7 Travel Mistakes That Will Cost You Money

Too tired to pack the night before, I woke up at 4 a.m. to throw together a carry on, catch a local bus, then take the National Express coach to get me to Luton, the most inconvenient airport in London and generally considered a trashy sh*tshow. The local bus arrived late and the National Express departed early. Thankfully, I made it (after sprinting) and saved money on having to take a cab. This money would soon come in handy thanks to a series of financial misfortunes that unfolded on my current trip to Macedonia/Turkey/Bosnia. 

As a frequent flyer, I usually know what I’m doing, but I still mess up. Hopefully you can glean something from my foibles to save yourself some cash. 


Budget airlines can cost you more than legacy carriers

The Wizz Airs of the world tend to fly out of inconvenient airports at inconvenient times. A budget flight gets really expensive if you have to take a cab to get there in the middle of the night. I already know this and wouldn’t normally fly Wizz Air out of Luton, but they’re the only airline that flies directly to Macedonia from London. 


On my way to catch my flight, I try to check in online and discover that Wizz Air closes its online check in very early, and then forces you to spend a £32 penalty to check in at the airport. Of course, they make you pay this fine and check in at two different locations. Both lines are incredibly long, but so far, I make the flight.

Lesson learned: Check in online the night before and avoid the budget airlines when it makes sense.


I thought we were scrapping the liquid ban?

Next stop, security. I confess that I did a little experiment here that blew up in my face. I usually travel with a carry on and spend a fortune on buying new sunblock every time I fly due to liquid limitations (thanks, security theatre) Well, I’m tired of this waste and so I left my bottle of SPF 50 in my suitcase to see if they’d notice. They did. Goodbye, $20. 

Lesson learned: If you own large, full bottles of sunblock, squeeze them into travel-size-permitted tubes. 


Ayran is salty yogurt

This looks like milk.

Am I right?

What am I drinking??

I actually saved a lot of money staying in my $12-a-night Airbnb in the heart of Skopje, Macedonia. My host, Sofija, was a little doll and instantly felt like family. Eating out is also very affordable, though I did buy some groceries, including milk, or so I thought. I literally screamed after sipping coffee so salty I felt like I’d choked on the ocean. Sofija informed me that I’d put ayran — a mix of yogurt, water, and salt — into my coffee. “Yeah, milk companies tried to use bottles here awhile ago, but they had to switch back to boxes because everyone thought the jugs were just ayran.” 

Lesson learned: Just go to a cafe and space out as the people pass by. It’s the best activity.


Be a rich person (or at least have some money in the bank)

I realized that my funds were woefully low in my British bank account and that I’d need to send an international wire transfer to myself from my American bank (I haven’t had the physical ATM card from them in years). BUT my current bank in the U.K. is brand new and doesn’t do international transfers yet. So, my saint of a mother volunteered to wire me money Western Union-style (hello, immigrant life). To complete this transaction, she went into a Walmart in the U.S. saying, “I need to send $600 to Serbia. Wait- No, Bosnia.” The woman looked at my poor mother as if she’d fallen for some Nigerian-prince-send-money-now-scam.” 

Lesson learned: Keep your traditional bank (even if they’re awful) until your challenger bank has  the services you need to survive. Related, let your bank know you're traveling so the don't block your debit card, which is the best way to take out money abroad.


Understand your transport options

After leaving Macedonia, I spent one day/night on a long layover in Istanbul. Their cab drivers are famous for ripping off tourists, but with limited time, I took my chances on one to get to my hotel. It was fine, except my driver, who didn’t really speak English, kept trying to have a conversation about why I was traveling on my own. It was difficult to gesture, ‘Why not?' At the hotel, I discovered that Uber actually exists in Turkey — huzzah! No more confusion about where I need to go, whether I have enough cash to get there, or why a man isn't accompanying me. 

Lesson learned: Ask locals the best way to get from A to B (though, before I arrived, I did ask my hotel about transport options and they didn't mention Uber). 


Sometimes airlines give you free stuff during your layovers 

I love Istanbul and have already done tours there. I signed up for a private tour this time because a friend highly recommended the guide, and I did have a very nice day with him. But part of the reason I went with a private tour that I couldn’t really afford was to support a small business, and I later realized he worked for a larger company because it’s practically impossible to be an individual guide in Turkey. 

Lesson learned: This is more of a top tip, but if you have a long layover in Istanbul and are flying Turkish Airlines, they’ll give you a complementary tour of the city to occupy your time. This sounds awesome!  


Keep track of your electronics 

I forgot my converter in London, and had to buy a new one. Actually, I thought I bought a new one, but it was really just a USB charger. So after opening that, I had to go back to buy what I really needed. Then my Thunderbolt cable to charge my phone stopped working because I guess I did not take good enough care of it (make sure they don’t bend in a weird way!). I also lost my dongle to connect my headphones to my headphone-jack-less-iPhone, but I will have to suffer without it for now. 

Lesson learned: Keep all these things on your packing check list, or in your actual suitcase so you don’t lose them.


Do you have any top travel tips? Let me know.