Travel can be eye-opening and life-changing. It can also be stressful. No matter how worldly or prepared you are, things are bound to go wrong. But if you learn about the traps people fall into when they travel, you may become a smarter traveler yourself.
"It’s perfectly normal to be anxious before any trip you go on," Hostelworld’s head of product and design and travel expert Breffni Horgan tells Bustle. "You are, after all, traveling into unfamiliar territory. But that’s part of all the excitement and one of the reasons why I want to encourage women to embrace not just traveling, but traveling alone. ... Everyone tells you that traveling will make you more confident, that you’ll find yourself, that you’ll be creatively inspired. That’s all true."
There are also a lot of ways travel can go wrong, though. Looking out for your safety is paramount when you're in a foreign country, especially if you're alone. It's also important to plan ahead for mishaps like running late, forgetting or losing possessions, and signing up for activities you don't end up enjoying. Here are some mistakes people make when they travel — and some tips on avoiding them so you can enjoy your excursions to their fullest.
1. Not Building In Time Cushions
When you're planning your itinerary, you should plan for things like your flight arriving late, encountering traffic on the way to your hotel, and getting lost. "Having an added time buffer can help with the stress and anxiety surrounding traveling, especially during the busy holiday travel season," psychotherapist Heidi McBain, MA, LMFT tells Bustle. "This can help you arrive at your destination in a calm and relaxed manner, with your mental health still intact!"
2. Not Getting Travel Insurance
Travel insurance may be expensive, but it's more expensive to have to pay for a new flight when you can't make the one you booked. It's hard to predict what will come up, whether it's an opportunity that requires you to be somewhere else or a security hazard that leads you to avoid a certain part of the world.
That's why Katie Dillon, travel expert and founder of La Jolla Mom, recommends buying travel insurance. "One of the biggest mistakes people can make when traveling is to skip travel insurance," she tells Bustle. "This can cause people to travel when they don’t want to, or to lose money on prepaid airfare because they can’t go on their planned trip."
3. Feeling Obligated To Visit Tourist Attractions
There's a specific kind of fear of missing out that arises when you travel, making you feel obligated to visit every tourist attraction. But you should plan your trip around what you want, not what you feel you should do.
"A big and common mistake is to bite off more than you can chew because you 'should,'" Talya Miron-Shatz, PhD, a visiting researcher at Cambridge University, and CEO of Buddy&Soul, a platform for personal development, tells Bustle. "We tell ourselves that we absolutely must cover every site and attraction, but, just like in other aspects of life, we benefit from some mental decluttering and letting go of 'shoulds.' Once we're in the moment, enjoying the waterfall and not stressing over the four other sites we need to check off the list before lunch, the trip becomes so much better."
4. Skimping On Sleep Or Food
A period of physical discomfort can put a damper on your trip, so take care to avoid it. "The research I published on happiness indicates that a powerful negative emotion will really mess us your day and won't be erased by a positive emotion," says Miron-Shatz. "So check out your trip in advance and see where such downfalls may arrive. Not enough rest or food are immediate suspects."
5. Getting Attached To Plans
When you're navigating through an unfamiliar place, plans are bound to fail. Some activities may be canceled, others may be delayed, and destinations may not live up to the hype. Instead of trying to fight that and getting upset if something goes wrong, learn to keep your cool when the plan fails and come up with plan B.
"Most people, when they travel, have an unrealistic expectation that everything will go magically right on their trip," Patricia Hajifotiou, owner of The Olive Odysseys and author of Travel Like You Mean It!, tells Bustle. "It will not, and when that happens, you need to keep two things in mind. I call it the two Ps: Patience and Perspective."
For example, Hajifotiou and a group were recently taking a train from France to Barcelona when it stopped due to flooding. Instead of complaining, they took it as an opportunity to explore the town were they were delayed. "If something is not going exactly your way and you 'pull out the nasty,' you will not motivate anyone to help you (especially harried staff), and most important, you will lose that essential element in any trip: bliss," she says.
6. Not Doing Your Research
Hotels and attractions aren't always the way they present themselves online. That's why it's important to ask for recommendations and read reviews before booking anything. "Have a good read through tailored hotel reviews and other platforms, like TrustPilot," Chris Wain, Sales Director at Africa Travel, tells Bustle. "You need to ensure that the hotel you plan on visiting really is five star, like it states in the holiday content, that the pictures from travelers online match up to the travel broker's website images, and that it is near local amenities and not in the middle of nowhere."
7. Staying In Your Comfort Zone
As we venture to new geographic locations, we should also stretch our emotional limits. "One of the worst mistakes a traveler can make is being too timid to try new things and only do things they are familiar and/or comfortable with," Rishi Kapoor, Founder and CEO of Nanak Flights, tells Bustle.
"Traveling — whether it’s a backpacking adventure or lazing at all-inclusive resorts — offers new and exciting experiences no matter where you end up," Kapoor says. "So why not take advantage of them? Go on a tour through the jungle, try some salsa dancing lessons, join in on the local food tours, rent a boat, or go parasailing above the ocean. Being on vacation means you get to break free from your normal routines, slow down, and try new things."
Don't worry too much about making these mistakes, though. Sometimes, it's our mistakes that lead us to the greatest adventures — if we let them.