Published in: Credit Cards | Sept. 25, 2019

How to Avoid 7 of the Most Frustrating Travel Headaches

By:  Lyle Daly

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Don’t let the occasional stressful moment derail your trip.

As much fun as it is to travel, something that doesn’t get talked about nearly as much is the stress that’s involved.

Many of us dream of having that perfect vacation. But those dreams typically exclude all the not-so-fun parts of the experience, such as sitting around the airport for an hour or spending days recovering from jet lag.

These travel headaches could turn an amazing getaway into a disaster, which is why you need to know how to solve them.

A man pushing a luggage cart through an airport with a cheering woman on top.

Image source: Getty Images

1. A lousy airport experience

With the traffic, the crowds, the security screening, and all the waiting around involved, airports aren’t anyone’s idea of a good time. Many travelers flat-out loathe them.

There are a few ways you can make the airport experience more bearable:

  • Sign up for Global Entry/TSA Precheck to get through security more quickly. Several credit cards cover the cost of your membership fee with these programs.
  • Bring something to entertain yourself with while you wait. A book is an easy option, and some popular video streaming services now let you download shows or movies to watch without internet service.
  • Consider getting airport lounge access. This is another perk you can find through certain credit cards. Airlines also usually make their lounges available to travelers in business class and first class.

2. Packing problems

It’s the day before your trip. You’re sure you’re forgetting something, but you still have to sit on your suitcase to get it closed, and you’re realizing how much of a pain it will be to carry all your luggage around.

People tend to get better at packing the more they travel, but you don’t need to learn from experience. Here are a few tips that will instantly improve your packing:

  • Make a list of what you want to take with you before you start.
  • Plan what you’ll pack in each bag. It’s best to put anything you want for entertainment on the flight in your personal bag, use your carry-on bag for the essentials, and leave your checked bag in the closet at home.
  • Use packing techniques that maximize space, such as rolling your clothes and putting items in packing cubes.
  • Get 100-ml containers so you can pack any liquid toiletries you want in a carry-on.
  • Be ruthless in what you leave at home. You won’t need nearly as much as you think.

3. Jet lag

Here’s a fact of life we humans just have to deal with -- when you spend half the day traveling and you visit a destination in a different time zone, it’s going to take a toll on your body. The adjustment period after a long flight can leave you feeling exhausted.

There’s no cure for jet lag, but there are ways to lessen its effects. Try to go to bed at a reasonable hour the night you arrive to get on a normal sleep schedule for that time zone.  If possible, don’t schedule anything important for the day after you arrive. Let that be the day you sleep in as much as you need.

4. No cell service

You arrive at your destination, only to find that your phone has no data and you can’t even get an Uber. Or everything seems to go well during your trip until you get home when you check your phone bill and see that you racked up hundreds of dollars in roaming charges -- which is one of the most common money mistakes travelers make.

When you’re traveling internationally, you should check if your wireless carrier offers an affordable international plan before you go. Another option is to pick up a prepaid SIM card on arrival and pop that into your phone for the duration of your trip.

5. Language barriers

If you don’t speak the language, it makes everything more difficult. You’ll have trouble communicating with locals, and even something as simple as reading street signs for directions is a challenge.

Fortunately, technology has made this much less of a problem. Download a translation app, such as TripLingo, Google Translate, or iTranslate, and you can immediately translate what you want to say and other people’s responses. It may not be a perfect translation, but it gets the job done.

Even with a translation app, it’s also a good idea to learn some basic phrases in the local language. That way, you can at least greet people in their language instead of starting off by talking into your phone or asking, "Do you speak English?"

6. Budgetary concerns

When you add up the cost of flights, accommodations, activities, and food, you may start to wonder what kind of financial shape you’ll be in after traveling. And if you take a trip you can barely afford, you’ll probably be worried about money the whole time you’re away.

That’s why you should figure out your travel budget before you decide on what kind of trip will work. You can also make your costs more manageable by paying for parts of your trip with travel rewards.

7. Getting scammed

Scam artists prey on tourists, and they have all kinds of methods to separate you from your hard-earned money. Some will invite you to a club and stick you with a massive bill, some wrap a bracelet around your wrist and demand payment for it, and others have entirely different methods.

Before you go on your trip, look up what the typical scams are in that area. When you’re out and about, be extra careful around anyone who seems overly friendly with you. It’s better to err on the side of caution than to get ripped off.

Minimizing stress as you travel

Most people don’t get the chance to travel that often, so when you do take a vacation, you’ll want to make the most of it. By knowing how to handle any frustrations that come your way, you’re sure to have a fantastic trip.

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