Travel snafus and how you can avoid them

It’s the most wonderful time of the year and the most stressful. The time when you’ll do just about anything to make that plane home. But with high stress and high speed things get missed and many of us find ourselves at the center of a festive travel snafus. Here’s some of the most common and our suggestions for how you can avoid a state of total fubar.

1. You’re late for your flight

And now you’re running through the terminal like a ship in full sail with traveling companions trailing behind you. You’re killing yourself to get to the gate before they close the doors and take off without you.

Remedy: Need an hour to get to the airport? Set off two hours in advance. Check public-transport and the airport websites for delays or disruptions.


Last call. Photo: eefeewahfah

Last call. Photo: eefeewahfah


2. You overpacked. Your suitcase is overweight and it’s going to cost you in extra-weight charges

Remedy: While packing, lay out everything you think you need on your bed and then leave the room for a couple of hours.

When you return you’ll find you’re critical of your choices and can put half of your clothes back in the wardrobe. Figure on at least two wears for everything.

3. You went carry-on only and overpacked. Now it won’t fit in the gate cage

And the gate attendant wants some of your hard-earned spending money to check it in the hold.

Remedy: Ensure your carry-on luggage adheres to the maximum sizes specified on your airline’s website. For American Airlines that’s 56 x 36 x 23 cm. For JetBlue, it’s 60.96 cm x 40.64 cm x 25.4 cm, and at Southwest, the maximum size is 25.4cm x 40.64cm x 60.96cm.

4. You chose to bring only a carry-on bag and overpacked. Now the gate attendant is ripping it from your hand and checking it. And all your valuables are in it

Remedy: Pack your on-board essentials – your iDevice or Kindle, keys, passport and purse – into a small bag so you’re able to whip it out quickly if necessary.


The bag cage. Make sure your piece of cabin baggage fits. Photo: Mundo Resink

The bag cage. Make sure your piece of cabin baggage fits. Photo: Mundo Resink

5. You canceled the credit card tied to your reservations

You booked months ago, got ticked off about a rate increase and canceled your card in a fit of rage. Doing so caused the pre-flight hotel and airline to cancel your reservation.

Remedy: Make sure all your reservations are on one or, at most, two cards. Print reservations in advance and make a note of which card you used to book them.

6. You didn’t check your phone plan before traveling abroad

Ka-ching! For the phone company. Roaming rates kick in the moment your phone is detected as being on an overseas network. Receiving a call or picking up a voicemail message can cost you. And don’t get us started on data! Streaming and downloads could cost as much as your vacation- into the thousands.

Remedy: Call your provider and ask about roaming packages. If your phone company doesn’t have that option, ask them to switch off your voicemail service while you’re on vacation. Tell family and friends to send texts or enjoy a bit of digital detox and switch off your phone while you’re away. The other option is to buy an international SIM card that’ll allow you to make cheaper calls while you’re away.

7. You underestimated the size of the airport you’re flying out of / stopping over at / flying home from

It takes you 50 minutes to get from the entrance, through security, to the gate and that didn’t leave you any time for snacking or shopping.

Remedy: Research your airport a couple of days before you leave. Find out how long it will take to get to the gate. See if you will have to take a bus or rail service.


Like a maze, this queue at the airport. Photo: Karl Baron

Like a maze, this queue at the airport. Photo: Karl Baron


8. You did not charge up your devices before you left home

In the summertime, power-up rules demanded that some international passengers be able to switch on their electronic devices if asked by security staff. Mobile phones were the concern but electrical shavers, hairdryers, hair-straighteners, travel irons and cameras (and camera equipment) were included in the screening.

Remedy: Charge up your devices fully before you leave home. Find out if your departure airport has charging stations and build in some extra time to ensure they’re fully charged before you get to the security line.

9. You did not charge up your iPad / Kindle / other child-quietening device before you left home

Now they’re out of juice and your kids are unruly.

Remedy: Charge up at home, keep the kids off the devices on the way to the airport and ensure you’re sitting near charging stations so you can top up before the flight.


Screen of death. Photo: Rodrigo Ghedin

Screen of death. Photo: Rodrigo Ghedin

10. You did not buy correct travel insurance

A missed flight, a stolen wallet and bad weather make for a bad trip, and if you don’t have adequate travel insurance, you could end up paying some hefty prices.

Remedy: Take out a comprehensive travel insurance policy that’ll cover you for all eventualities – airline failure, volcanic ash clouds and lost or stolen handbags.

11. You’ve discovered that your passport is out of date

Or it’s due to expire while you’re away.

Remedy: Check the expiry date and renew your passport – before you book flights. Check the entry requirements for the country you intend to visit. Some countries expect your passport to have at least six months “validity” on it.

12. You’re using a credit card to get cash

Credit-card companies have a host of charges they add on such as cash-withdrawal fees and interest charges, which means, for example, that spending $100 could cost you $103.

Remedy: Shop around for the best credit card to use abroad. Load up a prepaid travel card. There are charges so do your research before you commit your cash.

13. You haven’t changed your dollars into foreign currency

The airport is generally the worst place to exchange money and even if you’ve sourced the cheapest card and plan on using that while abroad it’s good to have a little bit of foreign currency for small items.

Remedy: Order your currency online or over the phone and pick it up at the airport.


Pounds to dollars and euros. Photo: aImages Money

Pounds, dollars and euros. Photo: Images Money


14. You didn’t print out your reservation details

Everything is accessible via your phone or iDevice, right? Not necessarily.

Remedy: Have hard copies of your flight reservations and everything else. If your phone / tablet / wearable tech is out of juice or doesn’t work with the local provider en route at least you’ll have a non-tech backup.

15. You didn’t stick to the 3-1-1 airport security rule

And security staff have confiscated your expensive creams and lotions.

Remedy: Sort your shampoo, moisturizer and make-up into travel-sized quantities. Remember the 3-1-1 rule for carry-ons. All liquids, creams, pastes, gels and aerosols 3.4oz or less per container and they need to be in a clear, plastic, zip-lock bag.. The allowance is one bag per passenger.


The US 3-1-1 Rule. 100ml rule in the UK. Photo: Michael Gray

The US 3-1-1 Rule Photo: Michael Gray


16. You packed your gifts already and security have ripped the wrapping paper!

You got into the giving-season feeling early and wrapped your gifts but security needed to check what was behind the ribbons and bows.

Remedy: Don’t wrap until you get to your destination, ship the gifts ahead of time or let your favorite online retailer do the wrapping and the sending.

17. Your luggage hasn’t arrived

And you don’t have a change of clothes in your carry-on luggage. A tiny fraction of bags go missing each year – less than 1 per cent – but that’s no consolation if your bag is one of them.

Remedy: Have a day’s worth of clothes to tide you over.  If your bag doesn’t turn up on the carousel tell your airline immediately and find out what they’ll do for you to get you through. Some airlines offer vouchers for necessities.

18. Your purse was stolen

You slung it over the back of your chair while you had lunch.

Remedy: Wear a money belt under your clothes.

19. Other passengers have been upgraded but you’ve not been asked!

And you’re stuck in Economy when you could be kicking back in the roomy seats.

Remedy: Make sure you establish a relationship with your airline. Get a credit card, sign up to their newsletters / social media feeds. That way, when there are goodies being doled out you can be at the top of the list.


Impressions of the frequent flyer. Photo: Raúl Santos de la Cámara

Impressions of the frequent flyer. Photo: Raúl Santos de la Cámara


20. You don’t have enough miles for “free” flights or upgrades

Remedy: You can acquire thousands of miles by using your airline’s credit card. There are usually links to scads of brand-name retailers on the airline’s website.


(Feature image: Kirill Kniazev)

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