1. HANDING YOUR MOST INDISPENSABLE POSSESSIONS TO A STRANGER.
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 thin pack or pouch inside your carry-on so that, 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.
2. MISSING OUT ON THE ROYAL HOTEL TREATMENT.
Next time you book a luxe getaway celebrating a milestone occasion such as a big birthday or wedding anniversary, let the hotel know the reason for your visit. Inform the front desk at check-in or, better yet, the general manager by e-mail before you arrive. Hotels often provide a fre
e upgrade or do something extra to make your stay memorable so that you’ll take photos, tell friends, and return for future celebrations.
3. GETTING RIPPED OFF BY YOUR CREDIT CARD.
Not long ago the only way to escape a three percent foreign-transaction fee was a Capital One card, but Chase now has ten travel-rewards credit cards that waive the surcharge on overseas transactions; many offer great additional travel perks (such as double points for dining or free checked baggage) and are free for the first year, so you can try them and, if you’re not pleased, dump them before paying an annual fee. The American Express Platinum Card, too, now waives foreign-transaction charges
4. BEING SCARED AWAY FROM A FASCINATING DESTINATION.
Don’t rule out a trip based solely on Travel Alert or Travel Warning. They are often influenced by politics and are written not just for travelers but for diplomatic officers and dual nationals who end up in places and situations that everyday tourists do not. Many security experts say that State Department Travel Warnings should be taken with a grain of salt, and sure enough, over the years I’ve visited destinations for which Travel Warnings were in place (Colombia, Egypt, Fiji, Lebanon, Mexico, and Turkey) only to enjoy some of the most rewarding travel moments of my life. Typically, sights are delightfully uncrowded, prices are low, security is high, and the locals are thrilled to have you. Sure, sometimes a place really is too risky to visit (thanks to political strife, natural disasters, or other unrest), which is why in addition to checking the official travel advice, always get a second opinion.
5. WASTING PRECIOUS HOURS AT YOUR DESTINATION FUMBLING WITH LOCAL LOGISTICS.
There are times when you need a stellar concierge but you’re not staying at a stellar hotel. Don’t let that stop you. Find the nearest five-star hotel and march right up to the concierge desk. Good concierges can provide an English-speaking driver or guide, a reliable doctor, hard-to-get tickets, a walking route, or instructions for cab drivers written in the local language. They are usually happy to help even if you’re not staying at their hotel—as long as you’re not pushing in front of guests. Just be sure to tip.
6. PAYING AIRLINE TICKET-CHANGE FEES.
Don’t forget that there are ways around the painfully punitive $200 change fees levied by American, Delta, and United. JetBlue and Virgin America charge only $100, and Southwest charges no change fees at all. American now offers a Choice Essential Fare option: For an extra $68, you avoid any change fee and you also get one checked bag and Group 1 Boarding.
7. FAILING TO VISIT THE ONE PLACE ON YOUR CRUISE ITINERARY THAT WAS YOUR TOP PRIORITY.
Many people choose a cruise for that one port of call they’ve always dreamed of seeing. Then, thanks to bad weather, rough seas, a labor strike, a safety threat, or some other unforeseen reason, the cruise line cancels the port call—with no possibility of a rain check (and no compensation, either). If your life’s dream is to see the Colosseum or the Acropolis, book a cruise that starts or ends in Rome or Athens, rather than stopping there mid-cruise
8. LOSING OUT ON V.I.P. HOTEL PERKS AND FREE NIGHTS.
Too few travelers—even those who are mileage- and points-obsessed—are aware that hotel credit cards can save you hundreds of dollars, yielding benefits worth far more than the card’s fee. The Fairmont Visa, for instance, provides two free nights plus breakfast, elite status that means free in-room Internet, and $50 in savings on meals or spa services— and the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. The Hyatt Visa provides two free nights at any Hyatt worldwide (including $700-a-night Park Hyatts in Paris and Tokyo)—as well as elite status, which in turn yields free Internet and upgrades based on availability—¬for $75 a year.
9. GETTING STUCK PAYING FOR RENTAL-CAR DAMAGES YOU DIDN’T CAUSE.
It’s just not enough to have a credit card that provides collision-damage coverage and to check your car at pickup for scratches or dents. Be sure to photograph any preexisting damage (outside and inside the car), with a time/date stamp, and get a written record of the state of the car at pickup. Only return the car when the office is open, and request a written record that you returned a damage-free car.
10. LACKING ENOUGH MILES FOR THE AIRLINE TICKETS OR UPGRADES YOU WANT.
Even mileage junkies who sign up for all the right points-earning credit cards forget that they can amass thousands of miles when shopping for their favorite brands online: Log on to your account on your preferred airline’s Web site and click to its retail shopping portal, which links to hundreds of brand-name retailers, and rack up two to ten more miles per dollar spent.
11. ASSUMING YOUR PASSPORT IS VALID UNTIL IT EXPIRES.
You checked the expiration date on your passport to make sure it precedes the date of your flight home, but you forgot that certain countries—China, Russia, and the U.A.E., among others—¬require that passports be valid for six months past the date of your flight home, and 26 European nations require that passports be valid for three months past. Check for entry and exit requirements for the destination you’re headed to next.
12. MAKING SURE EVERYONE KNOWS YOU’RE A TOURIST.
Nothing marks you as an out-of-towner more than your brand-new white sneakers. Comfy footwear is a must, but the goal is to blend in, so pack beloved broken-in shoes and buy new ones upon your return (to break in for the next trip). Similarly, pack old clothes that you’re ready to throw out; leave them behind at your destination to make room in your bag for clothing you buy locally—which helps you blend in and makes for good souvenirs.