Thanks to travel websites like Skyscanner, Airbnb and isango! too, we’ve become better than ever before at nabbing a good holiday deal – and more than a little smug about it. Though what actually happens when we head off on our travels is often not something to brag about. While there’s plenty of travel mishaps that you can’t avoid, – stolen passports, deplorable weather and lengthy flight delays, we’re looking at you – there’s lots of things you can do to make sure you’re as prepared as possible for when it does all go wrong. Here’s a rundown of the classic travel mistakes we’ve heard of (and we admit, have made ourselves) and how to avoid them.
Arriving at the wrong airport
A few months ago, a pal told us of the most rookie travel error made by her friends, who were visiting London recently…
“I waved goodbye to my friends and sent them on their merry way to Heathrow airport for the next leg of their trip. They left well fed, in high spirits and with plenty of time to spare – there was just one problem. Their flight was leaving from London Gatwick, not Heathrow.”
Wild-eyed panic and mad races through airports and the underground ensued. It was a sight that would put the McCallister family from Home Alone to shame. By the skin of their teeth, the friends of friends travelled all the way from Heathrow to Gatwick and made their flight, promptly collapsing from exhaustion as soon as they got on board. As much as we love upping our step count, this blunder just isn’t worth the stress. Before flying, double and triple-check your departure details.
Feeling so chuffed with your valid passport that you completely forget about your visa
So you’ve got your hands on a valid passport and you have more than six months until it expires, well done. For many destinations though, the paperwork doesn’t stop there. At least a month before you jet off, check if the country you’re visiting requires a visa and if so, apply for one well in advance – they often take a few weeks turnaround. All that sorted? Make digital and paper copies of your essential travel documents, just in case.
Sticking only to the sites listed in your guidebook
Considering our line of work, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we’re big fans of exploring the attractions and seeing the sights each destination is famous for. Though as much as we love taking in the Berlin Wall, we’re also just as keen on getting to know the cooler, lesser-known neighbourhoods of Freidrechstrasse and Mitte. Take your cues from us; the sum of the city lies just as much in its obscure laneways and local haunts as it does in its cultural institutions. Wherever you’re headed, don’t stick solely to the tourist spots.
Waiting in line to wait in another line
At top attractions, crowds are unavoidable. What is avoidable though, is the ticket line. Many travel websites (ourselves included) sell advance tickets for cities’ best attractions. This means you can avoid the painful process of lining up to purchase tickets on-site. Some pre-booked tickets even guarantee admission during a certain time slot, so all you have to do is show up at the specified date and time and waltz straight past the poor souls lining up. For pre-booked deals and easy access to the world’s top attractions, head to isango!.
Overestimating your time between flights
We’ve already mentioned the agonising frenzy that occurs upon arrival at the wrong airport, and not leaving enough time between connecting flights can cause similar hysteria. 45 minutes between flights may seem ideal for those looking to skip arduous airport waits, but when flight delays, security processing and huge terminals are at work, it can easily become a game of chance as to whether you’ll make your next flight. Avoid heart attacks – always leave at least an hour and a half between connecting flights.
Packing too much
We adopt the ‘pack your bag, then halve it’ rule when getting ready for any trip. There’s nothing worse than lugging around 20 kilos when you could have survived with five. Think of all the untouched, crumpled, clothes you’ll inevitably have to take home and wash again, and pack light.
Forgetting about travel insurance
Don’t forgo travel insurance for the sake of a few pounds. If your luck is anything like ours, the one time you don’t get it will also be the one time you’ll need it.
Having a packed itinerary with no room for leeway
Raise your hand if you plan your holidays to military-like precision? *Raises hand* The allure of a tight, fun-maximising itinerary is for many obsessives, hard to resist. But by rushing through the token attractions and sights, you’re unlikely to see or appreciate any of it.
Here’s some tips that will help rein in your inner-Monica. Firstly, allow for at least four days at your chosen destination, this will take out the initial time stresses that inevitably cause us to rush around like a headless chicken. Then, have a rough outline listing the activities and attractions you’d really love to see and do while away, and tick them off depending on your mood each day. Finally, factor in some downtime. Beyond just relaxing, this time can then be used for any random, spur of the moment activities that crop up. Remember, the best memories are made when you least expect them.