals, and the hassle of so much travel can be stressful. Make sure you give yourself some time to relax and soak up the best of what each destination has to offer.


9. Not Keeping Track of Your Reservation Details

It’s an unnecessary hassle to have to rummage through your bags for your itinerary, and you might not have access to a printer for another copy if you lose it. If you can, keep your itinerary in its own pocket of a bag or keep an electronic copy on your phone.


10. Not Keeping Your Valuables Safe

Theft is the last thing you want to deal with, so avoid having your cash, electronics, or other valuables stolen by purchasing anti-theft bags and by keeping them with you whenever possible.



Christy Woodrow is a travel photographer and professional blogger based in San Diego. She has been traveling around the world with her partner in crime, Scott, since 2006. Join them in their quest to find off-the-beaten-path destinations by signing up for weekly emails and following her on .

  • NomadLifestyleBlog

    Great Post. I agree about reservation details. I once went to a hostel the wrong day because of it.

    • That sounds like something I would do. 🙂 Before I had an international data plan on my mobile, I arrived in a new city and had no idea where I was staying that night because I didn’t print out my reservation details. It can be easy to get spoiled with everything electronic nowadays, so I would forget about the whole international cell phone thing.

  • Claudia Luxembourg

    I am pretty good on most of these mistakes, actually. Packing too many activities may be a mistake I make when I travel for shorter periods of time. But hey, I enjoy every one of them!!

    • It’s definitely tempting. If it works for you, I say go for it. I only really regret it when I end up spending most of my time in transit — especially when visiting Europe where it’s so easy to get from one country to another.

  • I am guilty of at least half of those! The worst was when we showed up for our flight to Borneo (for our honeymoon!) and couldn’t get on the plane because apparently we needed a transit visa to connect in Vietnam. Had to do some crazy MacGyver-ing to change our flight to the next day and get off in Taipei!

    • Haha. That totally sounds like something I would do! I’ve made every single one of these mistakes. I must consult this list before every trip now. lol

  • Can’t fault any of those! They are all so true. Absolutely agree with your travel insurance comments (never travel without it). I must admit though that I always get my currencies at home before leaving as the rates at the airports are so much worse (and I always hate hanging around airports once I arrive). And, I’ve seen so many people run into trouble with their banks cancelling their credit cards because they didn’t tell them. Even just last year, we notified our bank that we would be travelling, and gave them the dates, but we then paid for something online before these dates. They put an immediate stop on our card!

    • ArkonaRus

      I’ve definitely run into the problem before of my card not working because I didn’t tell the bank I was going to that particular country.
      Also, a good idea for people, who don’t have a credit card, is to always have a backup plan with money. I once got my card blocked in Romania a few years back for something completely unrelated to travel. Had to wait for a new card to be mailed to me. But I was lucky because it was in a hostel that I trusted and Romania (at least at that time, maybe still today) allows cards to be mailed from the U.S. Many countries consider that to be contraband and thus illegal.

  • Thanks!
    Extremely useful guide, especially for travel-newbies.
    I actually did most of these mistakes during my early years as a traveler.
    Such mistakes happens due to poor planning and over/underestimating your capabilities and, of course, ignorance.
    Exploring, reading travel blogs (like Ordinary Traveler) could really save your time and nerves.

  • ArkonaRus

    And always remember to double check your tickets! Accidentally tried to take a long bus ride in the UK using a ticket…for the wrong date. I guess I was just tired when I made the reservation and put in the wrong date. Got a nice little surprise when I showed up at the bus station! Although I was actually let onto the bus for the first part of my journey, but maybe it’s because it was very early in the morning and were very few passengers. So, the driver didn’t care. Anyway, had to end up getting a very expensive train ticket just to get to my destination on time (only had 1 day scheduled in York).

  • Christy, these are great travel tips especially for female travelers. I am not a backpacker but still I do not over pack. I know at the start of a trip it can seem wise to pack as much you can, but it best to travel as light as possible. I like the idea of keeping itinerary in a small diary, to have everything handy. It is also good not to have everything in your phone/laptop. A physical copy should always be carried.
    I also always follow your advise of not packing too many things in a short time. It is better to absorb and see things properly and enjoy your travel, then try to put too much emphasis on covering everything.

  • HI there, thanks so much for this great list. I try to avoid most of these, but I still tend to end up planning too many activities. I always want to see and do as much as we can. I am trying to slow this down, but it’s been a struggle. Just have to travel more and I hope that will help me, 🙂 Thanks again for sharing.

  • Ahmed Ijaz

    Wonderful post!

    I have done few of them, but doing them taught me how to do it right next time and that’s where I hopefully corrected it and not hoping to repear any of them.

  • Very great topic,Thanks for clearing our view to avoid those mistakes.

  • A Pin On The Map

    I learned the hard way about not buying travel insurance! I found myself in a city that I was not enjoying and sick as a dog. Since I didn’t have insurance, I couldn’t change my flight with out using hundreds of dollars. I now know for the future to always get insurance….no matter what the cost!

    • That’s a bummer, but I’m happy to hear it wasn’t anything more serious. It’s definitely worth the money!

  • berde_green

    I agree so much on #8!

    11. Not meeting and befriending locals and/or fellow travelers.
    12. Not leaving the city or just staying in the country’s famous city (in other words, not going off the beaten path).

  • hitesh kamble

    Great article thank you! Thanks for sharing such a nice,helpful information.I think not checking cell phone plan and not grabbing local money are most common mistake that most of the will do.