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10 ways to avoid disaster when travelling

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Travel

10 ways to avoid disaster when travelling

Vacations should be all about seeing new sights and experiencing fun new activities, but often our plans are hampered by long lines, sky-high prices and even exhaustion. We spoke with Cher MacNeill, a team leader and travel agent at Flight Centre in Calgary, Alta., to share some simple tips to avoid these common travel disasters.

1. Quit waiting in lines
Standing in line at an airport or a popular tourist attraction can be a mood killer. To avoid long lines at the airport, MacNeill suggests checking into your flight for free 24 hours prior to takeoff. Another benefit to checking in early is you get to pick your seats free of charge. She also recommends buying tickets or passes for amusement parks, shows, hop-on hop-off tours and other activities before you go, so you don't waste precious vacation time. However, be sure to take note if in-person admission is cheaper.

2. Don't lose your reservation numbers
You don't want to waste valuable time looking for booking information while you're on holidays. To keep track of all your confirmation numbers, MacNeill recommends downloading Trip Case. The app, available on the App Store and Google Play, keeps all of your information—flights, hotels, car rentals, activities, meetings, restaurant reservations, attraction confirmation numbers, and more—in one place on your smartphone. You'll never have to dig through your suitcase for receipts and confirmation numbers again.

3. Avoid being ripped off by taxis
When you're arriving at a city's airport for the first time, you might feel overwhelmed. That's why MacNeill suggests booking a bus or taxi beforehand, so you don't have to worry about how to get to your hotel. There are a variety of transfer options and shuttles at most international airports, so check online before you go. It's easier to have someone waiting for you at baggage claim than finding your own way in a new city. If you choose to grab a cab, MacNeill advises researching roughly how much a cab should cost from the airport so you aren't overcharged. Then, negotiate the rate before they start driving.

4. Don't overbook yourself
Imagine you're going to Japan: An excursion like hiking up a mountain or wandering around an ancient city might take you the entire day. Avoid being overambitious when it comes to planning each day or you're going to tire yourself out. MacNeill recommends sticking with one major activity per day. If you're having trouble making your itinerary less overwhelming, ask yourself and your fellow travellers, which activity you wouldn't mind missing. This can help you decipher between places that are must-see versus a place you consider just OK.

5. Make time for spontaneity in your schedule
Expect the unexpected. Whether you bump into a friend or you just need time for yourself, MacNeill recommends leaving one or two days in your itinerary unplanned. This way, if something comes up or if you discover a can't miss activity you didn't see in your planning, you won't have to exhaust yourself to fit everything in.

6. Prevent cultural confusion
MacNeill recommends buying the Lonely Planet travel guides or phrasebooks as these are created from the advice of actual travellers who have been to these destinations. These helpful guides have a lot of information regarding destinations, activities and answers to common questions. The books even include greetings and necessities of native languages, to help you say "hi" and "bye" to locals. If you can't find one of these guides, do some research online before you go.

7. Make a restaurant game plan
If you have food preferences or dietary restrictions, dining in an unfamiliar city may be a challenge. Before you go on vacation, research places to eat that are allergy friendly. Planning restaurants ahead of time will allow you to confirm the food is safe and make you feel more comfortable eating the food you order. Also, bring snacks with you on vacation as a back up plan. You can take packaged food items such as granola bars, crackers, bread, chips, cereal and cookies in checked baggage.

8. Don't get lost
Getting lost in an unfamiliar city is a stressful yet common scenario for travellers. If you're renting a car or planning to use public transportation, map your way from destination to destination before your vacation. Mapping your activities out before you travel can also help you decide what you're doing on certain days. You can see which spots are closest to each other so you can combine nearby sites and avoid travelling to opposite ends of a city in the same day.

9. Avoid overpaying for luggage
Heavy luggage may weigh you down more than you realize. Baggage that weighs more than 50 pounds is considered overweight. The fee for overweight checked baggage varies for each carrier, with some charging based on pound and others by ounce. Look up your airline to see how much they charge. If you're going on a sunny vacation MacNeill recommends packing a maximum of 40 pounds. In the humid environment, your clothes can absorb about 10 pounds in moisture alone, she says.

10. Escape extra charges when you get home
Using your cell phone while you're away may leave you with hefty charges when you come home. Call your mobile provider before going away to discuss travel phone plan options to save on unexpected costs from texting, calling or using data.

Happy planning and bon voyage!

Get 25 more tips for staying on budget during your trip.

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10 ways to avoid disaster when travelling

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