Lessons Learned From Your Worst Travel Gaffes
Forgetting to read the fine print. Not packing a change of clothes. Confusing a.m. and p.m.
And if I could generalize about the types of screw-ups most common to travelers, I'd say they're not errors of commission as much as they are errors of omission: leaving something out, forgetting to verify a reservation, or just making an incorrect assumption.
Full disclosure: I bristle when anyone calls me a travel "expert" because the more I travel, the less I realize that I know. But refer to me as an expert on mistakes, and I'll agree. I've made more than a few big errors during my career as a writer, and as a traveler. I even wrote my college thesis on errors.
All of which is a roundabout way of saying that in discussing your travel mistakes, I'm well aware that I've made my share. Hey, it's what makes us human. And after all, it's not so much the error that matters -- it's what we learn from it.
That's why you're reading this.
Here are some of my favorite mistakes:
SHOW ME THE RATE
Too bad he didn't learn from that mistake. It happened to him again. Now he doesn't go anywhere without a printout of the car rental rate, and he never leaves the rental office unless he pays the price he expected.
"After my stay, I was credited with points in the Starwood program, but not with United," he says. Why? Turns out Starwood could only "convert" blocks of 1,000 points at a time. The hotel was happy to sell him another 200 points so that he could rescue his miles.
If he'd made arrangements with United beforehand, that might have been avoided. Which is exactly what Sandberg now does before making a reservation: he calls to find out if he should expect any surprises.
THE MEXICAN CAR INSURANCE SURPRISE
If you don't know about the Mexican car insurance scam, here are the details (http://www.elliott.org/the-troubleshooter/insurance-is-extra-on-this-hot-mexican-car/). Basically, insurance in
Haven't heard of it? Neither had
On overseas rentals, no matter what your travel agent tells you, always check with the car rental company to find out if there are any additional requirements.
WE DIDN'T NEED A CAR, AFTER ALL
That ended up being a
YOU SAY CHUCK -- I SAY CHARBEL
It couldn't change the name on his ticket, and his airline wouldn't either. "Is it possible that I can get through TSA?" he wondered.
The answer is: yes. TSA is phasing Secure Flight, which requires that the name on your ID match your ticket, in over this year. But next time, Andary might not be so lucky.
A.M. OR P.M.?
"The week of the flight, I received a "time to check-in" e-mail, and I was horrified to see that I had purchased a ticket for
Her airline wanted
CHECK FOR ADDITIONAL FEES WHEN YOU RENT
Extra fees are the lifeblood of car rental companies, airlines, hotels and cruise lines. If you're traveling, chances are someone isn't too far away with an outstretched hand, asking for more money. Don't get broadsided by that scheme.
ALWAYS EXPECT DELAYS -- AND PACK ACCORDINGLY
Since then, she always packs a spare pair of underwear and travel-size sundries in her carry-on bag -- just in case.
This list of errors is by no means complete. In fact, I'm willing to bet you have a few of your favorites to add. And that's not a bad idea.
Making a list of your mistakes, or at least remembering them, will ensure you learn from them. It will turn you into a better traveler.
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(c) 2010 U.S. Christopher Elliott, The Travel Troubleshooter
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