How to Avoid These 12 Summer Travel Mistakes
June 16, 2017
Planning to get away this summer? Conserve your cash on general expenses so you can spend more on the things you’d like to do. Some pricey travel hiccups are unavoidable, but most of them you can definitely sidestep with a little bit of planning. Here are 12 tips on how to avoid costly travel mistakes.
- Booking your entire hotel stay with one reservation
Like the stock market, nightly hotel rates fluctuate based on demand, time of year, and other factors, which means that you may not be getting the very best deal if you book the entire length of your stay in one reservation.
In fact, you could save up to 40 percent off your entire stay by playing with your booking dates within the reservation system before you commit. For example, a five-night reservation at a popular hotel may book for $190 per night, but if you book the transaction as a one-night and a four-night reservation, the nightly rate drops to $127 the first night and $126 per night for the additional four nights. A great site to help you master this technique is FindOptimal.com, which will use its patent-pending technology to optimize your saving potential by providing cost-cutting solutions over two reservations instead of a single booking.
- Overbooking your activity itinerary
I’m a planner through and through. My vacation days are jam-packed the moment I arrive at my destination, sometimes to the dismay of my travel partners who prefer a more leisurely approach to new-area exploration. While staying busy and active on vacation is my idea of a good time, I can admit that my tight schedule has hit a few snags in the past. Things don’t always go according to plan and I’ve lost money on activity reservations because I was just too tired to do one more thing that day. Avoid this mistake by creating a loose itinerary ahead of time — do your research but don’t lock down everything hour by hour unless it’s something that’s only offered on specific dates and times, or is in danger of being sold out. Once you have what you’d like to do on paper, fill in when you’d like to do them once you’ve arrived and are settled.
- Over-packing things you don’t need
Over-packing can present several dilemmas over the course of your trip, starting with the cost of exceeding the 50-pound checked bag limit before boarding your flight. If you’re unable to transfer the overage to other bags you may be carrying, you will be required to pay up. Not a great start to your vacation. Then you have to lug that luggage around with you wherever you go, and you’ll curse the day you bought that extra pair of shoes when you’re hunched over like Quasimodo because you’ve carried the equivalent of a well-fed preteen on your back for miles.
Let’s not forget the trip home either. Now you have to buy an additional bag or leave clothing and accessories behind to make room for the items you’ve acquired during your travels. You can avoid all this hassle by editing your bag before you ever leave your house. Pack it, let it sit for a day so you can think about everything thing that’s in it, then revisit it and pare down to only the essentials.
- Racking up international transaction fees
While abroad, you could get slammed with international fees for both your credit and debit cards. Call your card providers to understand their international fees, and consider getting a new card if your current ones don’t have good rates for overseas purchases.
“Be sure to set a travel notice for your credit card so that your provider doesn’t lock your account on suspicion of fraud,” adds Benjamin Glaser, features editor for shopping-comparison site DealNews. “For debit cards, find your bank’s international ATM partners. You will still get charged a fee every time you withdraw money, but you will avoid an additional fee for going out of network.”
It’s also a good idea to keep at least $100 cash on you at all times during vacation for emergency situations. You don’t want to be S.O.L. if your card is declined or if it gets lost or stolen.
- Traveling solo
I thoroughly enjoy dining alone and going shopping or to see a movie by myself, but when I travel I prefer to have a partner. For starters, how spectacular will my trip be if I don’t have anyone with whom to share my experiences? Secondly, traveling with a companion cuts almost all expenses in half, including lodging, grocery bills, ground transport fares, and more. The buddy system is always a more economical option if you practice good personal finance, in my opinion.
- Waiting to book ground transportation at your destination
A few years ago I traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, for my birthday and decided to book the car at the destination airport. It’s Memphis, I thought to myself, how many people are renting cars here? Big mistake. Murphy’s Law dictates then when I think something stupid like that, all the cars are sold out when I arrive. As such, I had to pay a premium for the car they were able to find me, which was a major letdown and an expensive annoyance.
Booking ahead also applies to chauffeured transportation to avoid higher-than-standard rates on the ground.
“In many cases you can order a shared or private transfer at a lower cost than taking a taxi,” says Isar Meitis, president of travel-booking site Last Minute Travel. “Plus, you can have a designated driver waiting with your name, saving you a lot of time, and, in many cases, money. Also, many tourist attractions are cheaper if you book them prior, compared to a ‘walk-in.’ For a family with kids, these savings add up very quickly. In addition, these tickets can usually be picked up from a will-call kiosk or booth, which also means you don’t have to wait in lines.”
- Dining out for most meals
One of the most budget-draining parts of your vacation is food, especially if you’re eating out for most of your meals. You already know this. But you can cut the fat — literally and figuratively — by taking advantage of the complimentary breakfast that may be included with your hotel stay, locating free happy hour snacks and deals in the area (many hotels are now offering a free wine reception in the afternoons for guests); and buying groceries locally that you can make in the kitchen at your accommodations. And I always consult Groupon and Restaurant.com for discounts before choosing where I’ll eat.
- Leaving the hotel fridge stocked
Minibars are problematic if you have self-control issues, or children. It’s easy to ravage these goodies when you’re famished, and eventually you’ll give in to your kids begging to get at the gummy bears in the bear-shaped bottle. Your resistance is futile, in fact.
“Hotel fridges can come in handy, but they can also be expensive — especially with hungry little ones looking for a drink or snack,” says Lissa Poirot, editor-in-chief of travel-review site Family Vacation Critic. “Many times, the cost of a single in-room water bottle is the same cost as what you’d spend on a full case of water — so take advantage of that. Ask your hotel to clear out the in-room fridge — they can do that — and then fill it with your own supplies.”
- Assuming you’re locked into your original reservations
Airlines and travel-booking sites have given us cause to pause before canceling our reservations, because they hit us straight in the pocket if we want to make an amendment to our itineraries. But that’s not always the case, and it’s worth investigating the fine print of your reservations if you’ve since found a way to save additional cash.
“Most hotel bookings today are refundable, up to almost the very last minute,” Meitis says. “Even after a booking was made, if a traveler can find a better deal, they can make the same reservation for less, and then cancel the original reservation. Obviously, the traveler needs to first verify he or she is not within penalty at the time of cancellation.”
- Traveling to popular summer destinations during peak season
The term “peak season” is enough to keep me away, and you should avoid the high time at popular destinations, too. Not only will you pay far and above for just about everything you would during the offseason — from transportation to lodging to gas — but you’ll have a heck of a time getting around and staying sane. If traffic and hourslong waits in line at amusements don’t drive you crazy, your restless companions will. Do yourself a favor a book the road less traveled.
- Failing to budget for extra costs on cruises and at resorts
While you might have snagged a great cruise or resort fare, it’s important to keep in mind additional costs when budgeting for your trip. You never want to be caught off-guard when you’re just about broke at the end of your journey. Avoid sticker shock by familiarizing yourself with all additional costs on a cruise or at the resort in advance.
“Gratuities are one of the top costs that can catch travelers by surprise,” explains Colleen McDaniel, senior executive editor of CruiseCritic.com. “While it can be quite convenient not worrying about tipping while onboard, remember that gratuities are automatically added to your final bill, generally on a per person, per day basis. The total cost can add up to hundreds, maybe more, depending on the number of guests in your party and the number of days you’re sailing.”
Take that cost into account when budgeting for your trip to be sure that deal really is as great as it seems. Other added costs to consider include beverages, internet, shore excursions, and alternative dining.
- Overreliance on your mapping apps
I traveled to Costa Rica once where my husband and I rented a car to drive from our first stop at a resort below the Arenal Volcano to a beach resort a few hours away in Guanacaste. We decided to follow new friends on their newly planned scenic route, but when it turned out to be much longer than anticipated, we broke off from the group to get back on an easier path. We plugged the destination into Google Maps, which we assumed would choose the most efficient route, but our choice was ill-advised. The service cut us across the country through about 30 miles of very rocky and mountainous rural terrain that, frankly, scared us half to death.
Asad Raza, co-founder of the travel blog Off the Beaten Trails, offers a similar warning against relying too heavily on mapping services when you’re in foreign territory.
“We planned to go to Hoota Cave in Oman and decided to check the route on Google Maps and follow it,” he recalls. “Unfortunately, the route given was only accessible with a four-wheel drive and we just had a saloon car [that’s a sedan in the U.S.]. It wasn’t until we consulted with a local that we found the right route to follow. We ended up wasting four to five hours.”
“We learned that we should not only rely on Google Maps, but also should do plenty of research and always be ready to consult with locals,” Raza adds.
Sound advice for staying alive while traveling, for sure.