9 Common Travel Snafus to Dodge This Summer

Avoid these rookie missteps and save yourself money, time and unnecessary hassle.

By Liz Weiss, Staff Writer |July 6, 2017, at 2:44 p.m.

9 Common Travel Snafus to Dodge This Summer

Slideshow

Don't be guilty of these common pitfalls.

Young lady traveller in red and white top posing with different expressions at airport with trolleys in the background.

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Seasoned globetrotters may think sidestepping well-known travel mishaps is a simple task, but the reality is that any jetsetter can get stalled at an airport security checkpoint, encounter a passport dilemma or rack up expensive roaming fees. While some common pitfalls are unpredictable (think: weather-related flight delays), there are steps you can take to protect yourself and curtail typical setbacks. Study up on these foolproof tricks for dodging common mistakes. The upshot: You'll travel smarter this summer.

Forgetting to ensure your passport adheres to entry and exit requirements.

Forgetting to ensure your passport adheres to entry and exit requirements.

U.S. passport for traveling

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"Everyone thinks that their passport is good for 10 years, but that's not really true. Your passport is good for about nine-and-a-half [years]. That's because various countries require that you have anywhere from three to six months left on your passport in order to enter," explains Wendy Perrin, CEO of travel-planning site WendyPerrin.com. In fact, 26 countries within Europe's Schengen Area, including Italy, France and Portugal, require passports to be valid for six months at the time of entry and for three months after the date of your departure. Meanwhile, China requires passports to be valid for six months following your return. If you're planning to travel overseas, "go check your passport's expiration date, and then go to travel.state.gov and check the entry requirements of the country you're headed to," Perrin advises.

Sacrificing comfort for cost.

Sacrificing comfort for cost.

Large man trying to get to his seat on an airplane

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Travel experts often tell savvy fliers how to avoid fees, but in the peak summer season, when airports and planes are packed, "paying certain fees can be an investment in your travel experience – and your sanity," explains Gabe Saglie, senior editor at Travelzoo. He suggests splurging for an aisle seat rather than being cramped in a middle economy-class seat on a long-haul flight and springing for day passes to an airport lounge for a smoother preflight experience. Saglie suggests retreating to a premier lounge an hour or two before your flight to take advantage of cushy seats, free Wi-Fi, snacks, cocktails and other perks for a seamless experience before takeoff.

Giving yourself too little wiggle room at the airport.

Giving yourself too little wiggle room at the airport.

Businesspeople waiting in line at airport check-in.

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Always allot extra time at airport security, Saglie says. You should plan to arrive two hours in advance of domestic flights and three hours prior to international flights. "The summer rush will always create bigger backups at the airport and longer lines at security, so build that extra time into your travel planning," he adds. Since the TSA performs random screenings, you never know when you will be stalled at security while an agent manually inspects bags or conducts a rigorous pat-down. Stay ahead of the curve by prepping your carry-on bags before going through security: Place your large electronics along with your bag containing liquids toward the top of your suitcase in an easily accessible location. Also, remember the TSA's 3-1-1 liquid rule: one quart-sized bag with liquids and gels restricted to 3.4 ounces or less per item.

Overstuffing your suitcase.

Overstuffing your suitcase.

Young man casually dressed and walking through airport hall carrying suitcase.

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"Don't check your bags," Saglie says. Instead, pack lightly and bring only carry-on luggage. Not only can this help you trim costs and circumvent checked-baggage fees, but by keeping your bag at your side you can also reduce the chances of your luggage getting lost, which happens more often during peak travel periods, including summer, he explains. And the last thing you want to do is cram too many garments into your suitcase and be required to check an overweight bag (and pay a steep $75 or $200 fee if your bag exceeds 50 pounds), so pack strategically, sticking to essential items.

Arriving without the right pre-downloaded tools.

Arriving without the right pre-downloaded tools.

A smiling woman uses her phone at an airport.

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It's hard to predict when a delay or detour will strike. Stay ready with handy travel apps that put intel at your fingertips, Saglie says. Your airline's app is an ideal source of real-time information, he explains, noting that you can often receive details such as gate changes or delays faster through the app than at the terminal. "Airline apps are also an easy way to see quickly what flights are available should yours be canceled," he explains. He also suggests downloading weather apps to remain informed of current conditions at your departure, connecting and arrival airport. Consider downloading the Weather Channel app and Dark Sky, which predicts rain, snow and other inclement conditions, and features customized forecasts and alerts, so you know when severe weather is on the horizon.

Neglecting to power up your electronic devices.

Neglecting to power up your electronic devices.

Electronic devices being charged.

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No matter how prepared you are, you never know when you'll hit a travel roadblock. If you're flying with youngsters, it's especially critical to pack plenty of entertainment and fully charged electronic devices, including your phone, laptop and tablet, Saglie says. Parents should ensure their kids' iPads won't lose power before they finish watching family-friendly films like "Trolls," he says. "The resulting disappointment can be bad for everyone," he adds. You'll help avoid in-flight tantrums or eye rolls from your fellow passengers by keeping kiddos entertained with electronics. Another key to maximizing in-flight comfort: a portable charger, so you can reboot your devices after you reach cruising altitude.

Paying hefty foreign transaction charges and currency exchange fees.

Paying hefty foreign transaction charges and currency exchange fees.

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Research any foreign transaction charges you should expect from your bank before heading overseas. With these fees typically tacking on 2 to 3 percent per transaction, it's easy to overspend. Instead, "carry a credit card that waives foreign transaction fees," Perrin says, pointing to cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card or the Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card. Also keep in mind that ATM fees for withdrawing cash abroad can add up. For the best rate, "ask about ATM fees in advance and consider using a bank with no-fee withdrawals," Perrin says.

Failing to safeguard personal information.

Failing to safeguard personal information.

One successful attack can destroy a company. Make sure yours is well-guarded

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Aside from staying vigilant of your surroundings to avoid becoming a victim of theft, take extra precautions to protect yourself from skilled cyber schemers while traveling internationally. Reduce the chances of hackers accessing your data by encrypting your devices. And steer clear of the temptation to use risky networks in public spaces, including airports and hotels. if you're concerned the network could jeopardize your personal data, connect to a virtual private network, or VPN, to ensure your activity is encrypted. It's also wise to set up a tracker system, like the Find My iPhone software, to protect your digital information if your phone is lost or stolen. Before you go, also make sure to back up your data on Google Drive or via iCloud to avoid losing sensitive information in the event that your digital devices are lost or damaged.

Racking up expensive roaming fees.

Racking up expensive roaming fees.

A couple looks at a phone while at a train station.

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Don't forget to evaluate your current phone plan and research international roaming options before crisscrossing the globe. Some providers offer limited-time plans for international trips. AT&T, for instance, offers an international roaming package for $10 per day that allows you to curtail fees for each text or call while traveling internationally. Other providers offer affordable short-term plan options. T-Mobile, for example, has the T-Mobile ONE Plus International plan for an additional $25 fee per line per month on any T-Mobile ONE no-credit-check plan, enabling access to 4G LTE speeds. In short: Review different domestic carrier package options ahead of time to avoid sticker shock when you return.

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Liz Weiss is a senior editor at U.S. News & World Report. With more than six years of experience covering the travel industry, Liz has covered a diverse set of topics to help readers make smarter travel decisions and plan better trips. In her current role, she edits a range of consumer-facing topics, including personal finance, retirement, health, wellness and education. Previously, Liz was the Travel Editor for Consumer Advice, where she wrote and edited features and slideshows and managed the En Route travel blog. She graduated with a bachelor's degree from George Washington University. You can follow Liz on Twitter, connect with her on LinkedIn or email her at eweiss@usnews.com.

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