Top 10 Rookie Travel Mistakes to AVOID
Hey Au Pairs,
Edwina is in New York City and I am in Utrecht! We’re both having great summers, thanks for asking. How’s yours going?
After Edwina’s awesome video on YouTube last week, I got thinking about all the travel rookie mistakes we’ve ever made. I plan on using this list to check future travel plans against. Even though Edwina and I love to travel, we still regularly make stupid mistakes.
For instance, this summer I stayed in a BEAUTIFUL apartment in an area that is known for being pretty unsafe… Luckily, nothing went wrong. But, why didn’t I quickly google the area before arriving? We’ll never know.
So, here are TEN rookie travel mistakes to avoid! Before we continue, please tell us where you’re an au pair so we can help you meet travel buddies in your area.
1. Check the area before you book accommodation
As I mentioned, I wish I’d done this myself! Sure, I pulled up the map to check whether I could walk into the centre of town, but I didn’t google where the best areas for a solo female traveller were to stay.
One of the best ways to check out whether an area is a safe bet is join travel Facebook groups. Some of these groups have thousands of people who will quickly be able to tell you about the area you’re looking to book in. Alternatively, a quick Google should give you some idea!
2. Read up on scams before you go
One of the most embarrassing moments of my travelling life was getting scammed in Bangkok. Sure, EVERYONE knows that Bangkok is the scamming capital of the world. But, MAN, are they good at it!!!
I’m not going to dwell on the specifics, but I now make sure to read blog posts on the most common scams even in cities that aren’t known for scammers. Is the biggest scam that taxi drivers overcharge or are you looking at a scam that will involve you parting with hundreds of dollars?
Do your research and always be wary when a stranger comes up to talk to you in the street.
3. Find money saving tips
Edwina and I have been duped into going to places because we got pulled in by a cheap flight. Who knew Norway was SO freaking expensive? (Read: literally everyone).
Budgeting before a trip is the single best way to make sure you can actually afford it. I’m still pretty bad at properly budgeting how much money I need for a trip, but I always make sure to use websites such as Numbeo to figure out how much things are going to cost.
If it’s a lot more than home, I know to save more for that particular trip. Edwina and I were regularly finding that alcohol in Norway would set you back by $10 for a small glass. We gave up alcohol for the month pretty quickly and just hung out with this guy instead…
4. Don’t forget to download entertainment
Once, on a flight from Singapore to Taiwan, I started feeling SO sick. I was exhausted, super poorly, miserable, and had absolutely no way to change my fate.
On top of that, I had completely forgotten to download ANY form of entertainment (and this was a budget plane ride so there was no in-flight entertainment either). For hours, I felt absolutely AWFUL and had no way to take my mind off things.
Now, wherever I go, even if I think I’m going to “sleep” on the train or plane, I always have LOADS of films downloaded, hundreds of hours of Friends, audiobooks ranging from super dull to utterly engaging, hypnosis apps to help me sleep, and a paperback book. (Of course, remember an external charger too!)
5. Don’t punish yourself for mistakes
On a trip from Barcelona to Bilbao, I booked the wrong train. I accidentally chose a train a week later than I wanted. So, instead of rebooking the €30 train, I spent an extra week in Barcelona. Although this sounds LOVELY, it resulted in me spending a LOT more money than just €30. Money which, at the time, I didn’t have to spend.
It can be very easy to leave yourself in tight situations to help save money, but it’s not always the best idea. Way up all of the costs and disadvantages of the situation you find yourself in!
6. Say NO to people
Edwina and I have definitely both been in situations while travelling where we look back and think WHY DIDN’T WE JUST SAY NO. But, we’re definitely getting better at turning people down when we know something’s not for us.
Not a going out person? Don’t let people in your hostel bully you into going out and getting drunk. You’ll likely have a terrible time and it won’t bring you closer to these people as clubbing doesn’t usually foster a great conversation.
As an au pair trying to make friends, it often feels like you’re having to do things that you’re not that keen on. Why not instead check out the APOP Open Forum and ask whether anyone in your area wants to get together to do something that you DO want to do, no matter whether it’s rock climbing, dance lessons, or just grabbing a coffee.
7. Don’t try to do EVERYTHING in a city
Okay, this isn’t something that Edwina and I struggle with. We’re more your “walk around and see what’s up then go for a coffee” type of tourists.
But, it’s definitely something that many friends struggle with. How do you see EVERYTHING in Rome in a weekend!? It’s simple - you can’t. The best way to overcome this struggle is to be a better planner. That way, you can ensure you’ve seen everything you REALLY want to see.
8. ALWAYS check reviews
This one speaks for itself. I don’t go ANYWHERE now without checking reviews. Maybe it results in me missing out on some spontaneous experiences… but more likely, I end up with a meal that’s expensive and not tasty or a coffee that suuuucks.
Google reviews have helped me find some of my favourite places in the world. Plus, it takes about two seconds, that is if you have internet on your phone…
9. Get internet on your phone
Oh, the amount of times I got lost as an au pair in Paris because I didn’t want to spend money on my phone. Remember, you should ask your host parents to pay for your phone plan!
I’ve been in this situation now far too many times thinking “I’ll make do” without internet. As a result, I can’t look up reviews, stop myself from getting lost, get in contact with family or friends. AND, I spend a lot longer looking for WiFi.
Of course, I’ll probably continue to do this as sometimes paying for data in a new country when you’re only there for a short period can feel ridiculously expensive, but it’s still a mistake I’ve made too many times.
10. Check the weather and pack accordingly
Edwina is the worst person for packing for the weather she’s CURRENTLY IN. She turned up to Oslo without a warm coat, with no walking shoes, and a bag full of dresses and little else.
The way to ensure you don’t pack for the wrong season is to look up the temperature online. Also, google what people wear during the season you’re visiting in for some style inspiration but also for an idea of whether you’re ok with just a coat or need a hat, gloves, and a scarf as well.