Ok, it’s all finally coming together. The time off from work has been booked, you have the tickets in your hand, the dates are set, the tours are booked, the hotels/accommodations are booked, you have enough cash banked and on-hand for the trip, you packed everything and anything you could think of that would be vitally important on this trip, and on top of that, you finally get to meet Billy Boyd…, or whatever the reason may be for your adventure.
Many people invest a lot of time and energy into their dream holiday, or even just a quick weekend in Vegas. And we’ve all heard the stories from others on what to see and what to do when we get to our destination; going to New York: Empire State Building; Vegas: Pick a casino and have fun; London, England: Buckingham Palace and get out to Stonehenge somehow; Cairo, Egypt: Sphinx and pyramids; most of it is pretty common knowledge on that front not to mention all the places you want to do on your trip besides the obvious. However, no matter how well we lay the foundation, something is bound to crack. Sometimes we are able to recoup before anything disastrous happens (nothing like a 3 hour detour to pick up the kid you forgot at the gas station); other times, it costs us something more precious than the time and energy of planning the vacation itself: being able to sit back and relax and enjoy the trip with no regrets,… that and MONEY!
So what are some of the ways that you can avoid having to pay extra money and enjoy your vacation? Here is a quick list we came up with so that you can have smooth sailing ahead.
10. Trying to cram EVERYTHING into ONE trip.
It starts off so innocently. Planning a trip to London, England for a week. But as soon as you start, the behemoth list of things to do, sites to see, and sounds to hear is already long enough to make a life sized paper-mâché copy of yourself. Do yourself a favor: STOP! Stop writing the list. Should you have a vague idea of things that you would want to see? Yes. Should you expect to be able to do Tower of London, Windsor Castle, Kensington Castle, Stonehenge, Roman Baths, Abbey Road, Eye of London, Buckingham Palace, The London Eye, Jack The Ripper Tour, Piccadilly Circus, and the Marble Arch and catch a Manchester United game all in four or five days??? Have you lost your mind?! First of all…, IF this was even all possible (I can hear someone saying, “Challenge accepted!”), you’re gonna miss something. And what if the Jack The Ripper tour is longer than you thought it would be, or what if the bus breaks down coming back from the Windsor, Stonehenge and Roman Bath tour you took? Are you gonna be frustrated and cranky; yes. Do you need to inspect EVERY canon that’s at the Tower of London; no, but you should take time to appreciate where you are and what it took to get there. Remember, this is a HOLIDAY. You are taking time to GET AWAY from stress and chaos, not create it. Pick off at least one major event or thing to see each day you are on holiday and if you have time to do some of the others on the list, great. If not, save it for the next time you go. Stonehenge is probably gonna be there for a few hundred more years; you can plan to budget something in the next 30 or so years.
9. Not arriving at the airport early enough.
Ok. Back in the days of yore, yes you could pretty much wait until LITERALLY the last minute, and then go through to your flight, flight leaves on time, everyone is happy; yay. However, that being said, if you are one of those “last minute” people and you think you are so important that the plane will just magically wait for you, even up to an hour so that you can arrive in your own time…, I want to take the time to welcome you from out under the rock that you have been living under and to a land we like to call “Reality” and you are not any form of God that we know of, cause we aint’ waitin’. And even if you are a Rock God, dude, you have your own plane; USE IT.
You want to make sure you check ahead with the airport that you are departing from to see what they recommend to have as an arrival time. For example, most airports ask that you check in for your flight at least two hours before your flight leaves the airport. Why? Great question. This allows you time to stand in line at the check in counter (especially if you have more than carry-on luggage), stand in line at security to get through to your gate (not to mention if you are travelling internationally in which case you have to stand in THAT line and go through), and find the gate that the plane is leaving from. Most of the time, airport security is pretty quick at hammering out those lines for when you walk through the metal detector, however, you never know when you show up and there are over 100 people in line in front of you, and you have 10 minutes to go before your flight. Is it worth the risk? Not for a well-earned vacation.
8. Losing your cool with Airport Security and Personnel.
This one is hilarious since now there are shows that are out like Border Security, and Airline, you see not only WHAT people try to pull off, but how people act when they are on a whole new level of pissed. Is some of it valid? Possibly, but not to a level that could and will get you thrown in jail. Please note, when you are talking to the airline staff at the counter, they are there to help you, not live by a motto of “We’re not happy until you’re not happy.” They are there to do a job and they are not paid well enough to deal with some of the crap that they deal with on a daily basis. Are you frustrated that there was a mix-up and the airline lost your luggage in transport; of course, but they are human beings too and they know that it sucks to have to potentially go commando for a few days while they find your luggage. And it’s a really bad idea to get extremely upset at Airport Security and or Customs Agents. Read this sentence and memorize it: NEVER, EVER LIE OR PISS OFF AIRPORT SECURITY OR AIRPORT CUSTOMS…, EVER. Not only are they potentially your one way ticket to a trip cancellation (because you ain’t departing from that airport today), but if you are extremely belligerent to them, they have the right to press charges and have you thrown in jail. No pair of underwear is worth a day in jail. Airport Security and Customs Agents have a job to do; just let them do their job. If it means you miss a connecting flight, they will get you another one to your destination…, if you are allowed to go there.
Please remember when you are leaving for a trip that is three days and you are coming back on the fourth day, that you are not MOVING, and thus you do not need to pack over 12 pairs of shoes. Not only that, but think about it for one second. You pack 12 suitcases for a three day trip, and you have told yourself you will only buy maybe one or two little things. Really? Saying something like that is like sending a fashion college student to a TJ Maxx and telling them they can’t spend any money, and that’s the day that they find the Christian Dior shoes that were $450.00, on final clearance for $70.00, and it’s their size. Whether you like it or not…, they are leaving with those shoes.
If you are travelling, remember less is more. If you bring fewer cases AND don’t stuff them until they burst, you can actually not feel guilty about spending money and getting souvenirs for family, friends, and more importantly yourself, and not take back more luggage than what you left with. Also, remember ladies! If you are only doing carry-on, you are only allowed TWO bags for carry-on and if you use a purse, that’s one of your two bags. Choose wisely.
6. Not doing your homework!
You are going to Paris! Huzzah and congrats! Now:
-When are you going (time of year: fall, summer, etc)?
-Where are you staying?
-How close are you to the places you want to see?
-Based on where you are, should you travel by foot, taxi, train, metro, all the above, none of the above?
-Where is the closest market to where you are? And if you can’t cook where you are staying, do you know where the cheapest restaurants to eat are near your hotel?
Hopefully, time of year should be a key part of the buying a ticket to Paris part of the ticket buying conversation, as no one wants to wear a parka when it is 82F outside. And don’t get me wrong; you should have a sense of adventure and be able to conquer any challenge that comes from having an awesome holiday, but you shouldn’t be going in blind! If you booked a hotel based on it being super cheap…, take the time to find out WHY it’s super cheap. If they are super cheap because they are actually an hour OUTSIDE of Paris and you will be spending all the money you saved on a hotel just to travel INTO Paris, was it really worth it?
5. Using a credit card to withdraw cash.
So you went on a bit of a shopping spree and spent a bit more than you had planned for…, just like almost everyone else on the planet who goes on holiday. However, when you got to hail a cab, you have no money to pay the cab driver with, and he doesn’t accept credit. Or, you get hit BY the cab and now you need to stay in the hospital for longer than you had planned on staying as now you are in a hospital. And you have no cash. Now what?
Most people find an ATM but chances are, if it’s not a major financial institution, the ATM won’t take it. That AND you are going to get charged an arm and a leg in interest on your credit card. Most credit cards have a fee for withdrawing cash from the card (generally ball-parking around 21.99%), but if you read the fine print, you also get charged a conversion rate for when you make overseas transactions (average being around 2.5% on that). So if you make a cash withdrawal from your credit card overseas, be prepared as it can cost you an additional 25% interest on your bill. If you think the issue may come up, you can always look into buying a prepaid credit card that is specifically geared towards travel. But again, DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Make sure you are getting the best deal for when you are using the card. And make sure you hit a currency exchange vendor before you leave for the trip or after you land in your destination so that you can have some cash on hand for the cab to your hotel.
4. Inviting the WRONG person to come with you on the trip.
Some people care to fly solo on trips as that way they can dictate what they want to do, when they want to do it, where they want to do it and then actually do it. However, it can be kinda crappy when you want someone you trust to take a picture for you who isn’t gonna jack your phone (or be that person to say, “Excuse me…, can you take this picture of us?” and spend the next 10 minutes getting the perfect shot).
However, it should be said that having a travelling buddy can be awesome, BUT you have to make sure this is the person that you can live with for the next few days, week(s), month(s), or whatever time-frame is needed for the trip. You will be finding out almost every intimate detail of this person, especially if you are sharing a room because it’s generally cheaper. You will learn their sleeping habits, bathroom routines, eating habits, hygiene, and they will be learning yours. You have to make sure this is someone you are okay with having a potential snoring competition with, possibly seeing you naked and that you have awesome pajamas. Also, this person should have similar interests to you in terms of what you can both see together. No one wants to argue about NOT going skiing while in Switzerland in winter to an avid skier, especially if you are a historian and want to visit the Abbey Library of Saint Gall. So choose wisely.
3. Cancelling the Credit Card that is tied to your reservations.
Some people get extremely irate at their credit card companies over the phone over things like limits and rates and fees, that they will do something like book their flight and accommodations on a credit card and a few weeks later while talking to a Customer Service Rep with ABC Credit Company, get so mad that they will cancel the card. You then go to check in with your flight and sometimes they ask for the credit card you paid for it on…, oops.
This can be very costly as in some cases you will need to pay cancellation fees, re-booking fees, the difference between the old rate and the new rate for the accommodations, it’s just a lot of hassle. That being said, if your card legitimately gets lost or stolen before the trip, make sure you contact the people who you booked flights, accommodations and tours with before you get there just in case they require the same card that you booked with to be present for when you check in. Generally, hotels like to have the same card but if push came to shove, they can do the switch. Again, could be costly, and that’s money that could be spend on food, or cool stuff.
2. Incorrectly spelling the name of who you are booking the ticket for.
This is more if you are booking for you and your significant other or family but if you don’t know your kid’s name, BEFORE YOU BOOK THE FLIGHT, get out the birth certificates and passports so you can make sure you don’t screw it up. It could cost you their ticket and one very angry, upset child and or spouse who might now need therapy, and that’s never good. Generally, if you misspell someone’s last name on a flight (Smith vs Smithe), if you talk to the agents at the check in counter, they can fix the boarding passes for you but sometimes, there is a cost associated with it so be prepared just in case. And don’t think that it’s just one letter, no big deal. It IS A VERY BIG DEAL and it’s not worth the headache that it will be when you get to the airport. Also, make sure that the name of the person who booked the hotel is the same as what is on the credit card that it was booked with as that can also cost you a hotel, and after a long flight when everyone wants to sleep and they now have nowhere to sleep, that’s a no dice situation. Take your time, be anal about the details so that everything goes smoothly.
1. Assuming your passport is valid UNTIL it expires.
EPIC FAIL does not even begin to describe how horrible this assumption is. Never, ever believe that your passport is valid until it expires especially if you are travelling internationally. And especially if your passport is going to expire within a day of you coming back from your trip. What if there are unforeseen circumstances where you CAN’T get back in time? It’s not worth the risk. That and there are countries that won’t even let you IN the country if your passport is near the expiration. So it’s not worth going through the line at check-in, the line at security, the line for the gate, the line to get on the plane, the line to get off the plane, and the line through customs only to be told no dice and be sent on the next flight back to your country of origin. Good rule of thumb is no less than six months, BUT you should always check with your Passport Registry office and just ask. It can take you an hour to get an answer on the phone but it’s not worth the risk of being sent back home and not even making it on the plane because somebody didn’t do their homework. And it wasn’t Airport Security or anyone else in the airport. Just an FYI.