7 Travel fails to avoid when booking holidays

Richard Mellor 30 November -0001

Beyond the biggies—such as cowboy companies and hotels not yet built—these are classic travel mistakes you should try to avoid at all costs.

1. Swerving financial protection

Why book an ATOL-protected package holiday? Simple: if the company collapses or a natural disaster like the Icelandic ash cloud occurs, you’re financially covered.

Check for provision by looking for the ATOL logo at the bottom of companies’ pages, or alternatively see if the company is a member of trusted industry bodies AITO or ABTA using each association’s website.


2. Flying late

This one’s obvious, but it still needs saying. Simply put: a late flight has much more chance of tardiness.

The airplane in question will have flown twice or thrice already that day, giving it that much more chance of picking up delays. Travel on an airline’s first flight of the morning, and the odds markedly diminish.



3. Choosing the wrong airport

When flying to a city, check whether it has multiple airports. A good comparison site such as Skyscanner should warn you of this by giving the option of, say, “Milan (Any)” or “Milan (All)”.

In the event, which airports are located where, and how much do onward transfers cost?

Because, sure, easyJet flights to Milan Malpensa could be marvellously cheap—but the £75 taxi into town is something of a buzz-kill. As for Ryanair’s “Milan Bergamo”, that’s a full 30 miles away from Milan itself.


4. Ignoring overnight flights

On Skyscanner, flights that land the next day have a (+1) sign next to them—or even (+2) in some extreme scenarios.

This is easily ignored, with the happy customer going on to book a hotel for the same evening—which is, in fact, a day earlier than he or she will arrive.

You risk losing money, and having nowhere to sleep when you do materialise.

5. Not being anonymous

It shouldn’t happen, but it does. Investigations have demonstrated that airlines and booking-engine sites use cookies to demonstrate higher airfares on routes you search repeatedly.

The companies figure you really want the ticket, and thus that they can hold out for more dosh.

How to beat it? Use your iPhone and 3G rather than home wi-fi; use a different web browser; or clear your computer’s cookies. Ker-ching!


6. Not researching seats

Where you sit on an airplane can make a big difference, especially in economy. The SeatGuru website provides information on the legroom, potential odours, noise and so forth on every perch on every airplane.

It’s also worth noting that, on quieter routes, rows at the back tend to get manually booked last. So if you’re angling for an empty next-door seat, this is the best bet.

7. Being blasé about transfers

Arriving at foreign airports can be stressful: you’re laden with luggage, taxi drivers are pointing the way to their cars and no one seems to speak English.

It pays to swot up in advance, and work out how you’ll travel onwards. Being prepared will make you feel much more at ease.

What is the name of the airport bus, where does it pick up customers, and does it take cash only? Which Metro ticket do you need, and are returns possible? What is the standard, reasonable rate for a taxi with one bag?

Much better to consider all of the above ahead of time—while sitting stress-free at home.


More travel tips from Richard Mellor

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