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Avoiding big travel mistakes this year can be hard. With complicated airline pricing, security lines and safety concerns as to the pandemic and beyond, there is already a lot to think about. To make matters worse, ancillary fees are becoming more creative. Here are our tips for avoiding big travel mistakes this year.
Avoiding big travel mistakes this year: Passport and Visas
Tip 1. Don’t get left at the airport for failing to comply precisely with your destination’s passport and visa requirements.
- These constantly change and follow no set pattern.
- Visas and passports have largely gone electronic, and regulations have become more technical.
- One such requirement, for example, in India, is that the passport must have two remaining pages specifically for visas not just blanks. If they are not available, there are procedures which must be followed.
- Find out if your destination has special easier admission regulations for travelers with a vaccination certificate. If so, be sure that you have met their definition as to content and any validation or certification. If you are traveling with friends or family, find out if they also have the same document, if possible.
- In most cases, you must give up your passport to your destination’s officials to have a visa added. Bear this in mind if you are visiting several countries, and consider the delays involved.
- If you are traveling during the pandemic, ask ahead of time if there are requirements that you have a negative COVID-19 test. If so, how far ahead do you need to have the test? Don’t forget on the way home to the United States or elsewhere, you will likely need to retake a test within a short time period before your flight departs. A key question to ask is what happens if you test positive. Fir example, where can travelers stay and for how long for quarantines if they test positive.
- COVID-19 tests can add up if you have to have one at each border you cross such as the EU. Find out the fees and where the test is given. This year travel to just one country is easier to plan to avoid multiple tests as even EU countries may add their own local restrictions. Don’t forget this can happen even if you are already abroad, especially if there are virus spikes, or new variants are found.
- In addition, remember a “10 year passport” may not be valid for 10 years! While Switzerland requires in-bound travelers to have only 3 months remaining on their passports, other countries require up to 6 months be left. If you are even one day short, you are likely to be refused boarding your flight to those countries.
- Flying through a second country en route to a third, may require a visa even if you never leave the airport!
Don’t pay too much in hidden fees:
Tip 2. Don’t inadvertently take actions that can cause your existing airline charge to double.
- The cheapest price may be a “non-refundable” ticket. They typically prohibit most changes after purchase. Some restricted tickets can be modified for a penalty. However, it gets tricky. I, myself, just discovered this on a $1,000 economy ticket. There was “only” a $300 penalty.
- The real expense though was having to pay, in addition, the new fare of an extra $699. Suddenly, my $1,000 flight became $1,999! Because it was a rebooking, lower Internet fares were no longer possible.
Tip 3. Don’t overlook new add-on fees when you plan your travel budget.
- Some carriers charge $29/connecting flight for reserving a standard seat online. The result for my summer vacation? I ended up paying $116 to the airlines although it was not for an upgrade. It was worth it rather than risk 22 hours each way stuffed in the middle seat!
Tip 4. Don’t be tempted to book a really cheap flight before your plans are finalized.
- If you are going on a tour, you may be able to book air directly through that tour operator. If you choose to get your own flights, wait for the tour’s final date confirmation before buying your airline tickets.
- For insurance purposes, a date change is not the same generally as an actual cancellation. Read your current trip insurance carefully as to what is covered.
- Aside from pre-departure issues, you should carry an electronic copy of your travel insurance with you. For example, even a healthy millennial can break a leg skiing. Some policies only reimburse medical assistance provided in a specified facility, for example, one defined as a “hospital”.
Tip 5. Don’t assume a last minute airline deal will be available during the holidays. When I waited overnight for a better deal on a Christmas flight to SE Asia, my chosen departure went up by $500 while I was sleeping! Worse yet, even though it was months ahead, I was barely able to find a remaining flight at any price.
Tip 6: There is encouraging news about summer vacations in 2021. However, be sure to find out if your chosen destination is still partly shut down. Ask about what public tourist sights are closed? Are restaurants and bars open? Find out if surface transportation is easily available on regular schedules? Are there curfews?
Tip 7: In addition to getting travel insurance and checking your health insurance, see if your destination has COVID-19 fees added. In countries like Cambodia, there is a $2,000 health care deposit required in case you are sick while there. Check out InsureMyTrip.com for more solo travel insurance tips and policy offers. See also country updates at State.gov and at CDC.gov. In the United States and abroad, check online for more updates and rules at the embassy for the country you will visit.
Tip 8: As always, never leave home without a plan to access emergency funds. Don’t assume that going to the ATM for access to your bank funds will cover an accident or the need for an extended stay or alternate exit plans.
For avoiding big travel mistakes this year, don’t overlook the small details, and do start planning early. Most bumps along the way can be solved with a little effort and yes, sometimes, unavoidably, paying more than you planned on. In any case, even the best “staycation” can hardly compare with the excitement and adventure of trying out a new destination.