1. Failure to use the airline's online check-in service.
While catching a flight from Las Vegas to Dallas, I discovered firsthand how airline's overbook flights. Arriving late to the airport, an airline agent informed me my plane was full and I didn't have a seat. After a futile argument, my hopes of getting home on that flight were dashed. Lesson learned: a ticket doesn't promise you a seat. Your best guarantee is to check in online 24 hours in advance!
2. Placing valuables in my luggage.
This mistake belongs to my husband (but trust me, I felt the pain all the same!) In a mad rush to pack, he tucked expensive cuff links into an inner pocket of his suitcase, rationalizing that they were well hidden. When he unpacked the bag at home, the cuff links were gone! Lesson learned: place valuables into your carry-on bag and keep it with you at all times!
3. Tossing a cell phone and the baggie of 3-ounce liquids into the same suitcase pocket.
Chalk another one up for dear hubs (sorry, honey!). In a moment of chaos going through London Heathrow's security checkpoint, hubs tossed his IPhone into the outer pocket of his carry-on. Upon boarding our connecting flight, he threw the bag in the overhead bin, forgetting about it and the phone. Once we arrived to our destination, he reached into the bag for the phone only to find shampoo erupting out of its bottle (and baggie!), bathing the phone completely. Lesson learned: shampoo and technology do not mix! Duh! Now, I double bag my liquids, and I ask hubs (and myself!) repeatedly, "Where is your phone?"
4. Forgetting to pack an umbrella.
I am the proud owner of 6 umbrellas. There were more, but some have been put to rest. Why do I have so many umbrellas? Because I would forget to pack one and invariably get caught in a rain storm! Lesson learned: include an umbrella on your packing list.
5. Packing for fashion versus comfort or practicality.
My feet have the battle scars to show for this mistake! On one trip to Rome, I went through 3 boxes of Band-aids to cover the blisters caused by shoes that looked good! Lesson learned: Wear good walking shoes with socks. Your feet will thank you for it!
6. Failure to know about local time changes.
Who knew Italy followed Daylight Savings Time? I didn't. At least not until we showed up for dinner an hour before our reservation. It seemed strange that we were the only car in the parking lot of a popular restaurant. Lesson learned: Research time changes (and holidays, for that matter) of your destination prior to leaving home.
7. Packing too much.
For years, I got away with packing extra shoes and outfits for every occasion when traveling domestically. Traveling internationally, however, broke me of this habit forever! Lugging suitcases through cobblestone streets and hauling them up flights of stairs in hotels with no elevators, taught me to pack much lighter! Lesson learned: It is not only easier on the back, it is also cheaper to pack light. Airlines and other baggage handlers (e.g., taxi drivers) often charge for excess baggage.
8. Trusting the photos on a hotel's website.
The little cabin by a beautiful New Mexico river looked like the perfect vacation spot. I could hike with my dogs while hubs fished to his heart's content! Photos of the cabin showed it was cozy, quaint, and decorated with loads of charm. Image my surprise when we arrived to a dirty, bug-infested and moldy shack! I'm getting the heebie-jeebies just writing about it! Lesson learned: Never trust a website's photos. Spend time researching online for user photos and reviews. If possible, get a personal reference. And, at the very least, have a Plan B to fall back on if the place you booked is not fit for human or beast!
9. Insulting a local in Italy.
In restaurants, my husband (yes, I'm tattling on him again) has a habit of asking if the food is good. Little did he know that this seemingly innocent question would be considered insulting to other cultures. While looking at a menu posted outside a restaurant in Italy, the owner prompted us to come inside. When hubs asked, "is the food good," the owner huffed at us in all sorts of unknown Italian words and stormed off. At that point, we felt obligated to eat there--good or not--and suffer the consequences of the man's wrath! Lesson learned: prevent unnecessary embarrassment by learning basic cultural do's and don'ts of a country before visiting it!
10. Failing to alert my credit card of impending international travel plans.
We had just enjoyed a nice dinner in one of Italy's many fabulous trattorias. The server headed to our table to inform us that our credit card was "no good." Oops. We tried our other credit card. It, too, was "no good." They were "good" earlier that day when we made purchases in a nearby boutique, so we were perplexed why this particular restaurant could not process our cards. Fortunately, we had cash. The next day we ran into the same problem, so we called the credit card company. They had shut our cards down. Seeing a rash of international charges on our account, they feared fraudulent activity. We got the mattered resolved and the accounts restored, but not after some truly embarrassing moments. Lesson learned: call your credit card company before leaving home to tell them of your travel plans. They will flag your account to prevent it from being shut down in the midst of your vacation.