When it comes to travel advice, some of the most common suggestions are the worst. And trust us, we’ve heard it all. From dubious ways to cut costs to travel strategies that never end well, here’s a round-up of the worst advice we’ve ever received, why you shouldn’t follow it, and better advice to pave your next vacation path.
Treat Yourself, You're on Vacation!
We’ve all been told to not worry about money on vacation because the experience will be worth it. While that may be true, not everyone can afford to splurge. Sure, you don’t want to miss out on great experiences, but you also don’t want to be hit with a big credit card bill post-vacation.
Do This Instead: From alternative accommodation sites to new booking platforms, technology gives the savvy traveler a variety of ways to save. Associate Editor Shannon McMahon says, “it’s not too hard to find affordable flights and cheap or even free lodging via house-sitting or couch surfing. There are a lot of museums and sites you can see for almost nothing. It’s also very possible to see generally expensive cities, like Paris, for cheap, if you use hostels or Airbnb.”
Related Link: 10 Ways to Save Big Money on Your Next Trip
Avoid Tourist Traps
There’s a reason why tourist traps are crowded. The Eiffel Tower really is a marvel to stand under, and the Sagrada Familia does take your breath away. So, before you dismiss doing brave touristy activities, shift your thinking and consider what makes a destination special, then evaluate if it’s worth visiting in spite of crowds.
Do This Instead: If you do chose to brave popular attractions, consider doing it as part of a tour. Many times they offer special access or run at off-peak times to allow participants to enjoy the destination without the crowds. I recently booked a guided drive for the Great Ocean Road in Melbourne, Australia and ended up getting a discounted helicopter tour out of it. If you can afford to spend a little more, boutique tours or tours with smaller groups are a great way to enjoy an overcrowded tourist destination.
Related Link: 10 Tourist Traps We Secretly Love
Be Spontaneous with Accommodations
While it’s nice to be flexible with travel dates, booking accommodations in advance is one thing you shouldn’t mess around with, unless you are traveling for an extended period and aren’t picky about where you’re sleeping … or whom you’re sleeping next to.
Do This Instead: Senior Editor Caroline Morse has worked in a hostel and has “seen firsthand that literally every hotel, hostel, or bed and breakfast can unexpectedly book up on certain weekends.” Instead, she does her research in advance and can then “be able to land, check-in, and hit the ground running.”
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Try to See As Much As Possible
Sometimes it really is better to follow the mantra “less is more.” When you try to squeeze too much into your itinerary, you may end up with additional flight and hotel expenses, unnecessary exhaustion, missed connections, more transit time, and general frustration.
Do This Instead: Make a wish list of your must-see spots and map out your days realistically. This will give you not only a more relaxed experience, but likely a more authentic one as well. While living in London, I was tempted to jet off to a new city each weekend, and even sometimes hit two cities within a few days. Even though Europe allows for easy multi-destination travel, I quickly learned I was missing great restaurants and museums that were closed on certain days by traveling so quickly. I trimmed my wish list down to allow for more time at each destination and added the spots I didn’t get to see to my bucket list.
You Should Also Know: These Tips Before Traveling with a Significant Other
Travel in a Group
At some point in time, we’ve all thought it was a good idea to plan a vacation with a large group of family or friends, and then ended up more stressed out than relaxed. The logistics associated with traveling in a large group—as well as the inevitable difference in travel styles—can turn a dream trip into a miserable vacation. While cruises, pre-planned tours, and resorts can be exceptions, we still suggest slimming down the number of travelers you directly travel with.
Do This Instead: Editorial Assistant Olivia Briggs has traveled with groups large and small, and says that “while it may be true it’s safer [to travel in a group], it makes planning and getting around a lot more difficult—it’s better to go with one or two people you are really compatible with.”
Related Link: How to Travel with your Friends—And Survive
Stay Outside the City to Save
Many travelers try to save on accommodations by staying far from the city center. However, the value may not add up when you factor in the wasted vacation time you’ll spend commuting and the cost of getting to and from your hotel to popular tourist spots.
Do This Instead: Senior Editor Christine Sarkis suggests looking at vacation rentals or alternative booking sites like Airbnb for centrally located rentals. “I have stayed in some very cool apartments for less than the cost of a hotel in the same neighborhood. And I end up with more space, a kitchen, and often a washing machine as well.”
Related Link: 8 Cheap Alternatives to Staying in a Hotel
Stay Away from Strangers
Exploring new cultures can be difficult if you don’t open yourself up to interactions with locals. Locals give a unique and genuine perspective on a destination, and are great resources for amazing restaurants and hidden museums that you can’t find online. Although safety can be a real concern, there are plenty of ways to be safe and engage with the world around you.
Do This Instead: Whether it’s just asking for directions or a restaurant recommendation, you’ll get a better sense of your destination by a asking locals for advice. Don’t be afraid to ask your barista about a great restaurant or your taxi driver about cool alternative tourist destinations. Social Media and Editorial Intern Jamie Ditaranto also suggests talking to other travelers. “If I hadn’t said ‘Hello’ to the woman sitting across from me in the hot spring in Iceland, I would have never learned she worked as a polar bear researcher in the Yukon and would have missed out on one hell of a conversation.”
Book the Cheapest Flight
Often, the cheapest flights are at inconvenient travel times. And that might save you money, but it will also waste your precious vacation time, especially on multi-destination trips. Red-eye flights in particular pose a problem, since most hotels and hostels won’t let you check in until well after noon, so when you arrive off a 6 am flight, you may well find yourself both exhausted and stuck with your bags for hours.
Do This Instead: Consider your travel style. If you’re like me and can’t sleep on planes,red-eyes are not for you. If you’re the type of traveler who can handle little sleep, by all means go for the cheaper, earlier flights. Make sure to pay attention to connection times, as many cheaper airlines, especially in Europe, require more time to queue up before your flight.
Related Link: 14 Myths About Booking Cheap Flights
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