Top 10 Packing Disaster Stories

 

We asked you, our well-traveled readers, to divulge your worst packing disaster stories. And it turns out most of you have experienced a packing setback or two while traveling the world, from airplanes running over luggage strewn on the tarmac to suitcases filled with invading iguanas.

man with suitcases in trunk of car

While it’s unfortunate that so many of you had problems with lost bags, suspicious TSA agents, forgotten essentials and broken luggage, we thoroughly enjoyed reading about your packing misadventures. So the next time airport security confiscates our bottle of shampoo, we’ll think of your packing disaster stories and acknowledge: It could have been worse.

Check out the 10 most interesting, unusual and/or hilarious packing disaster stories we received.

“I was returning from Sacramento to Las Vegas, my former home town. We had just spent a successful four days duck hunting in the Buttes. I had shot my limit of eight ducks, and my friends decided to share eight of their ducks with me. Unprepared for such a take home, I purchased an insulated backpack at the airport. It nicely held all 16 dead ducks. These were all vacuum-packed and ready for storage. The lady at the counter suggested I check the bag since it was so heavy. Upon arriving in Vegas, I heard an announcement that the plane’s luggage didn’t get loaded and had missed the flight, and that the airline would deliver my luggage within approximately 24 hours. I immediately told the agent what was in my bag, and what a stink it would make in the cargo hold if it wasn’t retrieved instantly. Amazingly, two hours after I left the airport, there was a delivery man at my doorstop with my bag and all 16 ducks. If the airlines ever lose your luggage, tell them you have dead animals in it — and they miraculously find it!” — Yvonne C., Washington

“My husband and I packed for our two-week cruise last year to the western Mediterranean. Was I ever sorry when we were held up by the storm in Philadelphia on the coast. We were blissfully unaware that our suitcases were sitting on the tarmac while we waited out the delay. We arrived and boarded our cruise to unpack our dripping wet clothes! One pair of my shoes had disintegrated in the wetness. Our suitcases stank, and we did our best to hang clothing all over the room, since using dry cleaning onboard means really being ‘taken to the cleaners!’ — $3 per panty! Never again will we travel without making sure our clothing, toiletries, etc. are safely sealed in plastic baggies!” — Linda, Ohio

The Carry-On Challenge: How to Pack Light Every Time

“While packing to return home from Aruba, we found we only had 20 minutes to get ready. There were eight of us trying to get things in order and into suitcases. As a family we made a mad dash to stuff suitcases by turning dresser drawers over and into the suitcases. Yes, we did make it to the airport on time — but returning home and unpacking would be the next endeavor. While unpacking we found baby iguanas that had apparently nested in our drawers. We will make it a point to carefully pack the next time around.” — Rosemarie K., New York

“I work for a company that has an office in Spain. Whenever one of our employees heads over to Spain, we always send him or her with an extra suitcase full of supplies. It’s cheaper to check an extra bag than to mail it. We recently sent a new employee over and with him a suitcase filled with all kinds of things. There were the standard tape measures, safety vests and office supplies, but there were some odd things as well. For instance, a Crock-Pot, an unmarked brown bag of mixed nuts and various packets of Crystal Light drink mix. As his suitcase was being unloaded in Spain, the zipper broke and some of the Crystal Light packets burst, thus spilling out a powder onto the ground. Of course, the airport employees were immediately suspicious, and everything stopped while they got security out to the plane. Our poor employee was fetched from baggage claim and taken into the security office to be questioned. He had a hard time explaining, in limited Spanish, that the Crystal Light was ‘powder you put in your water to make it taste good.’ The concept does sound a little ridiculous if you think about it. Eventually, our supervisor in Spain was called in to clear him of any suspicion, but he did spend several hours in the security rooms of the airport being questioned. What a great way to say, ‘Welcome to the team!'” — Kristi, Michigan

7 Things Not to Do When Packing a Carry-On Bag

“We were traveling to the West Indies to spend a week on a Windjammer. We knew that we would not have a lot of storage for our luggage on the boat so we went to a sporting goods store and bought a small, soft-sided duffel bag. When our plane arrived in the islands I did not see my bag anywhere. Then I saw it … out on the runway. A plane had just run over it. My clothes were everywhere! When I retrieved the bag, I was told that the airline had not caused the damage.

“Meanwhile, my undies, etc. were falling out all over the place, and there were tire tracks on the bag. I proceeded to seal up the bag with duct tape.” — Dianne S., Florida

“I have no personal recollection of this story, but my mother tells it so it must be true. When I was about 3 years old, my aunt and uncle invited me to travel with them by train from our home in Chicago to visit my grandparents in Lincoln, Illinois. I ran to my bedroom, threw a pair of panties in a paper bag and returned to announce, ‘I’m ready to go!’ I remember this every time I’m packing for a three-day trip and can’t decide if I need that fourth (or fifth) pair of shoes.” — Joan, Illinois

cat in suitcase

“While I was preparing for a two-night stay with friends who live about a four-hour drive away, without my knowledge my 3-month-old kitten, Kasi, had crawled into my overnight sack and made herself at home. When I got to my destination and opened the sack, Kasi jumped out, scared me half to death and irritated my friends (who were not animal lovers). Needless to say, most of my first day there was spent in the laundry room, and I had to cut my trip short and return home on the second day.” — Norma W., North Carolina

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“While at the airport checking in for a flight to Rome, we learned that my suitcase exceeded the airline weight limit, which annoyed my dear husband immensely. In his anger, he tried to ‘lighten the load,’ so to speak, and thereby I watched in horror as he randomly threw my underwear all over the floor of the terminal.” — Joan O., Florida

“After bumping our suitcases up a very narrow staircase, my two sisters and I finally reached our room, which had a balcony overlooking Lake Maggiore. Crowding onto it to admire the views, we stepped back into the room and heard a persistent buzzing sound. After searching everywhere for the origin, we decided it must be in the pipes or something, so I went downstairs to get the manager and demand another room. Puzzled, the manager came back with me and she too searched for the source — then she walked toward my suitcase and said the noise was coming from there. Opening the suitcase, I found my battery-operated toothbrush. The bumping on the stairs had somehow knocked it on! Three very embarrassed ladies apologized profusely to the unsmiling manager, and just managed to keep it together until she’d left the room before collapsing on the beds in fits of giggles. For the rest of our trip around Italy I kept the battery and toothbrush separate!” — Wendy S.

The Ultimate Guide to Travel Packing

“Years ago, I took a trip to New Orleans and packed my airline ticket in a secret compartment in my carry-on luggage (after checking into the hotel). A week later, I was packing for my return trip home and realized I couldn’t find the return airline ticket. I surmised the maid must have taken it and summoned the hotel security staff. A report was filled out, and upon getting to the airport, I filled out a lost/stolen airline ticket report, paid the fee and flew home. Many years later, I was packing for another trip and stumbled across the secret compartment. You can guess what was in it — that old airline ticket!” — Greg T., New Jersey

Airline Perks Worth Paying For

 

Once upon a time, the guy who booked his plane ticket early was the lucky chap who laid claim to the window seat in the exit row. But today, first-come, first-served plane seats have gone the way of stewardesses, cabin smoking sections and paper tickets. In the past few years, we’ve rolled our eyes as airline after airline rolled out “perks” like priority boarding and preferred economy seating, taking away any chance that a fortuitous flier could achieve the best possible economy experience at no cost.

man checking in at airport

Alas, these programs are here to stay. So instead of scoffing at the idea that fliers have to pay for something that was once complimentary, let’s move on, accept the status quo and find out how we can use it to our advantage.

Are priority boarding and preferred seating programs really worth our cash? George Hobica, founder and president of Airfarewatchdog.com, thinks so. Says Hobica, “With so many fliers carrying bags onboard now, you really have to fight for overhead bin space. And these perks are especially great for families. If you want to keep the family sitting together, and you don’t want the kids sitting between two strangers, you can purchase the seats you want with some preferred seating programs.” (Note: A 2016 bill passed by the U.S. Congress could eventually require that families be seated together at no extra cost.)

Airline early boarding and premium seating programs vary widely, with some offering more value than others. Below, we dissect a handful of programs from the major U.S. airlines to help you decipher which ones are best for you.

American’s Main Cabin Extra offers additional legroom (up to six inches) and Group 1 boarding, starting at $20 per segment. You can purchase Main Cabin Extra when you book or buy it as an upgrade before your flight. Main Cabin Extra is complimentary for most elite fliers and for those who book a full-fare coach ticket.

You can also purchase a Preferred seat when you book, which includes standard legroom and a “favorable” location on the plane (i.e., seats near the front of the cabin). On the flight we tested, from Denver to Philadelphia, Main Cabin Extra cost $64 while Preferred seats were going for $29 – $35.

The Verdict: If legroom and early boarding are essential for you, Main Cabin Extra is the best choice; Preferred costs less, but without any additional legroom or priority boarding, moving up a few rows on the plane might not be worth the cost (especially if the “premium” seats available are middle seats, as many of them are).

How to Get the Best Airplane Seat

Delta Comfort+ includes three inches of extra legroom on domestic flights (or four inches on international flights), dedicated overhead bin space and priority boarding. There are also little perks such as amenity kits (on transcontinental flights) and special snacks. The price varies by route; on our test flight (Denver to Philadelphia), the upgrade cost $59.38 each way. Alternatively, on some flights you can purchase Preferred Seats in the main cabin, which will get you an aisle or window seat near the front of the plane.

You can also purchase priority boarding (which cost $15 on our test flight).

The Verdict: If all you care about is being seated near the front of the plane, buying a Preferred Seat will save you money over upgrading to Delta Comfort+ — but it doesn’t include all the other extras such as priority boarding and guaranteed bin space. Keep in mind that some of these premium seats are middle seats; you might prefer a free aisle or window seat closer to the back of the plane over a roomier middle seat near the front.

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JetBlue offers Even More Space, which grants fliers access to roomier seats (up to 38 inches of legroom) on the plane in addition to early boarding and access to overhead bins. Costs vary by flight. When we checked prices on a domestic flight between New York and Portland, Oregon, the price ranged from $30 to $90 per leg of the flight.

Even More Space sometimes includes JetBlue’s Even More Speed program, also known as early boarding, which is only available in select U.S. cities. (Even More Speed can also be purchased by itself.)

The Verdict: Sure, these seats are slightly roomier, and the bonus priority boarding is nice if it’s included. But middle seats in the front of the plane are up for grabs at that extra price, and personally, I wouldn’t pay $90 more to sit in a middle seat unless it was wedged between two adorable kittens. Since these extra seats are charged on a per-leg basis, they can get quite expensive. The cost for Even More Space seats on all legs of my New York to Portland itinerary, which included a stop in Long Beach, was a whopping $240 total; this might be worth it for tall travelers who desperately need the extra seat pitch, but not so much for 5’1″ yours truly.

southwest plane

Southwest doesn’t have assigned seating, but the airline divides passengers into A, B and C sections based on how early each passenger checks in within 24 hours of departure. The sooner you check in within that 24-hour window, the more likely it is you’ll gain a coveted spot on the A team, which boards after elite fliers and passengers with special needs. Pay $15 each way for EarlyBird Check-In, and you’ll be checked in automatically and receive a boarding assignment 36 hours before your departure.

The Verdict: Because of Southwest’s every-man-for-himself approach to airline seating, the $15 EarlyBird Check-In option is worth it if you’re determined to snag a seat in the front in order to make a tight connection. Frequent flier John Deiner is a fan of the program: “I’ve been flying Southwest for years, and the one thing I hate about it is that you have to check in exactly 24 hours in advance or lose your shot at being among the first to board. I tried out the EarlyBird program on a recent trip to Vegas and loved it — I got on early, got my seat of choice in the emergency row, had copious amounts of overhead storage to choose from and didn’t have to worry about checking in at a certain time.”

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As the king of extra fees and add-ons (there’s even a fee for carry-on bags that don’t fit under the seat in front of you), Spirit charges you for any seat request. That means that if you want to be sure you sit next to your spouse or child — even in a lousy coach seat in the back — it’ll cost you $1 to $50. (The airline will assign you a seat at random for free.) For Big Front Seats, which have extra legroom and no middle seat between them, you’ll pay $12 to $199 in advance or $25 to $75 for onboard upgrades.

If you want to speed through the airport and onto the plane, you’ll pay up to $15 for Shortcut Security and $5.99 each way for Shortcut Boarding (also known as Zone 2 priority boarding).

The Verdict: Most of us want some control over where we sit, so it’s worth paying for a seat assignment of some sort — and if you’re paying anyway, why not grab an extra-large seat?

Economy Plus seats offer a few inches of extra legroom near the front of the plane; they are complimentary for some elite fliers and can be purchased by anyone else on a one-time basis or as a yearly subscription. In our tests, prices for one-time Economy Plus upgrades ranged from $99 to $129 on a flight from Los Angeles to Chicago, $29 – $34 on a flight from Chicago to Atlanta and $169 – $193 on a flight between Los Angeles and London.

United also offers Premier Access, which starts at $15 per segment and includes priority boarding, expedited security lanes and dedicated check-in lines. You can purchase this when you book or any time before your flight, including check-in.

During booking, you can purchase an Essentials Offer (which includes Economy Plus seating and an extra checked bag) or an Enhanced Offer (Economy Plus seating, extra award miles, Premier Access, an extra checked bag and United Club access when available). On our test flight between Los Angeles and London, we found that it was cheaper to choose one of these bundles than to select Economy Plus seats individually.

The Verdict: These upgrades can get expensive, as they’re priced per segment; if you’re interested in Economy Plus on most or all of your individual flight segments, it’s probably worth purchasing one of the bundled offers at check-out. Get the Enhanced Offer if you want priority boarding as well.

Airport Security Q&A

 

If you haven’t flown in a while, you may not be up on the latest airport security changes from the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Most travelers are aware that the TSA has instituted strict regulations about the amount of toothpaste, bottled water, and other liquid and gel items that travelers are permitted to bring in carry-on luggage. But what exactly are the rules? Just how much of your must-have favorite shampoo can you bring? And are the rules different if you’re flying overseas?

We’ve gathered answers to these and other common airport security questions to help you figure out your packing strategy under the TSA’s carry-on rules. With air traffic soaring, it’s more important than ever to follow the guidelines — that way you won’t be the fool holding up your entire security line.

airport security checkpoint

A. Yes. The liquid/gel restrictions only apply to carry-on baggage.

A. Yes, but only in limited amounts. Liquids and gels must be in individual containers of 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less and placed inside one clear, quart-size, plastic, zip-top bag. The TSA emphasizes that containers should fit comfortably into your bag, and that only one bag is permitted per passenger. If you need to bring more than 3.4 ounces of any liquid or gel substance, it should go into your checked luggage or be shipped ahead.

A. These substances are exempt from the rules above. As long as you declare them at the security checkpoint, you may carry more than 3.4 ounces, and they do not need to be placed in a plastic bag. The TSA recommends but does not require that prescription medications be in their original labeled containers to expedite the screening process. The TSA also makes exceptions for other medical necessities such as insulin, eye drops or syringes. Just make sure to present these items to the security officer when you reach the checkpoint. (You may even want to consider printing out the TSA’s medical notification cards.)

A. Yes.

A. While keeping medications and vitamins in their original labeled containers may expedite the screening process, it’s fine to transfer them into more convenient smaller containers such as daily pill minders.

A. Makeup is subject to the same liquid and gel rules as all other substances — so if you’re bringing liquid mascara, lip gels (such as Blistex) or other liquid- or gel-like items, they will need to be placed in your quart-size plastic bag in 3.4-ounce or smaller containers. Lipstick, powders, solid lip balms (such as ChapStick) and other solid beauty products are not subject to the rules, and may be carried in your hand luggage without restriction.

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A. Even though a TSA representative once told us to “try not to over-think” the guidelines, that can be tricky when it comes to food items. Does a cheesecake count as a gel or a solid? What about pecan pie? And can you bring your holiday leftovers like turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes?

A TSA rep told us that turkey and stuffing should be solid enough to pass muster, but mashed potatoes are a bit too gel-like. As for baked goods, the latest word from the TSA is that travelers can take pies, cakes and other bakery products through security — but be prepared for additional screening.

You may bring solid snack foods such as pretzels, potato chips or carrot sticks for the plane, but you might want to hold the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Single-serving packages of condiments are permitted as long as they fit within your single zip-top bag, so you can add mustard to your ham sandwich after you get through security. All food must be securely wrapped or in a spill-proof container.

pretzels

Gel packs to refrigerate food are permitted for medication, but otherwise must be completely solid when you go through the checkpoint. If your freezer pack is partially defrosted and there’s any water in your container, the TSA will confiscate the item.

Our advice? If you have any doubts about a particular food, either check it or leave it at home. After all, you can always buy food or drinks after you pass through the security checkpoint if you need some munchies for the plane.

A. Yes.

10 Ways to Survive a Long-Haul Flight

A. Yes. Children 12 and under do not need to remove shoes, light jackets or headwear before going through the checkpoint. If the metal detector or full body scanner finds anomalies, the screener may choose to let the child go through again and/or swab the child’s hands for explosives in lieu of a pat-down.

A. Yes. Seniors 75 and older can leave on their light jackets and shoes during screening (although you may have to remove them if the screener finds any anomalies).

A. Loose lithium batteries are not permitted in checked bags. If your batteries are installed in a device (such as a camera), you may pack the device in either a checked bag or a carry-on, but loose lithium batteries may only be transported in your carry-on luggage. Certain quantity limits apply to both loose and installed batteries; for more information, see the Department of Transportation’s website.

A. Common lighters without fuel are permitted in carry-on or checked baggage, while torch lighters (which are typically used to light pipes and cigars) are prohibited in either type of baggage. E-cigarettes are only permitted in carry-on luggage, not in your checked bag.

A. Tweezers are permitted, as are disposable razors and their cartridges. Straight razors are only permitted in checked baggage. Scissors are permitted as long as the blades do not exceed four inches.

A. Yes. However, circular thread cutters, scissors longer than four inches and other needlepoint tools with blades must be packed in checked luggage.

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A. The European Union (E.U.) as well as other countries such as Australia, Japan, Singapore, Iceland and Norway have adopted similar security restrictions to those in the U.S. You are permitted 100-milliliter containers of liquid and gel substances, packed within a clear, resealable, one-liter plastic bag.

If you’re not sure which airport security rules will apply in the country you’re visiting, we recommend contacting your airline or the local tourist board for advice.

european union eu flag

A. Duty-free liquids, such as perfume or alcohol, are permitted in excess of 3.4 ounces as long as they were purchased at a duty-free shop and placed in special tamper-evident bags. Liquids not in these bags must be stowed in your checked suitcase if you have more than 3.4 ounces.

7 Things Not to Do When Packing a Carry-On

A. Passengers may bring up to 5.5 pounds of dry ice in either their carry-on or checked bag as long as it’s stored in a package that allows the venting of carbon dioxide gas. Airline approval is required. That said, a DOT spokesperson suggests that travelers avoid packing dry ice in carry-on luggage, as individual TSA agents unfamiliar with the regulations may confiscate the substance.

A. Although there have been horror stories about the TSA’s treatment of fliers with disabilities and medical conditions, most security officers are discreet and professional. As soon as you approach the TSA agent, you should disclose your medical issue so that he or she can determine the best way to screen you and any equipment you may be carrying. The TSA does not require travelers to carry a doctor’s note describing their condition, but having this written description may help expedite the screening process. Again, consider carrying the TSA’s medication notification cards.

A. We recommend arriving at the airport two hours before a domestic flight, especially if you’re traveling during the summer, the holidays or another particularly busy time of year. If you’re flying internationally, you should allow yourself even more time.

A. You will have to put your shoes, clear plastic bag of liquids, jacket, jewelry, cell phone, keys and metal items into a bin for screening before you step through the metal detector or the full body scanning machine. (If you opt out of the full body scan, you will face an “enhanced” pat-down, which is performed by a security officer of your gender and covers all areas of the body, including the groin, buttocks and breasts.) You might also need to remove your belt. Laptops and video cameras must be removed from their cases and screened individually. Smaller electronics such as iPads or e-readers do not need to be removed from your bag for separate screening.

laptop computer carry-on airport woman

Save time by putting metal items into your carry-on before you get to the checkpoint, taking your electronic items out of their cases and wearing easily removable footwear.

10 Things Not to Do at Airport Security

A. According to a TSA representative, you may request to be rescanned before submitting to a pat-down, but it’s up to the individual TSA officer to decide whether to grant that request, based on whether the situation meets security protocols.

A. Do not pack wrapped gifts in either your carry-on or checked baggage, as the TSA may unwrap them for inspection. Your best bet is to wrap your gifts once you arrive at your destination, or ship them ahead of time.

A Laptops, video cameras, iPods, hand-held video game consoles, e-readers and most other standard electronic devices are permitted in both checked and carry-on luggage. As noted above, you should be prepared to remove laptops or video cameras from their cases at the security checkpoint. Because electronic items tend to be frequent targets for security screening, you might want to pack these near the top of your bag so that inspectors don’t need to unpack your whole suitcase to get to them.

A. Yes, but you’ll need to use a TSA-approved lock so that screeners can open it if your bag is selected for inspection. TSA screeners will simply cut off non-approved locks if they need to get into your bag.

A. Check TSA.gov for packing tips, a searchable list of permitted and prohibited items, and information for travelers with special needs.

Don’t see your question? Send it to us!

Packing Tips from Our Readers

 

Are you the type of traveler who can’t leave home with fewer than four suitcases? Or the type who crams clothes willy-nilly into each bag and then doesn’t understand why every shirt comes out riddled with wrinkles?

suitcase pack packing travel vacation

Whatever your packing problems, our readers can help. IndependentTraveler.com members have responded to our packing tips with their own travel-tested suggestions for saving space, reducing wrinkles and lightening your load.

“I ask my older relatives to save for me the plastic bottles where their prescription pills come. These usually have childproof caps which means that you can put liquids in them and they won’t spill. So I use them for all liquids I need to pack. The small ones are good for one-time use of shampoo, cough medicine, liquid laundry soap, etc. The medium and larger sizes I use for longer trips, because I can put enough liquid in them to last for a few uses. When they empty, I just throw them away. And when I return home my relatives have a few more bottles waiting.” — Conchy

“After having checked luggage go missing on a trip, my partner and I always mix items in the bags. Day and evening wear, underclothes and footwear for each of us in both bags, that way we each have something to wear until the lost luggage turns up!” — Vee

“My best packing tip is to tuck your packing list into your carry-on when you are done packing. If your suitcase gets lost, you have a list of everything that was in it. On a more positive note, I also carry a photo of our suitcases. That is invaluable when trying to answer the question, ‘And what do your suitcases look like?'” — BonnieC

“I always pack two different pairs of comfortable walking shoes, because no matter how comfortable the shoes are, after a full day of walking, your feet will hurt somewhere. By alternating the shoes, you nver get to the point where your feet are hurting so much you can’t enjoy the trip.” — chrisnjeanne

What Not to Pack

“I went to Japan last year, and took one of the extra huge zip-top bags with me and used it as a washing machine! I was able to get a LOT of clothes into it at once. I just put in the clothes, poured in the soap, filled it with water and then agitated it around in the tub until the clothes were all clean. It made the washing and rinsing a breeze, and my clothes got much cleaner than if I was just washing in the sink.” — USRoadTripper

“I have two absolute favorite jewelry tips. For necklaces and bracelets, INDEX CARDS! Tape the end to an index card and wrap it around the card, then secure with a hair tie. For earrings, safety pins, bobby pins and other random items, wash out an Altoids tin. They are metal, snap securely shut and pack just about anywhere in a suitcase. (Also worth doing: Make a sewing kit and pack it in an Altoids tin.) — gotsparkly

“Being ‘of a certain age,’ I take quite a few daily medications. Rather than take bulky hard plastic containers, I pack all my pills in miniature zip-lock bags (available at craft stores). I label these with permanent marker and put them all in a sandwich bag. They take up no room at all!” — hari

Medications for Travel

“I always bring a sheet of bubble wrap — small bubbles — for any breakable items I might buy along the way. I am sure it’s saved more than one treasure I have gotten home safely and it takes up no space at all.” –sunnyflies

“With the airlines weighing bags to increase their fees, you can put many heavy items in your pockets. You could even sew extra large pockets inside of your jacket to carry more onto the plane and transfer them back into your carry-on later.” — hbuhr

“Preparing for a three-week cruise, I decided to go to the back of my closet and pull out the clothes that I would not necessarily have chosen as ‘the pick of the day.’ They were all right, but not my favorites. I chose either to donate to charity along the way or to chuck the items. WAHOO! Loads and loads of weight reduction, not to speak of extra space for shopping and/or souvenirs.” — Joko

The Carry-On Challenge: How to Pack Light Every Time

“I buy two-gallon zip-lock bags to use when packing. I pick out a complete outfit (shirt, pants or skirt, underwear and socks to match — all wrinkle-free materials) and pack them in the large bag, removing as much air as possible. This prevents having to rummage through the clothes to find coordinating items and messing up the suitcase. I make sure that I have one bag per day or event, then just pull out a bag and get ready!” — Debbi G.

“I like to pack a foldable suitcase inside my regular suitcase. My husband and I can’t stand having our dirty clothes mixed in with our clean clothes. The second suitcase works great; we just dump our dirty clothes into the second bag and don’t have to worry about odor or remembering which layer is the dirty layer. It also gives you more room for souvenirs.” — traveljunkie6987

“My tried and true trick for keeping special fabrics and/or items of clothing wrinkle-free is to use the plastic from your dry cleaning (save those plastic wraps). Lay it out flat on the bed, place your item of clothing on top of the plastic (use two pieces if you must, but the longer pieces of dry cleaning plastic, like the kind for coats and dresses, always work) and begin to carefully fold your clothing so that each fold is wrapped, i.e. every bend has a piece of plastic in it. Once done, carefully place the clothes in the part of your suitcase that has those ‘X’ straps on one side — OR, if you don’t have that, put the wrapped pieces on the bottom of your suitcase. THIS WORKS!” — Host Bonjour

“I make sure all my tops go with all my bottoms, so I can mix and match them. I also avoid prints and try to stick with solid colors … if I want to add some color, I add a scarf or some inexpensive local jewelry. I also try to bring lightweight layers, so I can add or subtract them depending on the weather.” — gypsychick

“I use mesh packing cubes and packing envelopes (folders)! I try to take mostly travel knits, which are rolled up and secured in the mesh packing cube(s). Any item that could wrinkle (hubby’s shirts and trousers) is folded and packed in a packing envelope. I love this system because everything (underwear and socks included) is either in a cube or envelope, so there are no loose things in the luggage. We usually just leave the cube items in our bags when we arrive at our destination — they’re already organized and easy to find. We’ve never had wrinkle problems since using the envelopes.” — desdemona01

4 Packing Mistakes You’re Probably Making

“I always work out how many days it takes to go through my favorite shampoo, conditioner and deodorant and then take half-filled bottles because I know that I will run out on the last day of my trip. I can always use the hotel-provided ones for one or two days if required.” –pookyandjo

toiletry bag toothbrush bathroom travel

“Have a ‘travel’ bag filled with duplicate lotions, shampoo/conditioner, slippers, etc. put away for trips. I keep mine in a small shopping bag so when my next trip comes up, all I have to do is reach in, pack what I need (seasonal items like suntan lotion don’t always go) and I’m ready! When you return from each trip, refill or purchase what has been used. It saves so much time.” — Sallie J.

“I always pack my carry-on as if it’s the only bag I’m taking. I know all my essentials are there, including a change of clothes. Then I pack my checked bag. It’s a bonus when it arrives with me.”
— Wendy

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“For an extended trip (more than a week), try packing a week before. Then mentally walk through how you will wear each change of clothing and other accessories you think you’ll use. That way, you can reduce the amount of clothing packed and be able to make a list of all those last-minute items you need to buy — batteries, electrical converter, rain poncho, toiletries, etc.” — Jonathan B.

“Create a master packing list that includes everything you might need for any trip, and then highlight the items you will need for a particular trip. My list has been invaluable and helps me to remember things that don’t readily come to mind.” — Tim H.

“Instead of packing toner or astringent for the face, I put cotton balls in a heavy zip-lock bag and pour toner or astringent on it — one ball or two per day. That is one less plastic bottle to pack. Same format for moisturizing lotion: Buy a cheaper quality lotion just for the trip. Put it in a heavy-duty zip-lock bag and use it from this bag morning or night while on the trip — one less container.” — Carolyn S.

What’s your top packing tip? Share it in the comments below.

Around-the-World Tickets and Fares

 

Around-the-world travel isn’t just for the young or the independently wealthy. Students, retirees and even working folks with a few weeks of vacation time can take advantage of the convenient pricing and flexibility of around-the-world tickets. You can travel around the world for nearly any length of time, from a few days to a few years. Your trip can involve a couple of brief stops or dozens of stopovers and side trips.

travel backpack beach

And it needn’t cost as much as you might think. Economy-class fares for the most basic around-the-world tickets start at less than $2,000.

An around-the-world ticket is a special fare (or a series of point-to-point tickets) that allows you to fly to multiple cities and continents. These tickets are sold through airline alliances and agencies that specialize in around-the-world travel, and they can help you save money and organize your itinerary. Read on for a run-down on where to buy around-the-world tickets, how they work and what they cost.

Consider an around-the-world ticket if you’re traveling to multiple continents within the same trip. (If you’re focusing on a single continent, an air pass may be a better bet.) Plot out your preferred countries or cities, along with a rough idea of how long you’d like to spend in each place, and then turn to one of the providers listed below for help in planning your itinerary.

Note that it is possible to craft your own around-the-world ticket of sorts simply by pricing out each leg of your trip individually. We recommend doing a quick price check using a site like Kayak.com or Momondo.com, and then comparing the fares you see against the offerings from the providers below.

There are two main types of around-the-world ticket providers: airlines and specialist agencies.

Airlines: The three global airline alliances allow you to link together the routes of any member airlines to create one continuous global trip. Each alliance offers at least one around-the-world ticket option.

Fares are calculated based on the total mileage of your trip or the number of continents you visit. You are permitted anywhere from 3 to 15 stopovers in a period of 10 days to a year. These tickets may not be your most flexible option, as some require you to reserve all legs of your trip in advance. There may be restrictions on which direction you can travel (some around-the-world fares require that you travel only in a single direction, either east to west or vice versa), or how many miles you can fly.

One advantage of booking your around-the-world ticket through an airline alliance is that you’ll be eligible to earn frequent flier miles toward the airline loyalty program of your choice.

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Information about around-the-world tickets on each alliance can be found at the following links:

Oneworld
SkyTeam
Star Alliance

Specialist Agencies: Many of these agencies are consolidators who can piece together point-to-point one-way tickets that undercut the lowest economy fares from the airline alliances. Be sure to ask whether your ticket will be eligible for frequent flier miles, as this may vary from one agency to the next.

man with backpack at airport gate

You will find that around-the-world fares through these agencies begin at about $1,300, which is a very basic New York – London – Hong Kong – New York ticket. Rather than selling you a single around-the-world ticket, the agency will ask you where you want to stop, then issue you a series of point-to-point tickets. If you live near a small airport, you’ll likely need to transfer through larger gateways before embarking on the international portion of your trip.

Here are several agencies that specialize in around-the-world tickets:

AirTreks
Indie
STA Travel
TicketsRoundtheWorld.com

Editor’s Note: While we have had great experiences with some of the companies listed above, this is a cutthroat business with very small margins. Please take the same precautions you would in buying a ticket from an around-the-world specialist as you would from a consolidator, such as charging your tickets on a credit card and confirming all reservations/seat assignments with the airlines directly.

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Flexibility: This may be the single most important factor in the success of your trip. Want the option to stick around New Zealand for an extra two weeks, or to fly to Bangkok instead of Beijing? Be sure to read the terms and conditions carefully before you book your around-the-world ticket. Ask which reservations need to be confirmed ahead of time, how easily you can alter your original dates or itinerary, and which change fees or fare increases may apply. Keep in mind that flexibility may often come with higher fares, so you’ll need to weigh your budget against your travel plans.

Class: For many travelers, flying first or business class is well out of their price range — but if you’ve got a little cushion in your travel budget, consider whether it’s worth spending the extra money to buy an around-the-world ticket in business class. Flying long distances and living on the road for an extended period of time can be hard on your body, and you may be surprised at how much you appreciate that relaxing flight in a spacious airline seat when you’ve been on the go for four months straight.

Alternatives: If money is a concern, keep in mind that using your around-the-world ticket may not always be the most economical option for getting from Point A to Point B. For shorter segments of your trip, check the local train or bus services as well as any discount airlines that operate in the region. They may take a little more planning and coordination, but these alternatives could save you some cash.

Shopping Abroad: A Traveler’s Guide

 

Some travelers get to know a place through its museums and monuments, others through its scenic landscapes or traditional cuisine. But for globetrotters who love to shop, there’s no truer way to experience a place than by haggling with merchants in a bazaar, browsing the handcrafted wares of local artisans or sampling designer duds at the poshest boutique in town.

shopping bags woman russia

Shopping abroad can be exciting and rewarding, but it’s not without its pitfalls. The intricate art of haggling is often a challenge for visitors used to fixed prices at their mall at home, and the sea of cheap knock-offs and tacky souvenirs in just about any major tourist destination makes it difficult to tell when you’ve found a true local gem. Become a savvier shopper with our tips for avoiding fakes, haggling like a pro and getting your goods home at the end of your trip.

How do you know whether that cute handbag is a genuine designer item or if you’re getting a good deal on that amazing carpet at the Turkish bazaar? Our rule of thumb is simple: research, research, research. Sure, window shopping and spontaneous spending are fun, but if you’re looking to make a major purchase, you’ll want to do your homework to make sure you’re getting a good deal — and the real deal.

If you know you’re in the market for a certain item, such as blown glass in Venice or a traditional kimono in Japan, do some reading ahead of time to learn what to look for when shopping at your destination. Which qualities ensure that the item is genuine? Which scams should you keep an eye out for? A good guidebook can be invaluable here, offering purchasing tips as well as recommendations for reputable shops and markets.

Another good bet is to consult the concierge at your hotel; he or she will be able to point you to trustworthy vendors that specialize in the types of goods you’re looking for. The local visitors’ bureau is another good bet. And, of course, the internet offers a wealth of information on any type of shopping you can imagine. Hop online before or during your trip to gather the wisdom of other travelers.

Once at your destination, shop around before purchasing to familiarize yourself with the range of merchandise and prices available. (Hint: If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.) Tour guides often take travelers to preselected shops for purchasing souvenirs, but use caution — your guide may get a commission on anything you buy, often resulting in inflated prices. You may get a better deal at a shop you find on your own.

For big-ticket items such as jewelry and art, make sure to get a certificate of appraisal or authenticity at the time of purchase — and, if possible, pay for your goods with a credit card. That will help protect you if you get home and discover that an item isn’t actually worth what you paid for it.

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In North America and many parts of Europe, haggling is a bit of a dying art (unless you’re on a used car lot!). But throughout the rest of the world, bargaining and bartering are a vital part of any transaction — and you’re unlikely to get a good deal unless you can master your own negotiating skills.

It’s important to be familiar with the culture of the place you’re visiting, as your haggling strategy will vary a bit from country to country. For example, in some parts of the world, it pays to be assertive and forceful when negotiating a price; in others, you’ll do better keeping your tone soft and pleasant. Check your guidebook or do a Google search for a rundown on local haggling customs. CultureCrossing.net is another good source of information on cultural norms, listed by country.

No matter where you’re traveling, bring a positive attitude into the transaction. Think of haggling as a game — a competitive but ultimately fun and friendly exercise. Don’t get angry or insult the seller, even if the negotiations aren’t going your way. At the end of the day, both you and the merchant should feel happy with the outcome of the deal.

Never enter a haggling situation unprepared. By the time you approach the seller, you should have already shopped around and determined approximately how much the item you want to buy is worth. We suggest having two numbers in mind: the price you’d ideally like to pay and the maximum amount you’re willing to spend.

arabian shoes morocco moroccan market

Here’s a handy tip: If you’re paying in cash, set aside the money that you’re prepared to spend and keep it in your wallet; move the rest of your bills elsewhere. This serves two purposes. You can give the merchant visual evidence that this amount is the most you can possibly pay (“See? This is all I have!”), and it also helps prevent you from going over your own self-imposed price limit.

On a related note, be sure to carry plenty of small bills so that you can pay the exact price of your item. Occasionally a merchant will claim that he can’t make change for larger bills, hoping to convince you to let him keep the excess amount.

Make the seller begin the negotiations by waiting for him to make the initial offer. If you’re not sure how much to counteroffer, a good rule of thumb is to halve the initial price and negotiate from there. (As noted above, though, this strategy may vary from country to country.)

Traveling with a companion? Discuss who’s going to do the talking and what you’re willing to pay before you enter the shop and start haggling — that way you can present a united front (and your husband won’t ruin the deal right off the bat with an opening offer that’s higher than the maximum you want to spend).

Don’t show too much interest in the item you’re negotiating for, no matter how desperately you want it. Looking too eager tells a savvy merchant that you’re willing to pay a pretty penny to avoid walking out without that must-have item. In fact, you should be willing to walk; when you do so, you’ll often find the merchant following you into the street with a new, lower counteroffer.

Don’t rush the transaction. Negotiating a deal that works for both parties can take time — so enjoy the process and go with the flow. (This is a tactical advantage too; if you appear to be in a hurry, the seller may think you’ll settle for a higher price just to get out of there.)

That said, if the negotiations have gone on for a while and you’ve reached a stalemate over the last $5 or $10 difference in price, it may be time to let it go. What will you regret more — leaving behind a unique memento of your trip or spending a few extra bucks? Remember, too: Odds are that if you’re traveling in a developing country, the merchant probably needs that additional $5 or $10 more than you do.

The Best Way to Carry Money Overseas

Dedicated shopaholics know to leave plenty of room in their suitcases for souvenirs — or even pack an additional bag to fit the extras. Duffel bags are a good bet to serve as your extra bag because they fold easily and don’t take up much space, but their flimsiness makes them appropriate only for dirty clothes and other unbreakable items, not your new porcelain vase. Valuable or delicate items should be wrapped carefully and stowed in your carry-on.

Occasionally you’ll purchase something that’s too large, heavy or fragile to carry home yourself. In these cases, you’ll need to decide between having the store ship the item for you (which isn’t always an option when buying from smaller merchants) and shipping it yourself.

If you’re having the merchant take care of the shipping, be sure to buy insurance for the item, pay with a credit card, and get an itemized receipt specifying exactly what you purchased and how it will be shipped.

box shipping ship package styrofoam peanuts

If you’ll be doing the shipping yourself, pack the item carefully and label the box with the contents of the package, the monetary value of those contents, and either “Personal Use Purchase” or “Unsolicited Gift” (for customs purposes). Your hotel concierge might be able to mail the package for you; alternatively, you can visit the local post office or seek out the nearest UPS, DHL or FedEx office (visit their websites for a list of locations). Again, purchase insurance for your package and pay with a credit card for the most protection.

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Back in your own country, your goods will have to clear customs before you can bring them home. In general, U.S. residents are permitted to bring up to $800 worth of merchandise back from a trip without having to pay duty (numerous exceptions apply). For goods that you ship home to yourself, up to $200 is exempt from duty. Customs will inspect your packages when they arrive in the U.S., and if you owe duty you’ll have to pay it when your package is delivered.

For more information on customs allowances for U.S. residents, see our Customs and Duty-Free Guide. If you reside outside the U.S., check out the following links or visit your own country’s customs agency:

Canada Borders Services Agency
HM Revenue & Customs (United Kingdom)
Revenue: Irish Tax and Customs
Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection
New Zealand Customs Service

How to Pack Efficiently: 8 Products That Can Help

 

Ever found yourself rooting through your suitcase, tossing clothes and gadgets haphazardly around your hotel room in search of that one shirt you really want to wear? Or shown up at the airport with a suitcase that exceeds your airline’s weight limit, leaving you shifting your stuff from one bag to another in front of a line of impatient fellow passengers?

messy suitcase

If problems like these sound familiar, chances are you need a few lessons in how to pack efficiently. That means packing light, maximizing your suitcase space and staying organized during your trip.

We’ve identified eight products that will help you in the eternal quest for more efficient packing.

These old reliables are the ultimate tool for travelers who like to stay organized. Instead of having all your clothes and other items scattered around your suitcase willy-nilly, you can divide them into zippered compartments — larger ones for shirts and pants, medium ones for shoes, smaller ones for socks and undies. Couples or families who share a single large suitcase can buy packing cubes in different colors so they know which cubes are whose.

There are countless brands of packing cubes to choose from. Popular options include sets from eBags and TravelWise.

Garment folders serve a similar purpose as packing cubes but with a different design. These let you enclose a neatly folded stack of clothes, with the added benefit of compression. We like those from Eagle Creek, available in a variety of sizes (including large and small) .

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Compression bags — also called compression sacks — are a godsend for travelers who never seem to have enough room in their suitcase. The bags allow you to squeeze tons of clothes into a small space by removing all the air, freeing up space while keeping things organized. We’ve even seen people use these on bulky items such as winter coats and even pillows! (Caution: Keep an eye on the weight of your suitcase when using compression bags. With all your newfound space, it’s easy to go overboard.)

Recommended compression bags include options from Packmate, Acroo and RoomierLife. We like these because they don’t require vacuum cleaners or special pumps to suck out air.

Note: The poor man’s compression sack is a simple zip-top plastic bag, which come in a variety of sizes (1 gallon, 3 gallons, 10 gallons, even 20 gallons). Roll or fold your clothes, place them in the bag and then flatten to remove as much air as you can.

Packing Tips: Should You Roll or Fold?

Daily pill organizers are a must for travelers who take multiple medications and/or supplements a day, but did you know you can also use them for jewelry? Keep necklaces, bracelets and earrings in their own separate compartments, and you’ll avoid having to spend mornings at your hotel unsnarling silver chains.

We like this option from Apothecary.

Avoid losing your keys or your cell phone in the depths of your purse by adding an organizer to your bag. With various compartments and pockets, these organizers ensure that you’ll always have what you need close at hand. As a bonus, you can easily pick up the organizer and put it into a different bag if you want to change purses between trips.

Pursfection offers an organizer that has 11 pockets and expands to 12 inches long. Txobag sells a larger version with 13 pockets.

luggage scale

One important aspect of packing efficiently is staying well within your airline’s weight limit. Digital luggage scales are inexpensive — especially as compared to baggage fees! — and easy to use. When weighing your suitcase, be sure to allow yourself a little margin for error just in case the airport scale is calibrated a little differently (and to save a few pounds for any souvenirs you might bring home).

Camry and Spigen offer solid options.

Especially for longer journeys, doing laundry in the middle of your trip is the best way to cut down on the clothes you pack. But hotel laundry services are typically expensive, and no one wants to spend a day of their vacation hanging out at a local laundromat watching their underwear spin dry.

For these situations, a waterproof bag that you can use to wash your own clothes may be your most efficient option. (And you’ll even get a little workout, as you need to shake the bag for several minutes to mimic the agitation of a washing machine.) Scrubba and Laundreez make portable clothes washers that weigh less than a pound.

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Suitcases with clever compartments or even built-in organizing systems can help keep your things in order throughout your trip. One intriguing option is the ShelfPack, which has shelves that lift up out of the bag to create a mobile closet in your hotel room. There are small zipper compartments on the end of each shelf where you can store additional items.

If you prefer packing cubes to shelves, you might like Oregami luggage, which features three zippered interior compartments that unfold accordion-style from the suitcase. (Check out our Oregami review.)

For a lighter, carry-on-size option, consider this wheeled duffel from eBags, which not only has numerous pockets but also has a removable interior shelf that you can use to divide the main compartment.

For more information, see Choosing the Right Travel Luggage.

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Share Advice from Your Latest Trip

 

The 5 Worst Trip Planning Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

 

Throughout history, millions of vacations have gone askew for variety of reasons. Remember the Griswold family’s cross-country drive to Walley World? (Fiction, yes, but no doubt representative of many real family road trips.) Naturally, attacks from crazy relatives can’t be stopped by any measure of good planning — but more common travel mishaps, like busted trip budgets or overpriced flights, are easily avoided if you plan right.

world map woman

After talking to a host of well-traveled friends and acquaintances, and communicating with IndependentTraveler.com’s travel community through our Facebook and Twitter pages, I’ve identified five all-too-common trip planning mistakes made by even experienced globetrotters.

Choosing set dates for your trip and then refusing to budge is a surefire way to pay too much for your flight. You can save hundreds of dollars on airfare by pushing your travel dates around by just a few days. Ticket prices tend to be lowest on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and the most expensive on Fridays and Sundays, but this may vary. Play with your dates, and use your booking engine’s flexible search option if it has one.

If you’re planning to fly during high-traffic holidays like spring break or Christmas/New Year, be prepared to pay top dollar for air transportation. Budget travelers may want to seek alternatives to holiday travel, whether it means taking the kids out of school or begging the big boss for some extra vacation days.

Although the dates of your hotel stay are probably at the mercy of the travel dates you set for your flight, keep in mind that flexibility pays off at many hotels as well. Whether it’s weekday specials at B&Bs or low off-season rates, a bounty of hotel bargains exists for the traveler who’s willing to move his or her travel dates around.

9 Creative Ways to Save for a Vacation

The days when most travelers would call up a travel agent, book a trip, hang up the phone and be done with it are long gone. Now, the Internet is a hodgepodge of hundreds of competing travel provider sites, all of whom are touting the “best deals” and “lowest prices” — and 9 out of 10 times it’s a mistake to book the first thing you see. While I can’t guarantee that a single travel site will always give you the lowest rates, what I can promise is that a thorough search of the major airlines and travel providers will almost always yield the best rate for your trip.

Aggregators like Kayak.com or TripAdvisor Flights scan multiple airlines to serve up a buffet of fares in one easy place.

Unless you’re staring at a jackpot fare that is mind-numbingly affordable — say, something like a $500 roundtrip ticket from the West Coast to Europe in the summer (jackpot!) — keep looking. You can always come back. (Well, almost always. We’ve found that some airfares posted on airline websites can change in a matter of minutes … which brings us back to the point about jackpot fares.) See Tips for Finding Cheap Airfare and How to Hack Your Way to a Cheaper Airfare for more help.

I’m a big advocate of the travel deal. Full price should be pared. Bargains should be booked. But, as with most things in life, one can take the deals thing too far. Travel deals often work against the consumer, and this is exactly how some businesses can afford to offer certain types of promotions.

On IndependentTraveler.com’s Facebook page, Pam Kreher Powroznik posted about the worst mistake she once made when planning a trip: “Spending $100 on the Paris Visitor Pass and then realizing the only thing we’d use it for was climbing to the top of the Arc de Triomphe — which we chose not to do! Good thing we had that ‘Whoops Factor’ built into our budget.”

Beware of discounted tickets or passes that you may not actually use. Also beware of discounts or special offers for hotels, cruises or packages that you probably wouldn’t book in the first place, or that exceed your budget even with a percentage off or a free night’s stay. Sure, it feels like you’re getting more value for your money if you’re paying less than the original price for accommodations. But if you’re still paying more than you would at a comparable, cheaper place, what’s the point?

5 Affordable Ways to Upgrade Your Vacation

If you’re dropping several thousand dollars on your vacation, I don’t blame you for wanting to get your money’s worth by stuffing an extensive schedule of sightseeing into your itinerary. But it’s key to leave plenty of room for the unexpected in your trip, whether it’s a missed connection in Chicago or a broken-down bus in Costa Rica. (It’s also smart to leave some space for spontaneous adventure. You could come across a fantastic deserted beach or undiscovered locals-only cafe when you least expect it.)

road sign

In particular, too-tight flight connections are a big travel mistake. I once booked a multi-leg flight on Expedia.com that included less than 60 minutes between connecting flights at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. My first flight was about 20 minutes late, and I ended up sprinting for 15 minutes through the airport to my terminal, where I was faced with a long, snaking airport security line. By this time I was sweating profusely and pretty certain that I was not going to make it onto my next flight. I got lucky when a Frenchman in the security line noticed my hysteria and got out of line to tell airport security, in French, that I was about to miss my flight. (When I had previously attempted to communicate this in a mishmash of English and lapsed college-level French with an American accent, security had instructed me to stay put.) Thanks to the kind stranger, I was allowed to bypass the line and made it onto my flight with only minutes to spare.

Keep in mind: That itinerary was originally created by Expedia, which, like a lot of travel providers and airlines, doesn’t always give travelers enough time in between flights. Always leave plenty of time for connections. We recommend at least an hour between domestic flights and two hours between international flights. This may vary by airport or time of year.

How to Create the Perfect Itinerary

Even travelers who carefully draw up a budget before their big trip can end up with financial plans slaughtered by baggage fees, airline surcharges, costs of airline meals and snacks, ATM fees, hotel service charges, car rental fees, Internet charges, taxes, tips, local payments and other pesky little (and big) fees. Overlook the surcharges and your trip could cost hundreds more than you bargained for.

The nickel-and-diming airlines are by far the worst offenders, but hotels, cruise lines, all-inclusive resorts and car rental companies aren’t far behind. Your best bet is to always read the fine print and to ask your travel provider to outline exactly what is and what isn’t included in the price. Don’t let phrases like “all-inclusive” or even “free” fool you. Plus, be aware that many hotels and B&Bs, especially overseas, list rates per person, per night as opposed to per room, per night.

Unexpected mishaps like the theft or loss of an important item can also destroy a well-planned budget. Sarah Schlichter, Senior Editor of IndependentTraveler.com, says she always budgets an extra $25 to $50 per person, per day for miscellaneous expenses when traveling. If you leave some wiggle room in your budget for extra fees you didn’t consider, like an unplanned cab ride or a battery charger for your camera to replace the one you lost, you’ll be less inclined to fret over the expenditure (and most importantly, you’ll be able to pay for it!).

For more tips and information, read Hidden Hotel Fees, and create a trip budget with our Travel Budget Calculator.

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