Let's get one thing out of the way about flying mistakes: You will probably never make one as big as Kevin McCallister's parents in Home Alone. But barring leaving your child behind to jet off to France, there are other blunders you can create as you travel that will cause avoidable bouts of stress.
Just visit the nearest terminal to see how easy it is to make a heart-pounding mistake: Spot the man with papers flying everywhere as he frantically searches for his plane ticket, empathize with the couple who didn't know their oversize bag wasn't small enough to be a carry-on, and move past the woman in security who got stopped for her bag of full-size cosmetics. Airports are intense enough, and when you make these tiny but cumbersome mistakes, they can easily push you into panic mode.
If you're a first-time flyer, or you don't make too many trips through terminals, we're here to ensure that you avoid any problems that may arise before and after takeoff. These are the six major mistakes to avoid and solutions to follow as you book your flight, prepare for your trip, and arrive at your destination. By following these tips, and staying as calm as possible, you'll get through this part of traveling without a hitch.
Mistake: Not squaring away your booking details.
Solution: Get organized as soon as you book your flight.
While it's easy to tell yourself that you'll deal with the details of your flight later—such as choosing a seat and printing out your boarding pass on the day of your trip—you'll save yourself headaches if you handle all the details immediately after you book your travel dates.
First things first: Check if you can travel with a driver's license, or if you need an alternate form of ID. If you're flying on an airline that allows passengers to choose seats, pick one right away. Then, take advantage of the fact that you can add tickets to Apple Wallet or Google Pay so you don't need to have them printed in the terminal. After, don't forget to add your flights to your calendar, too.
Finally, if you're going abroad, make sure that your passport isn't expired and won't expire for some time. Most countries won't let you visit if your passport is set to expire within six months of your trip.
Mistake: Having a super laid-back approach to your arrival.
Solution: Create an itinerary.
It may seem liberating to arrive in a place you've never been to before and seeing where the wind takes you. But honestly, that casual mentality only works if you don't care where you end up sleeping or what you end up doing during your stay. We're not saying that you need to have every part of your trip planned out—that would not be very fun—but you should have the basics down.
Before you go on your trip, make sure you have a confirmed homestay or hotel reservation, as well as the address written down. Find out whether or not your destination has ride share services or public transportation, and figure out how much both will cost from the airport. Then, figure out a handful of things you'd like to see and do in your destination, and pick one that's an absolute must. Save those destinations in Google Maps, which you can access without an internet connection.
It's a good idea to alert your banks of your travel plans, which can be done online, so you can avoid any issues. You can use your credit card for most transactions, and you should also look up any fees you might accrue from withdrawing money from a foreign ATM. It's less complicated to have some local cash on hand, but don't feel like you absolutely need it to get by. Lastly, check in on your phone plan to see if you need data roaming or an international plan.
Obstacles will always arise as you travel, including being tired or jet-lagged from your trip, so having even a basic itinerary will help you get your bearings.
Mistake: Not using the right travel gear.
Solution: Buying products that make getting through security a breeze.
It's no secret that security lines at airports can be a heralding experience. If you're not checking your bags, the most important thing to remember about carry-on luggage is that they should be easy to transport, open, and store in an overhead bin. In other words, don't rely on a hand-me-down bag with a broken wheel and zipper to make your life easy. Instead, buy an investment carry-on bag that meets your needs.
TSA has a long list of rules for what you can and can't pack, so brush up on these specifications if you're not a frequent flyer. The most important rule to be aware of in many cases is the liquids rule, which outlines that all liquids have to be less than 3.4 ounces and stored in clear containers. Buy travel-sized versions of your favorite cosmetics ahead of time, or transfer them into clear travel-approved cases, to meet this rule. Otherwise, you might be forced to toss your cosmetics in the trash before you're done with security.
Mistake: Wearing a complicated outfit to the airport.
Solution: Opt for simple, comfortable clothing.
As much as we'd like to arrive at a destination wearing our most stylish jet-setting outfit, the truth is that tight security and airport seating makes that difficult to do. Instead of wearing clothing that has to be removed in line, like belts or jewelry, wear something minimal that doesn't have to be touched. The same goes for choosing slip-ons over heels: They're easier to get in and out of at security and much more efficient to walk in as you head to your gate.
Lastly, it's often cold on airplanes. So even if you're headed to a warm destination, don't dress for the tropics on your flight. Wear something warm that's easy to sit in, and you'll be set.
Solution: Commit to a streamlined wardrobe.
There's something about going on vacation that makes people feel as if they're going to need various clothing options throughout their stay. But what's true in your daily life is also true of your getaway: The day-to-night wardrobe change rarely happens.
Instead of packing seven different tops for a four-night vacation, commit to streamlining your choices for an easier packing and dressing routine. As you set out clothes before your trip, make sure that you can wear each piece multiple ways. What's the best way to do that? Stick within a certain color palette. You might even want to make sure that the color palette complements your destination—for Instagram purposes, of course.
Mistake: Buying expensive airport or airplane food.
Solution: Pack a meal ahead of time.
There is such a thing as paying $18 for a so-so burger and fries in an airport, or $10 for a tiny cheese plate on an airplane. Don't fall for this trap. Instead of putting some of your travel budget toward these types of meals, pack one ahead of time to keep in your carry-on luggage. You should also pack snacks, too, for that chunk of time between arriving at your destination and making it to your hotel or homestay.
It's also a good idea to bring a water bottle with you as you travel. Make sure that it's empty as you move through security, and then fill it up at a drinking fountain near your gate. It's cost-effective and good for the environment.
Don't forget these other products as you travel: