5 Common Travel Mistakes that Could Come Back to Bite You

“Ouch,” said the traveler upon learning he’d have to pay a $200 change fee to move his flight back a day. This could happen to any of us, but there are other mistakes to watch out for – mistakes that could cost you money (or at least a lot of aggravation).

LISTEN: No biting, please.

5 Common Travel Mistakes

1. Free hotels, free food

Many believe if a flight is canceled and you’re stuck in the airport, U.S. airlines will provide free hotel and room vouchers. Not so, according to airline contracts of carriage (found on carrier websites). In fairness, a few say they “may” provide this but I haven’t seen it in years. [Editor’s note: Earlier this year I saw a gate agent handing out hotel vouchers for special room rates. I called the hotel to get see what a regular room cost; the same as the supposedly ‘special’ rate.]

2. The life-or-death refund

Many of  us assume we can always get a refund if a situation arises that’s a matter of life-or-death but not always. In fact Spirit once refused to provide a refund to a dying man. Airline execs ultimately caved but only after being shamed on social media; do not expect this to work for you. Non-refundable tickets are called non-refundable for a reason.

3. Moderate security lines

I’m never surprise to see horrendously long security lines any hour of the day so why risk missing a flight when there’s the TSA PreCheck program? It’s only $85 for five years, your shoes stay on but best of all are the short, quick, dedicated lines for PreCheckers only. Now’s a great time, too; I think I can safely predict that security lines during the holidays will be especially long.

4. All carry-ons are equal

For those who think you only have to worry about the size of a checked-bag, think again. More and more airlines station baggage police in boarding areas and if your carry-on doesn’t meet the airline’s size limitations (typically 22 x 14 x 9 inches) the bag may be taken from you which could cost you a fee. Even worse, it means goodbye to a quick getaway from the airport and hello, baggage carousel!

5. There’s always plenty of bin space

Uh, no, there isn’t. This is where it might be worth it to pay the early boarding fee (prices vary by airline and it’s just $12.50 on Southwest). Otherwise, the only spot for your carry-on may be way, way in back, or under the seat in front of you. You know, the place where your feet are supposed to go.

Happy travels – and don’t get bitten.

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Updated: November 17, 2015