Travel Rules That You Shouldn’t Believe
Traveling is always a wonderful experience. Even those laughably bad moments and faux pas that we stumble through typically end up being the best stories to tell over a few drinks back home. But making the most of travel means understanding the inner workings and intricacies that come with planning for and executing a great trip. That’s why understanding the false narratives that can sometimes hover around travel myths is so key.
Interested in a better understanding of common travel rules and assumptions? We spoke to some of the top frequent flyers and travel professionals in our network to hear their thoughts — and the truth might surprise you. From takeoff to touch down and all the happenings in between, here are 25 common travel myths, debunked.
Solo Travel Is Lonely
One of the common myths about travel is that solo travel is a lonely journey. This is a big concern for many people who are considering solo travel but fear that it might just be a really bad and lonely trip.
However, most solo travelers actually tend to meet more people because they are not stuck to specific travel companions, and this eliminates the comfort zone of sticking to a personal clique.
What the Experts Say About Solo Travel
“Solo travel can be an enriching experience of meeting people from diverse backgrounds if you proactively seek out interactions with locals or other travelers,” says Rax Suen, founder of NomadsUnveiled.
Travel Agents Are Expensive
Travel agents gain a commission when booking, so they typically don’t charge anything to their clients.
Better yet, some agents even have access to deals that aren't available to the public, so using a travel agent can save you money while also helping you get an amazing vacation experience planned by a professional.
What the Experts Say About Travel Agent Costs
“When most people think of travel agents today, they think of the old-school brick and mortar stores that charge a fee to book your airline tickets,” says Dan Wadlinger, founder of Travel Shark.
“In reality, most travel agents today are home-based agents that help plan/book cruises, theme parks, tours, resorts and hotels.”
Booking Early or Last-Minute Yields the Best Deals
You don't always get the best deals booking super early or super last-minute.
It's best to book when you see a deal that fits what you're looking for, but pay attention to the cancellation or change policies at the time of booking in case you find a better price later.
What the Experts Say About Booking Times
“Travel agents can help here because they can usually apply discounts that come up later after the initial trip is booked, saving you more money,” explains Wadlinger.
You’ll Get Seasick on Your First Cruise
Sea sickness on cruise ships seems to be a concern for a lot of travelers, but it’s rarely an issue for the majority of cruisers.
Cruise ships today are huge, they have stabilizers to decrease back-and-forth ship motion, and they navigate around bad weather, so most cruisers don't even notice any rocking motion on the boat.
What the Experts Say About Seasickness
For those who do experience seasickness, cruise ships always carry motion sickness meds,and natural remedies like ginger.
Experts also say that simply standing on the deck with fresh air and focusing on the horizon tends to relieve symptoms quickly.
You Can Only Travel Before Having Kids
Many well-meaning parents and travelers are quick to tell future parents to get their traveling in before they start having kids.
But little ones typically travel extremely well.
What the Experts Say About Traveling With Kids
“We’ve seen countless families who have picked up for a year or more with children as old as 12. Often these kids even join public schools as a way to learn English in countries like Canada and Australia,” says Alex Davis, co-creator of Ryan and Alex Duo Life.
“In other countries, the kids are simply enrolled in international schools, which are plentiful in even small cities abroad. Nowadays, with online schooling bigger than ever, this is another simple option.”
Clear Your Cookies Before and While Searching for Flights
The thought process behind this travel rule is that airlines raise prices for flights that they know you are interested in booking. Clearing your cookies would act as a reset and give you a fresh start when searching again.
While it may sound logical, it is completely untrue. Same goes for searching for flights in your browser’s incognito mode.
What the Experts Say About Clearing Your Cookies
“Airline prices fluctuate many times per day, and your searches have no impact on the changes,” says Phil Dengler, co-owner of The Vacationer.
“Despite a flight price going up minutes after you find it, the reason is not that you failed to clear your cookies. While clearing your cookies will not hurt you, it is not going to get you a better deal.”
Book Your Flights Early on a Tuesday for the Best Prices
While good flight deals can be found on Tuesday morning, there is nothing special about that time.
There is also nothing special about Tuesday.
What the Experts Say About Tuesday Bookings
“Flight prices fluctuate up to 100 times per day, and there is no best time or day to book,” says Dengler.
“I recommend using a Google Flights alert for fights you are interested in instead of focusing on a particular day or time.”
Eating Street Food Will Make You Sick
Eating anywhere at all, including the world's most expensive restaurants, can make you sick. So, food poisoning can really come down to pure bad luck.
Plus, if you don’t eat street food, you could miss out on some of the most amazing local food experiences around the world.
What the Experts Say About Eating Street Food
“My mantra for eating when traveling is this: Regardless of whether the food source is a street cart, a family restaurant or the most expensive thing you've ever placed in your mouth, always eat in places where there is a heap of locals,” suggests Anthony Bianco, travel writer and blogger.
“This tells me that the food is great and that there is a lot of turnover, so the food isn't sitting around for hours, waiting to pick up something nasty that will leave you sitting on the toilet for a week!”
You Don’t Need Travel Insurance
Famous last words!
“I've worked in the travel insurance industry, and I've seen the things that go wrong. I've seen bills for hundreds of thousands of dollars for people who have needed to be repatriated or who have needed a lengthy stay in the hospital system. If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel,” says Bianco.
What the Experts Say About Travel Insurance
“For me personally, I don't really care about insurance for lost items, even though it's nice to have,” Bianco adds.
“What I really do care about is if something happens to me like getting hurt or injured and I need to get back home as soon as possible or if I require treatment in a decent medical facility.”
Travel Is Expensive
The idea that travel is all about fancy tours, beach-side resorts and luxurious villas is outdated.
“You can still visit some of the best tourist destinations without loosening your pockets much,” Erica Tan, co-founder of Best in Singapore. “All you need is to do some research and follow budget travelers on social media.”
What the Experts Say About Expensive Travel
One way that you can save on travel costs is by couch surfing, which is actually safe, despite what some people believe. “Speaking out of personal experience, couch surfing, if done with some prior research, is not only safe but a fun experience,” says Tan.
Imagine living with a local and getting all the information about the tourist’s spot free of cost.
Hostels Have an Age Limit
There are all kinds of hostels around the world.
Yes, there are some that have an age limit, but there are several hostels or hotels that have semi-private room options that welcome everyone.
What the Experts Say About Hostels
“I think that if you are traveling by yourself, then a semi-private hostel is still a nice option. I’m not talking about staying in a room with nine other strangers, but a two- or four-bed hostel [room] can be quite enjoyable,” says Kim Brown, travel expert and writer at Condo Control.
“Not only do you save a bit of money, but you have the opportunity to meet someone new from a different part of the world. Plus, how much time are you really spending in your room while on vacation?”
Traveling Alone Is Dangerous
Traveling alone is an adventure with several advantages.
Not only do you get more out of your trip by being aware of all the experiences you encounter along the way, but you can also travel at your own pace without depending on consensus and other people.
What the Experts Say About the Dangers of Traveling Alone
“All you need is a bit of common sense, the same you would use in your daily life,” says Rocío Haro, travel & logistics coordinator at Atlandis Cultural Journeys.
Sustainable Tourism Is Expensive
There are more and more tourism providers that offer sustainable alternatives without the need to raise prices.
You just have to know how to identify them.
What the Experts Say About Sustainable Tourism
Sustainable tourism options can include “accommodations that use green energy, restaurants that use local food or activities that have an impact on the local economy and promote cultural knowledge of the destination,” says Haro.
Language Is a Problem When Traveling
Not knowing the language of the destination is not an impediment to travel to it.
That said, you will have to put in a little extra effort and do more upfront research if you can’t get recommendations or directions from locals.
What the Experts Say About Language Barriers
We recommend researching the basic words in whatever language will be spoken most often while you’re traveling.
Those are: “good morning,” “thank you,” “please,” “excuse me” and “I need help.” It doesn’t hurt to have “where is the bathroom?” in your repertoire either.
English Is Spoken Everywhere
You also can’t expect that English will be spoken wherever you’re traveling.
That’s because if you’re looking to really explore a country — outside of the tourist traps — locals who aren’t working in tourism have no need to speak English.
What the Experts Say About Speaking English
If you’re traveling to rural parts of a country, locals will likely only know a few basic English phrases at best.
This is when Google Translate or a language book can help. Of course, using gestures is another form of communication that’s pretty much universally understood.
You Don’t Need to Understand the Local Culture
It's important to respect the land you are visiting and the people in it.
Not only will a bit of research lead you to more exciting and unique adventures, but it will mean a lot to the local people who live in the destination you’re exploring.
What the Experts Say About Understanding the Local Culture
“A big pet peeve of mine is when people don't respect local culture and rules,” explains Lianne C. Zhang, professional traveler and digital nomad.
“For example, I've been living in Hawaii for most of this year, and there are so many people who come to the island and just want to take, take, take. They leave their trash on the beach, touch sea turtles or put their swimming fins on coral. All big no-nos.”
The U.S. Is Safer Than Other Countries
Believing that the United States is much safer than other international destinations is categorically false.
Consider this: The U.S. spends the third most on policing of any other country in the world.
What the Experts Say About Safety
“I always try to use Chicago as an example; it is extremely dangerous, more so than any place I can think of in Europe, most of Asia and plenty of Latin America,” says CJ Ahlquist, professional traveler and blogger.
You Need a Travel Agent to Have a Great Trip
Travel can be overwhelming or intimidating to people so they turn to travel agents to plan and book their entire trip.
But having someone else take complete control over your experience can actually rob you of part of the pleasure of travel.
What Experts Say About Using a Travel Agent
“Research actually shows that participating in the planning process of a trip increases your happiness and adds longevity to the joy of the trip,” says Sahara Rose De Vore, travel coach.
“There are many travel coaches, websites and resources to learn how to plan and book your own trip on your own budget and timeframe.”
Wellness Tourism Is Only About Spas and Wellness Centers
“The wellness tourism industry was built by the spa industry, which is why it is common for people to immediately think of spas and wellness centers when they hear the term ‘wellness travel,’” says De Vore, “but the industry has shifted and expanded!”
Travel has always been healing to us as human beings. We crave and need travel to heal, feel and deal in life and business. Wellness travel is more about the meaningful experiences that we have that improve our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing, which is what we are seeing more of when it comes to why people are traveling, even if it is domestically.
What the Experts Say About Wellness Tourism
Yes, the “wellness tourism” trend may feel overdone, so if you’re looking to simply get out in nature, we recommend heading to one of the national parks that cater to relaxation.
Of course, there are also entire cities — think Desert Hot Springs, California, or Tulum, Mexico — that embody wellness.
Hotels Are More Expensive If You Book Directly
While some platforms have best-match guarantees, they can easily become a hassle for that one time you do find a lower price. The easiest way to book the best price is direct.
Plus, you can sometimes score amenities like free Wi-Fi, free parking, a room upgrade or breakfast. And if you’re part of the hotel’s loyalty program or have the hotel’s credit card, the benefits can be insurmountable.
What the Experts Say About Booking Directly With Hotels
“Room costs are all based on supply and demand. Much like the stock market, they go up and down,” explains Nikki Webster, founder of Brit on the Move.
“Most hotels do not want to pay commissions to third parties, so the hotel typically has the best rate.”
Roundtrip Tickets Are Cheaper — or More Expensive
There’s really no rhyme or reason for this one. Prices of roundtrip tickets and individual one-way tickets can greatly vary.
The bottom line is to check flight-watch websites that allow you to combine two independent one ways on different airlines and see if the difference is worth it.
What the Experts Say About Roundtrip Tickets
“I always try to book in order of where we are going rather than back tracking,” says Webster.
“The best route all boils down to the overall cost, direction and potential savings. There is no proven methodology that one approach trumps the other.”
If Your Flight Is Canceled, You’ll Be Compensated By the Airline
“Airlines based in the USA are not required to compensate you for most flight issues,” explains Webster.
The only instance in which you’ll get your money back is if you get bumped due to the flight being oversold. In which case, The Department of Transportation requires the airline to compensate you.
What the Experts Say About Flight Cancellations
If you do get bumped due to overselling, make sure you have documentation or can prove it. Otherwise, it's a moot point.
As for weather issues, mechanical issues or anything outside of the airline's control, you are on your own. They still might assist customers, but the reality is they have zero legal obligation to compensate you in most cases.