It’s easy to read for hours and hours on what to do, what to see, and what to pack. Honestly, it can get a little overwhelming. Instead of telling you what to do, this time I wanted to share the top things NOT to do when you’re planning your next vacation.
Not checking travel documents - This is huge, and often overlooked. So many people assume that the travel documents say exactly what they think they’re supposed to say, but your best bet is to check – and double check – the travel documents. Make sure that your names are all spelled correctly, and either include or don’t include your middle names depending on what you have on your passport. Also check the dates, times, and locations of your flights, hotels, and transfers – these things are easier to fix before you miss your flight!
Not having a passport or visa - Before you check this off the list, check your passport expiration date and the entry requirements for the country you’re visiting. Many countries require a passport to be valid 6 months beyond your entry date, and not just for the length of your trip. Many countries also require a certain number of blank pages, or a pre-arranged visa. When checking requirements, make sure to include countries where you will be having a layover, even if you don’t plan on leaving the airport. You can check the entry requirements for your next vacation online here.
Not buying travel insurance - I know I talk about travel insurance a lot, but the truth is, when you need the travel insurance, you’re going to be really glad you have it. There are the easy things, like cancelled flights and lost luggage, but what about when you break your leg while traveling? You weren’t expecting to add local hospitals to your list of sights to see, but you’ll be very thankful that the bill is covered by your travel insurance while you’re there. The best time to book travel insurance is as soon as you book your vacation, but it’s never too late!
Not letting your bank know you’ll be abroad - It’s an easy phone call before you leave to your banks and credit card companies to let them know that you’ll be traveling. By giving your banks a heads up that you’ll be traveling, you’re less likely to have your credit card flagged for fraudulent purchases while you’re traveling. We learned this the hard way in Spain, when we were standing at the atm during siesta, and couldn’t get any cash until US banks opened again for the day. Even better, plan ahead and know which atm’s are the best for you to use while you’re traveling for foreign transaction fees; some banks have international branches under another name that won’t charge you an additional fee for using their machines.
Overpacking - It’s so much easier to travel with less stuff. Do yourself a favor and know that it’s ok to wear the same pair of pants a few times and pack less. You’ll have more room to bring souvenirs home with you, and you’ll love how much easier it is to navigate the airport with a smaller suitcase. In many places you can even do laundry or have laundry done while you’re there. I’ve tried all kinds of laundry services while traveling – from the Laundromat to laundry service, and I’ve even washed a few things in the hotel sink before. Also, almost everywhere that you are going has stores where you can buy what you’re missing – and think of the adventure!
Not packing correctly - This isn’t about how much you’re bringing, but more about what you bring and how you’re bringing it. Always keep your medication in your carryon luggage; I’ve had my own suitcase ‘lost’ a few too many times to trust that my necessary medications would get there on time. Bring a change of clothes in your carryon bag –when your checked bag is lost or when your seatmate spills a drink on you, you’re going to really appreciate having a change of clothes you can easily grab. When you’re packing, know what TSA requires and pack correctly – don’t be that guy at the airport frantically trying to repack your checked bag with the shampoo bottle that was too large to carryon. Another tip – carryon sizes have changed over the last few years, check with your airline before you pack to make sure that your carryon will fit on the airplane in an overhead bin.
Overscheduling - It’s easy to jam pack your itinerary with things to do and places to go – but make sure to leave some down time as well. It’s easy to get caught up in the sights of a destination and forget to actually experience it. I love leaving time open in the itinerary to sit down at a café and just “be”. It’s nice to enjoy where you are, meet some people there, and really take time to experience the destination. The same applies for cramming too many cities into one vacation – sure you can see all of Europe in two weeks, but you don’t want to. Take the time to enjoy your vacation and make sure that you have something left to see for your next trip!
Not planning enough time for connections - No one likes hanging out in the airport any longer than you need to be, and so often people beg me for the most impossibly short connections – please make sure that you have enough time for your connections! Especially when traveling internationally, it’s hard to guess how long it will take for you to get through customs and find your next gate. If you have an extra hour or so, you can start your vacation early with a great meal and a quick airport shopping trip before your next flight.
Not bringing printed copies of your itinerary - We love to give people printed copies of everything as well as an electronic copy in an app. The electronic versions and the apps work great – until they don’t. You probably haven’t memorized the name and address of your hotel, so it’s always a good idea to have printed copies of everything for the time that your cell phone isn’t working while you’re sitting in the back of the taxi trying to tell the driver where you’re supposed to go. While most hotels don’t require printed copies of your reservation, most shore excursions, transfers, cruise lines, and airlines do – so it’s always better to have the printed copies of everything, even if you don’t need them.
Starting with impossible expectations - Let’s be honest – your vacation will probably not be perfect. Something at some point will be different than what you were expecting, and it’s how you react to it that will shape the rest of your vacation. Don’t start your vacation with a specific expectation at all; go with an open mind and a positive attitude. Go with the flow and have fun.