Ten first-time travel mistakes

We look at 10 mistakes commonly made by first-time travellers.

Ten first-time travel mistakes

Just as in life, you’re probably going to make mistakes the first time you travel. However, if you remember these travel tips, you may find you’ll have more than luck on your side.

Don’t overbook
Okay, so you’re leaving home and the notion of being out in the world can be daunting – but exciting. Still, you don’t need to lock in every booking in before you go. Pre-book the big things, but allow yourself some room to be spontaneous, then you’ll be able to accept more opportunities should they arise. 

Use your travel agent sparingly
Nowadays you can book almost all your travel arrangements online. But if the price is right, the benefits of the added security that comes with booking your flights and accommodation with a travel agent can outweigh the costs, such as, for example, if your flights get messed up. However, if you trust yourself and your sources, you’ll save a lot of money booking everything else online.

Be wary, not scared
As mentioned earlier, first-time travel can be daunting, but it’s best to be wary, not scared. Don’t mistrust everyone as you may miss out on the time of your life. Having said that, there are scammers out there, and all travellers, not just the rookies, are prime targets. So, keep your guard, be civil, courteous, sensible and friendly, and you’ll more than likely attract less attention to yourself and make more friends in the process. 

Don’t try to see everything
Don’t try to see seven countries in 14 days, or spend your days in all the tourist traps – or you’ll only skim the surface of the destination. Sure, take a tour on your first day and see the lay of the land, but spend as much time as you can getting to know each country you visit, neighbourhood by neighbourhood. Live and eat like a local. Relax and take your time. Trust that you will travel again. Your experience will be fuller, richer and will make for better memories in days to come. 

Travel insurance is a must
Don’t think you need travel insurance? It’s obviously your call, but if anything happens to you – an accident, sickness, stolen luggage, or any other travel mishaps – you'll wish you spent that little extra on an insurance policy. 

Save more money than you think you’ll need
Whatever money you think you’ll spend whilst you travel, double it. Experienced travellers reckon that you’ll spend twice what you think your budget will be – and that’s a conservative estimate.

Packing too much
I remember my first time overseas. I recall returning home, unpacking and thinking, “why on earth did I pack so much?” I didn’t use a third of what I packed, and, honestly, I could have used that wasted room for extra goodies on my way back home. Why not watch our video on how to pack a suitcase, and check out these great packing tricks?

Don’t panic
Things are bound to go wrong – unless you are one of the lucky few. So, don’t let it get you down. You’re on holiday. There are certain risks involved, but that’s part of the thrill of travel. If things don’t go to plan, don’t freak out – it’ll just make it worse. Try to roll with the punches and know that things will work out OK. 

Your guidebook is a guide, not a god
Consult your guidebook to point you in the right direction and give you background information on the places you're visiting, but don’t make the mistake of doing things only listed in the guidebook. Keep your eyes peeled and talk to the retailers, the bar staff and other locals – it’s their hometown, and they’re the best resource for learning about the place you’re visiting. 

Have you found yourself making any of these mistakes in your travel experiences? Have you made any other travel mistakes? Why not share them?

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    COMMENTS

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    Virginia
    30th Jan 2020
    11:42am
    This business about luggage is difficult because weather can vary greatly from the expected.
    From minimum to absolute maximum temperatures and then wet and cold to windy and hot.
    Layering is the best.
    Then we look at the tour is it an adventure or something more posh. I have been caught both ways. Smart casual goes everywhere.
    Tanker
    30th Jan 2020
    1:04pm
    Travel insurance is a MUST and you hope you never have to call on it. AS DFAT state - if you can't afford insurance you cannot afford to travel.
    We have made it a habit in a new city/town to try to take a local tour first up. This gives a good feel for the lay of the land plus you get information you would probably miss. You can then decide if there is any place you would like to go back to spend some real time there.
    Guide books can be a trap as they will, as an example, recommend some good place to eat but good luck in trying to get in there once it has appeared in a guide.
    Those cashcards can be an expensive way to access money as there are charges upon charges in the fine print. We use our ordinary debit card to withdraw cash when we arrive in a country and our credit card for purchases. We always pay in local currency on the credit card as this saves a series of exchange rate charges.
    Learn a couple of words in the local language as this does down very well and smooths out situations. Being able to say hello in the local language as a minimum can bring benefits.
    Greg
    30th Jan 2020
    4:46pm
    Travel cards can be free - I have a CitiBank one with NO fees at all, if travelling through the US ATMs are everywhere for their bank so again no other bank fees.

    Also you deposit your money into say the USD account today at CitiBank's exchange rate which is a better rate then MasterCard's rate which they charge each time you make a purchase.
    Tanker
    30th Jan 2020
    1:04pm
    Travel insurance is a MUST and you hope you never have to call on it. AS DFAT state - if you can't afford insurance you cannot afford to travel.
    We have made it a habit in a new city/town to try to take a local tour first up. This gives a good feel for the lay of the land plus you get information you would probably miss. You can then decide if there is any place you would like to go back to spend some real time there.
    Guide books can be a trap as they will, as an example, recommend some good place to eat but good luck in trying to get in there once it has appeared in a guide.
    Those cashcards can be an expensive way to access money as there are charges upon charges in the fine print. We use our ordinary debit card to withdraw cash when we arrive in a country and our credit card for purchases. We always pay in local currency on the credit card as this saves a series of exchange rate charges.
    Learn a couple of words in the local language as this does down very well and smooths out situations. Being able to say hello in the local language as a minimum can bring benefits.
    John1945
    30th Jan 2020
    1:41pm
    The problems with luggage are many as I have learned the hard way.
    Always check the current weight limits on checked and carry-on bags before you pack and use a scale to check it before leaving home.
    I made the mistake of assuming my frequent flyer status was current. So when I arrived at the airport, I was told I was overweight (no, not my body, even though it was too). I exclaimed FFS (frequent flyer status) and pulled out my gold card. "Sorry Sir, that card has expired, you are, downgraded to silver class, you're over the weight limit by 10 Kgs!"
    "Do you want to pay for your excess baggage? the cost will be $750 Sir.."
    OMG, I decided to take the walk of shame to the nearest rubbish bin (which should be re-labelled "good food and nostalgic items that the airport staff may like to take home"). It was an embarrassing situation with my suitcase open on the floor for all passers-by to see. My pathetic few possessions were looking less valuable than the slick exterior of the case. Grovelling at ground level did wonders for my ego, not. I removed the food items that I had planned to enjoy in places where those items were rare. I removed shoes that had seen better days "goodbye old friends" I whispered as I tossed them haughtily into the bin, hoping the check-in staff would see me and be sympathetic or at least feel guilty for putting me through this humiliating task. You thought that was the only trouble I had? Oh no worse to come. The next time I went to the same airport feeling confident because I had knew my weight limits and my FFS was up to date. I was sure I was compliant. The check-in lady was not smiling as she snarled: "put your suitcase on the scales!" probably because I was one second too slow in anticipating her command. "Your bag is overweight by 10 Kg !" obviously enjoying her power over me. I was incredulous! How can that be? I muttered. The check-in lady looked unconcerned as she said, "Didn't you know the weight limits were reduced by your airline three weeks ago? OMG - they didn't tell me, or I missed their email.
    Another walk of shame! But I had a backup plan. My friend Wayne had given me a lift to the airport, he was waiting with the other non-flyers. As I arrived at the rubbish bin, he came over to offer assistance. I had a large plastic bag ready for all prized possessions that he could take home for me. I quickly filled the bag with things that I thought weren't critical for my overseas trip but were of value such as a nice pair of Italian shoes, bathroom pack of new shampoo shaving cream, including a new bottle of Armani cologne (purchased on my last trip). A bottle of wine and a block of expensive cheese. In the confusion and panic to get checked in, I forgot to tell Wayne that I wanted him to take the bag back to my digs and give them to the landlady for safe keeping.
    On arriving back in Oz after a two month stay overseas. I asked Wayne where he'd left my things. He said: "What things?" I said: "The ones I put in the bag at the airport!" "Oh" he said: "I thought you were throwing them away so I put them in the bin on my way back to the car .."
    There are million stories of baggage problems in this city, this has been two of them and ever anticipate problem-free travelling!
    Aussie Pensioner
    30th Jan 2020
    2:19pm
    Never ever change your money at the Airport, even the banks usually offer poor exchange rates. Go to the Local money changers, you will be a lot better off.
    Greg
    30th Jan 2020
    4:51pm
    If you're comfortable with online transactions book everything yourself, no need today to pay agents fees.

    We self drive so book the flight, car and accommodation for the major or busy places before we leave then get on the phone during the travel days and book a hotel for that night.

    It's simple, cheap and convenient.
    Gotogate
    30th Jan 2020
    5:25pm
    You get much better at efficient travelling the more you do it so do plenty of research on the internet and youtube before you go and you won't come back thinking you'll never do that again. My favs are Rick Steve's travel videos on youtube, Trip Advisor, and general searching for anything you think you need help with.

    As for packing try to stick to black, black and more black - no not really - but adhere to the principal that every item of clothing must work with every other item ie each pair of shorts, pants or skirt must go with EVERY top, shirt, jacket or whatever. That way you can minimise the amount of clothing to take.
    Clothing must be easy care that doesn't need ironing and can be washed out in a bath or sink. Using hotel laundries is verrry expensive.
    Remember that you don't need huge variety and there are probably minimal people you will see regularly so who cares if they see you in the same outfit?
    Same with shoes 1 x sandals/thongs, 1 x comfy walking shoes and a pair of shoes that can be casual or dress up as needed (again must go with every item of clothing).
    Jewelry and accessories - minimal is best. Try to keep it to 1 everyday item and MAYBE 1 more dressy if you must and be mindful about where you are going as some countries it's just not advisable to wear anything even remotely upmarket.

    Important to remember -
    1. You'll probably have to push you own suitcase so no more than one and a backpack is easy.
    2. Refer to #1 and load up the suitcase with the weight allowed and try pushing over various terrain and carrying up and down stairs that will help you to reduce by half.
    3. Find a credit card and debit card that don't charge foreign exchange fees. Use those and select local currency when you pay and get cash as needed from a bank ATM this will save you heaps in bank fees.
    4. If you're catching any form of transport - BE EARLY - it's better to sit around an airport or station for an hour more than you need to than have traffic delays or long lines that cause you to miss a connection which may totally disrupt your plans.
    5. Try something new. Don't just eat, do, see the same things you've always liked, make this an experience.

    Above all enjoy the experience and remember that even the things that go wrong are ok because they create the great stories you will have to tell your friends when you get home!!!!!
    pedro the swift
    31st Jan 2020
    11:21am
    Goodness John, What did you pack? went O/S over xmas and my luggage was only 18Kgs,And I overpacked.
    Anyway After spending nearly a month away and having a crap flight and diversion on the way home. i have decided that long haul flights in cramped airline seats and the hassle of multiple security checks and the general bull that flying now entails is not for me. I will hence forth be holidaying in OZ, probably driving or train.


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