A lot of people know about some of the most common travel tricks and mistakes to avoid, such as making sure your passport is valid and not packing valuables in checked luggage.
Traveling also highlights some common but less obvious strategies to get the most out of the trip and sidestep some of the snafus. Here are four lesser-known important travel tips you should know from our personal experiences.
1. Bring a Buddy With You When You Can
It’s relatively easy to communicate when everyone has cell phones. But it’s harder to get in touch with travel companions in a rural area or in a foreign country when internet access is unreliable or unavailable.
We were returning to our hotel in Florence after spending a day in Tuscany, and en route Bobby asked our driver if we could stop so he could use a restroom. We pulled off the highway into a small town and pulled outside a local yogurt shop. We did not have Internet service.
We waited for Bobby for what seemed to be an inordinate amount of time, so I decided to get out of the car and go inside. It turns out that he was locked in the bathroom. There were people around, but they did not speak English and evidently didn’t realize that he was pounding on the door.
When I entered the shop and Bobby told me that the lock was stuck, I alerted the cashier, who pulled out a tool to pop the lock (apparently this was a recurring issue). Had the two of us gone in together this would have been resolved much sooner -- and we would not have been charged overtime by the tour agency.
2. Being Kind Goes a Long Way
It can be very upsetting when something goes wrong, but people will be more willing to help you out if you keep your cool and treat them nicely.
Our plane from Bordeaux to Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport left late, so we missed our connecting flight back to the United States. The gate agent informed us that there was another flight leaving 90 minutes later and directed us to a nearby customer service desk.
There was a group of four in line ahead of us. At the desk was a passenger who was screaming and cursing out the lone airline customer service representative. That passenger then stomped off. The representative, who was visibly upset, informed the group in front of us that they would be her last customers of the day since her shift had ended. Everyone behind them would have to trek to the next customer service desk, which was way down the concourse.
Doug and I knew we didn’t have the time to go to that second desk if we were to make that second flight, so we stayed where we were. When the representative was done with the “last” group I quickly approached the desk, and as nicely as I could asked if she could squeeze us in since our rebooking would be easy. We also told her that we had witnessed the cursing incident, that she did not deserve to be treated like that, that she shouldn’t have to work the customer service desk by herself, and that we would put in a good word for her. The representative, who by then was in tears, obliged us, and we ended up getting the last two seats on that plane. She ended up staying about 20 minutes after her shift had ended.
True to my word, I contacted the airline to give her a commendation. About two months later I heard back from the airline thanking me for the information and informing me that the airline had both shared it with her and placed it in her file.
3. Safety First, Even if it Looks Silly
One lesser-known important travel tip you should know involves safety. If you feel uncomfortable doing something, don’t risk it.
We visited many beautiful temples in Thailand. However, some of them are at the top of steep stone stairs.
One day we were touring Chaing Mai during a rainstorm, and one temple’s steps were particularly slippery.
Doug, who has had two back surgeries, did not want to go tumbling down the stairs, so he sat down on the steps and went down them one by one on his backside, rather to the amusement of the locals. It may have looked a bit silly, but it was effective and safer than for him to walk down.
4. Clarify Exactly What You’re Paying For Before You Pay
Sure, there are money scams when traveling, but even an honest mistake can be pricey.
We had used a travel agency to book our trip to Bologna, and had prepaid for our air and hotel. I knew (and my hotel voucher said) that we still would need to pay a city excise tax when checking out. At checkout I gave the receptionist my credit card, expecting to pay about $40. However, he rang us up for almost $500, charging us the tax plus two nights.
We tried to explain that this was incorrect. We showed him our voucher, but he didn’t speak English and didn’t understand it. He also would not accept our explanation via Google Translate. Our taxi to the airport then arrived, so we had to leave.
We left a note for the hotel manager explaining the situation before we left. This ended up being a good move, as the hotel manager called about an hour later apologizing, and he promised to correct the overpayment. After two weeks and some back and forth, I finally resorted to reporting the problem both to the travel agency and our financial institution. It took some persistence, but we finally got the refund three months later. Had I realized what exactly I was being charged for before I gave the receptionist the credit card, I probably could have avoided this headache.
We hope these lesser-known important travel tips you should know help you enjoy your travels more!
Have any advice or horror stories? Send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org. Always feel free to reach out to us with any questions or feedback.
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