5 Travel Mistakes I Make Again and Again

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Travel Mistakes

I am not ashamed to admit that I make mistakes, especially while traveling. After all, I’m human, and no one is perfect (no matter how much they pretend to be online).

And don’t mistakes lead to lessons and learning? If only. However, what does in fact shame me is the fact that I tend to make the same mistakes traveling over and over again and never seem to learn my lesson. Oopsies.

You would think by now after over 7 years of international travel and 4 years of living abroad I would have learned a thing or two. To be fair, I’ve pretty much nailed this whole travel the world alone as a girl and get paid to travel (sometimes) deal on the head. And yet no one is as surprised as I am how frequently and consistently I do miss the target.

Travel Mistakes

Something that bothers me over the years in blogging and social media is the fact that travel is so glamorized and picture-perfect, literally. Let’s be honest, that’s not always the case. There is so much grit and details that go into a trip, especially my kind of trip, crazy moments and insane experiences that usually make the memory of the trip all the sweeter.

Of course I am talking about the bad times, the mistakes, the clusterfucks and the oh-shit moments that are an integral part of traveling. Can’t have the good without the bad. And yet how many travel blogs are out there that paint the world in technicolor rainbow of fake idealized perfection?

No one has ever accused me of being perfect.

So in an effort to recognize the problem and hope (probably in vain) for a solution, I’ve compiled a little list of 5 travel mistakes I make over and over again. The first step in finding a solution to something is recognizing there’s a problem, right?

Travel Mistakes

1. Packing

Overpacking. Or rather I should say, packing incorrectly.

I don’t know how I manage it, but somehow I pack all the wrong things for almost every single trip I take abroad – how is that possible?

From not bringing enough undies and socks to forgetting sweaters to swimsuits no matter where I am I tend to forget one crucial part of my wardrobe and bring several things I really didn’t need.

Like that one time I moved to New Zealand in winter and didn’t pack a coat or hiking boots. Well done me. I was so proud of myself that I managed to fit my life for a year in a suitcase and backpack and as it turned out, had nothing appropriate for the freezing windy wet misery that is Wellington in August.

Or that one time I went to Australia in the heat of summer and brought 4 pairs of long pants and one pair of shorts. And a parka.

2. I am not a member of any airline rewards program 

OMFG what is wrong with me?

For shame, Liz. For shame!

I’ve been flying internationally since 2005, I’ve had 9 years to get my ass into gear and join an airline rewards program and I STILL haven’t done it! Why?

While I can’t put my finger on it per say, but I reckon it has something to do with general laziness (on my part), intimidation and a little bit of regret. Regret for all the hundreds of flights and millions of miles that POOF disappeared into thin air in 7 years of round the world travel that will never count as points.

As soon as I book a flight or am booked on a flight, I think “oh yeah” I should get on that whole rewards business. And then I promptly forget until I check in at the airport and think to myself “damn I wish I had done that rewards thing. Next time.”

It’s a vicious cycle, guys.

In other news, will someone please tell me where to start with this? Thanks.

3. Forgetting to change my phone SIMS 

I believe it was the summer of 09 the first time I took my smartphone overseas and forgot to turn off data roaming. Cue a $500 bill from AT&T. Twice.

5 years later and it still happens. Or what’s even worse sometimes I’m in a position where I don’t have wifi and I desperately need to get online (but not really) and I reactivate the roaming to use the internet. Boom. $500 bill and a warning on my phone that my service has been suspended due to excessive roaming.

Why are the bills always $500?

Finally in 2012 before deciding to blog and travel full time, I sucked it up and paid a big fee to unlock my American iPhone so that I could by SIMs in each country I travel too, not having to depend entirely on wifi or roaming packages. Sometimes I would travel so much that I’d not have time or forget to buy a SIM in each country, so I would end up paying the roaming charges or buy data packages anyways!

Like that one time I went to Australia (last week) and forgot the Australia SIM I had bought the last time and ended up paying for New Zealand international data packages 3 times. Who am I?

Travel Mistakes

4. Traveling with no safety net

Sometimes when I think back to how I used to travel while still in college and straight afterwards, I am astonished more terrible things didn’t happen to me before I started to get my act together, something I am still working on.

For example, I traveled for years with only one debit card and no credit cards as either a safety net or backup. Do you know how many times Bank of America cut my card even though I notified them I was overseas? About twice a year. Is there anything worse than trying to pay for something only to have your card declined even though you have enough money on it? Embarrassing.

As you can probably imagine this contributed to the massive roaming charges I incurred on my phone either by searching for my bank info or phoning the US to sort it out.

Thinking back I am so lucky I was never robbed or pickpocketed and lost everything overseas. Knocks on wood.

Travel Mistakes

I finally got smart about it after one too many catastrophes, I set up a couple of credit cards, and I always make sure I have enough on them in case of a BIG emergency, instead of flying by the seat of my pants and living like “oh $100? that’ll last me a weekend in Paris if I’m frugal and sleep in the airport.” Oh to be 19 again.

However, being me, without giving too much away and embarrassing myself even more, let’s just say at New Zealand hasn’t been too kind to my credit cards at the moment and if I were to have a big emergency, I might be making a roaming call to the Bank of Mom. I hate myself.

Travel Mistakes

LUCKILY I did get smart about property insurance last spring and invested in a policy with Clement’s that covers my gadgets overseas for cheap – and which already saved me once when I had the misfortune of falling off a camel in Jordan and broke my brand new fancy camera a week after I bought it. Typical.

With my first solo trip to Turkey last year I also started buying travel insurance before each trip. World Nomads has heaps of customizable affordable policies that fit with my travel style – it’s flexible and can be changed easily online and covers ALL the adventure sports. The security of knowing I didn’t have to worry (too much) if something went wrong was amazing!

In the past I’ve sometimes hurt myself badly and not gone to the hospital because I was afraid of the costs, i.e. Jordan and that one time I almost died in Dublin. Now all I can say is I am too old for that shit, and before any big trip I buy travel insurance with World Nomads.

See, I’m learning!


5. Buying really early morning flights//bus tickets//train trips//donkey rides

I don’t know why I keep doing this, but over the years I have developed a phobia about waking up super early. Especially this past year, god knows why, but I have had a lot of sleeping problems. Like a lot.

It’s not that I need to sleep in really late, I try to have a schedule where I can be up and about doing things well before 8 at the latest. But if I know I have to get up before 6, I can’t sleep at night. This is most definitely the case if I have to be up for something important, like a flight or some form of travel.

Travel Mistakes

Especially after I realized that my travel style was evolving and I wasn’t suited for long-term rush travel. I was a turtle and I liked to take things slow and actually enjoy where I am.

And yet for some reason or another I somehow end up booking transport or arranging things super early, usually when I don’t need to. Oh a 7am international flight? Sounds perfect. Nope, that means I have to be at the airport at 5am and then get transport to the airport earlier, so in general I’m looking at a 4am wakeup call.

If I know that I have to get up at 4am, I can’t sleep the night before, no matter what I do. I have tried and tried and tried so many different things over the years and nothing works. The obvious solution is avoid early morning transport days, right? And yet here we are. Haven’t learned my lesson yet.

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126 Comments on “5 Travel Mistakes I Make Again and Again

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  1. Gonna be totally honest and hope it doesn’t come across as shaming – I almost cried thinking about all the miles you’d have racked up. But, it’s never too late to start, and with as much as you travel, you wouldn’t have to go full-travel-hacker to get some nice upgrades or free flights in a year or so. It’ll seriously take you like 5 minutes to sign up for a program or two, and then you just put the membership number in when you book a flight. Couldn’t be easier!
    Also, I’m so glad I’m not the only person who can’t sleep before early travel. I’ve finally learned my lesson (after like 7 or 8 years) and booked my next flight to depart in the evening. Why has it taken me this long??

  2. Oh my goodness, yes to taking the earliest trips to save money, overpacking and not being a member of a rewards program! I really need to tackle all of these things. Most recently, I booked tickets to Amsterdam where I made a conscious effort to book time appropriate travel, but I did resent paying more for it!

  3. Ha! These are great. The best travel stories tend to be the unglamorous ones 🙂 You definitely need to break the cycle and join some airline reward programs! If I were you I’d join one in the Star Alliance (United) and one in the OneWorld Alliance (American), then you can get miles whether you’re flying Air New Zealand, Qantas, or whatever. There’s no reason you should feel bad for starting a little late in the game – in a year or two you’ll probably have earned some free flights already, so just go for it!

      1. For earning status and upgrades, I’d say your best bet is joining the program of whatever local airline you fly most often. Joining a US airline’s program wouldn’t help you as much in that case because airline alliances don’t really honour each other’s statuses except for early boarding and lower baggage fees. Sorry if that doesn’t help much, but this conversation would be better had over a flat white or even better – a few pints of beer! Ha! It’s easy to get paralysed with indecision over something like this, but there’s no perfect way to do it and it’s always a gamble. No matter what program you join, I bet you’ll have free flights in another year or two and getting some free flights is better than nothing! 😉

      2. thanks for teh tips!! I really really need them 🙂 If you’re ever in Wanaka let me know 🙂

  4. Three things …
    1. I LOATHE packing and unpacking. I tend to avoid it until the last minute.
    2. Liz, you really need to join an airline program. Rack up those miles!
    3. I always book early stuff too! (and I am not a morning person)

    Great post 😀

      1. With most frequent flyer programmes you need to do an insane number of miles per year to get anything good, but there’s a bit of a travel hack you can do with Aegean Airlines:


        They’re a Greek airline, but you don’t ever have to fly with them, just grab the right flights with one of the Star Alliance partners (including Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand and United).


        For example, one return flight from London to Auckland on the right fare code and you could get gold status… lounge access, extra baggage, the works 🙂

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