15 Common Travel Mistakes to Avoid (By a Seasoned Traveler)

Person in a yellow jacket sitting with a blue hat on a yellow suitcase, appearing stressed, in an airport waiting area.

To err is human, right? Well, dear traveler, some mistakes can have a high price when it comes to travel. That’s exactly why I’ve created this article where I sorted the 15 most common travel mistakes to avoid!

And as someone who has traveled to over 30 countries and planned hundreds of trips, I could tell you about my mistakes for hours! From booking too late to exposing your valuables to overthinking it, there are plenty of things we’ve got to cover, so let’s jump right in!

1. Forgetting to renew your passport (and bring all the documents)

Close-up of a person holding a United States passport with an airplane visible through the airport window in the background

You’d be surprised how often people prepare for a trip only to realize their passport is about to expire! Your passport is the most important document for international travel, and without it, you won’t be able to travel anywhere outside of your country!

Most countries won’t let you enter if your passport expires within 6 months from the moment of entry. So, before buying those tickets, double-check that your passport is ready!

Now, apart from the passport, you may also need to have your travel insurance policy, car rental agreement, or other important documents with you. This depends on the nature of your travel, but always double-check that you have printed or saved all documents on your phone for easy access!

There are tons of free apps you can use to stay organized and have access to all your flight tickets, reservations, and documents in one place! I discuss the best ones in my special post on the free travel apps, check it out here!

2. Overpacking and packing the wrong clothes

An open suitcase overflowing with clothes, including a red hat, striped shirt, and various travel items, with a person sitting next to it looking frustrated

Now, this one takes a lot of trial and error before you get it right. I’ve been a frequent traveler for over 15 years now, and even I tend to complicate things sometimes. Still, my holy rule of packing is: less (stuff) is more (freedom)!

Some important tips for packing include:

  • Invest in weather-proof clothing made of natural materials. For summertime, wear cotton or linen clothes with loose weaves. For winter, pick wool and cotton clothing with tighter weaves, as they will keep you warm.
  • Buy plane-friendly toiletry carriers and minimize makeup.
  • Limit shoes as they take a bunch of space (and add extra weight); I always carry up to 1 extra pair apart from the ones I’m wearing.
  • Roll clothes instead of folding them, it does wonders for saving space!
  • Wear bulky items (if you must bring them) on you instead of packing them.
  • Don’t pack clothes you’re unlikely to wear, no matter how appealing it may be to include them.

We have a whole article dedicated to packing where we share the best tips, so make sure to check it out below!

3. Not planning a budget

Person using a calculator at a desk filled with travel items, including a globe, laptop, sunglasses, cash, and a toy airplane

Let’s admit it: travel can make everyone so spoiled that we often forget we live in real life. “Vacation calories don’t count” could easily be translated to “Vacation dollars don’t count,” but we know this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

The best way to save money and avoid overspending is to plan a budget. There are tons of online apps that can help you with this, but TravelSpend is my favorite one!

After all, if you spend too much money on things you don’t even need, you may be left with limited funds for more important parts of your trip or, God forbid, emergencies!

Subscribe here to get up to 35% off your accommodation for your next trip!

4. Missing out on opportunities to save time & money

Woman happily taking a selfie in front of the Colosseum in Rome, Italy, indicating enjoyment and capturing memorable travel moments

It took me a while before I learned how to spend my time and money efficiently while traveling. Here are my top tips on how you can do the same:

  • Buy city cards or passes (or transport cards). Most major tourist destinations offer a tourist card (usually purchased online) that grants you access to museums. Many locations also have a public transport card you can use to pay for buses, trams, and metros.
  • Consider vacation rentals. If you’re planning a longer stay with a large group, a vacation rental (Booking.com, VRBO, and Airbnb have great options) is much more affordable than booking multiple hotel rooms. Plus, Miss Tourist has an awesome deal with Booking.com for frequent travelers where you can get 4% off on your next stay and increase your savings!
  • Book tickets & hotels in advance. Book your plane and train tickets as well as accommodation as early as you can. The sooner you get your trip details figured out, the better deals you’ll land!
  • Buy travel insurance. Although this increases the initial spending of your trip, it can save you hundreds of dollars in case of an emergency. Plus, if something happens, you can get assistance with one phone call. When I once got sick in another country, the representatives from the travel insurance company fixed me with a hospital right away. Without travel insurance, I would’ve spent hours looking for a hospital that would take in a foreigner. WorldNomads and Safetywing have some amazing insurance packages for travelers, so feel free to check them out!
  • Skip-the-line passes. Websites like GetYourGuide are amazing for finding skip-the-line tickets for popular attractions and museums. Going to Dubai and want to climb Burj Khalifa? You can wait in line for hours, but not if you pre-book here!

5. Not getting an eSIM plan before departure

A person holds a smartphone displaying a Wi-Fi connection app, with a cityscape visible in the background. The foreground includes part of a coin-operated binocular viewer.

SIM cards for travelers are slowly becoming extinct. eSIM cards are a much more efficient way to secure your data abroad. How come?

  • You can obtain an eSIM prior to departure.
  • You don’t risk getting scammed with hefty SIM prices at the airport.
  • You can always top-up your balance online.
  • You can combine eSIMs for multiple destinations (Airalo has plans that cover multiple countries), while most local SIMs are only valid in one country.

We even have a separate article on the best eSIM options for international travel (you can see it below), but I’ll also give you a hint: Airalo has some of the best deals!

6. Not notifying your bank about the trip

Woman signing a document at a counter, interacting with another person, suggesting a travel-related banking or registration process

This one very much depends on where you’re from, but for most places (especially the U.S. or Canada), it’s super important to let your bank know you’re planning a trip abroad.

Failing to do so can result in having your card blocked because your bank may think the card got stolen and is now being used in another country by another person.

7. Overplanning the itinerary

Open travel planner with a detailed itinerary titled 'EUROTRIP ITINERARY,' showing a list of cities and activities for each day

I can’t stress enough the importance of keeping your itinerary realistic. Most of the time, I get super distracted in one place by something I couldn’t see coming (e.g., a lovely street performance, getting too cozy in a restaurant with a view, spending more time in a museum than planned), and I always need more time in the end.

Now, add a super busy pre-planned itinerary, and you’re almost certain to get overwhelmed at some point when there’s really no need.

That’s why you should plan your day-to-day itinerary realistically. Ideally, always leave some time for spontaneity, because something will surely pop up unplanned!

8. Showing your valuables

Woman in a stylish outfit and hat standing in front of a historical building, holding a camera and looking up, embodying a tourist enjoying the sights

Hiding your valuables is the ultimate travel tip to stay safe and not expose yourself as a target to pickpockets.

Use common sense wherever you travel and stay on high alert when visiting countries with high crime rates. I love blending in with locals as a tourist, and this means not dressing provocatively, leaving my jewelry at home, and possibly even not bringing a camera with me.

In fact, my husband and his friend once got attacked by a local gang during their trip to Colombia because they made 2 mistakes. They carried large cameras around their necks (tell me you’re a tourist without telling me you’re one) and entered a sketchy area next to an abandoned church. The criminals came out of nowhere and started chasing them to get their cameras. Unfortunately, my husband got lightly injured in the process, and his friend lost his camera.

This story happened many years ago and although chances are very slim of the same happening today, it’s a reminder that you have to act wisely on your trip. If you must have some valuables showing (say, a camera is a must for you) make sure to only stay in well-lit and touristy areas.

9. Having high expectations

Woman enthusiastically waving a British flag with Big Ben and a red double-decker bus in the background in London, England

Have you heard about Paris syndrome? It’s this distressed emotional state with a range of psychological (and psychical) symptoms tourists have when visiting Paris because the city failed to meet their expectations.

People have reported to have an increased heart rate, nausea, and even hallucinations. The effect is most often observed in Japanese tourists, but it’s important for all of us to be aware of this problem.

In today’s social media-dominated world, we tend to romanticize every aspect of life, with travel being at the top of the list.

So no, not everyone in Italy will wear suits and look fancy, nor will every woman in Spain dance flamenco and wear red dresses. Funny story, my friend once actually bought a red dress before her trip to Spain because she wanted to “fit in” with Spanish women, only to have her bubble burst once she got there.

The point is, try not to romanticize your destination too much or have too high expectations of it. Otherwise, you’re likely to get disappointed.

10. Miscalculating times for connection flights

Two people running with their suitcases outside an airport, suggesting a rush to catch a flight

Sometimes, all we want is to get to our target destination as soon as possible. But the closer together the two connection flights, the higher the risk something can go wrong:

  • Your first flight could be delayed.
  • You could get stuck at security.
  • Lines can be long because it’s high season.

I like to leave at least 2 hours between flights regardless of the airport size, just to make sure I can make it even if the first flight is slightly delayed. You don’t want to be running through the airport to try and catch your plane.

11. Not immersing yourself in the local culture

Woman buying food from a street vendor at a market, engaging in local culinary experiences

What is the point of travel, after all? For most people, it’s to experience a new culture, their food, meet new people, and just see how locals go about their daily life.

What I realized is that in most countries, people are actually super hospitable to foreigners and will happily help them around. So don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and actually engage with locals.

Here are some ways you can boost the level of cultural immersion on your trip:

  • Eat in local restaurants instead of franchises like McDonalds, KFC, and others.
  • Shop in small, family-owned shops instead of franchises like Carrefour or Lidl.
  • See art exhibitions or attend concerts by local artists.
  • Take a guided city tour with a local.
  • Stay with a local or in an authentic place rather than a chain hotel.
  • Use public transport instead of a car to get around.
  • Learn a local skill by engaging in a class or workshop.

12. Disregarding local laws

Group of friends enjoying drinks outdoors, each holding a glass of beer and smiling, suggesting a relaxed social setting

Staying aware of and complying with local laws and customs is crucial to ensure a pleasant and comfortable stay. For example, many countries prohibit public drinking. If you’re seen carrying a can of beer out in the open, it can be considered an offense.

So whatever you do, from driving, to visiting religious sites, to dress code, make sure it’s appropriate for the country you’re going to.

13. Not checking the weather forecast

Two people standing in Park Güell, Barcelona, under a colorful umbrella with a scenic view of the city in the background, indicating rainy weather

Always check for the weather before heading on a trip! In fact, I recommend doing so in the planning process.

For example, in the middle of planning a vacation in East Asia, my husband and I had to change plans due to the terrible weather forecast. We wanted to go to Hong Kong and Nepal, but at the last minute, we realized that the end of May (the time we plan to go) is the start of the monsoon season, and there’s a high chance it’ll rain every day of our trip.

This was really a close one as we got so pumped up about visiting East Asia we almost bought the tickets. I’m so lucky I checked for weather over there because I would’ve hated to spend all the money for the trip only to be locked up indoors!

14. Getting scammed as a tourist

Woman hailing a taxi on a busy city street, with a yellow taxi in the foreground

There are so many ways to get scammed when visiting a foreign country! I spent so much money in Istanbul, Turkey, without even knowing I was being tricked. It took multiple visits to the city to understand how to avoid these scams.

The tips below are super relevant for Turkey but also stand true for any other major tourist destination:

  • Avoid restaurants in the very center of the city or those adjacent to major landmarks. Only eat there after you’ve read the reviews (Gmaps is great for this) and made certain the place isn’t a scam. Otherwise, aim for smaller restaurants off the beaten path where you can see the locals eat.
  • The same goes for souvenir shopping – avoid the shops in touristy spots, they’re too expensive. I suggest a quick internet research to see where it’s best to buy souvenirs in a particular destination. For example, a quick Google search showed me a super authentic, family-owned crafts shop in Amman with more than reasonable prices, and I loved buying unique souvenirs there.
  • Pre-order a taxi ride whenever possible. Avoid getting taxis on the street, and if you do, make sure they have the turned meter on.
  • Never use airport money exchange. The rates are horrible there. Either exchange the currency before departure or wait until you’re in the city.

15. Ignoring your health

Woman standing in an indoor walkway, holding her head with a pained expression, indicating a headache or discomfort

Whether you realize it or not, your body is under stress when you’re on the road. Your brain works differently, you move more, or maybe even sleep less and eat more junk food.

Here’s a small list of hacks for you so your energy levels and health during travel remain in top shape:

  • Drink plenty of water, combined with electrolytes (I always dissolve electrolytes in my water while flying, it’s been doing wonders for preventing dehydration!)
  • Eat light before and after flights and avoid highly processed foods.
  • Don’t sacrifice sleep.
  • Wash your hands regularly, especially after commuting.
  • Wear sunscreen, glasses, and a hat for summer trips to stay sun safe.

FAQs about common travel mistakes

Woman reading a travel guide or notebook with a concerned expression, standing in front of bright, colorful lights

❓ What are some mistakes that every first time traveler makes?

Overpacking is usually the most common travel mistake first-time travelers make. Many people also expect too much from a destination, often leading to disappointment.

💭 What is the biggest concern of people while traveling?

People are usually afraid of getting mugged, lost, losing their valuables, or having something bad happen to them on a trip. These feelings are usually related to travel anxiety and there are ways to overcome them. Read more about it in our special article about travel anxiety!

✅ What are some common mistakes people make when embarking on an adventure and how can they be avoided?

Overpacking, overspending, not immersing in local culture, and forgetting important documents are some of the most common travel mistakes. Read this article to find out how to avoid them!

💰 What makes traveling difficult?

One of the most difficult aspects of travel is the cost. It’s becoming more expensive to travel year by year, so planning a budget and sticking to it can make traveling more affordable. Another common difficulty is figuring out the logistics.

Final thoughts on common travel mistakes to avoid

Traveler sitting at a train station with head in hands, looking stressed or worried, with a backpack beside them and a train in the background.

Well, that’s it, my dear adventurer! I’ve shared the 15 common travel mistakes people make (I know I made more than half of them), so you can be aware of them and avoid making the same ones!

One thing’s for sure, though: Everyone makes mistakes, and even if you try your best to have a smooth and perfect trip, chances are, something may not go as planned. And that’s completely okay!

Most of the time, the mistakes I made on my trips either taught me a lesson or are now just funny stories I’ll get to tell my kids about.

What travel mistake did you make that you will never forget? Share your experience in the comments below!

Safe travels,


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