5 stupid mistakes smart travelers make

Guest post from Janice Hough, Consumer Traveler

People make mistakes and travelers are no exception. In my experience as a travel agent, I’ve seen many of the biggest mistakes made by frequent travelers who know better. To avoid being one of those travelers, here’s a list.

1. Making a passport mistake.
When travelers go overseas regularly, it’s easy to lose track of things like expiration dates and blank pages.

And, because travelers can be so sure their passports are fine, this mistake often doesn’t get caught until they are at the airport.

In addition, travelers who regularly travel to exotic destinations can and have forgotten their passports to Canada and Mexico. A very regular traveler told me recently he planned to leave his passport home for a trip to Cancun and just use his driver’s license. My advice — think again.

2. Checking luggage with valuable or fragile items, especially at the gate.
With full planes, anyone not boarding early for any reason (late arrival or connection), may end up needing to gate-check a carry-on bag. In that case, travelers should always at least take a minute or two to remove things like jewelry, cameras and laptops from their bags.

In addition, I’ve had several calls with baggage theft issues from clients who usually travel with a single carry-on, but had to check a bag for a long trip and just basically put everything into that checked bag only to face disaster from pilferage or having the baggage lost. (It’s possible to check something by mistake and get lucky, but better not to count on it.)

3. Relying too much on technology and not enough on paper. This may get better in time, but even I got caught recently with this one.

Visiting friends in D.C., even though I know better, I decided not to bother with trying to print a boarding pass and had it sent to my phone. I went to the “Pre-check” line and the mobile boarding pass wouldn’t scan.

After several attempts, including closing and reopening the attachment, I ended up having to go all the way to the counters, which cost a good 15 more minutes. Had I cut it closer I could have missed the plane.

I’ve heard several similar boarding pass complaints. Then, there are also hassles with hotel information, car rental confirmation numbers, etc., ONLY kept online. While paper can get lost, so can emails. Based on some frantic calls, it happens more often than one might think.

4. Forgetting electronic gadgets in airline seat pockets.

One advantage of a bulky laptop is that it doesn’t fit easily into a pocket. The smaller and lighter a device, the easier it is to forget completely.

5. Not reading an itinerary at the time of booking. Whether it’s booked online or with a travel agent, there’s almost always 24 hours to cancel or change a trip if a mistake is made.

None of us are perfect, but double-checking will catch date, time and even city mistakes, which are easy to make.

Most of these mistakes come from being comfortable and making assumptions. Based on my experience, it’s the occasional traveler who usually checks and rechecks. The more relaxed and “experienced” travelers become, the more they are likely to get sloppy.

So, open note to experienced travelers reading this — Slow down just a bit, and be careful. Autopilot may work for planes, but even on board there is human backup for a reason.

My wife Linda manages Antietam Travel Service in Frederick, Maryland, and I maintain the website http://www.antietamtravel.com and our Wordpress blog.

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Posted in Travel Advice, Travel Agent

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