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Note: All travel is subject to frequently-changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state, and local advisories before scheduling trips. 

There’s nothing like travel to broaden our horizons, and explore new cultures and destinations. But aside from the excitement and adventure, there’s a lot that can go wrong along the way. Whether it’s staying safe or just avoiding added stress on your trip, there are a lot of potential pitfalls that can be avoided if you know how to plan ahead for them.

RELATED: 20 dining tips that will save you real money on your next trip

The area you’re staying is not what you expected

Not familiarizing yourself with different areas in the city you’re visiting can leave you feeling lost and overwhelmed in unfamiliar surroundings. “Lack of research can result in creating an overambitious itinerary, or even an insufficient budget,” says Will Hatton, the founder and CEO of The Broke Backpacker. “Find out about the safest, most convenient, and affordable spots for shopping, and eating.” One way to do that is by checking a property’s reviews; CheapTickets.com, for example, offers hundreds of thousands of verified reviews from real travelers.

You’re receiving unwanted attention

It’s also important to research the tourist statistics of your destinations to get a better idea of how tourists are received in the area you’re visiting. “Avoid standing out in new environments by wearing expensive jewelry and clothing that can make you a target for local criminals. Stay vigilant by avoiding solo drinking and offers for accommodation and travel that seem too good to be true,” says Hatton. It’s best to book ahead on a site like CheapTickets.com, where properties are vetted and reviewed by other travelers.

Your luggage gets lost

While lost luggage is rarer these days, thanks to airlines’ computerized scanning systems, it still happens. Avoid lost luggage by checking in on time: “If your bag doesn’t make your flight, it could be because you didn’t leave enough time between check-in and departure,” says a former United employee. Another possible reason your luggage was lost is because another passenger accidentally pulled it from the carousel, thinking it was theirs. “Opt for something with a little more personality than your typical black roller bag—everybody has these, so it’s easy to mistake someone else’s bags for your own,” she notes. Other tips include removing old bag tags, making sure your luggage tags have your most up-to-date information, and considering a GPS-equipped bag.

Your luggage is stolen

“Nothing will ruin a trip more than stolen valuables, or luggage that has been tampered with, which is why implementing proper security measures for your bags is a must,” says Kristen Bolig, founder of SecurityNerd, who recommends buying external, TSA-approved combination locks for your luggage to add that extra layer of security. “This will keep any possible criminals from accessing your luggage, and I personally find this sort of lock way better than a classic lock-and-key,” said Bolig. Also, make sure you travel with your valuables on you at all times. “Buy a body wallet where you can store extra cash, important travel documents and IDs on your person, so even if all of your luggage gets stolen, you still have your most critical belongings accessible to you,” said Bolig.

You’re not sure the available WiFi is secure

When you’re traveling, sometimes all you want is a WiFi connection to send that email, download that next episode or post that photo, but connecting to any WiFi that you can find could pose a lot of cybersecurity issues. “Some hackers love to set up malicious hotspots in locations with heavy tourist traffic, so they have more options for stealing personal data,” said Bolig of SecurityNerd. In situations like this, it can sometimes be very hard to even know you’re being hacked. 

Bolig recommends only using trustworthy WiFi when traveling. “Try to steer clear of accessing free, unfamiliar WiFi if you need to log into any sort of banking or social media account,” said Bolig. “It can be so easy to accidentally log onto a malicious hotspot, so keep your private information safe and only use it when necessary. This is where a good data plan comes in handy.” Bolig also recommends getting a VPN for your phone or computer, to amp up your online privacy even more. “If you need to use public WiFi for tasks beyond just browsing, a VPN can help mitigate the risk of a potential hack,” said Bolig.

You lose your wallet or passport

On a normal day, losing your wallet is a big inconvenience. While traveling, losing your wallet can be a full-blown crisis. “The chances of this happening can increase when you’re out enjoying the nightlife. Only carry the cash and cards you need and leave the rest behind,” said Tony Jefferson, Founder of TravelingSession.com. If your passport goes missing, contact your consulate right away. It’s also best to carry photocopies of your passport’s main page (and that consulate info), so you can replace it more easily.

You get lost

Though getting lost is rarer these days, thanks to apps like Google Maps, there are times and places you’ll be without data if you didn’t spring for a foreign phone plan. If you’re staying in a hotel, in a foreign country, where you don’t speak the language, keep the hotel’s business card on you. They should be available at the front desk. “The card will make it easier to get directions or a taxi back to the hotel. This is especially helpful in cities where multiple hotels have similar names,” said Jefferson.

Your flight gets cancelled

One of the most common travel pitfalls, especially after Covid-19, is a flight delay or cancellation. These can be especially problematic if you’re connecting to another flight, joining a tour group, or catching a cruise, for example. Unfortunately, delays and cancellations can’t be entirely avoided, but there are certainly ways to minimize that “end of the world” feeling as you watch your flight move further down the departure board.

“One of the best ways to avoid a delay or cancellation becoming a total pitfall is to ensure you’ve taken out comprehensive travel insurance prior to traveling that covers delays and cancellations; knowing the delay will cost you your dinner reservation is frustrating but knowing you’ll be compensated is reassuring,” said Michelle Halpern, founder and owner of Live Like it’s the Weekend, a female led travel blog. Fortunately, purchasing insurance is easy on CheapTickets.com, where you’re given an option at check out to add it for a nominal fee.

You didn’t watch your flight

Since Covid, airlines have been making more schedule changes than normal. Usually, they’ll send an email letting you know the flight time has changed, but nonetheless, be sure to check your flight a few days before you leave. It’s also smart to check your flight again before you leave the house to check for delays. “Staying on top of updates and schedule changes will help reduce the stress of arriving at the airport excited for your vacation only to be entirely devastated,” said Halpern. Use the extra time at the airport to research activities when you arrive at your destination and keep the atmosphere positive.

A taxi cab tries to overcharge you

While cabs can be a life saver when you’re looking to get back to your hotel at the end of a long night, there are some less-than-honest cab drivers out there who are looking to overcharge you, or worse. Whether they are telling you the meter is not working, or they are purposefully taking a longer route to up the price, it’s hard to know how to handle once you find yourself captive to this situation. “This is one of those scams that I have been a victim of, and you usually fall for it because you’re in a new place and have other things on your mind,” says Jonathan R. Smith, founder of CamperGuide.

If you want to avoid an overcharging cab, start by having a very strict mental checklist. “Start by making sure that a cab has a working meter, and ask the driver for an estimate of your fare before you depart. If you have time, talk to a local about the estimated fare for your destination, too, so you know how much you should be charged,” said Smith. Also, make sure to use Google Maps to get an idea of the time and distance to your destination, and make sure to track yourself while you’re in the cab. This helps you to keep track that your driver is not veering from the right route just to charge you a fortune.

You get sick while traveling

Hey, the world is opening back up again, and we’re really excited to be a part of it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not still a pandemic. Take proper precautions to make sure you don’t bring home a virus. One of the main ways to prevent getting sick is to plan your itinerary ahead. “You can still visit what’s on your bucket list, you just have to be strategic and proactive about it,” said Shawnda Dorantes, MSN FNP-C, a family nurse practitioner and owner of Beauty Lounge Medical Spa in San Marcos. Try to plan your trip in the low season, when fewer tourists are around, and when visiting popular restaurants or attractions, plan to visit during the slowest non-peak periods of the day. Also: “Regardless of what the mask stipulations are, make sure you and everyone you are traveling with wears theirs. Make sure to pack extra masks, plenty of hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes,” said Dorantes, who reminds us that maintaining as much physical distance between others who are not in your traveling group is still one of your best defenses against getting sick. Also, watch your alcohol intake. “This will help ensure you are making the best judgement calls while enjoying your travels,” said Dorantes.

You’re not sure that tasty-looking street food is safe

This is a common worry from inexperienced travelers, and those who are more seasoned, too. If you’re looking to sample some of the local food stall or street vendor cuisine, the best advice is to eat where the locals eat, and eat at a place that looks busy. Food that sits around all day, especially in the heat, is asking for trouble. But a busy, active restaurant is a safer bet—and probably going to be delicious, too!

Tagged: Cheap Tips, COVID-19, Tips & advice

Note: CheapTickets compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

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