common travel mistakes first time travelers make

This is the happiest time in the world. More people are crossing borders than ever before, and more travelers have access to explore the planet. But it can also affect the quality of one's travel experience if we don't plan ahead.

We'll share common travel mistakes first-time travelers make and how to avoid them.

As a couple who have been traveling full time for 10 years, we have made mistakes. These are the travel mistakes we make and the mistakes we see others making on the road.

Common Mistakes by First Time Travelers

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


trip error due to packing
Light Suitcase is Happy Suitcase

Sometimes we are still guilty of this and every time we overpack, we curse ourselves for not being more diligent. There's nothing worse than carrying a large suitcase or backpack filled with useless items.

We find that when we travel, we often wear the same clothes. We don't need much. Jeans and t-shirts can be worn more than once without having to be washed. Packing for Travel – 6 Tips to Make Your Trip Fun

We don't need clothes for every day of the week, and we don't need all of our toiletries kit. When we have time to properly plan and pack for a trip, we start it a week in advance. We packed up the clothes and gear we thought we needed and then we did it again.

The best rule of thumb is to cut what we need in half and then scale it down from there. If we needed medicine or more shampoo we could buy it when we got there.

We used to pack every thing we could think of that “we might need” in a situation. Once we let go of that mindset and packed only the basics, our trip was much more enjoyable.


common travel mistakes of overplanning
anxiety over planning

Planning a trip is great, but the joy of traveling is getting lost and creating new experiences. Our first trip to Europe was packed with destinations. I think we saw 10 countries in just a few days! We remember almost nothing from that trip and can't tell you a single fond memory from it. All we do is check a bunch of goals off the bucket list and come home exhausted.

Once we learned to slow down and spend at least a few days at each destination, we had a much more fulfilling experience. We met locals, were immersed in the culture, and took home memories of a lifetime. You may also like: The 44 Best Gifts for Travelers


Book tours Ethical and sustainable
Currently there are many eco-friendly tours to choose from

We've been traveling since the late 1990's and we can admit we are guilty of this. Traveling is new and exciting for us and we go on trips to meet hill tribes, we ride elephants and we go on safaris that get too close to wildlife. As education has improved, we ALL now know this is unacceptable.

When planning things like safaris, we always make sure the company is a good distance from the animals.

We never rode elephants and instead, we went to an elephant sanctuary which provided former working elephants and a home.

We haven't done a “graded cultural tour” in years and instead, spent time at the destination getting to know the locals. Or we visit projects that help local villages.

Now when we travel, we ask ourselves whether we are contributing to a cause or whether our presence is disruptive to wildlife, people and the environment. If we don't visit in a positive way, we shouldn't be there.


Eat at Chain Restaurants

The world is shrinking, and we've seen familiar restaurants in places as far away as Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. It's easy to eat at restaurants we know but better to go to a local restaurant and try something new.

Our way of finding places to eat is to walk around and look inside. If packed with tourists we missed it. If it's packed with locals, we'll be in! We've made new friends this way and put together great recipes we make at home to remind us of our travels.


Don't trust your instincts
We were ripped off on this tour

The human mind is an amazing thing. Whenever we have a bad feeling about a taxi driver, a fraudulent tour operator, a black market money changer, or that we are the victim of a travel scam, we are usually right.

Read the most common travel scams from around the world

When we follow our instincts, we usually stay out of trouble. When we let our guard down, we've been conned and in retrospect, we look back and say, “that was so obvious!”

We don't let the fact that we travel, affect our confidence. If we don't feel comfortable taking a taxi with someone, or if we don't want to follow a rug seller into the back alley of the market, we decline and move on.

We no longer worry about offending people after falling for our first scam or two. We now politely say no with a smile and keep walking until we catch the next taxi or find the right seller.


Not following local customs

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


  • 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 take off our shoes when entering someone's home?
  • Do we bring gifts when invited to local people's homes?
  • Is it wrong to touch a child's head like in Thailand?
  • Should my head be covered with a headscarf while walking around the city of Amman, Jordan?
  • Is tipping part of the culture or an insult?

These are all things we think about.

And it's fun to immerse yourself in culture.

don't immerse yourself in the culture

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

We embraced local customs and enjoyed the reaction of a new friend when they saw us bringing them dates from the market after they offered us tea.

The joy of traveling is embracing other cultures and learning from them. We don't want to visit destinations that are exactly like home. We'd better not set foot on a plane if we're going to ignore local culture or eat at the same chain restaurants that we frequent in our own country.


first time travelers travel insurance mistakes

To this day, we still can't understand why people don't buy travel insurance. If we can afford to travel, we can afford to pay the small price of buying insurance for our trip.

We have used our insurance on a number of occasions which we have talked about extensively on our blog. This is a small price to pay for peace of mind.


Broken Back on Amazon travel insurance
Broken Back on Amazon

Many people think they can fly home if something happens. When Dave broke his back on the Amazon, he couldn't fly without a medical evacuation due to the fact that he had to lie down.

If we didn't have travel insurance, we'd have to outsource a medivac costing tens of thousands of dollars.

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

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

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

common travel mistakes no travel insurance
Sat down for the first time in Canada

Not suprisingly The government of Canada recommends emergency medical travel insurance coverage for all Canadians traveling abroad.

Once Dave came home he made a full recovery within a few months.

But there are so many other reasons why we buy travel insurance such as;

  • If we need emergency dental care had to cancel the trip suddenly.
  • Or if we have baggage delays. This happened to us recently in China, and although I didn't go shopping after having my luggage delayed for 24 hours, I was happy to have peace of mind knowing that if it never arrived I would be able to pick up a few things for my ups and downs.

It's important to note that we always call to confirm what's covered.

It is still important to speak personally with an agent to find out exactly how much is covered under our policies and what types of reasons are considered insurable. Nothing beats the phone for the right consultation.

We always ask in advance so there are no surprises later.

Travel is one of the best experiences we can have in life. There's a lot that can go wrong, but when planned right, the rewards of a trip are second to none.

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

common travel mistakes first time travelers make

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