By SHANNON KELLY
Some or all of the following common travel mistakes are ones we’ve personally made. Learn from the error of our ways and start out (and end) your next vacation on the right foot!
1. Be unaware of rental car restrictions. Some rental companies do not allow their cars across international borders—so your day trip to Glacier National Park in the U.S. from Canada’s Waterton National Park could be a bust if you don’t choose the right rental company. Some companies allow border crossings, but add per-day charges. Unlimited-kilometre rentals may not be available for out-of-province travel. All companies incur an extra fee for renters under the age of 25, and may add an extra fee for multiple drivers who are not related.
2. Rack up massive cell phone charges. Know the limitations of you phone plan before you travel. Some plans charge astronomical rates for roaming, and in Canada roaming can mean making a call from a destination an hour outside your hometown. Data and Wi-Fi fees can be even more expensive. Call your provider if you’re not sure how much you’ll pay to use your phone on vacation.
3. Be in the dark about the details of your credit card travel perks. Many credit cards have travel perks like car-rental insurance or trip insurance. Not using those perks and paying for the coverage separately can cost you some money, but it probably won’t ruin your trip. What may ruin a trip, however, is being fuzzy about the insurance-coverage details, using the coverage, getting in an accident and realizing the coverage had a huge deductible, a small limit, or didn’t cover the rental company’s loss-of-use fee or the type of vehicle you rented (SUVs, pickups and luxury cars are the most common exclusions). Do your homework and read the fine print.
4. Don’t tell your credit-card company about your plans. This is usually only be a problem for international travel—a credit-card company may place a hold on your card, preventing you from using it until you call them, if you make purchases overseas. But any activity that’s uncharacteristic for you can cause your card to be flagged. It never hurts to inform your credit card company of your travel plans so you’re not up a creek without any means to pay for a paddle.
5. Pack too much…or too little. Carrying a heavy bag—even if it’s only through the airport—can put you in a bad mood (or put your back out) before your trip has even started. Even if you intend to take cabs or drive everywhere, you might be thrown for a loop (like discovering that your hotel is three pedestrian-only blocks away from the road). And if you overpack, where’s the room for unexpected purchases? The other side of the coin is packing too little and kicking yourself for leaving worthwhile conveniences behind. If you need to get some serious shut-eye on the plane, just suck it up and bring the travel pillow. Is it realistic to assume you’ll do laundry on your eight-day vacation, and will those four extra pairs of undies really bog you down? (Gentlemen?) Aim for a relaxing vacation rather than the light packer of the year award.
6. Pack the Wrong Stuff. Research the weather where you’ll be staying—don’t pack simply for the weather you hope for or make assumptions. For example, in the Rockies, temperatures can be freezing (literally 0°C) at night—in August. Packing only shorts and t-shirts would not be smart. If you plan to do any special tours or activities you’ve never done before, call ahead to see what you’ll need. Sandals and horseback riding do not mix.
7. Plan everything online. We’ve already mentioned that speaking to a human being is a good idea in many cases. It’s unbelievably convenient to do all your planning online these days, but here are a few instances where you should pick up the phone—or risk major disappointment: to confirm your hotel, tour or dinner reservation; to make sure the sights you want to see are open on the days you want to see them; to ask about age, weight or other restrictions on activities; to confirm distances and travel times you’ve plotted out using online maps.
8. Fail to communicate with your travel companions. You’ve created the perfect itinerary, booked the tours, allotted the right amount of time for everything you want to see and do…but your partner in travel had different ideas. Maybe s/he wants to wander the streets to find a casual cafe for lunch and you had your heart set on a sea-view table at a posh restaurant. Just because the planning was left to you doesn’t mean all your choices will be popular. Communicate ahead of time about what you’ll do on your trip.
9. Overbook. You want to see everything, but more often than not, you just can’t. Deal with it. Pick a few must-sees, then some second-tier choices, and leave the rest to serendipitous discovery, which can be the highlight of your trip. And for goodness sake, build a few breaks into your itinerary. A vacation is supposed to be fun, not a marathon.
10. Be inflexible. Plans change. Hotels lose reservations, the museum exhibit you’ve been dying to see is closed for renovations, your travel companion gets a migraine and can’t attend the concert you’ve paid for. Shake it off and allow the possibility that a new plan may be even better than the original. If your partner or buddy can’t or won’t stick to the plan, consider doing your own thing for a while. You may be surprised at how rewarding going with the flow can be.