Who better than Rudy Maxa, the award-winning host of the public television series and syndicated radio show, “Rudy Maxa’s World,” to kick off the spring and summer travel season? The rising price of gasoline does not seem to have deterred people’s vacation plans. Eighty-eight percent of households surveyed in March by Millionaire Corner said they plan to be going on vacation this year.
Maxa, formerly NPR’s ‘Savvy Traveler,” is an authoritative guide whose “tips, trips and secret places” have gotten millions of travelers’ excursions off on the right foot. He graciously obliged our request to share some tips to avoid the most common mistakes travelers make.
· Buy the ticket when you see the price and routing you want: ‘Everybody does it,” Maxa laughed. “It the most common mistake. People ask everyone they know, loved ones, people at the office, if they think they’re getting a good price. They dither for eight hours or eight days and then can’t figure out why the fare isn’t available anymore.”
· If going abroad, make a photocopy of the picture page of your passport and keep it in a separate location in case your passport is lost or stolen
· Get your seat assignment at the same time you make your plane reservation: “This is a common mistake for people who may only travel twice a year,” Maxa said. “They forget to make their seat reservations ahead of time and then they get to the airport and find out they can’t sit together.”
· If you know your plans, don’t wait to book your Thanksgiving or December holiday vacations: “I’m convinced that people know where they want to be, but 95 percent of them will wait until three weeks before making the hotel, airline or rental car reservation,” Maxa said. “Make the reservations (when you know your plans) and you can get the flight you want at a half decent price. But people put it off. They think, ‘Who’s making their Thanksgiving reservations now?’”
· Bring your ATM card: ‘One question I get all the time is, ‘Should I change my money here or there?’ The answer is to use your ATM card to take out the local currency you will need. Otherwise you will have to carry cash or traveler’s checks, which many places don’t accept anymore. Or take your credit card and hope that is accepted. But you get the best exchange through an ATM.
· A camera flash will not illuminate a building at night: “I see people posing their travel companions in front of the Kremlin or Buckingham Palace at night and trying to take a picture with a flash,” Maxa said. “A flash will only illuminate what is 6-8 feet in front of you.”
· Pay for airline or cruise tickets with a credit card: ‘If the company goes out of business, and you have paid with cash, a check or a debit card, you are stuck. You will never get your money back. But if you paid with a credit card, you will.”
· Consider medical evacuation insurance: ‘Especially if you traveling more than 150 miles from home,” Maxa said. “Stuff happens whether you are driving, flying, or taking the train. If you need to be flown home from Europe, that could cost up to $60,000.”
· Do some research on local tipping customs: “People are petrified about tipping the wrong way,” Maxa said. “Go online to find out the mores in different cities or countries. In the U.S., tip bag handlers $1 or $1.50 a bag. Las Vegas valets get $5 minimum.”
· Never pay fill fare for a hotel room: “Use a site like Priceline or a smartphone app like ‘Hotel Tonight” (to get a better price).”
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.