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Travel Tips and Misconceptions

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Six Travel Misconceptions You Need to Forget About

By John Gower

With traveling, as with many other things, the conventional wisdom is not always so wise. Before you book your next trip, be sure that you are not laboring under any of these six delusions about traveling.

1. "Booking in advance will save me money"

If you need to be in a particular place on a particular date for business, or you are looking at a trip during a holiday weekend, go ahead and book your trip well in advance. But if your schedule is open and you are flexible about destinations, you can save a great deal by biding your time and keeping an observant eye on changing airfares. When spots open up at the last minute on flights or at hotels because of cancellations or over-bookings, you can snag a fantastic deal and go on a dream vacation for a killer price. This approach takes patience, flexibility, and no small measure of luck, but can pay huge dividends.

2. “Traveling isn’t safe”

Thanks to films like Taken and Hostel, many have an overly negative idea of the safety of traveling in general. While there is no doubt that some countries are more dangerous than others (I do not recommend a trip to Somalia or Syria any time soon), visiting most foreign countries is not the game of Russian roulette that many fear it to be. Two rules of thumb to be safe in foreign countries: when traveling, do not make it obvious to everyone that you are a tourist as doing so can make you a target for pickpockets. Second, in the fun and commotion, exercise the same amount of caution, awareness, and common sense that you would on the streets of your hometown. Keep these suggestions in mind, and you are likely to have a safe and enjoyable trip to a foreign country.

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3. “I can get better currency rates at home”

Many travelers make this false assumption and hope to be proactive and save money by getting foreign currency before they leave. In reality, domestic currency changers will charge you a heavy commission and will usually offer poor exchange rates. You can get traveler’s checks or foreign currency from your bank, but this opens up the danger of physically carrying around all of your cash with you in a foreign country, which is rarely a good idea. Instead, use the currency vendors at the hotel you’re staying at to get small amounts at a time—or, in the best case scenario, get foreign currency through a credit card with your bank to avoid high tourist rates and get a better exchange rate while staying safer.

4. “Duty-free zones offer great deals”

For the shopping-inclined, “duty-free” zones are one of the biggest perks of traveling. No one likes taxes, and a big sign proclaiming goods without them is automatically enticing. The reality, however, is not quite as simple. Several magazines and news outlets have done side-by-side comparisons of duty-free prices versus normal prices and have found that the former are often actually more expensive. While a handful of products (like cigarettes and alcohol) may be cheaper, most of the goods you will be browsing (especially traveler-type items like souvenirs, toiletries, and cosmetics) will be more expensive than they would be at a “normal” store.

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5. “If I take a tour, I won’t really see the location”

Whether it’s a domestic trip or a foreign one, getting a real feel for the destination is an exciting part of traveling. Many travelers are embarrassed to be the caricature of the loud, boisterous, and inept tourist seen on film or TV; they also worry that an official tour will be a tour of tourist traps and boring sights rather than the “authentic” destination. In reality, going on a tour with an official guide is an excellent option; the structure can help you get to know an unfamiliar location and the guide can offer fascinating background and important information. Contrary to the stereotype of the con artist tour guide, many are well informed and helpful. Speaking to someone who actually lives in the location also proffers more authenticity than reading a travel guide.

6. “I can’t afford to travel”

In tough economic times, it’s inevitable that many families have to cut back on vacations. But you can still get away for a few days on a budget, even if you’re keeping a tight hold on the family purse strings. Needless to say, you should be sure to compare plane ticket, car rental, and hotel room prices on different sites to get the best price; getting a package deal from one website is a great way to save. You can also make your next trip more affordable by taking public transportation instead of renting a car, cutting back on expensive souvenirs, or use membership cards to save on everyday items.


john gower nerdwalletHi Readers! Allow me to introduce you to guest blogger John Gower. John reached out to me via email and expressed interest in guest blogging. John is a writer for NerdWallet, a site dedicated to helping consumers find the best mortgage rates. He is based in San Francisco, originally hailing from Wisconsin where he completed his undergrad studies in Actuarial Science and Spanish. This Spanish comes in handy while traveling, which he loves to do. But when he can't travel, John says "fussball is a great alternative."

If you are interested in guest blogging, reach me here. I'd love to hear from you!

(images sourced from free photo archive, Morgue File)

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