Above: Departure Timetable – istockphoto.com/alexsl
Even the savviest jet-setter can make simple travel mistakes. We’ve seen frequent fliers turned away at the gate for passport issues and watched grown men scream at an automated answering service over booking mix-ups. Start the New Year right and resolve to travel like a pro.
1. NOT CHECKING YOUR PASSPORT
Just checking your passport’s expiration date is not enough. Check that it is valid for six months after your return flight. Countries like China, Russia and the UAE require six months, and twenty-six European nations require passports to be valid for three months after travel. Make sure you have at least one blank page in your passport. Some countries will not allow you in if they have to stamp a page that is already marked. (We have no idea why.) If you find yourself with an expired passport, you can shell out $60 to cut new passport processing time to two to three weeks. But if you’re planning to board a plane in less than two weeks, make an appointment at your local passport agency by calling 877-487-2778. And, of course, ensure that you have the proper visa for the country you are visiting. Remember that you must be ticketed exactly as your passport reads or you won’t be allowed to board your flight. (Visit travel.state.gov for a list of destinations that require the extra six months and visas.)
2. NOT TAKING HARD COPIES OF YOUR TRAVEL PLANS
Phone battery dead? Phone lost? No Internet connection? Good luck finding your hotel, car reservation, etc. Create and print a list of pertinent phone numbers, confirmation numbers, addresses and flight information. It’s also a good idea to have a copy of your passport and health insurance card.
3. NOT ARRIVING WITH CASH IN HAND
Yes, we’ve all heard that exchange rates at the cash windows in the airport are awful. What’s worse? Getting in a cab with no cash and wandering around a foreign country looking for a cash machine.
4. ACCIDENTALLY CHECKING YOUR VALUABLES
You never know when you might be forced to gate-check your hand luggage. Place your jewelry, iPad, camera, house and car keys, medication, and anything else you can’t live without in a removable pouch inside your carry-on. This way if you must surrender your carry-on to a flight attendant at the last minute because the overhead bins are full, you can remove the smaller bag and keep an eye on it beneath the seat in front of you.
5. BOOKING ALL OF YOUR TRAVEL ONLINE
A robot can’t help you when you miss your flight, your luggage is lost or the hotel doesn’t have your reservation. (Really, the list goes on and on.) The travel agent is not dead and is your best resource when something goes wrong. If you’re a DIY-er, at least book directly through the hotel and airline.