I travel a lot which means I’ve made many travel mistakes – we all do. Like anything else in life though, the more you do something the better (hopefully) you get at it. Some mistakes have been major, others minor, but over time I’ve learned a lot about how to improve my own travel experience. There are certain cardinal errors though that can make or break a trip and if you can avoid them, then you have a great chance at enjoying a wonderful adventure.
1. Too Much Planning
This is perhaps one of my greatest travel weaknesses – I plan way too much. I remember about eight years ago my partner and I planned a big trip to Southeast Asia. It was a really big deal and was more than a year in the planning. Travel anticipation is something I really enjoy, so I spent hours and hours researching everything, from flights and hotels to restaurants and activities. The result was a massive, color-coded binder of information covering every possible nuance of the trip, including an hour-by-hour schedule. I wish I were kidding. It was absurd and by the second day, completely disregarded. Preparing for a trip is one thing, but scheduling the fun out of it is more common than you think. We all want the perfect trip and frankly we’re terrified that we won’t get it. So many of us try to control it, to ensure that fun and value for the investment will be had. The result though is the opposite. By overplanning we take all of the enjoyment out of the adventure and prevent spontaneous experiences from happening which, usually, are the best. So the next time you travel, leave the binder at home.
2. Not Preparing Enough
That being said, do SOME prep work before leaving home. All the time I talk to bloggers who decide to just ‘wing it’ and arrive in a new country without any preconceived notions and to be surprised by the destination. That’s absurd. The best travel writers out there will tell you that adequate research is crucial to making the most out of any trip, and the same goes for the normal traveler as well. It’s a fine line, granted, between research and overplanning but take some time to learn about where you’re going and to uncover a few distinctive experiences you’d like to enjoy. Rather than try to suss out something unusual or quirky, do some online research beforehand to see what you can find. If restaurants are important to you, then try to find a few that you’d love to try out. Don’t come up with experiences for every day of the trip, but at least do some basic research on the place you’re visiting to make the trip you’ve invested so much in that much more enjoyable.
3. Not Experimenting
I’ve seen this a lot and have had it happen to me on more than one occasion. Even the most independent traveler can be sucked into a travel bubble when we visit new places, on a predetermined route to see certain sights and to enjoyable particular experiences. I’ve found though that the most memorable and fun experiences happen when we least expect it. Don’t be afraid to go off the path, to get lost and to try something new when you travel. Presumably, that’s why we travel in the first place, for the opportunities to do things that are unexpected or even unusual, so don’t waste the moment. This is particularly important when it comes to food. I never plan where I’m going to eat on a trip, instead I wander or ask people who live there for recommendations. I let my nose guide me through the streets and as a result I’ve almost always had great experiences. So get out of your comfort zone and experiment with the destination.
4. Not Going
This sounds like a cop-out bullet point, but it’s more prevalent than you think. I see it in my own life all the time. At home we’ll chat about trips we want to take and while some of them do actually happen, many are cast upon the trash heap of what ifs. It’s not always because of money or time either, we just don’t pull the trigger and book the flights. That happens to a lot of us I think, we let life overtake us and before we know it half of yet another year has flown by. Whether you’re considering a trip across the state, country or planet, be sure to just do it. Life is short and unpredictable and we have to make sure to enjoy our brief time here as much as possible, and if that means seeing more of the world then don’t let it pass you by.
What are some other ways people can avoid ruining a trip?
15 thoughts on “Four Easy Ways You Can Avoid Ruining A Trip”
I think these are some good tips. I actually think not doing anything is another one. I see a lot of people bouncing from tour to tour, site to site feeling that they HAVE to do everything on the trip advisor list and burning out pretty quickly. Taking a day or two to relax a do some ‘people watching’ makes you appreciate the next part of your next destination a bit more.
I’m also an overplanner. I spend a ton of time researching everything before we go on a trip. I’m always glad I did the research, but sometimes I wish I had less planned out time in which to experience things. I have definitely found that I enjoy most doing local things, grabbing a beer in a pub, eating at a tiny local favorite restaurant or people watching, rather than spending hours in museums, staring at old buildings and other “requisites” from the tripadvisor list.
It’s a process so don’t feel bad!
This tips are very useful. Experimenting the place before trip will help a lot.
Don’t book a lot of early morning flights. And thoroughly review the details for visa requirements. Had both problems on my most recent “adventure.” Guess it could fall under #2.
Great tips Matt, these can be used over and over again!
Excellent and thank you!
Accept that mistakes and misfortunes happen. We forgot our umbrella at the ferry station in Colonia, Uruguay. Our computer suddenly failed to start up when we were in Cordoba, Argentina. We were overcharged for our hostel stay in Pucon, Chile. No matter how much you plan, there are always unexpected kinks. You just have to let these things roll off your shoulders! As someone we recently met told us, “The same amount of shit happens to everyone.” Our response was, “That may be true, but it’s how you handle it that matters.”
Great tips, Matt! I especially like that you made it clear that one has to strike a balance between preparing for a trip and planning too much for it.
Cheers from Germany
Good tips Matt. I actually don’t think there’s such a thing as over-researching. I do a *lot* of research before I go somewhere, especially if it’s somewhere completely new and unfamiliar. Knowing the background of a place, how things are expected to work there, being able to say a few phrases in the local language – all this is prep and research. It’s completely separate from over-planning which is what you mentioned – an hour by hour schedule of your time there! Researching and knowing options beforehand means that when you get there, you can wing it as much as you want.
Great comments, thanks!
Beyond the last point, the first is the most true for me. I love to travel and plan while traveling!
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