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Top 5 Beginner Travel Mistakes (and How To Avoid Them!)

oops moments while travelling

Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or just starting, some mistakes are easy to make — but can be easily avoided.

Here are the top 5 beginner travel mistakes and how to avoid them!

1. Not Doing Your Research

The excitement of traveling can be overwhelming, so much so that you forget to do the most important task which is researching your destination.

Not doing your research can lead to some major issues and avoidable setbacks during your vacation.

For example, you may not be aware of the political situation in your destination country and end up in the middle of a protest or riot. Or your ignorance about the weather may cause you to get caught in a torrential downpour spanning your entire trip because it’s monsoon season in your destination country. This could mean spending your entire time inside your hotel.

To avoid these issues, it’s imperative to do your research before you go.


  • check the weather forecast
  • identify the season you’re traveling (on-season or off-season, summer or winter)
  • check what type of essential documents you’ll need
  • identify the cultural differences

These will go a long way in making your trip more enjoyable. All these factors will help you better prepare for your trip to avoid any stressful surprises.

How do I prepare myself for traveling?

Before you set out on your next adventure, you should do a quick Google search on the area you’ll be visiting. This will help you get a feel for the culture, energy, and customs of the place you’ll be staying and any safety concerns. 

It’s also a good idea to brush up on your map skills so you can orient yourself in unfamiliar cities.

Once you understand what to expect, you can begin to plan what to pack.

Recommended Article: 10 Travel Safety Tips: How to Be Safe on Your Trip

2. Packing Too Much / Not Packing Enough

Packing has always been and will always be one of the most stressful aspects of traveling.

You want to ensure you have everything you need. But at the same time, you don’t want to pack too much and end up lugging around a heavy suitcase everywhere you go.

This is a mistake that both first-time and experienced travelers make.

Packing too much can mean having to lug around a heavy suitcase, being charged extra baggage fees, or even being over the weight limit and paying additional charges at the airport.

On the other hand, not packing enough can leave you without essential items, such as toiletries, medications, or a change of clothes, in case your luggage gets lost.

To avoid these issues, creating a packing list before you start packing is imperative.

Start by making a list of all the items you think you’ll need for your trip, and then go through and edit it.

Always assume that you’re packing too many things because you probably are.

Recommended Article: Packing Tips: Things Not Worth Packing When Traveling

3. Not Being Prepared for Cultural Differences

Traveling to a new country can be an exciting and eye-opening experience. However, it is important to remember that different cultures have different customs and expectations.

Travelers unprepared for these differences often find themselves in uncomfortable or dangerous situations.

One common mistake is assuming that all cultures are the same as your own. This can lead to offensive behavior, such as touching someone when it’s inappropriate to touch, spitting outside, or wearing revealing clothing.

Another mistake is to underestimate the importance of learning some key phrases in the local language. This can make it challenging to communicate basic needs, such as asking for directions or ordering food.

By familiarizing yourself with the basic customs of your destination, you can avoid making any potentially embarrassing mistakes.

Learn all you can before you go, especially if you’re visiting a country with a culture that’s vastly different from your own.

Don’t allow a lack of cultural understanding to hinder your plans.

4. Overplanning / Under Planning

Traveling can be one of the most rewarding experiences in life, but it can also be a source of frustration and disappointment. One of the biggest mistakes that travelers make is either overplanning or under planning their trip.

Overplanning your trip can lead to a sense of rigidity and inflexibility, making it feel like a rigorous job instead of carefree fun. It also robs the feeling of spontaneity, which is the core of any good trip.

Additionally, it can be a total waste of time and money, as plans often change once you’re on the ground and get a better feel of the environment.

Under planning, on the other hand, can leave you feeling lost and overwhelmed.

Without a plan, it can be difficult to make the most of your time.

For example:

A few years ago, I took a solo trip to Cozumel, Mexico and I didn’t plan anything.

I only had a vague idea of what I wanted to do while I was there, which was to relax on the beach.

Upon landing, I met a tour guide who talked me into having breakfast at a new hotel the next morning. That plan miserably failed because it was for couples only, and I was traveling solo.

As a result, I spent most of that day just wandering around aimlessly, which was not the relaxing vacation I was hoping for.

The best way to avoid making either of these mistakes is to find a happy medium.

Again, research before you go so you have an idea of what you want to do and determine where to eat and what to do for fun when you arrive at your destination.

Don’t make rigid plans that leave no room for fun or changes because you may not feel like doing what you planned when you’re actually there.

5. Ignoring Your Gut Instinct

Traveling allows you to step outside of your comfort zone and learn new limits. However, it’s important to always trust your gut.

If something feels off or dangerous, it probably is.

For example, if you’re walking down a dark alley and get a weird feeling, don’t ignore it.

Walk the other way.

If a taxi driver is acting strange, ask to get out of the car.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

When you’re traveling, it’s important to remember that you are in a new place with new people and sometimes a new culture.

No matter your trip duration, be it a weekend getaway or a year-long backpacking adventure, you are the only one responsible for your safety.

If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. If a hotel, hostel, or Airbnb feels shady, ask for a refund and book elsewhere.

Don’t ignore your instincts. If something feels wrong, it probably is.

Recommended Article: Gut Feeling: The Inner Voice that Speaks Volumes

Bonus: Not Having a Budget

Traveling can be an expensive endeavor, and one of the best ways to save money is to create a budget and stick to it.

However, many people make the mistake of not budgeting for their trip, which can lead to overspending and financial stress.

Without a budget, it’s easy to overspend on accommodations, activities, and souvenirs.

You may also end up paying more for transportation than necessary or making impulse purchases that you later regret.

In addition to causing financial hardship, not having a budget can also ruin the enjoyment of your trip.

By taking the time to plan your spending, you can rest assured that you’ll have enough money to cover all of your expenses with a little extra to relax and enjoy your vacation.

Your budget doesn’t have to be huge or complicated.

Simply sitting down and listing your expected expenses, including accommodation, food, activities, transportation, and souvenirs, is a great starting point.

From there, you can research the average cost of each item in your destination and create a realistic budget.

Remember, your goal is to have fun and create memories, not to stress about money the entire time.

With a little planning and forethought, you can easily avoid overspending.

Recommended Article: A Cheap Way To Travel: 5 Useful Tips To Explore More

Travel Mistakes Don’t Have To Ruin Your Trip

Making mistakes is part of life, but that doesn’t mean they have to ruin your trip.

By being aware of the most common travel mistakes, you can easily avoid them and have a more enjoyable and stress-free vacation.

To recap, the five beginner travel mistakes are:

  • not doing your research
  • not having a plan
  • not packing properly
  • ignoring your gut instinct
  • not having a budget

Each of these mistakes is easy to avoid with a bit of planning.

So, the next time you’re packing your bags for a trip, keep these tips in mind and enjoy your stress-free vacation!

Happy travels!

Questions You May Have

What are some mistakes that every first-time traveler makes?

Some mistakes first-time travelers make are:
not doing their research
not having a plan
not packing properly
ignoring their gut instinct
not having a realistic budget

What can go wrong when traveling?

Some things that can go wrong when traveling are getting lost, missing a flight or bus, losing your passport or other documents, getting sick or injured, having your belongings stolen, plus much more.

How can I make sure my trip goes smoothly?

There is no guaranteed way to make sure your trip goes smoothly, but there are some things you can do to help ensure a stress-free vacation. First, do your research before you go so you know what to expect. Second, have a plan but be flexible.

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Jody is a creative writer, artist, graphic designer, and a digital nomad who also helps people live more fulfilling lives by finding creative solutions to their personal growth and development problems and lifestyle challenges.

9 thoughts on “Top 5 Beginner Travel Mistakes (and How To Avoid Them!)”

  1. I like your statement about over and under planning. I probably err on the side of underplanning and it frustrates me no end trying to figure out what to do at the last minute in a bad internet connection.

    1. Jody

      Now that you know your challenge you can always fix it next time Carolyn, I’m confident your next vacation won’t be frustrating.

  2. Great post, I’m guilty of over and under packing. I’m getting better though- investing in some easy wash, quick dry gear has been a game changer. That and accepting that I don’t need to cover every single possible eventuality!

    I’m sure this post will be of use to many travellers, especially as international travel really gathers pace this year, post pandemic.

    1. Jody

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, struggle and solution Helen, you got this!

  3. So many great pointers! I especially like the idea of learning a few phrases in the language of where you’re traveling. I always learn how to ask “do you speak English?”. And in doing so, never had any issues anywhere and found that people were more than happy to help or find someone who could!

    1. Jody

      I love this! Thank you for sharing your experience Elena!

  4. These are all great tips! I agree with all of them – they can def make or break your trip esp not researching (weather/time of year/dangers). Thanks!

  5. I think my challenge is overpacking and learning how to be a minimalist packer. I usually come home with things in my suitcase that I never wore throughout my entire vacation.

  6. Julie Russell

    These mistakes are accurate and happen to everyone. Valid points about researching your destination and being prepared. I look forward to reading more articles!

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