5 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid While Backpacking

Me, at the cliffs of Moher in Ireland, drinking a coffee, and trying to think of what to write in this article. 

Okay, so, after a couple international trips and traveling for about a year, I’ve realized that there are so many mistakes everyone makes on their first trip. They are super common, and easy to avoid! My hope is that after reading this article, you will be able to enjoy you’re trip, and perhaps avoid exhausting yourself, wondering if you’ve seen everything, or regretting the money you’ve spent on your trip.

Krka National Park, which required driving to find. 

Rookie Mistake 1: Try to Fit to Much In 

So, you’ve just arrived in Paris and have about two days. You know you want to see Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, and the Arch de Triomphe. Great! Two days should be enough for that, right?

Wrong. Here’s the thing about site-seeing. While two days sounds like it would be enough time to see all of those beautiful places and landmarks, you need to plan to wait in line. You need to schedule time to enjoy these activities: an hour at the Louvre will simply not be enough time. Plus, if you speed through the sites like that you are going to be exhausted.

Personally, I’ve learned that if I am in a big city, I need at least 3 full days and 3 nights to see what I want to see, and to be honest I feel much better if I am able to spend a day relaxing after I spend two days doing as much as possible. In smaller cities or towns, like Florence, you may be able to get away with two full days and two nights, but I would try to stay longer in less places to gain a deeper understanding.

In Thailand, I booked a flight from Phuket, but wanted to see Krabi. I ended up spending a full 24 hours traveling and I had only 5 days in Thailand. It was still amazing, but I could have used my time better. 

Rookie Mistake # 2: Doing Research After You Have Arrived

All right, you’ve met a couple of Australians and a cool New Zealand bloke at a hostel in Barcelona, and they inform you that Croatia is the place to be. Because of the gloriously inexpensive budget airline, Ryanair, you find an affordable one-way ticket to Zagreb. Cool! Croatia, here I come!

Sometimes, transit is a random van filled with loads of people. Do your research so you know what you are getting into. 

Then you arrive, and realize- no one actually speaks English as you disembark from your plane. Shit. Also, you’re phone only works with wifi. Oops. Additionally, you forgot to download the map of Zagreb. Is there even transit to the hostel you booked last night while you were drinking rum with those pirate-y Aussies?

To rectify the situation, you stay in the airport, far longer than necessary, using the Croatian wifi to download the maps, figure out where you are going, and grabbing the local Croatian currency- Kuna. By the time you make it to the hostel, you feel stressed and exhausted from doing all the research there. All of this could have been made simpler simply by doing a tiny bit of research and preparation beforehand.

While climbing a volcano in Nicaragua, My friend Liz and I packed too much. Our wonderful guide helped us- but it’s better to avoid this at all costs. 

Rookie Mistake #3: Packing too Much

So you are off to backpack the world. You will clearly need your favorite stuffed animal, full-size bottle of shampoo, conditioner, heels, your weight set (no one wants to come home fat, am I right?) and your parka, even though it’s summertime.

Honestly, half of that stuff will end up being left at the first hostel you need to walk too. Any more than 10 kilos of luggage will weigh you down, and cause an upcharge in flight prices. It is better to pack light, and get what you need from local places where you are exploring. And, if you think you need more, you can check out my basic backpacking list here.

Always pay in the local currency (pictured above: 2 20 pound notes in the United Kingdom)

Rookie Mistake #4: Not Paying In the Local Currency

Ahh, you’ve gotten a magical travel credit card. No International Transaction Fees!

Now, here is something they don’t tell you. Often, when you pay with credit card, you can choose to pay in your home currency (in my case, American dollars) or the local currency. If you choose your home currency, there will be more international fees to deal with than if you choose the local currency. Although the fees may seem minimal, it will save you more money to skip the fees.

img_20180425_065013Rookie Mistake Number 5: Traveling Sans Travel Insurance

Anything can happen when you are traveling. Often, you are experiencing new cultures, and different climates; all of which, make your immune system more susceptible to local infections. Travel insurance can be a real life saver. While I was in Australia, I got tonsillitis, which caused me to miss two flights. This ended up being okay, because I had insurance through World Nomad. However, I found that their administrative process took to long, so I switched from World Nomad to Allianz.

It turned out to be one of my better decisions because when I stayed in Liverpool I got my first (and hopefully, last) kidney infection. I had a temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit and had to be hospitalized for three days. Allianz not only provided me with immediate support, but also worked toward paying the hospital bill directly. What could have cost roughly 3000 British pounds was reduced to literally nothing- all because of travel insurance.

In addition to my experiences I’ve met people who had all of their stuff stolen, including Visas. Travel insurance covers this as well.

Casually walking down the highway in New Zealand.

So there you have it. Five rookie mistakes that hopefully, you won’t experience while traveling. Hope you enjoy your trip! 🙂


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