We have all had those nightmare trips or heard friends that have come home complaining and told you story after story about how this happened or that happened on their vacation. Many people I have worked with also tell horror stories.
With a little thought, planning and knowing what you want from your experience, most of these pitfalls can be avoided.
I have compiled a list of some of the biggest mistakes travelers make.
1. Chock Full Itinerary
I am guilty of this one myself sometimes. It is so easy to do, especially when you think you have just one opportunity in your lifetime to see and do everything available in your destination. You don’t want to miss a trick, as they say.
Don’t plan so much that you don’t have the time to sit and savour the moments of watching life go by at a Paris café, or listening to conversations in Italian as you walk around a street market admiring the fruits and veggies.
Loose your regimented ways. If you are having a great time at dinner, but you are getting antsy because the museum you wanted to be visiting will be closing soon- take a breath, stay in the moment and cross the museum off your list. Enjoy your dinner and take a leisurely walk around the Piazza instead. The museum will wait, but life never will. Most of these places will always be there for you to return to and visit again.
2. Booking Group Tours
Some independent travelers make the mistake of planning a group tour to save money or because it is easier to have someone else to show you around. Think again, before you book.
Keep in mind that on a group tour you will be told when and where to eat and when to stop admiring that statue in a museum. This can be very restricting and frustrating to people who are used to marching to the beat of their own drum! Plus, you may not be thrilled to share a bus and breakfast with strangers you don’t know.
3. Travel with Friends
We all have those good friends that we think we could travel with. But, can you really travel with them? Have you spent more than a few hours at a time with them? Have you seen their bathroom habits or how much luggage they normally take with them? Probably not.
Picture this, you and your girlfriend decide to go to a villa in Italy and to save money- you both try to recruit more troops to gather up another eight or so people. So, one girlfriend asks another and so on, and so-on. Now you have a house of ten women and you have never met eight of them. Can you spell d-i-s-a-s-t-e-r?
Once you’re all settled you find one didn’t bring enough cash and wants to just pay people back at the end of the trip, another is an alcoholic, another is loud and crude and dresses like a cheap hooker and yet another likes to sleep until noon and gets pissed when the rest of the house leaves her in the dust to sightsee. This can be a vacation wrecker of the worst kind!
Is it really worth the mind blowing drama and possibly destroying a friendship, just to save a few bucks? Make sure you know traveling companions really well and set some guidelines and ground rules, long before you even plan your trip!
4. Always Speaking English
This one is near and dear to me. Many people (Americans especially) travel to Europe and just expect that locals in a foreign country will speak English. Big mistake!
Not only is this rude, but also unrealistic, especially in smaller towns. There will most certainly be a language barrier in areas away from big cities in Europe. It is best to learn some important phrases in the native language of your destination before you go. Take a pocket dictionary with popular phrases along too. How about a Kwikpoint or an electronic pocket translator? There is no doubt you’ll be less frustrated and get better treatment from locals when you at least attempt to speak their language.
Been there, done that, got the T-shirt! I learned my lesson the hard way when I was unlucky enough to lug a huge, heavy suitcase up and down over footbridge after footbridge in Venice. Yet, some people still do it, again and again. I know someone who traveled with over 10 pieces of luggage and paid through the nose to have each concierge moving these suitcases from place to place for her.
Seriously. I don’t think all the clothes I own would fill 10 suitcases, so what do you need all that for on a trip? Who are you trying to impress here? Are you having dinner with Coco Chanel? Doubtful.
You know I am a fan of the carry-on. But if you Can’t. Possibly. Imagine. It. – at least mix and match your outfits to pare down on the stuff you take. Lay everything you think you must take out on the bed and then put at least half of it back. Plan to wash a few things along the way. You’re spine will thank you!
6. Under planning
Almost as bad as over-planning is not doing any planning at all. I get it. Some of you like to fly- by- the -seat- of -your -pants. That’s cool. I am not suggesting that you go out and read enough guide books to write a term paper on your destination, or make a regimented itinerary mapping out every second of your trip. But at least have some idea of where you are going and what you would like to do.
I can’t imagine booking a trip, spending all the money that comes with traveling, and not having any idea what there is to do there.
Just read one guide book, a travel forum, or even ask a friend who has been there for some advice on attractions, restaurants and a general feel for the area.
And don’t leave transportation to chance either. You must have a plan or at least knowledge of the options, in advance for getting to and from the airport or between destinations. There are just some things that require a little prior planning.
Tell me, what mistakes have you made while traveling? What you have learned to do differently? Tell us your story!
And don’t forget to visit My Bella Vita to see what Cherrye’s Travel Tip is this Tuesday!
See ya next week.