There’s never a bad time to become knowledgeable.

Like they say in the Lion King, what’s in the past is in the past. We’re here to help dispel the silly tips and genuine fake news the internet may have delivered into your traveling tool box.

With far too much straight up bad information out there from upgrade tips to currency exchange tricks, there are quite a few myths which need to be debunked to get your next trip started off right, and to avoid sounding like. an idiot when talking to friends.

Here are 10 of the worst travel myths, debunked…

To Get Flight Upgrades, Don’t Assign A Seat

Not only are you not going to land a cushy upgrade with this advice, you’re probably going to get the worst seat in the cabin you paid for. Many airlines charge for advanced seat assignments, but there’s no advantage to not assigning a seat at all when they become free to select at check in.

Long story short: you should always assign a seat as quickly as you can.

Good seats get selected immediately when the 24 hour or 48 hour free seating assignment window opens and realistically, upgrades are dished out to top tier customers or travelers who have been inconvenienced and it’s almost never based on not having a seat. Here’s how to actually get upgrades

There’s One Magical Cure To Jet Lag

If there is, the closest thing is melatonin – but there’s not. Fighting jet lag is about masterfully planning and orchestrating a series of events which keep you hydrated, get your eating cycles on destination time and send the correct signals to your brain about when you’re tired and what time it really is. It’s about light, diet, rest and invigorating your body, in a masterful concerto.

Here’s the very best advice for tackling jet lag. Sadly, it’s not a one word read.

On that front, fasting, including resisting alcohol, is very sadly one of the best ways to avoid jet lag on significant time zone changes. Here’s more on that, in case you feel like joining the crazy anti jet lag crowd. If you really want to tackle jet lag, you’re going to need to devote an hour to planning.

All Touristy Things Are Bad

There’s a never ending supply of tourist mistakes around the world, but being a snob is one of the biggest. Some places, no matter how touristy, are worth visiting even if just for the view, the scent, the history or the waves.

Don’t be so cool that you miss one of the best attractions and see what makes people happy by thinking you’re Anthony Bourdain. There was only one.

Be as willing to explore the pop culture stuff as you are to jump off the beaten path and you will be rewarded with a wealth of happiness and cultural understanding. And don’t be afraid to explore this one simple rule for travel, which helps to bring the most rewarding experiences.

Use Home Currency When Paying Abroad

Travellers throw away billions of collective dollars every year by getting short changed on credit card transactions abroad. It’s called DCC, or dynamic currency conversion. The next time you hear “it doesn’t matter which currency you choose”, they’re wrong and usually lying.

To avoid this frustrating travel myth, always choose the currency of the country you’re standing in – not the currency you use at home. Just make sure you use a credit card with no foreign exchange fees too. Here’s more on all that. Basically: pay in whatever currency is the local currency, every time.

All Hotel Booking Sites Offer The Same Price

Hotels love offering “best rate guarantees”, but those are based on the best rates you can find publicly. The truth is: there are better rates out there in private. Travel agents and private hotel membership can offer rates which aren’t shown to the general public via things called “bed banks”.

Though they sound dingy, they’re worth learning about. They’ve saved up to $1000 on just a three night stay for us before. Never buy a hotel room without checking at least three websites, comparing the price with booking directly and then also looking into any membership sites, or travel agent perks.

Countries With Travel Warning Should Always Be Avoided

During covid-19, this advice is more practical than old times, but here us out.

Dreaming of going to Rome, Paris, Turks and Caicos, Cancun or the Taj Mahal on your next vacation? If you follow every travel warning, you’ll never get there. Travel bans are different, but warnings at most levels are just warnings, not advice not to go.

The United States issues travel warnings on 4 levels, and these “Level 2” countries mean to simply exercise increased caution and be careful in large crowds. Basically, don’t be an idiot – which is good advice anywhere. But also: Don’t let cheap fear mongering headlines, like “Italy moved to level 2 travel warning” ruin travel dreams.

We’ve got a great resource which breaks down what travel warnings actually mean, including links to what they really suggest. Most of the time, they’re just telling you to be careful. They’re not telling you not to go. Again, covid-19 warnings are different, but those involving petty theft, etc are simply information. The world is too amazing to miss.

There’s A Magic Day Or Week To Book Travel

Know this: Black Friday and Cyber Monday are no joke, but they’re the very closest thing you’ll find to a magical day to book travel. Hint: it’s not “Tuesday”. To score the best flight deals, it’s often more about when you want to go than when you want to book, and setting price alerts to see when prices do change.

Want to really win?

Think about changing your travel plans to shoulder season months when airfare can be 43% lower or better. Here’s a few tips. As far as magic days, it’s easier to talk about ones to avoid, like any number within 7 days of flying, when last minute penalties kick up, unless you book a package with hotels too.

Also, don’t be afraid to learn everything you can about Google Flights, so you can let the best deals you’ve searched for come to your inbox. Setting price alerts early, sitting back and relaxing is often the best strategy to save.

It’s Always Cheaper To Buy Wine When You Visit A Country

Wrong, and to the tune of 20% in some places. It’s true: it’s cheaper to buy (great) wine in France than just about anywhere else on earth, but some countries are far more focused on exporting their precious grapes, than travelers guzzling wine on home soil.

In Australia, it’s actually 20% cheaper if you buy the wine and have it shipped out of the country, which basically means it’s the same price outside of the country too. If you want to stay extra savvy, Vivino is the best wine app for travelers, in our opinion.

The Airport Is The Best Place To Take Money Out

This is flat out wrong. Despite the “no fee”, “no commission” or other alluring neon signs you’ll find, you’re getting duped another way. These money exchange services use a consumer rate of exchange which is often 10% worse than the actual current exchange rate offered at that moment between banks.

It’s almost always cheaper to take out one large sum with your debit card abroad, paying just one ATM fee, or ideally – none. By doing so, you’ll get a “bank rate” of exchange, which can save 10% or more. Just tell your bank you’re traveling first.

Paying one ATM fee is almost always going to save more thanks to the bank rate of exchange, than a ‘no commission’ exchange using the consumer rate. Oh, and here’s a full guide on the subject, since this can get complicated.

The Northern Lights Are Only In Iceland

You’ve gotta give Iceland credit. Despite the Aurora Borealis existing since the dawn of time and covering vast swaths of the upper Northern Hemisphere, travelers seem convinced that Iceland is the only place offering the dazzling, electrically charged light display.

They’re wonderful there, no doubt, but there are so many other places to see them, and many which are cheaper. The Northern Lights are best viewed anywhere with minimal artificial light, so the more remote you can go the better. There are countless places to find them, like Norway, Canada, or Lapland.

Frequent Flyer Miles Are Too Complicated To Bother

Why bother, right? No. Credit card points and airline miles may be complicated, but anyone not bothering with collecting them is simply a fool. At the very least, they’re a rebate towards future travel.

The way the industry is going, points are becoming easier to use and even have more defined value than ever. For example, Delta lets you use 10,000 points to take $100 off a flight. This is a myth too expensive to believe. You need to play the points game, and you can do it without even flying or having a credit card.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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5 Comments

  1. Having worked in the industry I agree with your point about selecting a seat Not having done so leaves you the left overs absolutely. Upgrades used to be at the whim of the local management of the airline able to upgrade (within reason) anyone seem as a VIP or CIP. Now they often have to go through a more complicated approval process or at least ensure there up grades meet the airlines criteria. In my experience top tier loyalty of the airline in question (not a code share partner) brings the most frequent upgrades

  2. Also, try to make sure you use a real bank ATM. They usually have cheaper fees than other ATMs.

    My tip for Paris – find a BNP Paribas ATM, this bank ATM usually gives you the option of smaller bills, rather than the usual 50 euro bills. 50 euro bills can be a bitch to change.

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