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You can spot a frequent traveller from a mile away. They’re the one who knows how to move up a class, always has a portable phone charger, and never packs more than they actually need.

They know how to avoid credit card drama, how to dodge hidden fees, and somehow manage to emerge from a long flight looking immaculate and totally replenished.

While it’s easy to watch these travelers and think ‘I wish travel was as smooth as that for me’, for every frequent traveler who has their stuff together, at some point along the way, they’ve all made rookie errors and beginner mistakes.

The reason they’re so pro at travel is because, more often than not, they’ve made these mistakes and learned the hard way.

So we’ve put together a list of the most common travel mistakes, and how to avoid them. You might be surprised at how many of them you’ve made!

Common Travel Mistakes Most People Learn the Hard Way

#1: Frying Your Electrical Devices

Electric socket power electricity RF

We’ve all been there – you throw a hair dryer into your luggage, completely forgetting that every region of the world has a different voltage (V) supply that comes from outlets.

You plug it in once you get to your fancy hotel, and the next thing you know the plug is sparking, and the power to the whole floor of the hotel has gone out (definitely not talking from experience. The hotel shall remain unnamed).

Unfortunately, buying a travel adapter with the right plug shape does not mean all of your devices will charge. You should also check the plug, the device or the manual for the accepted voltage range.

Europe and most other countries in the world use a voltage which is twice that of the US. It is between 220 and 240 volts, whereas in Japan and in most of the Americas the voltage is between 100 and 127 volts.

If you don’t have the correct adaptors you run the risk of permanently damaging your electronics. For instance, if you try to use 110-volt appliance in a higher volt plug, the high voltage could overheat and destroy your device/s.

Avoiding This Mistake:

There are universal combination adapter/converter products out there. Even better? Items that can be charged via USB can avoid the voltage conversion hassle entirely.

USB power works differently than plugging directly into a wall socket. Many hotel TVs and lamps/nightstands have USB ports that you can use. Just be sure to leave plenty of time for charging, as USB doesn’t deliver as much power as plugging into an outlet.

#2: Getting Hit With Data Roaming Charges

Sydney Opera House Phone

There’s nothing worse than coming back from a trip and being faced with an exorbitant bill from your phone company. Like having gone camping in Sweden, and finding out you racked up $200 in texts (happened to a ‘friend’).

But now that the internet has become such an integral feature on our phone, it’s not just international calls and texts that cost an arm and a leg; data roaming is expensive unless you turn it off before you leave home.

Most monthly phone plans are for use only in your home country, and you’ll find that when you start using your device, you are immediately in “roaming” mode and hit with steep fees for using the internet overseas.

Avoiding This Mistake:

While frequent travelers used to just turn off their phone, mobile data is so integral to the way we travel these days. That connection means access to information, money, and methods of communication when you find yourself in a foreign land.

Travelers can avoid unpleasant WiFi and roaming charges by downloading a mobile data service app, or by buying a local SIM Card for the country you’re visiting once you arrive.

#3: Not Caring About the Language Barrier

Current estimates are that there are over 6,500 different spoken languages of the world. And while English is one of the three most-spoken languages (behind Chinese and Spanish) only 27.5% of countries have English as an official language.

One challenge when traveling is overcoming barriers to communication, and for someone who frequently travels, it’s highly likely you’ll eventually land in a country where you don’t understand a word.

And this can be quite daunting. I’m sure I’m not the only traveler who’s landed abroad and felt like a mute for being unable to speak the native language.

Frankly, it’s embarrassing; so you end up taking some pictures, looking at the scenery, and leaving, without having interacted with anyone.

But beyond missing out on a deeper cultural experience, this can also become a matter of safety. While most of the time it’s easy enough to get by, knowing what, how, and when to say a phrase in a foreign language can sometimes prove necessary when you find yourself in an emergency situation which may not be possible to resolve in English.

Avoiding This Mistake:

There are many ways to travel in places where you don’t speak the language. Taking a short language course before your trip is the most ideal way to approach this, but nowadays there are apps like Google Translate to help travelers out in a pinch.

Both iOS and Android versions work well offline, although you’ll get greater accuracy and more options when you’re connected to the Internet. iTranslate Voice is another app available to help travelers translate spoken conversation between languages.

If you have the money and the situation calls for it, you could consider hiring a bilingual local guide. Not only do they know the area, but they understand the nuances of the local language and can help you get the most out of your interactions with locals.

Another option is to choose not to go it alone, and rather join a tour. With a guide who is experienced in travelling in the country and has the support of a tour company, it’s a far easier way to travel.

#4: Not Thinking About Entrance Requirements

This post has some fabulous insight on how you can save in 2017, making sure you’re always getting the best airfare!

Travelers from Western nations often have the privilege of being able to visit various countries without a visa. However, this is not something to take for granted, and a number of international destinations will require that you apply for a tourist visa before traveling.

Be sure to apply for both a passport and a visa for the country you are visiting well before you book your flights and accommodation. Some visas, especially ones with work privileges, can take longer to process and you may have to send your passport to an embassy or consulate to get the visa placed in it.

Passports have an expiration date, and you are often required to have at least 6 months validity left on your passport to be able to enter an overseas country. It’s important to make sure your passport is not damaged and keep your passport secure during your travels.

It’s also a very good idea to make a copy of your passport ID page and email it to yourself in case your passport is lost or stolen while travelling. And some countries (like Cuba) enforce mandatory travel insurance before letting you visit their country.

Mandatory vaccinations is also a topic to research, as many developing countries require proof that you’ve been vaccinated against diseases like Yellow Fever. You should plan your shots in advance since it can take as much as 4-6 weeks for vaccines to take full effect.

#5 Hidden Costs & Unexpected Fees

So you’ve booked your trip and budgeted for the adventure, having set aside some extra cash for spending while you’re away. But when you arrive at your destination, your budget starts falling apart.

You realize you forgot to cater for additional costs like tipping your tour guide, the hotel’s resort fee, and perhaps you didn’t realize that the airline charged bags separately.

Travel comes with many hidden costs, and it’s very easy to blow your budget if you’re unaware of these. These can be as simple as having to pay for water at the airport gate (they confiscate your liquids at security), forgetting you have to pay for hotel parking, or not realizing that you have to pay gratuities.

You can avoid this by asking questions before you book, reading the fine print of a reservation, and making sure you’ve done a thorough job of budgeting out your itinerary. And it never hurts to travel with some money set aside for “in case of a rainy day”.

When you consider charges on everything from transaction fees to baggage fees, parking fees, roaming fees and WiFi fees, unplanned expenses can add more than $200 USD to every trip!


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Emergency Survival Bag

Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 50+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.



  1. Luckily I’ve never fried any of my devices but I’m definitely guilty of not thinking about many additional costs or unexpected roaming charges. Thanks for sharing, hopefully I’ll be able to avoid that in the future ;)

    • Yes, frying your devices sucks lol especially if it’s something expensive! Glad to hear you’ve managed to avoid it :D

      I think every trip in the history of mankind has probably come in as more expensive than the traveler planned for lol, I know that every single one of mine does! I’ve learnt to overbudget now, it helps a lot :)

      Thanks for reading Dorota – happy travels!

  2. Using USB is extremely helpful, but doesn’t necessarily bypass the issue. USB is usually under 5v except for USB-C which can be up to 20v. Something still has to convert power from the mains to that voltage range exactly the same as it has to at home. Usually, it’s the transformer in your wall adapter or the wall adapter of whatever device you are plugging into.

    If a lamp has a USB port in it for example, than it has a transformer built into it to transform power from the mains voltage down to something in that 5v range. I’ve never encountered a USB wall plug that is not multi-voltage, so in that instance it’s not likely to matter. Same goes for laptops and most other lower voltage devices intended to be portable.

    This article is specifically talking about multi-voltage for cruises, but I’ve got some pictures of how to check the voltage ranges on your transformers that might be helpful.

    Also of note, I find the different grounded vs un-grounded sockets especially in North America/Japan more troublesome than voltage. In most other countries I’ve been to, every wall socket is grounded so you can plug both grounded/non-grounded devices into it fine. In North America/Japan though, not every wall socket is grounded. So if your plug requires a ground, you can’t use it in every wall socket, you have to find one that is grounded.

    Admittedly, with a little creativity, it’s possible to rejig travel adapters to get around this but it isn’t safe or advisable to do so. Drives me nuts checking in to a hotel and discovering there is only one or two grounded outlets somewhere really awkward to use…

    • Thanks for sharing such detailed info Matt, and explaining further about USB related voltage. It’s great to hear that most USB wall plugs are usually multi-voltage – this is obviously something the majority of us take for granted! I typically use the portable laptop power banks which work fabulously :)

      I’ll have to read up more into the differences between grounded vs un-grounded sockets as that one is something I haven’t come across before. Definitely agree though that hotels seem to get creative as possible in putting their sockets and power plugs in the most awkward positions!!

      Thanks for sharing your expertise, and for reading :)

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