I get approached by people from time to time, asking about the best travel tips right now. While I love to share information on things to do, I thought it would be equally helpful on things NOT to do. I hate that some people are so careful about picking the perfect destination, then make these AVOIDABLE (and sometimes expensive) travel mistakes.
NOT Purchasing Travel Insurance
While I will always explain that Travel Insurance is not a requirement, I always, ALWAYS, highly recommend it! Especially in the last couple years, travel insurance can make such a big difference if something arises that affects your travel plans. It's important to read the details of the coverage provided, as they are not all equal. However, as a general rule, they will help you recover money for expenses due to travel delays or cancellations (missed connecting flights due to flight delays or cancellations), lost or damaged luggage (getting to your tropical vacation without that swimsuit), and medical coverage (most health insurance you use at home will not cover expenses internationally.)
A fellow agent recently messaged in a panic this week about a client who fell, breaking her hip and leg in Mexico and needed surgery on Sunday. The client was scheduled to be released and cleared for travel home on Tuesday. The agent had to reschedule flights home that would accommodate her post-surgical medical condition. The panic came when she recalled the client had signed a waiver declining insurance, the client telling her she would find her own later. The client never relayed information about the insurance before the trip and they were having trouble determining if the client actually had a policy. The cost of emergency medical treatment, surgery, and special flight assistance needed to return home could quickly add up to a nightmare for that client, if she doesn't have travel insurance to help reimburse her for some of those costs. Some countries will require proof of insurance or ability to pay BEFORE any treatment is started! Better to have it an not need it, than need it and not have it!
If you can, purchase a Cancel For Any Reason plan that will be more flexible than traditional policies. Whatever you purchase, read through the coverage limitations and inclusions, so that you know what you're getting.
Booking the Least Expensive and Least Flexible Flight Options
I get it, no one likes to pay a big chunk of their vacation funds on the flights to and from. While getting well-priced flights always feels like a win, that feeling may wane if you go for the least expensive and least flexible flight options. Getting the non-refundable, basic economy flight may seem like a sound decision financially until you realize how restrict it can be. Each airline has their own terms of service for the most basic flight fare, but include additional fees for things like requesting seat assignments prior to check in and checked bags (sometimes fees for carry on bags!) You may also notice that while airlines are offering no change fees for some fares, they are not offering cancellation or change accommodations for the basic economy fares.
You also need to consider the flight details. Are you saving $500 but have multiple stops and a 13+ hour layover at one of them? It seems like a great savings on paper, until you're spending money for meals at multiple airports and maybe adding a hotel stay at those lengthy layover stops. Spending more time travelling and getting to your destination exhausted it NOT the way to start a dream vacation!
Eating Only at Expensive Touristy Restaurants
Most destinations have areas that cater to tourists, offering "tourist friendly" menus, amid dozens of shops to buy tchotchke souvenirs. You probably won't find many locals shopping or eating in these areas because they are more expensive than other areas of the city. Heading out even a few blocks from these tourist zones, you can find restaurants that are a better value, providing a more authentic dining experience, meeting locals in the process. You may even find these restaurants among shops that can provide a more meaningful momento than an "I ♥ (destination)" shot glass.
This one comes with a caveat: know your destination! Do your research ahead of time about locations where it is safe to travel beyond the tourist zones. Just like some US cities, some areas have their tourist safe areas on the outskirts of neighborhoods where crime is prevalent. We don't want your authentic experience to include an assault or robbery because you inadvertently wandered onto the wrong street.
While getting a "deal" may feel good, you really need to think about the VALUE you're getting for what you are paying for. Avoid these common mistakes and make your vacation a pleasant experience, memorable for all the RIGHT reasons!