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: FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney has seen a disaster or two.
1. Don’t get PreCheck for security
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 holidays.
2. Pack a big bag
Most airlines charge a $50 roundtrip fee for a big checked-bag which we find rather disastrous since you could use the money for something a lot more fun. A good meal in a great restaurant? So pack a carry-on bag which is free on most airlines, though there are a few exceptions including Spirit and Frontier which charge for all bags. Even if you must pay for a carry-on, bring one anyway because airlines can’t lose a bag that travels by your side. But what if you have a big bag and disaster strikes? What to do when your bag is lost.
3. Throw away your receipts
Warning: If you toss out your receipts, you may have trouble filling out a claim form with the airline if your flight is delayed or cancelled or bags get lost. Airlines insist all claims 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 delete things by mistake.
Like having a choice of outfits? Pack as much as you like and be sure to include lots 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) and that’s in addition to the regular checked-bag fee. If you must pack a large suitcase, be sure it weighs under 50 lbs. before you leave for the airport; most overweight fees kick in at 51 lbs.
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.