10 common mistakes when travelling overseas

Follow these tips to make the most of your next overseas holiday.
Woman photographing Tower of Piza.
Whether you’re a seasoned traveller or it’s your first time overseas, we all make mistakes when we travel.

From misreading flight times to packing too many clothes, here are the mistakes even the most experienced travellers make time and again.

1. Not taking an extra bank card with you

It’s always good to have a backup debit or credit card in case you get pickpocketed, lose your card or it gets gobbled up by an ATM.

Keep your backup card secured in your hotel room and only take the cash and card you’ll need for the day when you go out.

Let your bank know you’re travelling overseas so they know the transactions you make overseas are valid and can keep an eye on any suspicious activity. Contact your bank straight away if you think your card has been skimmed or duplicated.

2. Not checking passport validity

You checked the expiration date on your passport to make sure it’s valid for your trip, but many countries require passports to be valid for six months past the date of your flight home.

Some airlines also impose this rule and will not allow passengers to board if their passport expires within six months.

Check Smartraveller for information on entry and exit requirements for each country you’re visiting, including COVID-19 protocols.

3. Overpacking

Even the most experienced travellers can fall victim to overpacking and end up lugging around clothes that never see the light of day at their destination.

The general rule is to only take half the amount of clothes you were originally planning to take. In most locations you can get away with wearing a shirt more than once and it’s easy to wash underwear and shirts in the hotel sink.

Travel Fashion Girl provides comprehensive packing lists for location and seasons and PackPoint is useful if you find yourself forgetting to pack items or just aren’t sure what to pack. The app helps to organise what you need to pack based on the length and type of travel, how often you plan to do laundry, the weather at your destination and any activities planned during your trip.

Plus, the less you pack the more room there is for souvenirs.

4. Not leaving enough time between flights

It’s tempting to leave as little time as possible between connecting flights so you can get to your destination as soon as possible.

Flight delays, slow disembarking and enormous airports with multiple terminals can leave you sprinting to catch your connecting flight or missing it entirely.

Check the minimum connection time between flights at the airport you’re flying in to and take note of signage with estimated times to reach your gate. Large airports with multiple terminals, such as Dubai and Singapore Changi, may require you to catch an internal bus or light rail to reach your gate which can mean a transit time of more than an hour.

5. Using data roaming

Most mobile phone companies allow you to use your mobile phone when travelling overseas but it can be extremely expensive, especially if you’re using data.

If you don’t want to use data when travelling overseas you can disable data usage on your phone. You’ll still be able to use Wi-Fi hotspots at hotels, restaurants and cafes so save uploading your travel snaps to Facebook until you’re back at the hotel.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has some great information on using your phone when overseas.

6. Not selecting your seat

If you’re flying with a budget airline it can be tempting to avoid the extra fees charged to select your seat by waiting until check-in opens to secure your preferred aisle or window seat.

A long-haul flight in the dreaded middle seat can be its own kind of hell so if you know you go to the bathroom a lot or love to curl up against the window and sleep for the entire flight, paying the extra fees to select your preferred seat when booking can make your flight a lot more bearable.

There are also no guarantees that the group you’re travelling with will be seated together so it pays to select your seats when booking, especially if you’re travelling with children.

7. Not buying travel insurance

Travel insurance is the one item you buy that you hope to never have to use.

If you become sick or injured, lose your camera, have your bag stolen or have your flights cancelled, the last thing you want is to be out of pocket thousands of dollars.

Travel insurance will give you peace of mind and help you enjoy your trip.

8. Pre-book your tickets to attractions

Many major tourist attractions allow you to book online which means you can skip the long queues.

Some tourist attractions only let a certain number of visitors through per day so booking online will ensure you don’t miss out on anything.

Booking ahead of time can also be cheaper than the gate price, leaving you more time and money to explore.

9. Forgetting about tipping

Tipping is a foreign concept for Australians and it can be frustrating to work out the right amount to tip in different situations.

While it can feel like you’re getting ripped off, its important to remember that minimum wage in America is just $10 per hour and many people in the service industry rely on tips to make ends meet.

Expect to leave 15-20% for waitstaff at restaurants and don’t forget the bartender, valet, hotel concierge, cab driver, room service, cleaner, coat check attendant, tour guide and restroom attendant.

Apps such as Tip Check, and Tip Calculator help to work out tip and gratuity amounts based on country, service type and quality of service.

10. Packing valuables

Valuable items such as jewellery, cameras, iPad or laptop and medication should never be packed in your checked luggage.

Leave unnecessary valuables at home and pack the items you can’t live without in your carry-on bag. Many carry-ons look alike so add a luggage tag or keyring that makes your bag easy to identify.

Keep your valuables in a small pouch or carry case that you can take out of your carry-on bag if you’re asked by airline staff to check your bag or stow it in an overheard locker that’s not near your seat. You can store the pouch in the back of the seat in front of you or stow in between your feet.

Contact RACQ Travel top plan and book your holiday

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Things to note

The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice, not intended as legal advice or professional advice and does not take into account any person’s particular circumstances. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives and needs.