Call it what you like: screw-ups, snafus, massive fails, messy situations. They happen to all travelers but if you know the potential problems to look for – and how to fix them – your trip will not be ruined.
LISTEN: Has travel expert Rick Seaney ever screwed up? Hahaha!
5 Ways to Screw Up a Trip
Screw-up #1 – Failure to fly the cheapest days
If you only fly in July or at Thanksgiving, you are paying premium prices. Follow these general guidelines to find the cheapest flights.
- Fly cheapest days: generally Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays
- Fly cheapest season: usually early November to mid-March; in the U.S. (and other parts of the world) the most expensive time to fly is typically June, July and early August. Major holidays are also expensive times to fly in countries that celebrate them (such as Christmas in the United Kingdom, Thanksgiving in the U.S., Tet in Vietnam).
Screw-up #2 – Flying to the ‘wrong’ destination
If you must fly to a particular spot for vacation, fine – and have fun. If you have a choice, look for destinations that are generally cheap. In the U.S., cheaper cities in 2016 include Boston, Denver, Dallas, souther Florida, Seattle, Washington, D.C. There have also been numerous trans-Atlantic deals with especially good fares between New York and Paris or Rome. See the Deals Blog for more or set yourself some airfare alerts and let the deals come to you.
Screw-up #3 – Pack like an amateur
You can pack for a two-week trip in summer with just a carry-on; it’s a little trickier in winter but layered clothing instead of thick sweaters will help and so will wearing one pair of shoes while packing just one other pair. Then fit everything in a small bag by watching our sit & zip packing video.
Screw-up #4 – Failure to pay attention
Not long ago, an employee of mine was expecting out-of-town relatives to walk through the door when she got a phone call from them saying they were dozing in their seats by the gate, missed the boarding announcement entirely, and could not get on another flight until the next day. Sure, stuff happens but it’s far less likely if you’re paying attention.
Screw-up #5 – When you have to ask, “What do I do now?”
This means you have no Plan B, no back-up or contingency plans if anything goes wrong with your flight. Avoid this by doing just a little homework before you go.
- Put the airline’s contact number in your device.
- Follow the airline on Twitter (this is often the fastest way to get a response).
- Make sure the airline has your contact info in case they must reach you.
- Check reservations a week before and day of travel in case of schedule changes (it happens, and emails are easy to miss).
- Print out the boarding pass even if it’s on your phone; phones can die.
- Know what the TSA does and does not allow through security. Don’t be forced to dump that nice bottle of wine.