What NOT to do when you travel

Updated: Jun 23

If you’re worried about spending too much money on your trip, there are some common mistakes you can avoid doing so you can better enjoy yourself. I’ve scoured the internet and put together some things that you should definitely NOT do whenever you travel, and what you should do instead.

1. Do NOT book your trip too early. When it comes to travel, booking early just to get everything booked and out of the way isn't always the cheapest option. Don't get too eager to book everything. You'll be one of the first ones to be paying the worst prices.

DO wait until about three months before your trip to book. This is when airlines will begin raising or lowering their prices based on demand for that particular flight. Wait until the last minute for cruises or tour groups as they will want to fill empty space.


  • Have a flexible plan of where you want to go, the general dates you'd like to go, where and how long you'd like to stay, and what you'd like to do while you're there prior to booking or reserving anything. Do your research!

2. Do NOT waste your precious time being frugal. Time is money. If you're saving money, but you're spending extra time doing something to save just a little bit, is it worth it? If you opt to save on a $2 bus ride by walking to the destination, but it takes you another hour, or you can save $100 on a cheap airline with 2 stops over a more reputable airline with a direct flight, and you end up tired and achy once you get there, or the whole flight was delayed or canceled, was it worth it?

DO weigh the time/money balance with the "deals" - how much time would be wasted saving money? You want to have an enjoyable trip, too.


  • The cheaper airlines usually do not offer any refunds if anything were to happen or if you needed to cancel or reschedule your flight, whether it's your fault, theirs, or mother nature's. Always opt for travel insurance to cover all your bases.

3. Do NOT decline travel insurance. It may seem like an unnecessary expense right NOW, but being prepared for something that MAY happen is your best bet. You could break an arm, lose your luggage, or have to leave a country because of a natural disaster.

DO read carefully on travel insurance policies and select the one that covers all your bases, but doesn't go overboard for your specific trip.


4. Do NOT use traveler's checks or pre-paid currency cards. Though they were once the best way for travelers to have access to their destination's local currency without having to carry cash, using these will come with various fees attached to them and would leave you paying more.

DO use multiple forms of payments while on your trip. Have cash on hand, in your currency and theirs - for tips, local eateries, or anything else that won't accept a card; your credit card (preferably one that will give you percentages back or points toward travel in the future) - for car rentals, hotels, and restaurants; and especially your Apple, Google, or Android Pay set up on your phone for the easiest, quickest, and safest transactions for all of the above. Keep different amounts of money and cards in different places so if you lose one, you still have back up.


  • Apply for a credit card that has no foreign transaction fees so you can avoid ATM fees and other surcharges, as well as offers you points toward your future travel and/or a percentage back on your purchases.

5. Do NOT exchange money at the airport, train station, or any tourist spots. They will charge you a high exchange rate, which means less value for your money. While they're the most convenient option if you have no other choice, exchanging currencies at high-touristy areas will mean more money spent before you even begin your trip. DO contact your bank or credit union to get foreign currency mailed to you ahead of time. Sometimes they'll have you come pick it up, especially if it's a lot of money, but you can avoid paying ATM fees and get the best exchange rate doing it this way.


  • Should you have any outside currency left before your trip back home, call your bank and ask if they'll accept to exchange it back. If not, you can sell it to a currency exchange store or kiosk in the airport abroad or in the US. If you can't sell it back, airlines will usually have a place you can donate the rest of your currency.

6. Do NOT spend extra money on major tourists eateries. If there is a restaurant near a major tourist area, the price will double and will be half the flavor than it should be. They don't need to worry about quality when they know they'll have people coming regardless.

DO walk a little further into a local town to get the cheaper tastier options. If a menu is in their language, the food is most likely top quality because they have a need to serve their own community.


7. Do NOT assume you know better than the locals because you've researched the area, or that, because you're a tourist, you can get away with dressing or doing whatever you like.

DO ask questions. Learn about the culture and ways of life where you're visiting and be respectful of the differences from how they do things and how you do things. Dress appropriately for their culture. You're in someone else's hometown. You're there to experience something new, not try to teach them your "right" ways of doing things.


  • Visit the local tourist office before anything else to see if there is anything you should know about where you'll be staying for the next few days, cheaper ways to get around the area, low-cost things the locals like to do or places they like to stay. Visit my article How to Travel Cheaper for other ideas on finding low-cost things to do or places to stay. Ask for a map while you're there.

8. Do NOT overpack. Wasting time in the security line going through all your things, having to pay extra fees for extra baggage, and lugging around multiple large suitcases for a week-long trip can all be avoided.

DO research where you'll be staying to see what you can get there that you'd need and what you'd need to take. A lot of destinations have their own packing lists if you just search for them.


  • Only pack essential items, not things you think you'll need.

9. Do NOT take photos of people without permission. Some people may not appreciate having their photo taken. Not sure if you've ever been in the situation where someone is taking a picture of something behind you and you duck out of the way to not be in their picture. Same rules apply. Don't go around making people uncomfortable if you can help it. Some cultures still consider photography taboo. DO be aware of where you are and don’t assume everyone and everything is available to photograph. Again, research the area you'll be staying in to find out how they feel about their people or places getting photographed.


  • Remember that people are people, not an exhibit.

10. Do NOT plan everything for each day of your vacation. Some people prefer to have an itinerary for each hour to be accounted for during the entirety of their stay. This will be so stressful if there is any delay what-so-ever.

DO have an open mind and an open schedule to do things you didn't know you wanted to do or not freak out when something doesn't go as planned. Keep your days flexible.


  • Make a list of things you'd like to see or do on your trip and reference it when you need something to do. You can even look up tours or events in that area and quickly jot down the times they'll be doing them to see if you can work it into your day.






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