I learned this in Washington D.C. I caught a taxi from the airport to my hotel. At that time I jotted down how much it cost so that I would have enough pocket money for the return trip. After a whirlwind few days, I hopped back in a taxi and after the ride back to the airport handed the driver what I had paid before. When the driver wanted more, I gave him my credit card which he promptly rejected, saying he only accepted cash. Needless to say, he left in a huff and I was embarrassed. Often times it is just a mistake, but it can be a result of drivers trying to overcharge passengers. Always negotiate fares beforehand.
I loved both my Caribbean cruise and my tour of Italy, as they were both five star vacations. But when you are on guided tours and cruises you are generally on the move and will not able to stay in one place for too long. Like this type of touring in groups, some of us may spend too much time on the road wanting to see too much. It is always better to pare down what you want to see or keep it limited to one area. That being said, if you are going to visit a new place, you might want to consider taking a tour of a country or countries to find the city or area you like, then make a return trip in a few years to explore it in more detail.
This is something all of us are guilty of from time to time, as we all want those we love to share in our trips. However, the items we buy need to be carried with us or sent home. Either way, it will cost us. When I visited Hawaii recently with a friend, I began collecting items early. By the time I was done, the half packed suitcase I brought with me at the beginning of my trip was packed to the bursting point for my trip home. However, on my trip to Italy, I bought a very limited number of souvenirs for myself, and one small item for each of my family members. A much more reasonable amount to haul home!
33. Not remembering to ask questions when you are in a new situation.
I also learned this the hard way on one of my trips to Australia. Upon arrival, I went to pick up my luggage and it wasn’t on the carrousel. Fortunately, I knew what to do. I filled out the form at the lost luggage counter and my friend took me home to his family’s house. My luggage arrived at his front door the next day. Although it has been too long ago to remember, I am certain that I was able to borrow clean clothing until mine came. But what would have happened if I had been on my own or it had been lost? I would have had to scramble for a change of clothes upon arrival, which is never a good way to begin a vacation.
19. Not protecting valuables.
25. Not always negotiating a taxi fare before taking the ride.
20. Not packing an extra change of clothes in your carry on.
Classic rookie mistake. I learned how not to do this on my first trip abroad. One of the girls on our semester abroad trip had brought what we jokingly called an "amazon suitcase", and dragged it behind her in the first city we stayed. Our next stop was at a Rudesheim castle/hostel atop one of the Rhine's hillsides. After hauling her load up the hill, she packed a box with things she didn’t immediately need and sent them ahead. The rule of thumb for this is to pack ½ for what you think you might need. Check out my December 2018 blog for how to pack for trips.
When traveling, I have always tried to protect my valuables, but occasionally I too have run into problems. On my first trip in 1977 I had a special jump suit made for me with a velcroed pocket over my chest so that I could carry my passport and money around without worry. However, one night while out on the town, I put my passport in my regular pocket, and it either slipped out or I was pickpocketed.
In Australia I lost my wallet trying to protect it. I was beach fishing with friends and not wanting to leave my wallet on the beach for someone to steal, I put it in my pocket. When I threw out my line, I must have dropped my wallet and being dark, I didn’t realize it was gone until it was washed out to sea.
Put your valuables in a safe of your hotel or the boot of your car if you are out. Don't take a chance!
10. Underestimating the cost of a trip.
Both of the times I had major problems with vacations it was because of accommodations. The first was before online checking was available, but the last was while traveling to Washington DC in 2008. Never assume travel agents or anyone else is savvy with accommodations. It is up to you to double check your travel digs or call the agency if you have a problem. Our room, near Dupont Circle, was about as wide as two queen sided beds with the toilet running hot and the shower cold. After 2 nights we had enough and moved down the street to another hotel.
This is one of the first areas in which youth and travel collide. I was one of those who vacated my life and my sensibilities when I first traveled. My only defense is that I was very young. One such occasion was when a friend and I found ourselves in Oberammergau without transportation home, having missed the last train back to Munich. We should have devised a better plan to travel back to our home base, but my travel companion began hitchhiking and before I could argue, a truck stopped and my friend began to climb in. I was horrified. And although nothing happened, I will never forget the lesson I learned; when traveling always have an alternative plan for transportation, carry extra cash, and always remember safety first. The same can be said about walking through cities. All have their red light districts and areas that may be dangerous. Drinking too much can also be a problem on vacations for the young and old alike. Remember safety comes first and make accommodations. There are many other ways to improve whether you will return home safely with great memories.
13. Not bringing along the correct license if you plan to drive in a foreign country.
18. Panicking when issues come up.
14. Not printing out travel plans, accommodations, and activities, which are paid for.
4. Not informing your bank and credit card companies of your travel plans.
34. Not packing a dress up outfit.
28. Not reconfirming flights and accommodations.
This is my biggest nightmare. I have been caught in this situation several times, even when using a travel agent. The best example was in 2000 when I took my father to Australia for his 75th birthday. We booked the flights through a travel agency and thought they had left enough time between flights to catch our connection. But none of us took into consideration that it was the July 4th weekend when a lot of people travel and flights are often delayed. So when we missed our connection at LAX, we wound up spending the next 11 hours in the terminal. And it was only when I demanded something be done that I was given some satisfaction. My strategy now is to insure I have at least 2 hours between flights in case there is a delay and to call my travel agency if there is a problem and let them deal with it.
Consider this, if you don’t buy travel insurance, you are gambling with the money you have spent on your trip. Travel is expensive, and none of us are so rich that we can go without insurance. As with car insurance, we can lose everything if we don't win that bet. Not only can we lose the money we have spent on travel and accommodations, but if we get sick in another country, we must cover the unpredictable cost of health care and hospitalization there. Since I was called home from Australia in 1997 because of my mothers failing health, I have always carried insurance on big trips, end of story!
I remember on my first trip to Germany in 1977 our chaperone for our semester abroad trip fell ill and wound up in the hospital in Nurnberg because of kidney stones. I couldn’t imagine him not having insurance! Insurance only costs a small percentage of a trip and if you can afford to go, you should be able to afford insurance. So make certain you are covered. The next time you venture on a plane or cruise ship and travel out of the country, remember that you are playing Russian roulette with your financial future and health.
Most people know the need for passports in various countries, but when asked which countries require them, many shrug their shoulders. The same goes for visas.
I will never forget my first trip to Australia in 1988. I was standing at the counter in the LAX Airport when suddenly to my left came a male voice yelling, “You mean to tell me you didn’t get a visa to Australia?!” The newly married couple missed out on their honeymoon Down Under because someone didn’t think to ask about a visa!
The best way to make certain this doesn’t happen to you is to find the latest requirements for visiting the country of your choice. For this go to… https://www.usa.gov/passport, (Everything about US passports and what to do to obtain one.) https://www.passportindex.org/visa.php, (Many questions about visas are answered on this part of the website) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_ requirements_for_United_States_citizens or check with your travel agency.
27. Not checking damage before renting anything.
30. Not carrying extras of meds, glasses and prescriptions with you.
This can be both an embarrassing situation and a disappointing one! In my travels, I have learned one thing about everyday travel in another country, and that is to either have cash on hand or be close to an ATM. Many places while traveling will only accept cash. Some great examples of this include Farmers Markets, flea markets, street vendors, taxis, souvenir shops, and excursion tips. I have found myself in almost all of these situations, but the one that stands in my mind the most was not having enough for the suggested tip for a travel guide. Embarrassed, I left him with what I had and a good bottle of wine I had purchased for myself.
On the surface traveling seems very simple: buying a round trip flight ticket, getting to and from the airport and booking accommodations. But it is so much more complicated than that. If I had to sum up all the mistakes the newbie traveler can make into one big mistake, it would be not doing your homework. Even if you have gone to a travel agency and invested in a travel counselor to set up up your trip, it is very important to be informed about the countries and places to which you will be traveling. I for one, have made all but 5 of these mistakes in my travels, and although I haven't been caught holding the bag in many, often times my circumstances could have turned out so much worse! Like most people, I still have problems buying too much when traveling and not knowing which questions to ask, but that's all part of the learning curve. I hope this blog will help my readers to not make some of the same mistakes that I have made and help my fellow travelers to have a vacation that is fun and care free.
Until the 1980s this wasn’t an issue as there weren’t printers available for the average person. Now however, it is made much easier with affordable printers. It is in your best interest to print out your purchases for every trip in case there are questions or misunderstandings. It is a visual protection of your investments.
One of the most important things that you can do to protect your money and credit cards is to inform your bank and credit card companies of any upcoming trips. I always visit my bank about two weeks ahead of time and fill out one of the forms to let them know when and where I will be. It is also a good idea to keep their phone numbers on hand in case something comes up.
5. Not buying travel insurance, health insurance or car insurance.
23. Not carrying usable credit cards.
Sometimes, even if you have double checked everything and run it by others, you may still run into problems. Case in point, on our recent trip to Florida, I booked what I thought was a great deal. However, what began as a bargain led to us turning down our accommodations, losing our payment, and sent us on a 3-hour drive across Florida in the dark to my friend's home. So always double check and ask questions.
31. Not acting like a guest in a foreign country.
Having a type “A” personality, I am very anal when it comes to checking, double-checking and triple-checking things. When I travel by myself, I make lists that help me with things that need to be done, like confirming and reconfirming flights and accommodations. Once reconfirmed, I always take a copy of the confirmation with me in case there are any problems. To date I have only had one, and that was a misunderstanding due to the wording used on the ad for accommodations through AirB&B.
22. Spending too much time on the move.
If you are on medication, this can be a big deal. When I was in France chaperoning some students from the school that I was teaching at, I wasn’t thinking about extra meds. When our fight was cancelled and we had to stay for an extra day, I was out of one of my meds. But my meds aren’t necessary for me to live, they just help me to function better. What would have happened if I needed meds for my heart or had diabetes? Lesson: Always carry extra medicine. Talk to your doctor ahead of time and get a few extra days worth of medicine.
Even though everyone can make mistakes, I have found that going to an experienced agent can help tremendously, especially when one is a beginning traveler. They have been well trained and very knowledgable. Having gone through an online college travel course myself, I know how much these agents are required to know in the travel business, geography and computer programming. Ask for an experienced agent; the owner of an agency, someone who has been recommended by someone else, or has good reviews online.
21. Putting medications in checked luggage and putting drinkables in carry-ons.
I will never forget coming home from Italy five years ago. I had to go through customs because I had visited a farm while near Tuscany, when from around the corner came a German tourist. She was obviously distraught and from what I could gather, she had to have her dog quarantined and didn’t know what to do. However, with my limited knowledge of the German language, I couldn't help her and had to run and catch my plane. As I left her, she was asking the universe why Americans didn’t speak more German. I had come face to face with what Americans do every day in other countries. When we leave our shores, we need to remember we are visiting someone else’s country and learn their rules and languages. That is half the fun!
16. Not checking out travel and area scams.
Always pack a dress up outfit. I also learned this on my first trip abroad. A friend of my parents was related to the American Consulate in Munich Germany. When I was staying in Munich, I stopped in to see him at Odeonplatz at American consulate. Much to my surprise he was gracious enough to see me and at the end of the visit invite me to a cocktail party that night. I had only brought a homemade, brushed denin dress, so I wore that. But upon arriving, I found everyone dressed in black ties and tuxes and long evening gowns. Again, everyone was very gracious and treated me like a queen, but I was very embarrassed by how I represented myself, and my country. Lesson learned. I now always carry an elegant dress in case I find myself in similar circumstances.
26. Not double-checking everything.
This can be very frightening to a newbie traveler. Fortunately I don’t remember panicking when I lost my passport or had planes delayed, but I know others that have. When I was in France chaperoning students from our high school, our plane was delayed because there was a problem with the emergency exit shoot. One of the other chaperones became very distraught. In our case the airlines put us up at the Paris Hilton, a $600 a night hotel on their dime. I told the kids to make popcorn, go to the pool and enjoy their stay. A seasoned traveler knows that when problems come up, there is always a way to solve them. Some problems the airline solves for us, but others, like when I lost my passport, involved going to the American Consulate for a replacement. Even if you inadvertently break the law in another country, you have the US Embassy to contact for help.
29. Not asking locals for suggestions when traveling.
12. Not checking the laws in the countries to which you are traveling.
On my stay in Rome in 2014, I became aware of how pervasive area scams can be because of our travel guide's warning. In many countries, items that are sold on the streets are knock-offs and are illegal for travelers to buy. If you are caught, you could be left holding the bag for a stiff fine. Pickpockets are another problem. They usually work in teams of two or three people and while one distracts you, another will run off with your valuables. This happened to one of my fellow students in Germany in 1977. Another scam that seems to be worldwide is when people dress up in costumes and pose for your picture, then after the picture is taken they demand an outrageous amount for the picture. So again be warned, as there are many more out there!
This is not something I have ever had to deal with, partly because I have either been too afraid to drive in foreign countries, have been fortunate to be near a transit line or have had friends who I could rely on. Now, being in my senior years, I would like to try this on my next visit to Australia. That being said, I will have to apply for an International Driver's Permit before I leave. Because I have been a member of AAA for many years and have had great experiences with them, I can recommend them for anyone wishing to apply for an international license. Two sites to find information on this are: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/before-you-go /driving-and-road-safety.html and https://www.aaa.com/vacation/idpf.html.
I was in Wausau years ago during a snowstorm with nowhere to park except on a street. I was in my early 20’s and not savvy as to laws in different cities. When I got out to my car the next day, I found a ticket on my windshield. I learned a valuable lesson that day; when in question, ask! Now we can check the Internet for laws of various countries, such as which medications are legal to bring along when traveling, what you are allowed to buy from street vendors, what the traffic laws are, or even laws on physical contact and how to dress. Check before you go as ignorance is no excuse for not obeying the law.
15. Not having cash at all times on your person.
When I travel, I generally stay with friends. However, there have been times when I have stayed at hotels or condos and have had to comment on my accommodations. Just recently some of my friends and I stayed in Key West at a popular condo. We took stock of what was wrong with our accommodations, then sent our comments later to the owners. Today with many business dealings taking place over the Internet, there are often no onsite management personnel with which leave comments, so you may have to call the company headquarters or write an email letter to them. It is always better to check out your accommodations first, and comment to the desk if there is one or make a quick online comment if you find there is something wrong. Either way, you are protecting yourself against unwanted fraud.
The best place to get information about a country and problems is to go to the CDC website at https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/. After checking out this site, a bit of research on travelers scourge (diarrhea) and jet lag is always a great idea. On my last trip to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, in 2009, our whole group came down with traveler's scourge, probably because of the ice used in the drinks or our water. But whatever the cause, it made our trip less than pleasurable. Now it is possible to get a SteriPen Classic to purify water before drinking it. A very worthwhile investment!
17. Not checking reviews of airlines, accommodations, companies, and activities.
In the 1990’s Visa had a commercial on television that featured the world famous Doyles Restaurant in Sydney warning that the restaurant wouldn't take MasterCard. But many places restrict which cards they accept. The solution is to carry several types of cards. I carry my debit card from a local bank, but some people advocate other credit cards that give you travel points for airline purchases and buying things while on vacation. However, it is in your best interest to bring several along should one not work.
Most people have done this at least once on a trip which probably inspired the saying, "I need a vacation from my vacation". My story began with a retirement vacation to myself and it has affected my health to this day. I booked the bus tour, the Best of Italy, through a wonderful company. But when our guide warned us not to try to do everything, I didn’t listen, like many other tourists. I went on all of the trips, morning, noon, and night, then stayed up late to upload all of my pictures on Facebook to share them with my friends. Besides the many wonderful people I met and the luscious foods I tried, I also remember the pain in my hips while walking around in Rome. By the time I boarded my flight home, I had to be helped up the stairs onto the plane and by the time I arrived home, I was in tears. Little did I know, I had come down with mononucleosis. So please, please, please, cut what you do in half! You will have better memories and not end up paying for it with your health.
32. Not remembering safety comes first.
Yes, I know, I have done this too. It is so easy to do. On my last trip I absent-mindedly put my water bottle in my purse on the way to the airport and forgot about it. I was stopped on my way through security and questioned of course and had it removed from my purse. I am certain this happens all of the time. On another trip years ago, but still after 911, I carried some bottles of alcohol with me through check in… Needless to say, I was minus these bottles when I boarded the plane. Check your country's rules on liquids you can carry on board your plane. Rules are always changing, so it is in your best interest to research this before hand. Never, I repeat never, put your medications in your checked luggage as there is always a chance of it being misdirected or even lost.
6. Not checking your phone coverage.
24. Not learning basic customs and phrases of the countries you are visiting.
3. Not checking health and food issues in the country you are traveling to.
This happens nearly every time I go on a trip. I always try to cut costs, but however hard I try, I always go over my budget. A good rule of thumb is to figure out a budget and multiply it times two. Remember that you have to cover everything you require at home, and then you will have to add all of the unexpected costs and daily adventures of an vacation as well.
If you are in need of assistance, ask people around you for help. Most people in other countries know some English and will be glad to help if you really try to communicate in their language. This is when a free Google Translate app really comes in handy! In Burano, Venice, I was able to get a non English-speaking store worker to help me with some purchases because I was able to speak a couple of words in Italian.
11. Trying to fit too much into a vacation.
8. Buying too much on vacation.
2. Packing too much.
1. Not checking passport and visa requirements
7. Not going to a travel agent until you know the ropes.
Unfortunately, I found myself falling into this trap when I was young, and some of my examples are too embarrassing to write about. But the time I am proud of was in Australia when I was student teaching. The job of my cooperating teacher was to follow my progress and report it to the professors at my college. When I left, he began mentoring another student teacher, but later told me he was going to give up this part of his job because I had spoiled him. I was determined to be a good representative of my country abroad.
I still can remember sitting in that basement restaurant in Paris with the lamb and couscous dinner in front of me. The lamb tasted very gamey and was greasy, and to this day I cannot stand the taste of couscous because of this. If our little group had only asked one of the locals if they could recommend a good restaurant, I am certain we could have paid half the price and I would have had much better memories of my stay in Paris!
9. Not leaving enough time between flights.
This is a mistake I was fortunate to never make. Like many other people, I had no idea this was even an issue. Always check your phone coverage before you leave so you don’t get charged with roaming costs. I’ve only been out of the country once since purchasing my Apple IPhone. Thank heavens I was too busy to call my family during the day or spend any time on the Internet. I only used my camera while sightseeing and purchased Internet time at my hotel. If I had to call, I called through Facebook. However, some people haven’t been so lucky. Some people have been charged thousands of dollars and not informed until receiving the bill. One father was charged $22,000 in Mexico for an internet bill when his son stayed in one day when not feeling well. But the bills can be even higher than this in Canada for roaming. So travelers, beware!