Every traveler has made travel mistakes at one point or another.

I recently saw this quote on twitter: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page”.

As you already know, I absolutely love traveling, and turning the pages of this wonderful book. If I could get a job that pays me to travel, I would grab that offer and run with it. As a traveler, mistakes are inevitable. Most mistakes are due to lack of extensive research into the traveling laws of the country I am visiting. I have made a list of some of the mistakes I have made in the past, and ways to avoid them. Hopefully they will help you avoid making the same mistakes.

Buying tickets in advance

While this is mostly a good thing as you get to save money, this also poses some disadvantages. Country laws, especially those concerning immigration change often so it is risky to buy tickets in advance while hoping to get a visa. As a result of this, buying tickets in advance without a visa is not advisable. I did it before I became an American citizen, but I have lost money because I had to cancel my ticket since I could not get a visa.

This happened to me with the Chinese visa. While I initially saved money by booking a ticket to China in advance, I ended up losing more. I could not get visa because I needed an invitation letter from China therefore, I had to cancel my travel plans.

Solution: Be aware of country laws before booking a ticket. Also avoid countries that are generally hard to obtain visa or do not book in advance with these countries.

Not fully aware of LCC (Low Cost Carriers) Terms and Conditions

A low-cost carrier or low-cost airline is an airline that generally has lower fares and fewer comforts. To make up for the money lost in reduced ticket prices, the airline may charge for extras like food, priority boarding, seat allocating, and baggage. Some low cost carriers are Ryanair, Easy Jet, Tiger Air, Air Asia, and Peach Airlines.

A major disadvantage of low cost Airlines is they do not have a transit counter. Unfortunately for me, I got to find this out during my trip from South Korea to Taiwan. I bought the flight ticket with Peach Airlines because it was affordable. My flight was supposed to transit through Japan, to Taiwan. I felt I could use the transit counter to board my flight to Taiwan but I was told I could not. After all, major airlines had a transit counter or so I thought.

I was told since I was transiting through Japan, I had to pass through immigration with a valid visa. My visa to Japan was single entry which had already been used, so I had to buy a last minute ticket for a direct flight from South Korea to Taiwan. I had to forgo the ticket that was transiting through Japan because it was non refundable.

Solution: Knowledge is power, or so they say! Proper research is key. LCC’s mainly fly within the same region. For example easyJet (Europe) and Air Asia (Asia). Conduct proper research on the airline requirements, and make sure you have the proper travel documents prior to booking an LCC flight.

Buying tickets from Travel Agents

Booking through travel agents makes planning your trip a little easier but it also comes with a number of disadvantages.

From my experience, travel agents do not offer the same options as buying directly from the airline website, for example, seat selection. I usually compare travel agents and airline website before purchasing a ticket. Travel agents claim to be cheaper but I have seen travel agents who are the same price as or even more expensive than the airline.

I will buy from a travel agent if I am lucky enough to find a huge price difference between the agent and the airline website. For example, I have bought a ticket that cost $632 on fareboom, but on the airline’s website, it was $785. This is a huge difference. If the difference is however not much, I buy from the airline’s website.

Another major disadvantage is that when there is an issue with the flight while in another country, a travel agent cannot help. For example, while in Barcelona I wanted to prolong my stay so I could catch a Barcelona FC game. I called Norwegian Airlines to change my flight since I was scheduled to fly with them from Barcelona to Chicago.

The airline stated that they could not change my reservation since I made the booking through an agent and I should call the agent. I called the agent, and they wanted to charge me $100 agent fees upfront for attempting to change my reservation. The $100 did not include any fees that Norwegian Airlines might charge for changing reservation.

Contrary to my experience with the travel agent, booking directly through the airline website has its perks.

My flight from Chicago to Japan via Cathay Pacific was supposed to have a 15 hour stop over in Hong Kong. I did not have a Hong Kong visa, therefore, I called the Cathay Pacific. Since I booked the flight directly on the airline’s site, the customer service representative was able to helped me. He put me on a direct flight from Tokyo to Chicago with All Nippon Airlines (ANA), and I did not have to pay a dime. That scenario might have played out differently if I had booked through an agent.

Solution: When purchasing tickets through a travel agent, find out the Airline’s policy as well as the agency’s policy regarding changes to the flight itinerary.

Airbnb

Airbnb (for those who don’t know) is basically an apartment rental service. People who own or rent property worldwide can rent their space to visitors for a short or long period of time. In some cases, renting an Airbnb could be cheaper than hotels (depending on country, rooms in Vietnam are as low as $8 a night) but I personally prefer hotels for several reasons.

Due to a lack of knowledge about neighborhoods in a foreign country, it is easy to book an Airbnb in a far area or the city outskirts. On the other hand, a large number of hotels are located in the city center.

Also with Airbnb, I have had experiences where the pictures on the posting online, and the apartment itself were nothing like each other.

I experienced this when I traveled to Paris.

The Airbnb had ants and mold (Ewww!). I contacted the host and he did nothing about it. The bathroom was small, narrow and dark, and the fridge was dirty. It was my first experience with Airbnb so I was very unhappy. I decided to opt for an Airbnb in Malaysia, and I was disappointed yet again by the host. The apartment was okay, but the bathroom was dirty. I checked out of the apartment after the first day and immediately booked a hotel.

Solution: If you decide to use Airbnb, read reviews of previous people who have used that particular facility. Do not overlook reviews because I did for the apartment in France. I assumed people were exaggerating but I eventually found out they weren’t (yikes!). Also, make sure you have some extra cash at hand. This way, you could easily book a hotel if the accommodation is not to your taste.

Check your spending habits

As a tourist in a new city, it is easy to get carried away by the sights and adventure. As a result of this, going way over budget happens very often. It happens to me often, and I am still trying to work on this last point myself.

It is best to avoid common over spending habits, like taking taxis from the airport. A lot of countries offer affordable public transport from the airport to various destinations. For example, a taxi from Tokyo Narita airport to the city will cost an arm and a leg. A train however is so much cheaper.

Eating in tourist areas cost a lot of money because it is usually a tourist trap. In Paris, I ate a burger in a restaurant close to the Eiffel tower. The meal cost almost 20 euros and the restaurant’s service was so bad. On the flip side, food was much more affordable outside the common tourist areas.

In addition, souvenirs from street vendors in tourist areas are overpriced and more expensive. It is best to buy in the markets. You also get a lot more variety and get to interact better with the locals.

Another way to save money while traveling is taking the train or bus. I use Uber quite often when I travel (depending on location) because it is cheap, especially in countries like Vietnam and Taiwan. However, in countries like Tokyo or European countries, Uber is much more expensive therefore, I save money by hopping on the train.

Conclusion

The most important factor that contributes to a successful trip is research. For every decision made, weigh the pros and the cons, and look at it from every angle. Know the travel laws of the countries you are visiting, know the terms and conditions of services you pay for. Travelers will end up making mistakes regardless because every travel experience is unique.

Each mistake is an experience, and I hope this article helps you avoid my mistakes.

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