I am shocked at how bad some people are at leaving the country. I’ve seen people get to the airport, but not be able to board a flight, and seen others land in a foreign country, but not be allowed through customs. This list is just the beginning of ways you can destroy a fantastic trip and waste a lot of money.
The easiest way to avoid this is to plan ahead. I get it, you are a free spirit and do not want to be tied down by strict plans, it is a vacation and not work day after all. I am not saying you need to plan out every 15 minutes of your day, but by following the basic steps below you can avoid making your trip a disaster.
1. Forgetting Your Passport, or Not Getting a Visa
As an American, you even need a passport to visia Canada now-a-days. No passport means no trip, so don’t forget it. In case you lose your passport or it gets stolen while abroad, having a scanned copy emailed to yourself can save you a world of trouble.
Some countries require your passport to have six months left before its expiration date to let you enter (though you will often be allowed on a flight there, but denied entrance through customs). Make sure to check your expiration date, and the country you plan on entering. Examples of countries that follow this six month validity rule are Thailand, Mexico, and Oman.
A full list of countries can be seen here Passport Guide.
As far as visas go, it is pretty simple, check to see if you need one before you go. Just because citizens of one country do not have to get one before entering, does not mean that citizens of your country do not have to get one.Want to travel for cheap?
Teaching English abroad is a great option. Read our tips on how to get a job teaching English abroad.
2. Not Researching Things Worth Seeing
I’ve been guilty of this mistake; on a trip to Puerto Rico we decided to wing it and simply explore once we were there. We had a fun trip, but realized too late we were only half an hour away from the bioluminescent beach (Read our Puerto Rico Post HERE). We didn’t go because by the time we realized our mistake, the moon was too bright.
3. Not Knowing the Plugs
Every country has a different electrical system, and you might not be able to plug in your cell phone and laptop. Small adaptors can quickly solve this problem, but if you don’t have them ahead of time, you can get stuck without.
4. Not Knowing Which Means of Transportation to Use
Finding the best way to get around a destination is huge! In some places it is way cheaper and efficient to take public transportation, while in others it may be better to rent a car. Do a little bit of research to figure out what works best. My sister just got back from a trip to Beijing, China. After a little research, she found out that she could hire a car with private driver for one half the cost of a seat on a tour bus, be picked up from her hotel, and get to the best tour sites and back in less time.
5. Ignoring Immunizations and Health Concerns
Not every country’s sanitation system is created equal, and knowing whether you can drink the water or not is not enough. You should always be prepared with bug spray as insects are excellent at spreading diseases. Read my About Page to see the experience I had with a pet parasite I inadvertently brought home.
Also, depending on where you are going, you may want and need to get some additional vaccines. If you plan on driving from Buffalo, New York to Toronto, Canada, you can probably skip them, but if you plan on trekking through 30 different African countries, you probably are going to want to prepare by getting a few extra shots.
6. Over Packing
We have all seen the person who brings three suitcases for a weekend trip. Lugging around extra stuff rapidly becomes a colossal pain.
Plan outfits that can wear the same pair of shoes, and for goodness sakes do not bring full bottles of shampoo and conditioner. I constantly made fun of my college roommate for over packing. When she would go on a trip, we felt like she was moving to the foreign country instead of just visiting.
7. Not Planning the Finances
This includes a lot more than having spending money (which you should have because some cool but unexpected expense will come up). You need to figure out if your credit cards will be accepted, and you may want to warn your bank so they do not put a hold on your credit card for unusual spending activity.
Also, you may want to make sure they aren’t going to charge you foreign transaction fees. Exchange some cash for the local currency (NOT AT THE AIRPORT because the exchange rate is punitive) and remember to get bills in small denominations for tips.
8. Not Considering Safety
Some neighborhoods just aren’t safe for foreigners to stay in, no matter how cheap the hotel is. Some forms of transportation may be begging for trouble. Also, if you have a $15,000 diamond ring, you might not want to wear it while abroad. Please don’t end up as the inspiration behind the making of Taken 4.
9. Preparing Your Cell Phone
International roaming charges can be brutal! Having a GPS, pocket translator, and emergency lifeline is priceless, but so much better if it is fairly cheap. Most cell phone companies have temporary international plans you can add to your phone that will allow you to have phone and data service.
I have T Mobile, which has international service in 140 countries at no extra charge. For someone frequently on the go, this service cannot be beat.
10. Not Understanding Time Zones, Weekends, Local Customs
A Saturday evening flight from Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia lands Monday morning. The flight doesn’t actually take two days, but crossing the International Date Line can really be confusing. Make sure you understand when you are actually landing so that your reservations actually match up.
One year I took off on a flight from Honolulu, Hawaii to Auckland, New Zealand the day before my birthday. When we landed after 8 hours, there was only 1 hour left in my birthday. The International Date Line robbed me!
Also, the weekends are different in various countries. Most Muslim countries have weekends on Thursday and Friday, but in Dubai, the weekend is actually Friday and Saturday. This can affect what attractions are open, so make sure to check. (Read our post on Dubai HERE)
The Spanish siesta is one of the greatest ideas ever. Many shops and attractions in Spain close for a couple hours during lunch time so people can rest. This can be annoying if you are on a time crunch, but I wish my work day had a built in nap time.
Read more travel tips below!
- The Insider’s Guide To Booking Cheap Flights (My husband works for an airline so he knows all the tricks ;)
- Want to travel for cheap? Teaching English abroad is a great option. Read our tips on how to get a job teaching English abroad.
- See our tips on how to rent a rental car for cheap! My husband is genius at saving money traveling. Ha! You can read that post here.
I hope you guys enjoy these travel tips! Thank you so much for reading.
Don’t forget to tell your bank that you’re leaving the country! ha! YES – that is very very very important!
Yeah, sadly I learned that the hard way in Columbia.
Ha. YES. Definitely. My Credit Union shut off my ATM card last year when I was in Canada. On the weekend. And they only have hours M-F… of course. And my Capital One card was shut off due to a fraudulent charge. Even better! NO money.
I called the CU the next day and said what is going on with my card? They said “well we have to be careful, fraud is up”. Yes, but I have literally been to over 50 countries with this card and never have had to call. “Well yes but as we said we’ve seen an increase in fraud”. That’s fine but if you are going to change your policy – maybe you can tell your customers next time? Bother. Capital One was unusable the entire trip. I now have a backup CC too.
I always set travel alerts for my credit cards but have now added my credit union.
#11 – not having a CC with NO foreign transaction fees. (sorry for that double negative :)
Yeah the bank needed to be informed.
Found your website on SU. I’m hooked! I have subscribed.
Thank you so much!!! Your comment made my day! Also, I checked out your blog and it is amazing. I loved your post on Hampi. I didnt even know that place existed. I want to see that red river!!
#12 not getting travelers insurance. Used it multiple times – once when my travel buddy’s father died and we had to cancel our trip. Once when I took a major spill up a concrete walkway where there was a ramp side wise in the middle (it was dark… no I was NOT drunk) and had to visit the doctor for stitches and once when my expensive camera was stolen and I got it replaced by my insurance when I was home. Worth it! Paid for itself multiple times over.
Excellent advice! It’s definitely smart to let banks and credit card companies know. They often won’t allow foreign spending without advance notice. Ouch! I have contacting them at the top of my list before I leave!
Yes! So important. Let’s just say lesson learned on that one. ;)