Most common travel mistakes we make are about money, at least they are when you’re travelling on a budget for an extended period of time. When you go on a two-week holiday to a beachside resort, generally speaking the last thing you think about is the amount of money you’re spending. Most of the time you’ve saved up a wad of cash and you’ve got a couple of weeks to spend it. So you burn through it like crazy – massages, cocktails, clothes you’re never going to wear again – it disappears fast!
On the other hand, when travelling nomadically, money becomes a big issue. Unless you’re making six figures from your blog like The Expert Vagabond, or daddy’s given you the black Amex, chances are you’re going to be doing the sums in your head every time you take your wallet out of your pocket to pay for something. Money counting and living as frugally as possible started to do my head in, and it actually began to affect my relationship with Sarah, so I made a conscious effort to change. Hey, that could be tip number one – be conscious of what you spend, but don’t let it stop you from enjoying the journey! I did let it consume me for a period, and I had to change my ways.
So without any further ado, here are seven common travel mistakes you should avoid like the plague…
Travel without insurance
As a family travelling with a now three-year-old boy, it’s no brainer to have travel insurance. I simply wouldn’t be able to forgive myself if Jack got sick and we couldn’t get the treatment he needed because we didn’t have insurance or we couldn’t afford it.
We have travel Insurance through World Nomads and we’re so glad we do. Sarah has been sick sporadically throughout the journey. It started in Thailand, followed her to India and the UAE, then the doctors in France finally discovered what was wrong with her. She’d managed to contract Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) along the way, and we had medical bills in each of those locations along the way. And every time we submitted a claim through World Nomads, they reimbursed us no questions asked. I can’t speak more highly of them.
It’s true the amount we paid for our insurance was roughly what we claimed back along the way, but without it we would have been picking up unbudgetted bills along the way, which would have hurt big time. And who knows what other problems we may encounter in the future. Jack could break his arm, I could lose my laptop, Sarah could break her camera or need further medical treatment for her IBS, we could lose our luggage in transit, the truth is you just never know.
By the way, if you click the World Nomads link in the text and take out travel insurance, I’ll be paid a small commission and it won’t cost you any extra. It helps us sustain our travels…
Travel without vaccinations
As a nomadic traveller, there’s a good chance you’re going to be heading to places that have questionable medical facilities, and a high prevalence of diseases. Southeast Asia, South America and Africa are continents where diseases such as malaria, rabies and yellow fever are alive and well. Chances are you will never contract any diseases on your travels, but with Jack we just aren’t going to take any chances with his health.
It’s up to you whether you get your shots before departing, but make sure you’re well prepared as the course can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months to administer. And not only are vaccinations necessary for protection against diseases, but they are also a legal requirement for entry into some countries.
Use your bank debit or credit card
As an Australian, if we use our bank debit or credit cards overseas, chances are we will be slugged with a hefty fee. That’s the way Australian banks are, they gouge as much out of the ordinary citizen as they possibly can. Australians are subjected to the world’s highest banking fees, making them the most profitable per head of capita.
As such it’s vital you do your research and get debit and credit cards that offer free transactions, no ATM fees, no currency conversion fees, and no annual fees. After all, why give your money to the banks when you can spend on yourself travelling instead. In Australia, the best option is to get a 28 Degrees Mastercard for when you need to use a credit card, and a Citibank Plus Visa Debit Card when you need to take money out. Find out all about the best card options HERE.
In the USA, Capital One, Charles Schwab, Chase Sapphire and the Barclays Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard are all good options. Whatever you do, make sure you do your research on the best fee-free cards to use from your particular country.
And by the way, don’t even think about traveller’s cheques. Once upon a time they were useful, but with fee-free cards and the Internet, you just don’t need them any more. In fact, a lot of banks and money exchange places won’t accept them!
Exchange money at the airport / train station / bus station / major tourists areas / etc…
If you like giving your money away, then head down to your nearest airport and start exchanging money for other currencies. Unless you absolutely have to exchange currencies at these places, don’t do it…EVER! The best thing you can do is ensure you always have cash in your fee-free debit card and hit up the nearest ATM. Be well prepared for these situations. There will probably be one or two times when you’ll have no choice, but keep these to an absolute minimum. Get cash from the ATM then head into a bank and exchange currency there.
Eat near major tourist attractions
Two things will happen when you eat near a major tourist attraction:
- You will either pay twice as much for decent food that you would pay anywhere else, or;
- You will eat junk and get fat because that’s the only food you can afford.
Be prepared and go to the supermarket before venturing out for a day of sightseeing. Fill your backpack with healthy and nutritious food, a large bottle of water, and not only will you save money, but you’ll be looking after your body as well. After all, would you rather have a nice picnic in the park underneath the Eiffel Tower, or devour an overpriced hot dog and Coke?
If you are going to go out for a meal, which is pretty much what we did for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day in Southeast Asia, then go where the locals go. Restaurants filled with locals will have far better food because they want the locals to come back. Restaurants next to tourist attractions don’t care about their food because they know the tourists are never coming back.
Try and plan everything on your own
The first place I went when arriving at a new place was the tourist office. Of course I checked out travel blogs and did online research before going anywhere, but go and get a free map from the tourist office at the very least. The people who work there are locals who get paid to know everything about the place. It’s obvious isn’t it!!! They may not offer any suggestions you didn’t already know, but they could tell you something you would have otherwise missed if you’d avoided the tourist office.
Limit your accommodation options
There are so many options available nowadays that limiting your accommodation to hotels and hostels is madness. Couchsurfing, housesitting, and other options where you can share accommodation has opened up the world to countless opportunities to meet people you would otherwise have never known.
We Couchsurfed in Paris, Switzerland and Belgium and met some wonderful people who enhanced our experiences enormously. In fact, there’s no way we would have had as good a time in any of those places if it wasn’t for our Couchsurfing hosts. If you’re travelling with young children, don’t let that put you off Couchsurfing. Jack got to meet and play with plenty of kids, which is so beneficial when he’s been spending all his time with adults.
In France we spent six months housesitting which saved us an incredible amount of money, gave us a base to explore the country, and most importantly allowed us to become part of the local community and friends with the home owners. There are so many opportunities to housesit around the world, that the small cost of joining any one of a number of housesitting website will be well worth the investment.
You won’t be able to avoid making some of the common travel mistakes some of the time, but at least now you can be aware of what to do before you leave, and some scenarios to avoid once on the road. If you’re well prepared before you leave on your nomadic adventure, and open to the limitless possibilities you will encounter once you’ve left, you will experience the most incredible journey without churning through the money along the way.