Updated: Jul 20, 2022
You’ve been saving up for months and daydreaming about your upcoming vacation. Finally the day has come, you get to the airport only to realize your passport expired two months ago and you’ve now wasted your vacation days and hard earned money. Whether you’re a digital nomad planning your next adventure or a 9-to-5 worker planning some R&R time with your vacation days, proper planning is crucial to a successful trip. These common travel planning mistakes can quickly turn your vacation from a relaxing life changing moment to a down right disaster! Let’s take a look!
Common Travel Planning Mistakes
We’ve all been there before. After months spent fantasizing about the perfect whirlwind vacation filled with stunning sites, mouth watering food, maybe a flirty foreign romance, reality comes crashing down around you all because of one silly little planning mistake. Before you get caught up in scrolling through Pinterest and looking at geotags on Instagram make sure not to make any of these common travel planning mistakes!
Not Budgeting Correctly
Believe me when I say I have lived those penny pinching days of budget backpacking and running out of money from poor budget planning. I remember excitedly booking a last minute twenty euro flight to Paris thinking I was getting such a great deal, only to realize all of the affordable accommodations were booked and the only places left were well out of what I could afford. Before you even book your flight tickets, set a total amount of money you are comfortable spending on the entire trip. Research if where you want to go can realistically fit into that budget. Consider how much flights, accommodation, food, and excursions will cost on your trip and then add an extra cushion to your budget to ensure you don’t run out of money!
Having Unrealistic Expectations
Hollywood has done a great job at making it seem like anything could happen on vacation and with an infinite amount of travel bloggers and instagrammers posting the highlight reels of their vacations, it can be challenging to see the reality of what a place can be like. Remember, things will inevitably go wrong, but that doesn’t mean your vacation is ruined. Just try to stay realistic about what your experience will be like.
Not Having All Your Documents
Whether it’s your passport or vaccine card, in order to fly you’ll need to make sure you have all your required documents up to date and on hand. Before you book your flight, make sure your passport is not expired and that you have originals and copies of all of your important documents!
I’m all for going with the flow, but having some ideas of what to see and do before you arrive on your trip is necessary. Travel time is precious time and you don’t want to waste it floundering about trying to find something to do. Of course be flexible and open to new experiences. Often accommodation staff have great on the spot recommendations and as you meet people while you travel their word of mouth recommendations might be worth looking into too. Still, having a bit of a plan in place before you go will help ensure you have a great adventure!
As opposed to under planning, over planning can also ruin a trip too. As we mentioned before things will pop up as you explore. Maybe you’ll walk by a restaurant that you want to try or hear about a secret beach only locals know about. If you’ve planned your trip down the second you won’t be able to squeeze in any new plans. Plus, if you over book yourself, you’ll just feel rushed about on your trip. You want to make sure you actually get to enjoy your vacation!
Not Booking Travel Insurance
As I’ve gotten older, I have slowly turned into a version of my parents my younger self would deny I could possibly become! Part of that now includes booking travel insurance. When you’re a budget backpacker travel insurance might not seem necessary, but it can make all the difference when on the go. Especially now that we’ve lived through a pandemic, we know our health situation can change quickly. Accidents are bound to happen, which could be costly in terms of medical bills. Plus, if you need to cancel your trip, you could lose out on lots of money! Spare yourself a headache and book travel insurance before you go!
Pro Tip: First time traveler? We uncovered everything you need to know about What Is Travel Insurance.
Not Taking Advantage of Membership Discounts
You’ll want to put your money towards exciting experiences while on your trip, so don’t get stuck overpaying for various aspects of the planning process. In addition to credit cards offering great rewards programs, many membership programs can help you score major discounts when planning your trip. From AAA to AARP, make sure you always check to see if there are potential discounts on offer especially when booking flights, hotels and rental cars. Additionally, many airlines offer membership points to put towards future flights simply by just signing up for free to their program. If you are a student, current or ex military member, or a senior citizen, you might also be able to get additional discounts.
Going on a Shopping Spree/Overpacking
We get it. You book your dream vacation and start imagining what it will look like in your head. While doing that, it is easy to get caught up in the image of yourself you’ll portray. And if you have the extra money by all means go crazy at the shops, but we think it’s best to save your hard earned dollars on experiences during your trip. Plus, having to lug a heavy suitcase about on your vacation is a sure way to make yourself cranky on travel days. While planning your packing list, try not to overspend and overpack. Remember, unless you’re Emily from The Devil Wears Prada, your wardrobe isn’t what will make your memories stand out!
Pro Tip: When packing up your suitcase, make sure to pack all of these Medications You Should Always Pack On A Trip.
Not Knowing How To Get To and From The Airport
Travel days are stressful enough! Waiting in line at TSA, long haul flights, lack of sleep and then landing in a country where you don’t speak the language! Don’t try to navigate all of this without proper planning! When you arrive jetlagged to a country you’ll likely want to get to your accommodation as soon as possible. Many airports have taxis waiting, but are they a scam? How much should you expect to pay? There are many things to know! Other airports have onsite trains or buses to take you to the city center. Don’t rely on Uber as it is not legal in all countries! Make your travel days as smooth as possible by knowing how you will get to the airport before your flight and how you will travel to your accommodation upon arrival.
Not Taking Out Money In Advanced
There is nothing more stressful than finding yourself abroad unable to pay for something! Maybe your bank blocked your card due to your new location, your cards got stolen, or there’s no working ATMs in the area. Your local bank or AAA can convert your money into the local currency before you leave, but make sure if you need currency that is not super common to give them some time to order the unique bills for you.
How Far In Advance Should You Plan Your Trip?
There is no one size fits all answer to this question. While we love a bit of spontaneity, for the novice traveler, more time can make planning much easier. There are a lot of elements to take into consideration when planning a trip, so the sooner you can start planning, the better. If you’re a digital nomad who can live wherever, whenever, you likely already have all your important documents, including insurance, on hand. Planning a trip can be done just days before you go. However, if you are using precious vacation days to travel across the world we would recommend starting to plan as early as six months in advance. If you’re planning a cruise you’ll even have to book up to one to two years in advance, so you’ll have plenty of time to get planning. If you’re planning to travel during high season, the earlier you can start booking the better. This will ensure you’ll get to do everything you want to and not get stuck paying astronomical last minute booking rates.
Nobody is perfect and mistakes are bound to happen, but avoiding these common travel planning mistakes can ensure your trip is a success! Are you guilty of making any of these travel planning mistakes before? We want to know about your experience!
What are your travel planning tips and tricks? Tell us in the comments!