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By Lisandra Peña | @ChasingSerena

Travelers always talk about and showcase the beauty of traveling and the must-see and must-do places, but many leave out the challenges we face or the mistakes we make that end up costing us time, money, and opportunities. It’s a no-brainer that we learn as we go. So now I am here to help you avoid five common mistakes you should not make while traveling to make your trips more pleasant. I have made these mistakes myself and now I can show you how to do them right.

1. Don’t exchange your foreign currency at the airport!!

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Most airports around the world have the worst currency exchange rate. Exchanging your cash at the airport not only will you be charged a service fee of anywhere between $5 to $15 but you will also get an exchange rate 7 to 15% worse than the standard rate. Instead, which is my personal preference, is to exchange your money at your bank before you go. I use Chase Bank, so what you want to do is a week before your departure, go to the teller and order your desired foreign currency. This takes about 3-4 days to reach your bank. Once your currency has arrived your bank will call you and tell you it’s ready for pickup. Doing it this way you will avoid extra fees and get a better exchange rate, which in return you will end up saving more money. Another option is to go plastic. You must choose a debit or credit card with zero foreign transaction fees and no ATM fees and alert your card that you’re going on a trip to prevent your account from being flagged or frozen due to suspicious activity.

2. Don’t eat near tourist attractions!

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Instead, eat in non-touristy restaurants not only will you be helping the locals and supporting local businesses, but the food will be twice as flavorful, have more of an authentic taste, and the price will be half or more than half the price than the restaurants near a tourist attraction. I mean, think about it, restaurants near tourist areas don’t have to worry about high-quality food because they know their customers won’t return, but a non-tourist restaurant needs to have high-quality delicious food to keep even the locals returning for more. You can use Yelp to search restaurant reviews, in doing so you will be ensured to experience a more authentic experience while saving a lot of money.

3. Not booking enough time in between flights!

I cannot begin to count how many times I almost missed my connecting flight. The panic runs through my mind the moment I realize my first flight departed a bit late.  As we all know the weather and even flight conditions can be a bit unpredictable. If your flight is delayed, and you must connect to another flight, be aware some countries require you to go through immigration before connecting to your next flight. You will be rushing through a foreign airport with minimal chances to make any mistakes. I remember I was connecting in Portugal to get to France, and I had to go through security and immigration in less than an hour, luckily I made it to the last call for my flight.

Instead, what I do know is I book a large gap between my flights of 10 hours and more. In doing so, I get to leave the airport and explore an extra country for about half a day at no extra cost at all. I did this for my return flight from Egypt where I had a 14-hour layover in Rome and I was able to leave the airport and explore several sites in Rome and taste real Italian food before my flight back home. It’s like a micro-vacation within your vacation.

4. Don’t Overpack your bags!

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Would you believe me if I was to tell you I went from the Queen over-packer to now carrying around a backpack and a carryon suitcase? Yes, I was that person who used to pack everything but the kitchen sink. I was always told, it is better to be over-prepared than underprepared, which is true for some situations. The truth is, overpacking can sometimes become a burden. Not only do you risk your suitcase becoming overweight and paying extra fees, but that also means you will be dragging around extra weight. Let’s be honest when we go away on vacation we do not wear everything we bring and if we do that’s fine you can do laundry while away. Half the things you bring on your trip end up coming right back unused. Few tips on how to pack wisely are to look up the weather of your destination, then pack your bags, and remove half the items that you have packed. Trust me you will not use them.

5. Not checking your cell phone plan!

It’s crucial to stay connected back home while away in case of any emergencies. Before leaving, check with your phone company or phone plan to make sure you have coverage at your destination, as well as ask about roaming charges to avoid coming home to a huge cell phone bill. If your phone is not covered you might want to invest in a local SIM card when you land, it will be much cheaper. In addition, using WhatsApp would allow you to talk and text for free internationally along as you have wifi.

I hope you found these tips helpful for your next trip. Until next time!

About the author:

Lisandra is a Latina nurse with a huge passion for travel and exploration. She loves to story-tell using her own lens and capturing moments and places with her camera. Follow her adventures at