Unhappy man in airport
Security Lines Big Bags Receipts Overpack Electronics Snacks Room-Check Check Purse Common Sense

9 Ways to Turn a Trip into a Total Disaster

I know plenty of people who’ve done one or more of these things (myself included); I urge you not to join us.

Want to turn your next trip into a total disaster? No problem! We’ve got nine ways it can happen but don’t worry; we also explain how to prevent disasters.

LISTEN: Oh, yes, Rick’s been there.

1. Don’t get PreCheck

This is perfect for people who like standing in long, long lines. If that’s not you, here’s a simple step-by-step guide to sign up for PreCheck. This TSA program only costs $85 for five years and kids under 12 are included free. PreCheck and its international cousin Global Entry are useful year-round but are especially handy during the holidays.

2. Pack a big bag

A big checked-bag usually costs a $50 fee (round-trip), which we find rather disastrous since you could use the money for something a lot more fun like a good meal in a great restaurant. So pack a carry-on bag and pay no fee (exceptions: Frontier and Spirit charge for all bags) but there’s another advantage: Carry-on bags travel with you so they don’t get lost.

And here’s what to do when your bag is lost.

3. Throw away your receipts

Go ahead, toss those receipts but be warned: If there’s a problem with your flight such as a delay, cancellation or lost bag, the airline will insist your claim be documented and that can include bag tags, boarding passes, receipts for toiletries and more. Stick this paperwork in a side pocket of your bag and toss only after successful completion of your trip. Tip: If you keep these docs on your phone, consider making paper copies, too; people have been known to hit ‘delete’ by mistake.

4. Overpack

You like having a choice of outfits so feel free to pack more than you need, and be sure to include a lot of shoes and boots. The bad news is you could end up paying an overweight charge of up to $200 (or $400 on international trips), in addition to the regular bag fee. Or, pack light, use a carry-on and save some money. If you must check a bag, 50 lbs. is usually the maximum allowed before overweight fees kick in.

5. Leave electronics and/or chargers at home

Why weigh yourself down with electronics when airlines show movies for free? Actually, some airlines provide no entertainment and many that do have no seatback screens; today’s entertainment offerings are meant to be watched on your own device. If your leave it at home, forget to charge it, or forget the charger altogether, you’ll wind up leafing through the airline magazine (and we’re very sorry to report we haven’t seen a SkyMall catalog on a plane in years).

6. Forget the snacks

Who needs snacks when you can buy anything you could want on the plane? Actually, you might not want what they’re serving and there may be little to buy beyond tiny bags of chips anyway. Bring something you love from home; you’ll save money, be able to eat when you like without waiting for the car to come by, and chow down on something you actually enjoy.

Some snack ideas for great food for the plane ride.

7. Leave your hotel room without checking it

You’re a grown-up, you know how to pack a bag without leaving a sock behind so you may figure a final room-check is pointless. Well, tell that to my acquaintance who left his wedding ring in his hotel room’s shower recently and forgot about it; his wife didn’t notice it either (true story). You better believe they wish they’d given the place one last look before departing (and no, despite calling the hotel, the ring was not recovered).

8. Forget to pat your pockets or check your purse

Again, we’re all adults, we don’t need someone saying, “Got your wallet, phone, keys, sunglasses, glasses?” Or do we? It’s a simple enough mantra and it could save you from going crazy at home and away. Make it a habit to pat your pockets and look in your purse for these must-haves every time you leave a plane, a hotel room, or rise from a table.

9. Forget to use your common sense

Maybe you don’t own a million dollar ring or travel with bodyguards, but as recent news stories have shown, bad things can happen even to the rich and famous. A good rule of thumb for us common folk is to leave the valuables at home. Also, don’t flash cash, do be careful when using the ATM, don’t venture down strange, dark streets and always keep your phone on your person (if you leave it on a table as you dine, a thief can pull a grab-and-run). Here’s a list of popular scams to be wary of. Be safe, be smart, be a sensible traveler.