5 signs you are a bad traveler and how to be a better traveler

Travel Tips

Chances are you’re probably reading this because you might be wondering if you are a bad traveler. Likely, you have probably made one or more of these mistakes before. The both of us have had our fair share of mistakes, so don’t feel bad if you are in fact a bad traveler. We want to make you a good traveler!

A defining element of who a bad traveler is depends on their experiences and how often they travel. Someone who constantly bickers about the cost of travel, and the time needed to go is probably someone who is a bad traveler. Traveling is not one-size fits all, and many people believe they all need to have the same experience as the person next to them. Believe us when we say we have been on trips where we have had the times of our lives, but we have also had really bad ones.

Below we have listed out five different reasons you might be a bad traveler, and give you the tools to be a better one. Our advice comes from our own experiences, because sometimes we too can suck.

1. You Spend Too Much

One of the most crippling factors in traveling is spending way too much money. Some people believe that they need a brand recognized hotel, airline or have the nicest of everything. This is not true. A bad traveler believes in going with what they first see.
If you walk into your vacation with a set budget, expect to spend more than what you brought. There is almost always something that comes up, whether it is some airline fee or an extra meal. If you waste all your money on hotels, and transportation you leave yourself nothing to spend on the rest of your journey. This is a bad traveler.

Here are a few things we found that we spent too much money on when we started:

We know there are tons of other things you could spend too much money on when traveling, but we wanted to focus on these three topics because they are what hold back most travelers.

Food

It’s delicious, and we need it. We urge that you go out and find the best meal in town too! Don’t go spending half of your budget on meals, though. Food is also priced differently depending on where you are in the world. Consider fish in chips in London is probably about $15-$20, where the same meal from a fast food restaurant in America is about $6.

Think of this like an opportunity cost, you have the ability to use your money in many ways. Before you buy, always consider what else you may want.

Below we created a DO and AVOID list. Try your best to stay conscious of what you want and don’t want. Just because it is on the avoid list does not mean that it is an almighty sin to consider it an option.
We’ve been on the road and had no options but to stop for a cheeseburger before.

DO
• Find deals using Groupon or Yelp, they always have killer local deals
• Explore local options, like markets, stands, food trucks, hole-in-the-wall etc.
• Make your own food, cook in the place you are staying, or bring a small stove
• Volunteer in a restaurant, ask if they will offer a decent meal if you clean dishes
• Explore community meal options, there is a retirement community with grandmothers somewhere out there ready to cook for you
• Happy hour, you get drunk and eat dinner…seriously think about that for a second
• Split meals when you can, sometimes family style works out well too!

AVOID
• Buying fast food, you’ll spend more money here than anywhere else
• Soft drinks and alcohol, unless it’s happy hour you’re gonna be wasting your cash
• Brand recognized restaurants or chains, unless it is only in that region you’re wasting time
• Hostesses advertising, they likely will tell you one deal and then charge you for something else
• Large portions, if you’re traveling you likely won’t be able to store left overs
• Pre-made meals, they’re priced for companies to make money, not save you money

Airfare

You probably aren’t finding the best deals out there for your flights. As of writing this the average cost of a domestic airline ticket is $371.72. That is information from the US Department of Transportation, this isn’t made up. That link compares LAX and JFK prices. Since they are popular domestic airports it seemed fitting.

Our upcoming trip to New York City was going to cost us upwards of $800 in roundtrip flights. Using simple math, two people needing two tickets each, that is about $200 a ticket. But, we didn’t pay at all for our tickets, instead we are using points. A bad traveler pays for the $800 without ever exploring their options. Still, if we had to pay we are way under the national average.

Using points is an extremely effective way of traveling. If you are self-disciplined and have learned to manage your debt, you can harness the ability of credit card rewards systems. We personally like the Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. Follow the link here and receive 50,000 points (that can be worth more than $1,000!) after spending only $2,000 in the first three months, usually they only offer 25,000 point sign up bonuses! Part of how we will be traveling to New York City is using our Southwest points.

There is no right or wrong way to finding flights, but a bad traveler will buy any ticket at any price. There are definitely tricks you can use to exponentially lower the price of these tickets. Here is what has worked for us.

DO
• Use Skyscanner, this is hands down one of the best sites to play around with
• Book direct with the airline, they can sometimes offer you better deals
• Look for one-way deals, just buy another one-way home, or make a stop off at another city and explore!
• Use points, we use the Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card in combination with many other ones

AVOID
• Big travel sites, they usually aren’t working in your best interest and will charge fees throughout
• Baggage fees, try sticking to a carry-on, or use a credit card with benefits for free bags
• Travel agencies, sometimes they work, but sometimes they don’t. If you can learn the system yourself then why pay someone else to do it?
• Big name airlines, sometimes the smaller airlines can do the trick at a lower cost
• Small airports, if you can get to a major airport you will cut your costs by a lot

Hotels

Sometimes when it comes to hotels you need to suck it up. We don’t mean you should opt for the 1 star suite at the local roach motel. A bad traveler would stay at the roach motel. We mean to say look at all the options we have available!

Since the rise of the internet, traveling has changed in many ways. One of the best functions of the internet is finding accessible rooms quickly. There are now tons of websites to find different hotels, in addition to booking directly.

Hotels are a little different from flights though. You may not always get the best deal when you book direct, also chains can be the only option if you are wanting to be in the city center.

We find Airbnb to be more than accommodating. Airbnb gives you the option to be able to stay at a property owners place at a price designated by them (in addition to Airbnb’s share too). Because of this free market system, homeowners compete against each other to rent out their space. This drives prices lower for consumers and we are loving the benefits of it!

Since we were talking about our New York City trip before, maybe we should make mention of it again. For our trip we decided to stay at an Airbnb. We also opted to stay outside of Manhattan, because it is way too expensive for us now.

We chose to stay in Jersey City, which is only a 20 minute subway ride in. The total cost of our Airbnb? Only $314…for one week. That’s $157 each, or $31.70 per night. The total cost of a Marriott in the city center on the same dates? $1,630.88, and I reduced the price with AAA discount, this is the cheapest option on the entire island. That’s over $1,300 in savings by just using Airbnb. Follow the link here and get $20 off your first stay in an Airbnb!

DO
• Use Airbnb, and find better rates in the area you want to be in
• Look outside the city center, transit is usually available
• Use Couchsurfing, it’s a community of people offering free places to stay to travelers
• Bring friends, not only will you enjoy company with them, you can split the cost of a room
• Use hostels, they aren’t terrible places and usually you can meet cool people
• Your own research, a lot of times hotels simply don’t come up when you are using travel sites

AVOID
• Poorly rated hotels, this is almost a no-brainer just look them up first
• City centers, they can be extremely expensive and overrated (sometimes)
• Booking through travel sites, they will definitely bring up prices on you, not to mention they probably won’t show you all options
• Flaky hosts, even though Couchsurfing and Airbnb are awesome definitely reconsider if the host is acting bizarre or flaky
• Day rates, unless you have a reason to need a room for the day, keep your bags, or ask a hotel to hold your stuff for you until check-in
• Same day rates, consider this; you NEED a room, the hotel only WANTS to fill the room

Photo credit: Marc Levin

2. You Pack Too Much

If you have ever gone on a trip and realized you had one too many pairs of shoes, then you have packed way too much. This makes you a bad traveler. Bad travelers bring way too many things. They aren’t necessary, you won’t use it all I promise!

Packing is where many us have our downfall, because we feel the need to bring all of our possessions. When you are traveling most of your time is spent doing activities, or seeing places, people or monuments. You won’t have the opportunity to change multiple times a day.There is no need to bring 5 pairs of shoes and that cute dress you wore only three times before.

When you are out and about you want to bring as little as possible, this makes you much more flexible. There are three different approaches we use to decide what we need to bring. Is it a weekend trip, short-term travel, or long-term travel? Feel free to add or remove things from our lists!

Weekend Trip

This one is pretty simple and does not need a lot of strategic thinking. If you forget something like a nail file for the weekend then you shouldn’t be worried. Heck, if you forgot an extra shirt for Sunday you are probably fine too.
Americans have this crazy idea that clothing can only be worn one time, then it must be washed. This is the mentality of a bad traveler! We have both worn clothing for multiple days before. We didn’t smell, get rashes, or get some crazy disease. Trust us, you will be okay!

Here is a small packing list we use when we go on weekend trips, add or remove things for your personal needs:
• Toiletries
• Make-up (optional)
• 2 pairs of socks
• 2 pairs of underwear
• 2 shirts
• Laptop
• Chargers
• Camera

See how simple that is? Nothing too crazy, all of it can fit into one small convenient backpack. Wear the same pants, and don’t bring extra shoes to cut space.

Short-Term Travel

We consider short-term travel anything from 4-8 days. This is the kind of trip you bring enough clothes that you don’t need to do laundry while you are away. The packing list is similar, but likely you will need a slightly larger bag than your backpack.

• Toiletries
• Make-up (optional)
• 4-8 pairs of socks
• 4-8 pairs of underwear
• 4-8 shirts
• 1 extra pair of pants (optional)
• Laptop
• Chargers
• Portable chargers
• Camera

You may find that for short trips you need more technology with you. Try to avoid doing laundry on short-term trips, bring enough clothes for the amount of days you are gone. By avoiding laundry you can spend more time doing things and not sitting around for 2 hours waiting on one load of laundry.

Again, feel free to re-wear clothes as long as you didn’t sweat really bad.

Long-Term Travel

Now it’s time to start thinking about what we really need. This is where a bad traveler is exposed the most. Long-term travel makes things a little more complex because you likely aren’t going to be using the same weekend bag, and you need to consider what you need for your daily ritual.

We consider long-term travel to be anything more than 8 days. When we pack for long-term travel we always pretend like we are never coming back home, this puts us in the mind set of packing necessities only.

Weekend trips and short-term trips give us the flexibility to ignore our daily rituals for a moment. Long-term travel requires we think about our everyday lives at home.

• Toiletries
• Make-up (optional)
• 5-7 pairs of socks
• 5-7 pairs of underwear
• 5-7 shirts
• 1 extra pair of pants
• 1 extra pair of shoes
• Laptop
• Chargers
• Portable chargers
• Camera
• Day bag

You may find more specific items that you feel are necessary for you, but when we are packing these are our essential items. Try to make items you have serve multiple purposes. For instance, you wouldn’t want to bring a flashlight with you if you already have a phone with a light on it.

Also, avoid using cases for everything. If everything were protected by some sort of hard case you will consume most of your bag space quickly.

We cut the amount of clothing down to 5-7 pairs. When you are traveling for more than 8 days you are likely going to have to do some laundry eventually.

3. You Planned Everything Out

Being organized is a really good quality, so is being a good planner. By planning out your trip and pre-purchasing everything you are probably doing yourself some favors and saving money. If you planned everything out on your trip you are likely to have a terrible time. A bad traveler will plan every hour of each day they are gone.

If you try to create a play-by-play of your vacation you’re going to lose your mind. No trip in the history of our travels has gone exactly how we like. Remember that when you are traveling you are dependent on yourself. You know yourself to be a reliable person, but do you think all the people driving cars, flying planes, checking you in and out are all reliable also? Probably not.

To make your trip less complex take a step back and ask yourself what is the goal of your travel. Are you trying to see a new destination, visiting family, or maybe you’re going for work? Always look at the goal of the trip and see how much flexibility in your plan. You want to allow for as much flexibility as possible.

Looking back on our three types of travel, weekend trips, short-term and long-term travel, there are different plans you should make.

Weekend Trip

A short couple of days can go by very quickly. Just recently we took a weekend trip to Bryce Canyon. Our plan was to leave at about 6-8AM and get in during the later afternoon. This way we could sit down and make a decent dinner and set up camp.

We wake up at the crack of dawn and discover we have a flat tire (which by the way was already replaced from a blow out!) and had no options but to repair it. We didn’t end up leaving for another four hours, and this set us back a bit.

We were able to overcome the problem by simply reorganizing our trip slightly. Even though it was stressful to deal with the tire thing, the entire weekend turned out more than amazing, and we only lost about 4 hours of sunlight.

Had we planned our trip in advance to arrive at a specific place at a specific time with such a long distance ahead of us, we would have not made it.

Plan weekend trips with only activities in mind, monuments, sight-seeing. Try to avoid doing big dinners or planned events just incase you do run late. Use this time to slow down, not speed up.

Short-Term Trip

Trips with 4-8 days gives you more than just the weekend. The benefit of this is likely one or two of the days you are traveling will not be on the weekend. You can take advantage of sight-seeing and tours on the weekdays.

Use the weekdays to your advantage, a lot of times there are steep discounts for tours on certain days because there isn’t enough traffic. Plan your events so that you aren’t going to be wasting time in lines of crowds. Think of everywhere you go to as having at least a one hour wait.

Before you are done with the day, you will realize most of your time was used trying to get there or waiting to do or see something. Consider this strongly because you want to optimize your time not minimize it.

Long-Term Trip

If you are going somewhere for more than 8 days you are in the clear to do what you want when you want. Usually on long-term trips we don’t have much of a plan. That is because we have the time to go wherever we like and when we like. A very bad traveler will try to plan out long trips by booking all of their hotels at home. If you are gone more than two weeks try booking your hotels about a week in advance while you are traveling.

For example, the both of us did not like Rome as much as we had anticipated. Rome is great because you get to see these monuments you read about, but when it comes down to it, it is very touristy. If we could go back we would only have stayed in Rome for 2-3 days and not 4-5 days.

On our long-term trips if we discover we don’t like a place as much, we move around more freely and decide in the next coming days that we will rearrange our trip. By not restricting ourselves on where we are we can be flexible with what we want to do the most.

4. You Worry Too Much

Negative Nancy’s, Worrying Waldo’s, gather around. It’s time for you to break up that worry mentality! The community of bad travelers exist, and they all think this way. Stop worrying that everything isn’t going right or isn’t anything but amazing, you’re making yourself a bad traveler!

A lot of travelers want to have this ideal situation where they go into a city and see every single thing, and everything is rainbows and butterflies. You probably already planned too much before, now you’re going to worry too much. The amount of stress you are putting yourself under is ultimately defeating the purpose of traveling.

Reduce your worry anxiety by reading other bloggers experiences and see what they have to say. A lot of bloggers tend to be pretty realistic with expectations and don’t try to overwhelm themselves with trying to do everything.

Once you begin to build up all of your worries you begin to spoil your time in an amazing new place. Be free, this is a time for you to get away and not stress about what is right or wrong. All things will happen whether you like it or not.

Do not worry about your safety as much as you think you should. Most places are generally safe. The likelihood of you being kidnapped, murdered, shot or cut into beef stew is unlikely. If you have a serious concern about your safety then you should reevaluate where you are staying. Consider getting to know locals in the area to help you around.

We use bloggers, Reddit, new articles and word of mouth to find how safe a place is. We also put aside the media bias, these opinions can sometimes interfere with the facts on a destination.

5. You Didn’t Meet the Locals

Lastly, the reason you are a bad traveler, you didn’t meet the locals. A bad traveler will avoid making friendship outside of their hometown. By avoiding locals you are doing yourself a huge disservice.

Locals are always smarter than you, always. Especially if you are in another country where you cannot speak the language, you should want to be friends with locals.

Locals have access to restaurants, view points, hidden travel gems, negotiation tactics, transportation, and even a place to stay among many other things. Most people in the world are extremely generous and are not as they are portrayed in the media.

One of the first things you should do after getting to a new place is make some friends. If you are an American traveling in America it will be easier for you to make new friends, mostly because we can blend into our own culture pretty easily. Though, an American dressed up in all basketball-frat-star swag in the heart of Europe is going to look like ridiculously out of place.

Don’t go to another country and be arrogant about their culture. Likely they won’t take kindly to bad behavior and you may even offend them. The trick is to try to develop as many positive relationships as possible to take advantage of what a local knows. Don’t push them away by portraying arrogance.

When in Rome (no?) I ate at an Italian restaurant only a block from my hotel. Biggest…mistake…ever. I shouldn’t have ever trusted this place, it was the most expensive and Americanized food I had ever eaten abroad.
Had I taken the time to speak to a local I could have quickly corrected myself by going just outside the city center and enjoyed a meal half the price from real Italians.

You’ve probably been beating yourself up this entire post thinking “what the heck have I been doing…?” Don’t worry! We made these same mistakes, that’s why we made sure to outline all of them for you so you don’t have to make them too. Next time you go on a trip somewhere don’t think of yourself as a BAD TRAVELER think of yourself as a person who is learning. Every day we learn something new, but sometimes it requires we do something wrong first. Go out into the world and make as many mistakes as possible!
What do you think makes a bad traveler? Did we miss anything? Leave your comments below!

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