Five travel mistakes people make, and will probably make again

Everyone makes mistakes. Picture: Hans Gerwitz

I LIKE to think I’m a savvy traveller. I can go for a week with just a small backpack and I haven’t checked luggage in a decade.

I’ve organised all my foreign currency in a file and have little charts with the exchange rates calculated out. I do my research on how much taxi fares should be at my destination and make sure I have printed documents as backups to the digital ones on my phone.

I’m also cautious and try to prepare for anything that might go wrong on a trip.

While all this effort may help, I still make mistakes. Here are some of my most embarrassing ones.

1. Paying with the wrong currency

I’ve done this more than once. The first time, I had an overnight connection in Istanbul and had to stay at a hotel where I proceeded to have dinner at the hotel restaurant. As I was on my way to somewhere in Europe I had only euros and US dollars (I’m an American).

When the bill came for our dinner, it said 50.00. I thought that was a bit high but since we had ordered a bottle of wine, I considered it accurate and laid that amount down on the bill and headed to my room.

It wasn’t until the next day that I had realised what I had done: I had paid 50 euros ($78) instead of 50 Turkish lira, a difference of around $54.

I’m sure the waiter could use it and it probably made his week. In the big scheme of things, I’m none the worst for it.

You’d think I would have learned my lesson but, on my next trip when arriving late at night in Hong Kong, I mistakenly took money out of the wrong wallet (I keep my currencies separated in coloured zippered pouches) and paid the taxi driver in Australian dollars versus Hong Kong dollars.

This was a much more costly mistake than my Istanbul dinner.

2. Booking my hotel for the wrong night

My friends have done this too, so I don’t feel so bad about this one. There’s nothing quite as disorienting as arriving at your hotel late at night and your reservation can’t be found because you booked it for the previous night.

I’ve only done this once, but I felt quite stupid. And I’m not sure why when we book the wrong night that it is usually the previous night instead of the following, which might be more easily corrected.

In another case, my friend thought I had booked the hotel and I thought she had booked the hotel, and it turned out that neither of us had booked it.

We had a good laugh about that one after we asked the desk clerk to use the internet so we could find our reservation. Then we used the internet to just book a new one.

3. Not checking visa requirements

How could any American book a trip to Australia and not realise the need for a visa!? I was so excited to find the dirt cheap fare to Sydney that I never even thought that a visa might be required for a US citizen. What was I thinking?

I always check for visa requirements before I book an international flight to somewhere I haven’t been. Not this time!

When I arrived at the airport, the gate agent was unable to check me in. Luckily, when he found out I needed a visa and didn’t have one, he let me come around the counter and apply online for the e-visa (it’s a very small airport).

I’m also lucky that he gave me my boarding passes for Detroit and Los Angeles and wished me luck that the visa would clear before I got to Los Angeles. It did.

4. Not double checking reservations and seating assignments

Please not the middle seat. Picture: Thirteen of Clubs

Please not the middle seat. Picture: Thirteen of Clubs

There’s no excuse for getting on a plane for an international flight and just then realising you’re in a middle seat in the back of the plane when you know you’ve selected a bulk head seat in the front next to your travel companion, but this is exactly what happened.

My friend and I always select our seats together and double check them closer to departure. However, planes do get swapped out and other mysterious things can happen which can result in you getting a different seat, so I should know better.

I’m becoming diligent, however, in checking all of my itineraries on a regular basis. Just this morning, I checked a flight I’m taking in November and noticed that the connection was now overnight versus a same-day connection. There wasn’t even an email notice of a schedule change.

Since we’re going to Petra in Amman for just a few days, this was a very critical change. It was sorted out quickly but had I noticed in closer to departure or worse yet, at check-in, it may not have been so simple to correct.

5. Forgetting to book a positioning flight home

This is another one I have only done once, but once was enough. Many times, I’ve picked up a mistake fare from another city and then secured a positioning flight to/from that city. (A positioning flight is one that takes you from an expensive airport to a cheaper airport, letting you get a better deal on the longer leg of your flight at the cheaper airport.)

Somehow in the confusion of multiple itineraries, I secured a flight to Chicago but when I landed in Chicago on the return, I realised I had not booked the return flight to my home airport.

Fortunately, my frequent flyer miles came to the rescue and I was on a flight in no time. And thanks to my travelling friend, I now use Worldmate which combines separate flights and other reservations into one itinerary.

This story originally appeared on The Frugal Travel Guy.

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