Overcome These 10 Travel Pitfalls

What To Research & Prepare Before You Go

Image by Doctor Popular, CC BY-NC 2.0


1: trap, snare; a pit flimsily covered or camouflaged and used to capture and hold animals or men

2: a hidden or not easily recognized danger or difficulty

I’ve seen a lot of travelers in flimsily covered pits. Not real pits, mind you, but pits of their own devising. Traveling in Southeast Asia for the last 6 months, I’ve run into a shocking amount of completely unprepared people who just show up in faraway country without a clue or a plan. When minor or major issues arise, they are somehow surprised when it all goes awry. Research and preparation are essential for a smooth and pleasant travel experience. If you don’t have time to do either, do yourself a favor and stay home until you do.

For your traveling comfort and safety, and so I don’t have to keep hearing the same sad stories over and over, here’s a list of 10 common travel pitfalls and how to avoid them.

Bonus tip: Don’t wear jorts.

I’m sorry, but you can’t use clam shells as currency. Never leave home with only one way to access cash. Open multiple accounts and spread your money around at different banks. Bring a few different debit and credit cards. Keep a couple on you for frequent use, hide a couple in another location for emergency use. Make photocopies or scans of the cards (front and back) and store securely (both in the cloud and physically) in case of loss or theft. Bonus tip: Do the same with your passport. Put your bank’s info in your cell. As a deep backup, open Western Union, Paypal, and Transferwise accounts, and link them to your banks. This way a friend or family member can send you cash in an emergency.

Really? That’s a hell of a bar tab. If you’re heading out of country for a while, make a budget. It’s crucial to be clear on how much you have and what you can afford to spend. Keep reserve cash in a savings account in case of medical or other emergencies. There are a lot of great budget apps out there. Use one, or a Google Spreadsheet, and keep it on your phone. Your dollar will go as far as you let it when traveling, so stay on top of purchases and expense. Keep a running tab of what you spend in a spreadsheet or notebook. Don’t use the “I didn’t understand the foreign money” excuse. Download a free currency converter onto your phone and learn how to use it before you get there.

Image by Hubert Yu CC BY-ND 2.0

Don’t die. Other than money, this is the most important item to prepare for before you go. Get health coverage that works overseas before you go, especially for long trips. Check with your carrier to see if they are part of a worldwide network. If not, a good insurance agent will help you find the right plan. Get a list from that carrier of all the facilities in network in your destination. Put the info for your destination’s hospitals, doctor’s, ambulance service, etc. in your phone. Get travel insurance too. This covers you in all kinds of emergencies from medical to natural disaster to lost luggage. Mine even covers falling off an elephant. I don’t think I’ll ever need to file a claim for that, but you never know.

Sweet hotel, dude. Where’s the river?

Answer: In a van, down by the river. No, really, you should figure this out well in advance. Take advantage of sites like Booking.com, Agoda, and AirBnb to try out different areas and different types of accommodation. Most cities have several Facebook groups advertising rental properties, often at a better rate than from the big companies. Search “(Your Destination) Rentals” on Facebook to find them. A good strategy is to initially stay pre-booked central location, then wander around on foot or use local Facebook groups to find your next accommodation. Finding hospitable locals with a rental property is great way to not only save money but really experience the local culture.

I need to recharge these cans…

Some people would be better off with two cans and some string, but if you’d like to make calls easily in a foreign country, here’s what you do. Call your carrier, and determine if you can get your phone unlocked to work overseas. This can take a week, or a day, so don’t do it last minute. With an unlocked phone (usually GSM band — ask your carrier if that’s what you’ve got), you can purchase an inexpensive local SIM card in your destination to get very affordable minutes and data. You can often get worldwide plans from carriers like AT&T or T-Mobile but they’re expensive and the coverage is spotty. Also get a backup plan to make VOIP calls (that’s over the internet). Apps that allow you to do this include Facebook Messenger, Google Voice, Skype, Line, Viber, and WhatsApp. You’ll often find that some countries are particular to one or more of these apps. Figure out what you need and get dialing.

Ok, use your pterodactyl and begin carving messages on stone tablets. We’ll be with you in 3,000,000 years, give or take. Not all foreign accommodations are going to have internet access. Local cafes and coffee shops usually do. Go there to post cat memes on Facebook. Cellular data is cheap, so if you have a local SIM card, you can use your phone or tether it to your laptop. See the next item below for yet another solution. If you are on a small island in the middle of nowhere, take a deep breath, put your devices away, and read a book in a hammock. You’re on vacation, right?

I’ll assume you work remotely, because it’s going to be a rough commute if not. Coworking spaces, which are basically communal shared office spaces, are everywhere now. You can rent a space at a table or desk, or meeting room, on a daily, hourly, or monthly plan in most locations. Fast internet, good coffee, and a great place to meet other travelers make coworking spaces an attractive magnet for remote workers and world travelers or all kinds. Coworker.com will get you sorted on finding one at your destination.

Next time I’ll research transportation more thoroughly.

Even in Bangalore, you cannot get a magic carpet. How will you get from A to B at your destination? Load your phone with all the apps — Uber, Grab, GoJek, Lyft, Curbed, Blue Bird, etc. — whatever is used at your destination. Budget appropriately for local cabs and transportation. If you’re planning on renting a car or motorbike, get an international driver’s license with the appropriate stamps. Learn to ride a motorbike before you go if you’ve never ridden one before. This, and wearing a helmet, will definitely save your life. Get familiar with the driving rules of your destination. Things like “right of way” and “one way” have different or little meaning elsewhere. Try to stay somewhere central at first until you know your way around.

Um, no thanks, I’m driving an ostrich cart…

Guess you can cancel that post-vacation diet. If you have a special diet, you need to be extra prepared. Research before you travel to find out what kind of foods are available in your destination. What restaurants are nearby? You can find menus for almost every restaurant online. Does your accommodation include a kitchen? Are you allergic to a spice that’s in all the local foods? Do you need certain supplements that you’ll need to bring with you? Know this before you arrive. This will eliminate a lot of stress and struggle, and you’ll be able to enjoy yourself more without spending hours wandering the dark alleys of your destination looking for a organic vegan soy-free sugar-free nut-free smoothie with extra kale.

It’s a monkey? I give up.

I hope you are good at charades. Seriously, they will help you talk to people with no language in common. There are apps for this. Download Google Translate and Microsoft Translator, the language packs for your destination, and learn how the apps work. Translate has a great camera function that will help you read signs and labels. Translator has a nifty conversation function that can come in handy. Pick up a basic language guide for your destination from Lonely Planet and take the time to learn Please, Hello, Thank You, Yes, and No. You’ll be amazed at far those words can get you. Smile and admit you don’t know the language when talking to locals. Humility and friendliness go a long way, and will open up doors you wouldn’t believe.

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Michael Burns and Baydream Creative helps take your enterprise to the next level by writing your Creative Digital Content; and performing Creative Content Consulting to bring out the best new ideas for your business and personal growth.

#creativebaydreams #digitalnomad #travel



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Michael Burns

Storyteller│Creative Copywriter│Brand Storytelling│Author│Speaker│Comedian│Entrepreneur