This is how to easily avoid common holiday travel mistakes

How to avoid common holiday travel mistakes

At about this time every year, radio and TV producers ask me to go on the air and dispense travel advice. They’ll ask me how to avoid the agony of holiday travel. And at about this time every year, I really want to tell them, “It’s easy: If you want to avoid all holiday travel mistakes and hassles, stay home.”

But I can’t. That’s because it’s not easy. We travel anyway because holiday travel is an obligation. And what’s worse, we all do it at the same time. The result? Airports and highways filled with grudging travelers who have picked the worst possible time to board a plane or pile into a car.

The most common travel mistakes

Here are the most common travel mistakes people make during the holiday season. Most of them are perennials, but there are a few additions to the list this year.

Waiting too long to book: It’s too late for a Thanksgiving travel deal, but you might still find a bargain for Christmas or New Year’s. No guarantees. Google has released a handy tool that enables you to track rates for seasonal flights and hotels by destination. You can select pricing information by holiday — and hope for the best.

Leaving too late for the airport

If you’re traveling on the busiest travel days of the year — just before or after a major holiday — give yourself an additional two hours just to be safe. Also, consider downloading the MyTSA app. It allows you to check how busy the airport is likely to be on a specific day, at a specific time, based on historical data. The TSA app also allows you to look up information about delays and the weather at your airport.

Being unprepared

For too many people, travel preparations are an afterthought. The mistakes range from packing the wrong items to forgetting to gas up the car. And the consequences range from minor (not having a change of underwear) to severe (arriving late at the airport and missing your flight). Alas, there’s no new way to remember everything. An old-fashioned yellow sticky pad is my favorite, or you could try an app like PackPoint.

Ignoring your ticket’s fine print

Several airlines, including JetBlue Airways and United Airlines, have raised their luggage fees. Other carriers are making less obvious changes, such as tightening their ticket rules. That means inexperienced travelers may get blindsided. Luci Gabel, an exercise physiologist from San Jose, tried to avoid a checked-baggage fee by carrying her luggage on the plane. She should have read the fine print. “When we got to the airport, we were shocked to find out that our carry-on bags were going to cost an extra $55 each,” she said. “Don’t assume that flying only with a carry-on bag will help you escape exorbitant baggage fees.”

Traveling on the wrong day

The holiday travel hordes move in mysterious ways. For Thanksgiving, for example, not everyone leaves and returns on the same days, according to new research by Skyscanner, an online booking site. That creates a sustained busy period, starting a few days before the holiday. So when it comes to planning, you may want to leave even earlier and stay later to avoid traffic.

The single busiest travel day last year was Dec. 22, two days before Christmas. Jan. 2 was the day the most travelers returned from their trips, followed closely by the day after Thanksgiving. You can see a list of the busiest air travel holidays on the Skyscanner website. Road travel tends to follow the same pattern.

“One of the biggest mistakes people make is traveling on the busiest days when they could avoid it,” says Michael McCall, a professor at the Michigan State University School of Hospitality Business. Sometimes, leaving a day early can mean the difference between a stressful trip and a perfect getaway. And sometimes traveling on the day of the holiday (Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day) means fewer crowds and less traffic.

Giving travel insurance short shrift

Insurance can protect you in the event of trip interruptions, delays or missed connections, or lost luggage, and it can cover medical expenses. And it’s not that people aren’t thinking of travel insurance. It’s that they’re failing to consider important details and options, or they’re going with the first policy they see, offered at the end of an airline reservation. One of the most popular insurance benefits is called “cancel for any reason.” Although expensive, it reimburses 75 percent of your nonrefundable trip cost, allowing you to cancel your trip for any reason whatsoever.

Minimizing holiday trip hassles comes down to a few simple strategies. They include conducting careful pre-trip research, paying close attention to the fine print on your airline ticket, hotel room contract or rental car contract — even if you think you know everything — and remembering to remedy the three biggest errors holiday travelers make. As in, don’t wait too long to book, give yourself plenty of time and prepare.

The rest of the holiday travel mistakes — at least the ones I make — are fodder for those fun TV and radio interviews. I hope you’ll tune in while you’re waiting for your holiday flight.

And don’t forget: If things happen to go wrong, the Elliott Advocacy team is here to help.

Do you plan on traveling this holiday season?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

 

Share this story
Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Share on Facebook

Underwritten by

This site is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at Cavalrytravelinsurance.com.

This site is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

This site is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

This site is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

This site is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

This site is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

This site is underwritten by Enterprise Holdings

A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

This site is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

This site is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

This site is underwritten by InsureMyTrip

It’s simple. InsureMyTrip finds you the right travel insurance plan, every time. InsureMyTrip is the authority on travel insurance. Rated A+ for travel insurance by the Better Business Bureau. All travelers that purchase a policy through  InsureMyTrip have access to Anytime Advocates® for claims assistance.

This site is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

This site is underwritten by SCOTTeVEST

An innovative apparel brand for people who want easy access to everything they need. For those who live for every second, SCOTTeVEST lets you maximize your life. Ditch the carry-on bag and pick up a  SCOTTeVEST.

This site is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

This site is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

This site is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

This site is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

This site is underwritten by Sungard Availability Services

Leveraging more than 35 years of experience, Sungard AS designs, builds and runs critical IT services that help businesses manage complex IT, adapt quickly and build resiliency and availability. A leading provider of critical production and recovery services, Sungard AS partners with customers across the globe, delivering resilient IT systems, infrastructure and recovery services tailored to achieving desired business outcomes.

This site is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

This site is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

This site is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

This site is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.