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9 Travel Mistakes to Avoid to Have the Best Vacation Ever

Whether you're taking your first adventure abroad or your passport is bursting with stamps, you'll want to avoid these common pitfalls so you can actually enjoy your trip.

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Packing the wrong shoes

We wish every trip had the same ease and glamour as an episode of the Real Housewives—but, that’s not reality for most of us. One RD.com reader told us she loves high heels and packed several pairs of them for a trip to Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, these were not the ideal shoes for a hike through the rain forest, an excursion she had very much been looking forward to. Her hiking came to a halt when the straps on her heels broke, leaving her in desperate need of some new footwear. What shoes did she end up buying? A pair of aqua socks with alien heads on them because the stores didn’t carry her size. For her future excursions, this world traveler learned to always pack at least one pair of comfortable walking shoes. Packing mishaps are one of the more common vacation woes, but you should also check out these 10 little travel mistakes that can make your vacay more stressful than relaxing.

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Assuming your cell phone is automatically ready for international use

We’ve all seen the real time pictures of our friends standing in front of the Eiffel Tower or some other coveted travel destination. International travel must be included on your cell phone plan, right? Nope. Each company has their own policy for international travel, which may include purchasing a special plan for the month of your trip or buying a local SIM card to make calls when you’re in another country. Before you leave home, make sure you check with your carrier, so you have the right plan in place to be able to share the amazing moments with your friends and family—without coming home to a $1,200 phone bill, as one poor traveler once did.


Neglecting to visit your local travel clinic

Travel clinics provide a range of preventative healthcare services, including up-to-date vaccines, medication for traveler’s diarrhea, altitude sickness, and insect repellents to keep you safe on your trip. The CDC recommends going to a travel clinic four to six weeks before your trip to allow time for any recommended vaccines to take effect. On a personal note, I wasn’t aware of travel clinics several years ago when I went to the Dominican Republic to volunteer in a hospital. During that trip, I contracted a stomach virus and a rash—two things that put a major damper on the fun of exploring a new country.

Had I known about travel clinics ahead of time, I might have been able to prevent or reduce the severity of these illnesses.

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Forgetting to let your bank know you’ll be taking a trip

There’s nothing scarier than being locked out of your bank account when you’re in a foreign country without access to your funds. Trust us! We’ve made this mistake, and it’s one we’ll never make again. Before embarking on your trip, utilize these travel tips and give your bank and credit card merchant a heads up that you’ll be going to a specific location for a certain amount of time. Many banks and credit card companies allow you to do this online by setting up a travel notification; this is one step you’ll be glad you remembered to do.


Overlooking travel insurance

It’s basically ingrained in us to decline “add-ons” when purchasing just about anything. But travel insurance might be something you want to take a second look at. Depending on the location you’re traveling to or the activities you plan to do while there, travel insurance may provide you with the unwanted hassle of extra expenses if your trip doesn’t go as smoothly as you’ve envisioned. Travel insurance companies like World Nomads or insuremytrip provide travel packages or individual options for medical and emergency services, travel and baggage protection, and accidental death (which hopefully you’ll never need). For some of you, travel insurance might give you extra peace of mind.


Packing your medications in your suitcase

Let’s face it! Sometimes we get separated from our luggage for an extended period of time and panic sets in. Pro travel tips: If you’re traveling with necessities like medications, make sure those items are easily available in your carry-on.

In the event that you get stranded during a long airport layover or your luggage gets lost, you can breathe just a little easier knowing that you’ll be able to keep your health on track. Here, read up on 11 things to always have packed in your carry-on.

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Failing to exchange currency at the airport

You’ll want to pick up some local currency as soon as possible. In many countries, cabs, public transportation, local markets, and other small vendors are cash only, so exchanging currency before you leave the airport is a smart move. Plus, you’ll typically get a better exchange rate there than you would elsewhere. As an added bonus, you’ll have cash on hand for those must-have souvenirs you’ve promised to bring home to your friends and family. Read up on 16 other air travel mistakes to stop making before you book your next flight.


Forgetting to lock up your valuables

One world-traveler told us he learned his lesson the hard way when he forgot to secure his professional camera before exiting his room for the day. When he came back in the evening, his camera was nowhere to be found. In an online article, tripadvisor.com offers some sage advice for protecting your valuables while your on a trip. They suggest using the hotel’s office safe, carrying a combination lock for your suitcase, and taking some of your valuables with you when you leave. Since no option is foolproof, it’s best to take as few valuables with you on your trip as possible. For more tips like these, check out our 68 travel secrets that guarantee a stress-free vacation.

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Ignoring the signs at the beach

While this may seem like an unusual tip to include on our list, it’s uniqueness warrants a mention. Have you finally arrived at your travel destination? If your vacation plans include a relaxing day at the beach, that new swimwear you purchased for the trip may be optional. As many locals will tell you, look for signs posted around the area; some beaches might be nude beaches, and the signage isn’t always obvious. As one beach-goer puts it, “It’s awkward being both the only clothed person at a nude beach and being the only nude person at a clothed beach.” Here’s a friendly piece of advice: Do yourself a favor and read all the signs, so you don’t end up feeling uncomfortable or out-of-place. Looking to book your next vacation? Check out these secrets that travel booking companies don’t want you to know.