The 14 travel mistakes even experienced travellers make

Don't feel bad. We all make mistakes when we travel – even the most experienced among us. In fact, certain mistakes we keep making over and over again, despite knowing that there are very easy ways around them.

Sometimes you just forget the lessons you've learned. Other times you decide it's just more fun to get things wrong regardless.

Whatever the reason, these are the mistakes you'll probably continue to make your whole travelling life.

Not packing a power adapter

Every time! You get to your destination, go to plug in your phone or your laptop, and realise: I forgot the adapter. So it's off down to the shop for yet another one, which you can add to the mountain of adapters sitting around unused when you get back home.

Packing too much

I'm not a light packer. I don't even try. I don't want to re-wear my T-shirts three or four times. I don't want to wash my jocks in the hotel sink. Still, it would be nice to arrive home and know that I've actually worn everything that I packed, rather than pull out a whole lot of clothes I forgot I'd even taken.

Not budgeting enough money

You can follow the edict that you should tally up the amount of money you think you'll need for a trip and then double it – that's a good rule of thumb. But even then, somehow, you'll end up spending more. You always need far more money than you think you will. You'll always find a way to part with extra cash. The only thing to do is to save, and save, and save, before you go.

Not doing any research

It'll be right, you think. I'll go with any old hotel or hostel; the tour company doesn't really matter than much; that part of the city will be nice; this restaurant seems good enough; that will be a nice time of year to visit. And then, it all goes wrong. Lack of research is understandable, given it's usually a product of a lack of time – but still, it really does pay to do your background work.

Leaving something behind

I've actually improved in this category. I used to lose things all the time. I'd leave single socks behind in hostels. I'd forget chargers. I once drove away from an Amsterdam campsite and left an entire load of washing on the clothes line. Now, I swing around and check every time I walk away from anywhere – from a restaurant table, a park bench, a hotel room – to see if I've left anything. It's a good system, but it's not foolproof.

Getting sick

Getting sick isn't always an error on your part; sometimes it's just bad luck. Sometimes, however, if you just followed the perceived wisdom and took certain precautions, you wouldn't get sick at all. This particularly goes for food. If you can't boil it, cook it or peel it, they say, then don't eat it. But that way you miss out on so much that's great about the world of food. It's worth the odd bout of stomach trouble to taste everything.


Taking a really heavy book

I have a Kindle and I never use it, because I like having real books, not just to read, but to keep as a record on my shelf for later. That does, however, mean I'm constantly going away on overseas trips lugging massive paperbacks that I inevitably don't get time to open. Sigh.

Not booking your seat

<i>Middle seat hell.</i>

Middle seat hell. Photo: Shutterstock

I object to the extra fee that some airlines charge to reserve a seat. It's not just budget carriers that do this either – even Qantas does it on certain fares. I hate it. So, I decide to chance it, to wait until online check-in opens to dive in there and secure my aisle or window. That has resulted in a few long-haul journeys stuck in the dreaded middle seat.

Winging it

Sometimes, you just take a chance. You turn up at the train station and hope you can get a ticket. You turn up at the restaurant and hope you can secure a table. You call into a bar because it looks interesting and it might be fun. Sometimes winging it works out well. Plenty of times, however, you wish you'd just taken the time to book ahead.

Going out on the final night

I never learn. I always get excited on my last night in a city, I always want to go out and enjoy it to its fullest, to pack in as much joy and as many experiences as I possibly can, to bid goodbye to friends and have a blast. That results in the painful inevitability of a massive hangover as I try to get to the airport or train station the next morning.

Not checking the safe

I never use hotel safes, for several reasons. One, I'm convinced that if the hotel staff really wanted to get into it they could, and two, I'm highly likely to check out of the hotel and leave all of my valuables locked in there. Apparently some travellers leave a shoe on top of the safe so they can't walk out without emptying it. My solution is just to ignore it.

Taking no notice of the weather forecast

It's so hard, when you're in a hot climate, to picture what it will be like when it's cold, even if you've experienced it before. The same way it's so hard to think about what a hot, humid place will be like when you're shivering through the cold. That's why I tend to under-pack for cold climates and massively over-pack for the heat. You don't need two pairs of jeans in Thailand; you do need a coat in Britain.

Forgetting about tipping


Photo: Alamy

Hey, this restaurant's prices are pretty reasonable, you think, as you peruse the options in the US. Then you get hit with the bill and realise that, first, you forgot about tax, and second, you forgot to add 20 per cent for a tip. Suddenly you're in a really expensive place to eat.

Thinking you're more hardcore than you really are

Overnight bus trip? No problems. I can do that. Long-haul flight via half of China with seven-hour layovers? Worth it to save money. Scungy hostel that's $10 cheaper than the nicer place up the road? I'll take it. Trouble is, these experiences always suck. You always regret not paying extra for a little more comfort. It's a mistake I make over and over again.

See also: The 14 mistakes first-time visitors to Australia make

See also: How not to be a bad tipper in the US

What are the travel mistakes you keep making? Are there any you've eventually learned from?