Worst Travel Advice: Common Tips You Should Think Twice About

Ready to hit the road but feeling swamped by all the do’s and don’ts coming at you from every direction? This article is all about calling out the bad travel advice that can turn your dreams of adventure into a bit of a bummer. From planning problems to budgeting boo-boos, I’ve got you.

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overhead view of a couple using a map to plan a trip

Planning Pitfalls

Ask for advice about planning your trip, and you’ll get an earful. Oh boy, will you get an earful! But not all travel planning advice is good advice. Here’s some of the worst planning advice I’ve seen.

Pack your itinerary full of activities

It’s natural to want to make the most out of your trip by experiencing everything a destination has to offer. But, an over-packed itinerary can lead to burnout and missed opportunities to deeply appreciate once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Make sure to balance your plans with sufficient downtime.

Don’t miss (fill in the blank)

Each destination has its “must-sees” and while these can be worth your time to see, blindly following advice about what to see or not see may lead you away from the things that truly interest you. Instead, start by doing your own research first and build a list of what interests you most. Then take in advice from others, and adjust your list if you think you should but don’t limit yourself to seeing what others think you should see. Your travel is for you, no one else.

Don’t research much. Just be spontaneous.

While spontaneity can lead to some wonderful travel memories, a lack of research might lead to travel roadblocks. A little pre-trip research can open you up to hidden gems and prevent heartache. For example, some attractions require booking ahead because they offer limited tickets that sell out well in advance. There’s room for spontaneity in travel certainly, but it’s still wise to be well-informed.

Figure out accommodations as you go

Searching for a place to stay when you arrive can be risky, especially during peak travel seasons or certain local events when hotel rooms can be hard to find for reasonable rates.

To prevent stress, it’s wise to choose your accommodations ahead of your trip and book in advance. This doesn’t mean every night needs to be planned for longer road trips or extended travel, but a confirmed booking for your first nights is wise.

People milling around in a large wood and stone hotel lobby.
Think you can book Yellowstone National Park hotels on the fly? Think again. The Old Faithful Inn can book up several months in advance. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go.

Don’t use a group tour. Only plan your own travel.

While planning your own travel offers itinerary flexibility, group tours often provide experiences and access to things you might not find on your own. Although I often encourage planning your own travel to develop your skills as a savvy traveler, there are destinations or activities for which I would highly recommend using expert group travel. 

You don’t need travel insurance

Travel insurance can seem like an unnecessary expense, but it’s a safeguard against the unpredictable. From lost luggage to medical emergencies abroad, having travel insurance can save you from unforeseen costs and complications, giving you peace of mind as you explore the world.

Bad budgeting advice

When planning, travel budgeting is important for enjoying your trip without financial stress. 

Don’t think about the money. Just book that trip.

It’s tempting to book impulsively without any thought for how much you’re spending. Instagram travel influencers are called influencers for a reason. They can hold a lot of influence over what the average traveler thinks is The Place to go, how to travel, or how to spend on travel. There’s no shame in saying no to travel today so that you can be sure you have the available funds tomorrow.

paper bills in a clear glass jar labeled Travel

Stay far from activity centers to save money

Staying miles away from the tourist center may seem cost-effective at first, but you might end up spending more on gas and time. I’ve known travelers to spend hours a day in their car just getting from their lodgings in Cody, Wyoming, to Yellowstone and back again cutting significantly into their time in the park.

You can always save a little more money ahead of time for your travel budget for a more convenient lodging location but you’ll never be able to add more hours to your day. 

(Fill in the blank) isn’t worth the money

Everyone has their opinions about what is or isn’t a good use of their money when traveling. Surely you’ve heard similar things when seeking advice for your trip. “Oh don’t go there! It’s a total waste of money.” Here’s the thing. One person’s “waste of money” might be a great value in the eyes of another person.

Destination Traps

Speaking the local language or learning customs is unnecessary

If anyone tells you anything like this, never listen to any travel advice they give you again…ever. While it’s true that English is often widely spoken in tourist areas around the world, making an effort to learn basic phrases shows respect and can greatly enhance your experience.

And beyond language, learning the most important customs can save you from embarrassment and from offending those in whose country you are a guest. 

Don’t go to this city go to that city

Be wary of advice directing you to skip so-called “overrated” cities. Every city offers its own unique charm, whether it’s the romance of Paris or the busyness of Rome. It’s important to think about what you want from your visit. Not everyone wants the same things. So before you make plans based on the opinions of others ask yourself what you really want. And, hey, maybe you can visit both places and come to your own conclusions.

view of the Eiffel Tower from below with a bright blue sky

Avoid popular sites

Yes, popular sites can be crowded and may be expensive, but they’re popular for a reason! The Eiffel Tower, Yellowstone National Park, and New York City offer things you can’t find at any other place on Earth. 

Visiting during off-peak hours or the shoulder or off-season can help you make the most of these incredible spots with lower crowds. However, you’ll want to keep in mind that off-season travel can have trade-offs such as shorter hours or fewer services available.

Avoid public transportation

Public transportation is often dismissed by those advising to rent a car for flexibility. And Americans who are so accustomed to driving themselves around EVERYWHERE can often find it hard to imagine locations with reliable, cost-effective, and easy-to-use public transportation.

Learning how to use public transportation at your destination might not always be the best option. Do your research on the system where you’re going and give it a try. You might be surprised.

Paris metro station with a decorative green and glass cover.

Only eat at local or “authentic” places

Look, eating only at local spots when you travel is certainly something to aspire to. It’s a fine goal. But sometimes you need something easy, quick, or familiar.

Hubby has celiac disease which means getting too adventurous with dining out can have bad consequences for him. This often means eating at familiar chain restaurants we know can accommodate his needs or eating in when we have lodgings with a kitchen.

Cruising Missteps

Plan, Ready, Go reader John offered two excellent examples of bad cruising advice. 

Flying into town the day your cruise departs

Number one on John’s list was “flying on the same day the cruise leaves to save on the cost of a hotel the previous night.” Boy, do I agree!

Booking a flight to arrive in your cruise city on the same day your ship sets sail might seem cost-effective. However, unexpected delays like flight cancellations or traffic on the way to the port can create a stressful scramble to board on time. To avoid the risk of missing your cruise, it’s wise to fly in at least one day early.

Wait until you get on your ship before booking excursions

“Don’t wait until you’re on the ship to pick your excursions,” says John. “They can sell out very quickly, especially the popular ones. Sometimes there is enough interest that they can double up and get another excursion but if not, you miss out. Cruise lines offer excursions on a first-come, first-served basis. If you are traveling with a group and wait to book, half of you may get on the excursion and half not.”  

Terrible Packing Advice

You might hear all sorts of advice on what to bring on your trip. Packing can be an intensely personal thing, but the below advice is really quite bad. The third one is more a myth but you get the idea. 

Though not exactly bad advice, Hubby loves to tell the story of a travel companion who decided to punch a hole in his U.S. passport so he could wear it on a string around his neck. Hubby’s friend was stopped at a Russian border crossing and had to get a new passport from the U.S. embassy. Don’t do that.

You don’t really need to follow TSA guidelines for liquid toiletries

Yes, believe it or not, I’ve seen travelers say publicly on social media that they don’t follow the TSA 3-1-1 guidelines and haven’t been caught so…

Ignoring TSA guidelines can result in delays at security checkpoints. Your liquids must be in containers of 3.4 ounces or less and placed in a single, clear, quart-sized bag. Now, if you have TSA Pre-check you don’t have to take your one-quart bag out of your carry-on, but you still have to follow the rules like everyone else.

Just because you haven’t been caught doesn’t mean the rules are invalid.

Pack for every situation

While being prepared is good, overpacking can lead to extra baggage fees and less mobility. It is practical to check the weather forecast and plan for events, but packing multiple options ‘just in case’ leads to a heavier suitcase.

Pack layers and go for versatile garments and outerwear that can be mixed and matched. And remember, laundry facilities or services are often available if you need to wash anything.

Read more about the hidden travel fees to avoid.

Woman kneeling on bulging suitcase trying to get it closed

Traveling carry-on only is impossible for a trip of longer than a few days

Many people underestimate the freedom of traveling light. With the right strategy, traveling carry-on only is both possible and liberating. Create a capsule wardrobe that fits in a carry-on, embrace travel-sized toiletries, and use packing cubes to maximize space and keep organized if they help you.

Finding your way through conflicting travel advice can be kind of like finding your way through a maze. Some advice will be life-changing; other bits of advice, not so much. When taking in advice, keep your critical thinking skills engaged and remember that your travel is for you alone.

Will you make mistakes? Of course. But travel missteps can lead to growth, development of new travel skills, and can sometimes even lead to the best stories.

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