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The 3 biggest travel mistakes I’ve made

Traveling can be one of the most rewarding experiences, but it is not always the easiest. Flight delays, highway traffic, and crowded destinations are just a few of the problems you might encounter when you leave home for an adventure. And unfortunately, if you’re not careful, you can create your own problems, without needing outside help.

I love being able to explore new places and feel enormous gratitude when I think about the trips I have taken. I know I’m not the only one: recent data shows that travel spending increased 4.1% through July of this year compared to last year.

I’m not a professional, but I consider myself a fairly experienced traveler. However, that hasn’t stopped me from making mistakes over the years that have cost me money and time. Here are three that were particularly painful.

1. I booked the wrong pickup date for a rental car

This year I was finally able to take a long overdue trip to Iceland. My husband and I initially booked the trip in February 2020, just a few weeks before the pandemic shutdowns began. That meant we had three years to research and dream about the trip we would one day take. But no matter how prepared you think you are for something, life has a way of reminding you that no one is perfect.

We took a red-eye flight that left on a Thursday and landed on a Friday. And unfortunately, we booked our car rental to start on the first day of our trip…Thursday. Phew. We realized our mistake when we boarded our flight and immediately contacted the car rental company. Fortunately, the representative told us that it wouldn’t be a problem if we missed our pickup window and that they would hold the car until the next day.

While we didn’t have to scramble to rent a new car at the last minute, we did lose the money it cost us to rent a car for an entire day when we weren’t even in the country.

2. I accepted a timeshare presentation that I wouldn’t finish

This didn’t seem like a mistake at first, but looking back, it definitely was. On a tropical vacation, we thought it would be worth participating in a timeshare tour. The deal provided a free breakfast at the resort’s gorgeous ocean-view restaurant, we were able to walk around the lush gardens, and we would receive a coupon for a boat tour later in the week.

We walked confidently into the presentation, expecting a quick spiel and a quick exit. Hours later, we were still being shown room after room after room in the hotel. My previous confidence in our ability to say “No, thank you” and move on was slammed into the brick wall of the guide’s stubborn salesmanship. It was frustrating and downright uncomfortable to face such aggressive tactics, and it really soured our day, even after we finally escaped back to the beach.

While I thought I was making a good bet on getting a free meal and boat tour, what really happened was that we wasted half a day of our short vacation. Here was this beautiful trip we had planned and saved for, and while we didn’t lose any money in the process, we definitely lost time that could have been much better spent.

I feel like it was a mistake I made a lot in my 20s and have since gotten over, but the moment it hit me the hardest was after a two-week solo trip to Ireland and Scotland. I knew I would have an amazing experience and would want to take advantage of as much PTO time as possible, so I booked my return flight to land on a Sunday, hoping to return to work on Monday sleepy but satisfied. Please indicate flight problems.

My plane out of London was delayed and eventually cancelled, leaving me bleary-eyed and struggling to find accommodation for the night. Suddenly, I was priced out of a very expensive last minute hotel room in London. and I was going to have to borrow an extra day of PTO to make up for the day I would miss.

While travel delays are often out of our reach, I’ve now learned to set aside some extra time as a cushion, just in case. Ideally, I have one or two more days at home to relax before I have to go back to work.

Don’t make your trips more expensive than necessary

None of these mistakes were really detrimental to me. Personal finances, but I certainly would have preferred to avoid them. There are certain things I do in advance to make my trips as affordable as possible. That way, I feel more comfortable absorbing some of these expensive surprises that may arise while traveling.

On the one hand, I always use my travel rewards credit card to pay for my trips. Not only does this allow me to earn points that can offset the cost of my vacation, but many of these cards also offer travel insurance to protect cardholders when things go off the rails.

I also choose travel budget in advance so you don’t have to borrow money to pay for a trip. This helps me avoid costly credit card debt that would make a trip cost more than paying for everything up front.

Traveling the world is not the easiest thing, but for me it is always worth it. Just be sure to do what you can to avoid costly mistakes that can take away some of your enjoyment.

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