If you are planning on traveling outside the country any time soon, you probably already know how complicated travel planning can be. Between the paperwork needed to cross international boundaries, packing preparation, medical preparation, and all the other bits and pieces of the plan, it is easy to let something slip, even if you are fairly experienced.
If you’re new to traveling abroad, then it can be even more difficult to make sure you have everything covered when you are getting ready to go and when you are in country. Here are six of the most common mistakes that travelers make, along with some strategies that will help you steer clear of them.
- Outdated Passports and Identification
The number one mistake that people make is failing to look at the dates their passport is effective. You can’t get out of the airport without having a valid passport for international travel, and it can be expensive to pay for rush processing on your passport. Make sure you check on the valid dates for your passport several months before travel so that you can get the renewals processed if you need them. It’s also important to remember that your passport needs to be valid until the date you re-enter the country, not just the date you leave. That seems like obvious information, but again, even the obvious can slip up when you are dealing with complex travel plans.
- Passing on Travel Insurance
There are a number of issues that can complicate travel, including both medical issues and those involving the logistics of traveling itself. If you want to make sure all of your belongings are totally taken care of, you need to make a plan for hedging any risks that you take on while traveling. Like most situations in life, this is a point where discussions about insurance come in, because insurance is the number one resource that the average person can access to reduce risk.
You might think that traveling is safe enough that you don’t need extra coverage because of existing insurance policies you have, but you need to check to make sure those policies cover travel related issues, and you will also want to see what kinds of additional travel riders you can add. Alternately, you can conveniently purchase travel insurance through a broker who specializes in it to make sure you have the coverage you need on your trip without having to adjust your entire insurance plan.
- Over-packing and Overcomplicating the Trip
When you know you will be far away from home for a long period of time, it’s easy to convince yourself that you need to travel heavy to make sure you are ready for any situation. Often, travelers bring clothes for any weather, including inclement weather, along with a number of other personal aides that they don’t absolutely need. For basic hygiene issues you deal with daily, this can be a good idea, but when it comes to things like all-weather clothing, you want to relax.
The biggest thing to remember when packing is that your items are expensive to bring with you. Most airlines have strict limits on baggage weight, and if you use all your weight you will have to pay extra to bring back souvenirs from your trip. It’s often much less expensive to pick out a new sweater abroad than it is to pay those premiums, and the new items you pick up can become part of your souvenir and keepsake collection when you get back home, too.
- Giving Up the Chance to Interact With the Locals
If you are traveling abroad, it’s important to see the sights that you set out to see. If you want to truly experience the locations you visit, though, you need the perspective of the people living there. They can give you insight into local foods, events, and other things you might miss by sticking with a completely guided experience. They also give you the opportunity to share your culture abroad, and to pick up more points of view than you would otherwise be exposed to, giving you a much more rounded memory of the trip.
- Forgetting to Notify Your Credit Card Companies
Paying for currency exchange in country can be expensive, but when you use your credit cards, the exchange rate is calculated for you and charged properly in your home currency. If your card allows for cash advances, these can also be used as a way to sidestep the fees that come from exchanging your money. Many credit cards are wary of foreign activity on an account, though, and that can lead to automatic activity suspensions that complicate your travel. The best way to get around this is by letting your credit card providers know that you will be traveling and where you will be traveling. You might even find out that there are rewards and other perks for travelers that you didn’t know about! Some higher end cards have even been known to offer special pricing deals on travel insurance, too, so this step could be a major help to your planning process.
- Skipping the Local Cuisine
Look, it’s understandable that some people have sensitive stomachs, digestive complications, and health issues that make them cautious about new foods. At the same time, though, most world cuisine involves variations on very familiar themes, including greens, meats, stews, and other basic staples that take on a new life when the specific vegetables, spices, and meat sources in a new area are brought to bear on their preparation. With a little help understanding the ingredients involved, anyone can explore cuisine abroad and discover these unique local flavors without worry, and the experience helps to ground your memories of your travel more fully by giving you a sensory experience that brings you right back to your trip whenever you remember it.
It can be convenient to book package trips that take care of everything for you from the paperwork to the meals and then to relax, but that gives up some of the control over your experience.
To get the most out of your tours, you need to be proactive with your planning to make sure you have the right resources, and you need to be open to adding and improvising when you are in-country to make sure you grab the chance to try as much as possible while you are abroad. That way, you can make your trip into a memorable and personal experience that you treasure for years to come.
All it takes is a little extra time and consideration, and you won’t believe the difference it makes.
Editor’s Note: This post presented in partnership with Getours.com