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10 Ways Good Travelers Go Bad

Luke Armstrong | Jun 15, 2023

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Travelers are human. We make mistakes. We mistranslate things and accidentally order the goat brain sandwich when all we want is an apple. 
I once ended up on a Moroccan bus to Chefchaouen when all I wanted was a hotel in Tangier. I just met someone in Guatemala who recently put his passport, banks cards, and money in the same bag and left it at table while he got up to dance the salsa (oh yeah, it was totally stolen). Stuff happens, so let's talk about it so that it doesn’t happen to you on your trip.

Here are the top 10 ways that good travelers go bad.

Common Travel Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

1. Running out of money on a trip

Wallet, checking for money.

Unless you're traveling to Portland, you won't be able to get by with only a nice smile. People — the world, hotels, taxi drivers, food vendors, concierges, and avocado salesmen — all want you to pay up. So budget your trips accordingly.

One great way to budget for a trip is to get a feel for how you typically travel and how much you spend on average. This is easy to do. Just keep a before-and-after budget for all your trips, then compare your anticipated versus actual expenses.

Another great way to get an idea of how expensive a particular city or country is, is to visit Expatistan. Just enter your destination and where you currently live, and it compares the cost of things like food, transportation, and entertainment in those two locations.

2. Not taking adequate precautions

What are adequate precautions? Some might call it common sense, and it includes things like wearing motorcycle helmets, only trusting sober drivers, buying travel health insurance, taking malaria pills, drinking only uncontaminated water, Googling a country before visiting for the first time, and not leaving your drinks unattended.

How will you keep track of it all? Just try to be mindful.

I make stupid decisions daily. Although I have been to a quarter of the world, I have no sense of direction. I book tickets from Paris to Iceland when I mean to book a ticket from Iceland to Paris. But I don't get too down on myself for my ongoing shortcomings (there's just too many too often for that). I just try to be mindful, do the right thing, and keep a sense of humor when I boof.

3. Overpacking (or in some cases, underpacking)

Pack light, the experts say. But what about a blender? In destinations bursting with fresh fruits made for the perfect smoothie, some things are worth it.

Experts say you should collect the clothes you want to take on a trip, put them in a pile, and then reduce it by half. But what about your favorite cardigan? Would life even be livable without your Thai fisherman pants? Could you still extract joy from the day if you didn't have your trusty flannel button-up?

It’s all a balancing act. If you are going to be trekking through the Himalayas, yeah, pack light. If you are going from an airport to a taxi, to an Airbnb, then you can probably afford to bring more. If you work hard to not worry about the airport fees and you want to bring your beloved inflatable kayak (I'm thinking of you, Dad), then follow your heart and bring the things that will make your trip all the more awesome.

4. Limiting your trips to the known

No one got anywhere new by going somewhere old. Tried and true trips are as lovely and comfortable as a longtime lover. Keep these recurring destinations in your life.

But you're allowed to have an open relationship with the world. You're allowed to have a one-week stay in Greece, love every second, and catch a crack-of-dawn flight out and never look back.

Book a trip to somewhere that kind of freaks you out. Get out of your comfort zone. Ride a camel. Befriend a donkey. Pet a goat. Go to Uganda. You'll never regret it!

5. Booking at the wrong time

Say there's an island off the coast of Lake Nicaragua where mangos grow wild and free. Say the island sprang from two volcanos. Say free mangos grow everywhere. You know what that means?! Free mangos for you!

If you love mangos as much as I do, you wouldn't imagine going to Ometepe, Nicaragua outside of mango season.

Timing — in love, travel, and life — is everything. As you plan your trip, decide where you want to go and then figure out the best time to do it. It’s as simple as asking Google, “When’s the best time to visit …?”

6. Bringing valuables where they don’t belong

My new expat roommate, Mario, is 10 years younger than I am. I’m witnessing him learn many lessons.

"I have way less money than I thought I did," he just said (see list item No. 1).

He also was the guy who brought his backpack to a night out and lost his debit/credit cards, passport, and money. We had a breakout workshop today on what he should do in this situation, and I will cover more on this topic very soon.

The short of it is, leave your electronics, finance tools, and identification in their safest haven and don't keep them all together.

7. Not protecting your valuables

Padlock sitting on a rock

What is the safest place for your valuables like passports? If there's a hotel safe, I’d say it's there. Just don't forget it when you check out.

But shouldn't you have your passport with you at all times? Some travel experts say yes, but I think you can get away in most countries with a photo of it on your phone or a photocopy.

8. Breaking the law

You wouldn't (or at least shouldn't) walk down 5th Ave in Manhattan drinking a beer, so don't do the blatantly illegal just because you're abroad. It's as easy, if not easier, to get arrested abroad as it is at home, and it's typically a much bigger hassle.

9. Not buying travel insurance

Seriously, I don't get paid more to write this. I don't always buy travel insurance, but if there is ever any uncertainty about me being able to go on the trip, I do. It's smart. It's a couple bucks to cover thousands.

Make sure you look into the plan to be sure it covers what you think it does and what you want it to. The best way to do that is to call your travel insurance provider.

While we’re on the topic, keep in mind that it’s often better to rely on companies that specialize in providing travel insurance. Those plans you can purchase from an airline when you buy your ticket don’t always cover what you think they do. They tend to be more limited than a more robust travel insurance plan from a company like Seven Corners.

Get more details on which is better: travel insurance or a refundable airline ticket.

With Seven Corners, you can also add the optional Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) benefit to your trip protection. I can imagine how this phone call might go. “Hello, I have decided to cancel my trip and would like a refund. Why? Well, I've decided to use the money to build a waffle fort instead. Is that covered in my plan? It is!? Wonderful!”

When you’ve added CFAR to your trip protection, you get a 75% refund if you need to cancel your trip. Without CFAR, you won’t get the reimbursement unless you cancel for a covered reason. Sadly, waffle forts aren’t a covered reason in trip protection plans. There are some caveats with CFAR, so be sure to read the plan document and talk to a licensed agent with any questions.

10. Not following your own heart

That girl you went to high school with and follow on Instagram is doing it again! She's posting epic pics from some beach somewhere you've never been! Now your annoying coworker Stan is posting pictures from Bali.

We all do it. It's so easy to get lost in the longing to see the world and forget to be present in appreciation of each moment in the world. Be a bold and intrepid traveler, but go the places you want to go, see the sites you want to see, and have the experience that fills you up. InstaGirl and Stan don’t own you. Travel your way.

Travel Insurance for When Plans Go Bad

Like I said, mistakes happen. Sometimes they’re our own doing, and sometimes the universe just conspires against us. Be prepared for whatever life throws your way, including buying travel insurance so you can weather those storms.

Talk to a Seven Corners licensed agent or get a quick quote online for the best travel insurance — trip cancellation, trip delay, baggage protection, medical coverage, and more — just in case your epic adventure suddenly goes bad.

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