On a recent trip to Paris, I realized I am definitely still a travel rookie. In the last few years my travel has been limited due to visa/immigration issues and my financially draining long distance relationship.
Finally all settled in Belgium with my boyfriend, my cat and a decent salary job – I can start to plan those trips I’ve been doodling about in my travel diary.
Looking forward into our next few trips has made me think about the trips we’ve taken so far – and the ridiculous (sometimes hilarious) mistakes we’ve made.
1. Packing too heavily or unrealistically.
The first time I moved to Belgium, my suitcases contained heavy picture frames, my entire DVD collection and even my favourite video games.
Yes, I had to pay the extra heavy baggage fees.
No, it wasn’t worth it.
2. Packing too little.
On my first trip back to Canada after six months of living in Belgium – I decided to take only 3 outfits in a small carry on.
Needless to say that during my 3 weeks home in Canada I needed to go shopping for more clothes, which then were left at my parents house because I couldn’t fit them in the one carry on I thought I could manage with.
3. Not booking online.
For the love of GOD – book your activities online.
The 3 hour wait-lines, the rushed morning of trying to get there hours before the tourist site even opens.
4. Booking the wrong dates.
I’ve made this mistake an embarrassing/surprising amount of times.
K and I once booked a hotel for the entirely wrong month. I’ve missed flights, trains and hotel stays because I’m just too rushed when making the booking online.
5. Missing out completely.
This lesson was learned the hard way when I completely missed out on that free Fall Out Boy concert in Belgium. Or that time we drove through Van Gogh’s hometown in the Netherlands and had no idea.
Now I like to research wherever we are going (or passing through) for at least a week before we leave.
6. Wrong shoes.
Just pick comfortable shoes,ladies!
Comfort can be stylish, and to be honest – no one is going around looking at your footwear.
7. Not doing a hop on/hop off bus.
In 2014, K and I had a whirlwind 48 hours in Paris. Which I can tell you right now, is not enough time to walk everywhere. In 2015, my friends and I did Paris in the same 48 hours, but took a tour bus everywhere. No speed-walking, no blisters and I was able to enjoy Paris a lot more the second time around.
When you’re in a time-crunch – spend that extra 30 euro on the hop on/hop off tour bus. It’s definitely worth it.
8. Carrying around big bills or a lot of cash.
Break your big bills at the bank into a bunch of smaller bills.
Keep a few 10’s or 20’s in your wallet and put the rest of your money deep in your purse where you hide your “just in case” cigarettes and $2 lipstick.
9. Being that obvious tourist.
“Hi, I’m a tourist, please scam me.” is a sign I may as well have been wearing the first time we went to Paris. Ugly backpack and all, we paraded around Paris like travel newbies – because we were.
We were scammed out of 40 euro the first day, because we just weren’t paying attention and were super naive about it.
Trade that obvious tourist backpack or fanny pack for an actual school bag or big purse. Attract less attention to yourself and keep an eye out for scammers.
10. Not taking photos.
I remember passing the Bean (cloud-gate) in Chicago and thinking “Oh, I have another few days in Chicago, I’ll take a photo of it when I come back this afternoon”
I still don’t have that photo.
11. Not splurging.
Unless you seriously can’t afford it or have already spent enough money on your trip – sometimes you need to splurge on last minute activities or plans.
Dining at that 5 star restaurant ONE of the nights you’re in Niagara Falls isn’t going to bankrupt you.
Buying insanely expensive souvenirs I know I don’t actually want is one of my biggest downfalls of travel.
I now limit myself to purchasing drink coasters (what I actually collect from everywhere we’ve been) and stickers for my suitcase.
13. Giving into the jet-laig.
Don’t give into the jet lag!!!!
A lot of the time when I get home from visiting my family in Canada, I sleep according to Canadian time – and not according to Belgian time.
14. Not medicating.
Allergies, headaches, muscle aches, sinus infections and lack of sleep – travel is rough on your body!
Don’t make the mistake of not having medication for when you need it. Ain’t no shame in popping some Advil before that 3 hour trek up the mountainside.
Over-planning your trip and packing it full of too many activities is bound to disappoint you.
Our new rule is book one main activity per day, leaving some time to relax, wander or shop around instead of rushing from one activity to the next without being able to stop and enjoy it.
16. Traveling with the wrong person/people.
Travel is like living with someone…it will either bring you closer together or make you hate each other. Traveling with someone you aren’t familiar with or don’t really like is a recipe for disaster.
17. Planning the whole trip by yourself.
Unless you’re an experienced solo traveler, I suggest you plan your trip with whoever you are taking on that trip. If you’re travelling alone – have a friend weigh in on some travel idea. Never make one person do all the travel planning.
18. Not paying attention to critical things while you’re travelling.
I’ve missed countless birth control pills,have forgotten to check the gas light on a road trip and actually ignored/forgot about my work related text messages while travelling.
Just because you’re on the road or at a beach, doesn’t mean your life hits pause.
19. Eating unhealthy the entire trip.
Sure, traveling is a great time to try local cuisine and overload on beer and wine – but make sure you have some nights healthy eating in there too. Eating “junk” or unhealthy food during your entire travel trip can decrease motivation, make you feel lazy and just generally slow you down.
20. Picking up old/bad habits.
Having an entire pack of cigarettes in one night because “we’re in the Dominican” and “I’ve been so good all year.” is not good. That whole “what happens in ____, stays in ____”.…that’s just completely untrue.
Once you leave that tropical paradise, those bad habits will stick with you.
21. Not knowing the tourism hours.
Opening and closing times are vastly different depending on what country you’re in, I’ve learned. A lot of tourism places are open during the same times as all the rest, meaning you will have to plan your time wisely. Research every place you’re planning on visiting and make sure they are actually open the days you are travelling there.
22. Not knowing the culture.
Research a little bit about the culture you’re heading into, so you’re not caught completely by surprise.
23. Not traveling more.
The most common mistake I’ve made it not doing anything.
Not taking that cheap flight to Ireland, not hopping on that train to Berlin, not getting into the white van labelled “free tours of Amsterdam.”
Okay, maybe the last one was a good idea to skip.
The point is, when you’re travelling you should never have just one destination in mind.
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