7 Common Travel Mistakes First Time Travelers Make

Written By: The Planet D

It’s an exciting time in the world. More people are crossing borders than ever, and more travelers have access to exploring the planet.

But that can also have an effect on the quality of one’s travel experiences if we don’t plan ahead.

We are going to share the common travel mistakes that first-time travelers make and how to avoid them.

As a couple that has traveled full time for 10-years, we’ve made our share of blunders.

These are the travel mistakes we’ve made and errors that we’ve seen others make on the road.

If you are a first-time traveller or even a regular jetsetter, these tips will help you have a better time on your next vacation

Common Mistakes by First Time Travelers  

1. OVERPACKING

travel mistakes over packing
A Light Suitcase is a Happy Suitcase

We are still guilty of this on occasion and each time we overpack, we curse ourselves for not being more diligent.

There is nothing worse than lugging around a huge suitcase or backpack filled with useless items.

We find that when traveling, we often wear the same clothes often. We don’t need a lot. Jeans and t-shirts can be worn more than once without having to wash them.

We don’t need an outfit for each day of the week, and we don’t need everything in our toiletry kit.

When we have time to plan and pack correctly for a trip, we start a week in advance. We pack the clothes and gear we think we need and then we go through it again.

The best rule of thumb is to cut what we need in half and then scale down from there.

If we need medication or more shampoo, we can buy it when we get there.

We used to pack every single thing we could think of that we “might need” in a situation.

Once we let go of that mindset and packed just the basics, we had a lot more fun in our travels.

2. OVERPLANNING

common travel mistakes overplanning
anxiety over planning

It’s great to plan for a trip, but the joy of travel is to get lost and to create new experiences.

Our first trip to Europe was jam-packed with destinations. I think we saw 10 countries in just as many days!

We hardly remember anything from that trip and couldn’t tell you one good memory from it. All we did was check a bunch of destinations off the bucket list and came home exhausted.

Once we learned to slow down and spend at least a few days in each destination, we had a more fulfilling experience.

We met the locals, immersed in the culture and brought home memories to last a lifetime.

3. BOOKING ETHICAL AND SUSTAINABLE TOURS

Book Ethical and sustainable tours
Today there are plenty of eco-friendly tours to choose from

We have been traveling since the late 1990s and we can admit that we were guilty of this. Travel was new and exciting to us and we went on trips to meet hill tribes, we rode elephants, and we went on safaris that got way too close to wildlife.

As education has increased, we ALL now know that this is unacceptable. 

When planning things like a safari, we always make sure that the company stays a good distance away from the animals.

We never ride elephants and instead, we go to an elephant sanctuary that gives former working elephants and home. 

We haven’t gone on a “staged cultural tour” in years and instead, spend time in the destination to get to know the locals. Or we visit a project that is helping the local villages.

Now when we travel, we ask ourselves if we are contributing to the destination or if our presence is hindering the wildlife, people and the environment.

If we aren’t visiting in a positive way, we shouldn’t be there.

4. EATING AT CHAIN RESTAURANTS

Eating at Chain Restaurants

The world is shrinking, and we have seen familiar restaurants in as faraway places like Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. It’s easy to eat at restaurants that we know but it is even better to go to a local eatery and try something new.

The way we find places to eat is to go for a walk and look inside. 

If it is packed with tourists, we skip it. If it is packed with locals, we head on in!

We have made new friends this way and collected great recipes that we make at home to remind us of our travels. 

5. NOT TRUSTING OUR INSTINCTS

Not trusting your instincts
We were scammed on this tour

The human mind is an amazing thing. Whenever we’ve had a bad feeling about a cab driver, a shady tour operator, a black-market money changer or that we were being victims of a travel scam, we’ve usually been right.

Read the most common travel scams from around the world

When we follow our instincts, we usually steer clear of problems. It’s when we’ve let our guard down that we’ve been scammed and in hindsight, we’ve looked back and said, “it was so obvious!”

We don’t let the fact that we are traveling, affect our confidence. If we are uncomfortable getting to a cab with someone, or if we don’t want to follow a rug seller into the back alleys of a souk, we say no and go on our way.

We got over worrying about offending people after falling for our first scam or two. 

We now politely say no with a smile and continue walking until we catch the next taxi or find the right salesperson.

6. NOT FOLLOWING THE LOCAL CULTURE AND CUSTOMS

Not following local customs

The world would be a very boring place if we all had the same customs. When traveling, we make sure to look into what the local customs are and we follow them. 

WE RESEARCH THINGS LIKE

  • How to dress – should knees and shoulders be covered in public?
  • How to eat – Do we eat with our hands like in Morocco and India? Or a spoon like in Thailand.
  • Do we remove our shoes when entering someone’s house?
  • Do we bring a gift when invited to a local’s home?
  • Is it wrong to touch the head of a child as it is in Thailand?
  • Should my head be covered with a scarf when walking around the city of Amman, Jordan?
  • Is tipping a part of the culture or is it an insult?

These are all things we think about. 

And it is fun to immerse yourself in the culture.

not immersing yourself in the culture

I love landing in a country and going to the market to shop for local clothes.

We embrace the local customs and enjoy the reaction of a new friend when they see we brought them dates from the market after they offered us tea.

The joy of travel is to embrace other cultures and learn from them. We don’t want to visit a destination that is exactly like home. We might as well not set foot on a plane if we are going to ignore the local culture or eat at the same restaurant chain we can frequent in our own country. 

7. NOT PURCHASING TRAVEL INSURANCE

first time travelers mistakes travel insurance

To this day, we still cannot wrap our heads around why people don’t buy travel insurance. If we can afford to travel, we can afford the small price of purchasing insurance for our trip.

We have used our insurance on several occasions that we have talked extensively about in our blog. It is a small price to pay for peace of mind.

OUR TRAVEL EMERGENCY EXPERIENCE

Broken Back in Amazon travel Insurance
Broken Back in the Amazon

A lot of people think they can just fly home if something should happen. When Dave broke his back in the Amazon, he couldn’t fly without a medical evacuation due to the fact that he had to lie flat.

If we didn’t have travel insurance, we’d have had to pay for a medivac ourselves costing tens of thousands of dollars.

The treatment they gave Dave in Peru was the best they had in the small town of Iquitos, but it wasn’t up to date or optimal.

We know this because when we flew home to Canada, our Canadian doctors said he should have been up and moving sooner and he shouldn’t have been on such heavy narcotics for the eight days he was in the hospital there.

It took Dave longer to recover because the small village hospital wasn’t clear on the extent of his injuries, so they were afraid to let him sit up or move.

common travel mistakes no travel insurance
Sitting up for the first time in Canada

It’s no wonder the Government of Canada recommends emergency medical travel insurance coverage for all Canadians travelling abroad.

Once Dave was home, he recovered fully within months.

But there are so many other reasons why we’ve purchased travel insurance like;

  • If we need emergency dental work have to cancel a trip unexpectedly.
  • Or if we experience a luggage delay. This happened to us recently in China, and even though I didn’t go shopping after my luggage was delayed for 24 hours, I was happy to have the peace of mind knowing that should it never arrive, I would be able to pick up a few things to tide me over.

It is important to note that we always phone to confirm what is covered.

It is still important to speak personally to an agent to find out exactly how much is covered in our policy and what types of reasons are considered insurable. Nothing beats getting on the phone for a proper consultation.

We always ask questions first so there are no surprises later.

Travel is one of the best experiences we can have in life. There are many things that can go wrong, but when planning properly, the rewards of travel are like nothing else. 

It opens our eyes to new experiences and helps us step out of our comfort zone. We have never said, “the one thing I regret in life is going on a trip.”

common travel mistakes made by first time travelers

Read More Travel Tips articles:

Travel Planning Resources

Looking to book your next trip? Why not use these resources that are tried and tested by yours truly.

Flights: Start planning your trip by finding the best flight deals on Skyscanner

Book your Hotel: Find the best prices on hotels with these two providers. If you are located in Europe use Booking.com and if you are anywhere else use TripAdvisor

Find Apartment Rentals: You will find the cheapest prices on apartment rentals with VRBO

Travel Insurance: Don't leave home without it. Here is what we recommend:

  • World Nomads - Digital Nomads or Frequent Travelers.
  • Allianz - Occasional Travelers.
  • Medjet - Global air medical transport and travel security.

Need more help planning your trip? Make sure to check out our Resources Page where we highlight all the great companies that we trust when we are traveling.

About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

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3 thoughts on “7 Common Travel Mistakes First Time Travelers Make”

  1. Hey, Dave.
    I always loved your blog and content as well. You write and share much informative and helpful material all the time.
    Thanks you so much.

    Reply
  2. Hey, Dave.
    I always loved your blog and content as well. You write and share much informative and helpful material all the time.
    Thanks you so much.

    Reply