‘Why do they let this woman out on her own?”
You may be asking yourself that after you read this. But at least you are getting the unfiltered truth: I am not a travel superhero. In fact, when it comes to travel details, I’m probably a C-/D+ student, which means pretty much everyone is better at this than I.
I almost always learn from my mistakes, and isn’t that the point — besides not making them in the first place? Of course it is. Here then are my dumbest mistakes of 2019.
Use it immediately or lose it. The “it,” in this case is either something you put in a Word doc and save or, in my case, enter into a travel planning app. I use the Tripit app, partly because it will self-populate your itinerary if you send your plans to the specified email address. If you don’t and you are so lazy that you use your email as a filing cabinet, you’ll be OK, but only if you remember the name of the airline, the hotel and the car rental company.
I knew the first two but could not remember No. 3 and had no idea from whom I’d rented. No matter. I would find it while awaiting my flight. Searching my email for “car rental” and “auto rental” yielded no results. I paid for Wi-Fi on the plane so I could continue to look.
Five minutes before landing, I found it. But that nap I planned didn’t happen, nor did the cloak of serenity I try to travel in wrap me in its embrace.
Solutions: Save your plans when you make your plans, either by using an app or taking notes you can find later (that is, not sent to yourself in an email).
Quit rushing and take pictures of that rental car. I blame that absent cloak of serenity for my failure to do this when I picked up that demon car. At least I remembered to fill out the damage report and keep a copy. When I returned from the rest of the trip about 10 days later, I had a $900 bill for damage I didn’t cause. Photos are the ultimate defense, but the case was closed because my damage report showed that spot “bigger than a quarter.”
The good news, if there is any good news to being remiss: I charged the car to the card that offers primary car rental coverage. It’s not much of a backup plan, but it’s a good ace to hold.
Solutions: Have your smartphone in your hand when you’re signing the rental contract. And be sure that the credit card you’re using provides the coverage you need.
Pay attention when a customs official gives you a piece of paper and put it someplace safe. Then remember where that is. One of the hazards of flying is that it makes you kind of dopey, a double hazard if you already are. The other hazard: You accumulate lots of paper.
After four days in Mexico, I was flying home on Thanksgiving, and the only thing that stood between me and the feast was … my Mexico tourist card. I vaguely remember filling it out arriving in Puerto Vallarta and having it returned to me.
You know how they say that what you’re looking for is always the last thing you find? I sorted through 899 pieces of paper in my briefcase. The tourist card was No. 900.
Solution: Organization is the prerequisite to knowledge.
Check your itinerary well before you leave. I had bought two one-way tickets because I was flying from one airport and returning to another. When I entered my plans into my travel app, I realized I’d booked my outbound ticket as my inbound ticket and vice versa. Fortunately, this was Southwest so my financial penalty was only the increased cost of the trip.
Solution: Check your reservations as you make them.
Leave a detailed itinerary with trusted friends and family members (plural). This should include how you’re getting from the airport to where you’re staying, along with names, telephone numbers of where you’re staying and confirmation numbers of your flights. And if you have extra medical insurance or evacuation insurance, note that too, along with your policy number and the telephone number. Include your emergency contacts and keep that information on you.
If this seems like too much information, consider this: If you are unconscious or sedated, someone will need to act for you. You want someone who is clear-headed and will, for example, remember to cancel your flight because you’re not going anywhere, at least, not then.
Solution: These plans aren’t state secrets. Give them up.