It’s easy to read for hours and hours about what to do, what to see, and what to pack. It can actually get a little overwhelming, so instead of telling you what to do, this time I want to share the top things NOT to do when you’re planning your next vacation.
Not checking travel documents
This is huge, and often overlooked. So many people assume that the travel documents say exactly what they’re supposed to say, but that's not always the case. Your best bet is to check and double check your travel documents. Make sure that names are spelled correctly and match what you have on your passport. Also check the dates, times, and locations of your flights, hotels, and transfers. These things are easier to fix before you depart for your trip!
Not having a proper passport or visa
Check your passport expiration date and the entry requirements for the country you’re visiting. Many countries require a passport to be valid 6 months beyond your entry date, not just for the length of your trip. Many countries also require a certain number of blank pages, or a pre-arranged visa. When checking requirements, be sure to include countries where you will be having a layover, even if you don’t plan on leaving the airport.
Not buying the right travel insurance
Most people don't want to purchase travel insurance, but when you need it you’re going to be really glad you have it. There are easy things like cancelled flights and lost luggage, but what about when you break your leg or become ill while traveling? You weren’t expecting to add local hospitals to your list of sights to see, but you’ll be very thankful that the bill is covered by your travel insurance while you’re there. The best time to book travel insurance is as soon as you book your vacation, but it’s never too late!
Not letting your bank know you’ll be traveling internationally
Call your banks and credit card companies before you leave to let them know that you’ll be traveling. By contacting them, you’re less likely to have your credit card flagged for fraudulent purchases while you’re traveling. Even better, plan ahead and know which ATMs have the best foreign transaction and usage fees. Some banks have international branches under another name that won’t charge you an additional fee for using their machines.
It’s so much easier to travel with less stuff. Do yourself a favor and know that it’s ok to wear the same pair of pants a few times. You’ll have more room to bring souvenirs home, and you’ll love how much easier it is to navigate the airport with a smaller suitcase. In many places you can even do laundry or have laundry done while you’re there. Most everywhere you go will have stores where you can buy what you’re missing – and think of the adventure!
Not packing correctly
This isn’t about how much you’re bringing, but more about what you bring and how you’re bringing it. Always keep your medication in your carry-on luggage. Bring a change of clothes in your carry-on bag. When your checked bag is lost or when your seat mate spills a drink on you, you’re going to really appreciate having a change of clothes you can easily grab. When you’re packing, know what TSA requires and pack correctly. Don’t be that person at the airport frantically trying to repack your checked bag with the shampoo bottle that was too large to carry on. Another tip – carry-on sizes have changed over the last few years. Check with your airline before you pack to make sure that your carry-on will fit on the airplane in an overhead bin.
It’s easy to jam pack your itinerary with things to do and places to go, but make sure to leave some down time as well. It’s easy to get caught up in the sights of a destination and forget to actually experience it. I love leaving time open in the itinerary to just enjoy where I am, and really take time to experience the destination. The same applies for cramming too many cities into one vacation. Sure you can see all of Europe in two weeks, but you don’t want to. Take the time to enjoy your vacation and make sure that you have something left to see for your next trip.
Not planning enough time for connections
None of us likes hanging out in the airport any longer than we have to. Often people will ask me for short connections; however, you have to allow enough time for the unexpected. Especially when traveling internationally, it’s hard to guess how long it will take for you to get through customs and find your next gate. If you have an extra hour or so, you can start your vacation early with a great meal and a quick airport shopping trip before your next flight.
Not bringing printed copies of your itinerary
Apps and electronic documents work great – until they don’t. You probably haven’t memorized the name and address of your hotel, so it’s always a good idea to have printed copies of everything for the time that your cell phone isn’t working while you’re sitting in the back of the taxi trying to tell the driver where you’re supposed to go. While most hotels don’t require printed copies of your reservation, most shore excursions, transfers, cruise lines, and airlines do – so it’s always better to have the printed copies of everything, even if you don’t need them.
Starting with impossible expectations
Let’s be honest – your vacation probably won't be perfect. Something at some point will be different than what you were expecting, and it’s how you react to it that will shape the rest of your vacation. Don’t start your vacation with a specific expectation at all; go with an open mind and a positive attitude. Go with the flow and have fun.
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Ann Jones, CTC, MCC