6 Travel Mistakes You Don't Want to Make

6 Travel Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make

Heather and I generally travel well together. We do our research, weigh our options, and come to decisions that we both feel good about.  On trips we often praise ourselves for the fine job we did planning such a spectacular vacation. (Sadly, that’s true. We actually do.)

But, nobody’s perfect.

We have made our share of travel mistakes. We share them here in the hopes that you can avoid them on your own travels.

1. Traveling North for New Year’s

Recently we reviewed our impressions of Montreal. The city certainly has a lot of destination appeal. However, amid a record breaking cold snap this appeal plummets. We thought: how much colder can Montreal be compared to Boston at New Year’s? Answer: Nose snapping instant frostbite colder.

There’s a reason that people in the Northeast go south in the winter. I accept the logic now.

2. Rental Car Lines at Midnight

We traveled to one of our favorite destinations, Las Vegas, a couple of years ago and arrived shortly before midnight. We figured “Who’s going to be renting a car at midnight?” Well, apparently everyone in Las Vegas on a Friday night is in the airport renting a car. The more operative question would have been: “Who will be working the rental car desk at midnight?” And the answer to that would be only the three people not crafty enough to get out of that lousy shift. So, despite reserving our car weeks ahead of time, we waited over an hour and a half to pick it up.

The poor folks at the desk did their best, but the line was long and any glitch in a reservation caused massive delays. While Heather waited in line, I even scoured the other rental car providers still open at that hour to see if I could get an equivalent deal. No dice.

Never will we run this risk again at that hour. In the future, we will either schedule our flight to arrive earlier or just grab a cab to our hotel and get a car the next day.


6 Travel Mistakes You Don't Want to Make
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3. Passing Any Available Restroom

We love efficiency and hate inconvenient or unnecessary stops when we have the momentum working in our favor. But more than once we have passed on a potential restroom stop because we felt the lines were too long, it was on the wrong side of a busy road, or we just felt we could hang on a few more miles. Do not do this. On several of those occasions, we have regretted our decision when we discovered the next available restroom was not just “a few minutes down the road.” The resulting discomfort and irritability proved not worth the risk. Now we wait in the line, cross the busy road, and eschew the tough guy act.

Be comfortable when you travel. There are no bonus points for suffering.


4. Travel Partner Compatibility 

Heather and I have pretty similar tastes, so travel compatibility is not an issue for us. But in previous relationships, I have made the mistake of planning an ideal vacation for me without realizing that I have set up a vacation from hell for my travel partner. I once planned a multi-city jaunt through Italy with grand plans of strolling for hours through historic cities punctuated by long sojourns into world-renowned museums like the Uffizi in Florence.

What I failed to do was ask my partner “Do you like A) art museums,  B) hours of walking through cities, or C) history?” As I walked the two miles from my hotel at 7am to the Uffizi ticket line alone, it dawned on me that the answer to all of those questions was no, as well as the answer to “do you like to get up early when you travel?”

Ask the operative questions in order to determine what you and your travel companions like and dislike in a vacation before you go.

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5. Low in Blood Sugar, High on the Ugly American Scale

Same trip to Italy. Let’s just say I am a poor master of languages and monitoring my blood sugar. While I am not diabetic, when I go without eating for an extended period, I become what my ex-wife labeled “psychoglycemic.” I get irritable and my frontal lobe takes a hike. Preview moral to this story: always keep people well-fed when your travel.

After failing to learn even one correctly pronounced word of Italian in the weeks leading up to this excursion, I outsourced all Italian communication to my then wife. One afternoon, having fallen deep into the throes of psychoglycemia, I found myself waiting not so patiently to get sandwiches at a roadside stop in Tuscany. I increasingly believed (and shared) that the staff must have forgotten about us. My wife kept trying assuage my building concerns (which she might label paranoia).

Finally, I could no longer contain the brewing Ugly American inside. Across the cafe I yelled a perfectly enunciated “Scuzi!” Abrupt, loud, and dripping with accusation. Everyone’s head turned toward me. I slunk back. My wife moved forward, made eye contact with the woman making our sandwiches, point at her wedding ring, shrugged her shoulders and said something that caused them both to laugh.

I needed no translation to understand the gist of that exchange.

Learn at least a modicum of the language before you go to a non-English speaking destination. And stay well fed!

6. Trust No One

A few years ago I went on an important work trip to Cincinnati in order to pitch a big project to a prospective client. My colleague said that he would take care of the travel plans, and I never gave it another thought. On the flight, he told me we were using a small regional airport to avoid the crowds, so we would have a bit of a ride into the city. Fine by me.

We landed at the Akron-Canton airport and as my colleague was renting the car, I grabbed a map to plot our course. I turned to him and said “Is this client in Cleveland for some reason?” He looked at me like I was an idiot and said “No, we’re going to the main office in Cincinnati.” I responded “Well, in that case, we are in the completely wrong part of Ohio” pointing on the map to Akron in the Northeast corner and Cincinnati in the Southwest.

After he uttered a few expletives, he said “Crap, I meant to fly us into the Dayton airport.” What followed was a three and a half hour 80 mph death defying jaunt in a minivan across the diagonal of Ohio. Shockingly, we landed the project and no one was the wiser.

Always double check your travel arrangements. And never trust the other guy to do it for you.


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