An Italian Dream: Villa del Balbianello

Over my lifetime, I’ve probably been on more than a hundred flights and have spent lots of time in different airports around the world. I‘ve had lost suitcases, multiple delayed flights, missed flights, paid extra surcharges and slept in airports. Despite these lows, I have learned so much from my travels – on what the world has to offer and the amazing memories I get to create. I’ve made many travel mistakes that could’ve been easily avoided. Here are 5 big mistakes I’ve made and how to avoid them before you travel. Make sure to read till the end so you don’t make the same mistakes I did!

1. Not buying travel insurance

Travel insurance is insurance to cover medical expenses, trip cancellation, lost baggage, accidents, and other losses that may occur while you travel internationally or domestically. If you travel often, opt for a 6 month or 1 year travel insurance plan to save money in the long run. You can buy this once you have booked your trip or up until the day you leave. Some even cover electronics or damaged items/theft etc. Read the fine prints carefully on how much the coverage is as it can vary with different plans and insurance agencies.  

I have benefited from travel insurance myself after damaging my camera lens when I was in Cape Town. I immediately informed my travel insurance agent and managed to get full compensation to buy a brand new lens! Here are some I would recommend: Allianz Global Assistance, AXA, Zurich. These are ones I personally use, and they have great coverage for travel insurance. World Nomads is another one you can also get online while you are on your trip. I found that this one was more expensive compared to other agencies out there, but it’s very convenient and you can complete your registration online. Do take note that they don’t cover all nationalities, but you can click on their website to find out more.

2. Not checking-in early or online

Some budget flights such as Ryanair and Easyjet may charge you if you choose to check-in at the airport and not online. Avoid this mistake before you travel! This used to sound ridiculous to me but there is a reason for it. Budget airlines do this to save money – they need less paper, less staff at the check-in counter and airport, which then saves time. This way, it allows them to offer cheaper fares! It’s win-win in the end if you ask me. When you check-in online, you also get to choose the best available seats once the online check-in slot opens up for you. This is usually 24-48 hours before your flight departs. I schedule in a reminder on my phone calendar after I purchase a flight ticket since I usually book my trips 3-4 months in advance. I also sign up for an email notification so I don’t forget when it’s time to check-in!

3. Not having a plan

If you have limited time to visit a place, make sure to do your research about the country or city so you can enjoy it to the fullest! It’s important to have a plan in place so you can use your day more efficiently. Personally, I find Google excel very helpful because it’s free and lets me keep things organized. I like to do my research by reading other travel blogs and using Pinterest and Instagram for visual information. This is essential, especially when you’re traveling with a group! It’s a nice to keep everyone informed and manage expectations.

Although planning and research is crucial, I also think it’s important not to cram your schedule. Leave some space for spontaneity! Some of the best memories I have from traveling are when experiences were completely unplanned and spontaneous. It can be something like meeting someone new on the trip, discovering a cool, new location, or even an event that you found through a local or tour guide.

4. Not weighing your check-in luggage

Nobody likes to be with surprised additional costs, especially at the airport. If your luggage is over the weight limit that you’ve purchased, you can either open up your entire suitcase at the check-in desk and leave something heavy behind, or be prepared to spend money on the expensive extra-weight fee. I wouldn’t pick either. Do yourself a favour and weigh your baggage before you head to the airport. This will save you a lot of time and money and is a big travel mistake you can easily avoid! Use either a weighing scale at home, or my personal favourite, a portable digital weighing scale. I bring it along with me whenever I travel. It’s compact and ensures my bag is still within the weight limit when I get on my return flight.

5. Not checking if you need a visa to a certain country

Luckily, my Hong Kong passport allows non-visa entry into many countries. However, you can never assume! For example, I had no idea that I would need one for Australia. I didn’t realise Hong Kong wasn’t Commonwealth anymore after the handover in 1997. Thankfully, an instant e-visa was available upon checking-in my flight to Sydney, but it was a close call and I had a little panic attack at the check-in desk. Don’t make the same mistake I did! Even if you’re not in doubt, always double check to make sure there are no hiccups to begin your trip with. It’s not the best feeling when you get stopped at immigration just to be informed that you don’t have the correct documents to enter the country you’re visiting.

I hope you find these tips helpful for your next travel adventures. Don’t make the same mistakes I did!

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