Doh! From forgetting your passport to wearing the wrong shoes, the 10 common holiday fails guaranteed to get your trip off to a bad start, and how to avoid them.
Welcome to the first in a new series of articles looking at the most common mistakes we make when we go on holiday. This week, we look at 10 key mistakes we make even before we even get on the plane, and provide our expert travel management tips to ensure a happy start to your holiday. Never again will you have a blazing row with your other half in front of the Ryanair check-in staff.
1. Forgetting your passport
There are little mistakes and there are big mistakes, but this really is a show-stopper. And it is commonly made. You may be ok for domestic flights on some scheduled airlines (eg. BA), as you don’t actually need your passport, or any photo ID. Just your bank card will suffice. But budget airlines will take a hardline approach. Be prepared for a bouncer-like rejection from that stern lady at the check-in desk. For going abroad, your bingo club membership card is not enough. Simply double check, and triple check, that you have your passport, before you leave the house.
2. Letting your passport expire
Well done, you have remembered your passport… but it expired last month. If your passport is out of date, you ain’t going on holiday. Simple as that. Flirting with border officials, or offering them 10 euro bribes, doesn’t work. Some countries won’t even let you in if your passport is due to expire in a few weeks, or even months, so, giving yourself plenty of time before you leave, check entry requirements for the country you are visiting, check the date on your passport, and renew it if you need to.
3. Packing away your passport/boarding card
Keep your travel documents handy, in your hand luggage. You need easy access to your passport and boarding pass at check-in, at the departure gate, at passport control. And don’t put it in your hold luggage – you don’t want your undies strewn about the terminal floor as you rummage about in the bottom of your bag.
4. Forgetting to print your boarding pass
Again, it depends who you’re flying with. Like it or not, if you’re in the hands of certain low-cost airlines, they will charge you for printing your boarding pass at the airport. Of course, for a family of four, this adds up to a pretty outrageous penny. So, check in online in advance of your travel date. Make sure you have printer ink and paper at home, or print it out at work (we never do this, boss, if you’re reading).
5. Packing too much
The tension is unbearable. You plonk your suitcase onto the conveyor belt, the numbers shoot up, the scales settle… and you’re over the weight limit. Cue frantic shedding of heavy items from your luggage: sod the iron, Julie, can you take my wedges? I don’t really need six kilos of rice… Avoid such awkward moments by weighing your bags on the bathroom scales, or read our advice on how to beat the baggage charges by wearing your belongings – you may look daft, but you’ll save money.
6. Not leaving yourself enough time to get to the airport
Be sure to over-estimate how long it takes to get to the airport. If your check-in time is 6am on a Sunday, obviously the roads should be clear so no worries, but if you need to do the M25 at rush-hour, factor in a few extra minutes. It’s just not worth the stress of cursing every red light or getting busted for driving on the hard shoulder. What would you prefer: half an hour more in bed and a stressful journey? Or half an hour once you’re there to enjoy a relaxing brandy and dry airside?
7. Wearing shoes that take ages to take off at security
It will save you time, save you getting flustered and save annoying people behind you in the queue, if you wear shoes that are easy to remove prior to being beckoned through the security gates. It’s embaressing enough when you get your tray back and put your belt back on like you’ve just had your trousers down for some other reason. So wear a skirt, leave behind those 16-hole boots that take 10 minutes to de-lace, and opt for ballet pumps or slip-on brogues instead. Or drawstring trousers.
8. Joking with airport staff
Those burly uniformed airport officials may have a sense of humour deep down. They may guffaw at forwarded emails with pictures of penguins in top hats, but they have a serious job to do, and that’s to keep us safe in the skies. So don’t tell them that a strange man packed your bags for you or that you have Semtext stuffed down your pants.
9. Not adhering to the 100ml rule
It might seem unfair that you’re not allowed to take 500ml of Chanel No.5 and a quart of Old Crow in your hand luggage, but rules are rules. Stick to the liquids limit. But there is a way: decant your toiletries, and your bottle of vodka into 100ml containers, (or take miniatures if you’re too classy to carry booze in toiletries bottles), then when you’re on board simply ask the nice steward for a plastic cup and some ice, get out your bottles, and hey presto, it’s cocktail time!
10. Getting drunk at the airport
You have turned the air blue through two hours of traffic jams, diversions and red lights and then had to park a half-hour bus ride from the terminal, but you made it to check-in just in time. Phew, all you’ve got to do now is get through security, find your departure gate and get on the plane. Time for a drink. Or two. It is vital that you leave enough time to do all this (it can be busy, your gate may be a good 20 minutes’ walk away…). The last thing you should do is jeopardise it all by getting squiffy and not keeping your eyes glued to the departure board, ready to run at a moment’s notice. You’ll have a good anecdote about that time you missed your flight ‘cos you too busy consuming your sixth pint of pear cider, but ask yourself: is it worth it?