32 Things You're Doing Wrong When Planning a Vacation

Packing suitcase for travel vacation in new normal, top view.


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Packing suitcase for travel vacation in new normal, top view.

Getaway Gaffes

So, you've landed at a Jersey Shore town during its annual motorcycle convention? Don't even think of getting any sleep. Or maybe you were looking for some dazzling nightlife but end up at a resort where the weekly bingo game is as exciting as it gets. A bit of smart planning will make all the difference in creating a vacation that's memorable — for all the right reasons. 

Related: 50 Affordable Vacations to Add to Your Bucket List

Hurricane Andrew

You Skip Travel Insurance

If the past three years have taught us anything through sudden cruise cancellations and diverted trips abroad, it's that investing a little in travel insurance may not be a bad idea. It can be pricey, however, and it's smart to ask questions about any policy to find out what it covers — and what it doesn't. It's also smart to determine how much of your investment will come back to you if you do file a claim. Also, determine whether you need basic or comprehensive coverage. A basic plan will cover lost baggage or needing to change plans due to sickness, while a comprehensive plan will be the best (and priciest) coverage if things go really wrong, such as a natural disaster decimating your vacation spot. 

Related: Your Flight Is Canceled or Delayed: What Can You Do?

You Don't Consider the Season

You Don't Consider the Season

Make sure you find out if the dates you'll be visiting would place you at a destination during its rainy season or worse. There's nothing like expecting to frolic your time away jumping in the waves — but finding the ocean's off-limits day after day due to riptides or impending storms. 

Related: Water-Safety Tips That Could Save You From a Swimming Disaster

You Don't Ask About Events

You Don't Ask About Special Events

If you're headed to a destination to participate in a special event, then you're right on track. But imagine a senior couple's surprise if they arrive at a long-awaited escape to be smack in the middle of raucous spring-break activities. Know the calendar; know what you want.

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beach resort

You Don't Check on Resort Fees

Be meticulous when making reservations to find out what's included and what isn't. Are there additional charges for drinks, towels, shuttle services, etc.? You may not like what you hear, but at least you'll be prepared. 

Related: How the Travel Industry Picks Your Pocket

hotel reception

You Don't Ask About Deals

If you're shy or worried about sounding cheap, then you'll pay the price. Ask about deals. Do you get a discount if you come mid-week? What about early bird booking rates? Do you offer discounts in your restaurants? Ask and you may get some answers that make your trip a bit more economical.

You Don't Use Search Engines

You Don't Use Search Engines

These days, most every destination, mode of transportation or deal can be investigated online. So you have no excuse to not seek out the best available. A few hours of research on a quiet spring morning can lead to some great savings on the height-of-summer stay at a popular destination.

reading online reviews
SDI Productions/istockphoto

You Read But Don't Heed the Reviews

You spend time on TripAdvisor deciding where to stay, what to do, and where to eat. Of course, everyone's had a bad meal here or there, but if things you are looking up have a wealth of questionable or negative reviews, pay attention. There is strength in numbers.

You Don't Ask About Pet Policies

You Don't Ask About Pet Policies

A friend traveled to a tony resort, assuming her little dog would be welcomed with open arms. He goes everywhere with her, and the chic resort was known for its catering to an equally chic clientele. Unfortunately, it was assumed that the rich clientele would be boarding their beloved pets in town, not on site … a little investigating would have yielded a lot less drama. 

Related: Pet-Friendly Hotels in the U.S. To Visit With Your Four-Legged Friend

You Don't Think About the Kids

You Neglect the 'Child' Issue

This one goes two ways. You are on the hunt for a family-friendly resort where kids and their antics are understood and accepted — or you're all about "do not disturb" and lounging on the deck under the stars on a child-free vacation. Be precise when asking a hotel about its clientele — and match your pick with the vacation you want. And consider these tips for traveling with kids, too.

You Fail to Consider Local Transportation

You Fail to Consider Local Transportation

You might find the most charming bed-and-breakfast, with quiet meadows, inviting benches and garden hideaways. Once there, you realize the nearest town is a full 10 miles away and you don't have a car. Again, ask the questions you need to tailor the trip to your wants.

You Don't Read the Rental Car Contract

You Don't Read the Rental Car Contract

Surcharges, late-return fees … nothing ends an otherwise fun vacation on a sour note than returning the rental car and finding you did so much "wrong." Fees add up. Your only choice is to fork over the credit card, as your flight is leaving soon. Not the way to go. There are a lot of things to know before renting a car.

You Don't Investigate the Cruises' Inclusives
Joel Carillet/istockphoto

You Don't Investigate the Cruise's Inclusives

First-time cruise patrons will no doubt delight in all that a cruise includes. But they will likely also be shocked to find out what isn't. Though amenities vary widely from one line to another, it pays to ask if you have specific interests, tastes and/or need to stay on a tight budget. 

Related: 24 Tips for Smooth Sailing on Your Next Cruise

You Don't Take Advantage of Costco Travel

You Don't Take Advantage of Costco Travel

Have a Costco card? Then you may — or may not — know that your membership entitles you to use the Costco Travel services, which include deals on hotels, vacation packages, rental cars, and destination activities and attractions. Not a member? You can apply here.

You Fail to Ask for Association Discounts

You Fail to Ask for Association Discounts

Alumni renewals often come with a host of benefits. Take a look and you might be surprised to find out you get discounts on rental cars, hotel chains or more. Same goes for corporate discounts, AARP specials, and more. Ask — all they can do is say no. 

Related: Age Pays: 100+ Senior Discounts (Some Starting at Age 50!)

You Don't Consider Your Pace

You Don't Consider Your Pace

You like nothing more than a quiet weekend at home. So why have you booked yourself on a trip that resembles that classic movie "If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium"? Sure, we like to take a break from the everyday on vacation, but don't expect to fundamentally change who you are.

You Assume the Weather Will Be Ideal

You Assume the Weather Will Be Ideal

You leave home without an umbrella, scarf or anything else that will "jinx" having a vacation filled with ideal weather. Know that a little rain must fall on even the best of trips, so be prepared with equipment and plans for "rainy-day" activities.

You Forget Hidden Fees

You Forget Hidden Fees on All Modes of Transport

Fuel surcharges, baggage fees, peak-hour train tickets … again, it's best to be prepared and know what you'll be facing. You may not like what you hear but sometimes you can take, for example, a commuter train an hour after peak travel times and save a few bucks. It will add up.

You Don't Consider Regional Price Changes

You Don't Consider Regional Price Changes

You are heading to a big city for a trip. You don't expect to live the high life — but you also don't expect that the cost of living to be so much higher than what you're used to. Things like a regular cup of coffee can be two or three times what you're expecting to pay.

You Don't Speak the Language

You Don't Speak the Language (Even a Little Bit)

You don't have to become fluent in the language of the country you are visiting, but don't assume "everyone speaks English" everywhere. Study a bit. Buy a translation dictionary or app — and the effort will pay off with better service and lots less stress.

You Think a Guidebook is a Waste of Money

You Think a Guidebook Is a Waste of Money

You don't have to create a library devoted to your chosen destination, but a well-selected guidebook and a handy map can pay off immensely. Find a book with a sensibility (cheeky or academic) that mirrors your approach — and you'll surely get more out of your trip.

You Assume Everyone Has Free Wi-Fi

You Assume Everyone Has Free Wi-Fi

Ask, oh, ask. These days when we're all so tied to our electronics, it's quite a shock to arrive to find a hotel's Wi-Fi is either wildly expensive or horribly spotty. If you have to check in for work (grrrr), it's even more important to follow this step.  

You Forgot to Mention Guests

You Forget to Mention Guests

So, you'll be staying in a town where you have relatives. And maybe a few of them decide to bunk in with you one night after a little too much celebrating. Don't be shocked if the hotel charges you for additional guests. Find out the policy — and be ready.

You Assume Medical Care Will Be Readily Available

You Assume Medical Care Will Be Readily Available

If you have a medical condition — or are accident-prone ­— find out what medical services are available, if they are on-site, and if they operate all hours. Vacation towns often have "walk-in" centers, but they aren't usually open 24 hours.

You Don't Ask About a Gym

You Fail to Ask About a Gym

If you can't start your day without your hour in the gym, you may be quite upset to find out that the in-house gym has two treadmills — for 100 guests. If you need top-notch equipment, ask specific questions — or find out about day passes to the nearest "real" gym. 

Related: 'Anywhere Exercises' for Staying in Shape on the Road

You Don't Account for Laundry

You Don't Account for Laundry

On-site laundry, especially in beachside motels, can be a necessity. Who wants to spend their vacation in a steamy, grimy laundromat? If it's a short stay, then you can bring it all home — but for longer stays — or those with large families and so many wet towels — laundry's part of the deal.

You Don't Clarify Reservation Policies

You Don't Clarify Reservation Policies

You have to cancel or shorten a trip at the last minute. You can go at a later date, but it's usually not that easy. There are re-booking fees and more that you find were detailed in that fine print you glossed over. Be smart, read it all.

You Assume Attractions Are As Close As They Say

You Assume Attractions Are as Close as They Say

During a first stay at a motel "one block from the beach," we realized they weren't lying. But let me tell you, that's the longest block you'll ever walk, especially in summer heat and lugging beach gear. Again, ask questions, look at maps and be ready for some glitches. (In this case, the phrase "one block from the beach" has become a running family joke.)

You Figure Parking is Free

You Figure Parking Is Free

Again, you are staying at a place with a plain-old parking lot in the back. Well, they know they can charge "outsiders" to park there as well as guests — so everyone must fork over a few bucks for the privilege. Ouch.

You Don't Plan for a Financial Emergency

You Don't Plan for a Financial Emergency

A long time ago in a remote British village, I ran out of pounds. So, I headed to the bank to find it was only open from 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays — and this was a Friday morning. Well, those days are long gone — but be sure you have an ATM card you can use where you're going and some kind of emergency plan in place.

You Assumed Accommodations Would Be Clean

You Assumed Your Accommodations Would Be Clean

We can still see the bathroom at a motel we never revisited — we bought flip-flops just to use the shower. Of course, places won't advertise if they're on the skanky side — but do your research. Reviews that consistently mention clean rooms point to worthy places.


You Don't Get Vaccinated

Maybe you haven't had the time to get a shot (or a booster) and, in the rush to pack your bags, it's not even on your to-do list. Big mistake. Some countries are requiring proof of vaccination for entry. And don't forget your I.D., either, as that will also be necessary to prove you are the person who received the shot. You may also need proof of a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of your flight, so plan accordingly. 

You Forget About the Fun

You Forget It's All About Fun

Don't get so caught up in the planning that you forget the purpose of a vacation. Plan well, but remember, it's all about seeing new things, having new experiences, spending quality time with those you love — and coming home refreshed with good — not horror — stories. 

Related: Fun Day Trips for Families in Every State