8 Mistakes to Avoid When Planning a Vacation

Time to make vacation plans, and by plotting your travel strategy early, you can save money and stress. Like the stress that can result from making a mistake! Here are eight to avoid.

LISTEN: Even travel expert Rick Seaney makes mistakes.

Mistake #1 – Shop too early

If you’re flying within the U.S., don’t shop earlier than three-and-a-half-months before departure. If you do, you will probably pay more than you have to. For international flights, the rule is start shopping about five-and-a-half months ahead.

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Mistake #2 – Shop too late

You can shop too early and you can shop too late. For domestic flights, “late” begins about 30 days before departure (and sometimes a little earlier). About a month-and-a-half is late for international flights.

Mistake #3 – Fly the wrong days

Don’t automatically say, “I’ll make the most of my week off by leaving Friday and returning Sunday.” If that’s what you have your heart set on, fine. But if you can fly weekdays – especially Tuesdays and Wednesday and often, Saturdays – you will likely find much cheaper airline tickets.

Mistake #4 – Don’t think about miles

It could pay to see if you have enough miles for a free trip or enough for partial payment of a flight. Some airlines like Delta are devaluing miles programs and hoarding miles may no longer pay.

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Mistake #5 – Failure to add in fees

If you got a dirt cheap fare on an ultra discount carrier like Spirit, good for you. But did you notice you paid a fee to book that flight? And a carry-on bag isn’t free? Then add in the charge for coffee and even water during your flight – and all the other fees – to be sure you’re still getting a bargain.

Mistake #6 – No reservations

This is not about the hotel or car – though don’t forget those, either – but some attractions require reservations, too. For example, reservations are needed for the White House tour and you might want to arrange to join a group tour of the Vatican or you might not get in during peak visiting time. And be sure any attractions including museums and even restaurants are open on the day(s) you want to see them.

Mistake #7 – Failure to check documents

A couple important items remember.

  • Passports: If you don’t have a passport or it has expired, take care of this now. Even if it is still valid, know that some countries won’t let you in if your passport will expire six months after your trip.
  • Birth certificate: If the toddler that’ll sit on your lap turns 2 during vacation, he won’t get a free ride home on most airlines. You may need a birth certificate to prove his age in any case.

Mistake #8 – Make assumptions

As they say, never assume – at least not in these cases.

  • Baggage: Don’t assume it’s all in good shape. Check out the wheels, be sure suitcases still zip.
  • Weight: Don’t assume you can pack everything because if you can, you’ll probably wind up paying an overweight fee. Plan to pare down because, hey, we all pack too much.
  • Location: Don’t assume that just because you were told a hotel’s location was “within walking distance” that it actually is. One man’s walking distance is another man’s cab ride. Look it up on a map.

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Published: March 5, 2014