Welcome to the second post in my series “Top Travel Mistakes.” I recently collected information on the biggest mistakes people make when traveling and composed a list of the top 10 (plus a few bonus tips, just for you!) This series explores and expands on that list and provides more detail about how to avoid making these common errors when you travel.
# 2 Not Planning Ahead
We all know that person who waits until the very last minute to do just about everything. The spontaneous, live-in-the-moment type, who would rather leave everything to chance than worry about the future.
Ok, I’m that person… or at least I used to be…
While there is nothing wrong with that mindset, it can cause some major bumps in the very much unpaved road when it comes to traveling. Even people like us should make sure certain things are in order before starting out on an adventure.
Where are you going? Do you have a place to stay? Do you have enough money to get you through the whole trip? How will you get around? What will you do if there is an emergency? If you can definitely answer those questions you should be fine. If you can not, well, let’s see if we can compromise on not planning some of the less important stuff so that we can at least keep you safe, sheltered, and able to make it through your whole trip.
What Should You Absolutely Plan Ahead For?
- Location– While it is fun to throw a dart at a map and be happy with the results, it is always a better idea to pick a place you would actually like to go.
Now, there are packages that can be put together for the most adventurous of travelers where you give your travel planner a set of dates and a reasonable budget, and then they plan the whole thing for you without telling you where you are going until right before the trip. We take care of everything you need, and all you have to do is show up and enjoy your surprise vacation! I’ve always wanted to try something like that for myself, but it would be extremely hard for me to hand over that control to someone else. But it truly is an exciting idea!
- Know before you Go- Once you’ve decided on your location you should find out a little bit about it. This is a step that I find a lot of people skip because beautiful sunsets look so appealing in pictures and research can seem tedious and boring… But I assure you, it is in your best interest!
For example: Do you know when hurricane season is and what parts of the world these and other tropical storms affect? Did you know that some places in Alaska, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Canada may only see a couple hours of daylight during certain parts of the year? Do you know that it is unsafe for members of the LGBTQ+ community to visit some territories in Africa and Asia because homosexuality is not only frowned upon, but is illegal? I actually have an entire article about what you should know before you travel, and you can read it here!
This is a small list of things that many people would never think of, but that may change the whole outcome of your trip, causing you to have a negative experience. My advice? Do some research. Or better yet, get a travel agent to do it for you! (My contact info will be below 😊)
- Your Budget– This one is tricky because even if you’ve done your research you may not know what an average day’s budget should look like, and it will not be the same for every traveler. Your budget will vary based on your own travel style and interests. The key point here is to make sure you have enough to get you through the entire length of your trip, and, if at all possible, have a little extra in case of emergencies. Check out my article on Budgeting For Your Adventure for more insight on the topic.
- Lodging– Whether it’s a Bed and Breakfast or a hammock strung between two trees on the beach, you should always know where you’re staying prior to traveling. There are many ways to do lodging and none of them are wrong. This can range anywhere from couch surfing to exclusive luxury resorts. Travelers have more options now than ever before when it comes to where they are able to stay.
Some options to consider are Hotels, Motels, Resorts, Air B&Bs, Hostels, Rental Homes, Cabins, Apartments… Once when we visited Costa Rica we stayed in a gigantic Treehouse… it was incredible! (I will tell you that if you are looking for something more exotic or unusual you will need to book much farther in advance than you normally would. These types of lodgings get reserved extremely fast!) Whichever route you decide to take, the goal is to have somewhere safe to stash your belongings and lay your head at the end of the day.
- Transportation– This one may seem less necessary than my other tips, (and may even be negotiable to our anti-planners), but I feel that it is just as important.
First thing first- how are you getting from the airport to your lodgings? While there is public transportation in just about any major city you’d want to visit, that is not your only option, nor may it be your best. Many major cities require you purchase bus passes, train passes, subway passes, etc., and they can get expensive. You can also rely on Taxis or ride sharing in many cities… but that, too, can get expensive. Many places around the world also advise against using any form of ride sharing other than official taxis for safety reasons.
Aside from that, using public transportation forces you to run on someone else’s schedule. It may be more beneficial to rent a car, a moped, or a couple of bicycles to get from place to place, depending on where you’re at. Personally, I always rent a car (moped, etc.) because it gives me the most freedom, but based on your trip, you may not need to. Weigh your options and figure out what will work best for you so that you can plan accordingly.
- Travel Requirements– Some countries require more than just a passport to enter. Will you also need a Visa or other specific documentation? Will you need to get any vaccines before traveling there? This is especially important in the world right now in light of the Coronavirus Pandemic, as there are a range of new requirements that need to be met before visiting other countries, and even returning to your own. Check out my blog on Traveling Requirements to find out what you may need for your next trip.
- Emergencies– This is an important one, so please take notes. What would you do in case of an emergency while traveling? Do you have a plan of action? Here’s what I recommend:
- Always let someone know where and when you are going. You don’t need to broadcast it all over your social media, but at least a few people in your inner circle should know your itinerary.
- Keep a list of emergency contact numbers on you at all times. This should include a close family member or friend, your doctor, and any other essential contacts.
- Keep a list of medical conditions you have, as well as medications you are taking. This can be on the same list as your contacts.
- Know the local emergency numbers. In the USA it’s ‘911.’ This will be different in other countries. Write it down. Program it in your phone. Memorize it.
- Get good Travelers Insurance. Seriously- you’d be surprised how many different incidents a good plan will cover. The best plans will cover you door-to-door.
What Not To Plan
Ok, so this is where we compromise. Even if the only planning you do just covers those 7 things you should be fine. Now, with more experience under my belt, I’ve discovered that planning is half the fun! (Really, I wasn’t always like this!) But there is such a thing as over-planning. I’m only going to touch very lightly on it here I have an entire post dedicated to Over Planning that I encourage you to check out.
- Don’t plan every minute of every day. It’s more fun to leave some things up to chance. If you are going to book activities or make reservations, I recommend scheduling no more than one (or two, MAX) per day.
- Don’t plan a different outfit for every day. (Check out my post about Packing and Over Packing for some of my packing tips!)
- Leave one day completely open. This is not to say you shouldn’t do anything at all, but rather go wherever the breeze takes you… or just relax and take it all in.
- Don’t plan for disaster. Of course, things can go wrong, and they sometimes do… but you will drive yourself crazy if you start thinking about all the different issues that might occur. Scroll back up and look at number 7 again… If you can check all those things off your list, you’re good to go.
Keep in Mind:
Another thing to keep in mind is that you may not get to do ALL of the things you want to do if you don’t plan for them in advance. A lot of places require tickets or reservations and will not be able to accommodate walk-ins. Restaurants, shows, excursions, spas, and a lot of different forms of entertainment book quickly, and if you don’t book in advance, you might miss out. You may not get to take that scenic boat ride on the ocean, or see the dinner show with great reviews spur-of-the-moment. If there is something in particular that you would like to do, call ahead and see if you can make a reservation. Call before you leave for your trip if possible. Your travel agent is also able to make reservations for you. If you’re using a TA, use all of their resources!
*Pro Tip: Download the local maps right onto your smart phone!
You can download the google maps app from your app store, select the area you’re traveling to, and save it in your phone. This will allow you to use the maps even when you don’t have any cell service or internet connection. You can also ‘pin’ the different attractions you want to visit while you’re there and when you are ready to visit them it will give you directions on how to get there. I make sure to do this every single time I travel, and it has really saved me in the past!
Typically, I’m more concerned about over-planning than I am under-planning. I believe that our best travel experiences are when we are flexible and allow ourselves to just go with the flow. I like to have some structure, but not too much… and by following my own 7 rules from above, I am doing all the planning before the trip, giving myself the ultimate freedom once the adventure begins! If all this planning seems like too much work, or is too stressful for you, use a travel agent! (My contact info will be below!) We know what we are doing, and will ensure that your adventure is everything you want it to be with as little work for you as possible!
I would love to meet each and every one of you, and get to know all about your traveling style, and your dream vacation! So, if you’re ready to schedule your first travel consultation, please see my info below!
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