Even the most avid traveler is bound to make elementary mistakes when going abroad. Especially nowadays, when most are setting off for the very first time since COVID-19 brought international travel to a screeching halt in 2020.
Here are the top 10 travel mistakes you (really) don’t want to make:
1. Traveling with a soon-to-expire passport
Chances are you’re about to use a passport you haven’t glanced at for two years. NOW is the time to check the expiry date! Remember that just about every country in the world demands travelers have at least six months left on their passports before being allowed to enter.
Renewing your passport is a time-consuming endeavor at the best of times, yet right now the situation is dire. Almost 300,000 Australians are currently agonizing through extensive passport issuing delays, which the Australian Passport Office is working hard to rectify.
As you can appreciate, this is a huge deal. People are being forced to cancel trips abroad while they await their new passports so make sure you apply with plenty of time to spare.
2. Packing Way Too Much
Overpacking is the pioneer of travel mistakes, and if you are an experienced traveller, it might be the one thing you don't need to be reminded of. BUT…if this is your first trip abroad in a couple of years, then your packing game might be a little rusty.
Here’s a reminder: 17 Packing Hacks you need to know.
While you’re at it, you may also want to avoid getting caught up in the AWOL-baggage epidemic that seems to have taken over the world – Top Tips to Survive Travel Chaos.
3. Cutting It Way Too Close on Layovers
Thanks to COVID-19 and the short-staffed mess it has left behind, short and easy transfers are now a thing of the past. Customs clearance at airports worldwide is taking (no joke) about TWICE as long as usual. Save yourself the heart attacks and plan comfortably long transfers.
4. Turning Data Roaming ON
International roaming is a godsend in an emergency, but it’s a super-expensive way to update your social pages and WhatsApp mum every few days. Turn that exorbitantly priced roaming option off and, instead, buy a local pre-paid SIM card with DATA allowance as soon as you arrive at your destination.
In Europe, a pre-paid card with unlimited DATA should set you back about 30 euros for a whole month, or USD 50 in Canada/USA. About the same you’d pay for just a single minute of roaming with an Australian SIM card!
5. Using ATMs outside bank office hours
When using an ATM abroad, always choose an ATM that’s attached to an OPEN bank branch. Should the unthinkable happen, and your card gets swallowed by the evil machine, all you need to do is pop into the bank, flash your passport and get it back.
Imagine doing that at 2 am on the last night in town? Major travel plan changes are needed pronto!
6. Carrying Too Much Foreign Currency in Cash
Speaking of which: unless you’re planning to travel to remote/rural areas, know that cash is no longer king. You could easily spend three months traveling through Scandinavia and never, ever see a single currency note or coin. No joke! The only catch? You can’t just tap away with your usual cards when traveling abroad. That can get expensive, real fast.
Instead, use international travel cards. Check out the new Wise travel money card – they offer the best exchange rates around and allow you to hold your travel funds in multiple (50+!) currencies. Here are more options for travel cards for Australians.
7. Deciding NOT to take out travel insurance
We know, we know, travel insurance policies have gone through the roof since COVID-19 emerged. But let us tell you: if there has ever been a time to travel insured, this is definitely it. Between lost bags, canceled flights, and snap lockdowns worldwide, even a minor inconvenience on an overseas trip could cost you a mint. Don’t do it! By the way, if this blog were written for senior travelers, this is the #1 mistake we’d beg to be avoided. See 10 Common Travel Mistakes Made by Seniors.
Check out the updated SmartTraveller website for insurance info.
8. Not keeping your data safe
Once upon a time, the main thing you had to worry about on your travels was having your bag or camera stolen. Nowadays, it’s all about your personal data and card info. RFID technology is what allows you to ‘tap’ your cards on a reader rather than slide it through, and it’s this very technology that’s being used by scammers to steal your data. Keep your most valuable stuff (your data) safe with RFID-blocking travel wallets and bags.
9. Don’t avoid public transport
Aside from saving a ton of cash on taxi fares and private transfers, using public transport abroad is an insanely fantastic way to soak up the local culture and get to places you otherwise wouldn’t reach. Meet locals, get lost, find your way again and enjoy getting way off the tourist trail.
Of course, this can only be done enjoyably if you avoided mistake #2 and packed light!
10. Being culturally clueless
The mayor of a popular Italian seaside town on the Amalfi Coast has recently banned scantily clad tourists from walking around the town center. It’s actually pretty obvious, right? If you wouldn’t walk around in a bikini in your town center, why do it abroad? The thing is: people do thoughtless stuff abroad that they’d never do at home all the time. It all comes down to not being clued up about how things are ‘done’ in a certain place. Italy is, contrary to what many believe, a conservative country. Italians only ever wear flip-flops at the beach and even dress up to do their daily food shop. A smidgen of research is enough to learn more about the destinations you’re visiting!
Ever been caught up in a cultural faux-pas while travelling or made a torturous travel mistake you wish everyone knew about?
Tell us in the comments!