10 Ways You're Ruining Your Vacation

With a few tweaks, your next vacation will be infinitely better than your last.

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You Didn’t Pack Smart

There’s nothing worse than hurling yourself atop a bulging suitcase, then huffing and puffing as you struggle to wrench the zipper shut. Avoid this highly undignified scene by packing your clothes compactly—roll, don’t fold—and resist the urge to chuck in the contents of your entire closet. Ask yourself: Are you actually going to wear that sequined cocktail dress, or is it just going to take up precious space in your carry-on? With a smartly packed suitcase, unpacking and repacking won’t become an existential dilemma that makes you wonder why the heck you travel in the first place.

You Didn’t Choose the Right Vacation Buddy

Some people like to sightsee until their feet are blistered, other people like to laze on a beach until their skin turns copper. Both are perfectly acceptable travel choices. But if you belong in one camp, chances are you have zero patience for someone in the other. If you’re going on a vacation with a friend, make sure you’re on the same page travel-wise before you buy a plane ticket. Otherwise, you're on track for a major vacation blowup.

You Didn’t Do Enough Research

A city like London is super easy to experience on the fly. If you’re an American, lucky you, you already speak the language, and because it’s such a vibrant and bustling city, there’s nearly always something interesting around the corner. But if you’re going to a more remote destination—like, say, rural China—things won’t be so easy. Don’t wait until you land to do your research. That means figuring out the transportation deets (will you take a train to get around? A bus?), telecommunication info (is there cell service? Will you need a mobile Wi-Fi device?), and so on well ahead of time. The more you plan ahead, the less likely you'll be to find yourself lost on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.

You Did Too Much Research

There’s something to be said about just letting yourself wander. If you overdo it on the research, there’ll be no stumbling across beautiful old houses, no chance discoveries of quaint, under-the-radar cafes, no friendships forged over lazy pints at the local pub. The best trips are the ones that unfold organically and include experiences you’d never have expected when you first arrived. Finding a happy medium between overpreparation and no planning at all is crucial.

You Didn’t Consider Your Budget

Pro tip: Don’t head to a luxury mecca like Monaco or Macau if you’re on a super tight budget. Some destinations are easy to do on the cheap without sacrificing fun, others not so much. It’s smart to be realistic about what you’re willing to spend, otherwise you’ll wind up feeling like you’ve missed out.

You Didn’t Meet the Locals

There’s no better way to get to know a place than through the eyes of its residents. Sure, you’ll want to hit up the big museums and major monuments on your trip, but don’t forget to strike up a conversation with your bar-mate or meet up with friends of friends. From them, you’ll get an entirely different perspective on a place than what the guidebooks tell you.

You Didn’t Consider Technology

If you’re the type of person who’s attached to their phone (no judgment) then you’d best figure out the cell service situation at your chosen destination before you leave home. In some countries, an international phone plan purchased through your regular provider might be the right move. Other places, you might want to nab a SIM card when you touch down, or even rent a mobile Wi-Fi device.

You Didn’t Choose the Right Vacation Speed

If you’re drowning in stress at work, an action-packed tour of Paris planned down to the half hour may not be right for you. On the flip side, if your day-to-day life is stuck in a boring rut, a secluded cabin-in-the-woods situation may not give you the excitement you desire. Don’t plan a vacation based on what the travel magazines say are fun—choose one that fits your needs at the moment.

You Planned a Trip Around Instagram Moments

Remember when your friend posted an Instagram photo of herself posing serenely on a gorgeous Bali beach at sunset? Well, you traveled all the way to Bali to see it for yourself, only to find dirty sand strewn with trash. It’s easy to fall prey to images that make a destination seem glamorous, but sunsets can be manipulated with filters and less savory scenery cropped out. Don’t plan a trip around Instagram. Instead, do your homework, learn about a place from experts who aren’t bending over backwards for likes, and most importantly, seek out travel moments that are genuine and meaningful to you personally.

You Chose the Wrong Transportation

It’s important to think about how you plan to get around your destination of choice. If you’re in a major metropolitan city like Tokyo or London, taking cabs everywhere could cost you a fortune. Consider the local public transportation as a cost-saving alternative. In more out-of-the-way places—like small towns in northern Japan or southern Taiwan—renting a car is the right move, because public transportation only takes you so far. (Some countries, including Japan, require foreigners to hold an international driver’s license, so check before you rent!) Choosing the wrong transportation might mean missing out on some major gems.

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