My most common travel mistakes

It’s not uncommon to make a couple of mistakes throughout your travels. Isn’t that how we learn best? Maybe. I know I’ve made my fair share of mistakes over the years but I gather myself after and learn how to overcome these or any other challenges. I would like to think it is part of being an adult. Regardless, my routine looks pretty similar each time I hit a bump on the road:

Cry.
Laugh it off.
Sit disbelief.
Recover and learn from it.
Tell everyone how not to make my mistakes.
Laugh again.
Drink wine.

Okay, so maybe for the most part, I don’t actually shed any tears; I just generally sit in disbelief at what an idiot I am sometimes. Unless they are major mistakes, in which case, I have broken down in front of complete strangers… Nothing I can’t recover from! Nonetheless, I’ve gotten myself into some shocking situations – a lot of which could have been easily avoided. I’ve decided to make a list of occasionally reoccurring mistakes in hopes that you will learn from them.

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Slow boat down the Mekong which took TWO days

Underestimating how long it takes to get places.

Disclaimer: Punctuality isn’t one of my strong points.

As a kid, Mom repeatedly told me how I should learn to be early or on time but… I never listen. Surprisingly, I have yet to miss any of my flights but I’ve been uncomfortably close. One such example was in Warsaw, Poland. I estimated the time it would take me to get from my hostel to the train station but I had forgotten to account my little pit stop at the pharmacist so I had to rush to purchase my ticket and board my train to the airport. I managed to get to the right platform as my train pulled away. Fortunately for me, I was in Eastern Europe so the taxi to the airport didn’t burn a (massive) hole in my wallet.

This can also be adapted when you’re taking public transport or long distance journeys. While in Laos, what was meant to be a 15 hours trip turned out to actually be 17 hours.

Tip: Always take into account traffic and include buffers when you’re time planning. Sometimes things happen beyond your control and you’ll have to learn to make do.

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Currencies from a couple of my travels

Withdrawing cash.

This is one of my more recent travel mistakes. During a trip to Budapest, I drunkenly tried withdrawing some money and mistyped the number of 0’s while deciding on an amount (the exchange was about 1 AUD = 200 HUF). Instead of taking out a sensible 6000 HUF, I withdrew 60 000 HUF. Yep, small boo-boo. An accidental nudge on the 0 button made me withdraw more money than was necessary. It wasn’t as if I had many more days to spend the money, it was my second last night! There was NO way I could spend all that. It was a fixable mistake, I converted most of it over to British Pounds as I was headed there soon and now all’s well.

The funny part about this story was just before I used the ATM; I helped prevent my friend from doing the same mistake that I later did… 2 minutes later. Oh Caroline. This doesn’t necessary happen only while under the influence, it just has a higher tendency to happen. Watch out for those sneaky zeros especially when the exchange deals with more zeros.

Note: Be wary of the ATM you are using. There are a lot of places where card skimming is a problem so keep vigilant and check your bank statements for any discrepancies.

Taking your debit/credit card out drinking

That being said, it’s probably a good idea to NOT take your card out with you when you hit the bottle. It becomes significantly harder to gauge how much you’ve spent, you won’t stick to your daily budget and what’s worse is if you unfortunately loose your card! There’s been a couple of times while buying rounds that the next person just disappears so you don’t get that round (don’t be that guy) which is great. Sometimes you think you’re a helluva big spender after pay-day and get a little carried away. I like keeping (somewhat) to my budget and take a set amount to hit the town with, leaving my card back in the hostel/home and withdraw cash beforehand but this doesn’t always happen and my wallet feels the pinch the next day. Whoops?

Being too hung to do anything

I feel like this is a reoccurring theme. A lot of us makes silly mistakes while drinking, right?! I can’t be the only one!

Drinking too much, too quickly. As a 23 yr old, I feel like I should know better. When I’m back home, my alcoholic ways are kept to a minimal with a cheeky beer or glass of wine on occasion so for the most part, I overestimate my drinking ability while I travel, which doesn’t help. There’s been countless numbers of times “one drink” turns into an impromptu pub crawl and shots start getting involved. One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor! I proceed to resume fetus position in my bed, trying to recover and regretting that open bar I was at before. Unfortunately before of these great fun nights out, I’ve missed out on a lot of things such as; the Thermal Baths in Budapest, a couple of lagoon tours in Philippines, a whole day of motorbiking in Vietnam and almost missing Auschwitz to name a few.

Sometimes you don’t need to get hammered on a night out (although it seems to just happen to me), there’s been a couple of times I head out sober and still have a wicked night. If you see me out, please don’t give me any shots or get me to play any drinking games. My liver, head and wallet will thank you the next day.

Hitting the slopes in Norway

Letting weather control your journey

This is a mistake that I’m consistently making. Unfortunately, I continuously let the weather forecast dictate my decisions. One such recent mistake was while in Poland – the initial plan was to head to Zakopane for a few days after Krakow but as hiking was the main activity in Zakopane and the weather was forecasted to be pretty wet, I repeatedly delayed going down to Zakopane until it was too late. Needless to say, I was pretty cut up about it. I met a few people who headed down regardless and mentioned that the weather was amazing. I missed out on such a beautiful place because I thought the forecast would be 100% accurate. Take everything with a grain of salt!

I am a creature of the cold so I don’t shy away from winter destinations. Unfortunately, this does deter a lot of others away. It can be really lovely seeing a town blanketed in a layer of snow, giving off a fairy tale feel and it’s almost magical. In addition to that, there is a decrease in tourism so you’ve got almost the entire place to yourself. Now who wouldn’t want that? The most important thing is to be properly dressed for the climate.

Not doing any research

I am a strong believer of winging my travels and seeing where the road takes me but that’s not necessarily the best idea. My lack of planning causes me to miss out on some amazing places because I either didn’t know about it or by the time I get around to planning for it, it’s pricey or fully booked! It’s good to get into the habit of reading up about your destination as you may come across cultural sensitivities or understand a bit more about the city beforehand.

In all fairness, I do love knowing the bare minimum about a place. The idea of everything being new and unexpected is what gives me the travellers’ kick. Anyways, always a good excuse: “I didn’t get the chance to see said place so I’ve got to go back!”

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While a lot of my mistakes happen while I was intoxicated, I’m not saying I didn’t have the most amazing time. I’ve crossed paths with some friendly locals, been on ridiculous adventures and have had great company while on the piss. Life is roller coaster and travel is all about learning and adapting to your surroundings. Hopefully you learnt a thing or two from me to help you on your next trip!

Peace, love and good vibes.

18 Replies to “My most common travel mistakes”

  1. That first one is a BIG one! I generally consider travel days to be write-offs, and if I have time to do anything besides get from A to B, it’s a bonus.

    Re: research, there’s definitely a good middle ground to aim for. It’s great to be flexible and spontaneous, but there’s no need to go in totally blind. I agree that you should, at minimum, know a bit about the culture — otherwise you could wind up being unnecessarily disrespectful.

  2. OMG the first one, I’m laughing so hard because I do this every damn time!!!
    I always Google Map things and I give myself an extra like 20 minutes in case I want to stop along the way or I get lost or something. But I usually always run out of time and have to nix something from my schedule because I took too long to get there. Something else I do is I never account for time to wait in lines and such. Like, it takes 20 minutes to get from here to there, then I’ll be here for an hour, then I’ll go. But in reality, I’m not at the attraction for an hour because the line is so long so its more like 2 or 3 hours! I never allow myself enough time!
    Love this post! So relatable!

  3. I never take my card with me on a night out for those reasons! And I have learnt to go explore eve if the weather socks because you may not actually make it back there! And I totally agree about doing some research! You don’t want to miss out

  4. I feel you about underestimating the time it takes to get to places, or just generally how much time you spend trying to sort out logistics of things! Thank you for sharing your mistakes 🙂

  5. THAT FIRST ONE. Oh my goodness. Yes. That right there is #1 for me. Walking time and short rides within the city can add up and push itineraries off schedule. Also, I used to make the mistake of not preparing the small intracity fares. Those can add up, too!

    Thanks for this! Everyone needs to be reminded every once in a while to not do these things. Even seasoned travelers make mistakes still, and we do just have to be flexible and roll with it so we can enjoy our trip. Those mistakes can turn into fun stories in the end!

  6. I have definitely done all of these!
    The worst was a night in Hong Kong when we took our card out with us, spent a fortune and was too hungover the next day to do anything! To top it off, we got mega sick two days later and spent the rest of our time in bed!

  7. this is such a great post. I too have sometimes ended up sitting on a bus for what seems like a bajillion hours when the person at the bus station tells you it’s only going to be an eight hour ride. In Laos an eight hour ride turned into a thirteen hour one.

  8. My family is SO guilty of letting the weather control their trip. They’re from California and for some reason, they always seem to visit me in Ireland during the winter. One time they actually said they would wait until the raining stopped before they went out…in January. I laughed and told them they’d have to wait until March.

    Personally, I’m an over packer. I like being prepared for anything so finding the balance there is difficult.

  9. Great tips! Thanks for this, I am ALWAYS running late so number 1 is pretty relevant to me! I also love not taking the bank card on a night out, as soon as I’ve had a few drinks I become the biggest big spender, offering everyone a drink at the same time!

  10. So true. I met a guy once who had been staying in a hostel in Rio for one whole month and hadn’t even seen christ redeemer or copacabana beach (which was a five minute walk away) because he had been partying so much and sleeping all day. Glad you were able to exchange all of the money in Budapest back to pounds! We were unable to exchange the £100 worth of Vietnamese Dong, apparently no one will accept t, and so have wasted money sitting around! The lessons you learn, hey?

  11. Right there with you with the being too hung over and under planning! haha Great tips!!

  12. lol 🙂 interesting story. it is all a learning process. I prefer to research and check twice or more. and carry extra American money just in case. but at least u can laugh about it now 🙂 enjoy travels

  13. Confession: I’m bad at accounting for time either!! I totally suck at factoring in travel time and assume I can get somewhere in like 10 minutes haha

  14. A bit of a common theme here! 😉 At least it’s always turned out ok in the end though. I absolutely love researching trips before hand, thats half of the fun for me!

  15. Love the mentions of Poland! I was born there so it holds a place near and dear to my heart. And I so agree with underestimating time to get somewhere, haven’t missed a flight yet but have also been really close!

  16. I love this! I have done some of these things so many times. I was just in Mexico and pulled out too much cash AND took my debit card drinking. Yikes!

  17. Oh the first one!! I have almost missed my flight thrice for some reason or the other.
    And yes, I have done that too …. withdrawing more cash than needed. 🙂 so you are not alone.

    Zakopane is really a beautiful place, pity that you missed it.

  18. I can’t even remember the number times I have planned journey/ itinerary based on travel distance and then end up cancelling half things due to ignoring general traffic or me starting off late. But that is not to say I have improved my time management skills, I guess old habits die hard. And yes, relying completely on weather forecast is not advisable. I have been soaked to skin so many times on day trips, while the forecast showed bright and sunny 🙂

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