I was at a dinner recently with fellow travel writers, and the conversation turned to airports—naturally.
“I love being at the airport. The concourse is the best street theater,” one peppy writer said. Another chimed in about how she enjoyed the “energy” of airports.
I was bewildered. Who were these mythical travel creatures who pranced through their travels so graciously while I stood in the TSA line wondering if (a). I’d make my flight and (b). I remembered to pack shoes this time? (Ah-ha. I am the scatter-brained actress starring in said street theater performance.)
But airports don’t need to be stressful, and neither does traveling, especially if you’re doing it like the pros.
Here are seven common (but totally avoidable) travel mistakes that are either detracting from that hard-earned vacation you’re finally taking or adding stress to your work trip. Trust me. I’m not an expert, but I’ve made a lot of mistakes and learned from them.
No. 1: You didn’t pack snacks
Those peanut-sized bags of peanuts aren’t going to cut it on a long flight. (And, hello bloat!) Plus, if your flight is delayed, cue the grumbling stomachs. Since fiber helps keep your belly full, pack some high-fiber snacks like apples, pears, pistachios or berries. Here are some other foods that are surprisingly high in fiber. (Yup, popcorn is on the list!)
No. 2: You booked a p.m. flight
Sure, booking a flight in the late afternoon or evening means you can squeeze in a work day and avoid taking it as a vacation day. But your chances of being delayed are much higher. Consider this: At Newark, an airport notorious for delays, 90 percent of flights scheduled before 9 a.m. have on-time departures. By 6 p.m., that drops to less than 55 percent. Later flights tend to be delayed by stormy weather and congested air traffic.
No. 3: You forgot about hidden costs
You’ve saved and budgeted for your summer vacation. High five! But then come the extra costs. That unexpected $25 for a carry-on? Or what about the hotel charging you to park your rental car? And, oof. Those resort fees you didn’t see coming. When it comes to budgeting, make room for the unexpected. Plus, you can do a little research ahead of time. Airfare Watchdog has a list of fees that airlines charge. You can also ask, when booking your hotel, what additional fees to expect at check-in. An upside? Some hotels offer lots of free perks, everything from wine and cheese hour to free bikes for exploring the city.
If you plan to rent a car, it’s also a good idea to check with your car insurance company to see whether your rental will be covered. Otherwise, you’ll be put on the spot at the rental car counter, and may wind up purchasing insurance you didn’t need.
No. 4: You’re taking too many pictures
Snapping a selfie in front of a famed tourist destination? Do it! Research from the University of California-Irvine even says that smiling selfies can help you feel happier and more confident. But don’t spend your vacation obsessed with technology, constantly trying to capture the right picture.
Think about it: Recording a concert on your cell phone won’t come close to capturing the experience of being there in person. Same goes for organic vacation experiences, like watching a sunset or fully engaging in a sightseeing tour. In fact, a study from Kent University showed that being tethered to your cell phone could cause more anxiety and less happiness.
Also, it’s a good idea to check your privacy settings on social media. Posting that selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower and sharing it publicly on social media is a great way to advertise to thieves that nobody is home.
No. 5: You didn’t pack right
Here’s a surprising stat: The average woman packs eight pairs of shoes for a week-long vacation and nine out of 10 women don’t wear everything they pack for vacation. We’re not just wagging our finger at women, though. We suspect men overpack, too. Overpacking can cause a few problems: Lugging that heavy luggage is annoying and may even cost you extra in baggage fees. (Or you might have to unpack some items at the check-in counter, which is awkward.) If you need some packing inspiration, here’s how you can pack 100 items in a tiny carry-on. And don’t forget to check the weather in your destination to make sure you pack accordingly!
No. 6: You’re relying on the hotel concierge to steer you to the right spots
I recently had 18 hours to spend in New Orleans and wanted to squeeze the most out of it. The obvious tourist destinations were Cafe Du Monde for beignets and Pat O’Brien’s for hurricanes. But my travel-savvy girlfriend/travel buddy sidled up to a local bar and started a conversation with locals, which led us on a ferry to Algier’s Point where we went on a Bloody Mary crawl and delighted in murals along the Mighty Mississippi.
The takeaway? A little recognizance can yield some epic vacation memories. If you’re looking for a local restaurant that’s slightly “undiscovered,” you could start by asking your hotel concierge. But a word of caution: While the concierge might be truly genuine and point you to his favorite restaurant, there’s a chance, too, that he’s sending you to a tourist trap. The concierge may be incentivized to send you to a restaurant or entertainment venue. A better way to go? Find a local bar or coffee shop and strike up a conversation.
No. 7: You forgot to call your bank in advance
Nothing can induce panic quite like having your cards declined when you’re on an out-of-state or out-of-country trip. And what if this happens on the weekend or outside of your bank’s regular hours? Before traveling, give your bank or credit card company a head’s up that you’ll be traveling so they don’t flag your cards as being used fraudulently.
[h/t: Smarter Travel]