Travel is the best education that money can buy, that is unless you make a travel mistake. Making a travel mistake will not only add stress to your trip, but it could completely derail it. Worse, it could halt your plans. Here are fifteen travel mistakes that people make and how to avoid them.
1. Not Checking Visa Requirements for Each Country
Though it burns me to admit this, I recently made this travel mistake as an extremely experienced traveler. I checked the requirements and got it wrong!
On route to Vietnam, to my horror, the research that I had done was incorrect. The sites I used that I thought were The Vietnamese Embassy were all “broker” sites with duff info. The bottom line for us is I could travel on my UK Passport; Brian could not go on his US passport. Why? The “Visa on Arrival,” while valid, is only an option when you pre-apply.
If you are traveling to a country requiring a visa and not having it, it will likely be denied boarding.
2. Failing to Check Immunization Requirements for Each Country
Some people seem to ignore this step altogether; it wants context. Believe it or not, some countries have mandatory requirements, although enforcement is another issue. Several countries with mandatory vaccination policies opt not to enforce them. This does not mean you should ignore them!
Those are recommended for everyone in the United States based on their age, health condition, or other risk factors. You may think of these as the childhood vaccines that you get before starting school. Still, some are routinely recommended for adults, and some are recommended every year (like the flu vaccine) or every ten years (like the tetanus booster for adults).
Those that CDC recommends travelers get to protect their health, even though they aren’t required for entry by the government of the country you are visiting. Recommended vaccines are not part of the routine vaccination schedule. They protect travelers from illnesses that are usually travel-related. For example, a typhoid vaccine can prevent typhoid, a severe disease spread by contaminated food and water, which is not commonly found in the United States. The vaccines recommended for a traveler depend on several things, including age, health, and itinerary. The only vaccine classified as “required” by International Health Regulations is the yellow fever vaccination for travel to certain countries in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America.
So, let’s talk about the recommended vaccines. My experience is that lots of people completely ignore the advice and take their chances. Let me tell you this if you do – you should not be traveling, period. I’ve been vaccinated for many counties, and I keep all of mine up to date.
Who in their right mind wants to take the chance of getting typhoid in Brazil when it’s transmitted through contaminated food and water? If this example does not ring a bell for you, let me remind you that the Olympics almost did not occur in Brazil due to water contamination.
A required vaccine is one that travelers must have to enter a country based on that country’s government regulations. In most circumstances, yellow fever is the only vaccine required by individual countries. Keep in mind that the CDC can recommend the yellow fever vaccine to protect your health and is needed for a country. CDC’s recommendation is different from the country’s requirement. A vaccine recommendation is designed to keep you from getting yellow fever; a vaccine requirement is the country’s attempt to keep travelers from bringing the yellow fever virus into the country. Vaccine requirements can change at any time because country governments control those decisions.
All Walgreens and CVS offer these vaccinations. Some GP’s do as well. Call your doctor first and see what they have available and then local pharmacies.
Also, note that some vaccinations require several weeks and boosters to kick in. So, start planning now; you will need more than a week or two.
3. Omitting Health Insurance
Did you know that some countries require proof of medical insurance for entry? Not all countries check that you have it, but they can, and if you do not have it, you run the risk of not getting in!
We are talking about emergency medical coverage here, not a medical evacuation.
Emergency medical insurance can help with the expenses associated with an accident or sickness you experience while traveling. Even if you already have standard health insurance, it is unlikely it provides coverage overseas:
Here are the countries that require medical coverage for entry:
United Arab Emirates
UK – United Kingdom
USA – United States of America
Schengen Area Countries that require medical coverage for entry:
The 26 Schengen countries are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland
Can You Get Health Insurance Coverage on Arrival?
Yes, for many countries that require health insurance, there are often kiosks at the airport. This said I would not take this chance.
Does a Travel Visa Suffice in Place of Health Insurance?
Absolutely not! While a requirement of health insurance can be mandatory for a visa, it’s not always as such. A visa does not omit your responsibility to determine if health insurance is required.
Will My Credit Card Cover Health Insurance?
Some travel credit cards medical evacuation, I’ve yet to find one that offers emergency medical coverage.
World Nomads Travel Insurance offers Emergency Medical Insurance with most plans:
Explorer Plan: $100,000
Standard Plan: $100,000
4. Skipping Travel Insurance
One of the most common travel mistakes that people make.
Above I talked about Health Insurance, which is required for some countries. What about the other insurance needs? The other conditions that travel insurance cover are not mandated but may save your skin, so you should consider them:
Note: There are other types of coverages. These are just the most common ones provided by most carriers.
World Nomads Travel Insurance offers one of the most comprehensive products on the market, and most of its products include emergency medical.
You can also buy an annual plan from Allianz Travel that will cover you for all the trips you plan.
5. Not Accounting for Time Changes
As of today, I can say that I have not made this travel mistake. But I know lots of people who have. If you are flying overseas, there is going to be a forward or backward time change. This can cost you a day or night. For example, if you fly to the UK on a Monday, you will arrive the following day on Tuesday.
Today, most flights will tell you that it’s an overnight flight or indicate the next day’s arrival, so it’s easier now to determine time changes while booking your flight.
Be sure you get this right to not book a hotel night for a time in transit.
6. Using Travelers Checks
I view this as a generational thing. I’m old enough to remember when I used them – back in 1996!
Once upon a time, they were a way to take “insured” cash. Checks you could cash in local currency that were trackable. I don’t know if you can even buy them anymore or not.
What I do know is the idea is ridiculous. Take “some” cash with you. Take your debit card in the event you need more cash. Most importantly, use a credit card whenever possible.
On a side note! A recent up-and-coming blogger pitched an article to me on how to travel smart. Their first recommendation was to use travelers’ checks. I was so baffled, I wrote back and asked them if they had traveled in the last five years. I’m still awaiting a response.
7. Not Using A Credit Card That Does Not Incur International Fees
You might think this travel mistake is for the novice – it’s not! I once used a card that I assumed had no fees. I ended up racking up unnecessary expenses.
Check the cards you plan to use and make sure that there are no international fees.
Outside of the apparent collecting of points, travel credit cards have other benefits. Some include car insurance, baggage delay, and many other benefits.
Most important. If you use a credit card, almost all transactions are “insured against fraud,” and the money is not taken from your account.
If you can’t use a credit card (say it’s not accepted), use cash. Don’t use a debit card for purchases.
Note: The bank will consider some counties as too risky. Almost all counties in South America are considered risky so while the bank will honor your charges with a travel notification. They will not honor fraud protection. For countries that are high risk, use cash.
9. Forgetting to Add A Travel Notification with Your Banks
Whether you are using a debit card or a credit card, you must let the issuing bank know your travel plans.
If you don’t, transactions will be denied preventing fraud. This said, with today’s technology, the bank will likely text you so it can be fixed quickly, but it’s a whole lot easier to take care of this upfront.
10. Forgetting to Arrange Airport Transfers
Perhaps an obvious mistake to avoid. Heck, some will say you don’t even need to arrange transport and jump in a cab or get on the local train. This is true for some locations, but not all.
For example, you don’t want to be jumping into a cab in Nicaragua or Colombia.
The key here is you need to research the location and determine the safest options. And be aware of the time you land. Regardless of where we fly, if it’s getting dark when we land, I arrange transport in advance.
11. Not Negotiating Taxi Rate’s Beforehand
Suppose you must jump into a taxi – anywhere. Be sure to negotiate the rate upfront. Taxi scams are the most common across the world. Meters are rigged, routes are often exaggerated to charge more, and many people make this travel mistake.
Even in the states, I negotiate the maximum rate long before getting in a cab.
12. Not Printing A Copy of Everything
By everything, I mean a copy of everything that is going with you:
Your credit cards
And, have a physical copy of
All your travel plans – flights, hotels, car rentals, and activities
All travel insurance
13. Not Having Local Currency on You
I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve researched where the author says don’t get currency at the airport. Nonsense. This is the easiest and most convenient way to make sure you have some cash on hand.
Sure, you won’t want to change all your currency at the airport as it costs more.
But are you comfortable being without local currency on arrival? Are you up for driving around trying to save a dollar here or there in fees?
Sometimes paying a little more is the smartest thing to do!
Lastly, it does not matter if you change the currency here or in the location you are going to. Let’s assume for discussion purposes you are only changing $100 – do it in the airport, then get more cash when you need it.
14. Not Checking Your Cell Phone Plan
I once got stung on a cruise when I had roaming off! Yep, I sure did, but I argued and got a credit. The point here is you need to understand what your plan covers or buy an international plan that will meet your needs.
15. Not Booking Enough Time in Between Flights
If you like to arrange your logistics or if you are flying to join a group. Make sure that you have enough time between flights.
A great example of this is transferring through Los Angeles. The domestic gates and the international gates are a 45-minute walk apart.
You have no doubt read a few of these lists before. Hopefully, this is the most practical one you’ve read. If you think I’ve missed some must-avoid travel mistakes, drop me a note in the comments below. I would love to hear from you!
Nikki Webster is a travel writer who covers how to travel while grinding a day job, how to travel without breaking the bank, hotels, cruising, and off-the-beaten-track experiences. She is particularly fond of Florida and writes extensively about the state. She flies around 60,000 miles per year and has visited 54 countries, 50 states, and six continents. You can read all about her travels at www.britonthemove.com.