We all have to start somewhere, and mistakes are all part of the process. But some are easily avoidable, so we’re here to help you steer clear of the 15 most common travel mistakes so that you can enjoy your backpacking journey without the hiccups.
PACKING TOO HEAVY
If you can’t carry your bag with ease, it’s too heavy. This is by far one of the most common travel mistakes that people make, but it’s so easy to avoid! Don’t pack an outfit for every day you’re away, there are things called laundromats. You’re in for a lousy time if your back feels like it’s breaking and you dread moving from place to place. We’ve made things even easier with our free backpacking checklists to guide you through what you really need to bring, and what can stay home.
DRINKING THE TAP WATER
This one seems like the most obvious, but we’ve all been there. We forget, we slip up, or maybe we’re just stupid. But another thing to keep in mind is to avoid brushing your teeth with tap water, don’t eat fresh salads or anything else that’s just been rinsed under the tap, and don’t open your mouth in the shower. If you’re plastic conscious (which we hope you are) a great way to avoid plastic bottles whilst drinking safe water is by using a LARQ bottle. Ever since Zowie got hers, we haven’t had to buy plastic bottles and we haven’t gotten sick! You can fill up from the tap and within 3 minutes have clean, safe drinking water wherever you are. For more eco friendly travel tips read our sustainable travel article.
NOT CHECKING IN ONLINE
A lot of airlines will give your seat away if you haven’t checked in an hour before, even if your ticket says you have until 45 minutes before. Check in online and save yourself a world of inconvenience, even if you still have to check your bags in when you arrive. At least you’ll have your seat secured!
NOT GETTING TRAVEL INSURANCE
You’re not invincible, no matter how big and strong you think you are. This is one of the common travel mistakes that could end up costing you a lot. The unexpected can hit you out of no where and leave you several thousand dollars poorer on a dirty hospital bed in a third world country. Don’t take your chances, just buy the travel insurance so your mum has one less thing to worry about. If you’re looking for a fantastic affordable option, check out SafetyWing. You’ll thank us later.
FORGETTING TO BRING A LOCK
For your backpack (obviously) and your hostel. Most hostels come with security boxes but they don’t provide locks. We want to trust that everyone we meet in the world is good and kind, but if you leave your valuables unattended in your dorm, they probably won’t be there when you get back. Don’t tempt fate, just lock them away and enjoy your day knowing your laptop will still be there when you get home. Check out these TSA approved locks that are convenient for both your luggage and your hostel security boxes.
TRAVELLING TOO FAST
Sloooow down. We know you might only have a couple weeks of vacation leave before you have to get back to the rat race, but planning minute to minute isn’t the answer. Not only will you burn yourself and need another week to recover from your trip, but you won’t have the time to actually experience each place properly. Think about what you really want to get out of travelling and leave yourself enough time to achieve it. If that means spending a week on one island to visit every single waterfall, then so be it.
EXCHANGING MONEY AT AIRPORTS
Worst. Exchange. Rate. Ever. We like to have just enough foreign currency to get us to where we need to go, and then we find a currency exchange at a mall or a more local place. You won’t get bang for your buck at an airport, so hold your horses and wait until you’re further away.
FORGETTING TO TAKE PHOTOS THAT MATTER
It’s not always about the view. At the end of any trip, what you’ll remember most are the people you met along the way. It’ll be a shame if the only photos in your camera roll are of #breakfastgoals and coconut trees. So, go ahead and take that groupie. We know a lot of people have the opposite advice and say put your phone down and experience the moment in real time, but let’s get serious now. We know your phones are glued to your hands, so don’t forget to capture the moments you’ll want to look back on later. It’s one of those common travel mistakes you can easily do something about.
FORGETTING SLEEPING AIDS
Hostels are not places of uninterrupted sleep, they are loud, they are bright, they are too hot or too cold. If you’re a light sleeper and want any hope of getting a good nights rest at a hostel, you’re gonna need a thing or two to help. Pack a sleeping mask, ear plugs, travel pillow and small blanket and hope for the best. Our favourite travel pillow is this nifty 3-in-1 pillow which we guarantee you’ll use more than you think, both in hostels and on the road.
PLANNING TOO MUCH OR TOO LITTLE
Not researching your destination is a rookie error that can be easily avoided. Plan enough to know the culture, the societal expectations, the dress standards and the local laws so that you don’t accidentally offend anyone or get yourself into serious trouble. Some of the things you can do at home, you just can’t do in other countries, so be a smart traveller and everybody wins. Our Quick Guides are a great place to start if you’re looking to learn a little about a place before booking your trip.
But, planning too much is also a fault, and often leaves you with zero window for error. No matter how much you plan, there’s bound to be something that goes wrong, so be flexible enough to take it as it comes and don’t let your entire trip hinge off one little hurdle.
BOOKING FLIGHTS WITH A SHORT LAYOVER
You might think that two hours between flights is a big enough window, but it’s not when you take into consideration your first flight being delayed, the chaos of some of the airports around the world and the time it takes to change terminals. We’d much rather have too much time and sit in an airport for a couple hours than have the stress and anxiety of cutting it too close, or missing it altogether. We’ve found that the easiest (and cheapest) way to plan your ideal route is on Skyscanner.
HAVING TOO MUCH CASH
Getting your cash stolen is bad, but getting all your cash stolen is really, really bad. You’ve probably set a budget for your trip and have been saving up a while. Don’t withdraw all your savings, exchange it and run around with a giant wad of cash. You’re just asking to be robbed. Have just the amount you need and don’t keep it all in one place, separate it so that if your wallet gets stolen you’ve still got a stash somewhere else to fall back on.
NOT INFORMING YOUR BANK YOU’RE ABROAD
Need to book a flight on your credit card while you’re away? That’s gonna be hard if your bank cancels your card due to a suspicious overseas transaction when it was just you stocking up on snacks at a 7/11 in Japan.
BEING TOO TIGHT WITH MONEY
Sometimes, you need to weigh your options. For most people, they don’t have all the time in the world to travel. They might just have two weeks, so losing an entire day to sea and land travel isn’t always practical when you could just take a two hour flight. The extra travel might only save you a few bucks anyway. And maybe walking four hours in Thailand because you can’t figure out the public transport isn’t the best alternative to a taxi. Figure out if you value time over money, or money over time.
PACKING THE WRONG CLOTHES
Packing anything expensive when you plan on roughing it as a backpacker isn’t the best idea. Neither is too much denim or anything white. Denim takes up way too much space in a backpack and takes forever to dry, and your whites will soon turn to greys since they won’t get the same TLC from a cheap laundry place that you would give them back home. We have a complete guide on what to pack and how to pack it if you’re still looking for more tips.
So there you have it! We’ve made the most common travel mistakes ourselves, so that you don’t have to! Learn from us, be better than us, and happy backpacking. Sharing is caring so don’t forget to share this article with your travel buddies so they know what to avoid as well!