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Travel Mistake Tips

I normally don't pay attention to travel articles from unknown online publications that propose to help you travel better. They're usually written by a 12 year old with a backpack and full of errors. But this one actually had good suggestions--many of which we give here. I wonder what many of you think? Do you agree or disagree?

7 Travel Mistakes

Posted by
12250 posts

Definitely sane and sensible advice. I see so many new posters here that are already making some of those mistakes in their planning and leaving themselves open to others after they land.

Posted by
562 posts

I agree with both of you, the article is to the point and realistic. Probably the key points I have found over the last 10 years of travel is 1) Build in buffers so if things don't go according to schedule your not all upset, 2) When plans have to change due to weather, politics, money, etc. I just go with the flow (my daughter calls it "going bohemian"), I have two very dear friends that I could never take to Europe with me because if everything doesn't go exactly as planned they will have a meltdown and the entire trip would be effected from that point on. I have found that the advice and recommendations on this forum to have helped me the most in planning and enjoying a trip!

Posted by
2525 posts

While I agree in sum with the advice, surely others have different opinions. The one point in particular is not feeling obligated to see attractions that may not be all that great or a good value. Sometimes, alternatives provide memorable experiences. I try to spend my travel money wisely.

Posted by
1425 posts

Even for the well traveled, there's always good reminders (because, sometimes we still try to see/do it all). The New York times had a recent article focused on first time overseas travelers. This thread could be a good quick link for our new travel friends who ask advice on topics covered by these articles.

Posted by
3927 posts

Finally a newsfeed travel article with good advice instead of product pimping. I agree that this basically summarizes much of the advice that is given here on this forum daily. If Rick ever rewrites the ETBD guide it needs to summarize things this succinctly. It also sounds similar to that recently discussed Seth Kugel book.

I think this advice hits the sweet spot for a lot of travelers, but there are people for whom this kind of advice will never make sense, or who prefer to travel in a more cushioned and pampered way.

Posted by
2572 posts

I saw a post on facebook that purported to name the top 20 travel sites that were highly overrated. I went through all 20 and found 10-12 sites that were among my favorites, like The Great Wall of China. It was written by a person overly concerned by crowds.

Yes, crowds can be a pain, but who do so many people want to see The Great Wall of China, the Sistine Chapel or the Statute of David in Florence? It is because they are awesome. It is well worth fighting the crowds.

Posted by
463 posts

Thanks for sharing the article Frank. I agree that the article has practical suggestions. I especially agree with the time buffering. I travel frequently from SFO (which usually has delays) and planning for those delays has helped to avoid missed connections more than longer wait times in the airport.

Over the years of traveling, also learned more about the value of flexibility in plans, allowing the opportunity to take advantage of a local festival, an art exhibit, or event. Seeing the big sites is only part of the travel experience.

The one item I have mixed feelings about is travel insurance. More recently, I have purchased primarily to cover medical emergencies or when I am traveling with a group.

Love the rest of the comments and feedback from this post. Thanks everyone.

Sandy

Posted by
8399 posts

That is a good piece. Thanks for sharing. I would not normally have read that as, like you, I find many of those “XX things” articles to be neophyte. This is solid advice for any traveler. The advice about sleep and food is especially important as so many people worry about their budget to the point they miss the cultural importance of cuisine. It does not have to be expensive to be authentic, but one must eat more than panini and pizza to experience Italy, more than fish and chips in the U.K. I gave up sleeping on trains to save money when I was 19.

Posted by
5185 posts

I don't think travel insurance is a once-size-fits-all generalizable product that should be recommended for everyone - the article certainly didn't make a good case for it, or even tried to differentiate the different insurance products and what they're supposed to insure against. It's a personal decision based on risk factors relevant to each individual, including their degree of risk aversion and financial ability to cover whatever loss is at stake. Insurance in general is highly misunderstood (no one reads the fine print) so most of the time people aren't aware when they've overinsured for some "relatively" inexpensive unlikely event or severely underinsured for something that they really can't cover (and finding out about the coverage gaps when it's too late).

Posted by
2525 posts

For review, I am confirming the exact travel coverage described in "Your Guide to Protection Benefits" through the Costco/Citi credit card.

Posted by
407 posts

The one "mistake" that I would disagree with is #3, the one about travel insurance. Before you get insurance, you should compare the premium to the amount you would lose without it. If the premium is, say, 10% of your expenses, then you should ask whether the probability of needing it is as high as 10%. If you think the probability of loss is higher than that, then the insurance is a good idea. If it is less, then it's a question of balancing your feelings about risk against the cost. I've never felt it was worthwhile. I accept the risk that involves.

Posted by
882 posts

For travel insurance, I have never used it, and have traveled enough that the money I have saved by not buying it will easily pay for any future travel interruptions.

Posted by
21544 posts

The only problem I see in the article is that all the points are twitter length.

Are we, and new travellers, so superficial that they can't read a whole paragraph without getting bored?

Posted by
2188 posts

I love the title of this thread.... My first thought was “I don’t need any tips on how to make mistakes.”

Posted by
1037 posts

Despite the brevity of the suggestions, I believe most were valid. I particularly appreciated the emphasis on the need to do research, expect the unexpected, let go of "shoulds," and get out of your comfort zone. One area that I felt was lacking was medical travel insurance. This reminded me of a local story a number of years ago. A nurse colleague's son was in a Study Abroad Program and had a severe catastrophic injury. He was hospitalized for several months. When he was stable enough to come home he required a medical evacuation transport. Unfortunately he did not have a med/vac transportation policy. It ended up that his parents paid tens of thousands out of pocket.

Posted by
8399 posts

The only reasons we buy travel insurance are

  • Medical evacuation in the event of a serious injury or illness
  • Lost luggage coverage
  • Coverage for excessive delays
  • Coverage for trip interruption, I.e., if the planes stop flying because an Icelandic volcano erupts as it did in 2011.

We do not buy it to cover sunk costs like the airfare, pre-paid lodging, or in the event we have to cancel before we depart due to a death or illness. I am more worried about $100,000 evacuation costs than losing $5K in pre paids.

Posted by
11277 posts

Basically, the article on the 7 "mistake tips" is aimed at new travelers, solo or in small groups, or those unsure of traveling as it pertains to Europe.

Re: scrimping.... I don't skimp on sleeping anyway. If I do, then it's just for one night, certainly not two to three consecutive nights. Even if on one night I get only 4 hours of sleep, I'll make it up presumably on the train ride the next day, no problem sleeping on long train rides, or that night. I have scrimped on food, say lunch, but not on sleep.

On feeling "not obligated" to see certain sights, I don't anyway. If I go to Paris or London, it's because I want to, certainly not out of sense of obligation, this applies to Poland, Germany, France, and so on, be they "tourist" frequented places, or the ever increasing numbers of non- US and international tourist towns/cities, ie places where foreign visitors are non-existent or hardly seen.

Re: travel insurance,...bought travel insurance only once. That was in the 21st century, never bought it for the ten trips in the 1970s, '80s, and 1990s. I don't buy it now.

On "travel cushion" time...I don't like cutting it close anyway, too conservative in that regard, especially as it pertains to train connections. I check for the frequency of the connecting train, on which track, calculated distance to make it given the crowds doing likewise, if it's regional train or not,

Posted by
1904 posts

Good article--I am always up for reminders even though I do/don't do most of the tips already. Working on the comfort zone one, have the go with the flow and have plans A, B and C just in case nailed down.

Posted by
3038 posts

Check the illustrations. Apparently all these tips were researched by attractive female models. So who paid?

Posted by
7606 posts

Check the illustrations. Apparently all these tips were researched by attractive female models. So who paid?

Those are stock photos that can be purchased from a stock photo company. In this case "Shutterstock.". (Look at the photo credits) I doubt they paid more than a few cents for each.

Posted by
2340 posts

More info should have been included in the advice about travel insurance. Those who want to buy it need to do research to find out if the insurance companies in fact DO pay out on claims made. Reviews from people who buy travel insurance but never need it are as useful as walking with paper bags on a rainy day.

I would also add this tip: Don't over plan unless the sole purpose of the trip is merely to check off items on a bucket list.

Posted by
5395 posts

More info should have been included in the advice about travel insurance.

I'm assuming that the author was limited by number of words or inches of space for the article and therefore had to keep the tips short and sweet. The info she did give was at least enough to make new travelers think about her advice and do further research if interested.

Posted by
129 posts

Great to see down-to-earth travel tips presented so succinctly. A very useful article, well-worth keeping. But the need to have adequate, appropriate medical insurance should always be a main priority (see 'building your house out of straw'). My mom's friend who had brain cancer, once went to South America without any medical insurance. Dumb-all-over. That person could've caused financial disaster for their children (and grandchildren) had they ever been hospitalized at length.
I am done. The end.

'We are young
wandering the face of the earth.
Wondering what our dreams might be worth.
Learning that we're only immortal
for a limited time
.'

Posted by
129 posts

A related book. Folks may want to check out the new 'Lonely Planet's Best Ever Travel Tips'. Author Tom Hall wrote this pocket-sized and affordable book. It is succinct, with a useful variety of topics covered with economy by Hall plus a range of contributing specialists. Curious omissions: was surprised that the 'useful websites list' did not include forums such as Rick Steves here nor their own Thorn Tree. And perhaps the 'common scams' section would've benefited from noting in which country each ploy is most likely to be encountered. Good to see RometoRio plus Accuweather lauded as the worthy websites that they both are but maybe next time also include Oanda for currency conversion and also that train/rail site ('The Man in Seat 61' or whatever it is called).
And c'mon man copy editors--pg 126-7 has the same walking tours advice repeated twice verbatim! (long groan)
I am done. The end.

Posted by
129 posts

Carol, LOL too! I also wondered about that curious title. Betcha' that most of us here could write entire books about the various travel mistakes that we've committed.
I am done. The end.

Posted by
3038 posts

I too was disconcerted by the adjacent plugs for magic travel crystals. The only crystal holding any power over me is a diamond, which I certainly would leave locked up at home. Oh, and salt, provided by dining establishments everywhere.
The insurance suggestion does need some refinement. Health insurance for travel and trip insurance are separate issues. Both can be vital and I suggest researching independent sources rather than just clicking an airline box.

Posted by
2577 posts

I think the decision regarding travel insurance depends on the particular trip or travel style. I typically do not buy travel insurance. My health insurance does cover me when I'm in Europe. I usually reserve at inns that can be cancelled if necessary. If travel insurance was less expensive or if my particular situation was more tenuous, I think I'd purchase more often. We did purchase travel insurance when we booked a river cruise because it was pricier than our typical vacations and I wasn't very confident that the cruise company would be helpful in the event of a necessary cancellation.

Posted by
2667 posts

I have to chime in on the insurance question. Since we mostly do independent travel, I never bought insurance until my daughter, who was working in the field of education abroad, alerted me to what the really serious health-related risk is; i.e., medical evacuation. Even young, healthy, and fit people can have accidents. If you trip and break your ankle, the cost of a last-minute business class (so you can keep your foot elevated) seat could be ruinous, not to mention what more serious situations would require. She (my daughter) had many tales of students needing post-surgery travel home, sometimes with medical attendants and costs to $50,000.
The oft-repeated mantra, “I’ve never bought travel insurance, and I’ve never needed it,* betrays a lack of understanding of insurance. It is meant to protect against rare, but potentially devastating costs. My analogy is home owners’ fire insurance. Very few people lose their homes to fires; but, in my opinion, you would be foolish to risk the loss of your most significant asset in order to save the relatively small cost of the premium.
*That is the really bad travel advice.

Posted by
2577 posts

Rosalyn, everyone's situation is different. It is not bad travel advice to review your own insurance and travel plans and make an individual decision. Everyone has different insurance and destinations also vary. My friend fell in Paris and broke her wrist. That was a very cheap place to fall! Care at the hospital didn't amount to anything. People also need to be evacuated out of the Grand Canyon which insurance tends to not cover. I have also had two kids in Europe to study and each time I called our own health insurer to let them know and to talk about possible issues. Also, I worked in health care.

Posted by
129 posts

1) Southam--Look at Me! (I'm from Leamington) That airline box-to-check always seems like a sinister rip-off to me. The box wazzam (was and still is) too convenient for the lazy.
2) As a young traveling teacher, I was always struck by the number of older Ontario teacher colleagues with Visa cards who seemed unaware that they were already doubly-covered insurance-wise, and would purchase what amounted to unnecessary additional coverage from outside providers. Our teachers union plus Visa already had their backs.
3) Years ago, my elderly father received a long-distance call from the young son of one of my wayward cousins. That young person claimed to be then traveling overseas with a car rental and had just suffered a serious traffic accident. Supposedly, the rental was totaled...and you guessed it, he'd not taken out any insurance. Dad didn't fall for it, even if it were true.
I am done. The end.

Posted by
2667 posts

@jules and gregglamarsh:
Of course, everyone should check their own health insurance and cc provided insurance so as not to duplicate coverage. My coverage ( Kaiser Plan) would cover evacuation from the Grand Canyon, by the way. And yes, medical care in Europe is vastly cheaper than in the U.S., and in emergencies may even one may be treated without fees.. However, if you require long convalescence, do you want to be abroad, away from friends and family? It’s the getting home part that can be staggeringly expensive.
Furthermore, Gregglamarsh, as I am sure you know, comparing Canadian and U.S. health insurance is not so much like comparing apples to oranges, as it is like comparing apples to dog food.
Not sure what that scam about a friend or relative needing money for an alleged problem in a foreign country has to do with travel mistakes.

Posted by
2577 posts

My point is, my advice was to review your own insurance. When my son studied abroad, his college had coverage for evacuation should it be necessary. My insurance does as well. Trip insurance would have duplicated what he already had. Also, sometimes purchasing trip insurance can negate some coverage you already had. So, it is NOT bad advice to say that people should review their own situation and make their own decisions. Blanket statements can be inaccurate.

Posted by
11035 posts

I see there being two types of insurance.. Travel insurance.. which covers cancellations and interruptions as well as lost luggage.. and Travel Medical insurance ( which should include repatriation and transport home if needed ) ..

I have never bought Travel Insurance of first type ( I book hotels I can cancel , never prepay etc, so most I would lose is one night for last minute cancellation) .. and the transport we buy ( inter europeon flights and trains are pretty cheap.. and some have cancellation policies )

I would not leave my country for ONE day without extra Travel Medical Insurance.. not, one, day.. Its cheap.. buy it.

Other than that one point I thought the article was spot on..

Posted by
1366 posts

I have never bought travel insurance. HOWEVER, last Jan, my daughter was getting married. My other daughter and her companion were coming. The significant other (SO) is not a well person, and I considered that she might not be able to come. When I bought their tickets, I did get travel insurance. She was not able to come, and so I did get my money back. HOWEVERAGAIN, she had to see a doctor BEFORE the trip, and that was required to satisfy the insurance. It came down to a narrow window of a doctor visit.

Posted by
11016 posts

Definitely agree with allowing yourself lag time for something going wrong. I find I make stupid mistakes, like leave my phone charger behind, if I let myself get into a hurry up mode rather than allow plenty of time (plus extra) to get where I need to be.

Trip insurance? Haven't purchased it yet and haven't wished I had - yet.

Yes, visit the sights that seem interesting to you and yes research so you have a reasonable idea of whether sights will appeal to you or not.

Definitely include getting sleep and nutrition (not just eating) as part of a plan to stay healthy on your trip. Nothing is a bigger waste of money than getting sick during a trip and not being able to enjoy it.

I like their comment about getting overly attached to plans. It helps to be able to let go and enjoy the experience as it presents itself rather than be anxious that it's not going exactly as you envisioned. I remember missing a train in Paris because I thought I needed a different station, then just missed my train at the correct station. I got on the next train, which had more stops, and lost a couple hours. I ended up getting a little less accomplished that day. It's much better to keep looking forward than get upset about something you can't change.

Staying in your comfort zone is a yes and no thing. Yes, try new things that you might not ordinarily do. No, don't ski the black diamond runs in the Alps if you've never skied before.

Posted by
609 posts

I like the tip about stepping out of your comfort zone. If you want to pop into a McDonald’s halfway through your trip to compare it to the USA, that’s fine. But surely not for two week trip for every meal!

I tried Indian food for the first time in my life in London, been hooked ever since!

Posted by
2695 posts

That was a surprisingly interesting article to forward to people. It's not full of fluff and it isn't a product placement.

With relate to Rick Steves: I think he needs to rewrite the whole basic planning tips of his guidebook. It has become outdated with the pervasiveness of online reservation systems, increasing number of major sites that require advanced booking/reservation etc. I was taking a quick look and it resembles a text adapted from the late 1990s, revised way too many times.


It is an official requirement for travelers into the Schengen area (unless they are citizens of the European Union*) to have health insurance covering your travel, with a minimum of required coverage.

While Americans (or Canadians, for that matter) are seldom a target for verification of health insurance, those found at an external Schengen border without appropriate travel insurance can be denied entry on that basis. It doesn't happen often, but it is something that does offer immediate 'probable cause' (loosely speaking) for an immigration officer to deny entry (with all repercussions, including a long-term registry of the fact on FRONTEX).

Whether you have cash to pay readily for all minimum required cover expenses, if incurred, is irrelevant.

This is a situation analogous to the IDP (International Driver's Permit): in most cases/places where it is required, nobody ever checks it. But if somebody does check, it can create headaches, or in case of accidents with car rentals, some serious-ish bureaucratic trouble if there were substantial car damages.

There are some rather cheap "Schengen insurance" packages that cost just up of €1/day for people younger than 65. They are bare-bones insurance tailored to meet the legal requirements. I suggest everybody gets one of these, even if bypassing more expensive coverage. I also recommend people do not underestimate the costs of repatriation in case of serious incapacitation.

Posted by
2167 posts

analogous to the IDP (International Driver's Permit): in most cases/places where it is required, nobody ever checks it. But .... in case of accidents with car rentals, some serious-ish bureaucratic trouble if there were substantial car damages.

As far as I know this has never happened, not even one time. It’s inconsiderate to post non-factual things that are personal worries or hang ups not of concern to the general public, like “don’t stay at that hotel, it’s haunted.”

Posted by
609 posts

I agree with the above that Rick Steves and his staff needs to completely gut Europe Through The Back Door and start all over with a brand new guide aimed at 21st century European travel. I’ve had a copy of ETTBD since around 1992 and, while there’s been updates, there’s still too much of the same core material that’s been there for close to 20 years. Heck, some photos from this century would be useful,

I love how Rick has pioneered making Europe accessible to the masses and pointed out that there was a lot more to Europe than staying at American chain hotels and eating at tourist traps. But, times have changed and I do hope Rick’s guidebooks will start reflecting this.

Posted by
1298 posts

I am going to say that you can buy "accident only" travel insurance for a very low price.
Yes, care is "cheap" in Europe but....

We had a 67 year old woman fall and break her shoulder in London. After 3 days of dealing with the British Healthcare system I managed to use my healthcare connections to get her care transferred to a private hospital and from there we got her on a plane back to the US (Business Class with a nurse attendant)

While the British care was "cheap" it was also rationed. when asked about surgery to fix her arm we were told "She's 67 we just expect that she will not have the same mobility " (AKA "we don't do surgery on patients this age, we just let their quality of life decline") Luckily the private hospital immediately said "she needs surgery and we have two options.... one is to do it here and the other is to get her home ASAP" We went with option two.

Insurance cost was about $100.

I've also had a friend who had to med-evac her 20 year old son. (Luckily his school required them to buy the insurance to participate in the study aboard program>

NOTE: If your primary insurance is Medicare you do NOT have ANY coverage outside the US. You cannot submit a claim for payment when you get home, it's just not paid!

I buy medical only, don't insure any of the trip costs and it's really cheap.

Posted by
2667 posts

@carol
Regarding your two examples of people needing medical care abroad. I wish you had included what the cost is for a business class return trip with a medical attendant. I’m sure it is staggering. That is, after all, two business class seats and a return for the attendant, plus the attendant’s salary.

My daughter worked in the field of study abroad, and it was she who put me on to why one should get travel medical insurance. Before that, I was as uninformed as those who pooh-pooh the notion.
And, by the way, all college study abroad programs require the purchase of that insurance, so that they are not left holding the bag for students whose parents don’t understand the issue.

The advice, often given here, is that you buy other insurance only for non-refundable big outlays, such as tours.

Posted by
7200 posts

I certainly was not expecting to break my wrist less than 2 weeks into my last Camino. It was out in the middle of no where. It took the ambulance almost an hour to get there and almost an hour ride to the nearest hospital. Setting the wrist, getting a cast and then I had to fly home that day. Thank goodness I had German health insurance as the ambulance ride and getting my wrist set were all covered. What would that have cost if you didn't have travel ins.?

Accidents happen. Make sure you have ins. to cover that.

(mean while, am still in therapy for this broken wrist that happened almost 5 months ago. Fingers are numb, and hurt and MRI scheduled soon) So thankful for German health ins.

Posted by
4373 posts

Regarding Medicare, if you have supplemental insurance certain plans (F and G for example) DO include some foreign emergency medical coverage. Advice others have given -- know what your own medical insurance covers, plus any credit cards (Chase Sapphire Reserve has travel and repatriation coverage.) Then add whatever you feel you need.

Posted by
11016 posts

My personal health insurance covers me while traveling, I might have to pay something but it wouldn't be catastrophic.

The big worry on the horizon is, at age 65, most Americans have to go on Medicare (unless you are still working and covered by your employer). Medicare provides no benefit outside the U.S. or it's territories. Travel health insurance is an appropriate precaution if you are on Medicare. Fortunately, I'm eligible for Tricare for Life (as an alternative to Medicare) - which does provide a benefit outside the U.S.

Posted by
428 posts

I gave thumbs up to
building in time cushions
not having to see the tourist attractions
having to stick to plans
and not doing research

I think travel insurance is a case by case issue and depends on so many factors. Sometimes I get some parts of travel insurance and then it's usually the medical evacuation part as I get older

I'm not sure how I would know what my "comfort zone" is until I travel a few times so as advice to new travelers that might be tough

And I have no thoughts on the scrimping thing -