Everyone has to start somewhere I suppose. And yes we’ve all been there. We have all been first-time travellers at some point, making stupid mistakes that could have easily been avoided but at least we all learned from it. So in this post I have decided to list 15 mistakes of first-time travellers and I’m sure we are all guilty of at least some of these mistakes. Enjoy!
1. Booking accommodation too long in advance
I am totally guilty of that as well! One of the worst mistakes of a newbie traveller is to book hostels in advance! Mostly because the whole fun of backpacking is to be flexible and to decide where you want to stay along the way.
Sometimes you just find the perfect hostel and you want to stay for a bit longer but already having booked new accommodation would ruin your new travel idea. In most cases you will do totally fine booking your accommodation one or two days in advance, unless a place is likely to be sold out at different times or holidays.
What I learned from long-term travel? Now the only accommodation I will book in advance are the first two or three nights at the beginning of the trip. The only exception from this would be special events that require bookings in advance such as the full moon party in Koh Phangan.
2. Trying to stick to a fixed route
I know on your first trip you want to fit all activities in one trip, so you already have the entire trip planned out in your head. Big mistake! The one thing you learn from traveling is that it is never going to happen as you planned it.
Sometimes you meet people along the way and decide to change your route or find out about a new place that everyone is raving about and you decide to travel there. So always have an open mind about switching up your route along the way or you will regret it in the end.
Aren’t we all guilty of this one? Worst first time traveller mistake ever! The good thing is with more travel experience you know which things are necessary and what has been useless stuff that you carried around all the time.
I once carried an umbrella in my backpack for seven months until I decided to get rid of it. I don’t even use umbrellas at home, I don’t know why I thought I had to bring one while traveling. But since then I never bought an umbrella again on my travels. What have you brought along on your travels that turned out to be an absolutely waste of space in the end?
4. Trying to fit too many countries in a limited timeframe
Do you now those types of travellers that are like: “I’m travelling for two weeks and I’m going to travel to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.” How??
I spent an entire month in Thailand and I still didn’t see everything. Fitting too many countries in a limited timeframe just isn’t fun either as you will spending most of your time in busses and won’t even get to know a country that well in such a short period of time. I don’t know about you guys, but for me ticking a bunch countries of your bucket list just is not the point of travelling.
5. Not knowing how to dress or behave appropriately before traveling to a new country
I don’t really think that is necessarily a first-time traveller mistake but more due to poor planning or stupidity. If you travel to a new country with a different culture, then you should at least know a little bit about what is considered inappropriate in this country.
6. Using a travel agent for all of it
Agencies can be helpful as it will save you time and effort. But I would always say they are not really necessary unless you are travelling with a big group or want to book an adventure with a lot of stopovers and complicated flight connections. Usually you can book everything online for probably a cheaper price.
On my first solo trip I did Work and Travel in Australia which I booked over an agency. Honestly that was such a waste of money. When I arrived in Australia they literally took my across the street to open a bank and arranged my Tax File Number, like I couldn’t have done that myself.
7. Not budgeting
Nothing is worse than if you plan to travel for a set period of time but run out of money before you get to the end of the trip. Especially if you travel long-term, you’ll get to realise how important it is to budget your money and to know how much money you can spend to keep traveling for as long as you originally wanted to.
Especially during your first trip you sometimes go over your budget at the beginning if you want to do as many activities as possible in a short period of time.
8. Only relying on your Lonely Planet
Don’t get me wrong, Lonely Planets are great! But you can’t just rely on your book on each and every occasion. Books can become outdated and they are not aware of everything that is going on in a country. If you want to get to know a new place, the best way is always to try to connect with locals.
It is also the best way to experience a new culture, which you can not experience the same way by only relying on your guide-book.
9. Assuming everybody speaks English
Yes, a lot people do speak English but you can not just go around assuming that everyone would be able to understand you if you do not speak the local language.
Of course if you travel to Australia or the US, I would also assume that most people speak English but in a lot of countries it should be helpful to know a few phrases in the local language or to at least carry a small dictionary around to be able to communicate with the locals.
10. Not taking enough medication from home if you need it
Even if you do not need any medication, you can think about the fact that not everything would be easily accessible in a different country. For some medication you might need a prescription abroad that you would not need at your local country.
Therefore, if you know you will travel for a longer period of time make sure to bring enough medication with you from your own country. That usually should not be an issue if you just tell your doctor that you will be out of the country for longer.
11. Not backing up your documents and pictures
Another common mistakes of first time travellers would be to not back up important documents. I’ve once lost 2 months worth of travel pictures because my phone fell into water and I didn’t back up my pictures beforehand.
And I was even carrying a laptop with me, I’m still so sad about that. So don’t forget to back up your pictures, bring a hard drive or stick with you. Also back up your documents and a digital copy of your passport and insurance papers or whatever you might need.
12. Having too high expectations
I know travelling is the best thing ever but if you are a frequent traveller you know that not every day is going to be great. Not everyday is going to be filled with zip lining through the jungle, snorkelling through coral reefs or jumping off cliffs. Sometimes, you just need some time to sort out your trip or your finances.
Sometimes you’ll spend days only sitting in busses or end up in a terrible hostel with terrible roommates. But that’s all fine because the awesome time is going to outweigh all your bad days. However, don’t set your expectations too high so you won’t get disappointed. Especially if you travel for months, there will be a bad day every now and then.
13. Buying a bunch of souvenirs
Surely everything you can buy is great but if your trip is going to be a little longer, carrying around a bunch of souvenirs can get really annoying. So save the shopping until your last days before going home, which might mean that you can’t buy a lot of stuff in every country. Bummer!
14. Not being flexible and spontaneous
I think this is the most important thing you will learn while traveling. Be flexible, not only for your travel route but, also for activities and everything else.
Try out new things while travelling and stop planning everything ahead. Not everything always works out the way you want it to but that’s okay and you get used to it.
15. Not checking visa requirement or forgetting proof of onward travel
I’m sure if it your first trip abroad, then you will definitely check the visa requirements beforehand. But you’ll never know where you will end up in the end so it is always wise to check out the visa requirements of other countries that you might want to travel to during the same trip.
Also a lot of countries, require proof of onward travel before you are allowed to enter country. This means that you need to have a plane/train/bus ticket out of the country within the period you are allowed to stay in this specific place.
If you forget to take care of the onward travel proof it could happen that you are required to buy an expensive plane ticket at the airport before being allowed to board your plane.
And that was it! How many of these mistakes did you make when you first went on to explore the world?
Let me know in the comments
Talk to you soon x
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So many great and important points in your post! Being flexible I find is KEY! Great read ?
when I first started travelling I always over pack there’s even times that lf of things packed I didn’t use or need, but now I travel in just a hand luggage even for 2 weeks getaway.
A great summary of the most common mistakes every traveler has done at least once.
Overpacking and sticking to the planned itinerary while not allowing yourself flexibility and spontaneity can truly ruin the travel experience.
But we all learn from our mistakes and then we call it experience.
You’re so right about every single one of these! Sure we may have been travelling on and off for years but we can sometimes be guilty of making these rookie mistakes ourselves. You’re hilarious though I love this “I don’t even use umbrellas at home, I don’t know why I thought I had to bring one while traveling”. I absolutely laughed out loud at this. I’d like to add always have a physical map of the area you’re staying in so you can find your way back to your accommodation. We made that mistake in Rio and will never forget it. We didn’t have google maps back then and got incredibly lost in a very dodgy part of the city. Never again!
I know I’ve been guilty of all of these at some point over the years. Although I’m much better at packing these days, I still overpack. Also, make sure you have more than 6 months left on your Passport. I once arrived in Penang with less than the required six months and had to sweet talk my way through immigration.
This is some great advice, we have yet to do long term travelling so over packing and booking hostels isn’t something we have done YET but this is good to know! I think the ones I like best are #5, #9 and #12. I think people, especially from North America, go other places and don’t do their research, don’t understand the local culture. Plus they then wonder, well why don’t you speak English?! Just ignorance, you are the guest! Also, you are exactly right – not everyday of every trip can be magical and filled with super fun things but try to take something from every experience, make it all count as much as you can! Great post!
Great list. As a photographer, I think backing up your photos as you go is such a good habit to get into! I would hate to lose any photos I’ve taken!
I must confess that I always book accommodation way in advance, simply because I hate to do anything last minute. There have been times though that I wish I had not, so that I could have gone off trip and stayed over in a town or city that I found charming. I travel with a carry on bag only but find that I often buy things on my trip that require an extra piece of luggage 🙁
So many great and important points in your post! Being flexible I find is KEY! Great read 🙂
You are so spot on with these tips, Becky. Backing up your important documents is such an important step that is so often overlooked. Thanks for the great post!
This was so fun to read! I totally agree, especially with #3 and #4! Lots of things you learn while traveling 🙂 I’m trying to think of more but am coming up blank right now haha! Thanks for a fun read!
Everything is so true, though at least for me I didn’t never bring medication. Most of the time everything is readely available and sometimes you will need to check wich ones you are allowed to take on an airplane and into another country. Never been toproblematic places though. I think then I would pack something, but for now I leave them at home. And overpacking is otherwise still a problem 😀
“Having too high expectations” – honestly, that one cannot be more true. Many first time travelers expect a trip to go through completely hassle-free if they plan it, and are disappointed at the smallest bump in the road. So true.
You have listed pretty much accurate mistakes probably done by first time travelers. Among these being spontaneous and making immediate decision should be the utmost criteria for a smooth traveler. That I felt from my personal experience.
This is an amazing list. To be honest, apart from first time travellers, even experienced ones can also make any of these mistakes ! A good reminder and a handy reference guide 🙂
You’ve absolutely nailed this one, my first backpacking trip I made loads of mistakes like these, quickly learnt though! Love the photography on your site too, looks really great. 🙂