Global Rescue members have traveled far and wide. They’ve summited Mount Everest and the Eiffel Tower – and waited in customs. They have trekked Peru’s Inca Trail and the Maldives’ beaches – and searched for a local pharmacy in an emergency. They have casted lines in the Seychelles and explored the African savanna – and misplaced a passport along the way.

We asked what the biggest bungles they’ve made when traveling. What are the slip-ups that sidetracked a trip? What are the mistakes that, yes, even veteran travelers make? Admittedly, some of the responses are not a surprise, but others are. Here are the top nine travel mistakes not to make, plus three bonus tips from Global Rescue’s security experts. 

#1: Overpacking 

The majority of travelers (75% of respondents) admit to overpacking for a trip. The percentage decreases with age: 100% of 25 and younger travelers over packed while only 84% of travelers ages 30 to 39 stuffed their suitcase.  

Harding Bush, associate manager of operations at Global Rescue, shares his packing secret: “Pack light, and buy what you need there.” 

Pat Pendergast, The Fly Shop’s director of international travel, offers this hack. “Make a list of all the items you packed but never used and then use it to guide how you pack for future trips,” he said.

#2: Ambitious Travel Itineraries 

About 40% of respondents create a too ambitious itinerary. Pendergast makes a related point about patience. “I see travelers at airports get worked up about delays and long lines. But that’s what travel is all about. Sooner than later you will get to your end destination, and getting all worked up about it does not get you there quicker.”

#3: Forgot Medical/Security Coverage

You spent all this money on a vacation, but what measures did you take to protect your health or security?  

“Travelers just don’t think a medical emergency is going to happen to them,” Bush said.

That mindset showed up in 38% of respondents’ answers.

Older travelers, however, have more awareness about travel protection services and are less likely to go on an adventure without services from providers like Global Rescue. In the age 25-39 demographic, 49% travel without a service like Global Rescue, but this percentage drops to 31% for travelers over 60.

#4: Tip — or not?


Tipping in Japan is considered rude, there’s no need to tip at restaurants in Denmark, and a 20% gratuity is expected in the United States. It’s no wonder survey respondents (35%) are worried about tipping appropriately while traveling.  

#5: International Plug Adapter 

If you plan on charging your phone or using a hairdryer, you’re going to need your international plug adapter. Almost one-third of respondents (31%) left their adapter behind. 

#6: Drinking Unsafe Water

Pathogens — bacteria, parasites, viruses and other contaminants — are lurking in the water you drink. In the rush to stay hydrated while on the go, 29% of respondents drank unsafe water while traveling. 

“It’s a mistake that’s easy to make,” Bush said. “Even I’m not as cautious as I should be when I’m eating.” 

#7: Making an International Faux Pas

Not being aware of cultural differences and similarities in the country you’re visiting could ruin a trip, and 18% of survey respondents worry about being culturally insensitive. 

#8: Didn’t Have Copies


The survey found 17% of respondents neglected to make a passport copy before they travel. Global Rescue experts recommend making triplicate copies: carry one copy on your person, store one in your luggage or carry on and leave one with a reliable person back home.

#9: Forgot the Meds

Prescription medication is one of the last items we pack, but one of the most important. The survey found that 9% of travelers have forgotten to pack prescription medicines before a trip.  


The Global Rescue operations experts couldn’t help adding a few more mistakes travelers make that didn’t show up on the survey.

  • White Tennis Shoes. If you want to look like a tourist, wear white, lace-up tennis shoes or sneakers with Velcro on them.
  • Passport Holders. Wearing a passport holder with a cord around your neck makes you easily identifiable as a tourist. If you do have one, wear it under your top layer.
  • Cash or Credit? It seems like a good idea to use only plastic while traveling — but what if you forgot to notify the bank of your whereabouts and you’re without funds on a weekend and the banks are closed? “It’s smart to have a handful of cash ($200 to $300) on hand,” said Bush. “The amount of cash you need is relative to the duration of the trip and the potential need.”