Nine common travel mistakes and how to avoid them

Whether you’re a seasoned explorer or a first-time adventurer, travel mistakes are bound to happen. However, you can minimise your chances – and the repercussions – of such occurrences with a little research and planning. 

A new study conducted by comparison site Finder has found that in the past 12 months, almost one in three Australians have experienced a travel mishap while abroad. The research revealed around 28% of respondents ran into trouble on holiday, with the most common problems being travel delays, lost personal items, theft, and sickness or injury that resulted in a hospital stay. One in 20 respondents even admitted to being scammed while travelling. The research revealed that 44% of Gen Z and 41% of Gen Y had endured a travel mishap in the past 12 months, compared with only 18% of Gen X and 11% of baby boomers. We consulted the travel experts at Flight Centre to find out what the most common travel mistakes are, and asked for expert tips and advice on how to avoid making such mistakes ourselves. 

man standing with multiple suitcases in hand
© Unsplash/ Tommaso Pecchioli

“A common mistake we see is travellers booking flights via countries they didn’t realise required a visa. Customers booking international travel with less than six months validity on their passport and being denied boarding at the airport is also common,” says Dominic Michaelis, senior team leader and co-caption at Flight Centre. “Often, people don’t take into account visa requirements, and more countries require authorisations to travel – not a visa as such but a confirmation that they don’t require a visa, such as ESTA for the US and eTa for Canada.” 

Nathan Varney, a Flight Centre Travel Expert, has a similar story. “I’ve had clients who, in the excitement of flying overseas, have turned up at the international terminals of Brisbane and Sydney airports forgetting they have a domestic connection before their international flight, from another airport,” says Nathan. “They have then missed the connection by the time they’ve realised their mistake. So, it pays to check all the details on your itinerary before you go and commit it to memory if you can.”

How to avoid travel delays or flight errors: Double-check your itineraries and flight connections. Check that your passport has more than six months’ validity, as many countries require this for entry. Always check if any of the countries you plan to visit, or transit through, require a visa. 

aerial view of an airport arrivals hall
© Unsplash/ Jue Huang

Airport mistakes 

“Airport security and customs aren’t the places to rattle off casual jokes to travel companions like “Man, your jacket looks the bomb!” or “They’ll never guess which pair of your socks I’ve stuffed my stash in!”, says Nathan. “Joking or not, airport officials are compelled to take these comments seriously.”

Dominic adds that people sometimes discover they’ve booked seat-only fares without baggage by mistake. “They then have to pay lots of excess fees at the airport. More and more airlines offer their cheapest flights without baggage and often this is not clear to consumers,” says Dominic. 

How to avoid travel mistakes at the airport: Be sure to check your seat includes both a carry-on and checked luggage allowance, how much it is, and weigh your suitcases at home to avoid the awkward luggage reshuffle at the airport. Always prepare for security checks by removing laptops or electronic devices as requested, keeping liquids in clear bags of the correct size for your airline, and following protocols as signed at the airport. 

man holding two suitcases
© Unsplash / ConvertKit

Itinerary mistakes 

Dominic says the most common mistake made when planning itineraries is trying to visit too many places in too little time. “We always recommend people slow down and spend more time in fewer places to enjoy their holiday, rather than trying to tick too much off their bucket list, and thus spending most days travelling.”

“We find that sometimes travellers have ideas of destinations that can be quite different to the reality,” says Dominic. “It’s important to know what may be taking place in a destination at the time you are travelling, for example, religious or cultural festivals such as Ramadan, and Nyepi in Bali” 

Nathan adds, “Plan multiple hotel stays carefully. I’ve seen cases where people forget they need to check in to a property on the same day they checked out of the last. For example, they leave a hotel on the fourth of the month, but the next hotel booking starts on the fifth of the month.” 

How to avoid culture shock and hotel mishaps: Try not to rush your itinerary or spend too much time travelling. Employing the principles of slow travel can help you enjoy your destination more. Research the typical culture and public celebrations of your destination to avoid culture shock. Plus, always double-check your hotel bookings to ensure you have somewhere to sleep every night. 

People waiting in a queue at the airport
© Unsplash/ Phil Mosley

Travel insurance mistakes

“Mishaps that are out of your control like flight delays and cancellations, medical emergencies and theft can, and do, happen when you’re travelling. The sobering reality is: if you can’t afford travel insurance then you can’t afford to travel,” says Nathan. 

Dominic adds, “We frequently see people trying to go for the bottom dollar insurance policies. With insurance, the premium paid is directly linked to the ability to claim. On a basic level, the less you pay the less coverage you will generally have for more common claim scenarios.” 

How to avoid picking a low-quality insurance policy: Research travel insurance policies and providers thoroughly, and read the fine print about what is covered, how much you can claim, and whether particular occurrences are excluded from coverage. Some key items to look out for are delays, cancellations, medical emergencies, theft and loss of luggage. 

Open suitcase with items inside
© Unsplash/ Marissa Grootes

Money mistakes

Dominic says travellers don’t need to try and reinvent the wheel when looking for ways to manage their money, or communication access, while overseas. “Most phone companies have great roaming packages, and being in the industry we can provide guidance on what is the best value for money,” says Dominic. “Similarly with currency, people will rely on paper money which can end up being costly if funds are not used, and confusing with exchange rates.” 

Nathan adds, “Get a currency card with money on it before you go. Internet and data isn’t always available for internet banking or PayWave using your phone.”

How to avoid financial travel mistakes: Do your research on travel money cards, or the international transaction and conversion fees offered by your current financial provider, to determine what option is right for you. Apply this process to data or international phone SIMs, too. Have your communication and money plan in place before you go to ensure a hassle-free arrival at your destination.

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