My 10 biggest travel mistakes
1. Traveling in a group
Many of you love to travel in a group. It’s safe, you meet nice people and you don’t have to think of anything. And true, we met some great people while we traveled with a group. But for us, group travel turned out to be a mistake. If you, like in a group, don’t have to arrange anything, you won’t get to learn about a country. More importantly, group travel witholds you from wandering off, from walking forking paths.
2. When crossing the river Nile, following a sign mentioning “Tourists”
This is our most stupid mistake. I am making confessions here, I am ashamed…
We rented bikes to visit The Valley of the Kings in Luxor. We drove back to Luxor town and had to cross the Nile. There were regular ferries, used by local people and without hardly any costs. We drove downhill on our bikes when we had to choose left or right. We knew turning right was the way to the local ferry (costs like 10 cents). But a sign saying “Tourists” pointed left. We hesitated and chose to go left. I still don’t know how we fell into that obvious tourist trap! But we did. Paid a ridiculous amount of money. But hey, it was a private tour….
3. Believing you have negotiated a good price for transport
“No Mister, I didn’t mean Egyptian pounds, but English pounds!”
We had a wonderful trip with horse and carriage in Luxor, Egypt. We negotiated a price on beforehand, according to the books. 10 pounds I believe it was, Egyptian pounds we assumed. When we got out of the carriage this guy put up his pokerface and dared to ask British pounds! We had quite an nasty argument, didn’t pay the full amount but had to give him some extras otherwise things might gotten out of hand. You will always be victim of such tourist scams. Know how to react and surely don’t let it ruin your vacation!
4. Trusting nobody
This is a FEAR component of traveling. People are so afraid of strangers approaching them. Or they are afraid to just ask strangers when they got lost.
You are a stranger in a strange land. Yes, please read that sentence again. YOU are the stranger when you travel abroad. So please do not hesitate to ask other people for help. Don’t only talk to fellow tourists, but ask locals. They are for sure happy to help you and they might even show you something that you did not find in your travel guide.
I was afraid approaching people in Cuba because we couldn’t speak Spanish. Had I known before that you can also speak very well with hands, sounds and smiles, we might have had a different experience.
5. Trusting everybody
What’s that Emiel?! You just told me to trust everybody, now you say that’s a mistake and we should trust nobody. Some kind of advice from this “travel-expert”!
Well, people are people. You always meet some who only want to make some money by ‘helping’ you. They might guide you to the factory of their cousin. You all know these embarassing moments when you said yes and ended up in some factory listening to a guy explaining (in bad, impossible to understand English) how tapestries are made. Yes, we have been there…
In the end no (physical) harm is done, you just lose some time. However, if you travel on a tightly scheduled itinerary, time is valuable and that visit could turn out to be a pain in the, well you know what.
Talking about full itineraries, here comes another mistake:
6. Planning a full itinerary when traveling with children
Luckely we didn’t make this mistake, but I would like to warn families that are on the verge of traveling the world: don’t plan a full itinerary. Don’t plan to see the whole country. Adjust to the speed of your children.
Do enjoy days without anything planned. Your children cannot absorb that much as you can, so slow down..
7. Believing you won’t get sick in India (Delhi-belly for sure!)
If you want to visit a dazzling country, one where the memories will stay with you for the rest of your life, go to India. We departed after first listening to all kinds of warnings, most of them about hygiene. If we had to believe everyone, we couldn’t touch anything in India! According to ‘them’, we had to bring our own plate, fork, knive and glass because anything else would be contaminated. But we were young and strong, thought we could do without all the advice. We believed Delhi-belly (the disastrous result of contaminated food or water, you know what I mean) was not meant for us.
Stick to hygiene rules if you want to make the most of your time (especially in India), and yes, particularly when you travel with your children. Your kids don’t like sick parents…
8. Staying in jungle lodge when family member is extremely afraid of bugs
Mistake, mistake. Spouse is quite afraid of spiders and bugs. So then why book a jungle lodge?
During the day everything looks peaceful. But then the sun sets and someone pushes “Mute Off”. The sounds of the jungle are astonishing! It’s music and at the same time hurts your ears. And yes, things start flying and crawling around. Outside and inside your cabin….
But we survived (of course) and had a great time (daytime that is). But I guess the next jungle trip will be a concrete one.
9. Second time around creates the same experience
I am not sure about this one, maybe you can help me. I don’t believe in second-time visits. You will never get to that same level of wonder you had the first time you discovered this amazing place.
Your memory of that first visit is the most valuable one. Treasure it. There is so much to see in this world that a second visit is just a waste of time. Agree?
10. Trusting your kids to watch their own back-pack
This is unbelievable. We were on our way to Bali, Indonesia. We took the bus from our house to the train station downtown. We got out of the bus and walked toward the train station. Our trip finally begun!
Just as a common question I asked my son if he still had his backpack (carrying his Ipod, Nintendo and all other important stuff for a 12-hour flight). He looked at me with guilt and he didn’t need to say more. He forgot his bag, after 10 minutes! (very) Luckely the bus stopped for a while at the train station so we could ran and retrieve his bag. Kids are just too enthousiastic and have a lot of impressions to cope with. Make sure to watch all your posessions when you leave a car, bus or train.
Maybe next time stitch it to his sweater?
Actually it wasn’t all that bad, was it? I didn’t make very big mistakes….right?
OK, now it’s your turn: tell me about your biggest travel mistake. Help other readers avoid them so only magic travel memories remain…