Travel Inn Magazine

Top International Travel Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them).

Planning an international trip, especially your first one, is a thrilling experience. You search Pinterest and Instagram for vacation ideas, shop for the ideal suitcase, and research hotel pricing ahead of time. What about learning how to prevent international travel mistakes?


Preparing for a trip abroad requires more time and work than a local vacation because visa formalities, voltage changes, and language hurdles. Whether you’re planning your first international trip or just need a refresher, check out this top list of international travel mistakes (and how to avoid them).

#1: Overpaying for plane tickets

There’s a lot of advice on the internet for saving on plane tickets. Buy them on a Monday. No wait, a Tuesday at 7pm! Get them 3 months in advance. But 6 months if you’re going to France in the summer. And the advice changes every year based on airline industry algorithms. 

Everyone know buying a last-minute plane ticket is incredibly expensive. But did you know that ticket prices can fluctuate by hundreds of dollars from one day to the next? The old wisdom of buying well in advance and early in the week doesn’t cut it anymore.

How to avoid it:

When I choose my destination, I use Travel Inn to check prices and track fares. Not only does Travel Inn compare prices across dozens of airlines, it also has a handy “show whole month” feature that will help you choose the cheapest days to depart and return. And if you choose dates that aren’t the cheapest, it will let you know how much you can save by changing one of your dates.

#2: Failing to get an entry visa

If you’re a citizen of the US, UK, or EU, you’re spoiled by favorable travel agreements. So much so that you may not even think to look into visa requirements until a few weeks before your trip.

Depending on your destination, this could be one of those international travel mistakes that ruins your entire trip before it starts.

Sometimes getting an entry visa is a simple affair. But for some countries with strict travel policies, it can take weeks to collect all the necessary paperwork and get your visa approved. And if you wait until right before your trip to apply for the entry visa, you’ll likely pay costly fines to expedite the process.

How to avoid it:

Always check your home country’s government website well in advance to confirm visa requirements or contact Travel Inn Visa experts on how to apply. Read the rules thoroughly, as countries have different policies for things like acceptable passport expiration dates and mandatory vaccinations.

Even if you’ve been to that country in the past, it’s still good to review the rules, as policies can and do change over time (the United States’ infamous travel ban, for example).

#3: Forgetting your passport

I know you’re probably thinking “how the heck could someone forget their passport?!”, but even seasoned globetrotters make grievous international travel mistakes.

My husband frequently travels for work. Just a few weeks ago, I woke up at 5am to ask if he remembered to grab his passport. He had forgotten, and was literally on his way out the door when I stopped him. And he would have certainly missed his flight if he didn’t realize until arriving at the airport.

Not the best way to start your international adventure!

How to avoid it:

When it comes to packing critical items like travel documents and medications, I recommend a two-fold approach.

First, always use a packing checklist. I have a very detailed base list that I use for every single trip, and I cross things off depending on where I’m going and for how long. This ensures I remember everything, from packing my passport to unplugging power strips on the way out the door.

My other trick is to connect grabbing your passport with something else memorable. For example, when I get my passport out of the safe, I take off my wedding ring and put it where the passport was. I mentally associate the two activities, because taking off my ring is so unusual for me. Try to come up with your own memory tricks for remembering to pack the important stuff.

#4: Exchanging a bunch of cash at an airport currency booth

Currency exchange booths dot every international airport, which make them the most convenient option for changing money.

Currency exchange companies are keen to exploit our international travel mistakes by offering lousy exchange rates at airport booths. Aside from costing you more, airport currency booths are rarely open 24 hours.

Planning to exchange funds upon arrival can backfire if your flight gets delayed and you don’t land until 1am.

How to avoid it:

At first, the solution seems obvious. You can just take out currency at the airport’s ATM/cash point once you arrive, or pay with a credit card, right?

Unfortunately, not all foreign ATMs will accept your bank card, even if it’s chip-enabled. And in many countries, you’ll need cash to get yourself from the airport to your next destination.

Instead, change enough currency to cover transportation costs from the airport before you depart. Do a little research online to get an idea of the cost via public transit and via taxi, and exchange accordingly. Trust me, the peace of mind you’ll get from having some of the country’s currency in your wallet is worth it.

#5: Not packing a travel adapter

Did you know that there are 15 types of plugs used across the world?

If you’re traveling to a country with a different plug type, you’ll need an adaptor to power your home country’s electronics. Plugging straight into a USB port can help you avoid the problem. However, depending on the amount of power required, your gadgets may charge slowly or not at all.

How to avoid it:

Purchase a flexible adaptor with USB ports and place it in your suitcase right away. The universal ones available on Amazon are fairly portable and work with devices that can accept a variety of voltages.

However, if you’re traveling to the United States, Asia, or any other country with only two prong outlets, these adapters frequently fall out of the socket because there is no third pillar to support them. Furthermore, many universal adapters are not rated for high enough wattage to charge power-hungry devices such as laptops.

#6 Assuming English and a couple of local phrases will be enough to get by anywhere

There is no doubting that English speakers have an easier time traveling. English is the most widely learned language in the world, so it’s no surprise that road signs, public transportation, and even food menus in major cities throughout the world frequently feature both English and the original language.

Even if your language is limited, you can easily traverse the tourist centers like Paris or Tokyo. However, if you drive 50 kilometers outside of major cities or visit a small neighborhood café, you will wish you had spent more time learning the local language.

How to Avoid It:

Google Translate is an essential program for anyone who travels extensively. It can support a conversation in two languages or translate text as you hover your camera over it.

You can also star words and phrases that you’ve translated and save them to your phrasebook for future reference. The nicest aspect is that you may download a whole language’s dictionary to be used offline!

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