I really can’t believe I haven’t covered this topic yet. To be honest, I think I have this idea of myself as the cool girl city traveler who plans everything to a tee, has an answer for everything, and never has that “oh shit” moment on vacation. LIES. All Lies to myself.

Sometimes we just make mistakes, and things can go from sorta wrong to very wrong. So here are 1o major mistakes that I think people often make when traveling, and how to sort of avoid them (but you’ll still make mistakes, don’t worry). These are accompanied by my own stories to make you feel better about yourself, cause I’m real.

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1. Using a Third Party to Book a Flight

Third party booking sites have great deals, there’s no denying that. What do I mean by third party booking sites? Think Expedia, Momondo, Travelocity, Priceline, etc. The problem with using these sites is that they can be insanely unreliable. At the end of the day, be aware you’re using a third party. That means if anything goes wrong with the airline you’re flying, you have a nice middle man headache in front of you. These sites can also be unreliable because they aren’t always up date with the flight information for each airline. So essentially, you could be booking a recently sold out flight and not even know it. So fun!

Use third party sites for searching and planning purposes only. When you’ve nailed down a flight with a nice price, check the airline and see if you can find the flight. If the price is more, don’t be afraid to call the airline and ask for a lower price. For domestic flights, I am more open to using a third party because the risk of a canceled flight or something going wrong isn’t that big of deal to me as it would be with an international flight.

2. Using a Third Party to Book a Hotel

Likewise, stay away from third parties when booking a hotel. Rates can often be cheaper when you go through the hotel itself. Always call them as well if you find a cheaper price somewhere, and try to get them to honor the price you found.

Story Time: My friend and I traveled to San Francisco on a road trip a long time back. Our host fell through so we had to grab a hotel at the last minute. I pulled up the first site I found which was a third party booking site. I booked directly through them because I was frantic. The whole experience was weird. When we got to our ‘hotel’ it was more like a hostel. I’ll never forget the look on my friend’s face when we found out there was a shared bathtub at the end of the hallway (yes, bathtub, not shower). Also, some lovely gentlemen couldn’t take his eyes off us the whole time. We couldn’t stay there. Needless to say when I tried to cancel our reservation they said it couldn’t be done because of the third party we used. We pleaded with them and I think they recognized how scared we looked, and they finally gave us our money back. We fled faster than a child opening a Christmas present. We laugh about it now, of course.

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3. Not Checking Your Layover Times

This is probably the biggest mistake I think that’s made when people travel internationally. You want to check your layover times so they hit that sweet spot. What’s the sweet spot? Somewhere in between 2 – 3 hours for a layover. An hour and a half may seem like enough time, but when you’re heading in and out of customs, it’s a reality check that they don’t give a crap about the flight you’re about to miss. Some cites have super stick customs and others are just more relaxed about it, but you never really know. For larger airports such as De Gaulle and Heathrow, you need at least two hours to make it through. Personally I will always try for a three hour layover for my first major stop (going out of the country or entering). It’s also nice to be able to chill and grab a snack or a coffee before you head off again. Do pay attention to your layover times when booking. Anything under an hour I consider myself screwed.

Tip: Find out from the first person who checks your bags whether or not you’ll need to pick your bags and check them again at your first international stop (if you have one). This does happen sometimes. Another reason to love a longer layover. Or, you could just take a carry on. Woot woot!

4. Not Double Checking Airports

Chicago Midway or Chicago O’Hare? Heathrow or Gatwick? Do be aware that larger cities have multiple airports. Okay, DUH EMILY. No but seriously, double check your flights before you purchase. Not all airline websites are the same and how you may be used to seeing an airport written, may be labeled slightly differently according to the airline. You also might have that box checked that allows for multiple airports in your search. Also be careful when selecting your airport that you use the name of the airport (e.g. Chicago O’Hare), and not just ‘Chicago – all airports’ which will pull in all Chicago airports. So when in doubt, check it out.

Story Time: Flying to Paris was fun. Flying back from Paris was even more fun. My mom booked us flying through Chicago O’Hare for the way there, and a layover through Chicago O’Hare on the way back. That seems fine, only that after our ‘layover’ we were flying out of Chicago Midway. Thank god these airports aren’t too terribly far from each other. A $50 cab ride later (and a lost purse which I left on my flight at O’Hare (I was sick as a dog and not thinking straight)) we arrived at Chicago Midway from O’Hare. Thank god we had a three hour layover or not sure we would have made it. 

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5. Using a Taxi

With Uber now, why even bother using a taxi? Uber is in most major countries at this point and it’s so much simpler to use. Instead of potentially getting ripped off from a cabbie, with Uber you know exactly how much you’re going to pay and I can tell you it’s a whole lot cheaper too. Also be open to using public transportation. Using public transportation can be a fun challenge as well as significantly cheaper than most taxis. I do recommend not trying to figure out public transportation when you land your first day. With bulky luggage and not knowing anything about the city just yet, Uber is best to get to your destination on day one.

6. Over Tipping/ Not Tipping

Over tipping is quite common with Americans overseas. Before you leave, make sure to look up the best tipping practices for the countries you are visiting. More than likely all you need to do is round your bill to the nearest dollar, and that’s what you leave for a tip. Another common mistake really only applies to your first day. Usually we don’t have any change on us the first day we travel. While our credit cards work for a quick coffee and croissant before we arrive at our hotel, most likely you cannot leave a tip on them. So make sure to get a few coins of change before you leave the airport for a pit stop. You don’t want to be exchanging loads of money at the airport because it’s a rip off, but getting change for a few dollars is a good practice.

Story Time: This literally happens every time I travel with someone. We look down at the morning coffee bill and think “oh crap, we don’t have any change on us yet.” That usually proceeds with “walk fast and don’t look back.” Definitely ashamed to admit this, but hey, it happens! 

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7. Telling Strangers Too Much

Picture yourself with a friend telling some gentlemen where you’re staying, and all of the sudden you see your friend disappear through the window of the other room. Then you call your dad because you don’t know what to do, but you hear them coming for you now. You run and hide under the bed, and then…

Okay that’s totally the plot of Taken I’m describing. I got a little dramatic. But please, make sure you pay attention to what you’re telling people. Meet a fellow American on your travels? Still, be careful to give them or anyone you meet details about your trip. My favorite one is when I see someone stop and ask someone else for directions and they say “sorry I’m not from around here.” Now they’ve just let that person know they are a stranger to the city, which could potentially make them pray for a pick pocket or something else. Watch the information you’re giving out even if it seems innocent.

8. Trying To Do Too Much

Trying to hit every sight can sometimes be overwhelming. I think the best vacations are when you leave a day or two without an agenda and you just wing it. I am a total planner like most people, so I know it can be hard, but you never want to go home feeling like you either just left, or you didn’t take a break at all. Sit back a day or two and have a picnic in the park nearby. Cheese and wine make for a great day.

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9. Relying On Someone Else

If you’re traveling with someone else, make sure you both are holding your own. What do I mean by this? Say the person you are traveling with is Fluent in Spanish, should you learn Spanish? Most say no, but it’s a large burden to put on one person to do all the speaking. So try and up your game and make the duties equal. Maybe one person finds dinner one night and the other breakfast in the morning. Or one day is completely planned by you, and the next day is planned by that other person. That way one day all you have to do is tag along and enjoy yourself. It makes trips less stressful if you’re both working together.

10. Not Getting Travel Insurance

Let me just shake my head at you before I even continue. Yes you need travel insurance. I think Brook Saward explains it best: If you can’t afford travel insurance, then you can’t afford to travel. Declining travel insurance is is a huge mistake I see people make. If you’re sick in a foreign country, you are taken care of. If your bags are lost, you are taken care of. Murphy’s law people! Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. So save up and purchase that insurance.

Now that you’ve made it through, hopefully I didn’t lecture you too much. I’ve made literally every single one of these mistakes, except for booking multiple airports (sorry mom, that one’s on you)! I hope these help you along some of your travels. Mistakes are the only way we learn, but it’s my pleasure to have hopefully made these mistakes before you did. Live and learn… and then relay the info.

Now I want to hear your mistake stories! Leave me a comment below telling me the worst mistake you’ve made.

96 Comments

  1. This was such a fun read, love your post on traveling! And I’m so guilty of doing way too much, I try to fit in everything and wants it to be done in a day. I guess I bring my ambitious side to traveling and sometimes I want to be able to say that I’ve done this and that. Haha my best example is when me and my mom was in Amsterdam and we managed to visit 17 museums in 72 hours. Some of them were smaller ones, of course, but it was quite hysterical thinking about it now! Xx

    http://www.thefashionfolks.com

    Reply
    1. Aw thank you! So glad you like them. I try to keep them fun and not too boring haha. But sometimes I end up writing soooo much. And that’s hilarious! We did the same thing when were were in Paris, my mom and I that is. I can’t count how many museums we visited, but we literally tried to hit every one even if we weren’t too interested in them. I totally get wanting to do everything! 17 museums in 72 hours is seriously impressive.

      Author Reply
  2. Haha yes, love the taken story. I remember watching that right before I went abroad for the first time in high school (by myself, for a summer exchange). Also, couldn’t agree more on the “trying to do too much” mistake. Being a planner as well, I have to really work to allow myself time to just be spontaneous, or have a relaxed day. Amen to cheese and wine days!

    Kathryn • The Fashionography

    Reply
    1. Haha worst movie to watch before you leave! I remember when that first came out. Seems like so long ago! I have to work at spontaneity too. I am always so planned out, so usually I try to take a friend along who I know will be more spontaneous. 🙂

      Author Reply
    1. Welcome Amber! A lot of people don’t realize it. I think there are definitely exceptions. Like they can be great for those all inclusive getaways to Mexico or the Caribbean. But for large international flights I highly suggest staying away from them. Especially for flights. 🙂

      Author Reply
  3. Lol I’m literally laughing at number 7 because that sounds like a nightmare. omg I can’t even begin to tell you how many mistakes and disasters have happened to me while traveling. I think one of the worst is solely having to rely on the airport or train station’s wifi to contact your airbnb host because most of the time it never works!! It’s best to look at a portable wifi device to carry with you, because you honestly never know when you are going to need it and when you do need it the most you can’t connect to anything. It never fails.
    http://www.lacasabloga.com

    Reply
    1. Yes! I didn’t even think of that one. I remember once we were late to meet our Airbnb host and I felt so bad. I had so much trouble connecting in order to email him about our lateness. I’ve heard a lot of serious travelers use a portable wifi device. I should definitely look in to one! Thank you for the trips Estrella. 🙂

      Author Reply
  4. Agree on this post! I actually cannot wait for my first out of the country trip with my fiance. We decided to book everything on our own, waited for an airline seat sale here in the Philippines to fully maximize our finances. And agree with opting for Uber! Even I prefer Uber here in our country rather than normal cabs. Unless internet is crappy in an area, I will never choose a cab over Uber no matter how long I’d have to wait for one because traffic can be hell here. xD

    xoxo,
    Gelleesh.com

    Reply
    1. I think it’s great you booked everything on your own. A lot of times people think that bundle deals with third party websites are the cheapest, but it’s actually not the case! You can save a lot of money by ‘a la carte-ing’ everything, haha. I don’t think I will ever not use Uber either. I hope you have a fantastic trip Gelleesh! It’s such a great feeling seeing the world. 🙂

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  5. Yes! All are true! I suggest also reading your embassy website before you depart so in case anything goes wrong, you can contact them. Most embassy websites have the full list of services they can offer their citizens so you also know what you can and cannot ask them to do. 🙂

    Jenn
    The Pink Lemonade Girl
    YouTube
    Bloglovin

    Reply
    1. Good thinking! That’s usually something I skip, but you’re right, it can be very helpful to have their info. handy. Thanks Jenn! 🙂

      Author Reply
  6. Aw I really enjoyed this post! I like to travel a lot so a few of these were definitely familiar, especially the tipping! That said, I really don’t think there is anything wrong with using third party sites like Expedia, I’ve found some fantastic deals and experienced no problems with them whatsoever and find any problems are resolved quite easily if there are any! That said, maybe I’m just lucky. 🙂

    Musings & More

    Reply
    1. That’s awesome! I’ve heard people using them and having no problems whatsoever. I am definitely a worrying type of person though. I feel like for long trips I’d rather have that satisfaction of going directly through the airline. I have used Expedia for a Mexico all inclusive though. It just depends for me! They can definitely be good though. Thank for sharing Emily! P.S. WHAT A GREAT NAME! ;P

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  7. What great tips Emily! I’ll be leaving shortly for vacation so you’ve provided me with a lot of food for thought. I think we are a lot alike in that I’m a planner and I’m also very cautious. I like the idea of leaving a few days for no plans because you can discover a lot with spontaneity. Your posts are always so insightful!

    xoxo Rina
    http://www.andshedressed.com

    Reply
  8. These are some really useful tips, hun, thank you for sharing! I’m guilty of so many of these mistakes… Whilst I truly love to travel, it can be a little difficult and challenging especially outside of Europe where customs and everything is so different. X x I usually book through third party websites because as you said, it can be cheaper – luckily I’ve never had any issues, yet, but thank you for the word of caution! X

    Kay
    http://shoesandglitter.com

    Reply
    1. Nice to hear you’ve never had issues! I definitely think they can be helpful for certain types of trips, but there are times when I would be very cautious of using them. Thank you for stopping by Kay!

      Author Reply
  9. Thanks for the great tips babe! Will surely have them in mind the next time I am traveling. One of my biggest mistake was heading to the airport too late and almost missed my flight from London back home. I started running in airport like a crazy person, haha.}

    Have a nice week ahead,
    Andreea
    http://couturezilla.com/

    Reply
    1. Haha that has happened to me as well! I remember trying to run so fast that I tried over my own coat and fell smack down on the ground in the middle of the airport. So embarrassing!

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  10. What a great read and I love the little snippet of your own experience. My husband and I always use Booking.com and Expedia to book everything. My experience is completely different from yours even back when I was working as a PA, every time I try to book my boss’s accommodation, I find Booking.com is the most reliable. I have tried many time dealing with the hotel straight but they won’t budge and the price is always pricier. Sometimes I get lucky as the hotel has a cooperate price with the company that I was working it but usually I have to rely on Booking.com. And no, I am not working for Booking.com but just sharing my experience. LOL!

    Shireen | Reflection of Sanity

    Reply
    1. Yes, very opposite experiences! I usually find hotels are cheaper or the same through their site, because they usually run monthly deals. I’ve also had hotels lower their price for me too. I am not totallyyy against these sites, but I will say I would never ever book an international flight through a third party. It’s all about the piece of mind for me! Glad you’ve had much better experiences!! 🙂

      Author Reply
  11. Some interesting travelling points here, I have experienced both third party bookings and booking directly, and have had positive experiences with both.

    I think for me it boils down to the person you’re booking with if you do go for a third party, some people are specialists in what they do and can really be quite helpful.

    If you book directly of course you have the chance to speak to people directly also.

    Great tips and agreed, it’s important not to cram everything in to one trip, you just end up feeling so tired.

    Great post and topic

    Laura x
    http://www.shehearts.net

    Reply
    1. I totally agree! Some sites aren’t too bad. For me it’s certain types of trips. All inclusive Caribbean getaways or domestic traveling I will use some third party sites. For international I think it can be okay to use a third party site for a hotel. But I will never use a third party site for an international flight only. That’s just me! I know a lot of people have had positive experiences though. 🙂

      Author Reply
  12. These are some great tips! They come really handy to me because I just recently decided to start traveling a lot more. We still don’t have Uber everywhere in my country but taxis are a hell no, they can really rip you off sometimes, especially the ones from the airports 🙁

    Cy | Dulce de Mango

    Reply
  13. OMG, these are so true. Such a brilliant post! Thank God hubby books all out flights and he’s pretty organized because if it was left up to me, it would be am absolute disaster. I’m so guilty when it comes to #6 (over tipping is a problem for me) and #7. xo

    Ann-Marie | http://facetocurls.com

    Reply
    1. Haha that’s nice he takes care of it. It can be an overwhelming task to plan a trip and pick flights and such. I usually over tip the first day or two, and then I remember. 😉

      Author Reply
  14. Such a great post, I love any travel tips and it’s so great coming from someone who’s made the mistakes! I totally agree with checking layover times – especially going into the US from EU, we had a layover in LA for 5 hours thinking we’d have to wait a while, but from the time to get through customs, we only just made our flight!

    Josie

    JosieVictoriaa // Fashion, Travel, Lifestyle

    Reply
    1. Dang! That’s crazy. It can definitely happen. I’ve watched large windows of time close very fast haha. Glad you liked the post Josie!

      Author Reply
  15. These are really great points, Emily. I’ve definitely been guilty of a few of them in the past and try to keep them in mind now that I’m aware of them. Though I have to admit my husband and I ran out of Euros our last day in Paris and had to jump through hoops to include the customary (much smaller) tip in our total bill. Oops!

    Reply
  16. This is really well written! I always prefer to book flights and hotels directly, but sometimes third party bookings are ok (it really depends on the website I think). I like your point about not telling a stranger too much information, that is important!

    Reply
    1. Thanks Eden! I totally and completely agree. I’ve used third parties before, but I am very wary of some of them and I would personally never use them for international flights. Hope you have a great weekend!

      Author Reply
  17. What a great blog post! I couldn’t agree more with a lot of the stuff you wrote so I thought I would just comment and say hello! I especially agreed with the over/under tipping! Whenever I am in a foreign country its one of those things that gets me every time! I think you covered some amazing points that definitely happen on a trip but once it’s over you sort of gloss over and forget about. It was also nice to read about your thoughts on everything too!

    ~Crissy
    http://www.whimsicalfawn.com

    Reply
    1. Thank you Crissy! So glad you liked it. Comments like that totally make my day and I definitely want to help people to travel more! Tips seem the best way to do that. Nothing like sharing all the mistakes I’ve made haha.

      Author Reply
  18. Ugh… Showing up at the wrong airport is such a bitch .

    One of the big things I like to ask before I travel somewhere new is how physically close I, as a woman, am culturally allowed to be near a man. Some places, platonic hugs are fine. Other places, even a handshake is taboo.

    Lovely post, as always!

    Reply
    1. Good point Lauren! I follow you on Instagram and see all the places you go and that’s definitely a question I’d be asking too. I haven’t really traveled to any places where I’ve had to ask yet, but someday I will! So that’s definitely a good tip. 🙂

      Author Reply
  19. So much to chat about here…

    That’s crazy what happened to you when arriving in Chicago from Paris! I’ve never flown out of Midway… always O’Hare.

    The tip to purchase travelers insurance is interesting. Will keep that in mind!!

    Telling strangers too much and the plot from Taken… ha haaaa!!!

    This list is really good!!


    Amber
    All the Cute

    Reply
    1. Haha thank you Amber! Glad you enjoyed it. Tried to make it a little humorous. Hopefully the plot of Taken never happens to ANYONE. Glad you’ve had better luck with Chicago airports than I have. 😉

      Author Reply
  20. Love this post! I use this party sites pretty often, but I usually get to the airport at the max early check in to avoid any troubles, but I’ve heard flights can be cancelled, etc so that’s a pain, but more likely than not, I’m usually racing more. If I have time, I try to get a price match with the airline directly.
    I actually love hostelling lol So that part doesn’t bother me. It must be the 12-14hrs/wk at the gym for a couple of years and using public showers.
    I recently made the mistake of reading the map that tells me a walk is 30 mounties, but actually it was longer because it was uphill for 5 and 25 mind stairs all the way up. lol Don’t expect Google maps to tell you if you’re staying at ground level!
    I don’t use Uber in crowded cities like Rome for rides to the airport, where I know there’s a flat rate for cabs, simply because it goes up with time spent on the road too long, too. Definitely do use it when the distance isn’t quite so long though.

    Great post! And yes, must get together when were in the same city!

    Xo,
    Miki
    http://mikialamode.com

    Reply
    1. Thanks Miki! That makes sense about the cabs for long distances. Here and anywhere I’ve traveled and used Uber, I haven’t heard of the fairs rising if time is spent on the road. I definitely wouldn’t use it either at that point! I’ve also used third parties before, and I think everyone has haha. They can be risky, but sometimes it can be totally worth it! And yes we should totally get together sometime! Would love to pick your brain about travel. 🙂

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  21. OMG everything is so true!
    great tips.
    our frequent mistake – we want to see everything at one time. And it turns to just a quick look and not really enjoying the place.
    Travel insurance : I worked at the travel agency and saw how many people got in trouble and had to pay a few thousands $$ bills, just because they were greedy and not smart enough to spend 50$ for an insurance. It is better if you buy it and never use, than if you do not buy it.
    Good point.

    Reply
    1. Yes Inna! Totally agree about the insurance. I’d much rather fork up the $50 and not take my chances and end up spending thousands. 🙂

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