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The 8 Worst Travel Decisions You Can Make on Vacation

SmarterTravel

You’ve done hours of research, polished your travel itinerary, and put together a comprehensive packing list, but your trip could still go wrong—very wrong. Don’t let any of the following bad travel decisions ruin your next vacation.

Forgoing Travel Insurance on Expensive International Trips

It’s legit to skip trip insurance on certain types of vacations, such as inexpensive weekend getaways or domestic trips where you’ll have ready access to medical care if you need it. But on longer international trips, travel insurance is almost always a wise idea.

To determine whether you need trip insurance, consider the following questions: Have you spent a significant sum on nonrefundable airfare, rail passes, and/or trip deposits—i.e., money you would lose if your plans changed? Will you be traveling to a place where high-quality medical care isn’t readily available? (Medical evacuation is extremely expensive.) Are you traveling under circumstances in which weather could disrupt your plans, such as a trip to the Caribbean during hurricane season?

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then you should seriously consider travel insurance. It usually only costs a few hundred dollars, but it could save you thousands if your trip goes awry. Reputable companies include Allianz Travel and Seven Corners.

Risking Your Life to Take a Selfie

Everyone wants to get the perfect shot for their Instagram, but would you sacrifice your life to do it? A recent study discovered that 259 people died while taking selfies between October 2011 and November 2017. Among the most common causes of death: being washed away by waves on the beach and snapping photos “in front of a running train.” More recently, two tourists fell to their deaths while attempting to take a selfie on a ledge at Yosemite National Park.

This should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Use common sense when snapping vacation photos. Risky places like windy ledges, rough seas, and oncoming trains aren’t worth the photograph. Maintain a safe distance, and live to travel another day.

Not Checking Passport and Visa Requirements

Imagine planning your trip for months, flying 12 hours across the ocean, and then discovering once you arrive that you don’t have the visa you need to enter the country. It’s every traveler’s worst nightmare.

Way before the first day of your trip—and I’m talking months here, not days or weeks—check the document requirements for your destination. Do you need a visa? If so, can you get one on arrival, or do you need to obtain it in advance? Does your destination require that passports be valid for at least six months after your trip? Asking these questions early will give you time to renew your passport or apply for a visa.

If you’re in a pinch, a passport/visa expeditor such as Travel Visa Pro can help you get your documents in a hurry.

Arriving for a Cruise or Tour on the Day It Departs

Whether it’s to conserve vacation days or to save money on an extra hotel night, some travelers are tempted to schedule their flight to arrive the same day their cruise ship or bus tour departs. But you’ll regret that decision if your flight is delayed and you don’t arrive in time to meet your group.

If your ship leaves without you, you’ll probably have to buy an expensive last-minute flight to meet up with the vessel in its next port of call. For a bus tour, you might need to take a cab or public transportation to catch up with the group. Do you really need the extra stress? Schedule your flight to arrive at least one day early. This will give you some wiggle room and allow you time to explore your departure city if your flight does arrive as planned.

Not Checking for Bedbugs

As anyone who has ever attempted to rid their homes of bedbugs can tell you, it’s much better never to catch them in the first place. These creepy-crawlies are notorious hitchhikers. They move quickly and can crawl onto your clothing or suitcase from an infested hotel and crawl off right into your home.

To spot bedbugs in your hotel room, carefully examine the mattress, box spring, and headboard for bugs or their droppings as soon as you arrive. During your inspection, leave your bags on a tile surface where it would be difficult for the bugs to hide. If you see any sign of bedbugs, immediately request a different room.

Once you get home, you can also wash your clothes with a laundry additive that kills bedbugs, just to be safe.

Not Getting Your Shots

The one thing you never want to bring home from a trip is a potentially fatal disease like typhoid or malaria. Fortunately, there are vaccines and medications available to prevent many diseases that are common in other parts of the world.

Start by researching your destination on the CDC website, which will offer a list of recommended vaccines as well as general health information. Depending on what you find, you may want to schedule an appointment at a travel clinic; the professionals there can administer vaccines, prescribe anti-malarial drugs or other medications, and offer advice on other items you might want to bring along (such as antihistamines or bug spray).

Overscheduling

Your vacation should feel like a vacation—not a forced march from one museum to the next. So why schedule it that way? Many travelers understandably want to see as much as possible, but that often results in feeling constantly rushed, without enough time to savor and reflect on what you’re seeing.

If that sounds familiar, consider adopting a slow travel approach. This means identifying a small number of attractions and seeing them thoroughly instead of racing from one to the next. You can also commit to getting around by slower (and often more affordable) means of transportation, such as walking, biking, or public transportation. Or try blocking out free time in each day’s schedule that can be used for whatever sounds appealing when you’re there—like a long lunch or a stroll down an intriguing side street.

Booking a Tight Connection

When searching for airfare, you might think, “Wow, this flight is so cheap! Surely 45 minutes is enough time to connect between flights. The booking site wouldn’t show me this itinerary if it weren’t feasible, right?” Wrong.

Although flight search sites sometimes show connections as tight as 30 minutes, it’s not a good idea to book one of these itineraries. At best, you’ll find yourself sprinting between terminals to make it to your gate. At worst, even a relatively minor delay on your first flight could mean you miss your connection entirely. You’re much better off allowing 60 to 90 minutes for a domestic connection and at least two hours for an international one, even if it means paying a little more.

Sacrificing Safety to Save Money

There are places where it makes sense to trim expenses on vacation, like packing lighter so you don’t have to pay checked baggage fees or booking a vacation rental with a kitchen so you can make your own meals instead of eating out. And then there are parts of your trip where scrimping isn’t the smartest thing to do—especially when it comes to your personal safety.

Walking back to your hotel late at night to avoid paying for a Lyft ride, staying in a sketchy neighborhood because it’s cheaper, or hitchhiking to spare yourself the cost of a rental car might save you a few bucks, but these activities pose real risks. Safety comes first, so save the penny pinching for other parts of your trip.

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Follow Sarah Schlichter on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.

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