Congratulations, you’ve booked your first flight! Pat yourself on the back, because there are only a few more steps between you and a seamless flying experience. If you’re like most people, exploring something new—like the cabin of an aeroplane—can be daunting. While not every first-time traveller will mistake the emergency exit for the bathroom, there are some common errors that newbie travellers frequently make. Luckily, once you know what those mistakes are, they are easy to avoid.
Forgetting to Book a Specific Seat
If you prefer aisles or windows to middle seats with limited recline, be sure to choose your seat early. If you forget, or you didn’t get the option to choose a seat when you purchased your ticket, log onto the airline’s website as soon as possible. Then use SeatGuru’s seat maps to help you choose a seat that will work for you. Don’t see a spot you love? Sign up with the website ExpertFlyer, which can alert you when your seat of choice frees up and you can hop online and book it.
Assuming Your Carry-on is the Right Size
Domestic and international travel each have a different set of rules when it comes to carry-on bag sizes. Before you head to the airport with your carefully packed bag, make sure your tote qualifies as a carry-on and check your airline’s size restrictions before you leave home.
Packing Large Liquids in a Carry-on
If you’re not checking a bag, remember that carry-on liquids, gels, and aerosols have to be 3.4 fluid ounces or less and fit in a clear, quart-size bag. Head to 3floz.com to find mini TSA-approved versions of more than 60 brands.
Forgetting to Check your Passport Expiration
There is nothing quite like the panic that comes from booking a spontaneous vacation and realizing your passport is expired—or not realizing that you and your child need a passport to visit Canada or Mexico. Adding to the challenge is that some countries won’t allow you to visit within six months of your passport’s expiration date in case you take an extra-long vacation and they want to make sure you have a valid passport to travel back to the United States. In short, it never hurts to check your passport’s expiration date and, if necessary, renew it before your next big trip. Also, don’t forget that State ID may not be valid for travel per TSA rules.
Getting Lost When You’re On a Tight Schedule
First of all, with the right attitude, getting lost while you travel can be fun. A wrong turn can lead you to a new beach, a new restaurant, or a neighborhood you otherwise would never have discovered. However, if getting lost stresses you out or you have an appointment to keep, don’t forget to pack maps, pick up your hotel’s business card so you have their address readily available to hand to cab drivers, and set a reminder that you can use Google Maps offline. When you have access to Wi-Fi, map your route and either screenshot a map, or download to Google Maps’ offline mode, which allows you to use the map but not the data. Speaking of phones…
Disregarding Your Phone Plan
Before you head out of the country, hop online or call your service provider to buy data roaming and international calling plan. If you do not want to use your phone while traveling abroad, shut off the data roaming on your phone or risk a hefty phone bill. Download travel apps before your trip and use them when you’re on the hotel’s Wi-Fi.
Exchanging Too Much Money Before You Travel
It’s a good idea to have some of the local currency on hand when you land, but don’t overdo it. Too much cash invites disaster if it’s stolen or lost. Figure out your budget and grab some cash at your bank or an airport ATM. If you do run out of cash, it’s easy to pick up more cash at a local bank or ATM in most countries.