10 travel mistakes you might be making

Travelling Well | Michael Gebicki | Posted on 07 August 2019

With so many decisions and distractions, it’s easy to fall into these simple travel traps.

Travelling to a new place can set your head spinning, so is it any wonder we get distracted? We all make mistakes when we’re far from home, forget stuff, lose bits and pieces, pay too much for things we should not have bought in the first place – but some pitfalls can be avoided. Here are 10 easy-to-make travel mistakes, and strategies that will help you lift your game. 

Tropical hotel balconies with white walls and palm trees growing out the front

1. The dynamic currency conversion (DCC) trap

“Would you like to pay that bill in euros or Australian dollars?” Australian dollars probably sounds like the go, but choose that option and you’ll pay more. By paying in Aussie dollars rather than local currency you’re invoking a Dynamic Currency Conversion that adds another layer of fees on top of the currency conversion, between 2 and 10 per cent. The cream from this transaction will be split between the merchant and the DCC facilitator. 

2. The booze bust

Buy duty-free liquor at an airport in Europe, tuck it in your carry-ons and disaster – it’s confiscated before you reboard your flight to Australia at Singapore, Dubai, Hong Kong or wherever. You are not allowed to board an aircraft with carry-on liquor or any other liquid over 100 millilitres in your carry-ons unless you purchase it in the last airport before your flight to Australia. No point complaining, it’s Australian government regulations. 

3. Blocked card 

Finding your credit or debit card blocked is a major inconvenience but it happens frequently, especially if you’re travelling in Third World countries. It’s a safeguard to protect you from fraudulent transactions. Blocked cards are easily avoided if you call your financial institution before leaving and tell them when and where you’re going. 

4. Putting all your cards and cash together

Venturing forth each day with all your cash and cards in your wallet is asking for trouble. Take a maximum of two cards and the cash you’ll need for the day and leave the rest somewhere secure in your hotel room. If there are two of you, divvy up cash and cards. Don't take your passport out for a walk unless it’s absolutely needed. 

5. Read your travel insurance product disclosure statement (PDS)

The PDS that comes with your travel insurance policy is dull as a wet Sunday afternoon but it’s an essential read. Pay special attention to the exclusions. Travel insurers have ifs and buts that might invalidate your claim, especially regarding pre-existing medical conditions. Know before you go.  

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6. Email those documents

Should you part company with your air tickets, travel insurance policy, passport and driver’s licence, the damage can be limited if you’ve planned ahead. Make electronic copies or snap images of those vital documents, save to the cloud or Dropbox or email them to yourself and to trusted friends and relatives who can respond should the need arise. 

7. The hotel pre-authorisation 

When you check into a hotel, reception staff will usually block an amount against your debit or credit card as a deposit, a ‘pre-authorisation’, and it can be substantial. Your available credit is reduced and you might have problems when you use your card later on. Smart play is to use a credit card rather than a debit card, then you’re using your financial institution’s money rather than your own, especially since it can take a week or more for any unused credit to be returned to your account.

8. Clean those paws

Clean hands are one simple and effective way to keep stomach bugs at bay. Swabs from unwashed human hands have been shown to be a major source of harmful bacteria. Washing your hands is not always easy when you’re travelling but a small bottle of hand sanitiser gel will do the trick. 

9. Packing for keeps

Sooner or later every traveller forgets to pack something when they leave their hotel room, and the often dim room lighting doesn’t help. Pull back the bed covers so you’ve got a white sheet, pile all your goods and chattels on top and pack from there, and don’t neglect the final room inspection. 

10. Exchange rate confusion

Is that pair of shoes $50 or $100? One might be a bargain, the other not. Knowing the exchange rate in wherever you find yourself can save you from a nasty surprise down the line, and reach for a calculator if there are big sums involved. Also, know what the local currency looks like. Several years ago at a cafe in Split in Croatia I mistook the euros in my wallet for local kuna. For a lunch that cost 70 kuna, about $13.25 at the time, I paid €70, about $100. The waiter took the cash and galloped off, never to be seen again.

Heading overseas? RACV Travel Insurance has you covered.