Not Valuing Your Time as Well as Your Wallet
Being thrifty abroad is not a bad thing! After all, the further you can stretch your money, the more you can spend it on the kind of incredible experiences that are worth so, so much more than the price tag. Being smart about allocating your travel budget is a great thing, but be careful not to go overboard. The key is to remember that the only thing more valuable than your money is your time — and even more so when you have a limited window to experience all that your destination has to offer. So if a taxi ride costs a few extra but saves you 30 minutes on public transport at the start of your day, spring for it. And if a higher price of admission earns you shorter lines and less crowds, it’s worth it.
Sticking With the Tourists
Some places are renown tourist destinations for a reason, and it would be a shame to visit Paris and miss the Eiffel Tower. Often, however, you’ll find that some of the best attractions and activities are the ones that aren’t in the guidebooks. Don’t be afraid to wander off the beaten path a little bit and look for exciting opportunities wherever they strike you. Sometimes walking just a few streets over from a well-known destination can open up whole worlds that you never would have seen otherwise — and escape the crowds while you’re at it. If the only people you meet abroad are fellow foreigners, you haven’t really experienced your destination at all, just the pre-packaged tourist version.
Getting Stuck on Your Itinerary
It pays to do your research beforehand so that you can be targeted, efficient, and hit all of the things you are most excited about. A little organization goes a long way — but so does a little deviation. Don’t be afraid to ditch the plan when an exciting and unexpected opportunity comes up. If you absolutely love a place where you only planned to spend a couple hours, forget the plan and stay the day — or two! If you meet fellow travelers with whom you click and they invite you on an off-itinerary adventure, say yes! The unexpected is where the real magic happens. Never give up something that could be extraordinary in the name of a plan you made from hundreds of miles away.
By the same token, don’t try to cram too much into your itinerary. Make sure you give yourself enough time to really enjoy where you are in each moment and experience it to the fullest. Your vacation shouldn’t feel like you are rushing from one thing to the next, it should be a relaxing treat to revel in!
Not Being Aware of the Risks
Especially if you’re traveling in a western country, or one where you share the language, it can be easy to become complacent and a little too trusting. I always advocate spending time getting to know the locals and really experiencing the culture, but you should do so with a healthy awareness of risk management.
Take basic precautions to protect yourself against scammers and thieves, and never keep all your money in one place. No matter how safe you feel, it never hurts to stay cautious and alert. Even in countries that are extremely safe, tourists attract a greater amount of petty crime because they are targeting for their inexperience and likelihood to be carrying valuables and cash. Even in places where locals give little thought to pick pocketing, the tourist destinations that you’ll likely visit yourself will be magnets for every thief in the area.
Playing it Safe
Safety precautions are for practical concerns like money and transportation. When it comes to experiences, this is the time to throw caution to the wind. If you come home without having left your comfort zone significantly, then you didn’t travel right! Break out of your routine and do something that the stay-at-home version of you wouldn’t normally do. After all, you’ve come all across the world, and you may never have a chance at experiences like these again! Do the things that scare you just a little bit, and make yourself a promise that you’ll come home having tried at least one new thing, gained at least one new skill, and learned as much as possible. You won’t regret it!
I know you’ve heard this one before, but it bears repeating. Extra stuff will only weigh you down, and you won’t be glad that you brought that extra pair of going out shoes just in case once you’re lugging them around for weeks through countless train transfers and smaller-than-advertised hotel rooms. Bring only items that can be multi-purpose.
Here’s a good trick — for every item that isn’t strictly essential, ask yourself why you think you need it. If the answer includes a “just in case,” “what if,” or “for that one occasion,” ditch it. Next, ask yourself whether you can buy it at your destination for cheaper (you can pick up heavy, space-eating toiletries anywhere).
Taking This List Too Seriously
You’re going to make some mistakes — it’s inevitable when you’re going new places and trying new things. You’re going to miss that train, mix up your itinerary, lose a little money, and regret not taking the road not travelled. That’s okay! One thing you won’t regret is all the priceless experiences you’ve had, so don’t get too bogged down in what you should have or could have done. When something goes wrong, shrug it off and lose yourself in the next adventure. It’s all about the process!