10 Most Common Screw-ups of Holiday Travelers

I’m not a total believer in Murphy’s Law –  that what can go wrong, will go wrong – but stuff happens and it’s best to be prepared, especially during the holiday season when you may be traveling with the family. Here are my picks for most common travel miscalculations, and some quick fixes. Note: Please put these fixes on your To Do List before you head to the airport.

Listen: You won’t screw up with travel expert Rick Seaney’s bad weather advice.

5 most common travel problems

10 Travel Screw-ups and Quick Fixes

The less-experienced holiday traveler’s biggest mistake? Failure to stay informed, and this comes in all guises. Here are a few.

1. Airline can’t reach you

Did you forget to add a phone or email contact when you booked your tickets? If that’s the case, the airline can’t reach you with flight status updates. This is more important than ever because of the ever-present possibility of bad winter weather (and even if your airports aren’t affected by storms, bad weather has a cascading effect on flights and may affect routes not directly impacted by snow). Make sure your airline has multiple contact points for you.

What to expect at the airport during holidays

2. Not checking flight status

Just in case your airline fails to alert you, check on your flight before you head to the airport via the airline site or FlightStats. If your flight is canceled, you need to get on the phone to the airline immediately to get on the next available plane. If your flight is delayed, head to the airport anyway; delays can evaporate without warning and you don’t want to miss your flight.

3. Not checking the airport drive or parking

Leave extra early. You know how bad the drive to the airport is normally? Plan on it being much, much worse for the holidays. Same for parking. Airport websites and apps often have updated parking info but be prepared for the possibility of parking off-site (and maybe way off-site).

Once you’re on the plane – will it have Wi-Fi? Find out

4. Failure to check lines are at security

The MyTSA app can tell you which line to head for – and maybe even direct you to a less busy terminal that connects to the one you need to get to. When time is tight, sometimes a minute here or there makes all the difference .

5. Neglecting social media for airlines, airports

You know why airlines (and in many cases, airports) like Twitter and Facebook? It gets the word out quickly. If you want information fast, you need to get onboard, too.

6. Failure to anticipate customs lines

If you’re coming to the U.S. from outside the country, you may run into a two hour wait at customs and immigration. This is where signing up for a trusted traveler program can save you time and hassle.

7. Packing the same old way as always

Using a carry-on will get you in and out of the airport more quickly plus it will save on bag fees. If you must check a bag, try to use one that’s easily distinguished from others and slip a business card inside so it can be identified if labels come off and the bag goes missing.

Yes, you can fit everything in a carry-on – here’s how  

8. Lack of distractions

Having a day’s worth of distractions (electronics, toys, games, books) is a must if traveling with the family but important for anyone who may have to sit in an airport all day long. Don’t forget the food either or you’ll be stuck with expensive airport fare.

9. No local information

Set up a weather app for all cities in your itinerary; think of it as another early-warning system for what might happen to your well-laid plans

10. Failure to have Plan B

Do you know what to do if your flight is canceled? You can help your airline rep do a better job for you if you know what other airlines fly to your destination and when. Also, be prepared to pay for a hotel room if plans go awry and you can’t fly out until the next day. The more effort you make, the better your chances of using Plan B to get to Destination A in plenty of time for the holiday festivities.

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Published: December 2, 2013