5 Trip Planning Mistakes Everyone Makes – and How to Avoid Them

1. Over-Stuffing your Itinerary

Can you see Paris, Rome, Berlin, and London in a week? Technically, yes… but you’ll really be touring Europe’s airports, not their capital cities. A lot of travelers make the mistake of over-stuffing their itinerary and trying to fit too many activities into a short amount of time. Jet lag is real! If you plan 234324 activities and burn yourself out, all you’ll remember is how miserable you were- not the cool and unforgettable things you did.

Instead, I recommend spending no less than 2 nights in each city. The time it takes to change hotels, travel between cities, and re-orient yourself can sometimes take an entire day. If you’re a fast-paced traveler like me, I recommend looking for nearby day trips that allow you to see multiple “places” while using a your primary city as a hub to return to every night. Great examples of day trips include Oxford from London, Saint-Émilion from Bordeaux, or Toledo from Madrid.

2. Sticking to the Tourist Attractions

Obviously, as a traveler you are going to want to do touristy things. However, try to strike a balance between tourist attractions and local hangouts. My favorite way to do this is to find popular street markets, restaurants, or bar areas in between your stops at historic landmarks, museums, and activities.

As a bonus, local hotspots are often cheaper (and better!) than what you will find in tourist areas. To help you find where to go, ask advice from people who live there- like merchants, guides, clerks. Or, plan ahead and use sites like Yelp and Facebook.

3. Blowing Your Budget

Traveling is full of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. However, traveling is not a justification for going into debt or leaving yourself a financial wreck. As part of your trip planning, make a realistic budget and a plan to save for it. I recommend budgeting no less than $100/day in most places or $50/day in places like Eastern Europe and South East Asia. When in doubt, it’s always better to overestimate than underestimate!

Chiang Mai, Thailand is a beautiful (and cheap!) destination.

When making a budget, consider things like your accommodation, transportation between cities, tours and activities, souvenirs, and meal expenses. If you’re looking to save money, consider:

  • Staying in hostels
  • Taking buses instead of trains or planes
  • Walking instead of using public transportation
  • Eating street food instead of sit-down meals
  • Cooking in your hostel
  • Drinking less alcohol

4. Making Yourself an Easy Target for Crime

If you are from an area where street crime- such as pickpocketing, purse snatching, mobile phone theft, are not common you may be unknowingly making yourself a prime target. Each destination is different so do your research and educate yourself about common scams and crimes in the area. A stolen passport or wallet can easily ruin your trip- but there are many things you can do to minimize your chances of it happening.

Cartagena, Colombia
  • When picking a cross-body purse, it’s most important to have an interior zipped pocket for your most important things (passport, cell phone, cash). At night or on crowded transportation, ensure that your valuables are zipped inside the interior pocket.
  • Never keep your wallet or phone in your back pocket.
  • Don’t wear large pieces of expensive jewelry and lots of designer brands when you’re out-and-about as it will draw attention to you.
  • Lock up your valuables in a locker or safe when you’re out and about.
  • Keep valuables in your carry on luggage, never checked!

5. Letting Your Fears of the Unknown Hold You Back

Often times, I hear people expressing fears over traveling alone, traveling in a foreign place, or eating “strange” food. Don’t let a fear of new things prevent you from pursuing your travel goals. Instead of having one big goal, try setting small goals to help prepare you along the way. For example, take a solo trip to a nearby city for a long weekend.

Ultimately, memories last a lifetime- and so does regret. Don’t let experiences pass you by and leave you feeling like you missed out.

Tallinn, Estonia – where I faced my fears of traveling alone for the first time!
What common mistakes do you see travelers making? Let me know in the comments.

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