Traveling around the world is a dream activity for many. With so many places to explore, so many cultures to learn about and so many new things to try, it can be a daunting experience at first. The rush to make it feel perfect can also weigh on people. But don’t worry, no one ever does it perfectly at the start. Here’s fifteen mistakes that, while they have the capability to distress you, are common mistakes everyone make on their first vacation.
1. Overpacking your luggage.
Let’s be honest; you can go without some things for the length of your vacation. Common errors include packing too many clothes or filling your bag with unnecessary accessories. Toiletries should be small but keep in mind that many are available for free at hotels or purchasable on the ground. This mistake isn’t just inconvenient; it’s also costly. Many airlines charge fees for bags over a certain weight so keeping your load light could save you money as well as time and energy.
2. Not checking the TSA’s rules and restrictions.
Some things are rather obvious such as the no lighters or dynamite rule. Less obvious are the rules about liquids which aren’t allowed past a certain amount of milliliters. If you’re buying your toiletries beforehand, be sure to get them in “travel size” so as not to break these rules and check the TSA’s website for information on any other objects you’re not sure whether you can take or not.
3. Not doing any research.
Even minor things such as the weather can require a change in dress or plans. Do your research on not just that but also the culture and language of wherever you’re visiting. By doing so, it prevents you from standing out as a tourist and shows that you respect the people of the place you’re visiting. It’s also a good idea for not causing offence to these people.
4. Not being flexible in your planning.
Sticking to an itinerary is a good thing to do but be sure to have plan A’s and plan B’s available as well. You never know what could happen during your trip and having more than one option could help you spend time as opposed to wasting it. Feel free to be spontaneous as well; if you see something on your way that you have time to check out, do it! Outdoor markets and houses of worship form good improvised activities.
5. Cramming too many activities into your day.
Yes, there is probably much to see and much to do but, like a busy schedule back home, too many activities can leave you overwhelmed. And that’s if you even have time to do them all. Space them out throughout the whole vacation and feel free to cut some if you need to save time. It may be disappointing but it’s better than rushing through the day and not being able to enjoy anything. This a super common mistake people make on their first vacation, so it’s important to remember not to overbook yourself.
6. Staying only in the cities.
Think of cities as your base of operations. They’re full of fun things like museums, history, hotels and restaurants but they also serve as starting points for road trips and guided tours. Venture out into the countryside every once in a while and explore the natural geography of where you’re visiting as well as the urban. Notably though, this may result in another blunder…
7. Expecting everyone to know English.
Generally speaking, people in cities will speak English more than people in rural areas. However, this itself is mostly limited to public officials and people who tend to work with tourists more often than others. This is why it is so important to learn some phrases in the native language. The most common ones learned are small words like “please” and “thank you” or big phrases like “Do you speak English?” and “Where is the bathroom?” A good working knowledge of these will help you navigate areas with fewer English speakers more easily.
8. Expecting every place to take credit cards.
This is less of a problem in the U.S. and Europe but even in those places you have to prepare for the worst. Always have foreign currency on you and be sure to avoid currency exchange kiosks, especially those in airports as they tend to have bad rates and to slap extra fees on their service. You never know when you might just happen upon a place with no card reader.
9. Not telling your bank you’ll be going abroad
This one is critical. Banks need to know that you’ll be traveling so when they do see that you’ve made purchases in a foreign country that it’s actually you. Otherwise, your transactions will come across to them as credit card theft. Contact your bank before you go and everything will be just fine. This is a common mistake among tons of people on their first vacation and it is a total hassle. So, make sure you let your bank know where you’re going.
10. Wasting money on souvenirs.
Don’t get us wrong; there’s nothing inherently terrible about buying tourist shop souvenirs. Sure, they can sometimes to be mass-produced and kitsch-y but they can be fun, little mementos as well. But don’t spend too much money on them. You’ll need to save some for food, tickets and other pricey ventures.
11. Not eating local foods.
Chances are you’re going to be eating out every day of your trip so food is an essential part of your experience. A common mistake people make on their first vacation is to stick to chain restaurants and familiar cuisines rather than to try something new. Doing this will essentially shut you off from an important aspect of a foreign culture. It will also limit your tastes and prevent you from branching out into something brand new. Expand your tastes! Eat local!
12. Going somewhere too challenging too fast.
As much as many would love to just head off to their dream destination right away, sometimes the culture shock or general unpreparedness of the traveler might cause problems. For your first vacation, try someplace more familiar (e.g. an American would probably choose somewhere like London or Dublin). Leave the more “exotic” places for later trips when you’re more ready to handle them. It’s good idea to start with a popular destination for your first vacation!
13. Leaving behind the important documents.
Before leaving for the airport, check to make sure you have your passport, any visas and other forms of ID on hand and in a secure spot. Similarly, don’t leave these things behind when you’re leaving your travel destination to go back home. They can often be left in safes or on bedsides and it doesn’t really need to be said how this is a bad thing. Play it safe and always double check!
14. Falling for scams.
Scams can affect any traveller whether experienced or amateur. But it’s especially important as a beginning traveler, on whom a financial loss can have a much greater impact. While doing your research, search for any scams, tricks or schemes that target tourists in the region you’re visiting. Memorise them and learn to avoid them.
15. Being anxious.
Don’t worry too much about how your vacation will go. This is a time for you to have fun in a unique place isolated from your daily life at home. As long as you have common sense, feel free to live it up! After all, it won’t be long before it’ll all be over and regular life begins again so spend the time you have well!