15 Travel Mistakes Every American Should Avoid

Gabrielle Reeder

Travel Mistakes

We travel to experience other cultures, gaze at phenomenal landmarks we've only seen on TV, and educate ourselves about the various places in the world in a strive to coexist with others. We travel for numerous reasons, but how can we ensure we travel without issue? Here are 15 factors to help us travel.

1. Forgetting an Outlet Converter

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Different countries utilize various outlet types. This means that the outlet in Peru doesn't match North America's. Always carry an adapter to avoid exorbitant fees for purchasing outlet converters in the airport or scrambling for one after landing in a different country.

Quality outlet adapters range between $7 and $22, so invest in one before embarking on an international trip. Despite your trusty portable charger, bring a backup converter in case the portable runs out of juice or in an emergency.

2. Flying Into the Cheapest Airport

San Francisco International Airport
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Say it with me: flying into the cheapest airport is not always the best option. I'll use JFK and LaGuardia in New York City as an example. Flights into LaGuardia run on a more affordable scale. However, the airport sits further away from the city and is more difficult to navigate than JFK. Though JFK yields dense foot traffic, travelers find the location and system easier to walk around than LaGuardia's smaller layout. 

Calculate all options during flight searches. Don't jump at the cheapest option without factoring in the cost of travel from destination airport to lodging arrangements. Also, assess the time it would take to transport between the cheaper airport and the pricier option.

3. Staying Within Comfort Zones

Disappointed traveler
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Have you ever traveled with someone afraid to leave their comfort zone? Say there's an opportunity to zipline, but your travel partner cowers at the mention of strapping into a harness in the middle of a forest. Instead of shifting travel arrangements to accommodate this person, speak about various options that interest both parties. Hopefully, they'll step out of their comfort zone, but you can move about freely if they don't.

Staying in a comfort zone reduces the quality of a trip and ensures that travelers remain stagnant. Moving out of the comfort zone allows globetrotters to experience new attractions, meet new people, and view the world differently.

4. Eating at Tourist Traps

Couples eating from food truck in New York
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We know the appeal of eating at an overpriced tourist trap beside the biggest attraction in a foreign country. You've seen the Instagram reels, watched YouTube videos, and read the guides about the place. However, have you noticed any locals stopping by the tourist trap restaurant for a bite to eat? No. Why? Locals know the tastiest, affordable places to eat. 

A big tourist mistake (and a large waste of money) is only dining at tourist trap restaurants. Since most customers are tourists, the restaurant overcharges the guests without their knowledge. With no pushback from locals (because locals don't eat at tourist spots), the inflated prices decorate the menu all season. Find local favorites by paying attention to places that are not overflowing with eager-eyed tourists. 

5. Refusing To Rest

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The excitement of a trip fools us into thinking we can complete a loaded itinerary with little rest. While some people check every box on their itinerary, engaging in a journey with little sleep guarantees cranky passengers. People who can't experience the grandiosity of the excursion due to their brain's fatigue.

Remember to include adequate time for sleeping and resting during a vacation. Plan out enough time to reset the body and brain. Plus, allowing yourself to rest on vacation makes the return home easier on the body and mind.

6. Exchanging Money For Ludicrous Rates

Money exchange
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Never exchange money in an airport. Airport Exchange Booths gain a profit from customers exchanging their money. In translation, airport booths overcharge the exchange rates to take excess money from gullible customers than local ATMs or banks.

When landing, carry a small amount of cash on your person—enough for transportation from the airport to your lodging arrangements. Then, find a local ATM or bank with reasonable exchange rates. 

7. Napping When Landing

Sleeping in flight covered with blanket
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On a trip to London a few years ago, my friend Jazmine and I had a layover in Iceland. We flew from Boston to Iceland, sitting stagnant on the plane for five hours until we crossed a few time zones and landed in Iceland at 6 a.m. local time. We waited around three hours for our next flight to take off, determined to do anything but sleep. Knowing the difficulty of adjusting to the London timezone, we'd face if we shut our eyes. We slept on the flight from Boston to Iceland, after all.

We stayed awake on the flight to London, enthusiastic to take on The Big Smoke with caffeinated jitters. After a few hours, reality began to blur for me, and I begged Jazmine to let us return to the hostel for a good night of shut-eye. She refused until 8 p.m., and the transition to London's time zone happened overnight. All because we rejected sleep upon landing. 

8. Forgetting To Live in the Moment

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We all want to showcase a highlight reel demonstrating the jaw-dropping moments of experiencing a new culture online but focusing on existing at the moment. Yes, we're addicted to a constant comparison culture in today's frenzied media outpouring, but you will gain heightened insight and experience by taking a step away from updating your Instagram followers. 

Don't look back on your trip to Bali, remembering shoving your phone in locals' faces and refusing to participate without your phone. Social media is the moment to post memories, and your followers remain online; the experience of a trip washes away once you depart. 

9. Neglecting Weather Reports

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My friend Seth and I planned to attend a concert together last March. I live in Florida, so I understand the differences between the weather patterns in the two southern states. Seth lived in South Carolina and adapted to the state's warm weather last March, neglecting to research North Carolina's forecast. Seth based his packing on his predisposed notions of his home state's weather and brought crop tops and jeans. We arrived in South Carolina, me clad in a jacket, Seth freezing in his cropped shirt. 

Always, always, always check the weather forecast before packing. Even if you live close to the destination location, weather fluctuates. 

10. Not Learning Other Language Phrases

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Not every country speaks English. Sure, some countries know a lick of English, a few phrases, and some greeting words, yet believing another country should know English during your visit is ignorant and disrespectful to the country. Neglecting to learn a few phrases when traveling to a new country might put you in danger. 

At a bare minimum, learn salutations and directional language when traveling. Knowing the basics of the spoken language helps to navigate a new place and speak with locals.

11. Sticking To a Rigid Itinerary

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Everyone knows an overeager planner. I always think of the Full House episode where Danny Tanner writes the itinerary out and hands every family member a copy. As he turns his back, each family member deposits their itinerary in the trash.

Outlining an itinerary that is too strict prevents the flow of a relaxing trip. Writing down what to do, when to do it, and where to do it takes away from the curiosity of exploring a new place and living in the moment. If you must plan an itinerary, create an adaptable schedule that permits flexibility and change.

12. No Travel Insurance

Travel insurance
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Accidents happen. Flights get canceled. Weather ruins plans. My parents fly between Tampa and Buffalo, New York, a few times throughout the year. More often than not, their flight from Buffalo is delayed or canceled due to inclement weather. 

Travel insurance covers weather delays, medical issues, cancellations, and lost luggage. Although purchasing travel insurance seems costly upfront, it might save thousands, especially during the winter seasons. 

13. Not Telling the Bank About Your Trip

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No one likes seeing random fees pop up on their bank statement. Additionally, no one likes trying to swipe their card in a foreign country, but it won't go through because the bank flagged the card as fraud. If a bank sees a foreign transaction on a card without knowing about the cardholder's trip, the bank will freeze the card. This leads to issues with payment and ebbs enjoyment during the journey due to financial distress.

Before boarding a flight, notify the bank where you travel and how long you'll remain on vacation. Try to talk to a live agent if possible. 

14. Not Packing the Right Shoes

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My worst memory of not packing the right shoes occurred in Paris two years ago. My friend and I decided to book a 24-hour trip to Paris, bringing only a backpack of belongings with us. We wore a pair of shoes on the plane, and we decided that bringing one pair of shoes would lighten our luggage. I donned thrift store boots for The Catacombs, a speakeasy tour, and the Eiffel Tower. 

The first few hours were great; my feet began cramping after trudging through The Catacombs. Once we made it to the speakeasy tour, I wanted to cry with the amount of blisters I garnered from a few hours around Paris. Needless to say, I'm never traveling without broken-in sneakers again.

15. Don’t Keep a Ton of Cash on You

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Unfortunately, pickpocketers exist. They tend to target aloof tourists, particularly tourists who look like they carry loads of cash in their back pockets. Today, people use cards rather than cash, so carrying a wad of money around makes you appear as a gullible target.

Stick to $50 to $100 cash in your pocket, and pay attention to your surroundings. Keep the money on the front side of your body. 

15 Best Travel Tips That Aren’t on Every List

Travel Couple
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Traveling lists overlap. Frequent travelers know to arrive in a foreign country with a slight comprehension of the language, a handful of local currency, a safeguard for personal belongings to avoid pickpocketing, and how to navigate or avoid debt and international fees.

15 Best Travel Tips That Aren’t on Every List

11 Places You Can Visit for $100 a Day: Travel the World Without Breaking the Bank!

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Traveling on a budget of $100 a day can be an exciting adventure. Despite financial constraints, numerous destinations offer remarkable experiences without breaking the bank. From exploring historic sites to indulging in local cuisine, this budget-friendly approach encourages travelers to immerse themselves in the culture of each destination. 

11 Places You Can Visit for $100 a Day: Travel the World Without Breaking the Bank!

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