Pioneer Travel

7 Travel Mistakes to Avoid on Your Next Trip

Assuming all travel plans are set

Before the pandemic, many travel reservations were of the “set it and forget it” nature. Once you had an email confirmation of your flights, accommodations, tours, or other bookings, you were generally good to go. Your experience at your destination was usually exactly how you planned.

However, the pandemic changed this significantly.

Under normal circumstances, airline schedule changes can help you change to a more desirable routing or flight time. However, if those schedule adjustments happen too close to departure, you could be left in the lurch.

With many airlines announcing network changes over the past few years, flight route changes can take effect within days of the announcement, leaving little time for affected passengers to make alternate arrangements. Purchasing last-minute airfare from another carrier is an unexpected expense.

Tips to prevent these issues

  • Log in to see your flight bookings (and hotel or vacation rental reservations) at least once a week so you can flag and address any possible disruptions as far in advance as possible.
  • Book a refundable hotel stay as a backup for a vacation home rental — though be sure to set a calendar reminder to cancel that reservation before its cancellation deadline.
  • Consider a staycation or drivable destination to avoid being stranded in an unfamiliar location without the ability to turn around and drive home.

Planning on normal lines

With travel demand surging, long lines are becoming more and more prevalent in airports across the country.

Luckily, there are still plenty of ways to avoid waiting in the TSA checkpoint line longer than necessary.

Tips to prevent these issues

  • Plan extra time at the airport — especially if you plan to check a bag. In fact, you may want to try and stick with only carry-on .
  • Use online check-in if you’re carrying on a bag and print your boarding pass (or save it to your phone) to skip the counter and go straight to the security line.
  • Apply for TSA PreCheck, Global Entry or Clear for expedited security and use a credit card that covers the enrollment fees.
  • Check in for your hotel stay using an app, since many hotel chains will provide you with a digital key and allow you to skip the front desk entirely.
  • If you have hotel elite status, look for a shorter elite status check-in line. You may even be eligible for hotel elite status by virtue of a credit card that’s already in your wallet.

Packing everything in your checked luggage

Even under the most ideal travel circumstances, there’s always a chance of flight delays or cancellations.

Problems within an airline’s control — like aircraft maintenance — often lead the carrier to issue food and/or hotel vouchers. Still, weather events or air traffic control-related delays typically come with nothing aside from maybe a snack or a bottle of water. The only thing worse than being forced to spend a night in an airline’s hub city, potentially at your own expense, is doing so without your personal items.

It’s still entirely possible that everything will go smoothly. Maybe you’ll have plenty of time to make your connection, and upon landing, your luggage will come out without you needing to invoke an airline’s checked-bag guarantee. That’s not always the case, though.

Tips to prevent these issues

  • Always pack at least a change of clothes as well as essential items like contacts or toothbrushes in your carry-on bag.
  • If you are stranded overnight, keep all your receipts when purchasing necessities — you may need to submit them to your airline or credit card company for potential reimbursement.
  • Book your flights with a credit card that provides trip protection in the event of delays, unexpected overnights, and cancellations. And know that it’s not just the super-premium cards that offer this coverage; even the $95-per-year Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has above-average travel protections when you use it to book your trips.

Plan ahead with your rental car

While the rental car shortage has improved over the past few years, you should still start the booking process early.

The combination of slimmed-down fleets and a global microchip shortage that’s slowed car assembly lines has led to high rental prices. In some especially popular locales, there may be no availability whatsoever. Exhibit A: One of the Hawaiian Islands launched its own transportation website to help visitors cope with the rental car shortage.

If you don’t plan, you could be left with only mediocre options — such as renting a U-Haul truck or van to drive on your vacation.

However, even if you do manage to snag a relatively affordable rental car, you may encounter added hurdles when picking it up. This could mean yet another long line at airport car rental counters this summer with fellow customers “patiently” waiting for their turn to (hopefully) start their trip — if there’s still a car left, that is.

Unfortunately, even with a confirmed reservation, there’s no guarantee that a car will be there when you arrive.

Also, be aware that the car you receive may be older and have more mileage on it than in the past, so temper your expectations appropriately.

Tips to prevent these issues

  • Book your rental car early — potentially ahead of your flights and accommodations — to lock in a decent price and inventory.
  • Add your rental details into AutoSlash, which will automatically search for better prices for you.
  • Join the car rental company’s loyalty program and see if your credit card includes elite status. This can help not only ensure there’s a car waiting for you but may also allow you you skip the line.
  • If all else fails, consider a car-sharing service like Turo, explore off-airport rental locations, or investigate local car dealerships in your destination. Some dealers will rent out their loaner cars to the public.
  • You could also explore getting a car through Uber or Lyft, as both companies operate rental services.

Relying on ride-hailing services

If you don’t want to stress about the rental car shortage or worry about parking fees, you may be inclined to use services like Uber or Lyft.

Unfortunately, you cannot always rely on these services, as the labor shortage has trickled down to ride-hailing companies in select cities.

Sometimes there are simply “no cars available” nearby. Or you may find yourself with a long wait time and prices that are double or triple what they typically were in pre-pandemic days.

Tips to prevent these issues

  • If one is available, consider renting a car — it may be pricey but will guarantee transportation when needed.
  • Stick with traditional taxi options, which can be cheaper and easier to book — but these are also not immune to supply issues.
  • Utilize public transportation where possible, even if it means more walking or changing lines to reach your destination.
  • When you must ensure a car is available at a certain time, splurge on high-end car services from a company such as Blacklane.

Not making reservations for everything

Gone are the days of rolling out of bed in your hotel room, hopping in your car and spontaneously driving to a nearby national park.

Select National Parks — including Glacier, Yosemite, and Arches — require advance reservations to enter, as well as permits for popular hikes. Even those that don’t require reservations may still limit capacity, meaning an earlier-than-usual wake-up time to guarantee entry.

Tips to prevent these issues

  • Take the time to map out your entire trip, especially if you intend to visit a theme park or a National Park.
  • Make advance reservations for must-do tours and activities and inquire about the company’s change and cancellation policies if you need to adjust.
  • Research your top restaurant choices beforehand, and determine which ones need reservations. Or consider relying on takeout.

Believing that everything will go wrong

The final mistake you want to avoid is in direct opposition to everything written above.

Don’t simply believe that everything will go wrong if you decide to travel this summer and even into the early fall months. Sure, there’s a lot that can go wrong, but for every horror story about canceled flights, no rental cars and $27 beer at the airport, there’s a competing story about things going perfectly.

Bottom line

It’s still possible to have a relatively painless travel experience, despite the above situations that may occur.

Even before the pandemic, travel was always a roll of the dice, requiring flexibility and patience. You won’t know if it’s going to work out until you’re back out there.

If you prepare for the worst, hope for the best and expect something in between, you’ll likely wind up all right.

Recent Posts