There’s nothing quite like the anticipation of a trip abroad. Whether you consider yourself a travel pro or if it’s your first time out of the country, it’s easy to get carried away in the excitement. However, there are a few key things to keep in mind before you leave if you want your travels to go smoothly and be memorable for all the right reasons. Check out 10 common mistakes travelers make on their trips abroad — and how to avoid them.
10. You Forget to Pack a Travel Power Adapter
When traveling, most people remember to bring charging cables for their phones, tablets, and laptops. What’s easy to overlook, especially if it’s your first time abroad, is that many of these cords will not work in power outlets outside of the United States. Many countries have their own type of power outlet, and they can differ even within the same continent. For example, Italy’s round-pronged plugs are different than the triangular ones found in the U.K. If you want your cords to work when you’re abroad, make sure to pack the right travel adapters.
9. You Don’t Check the Voltage
Just as it’s a mistake to try to plug an American plug into a foreign electrical socket, it’s also a mistake to not check the voltage level of the country you are staying in. In the U.S., most electronics and appliances typically run on 110 volts. In Europe, however, the voltage is much higher.
The best way to avoid damaging appliances, such as hair straighteners and electric razors, with all that extra electricity is to buy dual-voltage appliances for your trip. They usually cost the same amount, but they will work in either type of socket. If you don’t want to buy all-new devices, you could invest in a power converter, which will decrease the voltage coming into your appliance. Typically, your phone, tablet, and computer will be dual voltage and should be fine, but check the voltage before plugging them in to be safe.
8. You Forget or Misplace Your Passport
It’s a given that you will need your passport at the airport to get through customs, but you may also need it in other circumstances upon arrival, such as riding trains or if you run into any unexpected issues abroad. It is the most important form of identification you have while you are traveling, so be sure to keep it in a place where you can easily get to it. If you are a light traveler or are worried about it falling out of your pocket or purse, you can easily find fanny packs, crossbody bags, and even special scarves for securely storing your passport. That way, you’re both prepared and stylish.
7. You Don’t Bring the Right Shoes
Aside from your passport, shoes are the one thing you can’t get by without on a big trip — usually, one of the best ways to explore a new place is by walking around and getting a feel for the people and places face-to-face. You might be tempted to wear your most stylish shoes, but they won’t do you any good if your feet start hurting 30 minutes into your walk. Pack your nice shoes for special occasions, but for the majority of your trip, you are going to need a good, sturdy pair of walking shoes with good arch support. Otherwise, your trip will likely be plagued with blisters and sore knees.
6. You Assume That Everyone Will Speak English
There is a tendency for American travelers to assume that English is universal and that we don’t need to learn much, if any, of the language of the country we will be visiting. If you are traveling to a foreign country, however, you should at least learn how to ask for directions, how to say certain key phrases like hello, goodbye, please, and thank you. Even if you don’t say these things with the proper accent, you will most likely be understood, and the locals will be happy that you made the effort, making them more likely to help you.
5. You Forget to Check if Your Phone Will Work Abroad
Just as some of your electronics will not work abroad, chances are high that your phone plan won’t work there either — at least not for free. Your phone’s GPS will be highly useful for getting around, and cellular connectivity is important to have in case of emergencies, so make sure to plan ahead. Most major phone carriers offer international data plans for a fee. Alternatively, you can swap SIM cards once you arrive, or you can invest in a Wi-Fi hotspot (or simply rely on Wi-Fi local to your destination) and use internet-based apps for communication and maps.
4. You Don’t Have the Correct Currency
If you want to spend any money abroad, you will most likely have to exchange currency or get money out of a local ATM, as some local vendors won’t accept credit cards. Keep in mind, though, that most of these transactions will have a fee involved, so it’s best to save up a little extra money beforehand just in case. There are currency exchange counters at most international airports, but they typically come with hefty exchange fees. Plan ahead and go to your local bank before you leave where they are likely to have a better rate. Be sure to carry enough local currency for an emergency, but not enough to make it a huge loss if you get pickpocketed in a crowded tourist area.
3. You Take Risks Booking Your Flight
If you’re taking an international flight, you will most likely have a layover (or even two) before you reach your destination. One of the biggest mistakes you can make when booking a flight is to book each leg of the flight yourself, instead of booking the entire ticket through the same airline.
For example, if you book a ticket with United Airlines, the carrier will make sure that your connecting flights are a reasonable distance apart, and will get you on another plane if one of them is delayed or canceled. If you book each leg of the flight through a different airline, however, you don’t have this safety net. If your United flight makes you late for your British Airways flight, United will not be responsible for putting you on another flight. While you might save a bit of money booking each flight separately, it’s safer to get a ticket through a single airline. If you do have to book separately, be sure to budget an extra long layover in case things go south.
2. You Don’t Exercise Caution
Speaking of caution, the most important thing to think about during a trip to a new place is your safety. This starts with getting the proper locks for your luggage and investing in handy gadgets like Apple AirTags so that your things don’t get lost or stolen in transit.
When traveling, it’s easy to get carried away by the magic of a new destination and forget common sense. Avoid going into dark or deserted places alone, and never go anywhere alone with someone you have never met. It is also a good idea to learn the phone numbers of the local police and other emergency services, just in case.
1. You Let Mistakes Ruin Your Trip
Now that you have seen all the ways to avoid making mistakes on your first trip, it’s time to let you in on a secret — there will probably be mistakes anyway. All travel usually has an element of chaos, and expecting that everything will go perfectly and smoothly the whole time is perhaps the biggest mistake you can make.
Yes, some things will go wrong — you might forget a critical item, the airline might lose your luggage, or your train could be canceled. The trick is not to let these small missteps get you down. The difference between an adventure and an ordeal is in attitude: If something goes wrong, try your best to stay calm and figure out a way to fix it. Embrace the fact that you can’t always control anything, and have a great time anyway.
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