How to Avoid Travel Snafus in 2019
We all love traveling, but there's nothing like an unforeseen snafu to make you wish you could have a vacation from your vacation. Never fear, though. With a bit of preparation and this handy list, you'll ensure a vacation is a break from problems, not just a whole new set of problems in a brand-new place.
Before you book, familiarize yourself with an airline's change policies. Some will allow you to change a reservation within 24 hours of booking, some will charge a change fee, and others are bigger sticklers. It may be worth buying insurance for a trip, which will make it easier to change tickets in case of an emergency.
According to new federal law, residents of states whose IDs don't meet minimum security regulations must have a RealID to board a commercial flight. As of the fall, 37 states were compliant with those minimum security regulations, but it's worth checking the Department of Homeland Security website to make sure you live in one of them. If not, head over to the local RMV or DMV to make sure you have the right ID before the changes are enforced in 2020. (Alternatively, you'll still be able to use a passport.)
Depending on the reason a flight is canceled and how long you're stranded, you may be entitled to some compensation from an airline. To avoid being stranded in the first place, though, try booking early morning flights so there's a full day ahead of flights you can be rebooked on. You can check on a flight's statistical average for cancellations at FlightStats.
Before booking a trip, check your passport's expiration date — some countries, including Russia and China, require that a passport be valid for six months past the date of your return flight, and many European nations require passports be valid three months past your departure. Keep in mind that the renewal process can take up to six weeks, but if you're in New York City or a few other cities, it's possible to expedite the process.
There's no way to guarantee you won't be bumped from a flight, but checking in early makes it less likely. Download the app for your airline beforehand, so if you are bumped, you can rebook a new flight speedily.
Give yourself plenty of time to get through security, head to your gate, and stop for shopping or snacks if needed. Just bring a carry-on to save some time, and make sure to look into how big the airport is. The difference between a five-minute walk to a gate and a 15-minute walk could be the difference between making or missing a flight.
Check beforehand with your airline for maximum baggage sizes. Delta, JetBlue, and American are 45 linear inches (22 x 14 x 9) or 115 centimeters (56 x 36 x 23). At Southwest, the maximum size in inches is 24 x 16 x 10. The Carry On Guy has the details.
If you're extra tall or overweight, you may not fit into the airplane seat. Some airlines may want you to buy a second seat, but there are sometimes ways around it. Check in online a bit early and grab a roomier exit row seat if you can. Or see what the refund policy is if you buy an extra seat and don't need it — some airlines will accommodate you. If you're not sure if you'll fit as you're boarding, talk to the flight attendant about options. They may allow you to trade seats with someone who has a bit more room.
It's always best to pack at least a change of clothes in a carry-on, just to be safe. If luggage goes missing, contact the airline immediately. Some will offer vouchers for necessities.
If you're flying, check on charging stations at the airport and allow time to juice up before you go. Try to have devices charging a few hours before you leave. If you want to be extra careful, buy an external battery and keep it charged, so you don't have to find an outlet to keep your phone going.
A major health incident could cost thousands of dollars to address. Traveler insurance is the way to go. Get a comprehensive plan, which will cover any potential scenario. The two basic kinds of plans are vacation plans — covering things such as cancellations — and travel medical insurance. Look into both to ensure any mishaps are covered.
There's no time for being hangry when traveling. Exploring with low blood sugar is a great way to ensure you'll be tired and miserable, so make sure to bring some healthy snacks. Try something filling and easy to transport, such as a low-sugar protein bar or some mixed nuts.
Make sure to make paper copies of the most important contents of your wallet, and ideally, two copies — one for you to bring (and keep separate from your wallet), and one to leave with a trusted friend at home. If your identification is misplaced, replacing it will be a much smoother process.
A couple weeks before a trip — before travel stress sets in — take an inventory of what you'll want to bring. Are you visiting family, and promised to return something you borrowed last time? Are you prone to sunburn and heading off to a beach? Organize a list, print a copy, and post it somewhere central (and keep a copy on your phone as well). Set reminders on a phone for a couple days beforehand if there's something you're especially worried you'll forget.
This is basic: If you plan a trip around visiting somewhere special, it's worth making sure it won't be closed when you get there. Check websites for National Parks and other destinations to make sure you're not headed somewhere the one weekend it's closed for renovation.
Beware booking trips to places such as the Florida Panhandle and other Southern locations without doing a bit of research into things such as hurricane season. The National Hurricane Center is a great place to start the research.
Waiting to change dollars into different currencies at the airport will only eat away at a vacation budget. Look into fee-friendly banks, either near you or at your final destination.
Call your provider beforehand to make sure your phone will be functional when traveling internationally, and not subject to sky-high roaming fees. Some providers have temporary international plans you can buy so a phone will work seamlessly anywhere, at not much additional cost.
Call your bank and sort out what you need to do to ensure a card will work on your trip, especially without foreign transaction fees. You can even do this online with some banks. Most cards have chips now; if yours doesn't, see if you can get one — some countries are fully converted to chips, and you don't want to be stuck without a working card.
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program is a free service that allows U.S. citizens and nationals traveling and living abroad to register their trip with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. You'll get updates about safety conditions in your destination country and enable the embassy or family and friends to get in touch in an emergency.
With traffic deaths rising in the U.S., and considering the cost of travel health insurance for more elaborate trips, there's never an excuse to not wear a seatbelt. Make sure everyone is buckled up, no matter where you are.
A couple days before you set off, check the oil and air pressure in your car's tires. In case something wonky happens, the Red Cross recommends packing an emergency preparedness kit and supplies (including water, nonperishable food, a flashlight, batteries, phone chargers, and a first aid kit). It also may be worth looking into a AAA membership for speedy and reliable roadside assistance.
Plan ahead for road trip success not just by packing healthy snacks of fruits, vegetables, and nuts, but by having games on hand — digital and classic road-trip sightseeing ones — to keep everyone entertained. For longer drives, consider bringing a tablet or computer and download some movies ahead of time as well.
Plan some fun stops along the way, maybe a classic diner or bakery you'll be passing. A few chances to use the restroom, stretch your legs, and have some fun will work wonders for a road trip.
Cheapism.com participates in affiliate marketing programs, which means we may earn a commission if you choose to purchase a product through a link on our site. This helps support our work and does not influence editorial content.