After almost three years of travelling solo here’s what I know to be true. It’s fun, exciting and you get to live a life bigger than your wildest dreams. But the journey isn’t always perfect. I’m not perfect. And there are times when I’ve had let’s just say… moments.
Like that time in the Philippines when I was assaulted. Or in Vietnam when I almost got kidnapped and let’s not forget that time (two weeks ago) when I sleepily abandoned a bag of my prized possessions at the airport.
As a solo female traveller, there are a lot of opinions out there. You’ll be faced with hoards of well-meaning friends and strangers telling you it’s not safe. And I’ll be honest with you it’s true sometimes things happen that are simply out of your control. But sometimes it is in your control. Sometimes you forget for a moment to pay attention and, well, shit happens.
Luckily for you, I’ve had my fair share of travel mistakes and I can take comfort in knowing that I can use those instances to help you. So without further ado, here are 4 travel mistakes that could ruin your trip (and how to avoid them).
Travel Mistake 1: Losing your bag
Honestly, this one’s still a little sore. A few weeks ago when I was flying from Hawaii to LA my bag was errr…. moderately overweight so I did as any budget savvy nomad would do and put my heaviest/most prized possessions in a plastic bag. Proud to have dodged a fee, but little did I know I’d ultimately end up losing close to $700 of my things including my new wireless headphones purchased just for this trip *sob*.
After four hours of flight delays, sleep deprivation and that nagging endo pain kicking in all I could think about was lying down. So I’ll admit – I was totally distracted. When I woke up to start my day a few hours later my heart began to sink and I realised it was gone. The truth is I’m still not entirely sure where I lost it. Maybe in the Uber maybe at the airport itself, all I know for sure is that it’s gone. Forever.
How to avoid
Don’t overpack. Be realistic about how much your bag weighs and purchase BEFORE you fly because it is always way more expensive after the fact. Sounds like common sense but keep your bags on you at all times and if you’re struggling with your bags get an airport trolley to carry them for you even if you have to pay a couple of quid.
Travel Mistake 2: Overstaying your visa
Ask me to write you an essay or a story and I’ll pour my heart and soul into it. Ask me to conduct some basics maths… we might run into some issues. What can I say? I’ve been spoilt with calculators.
Last year after a particularly challenging period of my life I decided to treat myself with a month-long trip to the Philippines. Powdery white sand, turquoise water and everything so cheap you want to buy two just for the pure novelty. In my mind, I knew I’d be going for a month so it made sense that I’d be flying out on the same date as I got there – just a month later.
Flash forward to a month and a day later I was aggressively told by immigration that this is not in fact how months work and was heavily fined for my stupidity.
How to avoid
Some countries are not so lenient and will actually ‘blacklist’ you if you overstay so really do your research on visa terms or ask an airport official for clarification before you leave. If you’re in an emergency situation and you think you might end up overstaying phone immigration to let them know and they can advise you on what to do. It’s worth it not to be hit with a $100 fine at the airport *ouch* or worse banned from coming back to the country althogether.
Travel Mistake 3: Forgetting to check time zones
Fun fact – different countries have different time zones.
At the beginning of the year, I took a trip to Hawaii which is 20 hours behind Melbourne. Heeding this as nothing more than a cool fact I went ahead and shopped around for the best flight deals and ended up booking through two separate airlines. I had a wonderful time in Maui poke bowls on tap and dancing around the beach like some crazed city dweller leaving behind the smog for the first time. Then the day before I was due to fly home I checked my flight itineraries and realised I hadn’t taken the time zone into account. I’d accidentally booked one of my flights for that day.
How to avoid
Like most of my mistakes, this would have been avoidable with a little common sense. These days I religiously use Skyscanner to search for the best flight deals and am a huge fan of the multi-flight tool. Using this you can add stops into your trip and make huge savings to boot. I’m pretty sure this is as close to magic as flight booking gets and I wish I’d discovered it sooner.
Travel Mistake 4: Planning too much in advance
Contrary to popular belief there is such a thing as over planning your trip. As a solo traveller, you worry about having things to do or the right people to see so it’s only natural that your first time you want to be prepared. And so you book your trips, your accommodation and you arrive in a new city, in a new country clutching a folder full of neatly printed itineraries.
Then the unthinkable happens.
You make a friend.
Not just any friend, but a friend that despite only knowing for a few hours you feel drawn to. Being around their energy makes you excited for what adventures you’ll share together. That’s when it hits you. You realise you’ve got your whole trip planned out and you’d lose all your money if you veered even a little off course.
How to avoid
Keep in mind that plans will change. Either through meeting other people or hearing whispers of those place you just can’t miss. Darling, it’s inevitable. My advice is book what you must and figure the rest out along the way. Essentials are flights during peak season, booking your first couple nights of accommodation (if you anticipate you’re going to be moving around a lot) and tickets to popular attractions that might otherwise sell out.
From my own experience if I really do vibe with someone and it’s not too much money I’ll just deal with the cost. Still, it’s better to prepare to be unprepared.
It’s all very well sharing beautiful photos from X location, but the realities of travelling can often be quite different. I’d like to think I do my best to share some of both. When these things happen you just have to do your best to laugh it off (or silently suppress it somewhere deep down inside locked away only to come out in moments of weakness) otherwise it can put a negative spin on your whole trip. When I look back on these trips, for the most part, I don’t remember being devastated by silly blips or losing my possessions. I remember just feeling grateful that I got to experience something so wonderful in this lifetime.
Where money is concerned, although frustrating, it can be re-earned.
Your precious time can’t.
What about you guys? What are some of your biggest travel mistakes? Have we made any of the same ones?
Let me know in the comments!
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