We've all heard travel mishap stories – people who've been pickpocketed, who haven't been able to check into their flight because their passport is expired or a hotel that wasn't up to scratch. Whether it's your first trip or your hundredth, travel mishaps are part of the experience but can be costly and stressful. That shouldn't deter you from experiencing the world, though – as Anthony Bourdain said, "Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown," and we say that the small risk is worth the reward. We've compiled a list of the most common travel mistakes and how best to avoid them to make you feel more confident heading off.
If you're heading overseas, your passport is one of the most important things to get you on your way. So before you head to the airport, or even before you book, there are things you need to check.
Six months validity- This is a common travel mistake people make. Most countries require passports to have at least six months of validity to allow entry. If the departure OR return date is within six months of your passport expiring – renew it immediately.
Blank pages- Many countries require at least two to four blank pages in your passport to allow entry.
Passport condition- Your passport can't have rips, marks, stains or missing pages.
Passport Renewal- It can take at least six weeks to renew your passport, so the sooner you do it before your trip, the better. Only apply on the Australian Passport Office website. There are many scam websites, so beware.
Passport and Ticket names- Your ticket name needs to match your passport EXACTLY. If they don't match, you may have to pay hefty fees to change the ticket or buy a new ticket with the correct name. This is important to note if you have recently legally changed your name.
Visa travel mistakes are as common as passport issues and can also cause a huge headache. It is important to make sure you're aware of the type of visa you need for the purpose of your trip, how long you will be going for, and based on the passport you will be travelling on. You can check visa requirements here or chat with a travel agent while booking.
It is a good idea to know what visa you need before booking so you can plan accordingly. Maybe you have visions of being somewhere for a few months but don't realise a visa for that long will be out of your budget. It's wise to know these things ahead of time.
Flight mishaps are a common mistake and can be costly in both time and money. Here are some common flight mishaps and ways you can avoid them.
- Schedule changes and cancellations - Make sure your email and phone number in your booking are correct so the airline can contact you if there are any changes. Even if you haven't heard from the airline, check the airline's website twenty-four hours before departure and again before heading to the airport in case of changes/ cancellations.
- Arriving at the airport - You need to arrive with enough time to check in and make it through security, remembering there can be long lines. You also want to make sure there is enough time to fix any issues that arise and still make your flight. You should arrive at least three hours before departure for international flights and domestic flights – at least ninety minutes before. Domestic flights that depart from international airports may have long lines, so it's best to stick with international arrival times.
- Connections – No one wants to be doing an Amazing Race sprint through the airport with luggage to get from one flight to another. The connection times will likely work if you book a connecting flight on a reputable website but if you book two flights on separate tickets or a very cheap flight from somewhere dodgy – be wary!
- Airports- Many cities have more than one airport, so make sure you don't end up at the wrong one. For example, there's a massive difference between New York's airports – Newark and JFK. Something else that is important to note is that connecting flights sometimes arrive at one airport and depart from another – this is common in South America. Know how you will get between the airports and have enough time.
- Fare rules- Usually, the cheaper a flight is to purchase, the more restrictive changes and cancellations will be. Discount flights can often be wholly non-refundable and non-changeable or have large fees to make changes. Read the flight fare rules or chat with your agent when booking to know how much changes will cost. If you need flexibility, pay a little extra for it.
- Missing a flight- We get it; things happen, but missing a flight can be costly. Sometimes, airlines won't allow a ticket to be changed if the flight is missed and will require a new ticket to be purchased. Also, if you have a ticket with many legs on it, for example, a big Europe trip, if you miss one flight, it will most likely cancel all other flights.
- Time zones- You'd be surprised at how common travel mistakes due to time are. Remember that all flight times on itineraries are local time, and use twenty-four-hour time to avoid AM/PM confusion.
You've arrived at your destination, but your baggage hasn't – inconvenient, but it's okay because you followed our tips! Our number one tip is to have essential things in your checked baggage OR, better yet, try to travel with carry-on only. Have at least one change of clothes and underwear in your carry-on, a phone charger, passport and travel documents, toiletries (sticking to the liquid restrictions) and essential medication.
To alleviate lost baggage worries, purchase our Captains Pack, which offers lost baggage tracking and cashback.
Make sure you know your baggage limits. We recommend packing as lightly as possible to avoid issues, but always know how much you are allowed in both checked and carry-on and weigh before you leave home.
The same goes for when you are coming home from your holiday. You may be tempted to shop up a storm but remember that this can be costly if you have to pay excess baggage fees.
Be Prepared and Reconfirm
You might be the traveller who likes to go where their heart takes them and not plan. That's all very well and good, but that's a surefire way to experience travel mistakes, and there are some things you shouldn't just wing.
- Accommodation- You don't want to arrive in an unfamiliar place and lug your baggage trying to make a hotel reservation. You may not realise the city you've arrived in has a big event and no vacancies anywhere – not a good time.
- Read reviews of the accommodation to make sure it suits you and is something you'd be happy to stay in. Cheap accommodation may be tempting, but often, the cheaper hotel rooms are further away from where you need to be, and transport will cost you just as much as a more expensive room would have.
- Popular activities- If you're going somewhere with popular must-do activities, book these in advance as some book up months ahead. This also may mean that changing activity days may be difficult, costly or impossible.
- Reconfirm everything- You don't need to contact the airline to reconfirm flights, but as we said earlier, check the airline's website twenty-four hours before departure and before you leave for the airport. Reconfirm your accommodation, transfers and any activities.
- Double check- Even if you booked with a travel agent or you've travelled extensively, we're all human and can make travel mistakes. Read through your documents and pay close attention to all the details.
Knowing how you will communicate while overseas is essential – you want to be able to keep in touch with people from home and use your phone to help get around and assist with language barrier concerns (insert link to language barrier article).
International data rates can be high, so look into it before you go. Maybe your carrier offers reasonable international data rates, or you could purchase a SIM card in destination – just make sure your phone can take other carrier's SIM cards.
Research the destination and whether or not it is best to use cash or card. Find out whether you should exchange money before you go or if it's easy enough to withdraw from ATMs (bear in mind foreign transaction fees). Even if you plan to withdraw as you go, having a small amount of cash for when you first arrive is a good idea for things like Taxis and food. If you plan on exchanging before you go, do it at Travel Money Oz because you will get the best exchange rate.
Don't carry all your money on you in public, and find out if your credit card company/bank needs to know you'll be using your cards overseas so they don't block them due to unusual activity. Most banks don't require you to advise them, but those that do make it easy to do online. Take extra cash and credit cards in case you lose one.
Having a budget and sticking to it also helps avoid such mistakes. Use Travel Money Oz's Budget Planner to get an idea of how much you need to take with you and leave some money aside for any unforeseen costs.
Avoiding the beaten path/tourist areas is a great way to save money. Not only will everything be cheaper, but you'll also get a more authentic experience.
Tourists can be walking targets that stick out like a sore thumb. But there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your belongings.
Use a bag you can strap across your body or around your waist and keep the zip part on your front. Backpacks are too easy for people to get into from behind you. Don't leave your bag on the ground, and try to always hold onto it.
Only carry small amounts of money on you and leave extra cash and your passport in a locked safe in your hotel room.
Have copies of your passport and travel documents on you, and take more than one credit/debit card.
Travel Insurance Is Vital!
We've said it before, and we'll say it again – if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel! Purchase comprehensive insurance covering everything you need (e.g. Skiing, riding on scooters) and read the fine print in the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) to ensure you understand what will and won't be covered. Carry your insurance details and customer service numbers on you. If travel mistakes happen, having comprehensive insurance will help greatly!
Set Your Expectations
While we have given a comprehensive guide to common travel mistakes and how best to avoid them, things can and will happen, and that's okay! It's all part of the experience.
You can travel at a time recommended for the best weather, but the weather can't be controlled, and again, that's okay! You can still enjoy yourself; just be creative and flexible. Remember, it is okay to change plans if you need to!
Know The Local Customs, Laws and Culture
One last tip is to research the local culture, laws and customs of the place you are going to. You don't want to get in trouble because you've accidentally done something offensive or illegal. Be respectful and polite and exercise common sense.
We hope these wonderful tips on how to avoid travel mishaps help give you some confidence when travelling. Remember, mishaps may happen, but seeing the world will always be worth it!