Every one of the travel mistakes below comes from personal experience. Some of them are minor annoyances while others can have long-term consequences that will haunt you long after your vacation is over. Read on to avoid these 10 common travel mistakes.
Not packing an extra outfit in your carry-on luggage
Wearing a scarf, a winter sweater, leggings and boots on the plane makes sense when your flight leaves from a cold destination in the middle of winter. You don’t want to get stuck wearing this same outfit in 95-degree weather with almost 100% humidity. On a recent trip to Colombia, my bag was delayed in Atlanta and I received it two and a half days later. I had to spend my first vacation day shopping for warm weather clothing and basic toiletries. Pack at least one outfit and your most essential toiletries in your carry on in case your luggage is lost or delayed.
Not buying travel insurance
I always buy travel insurance and thankfully, I’ve only had to use it once. When my luggage was delayed for two and a half days, I needed to buy some lighter clothing, a swimsuit and some toiletries. I was able to get reimbursed for these items thanks to my insurance policy through Travelguard. Travel insurance generally covers emergency evacuations, medical emergencies, lost or delayed baggage and trip cancellation. Research policies at insuremytrip.com
Not turning off cellular data
Don’t forget to turn off cellular data before you power down your phone. Upon landing in London and in a jet-lagged state, I forgot to turn off cellular data and downloaded a few e-mails and loaded Facebook while waiting for my luggage. I realized my mistake quickly but was already out $15. I’ve known fellow travelers who have been hit with unexpected bills for exorbitant amounts because they forgot to turn off cellular data/roaming.
Making phone calls with your cell phone
Similar to using cellular data on your phone abroad, making voice calls on your international trip can lead to a nasty surprise when you get home. International roaming is expensive and some companies charge as much as $3.49 for a voice call and $0.75 per text message. If you need to make calls while you’re out of the country, consider purchasing a phone that will work with a SIM card or buying an inexpensive phone overseas. If you need to make an occasional call, you can use apps such as Google Voice or Skype, although you’ll need to have a WiFi connection enabled.
Not checking the CDC Traveler’s Health website
I’ve become fairly complacent about checking the CDC Traveler’s Health site for vaccination information. I happened to schedule a doctor’s appointment before my trip to Guatemala and Belize and I mentioned my upcoming travel plans to my doctor. She looked up the CDC site while I was sitting there and informed me I was traveling to an area with a high malaria risk and I’d also need a Typhoid and Heptatis A vaccination. While visiting the doctor and getting shots is not the highlight of anyone’s trip planning process, it’s worth taking the time to visit your doctor to avoid some potentially serious health consequences.
Booking a tight layover
You don’t want to be the out-of-breath traveler running down the airport terminal in flip-flops with a heavy backpack. That was me a couple of years ago, running through the Houston airport, trying to make my connecting flight to San Jose, Costa Rica. I originally had 45 minutes for the layover but due to a delay in Seattle, I only had 15 minutes to make my connecting flight once we landed. I always leave a window of at least an hour and a half, which decreases the chances that I’ll miss my next flight or lose my luggage.
You don’t need to have your entire wardrobe available while you’re traveling. According to a survey by Travelodge, the average person returns home from a trip with at least six unworn outfits. Try to mix and match as much of your wardrobe as possible and plan on rewearing everything at least once. You don’t want to get stuck lugging your overpacked bag up the narrow stairs of a quaint bed and breakfast in Ireland. You also want room in your bag so that you can bring home souvenirs that you find along the way.
Trusting a hotel when they say they’re near the city center
Unless you want to spend your vacation time commuting back and forth from your hotel to the city, don’t rely on the hotel’s website to tell you how far they are from the city center and major attractions. Before you book, open up Bing Maps and plot the course from the hotel to the city to get a more accurate picture.
Not booking a transfer in advance
If you don’t know the local language, I highly recommend booking an arrival transfer to take you to your hotel from the airport. When I arrive at my destination, I’m usually jet-lagged and counting down the minutes until I can shower and change into a fresh outfit. Having someone waiting for me at the arrivals hall is comforting and relieves the stress of hiring a taxi and getting local currency to pay the driver. I didn’t take my advice on my last trip and was ripped off by my cab driver. I paid $20 for a cab ride that should’ve cost $5 and I was too tired to even care.
Not minding your manners
Don’t assume that everyone you encounter abroad speaks English. Mind your manners and learn how to say “please,” “thank you,” and “can you help me?” in the local language. If the person you’re trying to communicate with speaks English, they’ll usually switch automatically once you’ve approached them in their language. If they don’t speak English, they’ll be more likely to help you find someone who speaks English. A smile goes a long way.
Not notifying your bank of your travel plans
If you don’t put a travel alert on your credit cards, your bank will shut them off as soon as you try using them abroad. Spending 10 minutes on the phone with your bank before you leave will help you avoid the hassle of trying to call them while you’re on vacation.
Remo Restagno says
One thing you might want to remember Rebecca is travel documents. I traveled down to Sydney AU. earlier this year, (my third time down under) I got to the airport (with plenty of time for an international trip) checked my bags at the curb the porter is going over my passport then asks for my visa. VISA? That’s right you now need a visa to travel to Australia now, about a year. Long story short, after thumbing thru hundreds of web sites kneeling on my knees in the concourse, got to the official one. Forty dollars later done, travel DOC’s very important to check. Two of my colleagues missed the trip because of that.
I was lucky to check on visa requirements for travel to Australia for US citizens, as my company’s on-line travel portal didn’t mention this at all. I found the on-line site, and it only took 15 minutes to fill out the form; the visa code was ready in a couple of minutes, and it’s valid for a year.
I’ve been to HKG, TPE, NRT, YVR, LHR, CDG, FRA, FCO, and RIX without needing a visa. For IST, I simply looked for the booth at the airport, and paid USD20 for the visa sticker. Who would have thought that SYD requires a visa?
Check your Foreign Minister or State Department’s web site for travel advisories AND HEED THEM!! You don’t want your friends/relatives to see your picture splashed across numerous media networks as the next “missing” traveler.
A coworker forgot to make sure his passport is valid for 6 months after his scheduled return date from TPE, and all of our company’s booking SW didn’t check his passport data against this common rule. Imagine his surprise when UAL denied him boarding at the gate! Yes, he had gone through UAL’s check-in counter and the TSA checkpoints, and had his boarding passes in hand. To make matters worse, UAL refused to grant a refund on his out-bound tickets, or give some form of credit on a future trip. Needless to say, whenever his boss asks him to travel, he tries to find an excuse to decline if “UAL” or “TPE” is somewhere on the itinerary.
Spare clothes: I don’t travel much, as flying out of Hawaii isn’t exactly cheap. Of the 60+ trips I’ve had, I neglected to pack a spare set of clothes in my carry-on bag just three times. And for all three times, UAL lost my luggage or put it on a later flight without notifying me. For four days straight, I wore a Polo shirt, Dockers, and sneakers because I was traveling with my friends, and our itinerary did not afford us time to divert our road trip to stop at a clothes store; I even went to dinner at the French Laundry in the same get-up.
Cell phone: After I deplane, I turn on my phone on to acquire the local time, and if I’m in a foreign country, I switch it to airplane mode. I forgot about this last step twice, and sure enough, that cost me a few bucks. My boss called me when we got separated at the security lines in FRA; he has a business phone, so it didn’t cost him a dime. My phone rang when I was in a tour group in Rome; I rejected the call, but AT&T charged me over a buck for ringing my phone.
Credit cards: I used my main card without problems for years. Once, when I wanted to put a personal purchase on my “back-up” card, I was rejected … A coworker wanted to test out his card and decided to do a cash withdrawl — bad move, as he was hit with finance charges and interest at that very moment (he returned home 3 weeks later to find the numbers).