All of us at some moment of our lives committed mistakes during our trips. There is no way of escaping it. I wrote this article in order to help people out there, whether experienced or not. I wish I have read an article like that before my first trips. Nobody is free from making mistakes, even when they have experience, anything can happen. Control is an illusion, but, it is always good to plan and be prepared.
This is a thing I always get stressed about. First of all I hate packing. Yes, I know that most of people love to arrange all stuff before trips, it is part of the excitement, etc., but I really don’t like it. Why? Even though I always try to pack small bags, few clothes, I always exceed the kilos allowed in the airlines. Whenever I travel I usually stay longer than most people and I prefer winter, meaning, more weight. In the end I always buy extra bags. It is ridiculous, I know it and stress me a lot. So if you are a person with good sense, DON’T do like me. Plus: pay attention in the kilos allowed for each airline company; check if that cheap ticket allows dispatched bag or only hand bag; traveling inside Europe with trains? Ok, still, usually the trains don’t stay still between one stop and another so long, so you have to move fast, mainly if you are alone, so make sure not to have too many heavy bags with you. Another thing: be careful with what you pack inside your hand bag and dispatched bag. Since September 11 attacks airports became a neuroses in all senses and if they get annoyed with your face, they will make you open everything. I remember when I was in Athens airport heading to another island and they made me open all my lenses and even checked my hair to see if I was carrying something within my hair! It was very stressful to say the least. Avoid teas, smelling food and all that sort of things. Always good to check the weather forecast.
Travel insurance is very important. The truth is you never know what can happen. Travels are non predictable. A lost bag, an incident, a toothache, you never knows. There is plenty good insurance companies and you can make the insurance also through the credit card you bought your airline ticket. Don’t miss that point. Shit happens, it is good to be assured.
Vaccination is a serious matter and sometimes can restrain us from crossing a border. The documentation required by each country is one of the factors that travelers need to be aware of when planning their next destination. The yellow fever vaccination certificate is being required by more and more countries. For prevention, the best thing to do is to get vaccinated and always keep the certificate with your passport. Here are some of the countries listed: Angola, Central African Republic, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo (ex-Zaire), French Guiana, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, India, Sierra Leone, Suriname, Togo, etc. For more information check: https://www.who.int/.
Budget (take money)
Most of us today travel with debit and credit cards, buy tickets before the trip, pay the hotel or airbnb previously. But just in case, it is always good to take some extra cash. You never know what can happen and depending of which city you will go, nor dollar or euro will be helpful and you will eventually need a bit of cash in the local currency. Some places don’t accept debit or credit cards (museums, shops, restaurants, sightseeing buses). The last situation we want is to seat in a restaurant, eat and drink a lot, and when the time to pay arrives, the restaurant only accepts money and suddenly you only have cards. Not every place is like New York or São Paulo that paying 1 dollar with credit card is acceptable. It is so automatic to pay everything with cards today that sometimes we end up forgetting it.
Visa and documentation to visit other countries
When we are new travelers, we never think about applying visas and documentation. But this is a necessary factor in many countries and it also depends where you are from. Before planning a trip, check what is necessary to visit the country you want to go. Go to the official consulate website. There you will get all the necessary information. Many people think that to travel do Brazil there is not need of a visa, but countries like USA still need a visa to enter here. Research about the place you are planning to go, sometimes a visa may take months to be approved.
Non trustful websites
Internet is good in so many ways and yet so evil. One more thing we must pay attention (it never ends…) is which websites are we buying tickets to visit museums, operas, shows, etc. Not always the first choice the appears in Google is the right one. Research before buying. Read reviews. Sometimes non official websites that sell packages for a whole day itinerary are full of extra fees, lunch in touristic places (that you wouldn’t go even for free) and more expensive than the official website itself. Read everything before buy it. If necessary, ask help of friends that have more experience.
Traffic before airport
Call me neurotic, but I am one of those who arrive at least 3/4 hours before international flights and 2 hours for domestic flights. I don’t mind waiting at the airport because if I get stuck at the traffic, my nerves explode and I really avoid that kind of situation. São Paulo has a terrible traffic. I live nearby both main airports, and still (15 min and 30 min) I get traffic. If rains in SP the city gets jammed and what once was a quick journey can end up in a long stressful one. Anything can happen in airports, I mean, anything. You can mistakenly go to the WRONG airport, bags can exceed kilos, lines can be long (Paris is always stressful), going through customs (argh), time flights can change, forgetting the passport! So many things that can stress us out, that in the end to arrive early is a plus. In a word, if you have a problem, you still will have time to solve it. Don’t forget to check in online. That is a bliss!
Location where you’re going to stay
No matter if you are going to stay in a hotel or airbnb, what matters is the place you are going to stay. Yes. The location is very important. Is it far from the city? Is it close to metros, restaurants, markets? The main attractions? Airport? Sometimes you find super nice places, like 5 star hotels, with an affordable price (that you don’t even believe), but when you see the location, is far, far away … Always check the surroundings before to book a place. Check if it is close to noisy bars or if is in a safe neighborhood. A wrong place to stay can ruin the whole trip. I wrote an article about pros and cons of booking an airbnb place, and there I speak of everything about booking locations.
Shopping all stuff you want in the first city (and first days)
Most of us make this mistake. Buy all things we want in one unique shop or even in the first day of a long trip! Maybe Warsaw is your first city, and that vodka you wanted so much you won’t be able to find anywhere else, than you buy right way 3 bottles. But it is only 3 bottles, I get! But really, try to avoid that. You still have a long journey ahead, even if it is only one week. Try to enjoy more the place than the goods. Leave it to the end of the trip. We keep our memories. The goods will eventually perish. But our memories won’t fade. And no one can’t take it from you.
Learn to say NO
We all have a nice side (well, at least most of us). And I still remember about my first trips abroad. First mistake was telling everyone about it. I consider travels a very personal thing, and not everyone is pleased to see you happy. Human beings are complex. Even now while you are reading it, there will be people angry with me and there will be people grateful. I just can’t please everyone. People are such a Pandora box. Either way, second mistake was saying yes to people asking me things to buy things for them. BIG MISTAKE. If you have to bring things, chose wisely to whom, IF you chose to bring. Picture the situation: you could buy something nice for you that once you longed for and instead you bought something to a non close ‘friend’ and still get not paid for it. Just drop the idea. It is not worthy. Learn to say no, don’t think about it and enjoy your trip. Forget about bringing presents to family or close friends. Be selfish. Everyone else is. Praise your individuality. Preserve your intimacy. On contrary to most of people, I don’t find necessary to share each moment of my trips. I don’t use Instagram anymore and I don’t share personal moments in any social media. I share my work. The mystery is so much more exciting. Where did it go?
I hope this article will help you clear up all the doubts you may have, because even experienced travelers have doubts from time to time. We all make mistakes. Trips cost money. Money costs our efforts. Our efforts costs time. And time can’t be bought. Clock is ticking …