|A tram trundles along the waterfront in Porto, Portugal|
The new year is almost here. Let the travel planning begin. For many, it already has. But before you lock in dates, buy air tickets and make hotel reservations, take care to avoid some costly mistakes.
Here are my Top 5:
1) Don't be pressured into booking non-refundable or non-changeable hotel reservations, excursions or airline tickets. Most airlines have extended their Covid-era policies to allow changes without a fee, and cancellations for a credit to be used later.
Keep in mind that if you make a change, you'll pay the fare in effect at the time. It will likely be higher, but could be lower than when you originally booked. Delta makes changing reservations online easy by showing what flights are available and what the price difference would be. I recently changed a flight to return to Seattle from Naples, Florida, one day early. The price was the same as when I booked a few months ago, but had it been lower, Delta would have given me a credit.
Travel in 2023 will be no less risky than it was in 2022, given that Covid is still around, and the political situation tenuous in many parts of the world.
Having a back-up plan is always a good idea. That calls for flexibility. The earlier you lock yourself inn, the less flexible you'll be.
If you buy travel insurance, check carefully for details on what it does and doesn't cover. Trip cancellation and interruption clauses don't cover a change of heart about a destination unless you buy an expensive "cancel for any reason" policy. The best idea is to "self-insure" your trip by avoiding travel that requires a non-refundable deposit or pre-payment up front.
In researching a trip to Mexico, I began to notice that most of the B&Bs in Mexico City required a non-refundable full or partial payment. Many are very nice, and I might have chosen one otherwise. Instead, I pivoted to an Airbnb which allows cancellation with no penalty up to a few days ahead.
|Pick a B&B or Airbnb with a |
liberal cancellation policy
There's rarely any reason to buy airline tickets too far in advance. Resist the urge to look at fares for travel six months out, and tell yourself you'd better buy now because prices will only go up. Prices could fall if fuel prices decline, or a recession curbs demand for travel.
When it comes to sightseeing, consider the organized day trips available on sites such as Get Your Guide or Viator as an alternative to a group tour that requires pre-payment. These companies consolidate listings of excursions offered by local travel agencies, then offer easy online booking with free cancellation up to 24 hours in advance.
2) When using a credit card for overseas purchases, ALWAYS pay in the local currency. Duty-free vendors inside airports (Amsterdam's Schiphol and Pairs' Charles De Gaulle are two examples) ask customers if they'd rather pay in dollars or euros. Many inexperienced travelers automatically say "dollars," which undisclosed to them by the cashier, carries a "conversion fee" for the so-called convenience of posting the amount in U.S. dollars on your receipt instead of euros.
3) When it comes to using bank machines to withdraw cash, avoid withdrawing euros from Euronet Worldwide bank machines installed near many shops and restaurants. They charge a hefty fee -$3.95 euros - plus a surcharge - 12 percent or more - by lowing the exchange rate below what is available from ATMs operated by real banks. The exchange rate might be 0.78 euros to one dollar, for instance, compared to the current rate of 0.95.
A clue will be instructions to tap on "accept this exchange rate" before you complete the transaction.
Prepare for many businesses going cashless, and streamlining the process by accepting Apple and Google Pay as well as credit cards embedded with the tap symbol that don't require a chip and pin reader. Ask your bank to send you a new card with the tap symbol if you don't have one.
4) Don't count on in-person service. Get comfortable with using self-checkouts in shops, and automated kiosks at airports for checking in, obtaining a boarding pass and checking bags.
Checking in for a flight online is optimal, but sometimes not possible, especially in a code-share situation when you've booked with one airline (Delta, for example) but a partner airline (Air France) is operating the flight.
I give the Pairs Metro extra credit for continuing to employ human ticket sellers in many of its stations. In a station where there were no staffers on duty, I used a blue button to push to call for questions. To my amazement, it worked. Using French to start, I asked the person on the other end if he spoke English. He did, and answered my question perfectly.
|The reopening of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris|
is planned for April 15, 2024
5) Don't assume you're safe from catching Covid because no one else around you is wearing a mask, or distancing. Given flu and respiratory viruses, you're probably more at risk of falling ill while traveling than anytime in 2022.
Do what makes sense to avoid having your travel plans ruined. For me, that means wearing a mask from the time I enter the airport in Seattle to the time I get off my bus, train or out of the taxi at my destination.
Such sound and valuable advice. Thanks Carol for guiding less experienced travelers.ReplyDelete
Ms. Pucci is amazing.ReplyDelete
Very good advice thk youReplyDelete
you don't have to avoid the Euronet ATMs -- you just need to know that you can decline the fixed exchange rate and proceed with the transaction.ReplyDelete
All great advice. One comment I would add is to not use the ATMs in the Airports. Generally, the rates/fees will always be better away from the Airport and using a Bank ATM.ReplyDelete
Take one or two extra credit cards that you put in your hotel room safe in case you lose your main card(s) or if they are stolen. Also, keep a record in a secure place (such as within a password manager) of credit card customer service numbers and the account numbers.ReplyDelete