9 travel mistakes to avoid

Ever missed your flight? Got a trip itinerary completely wrong? Arrived with the wrong currency? You'll find you're not the only traveller to make a mistake or two on the road...
Travellers sat on a world map
Planning a tour around the world. Photo: Shutterstock

Insight Guides takes the hassle out of your holidays. Fact. We plan, organise and book trips for travellers around the world, from trekking in Nepal to wine-tasting in Argentina and relaxing on divine beaches in the Maldives. When you book a trip with us, travel mistakes and planning mishaps are forgotten. While we can't ensure you make your flight, we're sure we'd make your trip more stress-free than those below...  

Here, we explore 10 classic travel mistakes that can easily be avoided. When travel begins to revamp after the coronavirus pandemic, it will be more important than ever to check the fine print and cancellation policies closely. 

1. Learn a few phrases

Bruce Joseph of www.travelideology.com learnt first-hand the importance of picking up key phrases for the country you’re travelling to: “On my first trip overseas, I stopped in Cairo. There were free buses between the two airports. I asked the airport officials where to take the bus from and they pointed to a stop. To be on the safe side, I asked the driver if it was the correct bus to the second airport and he seemed to indicate that it was too.

“Needless to say, I was surprised to find the bus was not going to the other airport and I did not have any Egyptian currency to pay and could not pay in foreign currency. Fortunately, a businessman from Alexandria helped out. In future trips, I took a phrase book or learnt the language.”

2. Plan ahead and pay attention

Roni, the self-professed travel expert at ronithetravelguru.com, has had a few mishaps along the way: “I didn't book a hotel for my trip to Rome because I genuinely didn't think it would be a problem getting one. I hadn’t done a lot of research and didn't know there was a huge convention in town and every hotel room for miles was taken. My friend and I had to sleep in the train station. Now I ALWAYS book somewhere to stay before I travel because I will never sleep on a floor again.“

“Slightly embarrassingly, I also once missed a flight because I wasn’t paying attention and didn't hear the announcement at the gate. My friends and I sat, laughing and joking away, while the plane took off and we completely missed it. Now when I am boarding a flight I sit right near the podium, I don't wear headphones, I don't read and I pay close attention!”

3. Make everything work together

With flights, accommodation, activities, tours and more to think about, it can be difficult to organise your trip without any mishaps (unless you're booking with Insight Guides, of course!). 

“I once bought a plane ticket online with a great price but restricted changes. Typically, my tour dates were changed later. The airline changes and new fares were double the old ticket,” explains Elizabeth Avery founder of Solo Trekker 4 U. “Luckily, the tour company credited me the difference. Lessons learned: 1. Buy a ticket with more flexibility or 2. Make certain the tour dates can no longer be changed before buying a plane ticket with restrictions.”

4. Don't forget the finer details

Andrea Feczko, presenter of CW’s Vacation Creation, shows even the experts get it wrong sometimes: “The worst travel mistake I made was assuming the AM/PM on my flight to Japan. I booked through a European airline and since I arrived late the next day, I assumed my flight left at 11pm. Nope, it left at 11am. Europeans often use military time, so 11pm would have been 23:00. Since then, I always check to see if am/pm if specified and if not, I look it up online.”

5. Check, check and check again

Megan Lee of GoAbroad.com has learnt to check everything. Twice. “Booking a flight from Dubai to Istanbul felt like a no brainer - there are tonnes of discount airlines operating in the region, perfect for low-budget travel (if you're willing to board in the wee hours of the morning). I had my confirmation numbers handy and went to the check-in counter.

"We don't have your ticket reserved, ma'am."
"What do you mean?! Here are my confirmation numbers."
"Was the money ever taken from your account?"

"Safe to say, the worst mistake I ever made when planning a trip was trusting budget airlines to have their act together and not visiting my accounts and emails to double and triple check that my trip was confirmed. Avoid my mistake and the expensive last minute fares!”

Travel checklist.

Travel checklist. Photo: Shutterstock


6. Ensure you have up-to-date info

Jema from Half the Clothes focuses on minimalist travel. But even she says this trip to Brazil went too far... “At the tender age of 23, after graduating summa cum laude from university, I ended up frequently sleeping in Brazilian bus stations and eating hot dog buns with hot sauce for breakfast. Why? I'd foolishly used a printed exchange rate to estimate trip cost. Brazil's economy soared in the years between editions, leaving me with only two-thirds of an already meagre trip budget. It's a life lesson I'll never forget!”

7. Get a little local advice

Ever made a trip decision based on the wrong reasons? You're not alone. Lisa Mattson of Jordan Vineyard & Winery did just that: "The biggest mistake I've ever made in planning a trip is making my hotel decision totally based on points with the hotel chain I am a rewards member with. I should've done more research to see that even though this particular international hotel chain has great reviews, its hotel on this particular Caribbean island is not up to par with other properties. It was in one of the top categories and thus cost a lot of points, and I should've spent money instead and stayed at a hotel with better reviews rather than wasting all those points on a sub-standard place."  

Insight Guides' suggested itineraries and tailor-made holidays have only the best hotels featured. We work with on-the-ground experts to bring you hotels to suit you and your budgets, whether that's a glitzy sky-high hotel in Hong Kong or a boutique beach stay in Mexico. 

8. Have a thoroughly planned itinerary

Now a travel pro with their own B&B in California (hercastle.com), William Seavey made a mistake when not fully planning their trip itinerary: “Years ago I planned a cruise to Alaska and I was thinking that once we got to Seward and disembarked we could, within a week or so, rent a car and take the Alcan Hwy back to the "mainland" through Canada's gorgeous forested scenery. 

"Guess what, I didn't check and no rental cars are allowed to go the 1,000+ mile route, too arduous and perhaps no there's no rescuing anyone stranded.  We ended up staying in Seward, in a cute home-based B&B. It turned out to be a great trip, and we ended up taking a redeye home. (My wife doesn't let me plan anymore, though).”

Insight Guides' trip itineraries are created with the help of local experts; we'll ensure your holiday reflects your interests and needs, while making it a unique, unforgettable experience (for the right reasons!).

9. Check the location

Now a renowned travel publisher Avichai Ben Tzur, of www.xdaysiny.com, wasn’t always so travel savvy: “In an effort to save some money, I booked a 10-day stay in a furnished apartment outside of Papeete, the main city in Tahiti, French Polynesia. Little did I know that the apartment was at the top of a steep mountain, with no way to catch a bus into town and with car rental rates going for over $70/day. 

"On future trips, I thoroughly check Google Maps both in regular and satellite view, along with walking times to nearest bus stops and main roads.”

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