Five Mistakes to Avoid When Traveling

We all have our own pet peeves in life and in travel, and I’m no different. Over the years, while traveling and while working in the hospitality industry, I’ve noticed a few things that the most abrasive travelers tend to do, and tend to stick to doing vehemently. Most of these things can be narrowed down to a passionate reluctance to leave one’s comfort zone, something anyone can understand. However, doing these things make it all the more likely that you won’t receive an authentic experience, or, at worst, might ruin someone else’s day. So, if you are interested in having a real, local experience at your destination, here are a few things that will prevent you from doing so.

Sticking to your own language – While certainly no one expects a person to become fluent in a second language before visiting another country, it is always worth picking up a few phrases that can help you out. Even if you can’t carry a full conversation, people appreciate the effort, and even simple phrases make bridging the communication gap easier. It can also help if you speak a second language in the country. For example, when I worked at the front desk of a hotel, we usually had at least one or two agents who spoke Spanish on duty at a time.

Don’t be this kid. Also, remember that speaking more loudly does not make a language suddenly clearer.

Not trying the culture’s food – This is one I’m certainly guilty of, though much more so when I was a kid. On so many trips to Florida and Mexico did I refuse to eat anything but chicken (no fresh fish!) and cheese-only quesadillas (think of how many tamales I missed out on). If you are so fascinated by a country that you are willing to pay the airfare, the hotel, and expenses to visit, chances are you will like their food as well. And even if it takes more than one try to fully enjoy the specialties the country offers, in the long term and when you think back to your trip, you will be glad that you did.

It took me about ten trips to sushi restaurants before I finally began to like it. Now, I can’t get enough.

Not doing your research – While getting advice from locals is always a good thing, it’s smart to do some basic planning before you arrive to your destination. The biggest advantage you’ll gain is some semblance of direction; you won’t have to be tourist wandering around with eyes glued to a map or your smartphone. Then, you can limit the questions you ask the locals to what information you couldn’t find online or that you consider most important – like about transportation between two far-apart destinations, or where to get the best local food.

Don’t be this guy.

Being unkind to travel professionals – This pet peeve isn’t about cultural immersion, but rather remembering that everyone is human. Travel can be frustrating, sometimes exceedingly slow. Things go wrong … constantly. You get tired, hungry, and worried about making it to your destination in time. However, too many times I have seen travelers heap blame on travel professionals who are not responsible for what has gone wrong on their trip, be it a delayed flight, a hotel room that isn’t ready four hours before check-in, or a bad dining experience. Always remember to be kind; not only will you not ruin anyone’s day (including your own), but kindness always goes further than anger in the tourism and hospitality industries.

These are the women who can put you in a suite or the room directly next to the elevator and ice machine.

Keeping the window closed on planes – 
And this pet peeve has little to do with anything that is truly important while traveling, but I have yet to understand why a person would ever close the window on a plane, short of being blinded by the sun at an odd angle. Who doesn’t want to look out the window at the clouds, the sky, and the landscape below you? I really don’t get it, and since I’m usually on the aisle, when a person closes their window there’s not much I can do about it. Do you close your window on a plane? If so, why? Feel free to explain in the comments. I seriously would love to understand.

What a view!

What drives you crazy that people do when traveling? Tell me in the comments.


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