Nobody likes to be teased in a new city, nobody wants to overpay for something, and of course, nobody likes to waste their time. What we want instead, is to come back home feeling we have done everything in our power to get the most out of our vacation. These are 10 most common mistakes when planning a trip or when arriving at the destination. No matter how many you have committed in the past, what matters is that from today on you will not commit them again!
1) Not using the private browsing mode
Have you ever wanted to buy a ticket, but waited to think about it, and tried to buy it later to find that price? Yes, admit it, this has happened to you as well. Then, you might have learned to buy the deal when you see it, instead of waiting until the next day. Or perhaps you have learned a more valuable trick: to navigate in a private mode, so your browsing history is not registered or you are not tracked by the famous cookies that we always accept without reading. When you browse in private mode, the website, so in this case, the flight search engine, has no idea that you have been checking on this or any other flight from your computer. Then, companies cannot raise the price in a desperate sales attempt to make you react and buy before it continues to raise!
This navigation mode will have a different name depending on the browser you use. For example, in Chrome it is “incognito window”, in Firefox and Safari is “private window”. Do you already use it?
2) Not being aware of the seasonality of travel
Your offseason may be the high season of the country you visit and vice versa. The season affects the number of visitors you will find, the transportation options, the lengths of schedules and number of open establishments, and of course, will lead to a better or worse deal price.
While there are places that can be enjoyed both in summer and winter, sometimes it is convenient to do these a bit of research first. You can be clueless and find a good offer to travel to India on your summer vacation without realizing that it’s the full monsoon season. You don’t know rain covers most of the country in mid-July unless you do your research first. Another example is wanting to travel in summer to Norway with the idea of seeing the northern lights. It would be practically impossible since with the midnight sun it never darkens at all and darkness is a must if you want to see them!
3) Not asking local people for their advice
Admit it. You get carried away by Instagram when making your travel decisions. Where to eat, what to visit or even from which exact point you want your picture with that monument in the background. Several reports have shown that a large percentage of travelers choose their holiday destination based on its “instagrammability”. But sometimes the easiest (and the most successful!) thing to do, is to ask the people who live there for their local recommendations.
Surely, in your city, you have seen some foreigner doing things you would never do: eating in a overly touristy restaurant, paying to see something that is not worth it, paying a lot to buy a product that is not traditional to the region, or choosing the worst time to visit a site. If you are smart in your city, why not be smart when you travel? Talk to locals, ask the receptionists at your hostel, and use your cell phone apps to meet local people and ask them questions! You will feel that you are living an authentic experience, that you have insider information, and you might be lucky enough to end up in a secret or little-known place, and that is much better than being a tourist!
4) Not requesting the tax refund of your purchases
Many people find good opportunities to buy fashion or technological gadgets when they are abroad. But did you know that you can request a tax refund on physical goods purchased during a trip? You should check the conditions of the country you visit on an official website, as these vary from one place to another. In Spain, for example, this applies to purchases from €90.15.
To benefit, you have to buy at “Tax-free” or “Tax Refund” stores (they usually have a sticker or sign on the outside). Then, you must request an invoice and the tax refund check (could be in the same cash register or at a designated counter). Once at the airport, ask for the tax return office where they will stamp the check. You can collect the money later at a change office!
5) Not thinking about the standard of living of the country
Sometimes when we are planning a getaway, we let get ahead of ourselves with the cheap flight prices and buy without thinking too much and without calculating how much the trip will cost us: accommodation, food, transportation, etc.
So, you’ve seen a cheap flight to London, but, London is not cheap at all. (“I pay $2 for a hot dog in my country, how come it’s £6 here??”) Or you saw some deals for Copenhagen or Geneva, but oops! (“Now that I’m checking the hotels… mmmm, it might not be that good deal”). We do not mean you should avoid these cities, just be aware of what the standard of living is, so a cheap getaway doesn’t turn out to be the opposite. Sometimes is worth to pay more to fly to a cheap country, especially in long-term trips. To get a good idea of the costs of the city, you can compare the minimum wage of that city with yours. Information is power, friends! And our money is sacred… 😉
6) Not knowing the currency exchange rate
Whether you use your credit card with no mercy, without paying attention at what you spend, or, if you are a more cautious person, using just the cash you have exchanged, you may end up paying more for something than what you had in mind. For example, let’s say you are paying for a beer in Sweden, but you have no idea how much 75 Swedish kronor is. Once back home, you start calculating the expenses or you see them in your bank statement and… surprise! You paid €7 for that beer. Before buying anything, take some time to calculate the currency’s exchange rate. Write down the exchange rate in a note on your mobile, your notebook, on the first page of your guide. Take the time to know the currency you are using on your trip, you will appreciate it later!
7) Not changing money in the cheapest place
If you travel to a country with a different currency, it is advisable to take some cash with you, even if you decide to put everything on your card. Many make the mistake of exchanging money at the airport because it is the most convenient and easy way to do it. But the commissions are very high and, depending on the destination, you might be charged an extra management percentage as well. Better head to the small exchange houses of the place you visit, you can ask your hostel receptionist for the best option!
Another option is to pay for everything with a credit card, but beware, many banks usually keep a percentage of what you get from the ATM abroad or the purchases you make, so before traveling, read or ask about the conditions. Consider getting a prepaid currency card without commissions! And/or exchanging your money online (in sites like Travelex with overnight delivery service). Now there is an app for pretty much everything, right? Find out which ones are popular in your country.
8) Not buying a travel insurance
You are a backpacker, you sleep in hostels, you eat cheap street food or in very cheap restaurants. You don’t pay money to get into nightclubs, and you buy the cheapest flights. But there is something you should never cut back on, and it is in your health. Because in this case, cheap can be expensive! A visit to the doctor could cost a lot more than what your insurance costs. Prices vary according to duration and destination but are relatively cheap for everything they cover in the event of an accident. Many people don’t want to spend money on things they will not enjoy or use, but look at it this way: when you buy travel insurance, you’re paying for your peace of mind!
9) Not visiting the official tourism office
As we are digital beings and we do everything online, we seem to have forgotten something as useful as a face-to-face conversation with a human 😊. The workers of the tourist offices are qualified to give you first-hand, expert information. In addition to the usual maps, they could have special offers that might interest you. Also, this is the place to buy the so popular “tourist passes”. And although it is true that everything that contains the word “tourist” makes us hesitate a little bit, we have to admit that these, when well-used, are a great way for saving money! Don’t miss the chance to ask your questions in these tourist offices and get personalized advice.
Credit: Albert Bridge in Geograph
10) Not carrying the important stuff in your carry-on luggage
We end with a piece of very basic advice, but one that is worth remembering. Sometimes we overlook the most obvious things! As optimistic as you are (and hey! We love that you are like that) unforeseen events happen. Theft can ruin a trip, and yes, thefts occur more than you think. Never check your valuables. This applies to flights or trips by train or bus. Or you know, anything that means leaving your suitcase unattended or away from your sight. Companies absolve themselves of responsibility for this. They only respond in case that the entire suitcase disappears.
Another feared situation: they lose your suitcase, and for some strange reason it is found 3000 km from your destination. Although it is a lesser evil and the company will send it to the address you tell them, and even give you money to buy basic products, you will spend a day or two without your precious belongings. Make sure you always carry with you what you really need.