10 Common Travel Mistakes to Avoid

You spent months preparing for your dream vacation. After countless hours searching travel websites, speaking with travel agents over the phone and increasing your travel savings, you are finally ready to embark on your adventure. But even after investing time, energy and money into this vacation, your trip can go downhill if you don’t take the right precautions.

Don’t allow any sort of travel mistakes to ruin your precious time away from everyday life. You deserve this vacation. Make the most of your getaway by avoiding these 10 common travel mistakes.

1. Not Sharing Travel Plans With Your Bank or Credit Card Company

If you do not make your bank or credit card company aware of your upcoming trip, it may flag your activity in a foreign country as fraudulent activity and freeze your account. Instead of dealing with that headache while you’re overseas, contact your bank 30 to 60 days before your departure to let them know about your upcoming trip. Ask questions such as, “Will my credit card be accepted at this destination?” Other things to explore on the phone:

  • If you are going on a cruise, ask your bank about financial services offered in each of the port’s locations.
  • Ask your bank or credit card company what foreign transaction fees to expect, so you are not surprised when you spend money in a new country.
  • Find out if you could open a fee-free credit card to avoid paying exchange rates overseas.
  • Ask how to use your credit or debit card overseas to save you money.

Your credit card company may offer you travel perks for using a credit card and ways to provide heightened security for your credit card information. Research which credit cards offer the best interest rates, so you could save more and spend less.

2. Bringing Cheap, Non-Supportive Shoes

We can all think back to a moment when we were having a fun night out when, all of a sudden, our shoe broke or began to cause pain in our feet. The types of shoes you bring with you on your journey could make or break your experience. Pack shoes based on:

  • Your planned activity
  • The weather at your destination
  • The versatility of the shoe

To avoid overpacking, limit your shoe selection to three to five pairs. When buying and packing shoes, think comfort over cuteness. Bring shoes such as supportive sandals, flip-flops, walking shoes, evening shoes and hiking shoes.

If you travel on a cruise, pack shoes that you can wear on deck and beyond. Flip-flops are fine for walking by the pool or hanging out at the beach, but bring comfortable walking shoes for exploring local port cities.

Find a pair of shoes that you can wear with more than one outfit. While the best shoes for the occasion may be expensive, invest in shoes that will help you stand for long periods of time.

Wear your shoes a couple of weeks before your trip to break them in. In addition to the type of shoe, you also need the right accessories for your shoes. Quality socks will provide maximum comfort by preventing blisters and masking odors. Insoles will also give you added support.

3. Exchanging Currency at the Airport

The exchange rates at kiosks in the airport are often much higher than what you would pay at home or with a credit card. While ATMs are always a great option, the best way to save money exchanging currency is to prepare beforehand. To use the currency of your desired location, visit your bank one week before you leave and exchange your money there.

When traveling, always have cash on hand just in case. Never exchange cash while overseas, except in case of emergency. To limit fees from ATM withdrawals, do not plan to have much cash on you — about $50 to $100 — and use credit cards for larger purchases. If you are exploring the world by cruise, keep in mind that most port cities will accept American money. Some countries even prefer the U.S. dollar to their own currency.

Although having cash on hand is valuable, carrying a credit card is the best way to save money while traveling abroad. According to a study by Cardhub.com, those who used credit cards without foreign transaction fees saved an average of 8.1% compared to exchanging currency at the bank, and 16.2% compared to what they’d spend exchanging currency at the airport.

4. Not Upgrading Your Cell Phone Plan

Before you leave for your trip, talk with your cell phone provider about international data packages, especially for your vacation destination. If you don’t want to pay for an overseas data package, put your phone on airplane mode and use Wi-Fi for the duration of your trip instead.

Most places today provide free Wi-Fi services in their restaurants, hotels and meeting areas. However, keep in mind that if you don’t opt for an international data package on your phone, you will have to pay roaming charges to use data. You won’t find out the cost that you are accruing on your phone until you receive your phone bill in the mail when you arrive home.

If you are traveling on a cruise, ask your phone carrier about maritime roaming rates. Using Wi-Fi can help here, too. For instance, Windstar provides some Wi-Fi services for all guests. In addition to our standard package, we also have an all-in package that includes unlimited Wi-Fi data.

5. Skipping Travel Insurance

When on your exotic adventure, anything could happen. For aspects of your trip beyond your control, you need travel insurance.

While travel insurance does not replace the need for health insurance, it gives you peace of mind as you deal with unnecessary stress that could pop up along the way, such as lost bags or a popped eardrum. Travel insurance covers cancellation fees, so if you need to cancel your trip, the insurance company will reimburse you. Unexpected disasters or inconveniences could cost you thousands of dollars without insurance, but for as little as a few dollars a day, you could invest in travel insurance.

Buy a full insurance policy to cover any incidentals that could happen on your trip. For instance, Windstar provides travel insurance packages for:

  • Trip cancellation
  • Trip interruption for medical and non-medical reasons
  • Bag delay or loss
  • Medical relocation benefits

6. Overpacking

According to a study by Trunk Club, 41% of travelers consider packing to be the second-most stressful part of going on vacation. Sixty-two percent of Americans claim to bring too much with them in their suitcase. At the end of their trip, they find they did not use 24% of what they included in their suitcases.

One-third of Americans admit that they start packing less than 24 hours before they leave. Taking the time to pack your bags the right way can save you time and energy in the long run. To save stress, start packing at least two weeks before your trip.

Pack as little as possible to avoid having to haul heavy luggage across the country. Make a list of what you think you need, and then cut that list in half. Bringing less leaves more room in your bag for souvenirs.

Think about the weather, the excursions available at each port, and the length of the cruise to help you pack for your cruise. Visualize yourself on the trip, and think of what you will need to best enjoy the activities on your itinerary.

For nearly three-fourths of travelers, found Trunk Club, comfort is a priority. When you’re on vacation, try to get more than one use out of an article of comfortable clothing. No one will care if you wear the same outfit twice in one week! If you are concerned about wearing dirty clothes over again, Windstar offers laundry services on our ships to refresh your clothes and give you peace of mind.

7. Avoiding Food From Other Countries

You may have heard that food in other countries is more likely to have bacteria than food prepared at restaurants in the U.S. However, experiencing ethnic food is part of the traveling experience.

Instead of fearing the unknown, take simple precautions to help you transition into this new culture. The food at home isn’t necessarily safer than the food in a foreign country. Rather, our stomachs are not accustomed to the different types of food we’ll find on our new adventures. Learn which foods are more likely to cause food-borne illness, so you don’t miss out on the opportunity to try new dishes.

You don’t have to worry about food-borne illnesses if you are prepared to handle them. Keep an eye on what the locals eat. If the locals appear to enjoy the food, you should, too.

An infographic by the CDC provides tips on how to eat safely in a foreign country:

  • Avoid water and raw food
  • Only eat seasonings and condiments from sealed packages
  • Ask if dairy products are pasteurized

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) track which countries have outbreaks of strains of bacteria such as E. coli, salmonella and norovirus.

Travelers who are pregnant, are elderly or have weakened immune systems are more likely to develop food-borne illnesses. Take vitamin supplements to boost your immune system. While eating out, communicate with the restaurant staff about any dietary restrictions you may have.

8. Spending Too Much Time on Your Phone

Don’t waste precious time, energy and money traveling to a foreign land only to spend the majority of your trip on your phone. The whole point of traveling is to escape from your everyday life. Don’t bring your work problems or family drama on the boat with you.

If you are going to employ your phone, use it to take pictures occasionally. However, to save money on mobile data, bring a camera to use for the majority of your shots.

You won’t be as tempted to share them on social media and fall down the rabbit hole of checking other people’s statuses while you should be enjoying your vacation. Be present and show gratitude for the opportunity to participate in such an amazing opportunity to travel abroad.

9. Cramming Your Schedule Too Full

You may have a limited budget or time away from the office. You want your dream vacation to be everything you’ve ever wanted, especially if you’ll be visiting your dream destination for the first time. However, don’t pack your itinerary so tight that you don’t enjoy your vacation.

Over-planning will cause stress that shouldn’t come with you on vacation. If you have a full-time job, vacationing is your time to relax. Use your time off of work to take a break from your normal routine.

Planning extra time into your schedule will give you more opportunities to explore places off the beaten path and interact with the locals. Take advice from locals and other frequent travelers, and venture out to new, but safe, places. Let your dreams and wishes, not your itinerary, dictate your vacation schedule.

10. Not Researching Local Customs and Body Language

Every nation uses different body language and cultural traditions to communicate its beliefs, values and ideas. If you do not take the time to learn these, you run the risk of offending people on vacation. Learning the customs and traditions of your vacation destination is important because it brings us out of our comfort zones and helps us to truly experience the richness of the culture.

Show respect for your host culture by honoring their culture and religion while also representing your home culture well. Finger gestures, how you address someone and the manner in which you touch someone could offend the locals of your vacation destination. Do your research ahead of time to discover the unique customs and traditions of a specific culture.

Customs may vary from what you would do at home. For instance, when visiting some religious sites such as temples and mosques, women should cover their heads with scarves. But in many Buddhist temples, this is not necessary. We are all ambassadors for our home countries, so we must show respect for our host cultures as well as the homes we represent.

Share Your Knowledge: What Did You Learn During Your Travels?

People make all sorts of travel mistakes, but the biggest mistake is not taking the time to plan. You will save so much stress when you have a plan, and you take the time to sort through all of these details. Making any one of these 10 mistakes could make your trip a little less amazing, and you want to have the experience of a lifetime.

Windstar will make your travel planning easier with our special packages. Browse our cruise itineraries and find a trip that is right for you.

We’d also like to hear from you in our comments. Share about your most recent vacation. What do you wish you had known before going on the trip?

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