7 Lies Every Traveler Tells
Every travel-lover has done it: No matter how fulfilling, awe-inspiring, or “worth it” our trips are, we’ve told tiny half-truths about exactly how perfect everything was. Maybe you’re a workaholic who couldn’t stop checking email in a tropical paradise, or you’re part of a large family who embarked on a cross-country road trip…with mixed results. But when you gush to your friends back home, all they hear is the highlight reel…and none of the snafus.
Why do we lie about our vacations?
“With the rise of social media, many people feel compare themselves to their friends and families who post about their ‘amazing’ vacations online,” says clinical psychologist Roudabeh Rahbar, PsyD. “What many hide are the actual realities of travel, i.e., stress, fights, illness, or an overall bad time.”
Pair that with a limited number of vacation days to burn each year, and the heat is on to have a magical, Instagram-worthy time. But there’s good news: Budget Travel sourced advice from experts to help you avoid the travel snags you might be tempted to gloss over, so next time, you truly can have a dreamy, stress-free trip—no Pinocchio-style white lies necessary.
LIE NO. 1. TRAVELING IS RELAXING
The Reality: You’re thrilled you were able to take a vacation, of course. But between running through the airport to make your connection, wrangling toddlers, driving in an unfamiliar place, or packing in as much sightseeing as possible…you’re exhausted.
The Fix: First, resist the urge to create a schedule so strict it reminds you of the crazy-busy life you're trying to escape. "The unnecessary anxiety starts when you book a vacation and think you have to see everything and do everything," says family therapist Kimberley Clayton Blaine, MA, LMFT. "Leaving ample time in between activities allows you to taste the wonderful food and mingle with the culture and people around you without the hustle and bustle and stress."
When you find yourself in a moment that should be blissful, but your mind is frenzied, try this trick from psychologist and author Susan Albers, PsyD: "Use your all of your senses. While walking on the beach, hold out your hand and name each of your senses as you make your hand into a fist. Thumb equals touch—the feel of sand on my toes. Pointer finger equals smell—ocean air. Middle finger equals sound—waves crashing. Ring finger equals taste—salty air. Pinky finger equals see—blue sky. Repeat wherever you are."
Remember this maxim: “Things always go wrong.” Anticipate problems as best you can, but use setbacks as constructive learning experiences that will help you prepare for your next trip. “Perhaps, you’ll learn that you are less likely to have delays when you take the first flight out rather than the last,” says Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine. “Or to leave yourself a day between finishing up work and setting off on your trip so packing isn’t as rushed.”
If you still find yourself freaking out? “Take deep breaths and focus on the moment,” says Rahbar. “Even when that can be difficult to do, try to focus on a happy memory or a pull up a picture on your phone that makes you smile."
If that doesn't do the trick, put on your headphones for a few minutes: The beautifully designed mindfulness app Headspace offers short, guided meditations and a free "fear of flying" exercise, designed to calm you before you step onto an airplane, all delivered in a soothing British accent (free app and introductory exercises, subscriptions from $6.24 per month, headspace.com).
LIE NO. 2. YOU STAYED "UNPLUGGED"
The Reality: You brought your phone along to the pool, to the beach, on a hike, and on an expedition to explore temple ruins, sneaking peeks at your inbox (and Facebook and Instagram…) whenever you could get a signal. “Many people truly do want to unplug,” Rahbar says. “They are most likely embarrassed to admit how addicted and connected they are to the virtual world. Lying about unplugging goes along with how we lie about how much we drink or work out.”
The Fix: Airplane mode. And not just when you’re cruising at 36,000 feet. “Put your phone on airplane mode during the day and plug in in the evening as you wind down from the day,” Rahbar says. “A lot of times when we have our phone on airplane mode, we forget to turn it back on. Or set time limits for yourself—i.e., one hour or two hours a day.”
Workaholics, before you jet, loop in trustworthy coworkers ahead of time so they can take care of routine business, and tell them to avoid cc'ing you on group emails. “Be sure to put an away message on your email that tells coworkers when and under what circumstances you should be contacted,” Levine says. One example might be that you are only reachable via emails marked "urgent," and you'll only be checking your inbox for one hour at 9 p.m. each night in the time zone you're traveling to. The less available you appear, the less people will be inclined to bug you.
LIE NO. 3. TRAVELING WITH YOUR PARTNER WAS ROMANTIC
The Reality: You fought with your partner about decisions both big and small, from who’d get the window seat on the plane to which exotic food cart to track down. At times, it wasn’t pretty. And it definitely didn’t make you want to jump each other’s bones.
The Fix: Talk about the trip beforehand, but go beyond discussing which airline and hotel to book. “To avoid unnecessary or unproductive fights…create a vision for your vacation and make a plan to fulfill it,” says Judith Wright, co-author of The Heart of the Fight. “Ask yourself: What is the purpose of our vacation? And become clear on why you are going. To ‘escape’ is not a sufficient reason. Great reasons include ‘to enhance my relationship with my partner,’ ‘to get more distance on my life,’ or to ‘restore or rejuvenate.’”
Then, Wright says, set concrete goals about “what you’ll talk about, how you’ll be with each other. What kind of experiences do you want to have together? What experiences do you want to have separately? There is nothing wrong with together time and alone time. Just be clear when setting goals and expectations.”
LIE NO. 4. VACATIONS ARE GREAT FOR FAMILY BONDING
The Reality: Your daughter spent the vacation with her nose buried in her Kindle, your son barely looked up from texting his girlfriend, and your partner spent every second she could get at the spa (a.k.a. away from you). Or, conversely, you spent so much time in close quarters that you longed for a solo vacation, sans the fam.
The Fix: Treat trip planning like you’re a general in a war room. “Choose types of vacations that appeal to a range of interests and activity/energy levels,” Levine says. “For example, grandparents might want to book a stateroom in a ship within a ship on a large megaship that provides rock climbing walls and zip lines for kids. Make sure sleeping arrangements are appropriate for different ages, e.g., so an aging parent or young child can take a nap during the day or early risers aren’t paired with later risers.”
A "coach" approach, using the word “team” to foster inclusiveness, can help too, says psychologist and travel-guide author Michael Brein, Ph.D. Tell the kids: “We are a team about to engage upon a great travel adventure." And if they misbehave: "We need to get along better and create a great travel environment that can maximize the experience for each and every one of us.”
LIE NO. 5. YOU GOT A GREAT DEAL ON YOUR TRIP
The Reality: After all the fees and surcharges, the fares and lodging ended up being more expensive than you’d have liked. You swear to do better next time. Or you didn’t realize your all-inclusive plan didn’t count the premium liquor as free. Or maybe you had the best intentions to save cash by skipping meals, then ended up starving and ordering room service at a markup.
The Fix: If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. No one can be a whiz at saving money every single time. Much of our favorite advice can be summed up in this article, by Budget Travel's Editor in Chief: 25 Best Money-Saving Travel Tips. A few more hints: Check Google Flights to ensure you're traveling at the least expensive times, to the least expensive airports. Look at the prices on the Google Flights map, and you might find that you can have the Caribbean vacation you want on a completely different, less expensive island than you had originally planned to visit.
If you choose a low-cost airline, like Spirit or Frontier, make sure you understand what costs extra, like selecting your seat and reserving space for your bags at the airport rather than online beforehand. Sign up for email alerts from all the major airlines, AirfareWatchdog.com, and your favorite hotel companies, and follow them on social media too. You'll be among the first to hear about bargains, and the deals will find you.
At resorts, always read the fine print for all-inclusive deals. At some properties, you can order a whole bottle of champagne up to your room, gratis. At others, they literally rope off the Johnnie Walker Black unless you’ve paid to upgrade your status.
LIE NO. 6. YOU CAN'T WAIT TO GO BACK AGAIN
The Reality: You borderline resented where you were, whether you had a rough brush with poison ivy and mosquitoes while trying find your inner outdoorswoman or had to dodge herds of sunburned tourists at the swim-up bar. Some people love visiting the same place over and over again, but this time, you’re certainly not one of them.
The Fix: Don’t beat yourself up. Having not-so-positive experiences is crucial to becoming a true world traveler. “As we travel, and especially in the condensed space-time of travel, as we grow and learn from our experiences, we are ever more capable of making better and more rewarding travel decisions,” Brein says.
And before you write off the experience completely, give the locale some credit: “Perhaps you only scraped the surface of a destination and want to dig more deeply or experience it more authentically,” Levine says.
LIE NO. 7. DOWNTIME WAS FUNTIME
The Reality: You were as bored as bored could be, whether you were by yourself on a solo trip or lounging next to your family on the beach for a week.
The Fix: Maybe your trip was just too long—hey, it can happen. Or you know now that you'd prefer not to be alone if you can help it, and that's a good thing:
“The hospitality industry has never been as welcoming of solo travelers (and their money), from reducing or eliminating single supplements on cruises to having long tables at restaurants," Levine says. "Also, the sharing economy has made it possible for solo travelers to live with locals—e.g., Homestay, Airbnb—share meals with them—Mealsharing, EatWith—and meet up with them as guides, e.g., ToursbyLocals.com, Context Travel.”
And then there's the old-fashioned way to find a friend (and, no, we're not talking about Tinder tourism—not that there's anything wrong with that). "Even if you are shy, make efforts to engage other single people, hospitality staff, and even families," Levine says. "Most will go out of their way to engage a fellow traveler."
The Revised Travel Ban Goes Into Effect
Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court partially lifted preliminary injunctions from lower courts, upholding portions of section 2 of Executive Order 13780, which restricts entry into the U.S. by nationals of six countries for 90 days, and section 6 of the order, which restricts the entry of refugees into the U.S. for 120 days. This evening at 8pm EDT, the U.S. will begin implementing Executive Order worldwide, with important exceptions mandated by the Supreme Court. Under the Supreme Court’s ruling, nationals of the six countries (Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) who have a “bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States” will be granted entry into the U.S. Today, the State Department, in a cable providing guidance to employees around the world, states that a “bona fide relationship” will be defined as a close family relationship, which will include only parent, spouse, children (including adult children), sons- and daughters-in-law or siblings, including step-siblings and step-parents. Under current State Department guidance, a “bona fide relationship” will not include grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, brothers- or sisters-in-law, cousins, or a fiance or fiancee. Family relationships and employment and other relationships with an “entity” in the U.S. must be documented. For most American travelers, the implementation of the Executive Order may have no direct personal impact at all. For nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen and their family and friends in the U.S., the implementation of the Executive Order and its effect on current travel, impending travel, and future visa applications is beyond Budget Travel's areas of expertise. We urge anyone who is concerned that they or a close friend or family member may be denied entry into the U.S. to consult an immigration attorney. And we urge every member of our Budget Travel audience to understand that the implementation of this Executive Order may have more wide-ranging effects than any of us can anticipate at this time: Along with your other essential travel gear, pack patience and compassion.
Despite rising gas prices, 80 percent of U.S. families are planning a road trip this summer, up 10 percent from last year, a recent AAA survey found. But for many people, taking that dream road trip requires renting a car, which can be a stressful, confusing, and expensive process. The rental car industry is notorious for its array of sometimes confusing options for customers. Last year one in five car renters reported problems with their service, according to J.D. Power’s annual North America Rental Car Satisfaction Study. For consumers, the rental car counter can be treacherous. “Rental car agents are paid on commission, so they’re incentivized to try to upsell you for everything,” says Jonathan Weinberg, creator of AutoSlash.com, a service that tracks rental price changes to help get consumers the best deals. “If you ask whether you need something, they’re going to say yes.” Also, since many rental car companies are good at burying fees and surcharges in long rental agreements—you know, the paperwork you barely glance at before signing—the onus is on you to thoroughly research your options. Indeed, “when renting a car, it’s a ‘buyer beware’ transaction,” says Neil Abrams, president of the Abrams Consulting Group, which tracks the rental car industry. Follow these steps to drive down the costs on your next rental car and enjoy a cheaper, happier road trip. Bring your own transponder Going through a toll can bring unexpected fees when you use the rental car company’s transponder (e.g., E-ZPass, SunPass). “It varies by company, but usually you’re going to get charged a convenience fee of $5 a day starting on the first day that you use it,” says Weinberg. In other words, if you’re traveling for a week and go through a toll on the first day, you’ll get charged a $35 fee for the whole week regardless of whether you go through more tolls. READ: "15 Last Minute Weekend Escapes" Thus, you’ll want to use your own transponder on the trip. If you need to buy one, you can do so online or at some convenience stores like Publix, CVS or Walgreens. Don’t prepay for the car Many rental car companies give you the option to prepay for the rental in exchange for a reduced price, but there are some major caveats. For starters, you’re locking yourself into that price point, but rates often drop as the pickup date approaches—potentially below the prepay rate that you accepted earlier. If that happens and you try to re-book for the lower rate, you’ll get slapped with a cancellation fee of about $50, which could effectively negate the amount of money you’d save by rebooking. The good news is you can still reserve a vehicle without paying for it upfront; then, if the rate drops, you simply cancel and rebook. “Renting a car is not like booking a seat on a flight, where you’re stuck with the reservation,” says Mark Mannell, chief executive of CarRentalSavers.com. “There’s no penalty for cancelling and rebooking.” Don’t prepay for gas When you pick up the car, you’re given the option to pay ahead of time for the car company to refill the gas tank when you return the vehicle. However, you’ll save money by refilling the tank yourself for a couple reasons. First, “anything that’s left in the fuel tank that you bought is non-refundable if you opted to prepay for gas,” says Abrams. Also, when you prepay for gas, the rental company charges you the “local market rate” for the fuel but it’s often more expensive than gas stations that are just a few miles away. “Rental car companies aren’t gas stations,” says Abrams. “They provide fuel as an accommodation, and they charge a premium for it.” READ: "25 Most Beautiful Cities in America" To maximize your savings, use the free GasBuddy app (available on iPhone and Android) to find the cheapest station near the airport. When you return the car, take a photo of the fuel gauge in case the rental car company tries to charge you refueling fee later, advises Abrams. Take photos of pre-existing damage Many companies will provide an inspection report when you pick up the car, but you should still take photos of any pre-existing damage. (Many camera phones also let you time stamp pictures.) If there is pre-existing damage, make sure the rental agent records it in the agreement. Also, don’t forget to take photos when you return the car, says Mannell. Don’t automatically buy rental car insurance Insurance through the rental car company can cost up to $50 a day, depending on the plan you select, but you may already be covered through your existing car insurance, homeowner’s insurance, or credit card. Weinberg says most auto insurance policies include coverage for rental cars. Still, it’s good to check with your insurance company or credit card issuer ahead of time to make sure you’re covered. (NerdWallet.com, a credit card comparison website, has compiled a list of which cards include rental car insurance.) Look into renting from an off-airport location Airports often charge rental car companies airport concession fees, which the rental companies then pass on to customers. As a result, daily rates at off-airport stations can be up to $20 or $30 cheaper per day, so it’s wise to survey your options. Just make sure you factor in the cost of a taxi or Uber ride to the off-site location when comparing prices. After all, “if you’ll wind up paying $50 for a taxi, it may not be worth it,” says Abrams. Compare rates at independent agencies Avis, Hertz, and Enterprise are the three largest rental car companies, but there are a number of smaller agencies that offer competitive rates, such as Fox Rent a Car and Advantage. But you may have to make some concessions if you rent from one of these companies. “You’re not usually going to get newer car models at discount agencies,” says Weinberg. Also, a lot of independent agencies don’t have airport locations. One car rental agency you may want to research carefully is Payless. The Better Business Bureau recently issued a nationwide warning to consumers after having received more than 800 complaints about Payless in the past three years. (The BBB has given the company an F rating.) READ: Read This Before You Book a Vacation Rental Redeem discounts for premium memberships Rental car companies offer discounts to members of frequent flier programs and credit card holders; AAA, Costco, and BJ’s also offer members deals on rental cars. These discounts can often be combined with discount codes from the rental car company. For example, a full-size car rental from Hertz at Ronald Reagan National Airport was $281.85 in a recent search, but plugging in a AAA member discount code and a Hertz discount code dropped the rate to $201.90.
Cheap Flights for August Vacations
No plans for a summer vacation? No problem. Our friends at Skyscanner.com have got big plans for you: They’ve crunched the numbers on August airfares to deliver some truly amazing deals. Your only challenge will be to pick one of these dreamy destinations and book now. Washington, DC to Denver, COWednesday, August 2 – Tuesday, August 8Starting at $238 Dallas, TX to Fort Lauderdale, FLThursday, August 3 – Monday, August 7Starting at $230 Seattle, WA to Las Vegas, NVThursday, August 10 – Sunday, August 13Starting $210 Chicago, IL to San Francisco, CATuesday, August 15 to Sunday, August 20Starting at $211 New York, NY to New Orleans, LAWednesday, August 16 to Sunday, August 20Starting at $280 Boston, MA to Austin, TXThursday, August 17 – Monday, August 21Starting at $254 Los Angeles, CA to Atlanta, GAFriday, August 18 – Tuesday, August 22Starting at $213 Atlanta, GA to Portland, MEMonday, August 21 – Friday, August 25Starting at $206 Minneapolis, MN to San Diego, CAThursday, August 24 – Monday, August 28Starting at $234 Phoenix, AZ to New York, NYFriday, August 25 – Tuesday, August 29Starting at $258 Skyscanner is a travel search site offering a comprehensive range of flight, hotel, and car rental deals. To find more bargain fares like those listed here, visit Skyscanner.com.
Confessions of an Airline Lost and Found Agent
Imagine you have just returned home after a long flight and realize you've accidentally left your brand new iPad tucked in the airplane's seat back pocket—what happens next? We talked to Robert Lehr, the Manager of Central Baggage Services at Southwest Airlines, to find out how the lost and found department works to help reunite passengers with their favorite forgotten items, whether it's a bag of precious Disney souvenirs or a camera full of photos from a dream trip to Hawaii. THE SHEER VOLUME CAN BE OVERWHELMING Just in terms of overall volume, the most items we see are glasses, wallets, and that type of thing. We really classify the items we get as two separate classifications—low value and high value. So, low value items, like glasses, wallets, blankets, stuffed animals, shopping bags—we get a lot of shopping bags in there where people have bags full of stuff like Starbucks cups or that type of thing or maybe bags with items found while they were in Disney. A lot of Disney items. In terms of high value, probably the number one thing we see are cell phones. We get tons of cell phones, lots of iPads, iPods, laptops, not to the volume of the low value items, but even as being high value items, the volumes we get are really astounding. One of the things I think when you first go into our lost and found warehouse is you're kind of blown away just by the volume, the hundreds and hundreds of coats, for instance, this time of the year, just the amount of stuff that is coming through. Then for me personally, I find it a little sad because I know that every one of those people, every one of them, had that pit in their stomach when they realized, oh my gosh, where's my phone, or my wallet, or my camera? And that is something that helps fuel our need and our drive to get the items back to our customer. Quite honestly, we're very proud of it. It's something we knew we wanted to do a better job of, and being Southwest, we want to take care of our customers. We really feel that this is one of those situations where it is the right thing to do to try and get these items back to our customers in any way we can.READ: "How Not to Be a Jerk on a Plane" MARDI GRAS BEADS, SOMBREROS, AND OBAMA BOBBLE-HEADS, OH MY! You just cannot imagine the things that we get. Really, anything that you can carry on a plane that you can get through security, we're going to have in our warehouse. We've had everything in there. I saw a panda suit costume recently. We get a lot of things depending on the time of the year, like if there are certain holidays, for instance. I'll give you an example with Mardi Gras; there just seems to be tons and tons of beads, masks, all kinds of things, Hurricane glasses—a lot of stuff from New Orleans during that time of the year. Also, during the Democratic National Convention, we were inundated with Obama bobble-head dolls! Lots and lots of items there, and in fact from that Democratic National Convention, there was a sign that I believe was used as kind of a backdrop for the speakers, and somehow that turned up at our lost and found warehouse and we had a really hard time getting that returned because it seemed like no one was interested in having it back. We get a lot of items from Disney—a lot of kids leaving their souvenirs from Disneyland. We've got hats like you wouldn't believe—and sombreros! You know, I fly a lot, and I never see anyone getting on with sombreros, but we get a lot of sombreros. Folks will leave them in the overhead bins and get off the plane, and not even think about it. It's very interesting, but really anything you can think of, we're going to end up with. REUNITED AND IT FEELS SO GOOD We had a little plastic bunny rabbit piggy bank that was half-full of coins recently and we were able to find the little girl that it belonged to—it just so happens it was a unique item, and so it was something we were able to easily find. Her parents sent us a very nice letter saying she couldn't believe that she got it back and she was reunited with her piggy bank and that was special. But really, the most heartwarming stories are probably when we return things that people are most upset about losing, especially when they lose their cameras and those pictures are the only documentation of an event. We've had issues where people have gotten their cameras returned and it was of their honeymoon. We've returned cameras with photos of the birth of a child and the husband had left the camera on the plane and was in the dog house, so to speak, and we got this really heartwarming letter back saying thank you so much for saving me and preserving the memories for my family. We get a lot of that. Several months back we had a camera that we returned that had pictures of a fallen soldier in Iraq and the family was just beyond themselves because they thought it was gone. We had an older lady who had been given a little soft case of jewelry from her mother that had been passed down—it was in essence an heirloom—and we were able to find that and return it to her. It turned out that it was about $18,000 worth of jewelry that her mother had given to her, and obviously it was more than that to her because it was irreplaceable. We had another lady that we were able to reunite with her violin, and it turns out the violin was worth over $8,000. She was ecstatic to get it back, and so to be able to do those types of things, to return those special, special things is just a blessing for us.READ: "11 Worst Travel Nightmares (And How to Make Them Go Away)" THE BEST PART OF THE JOB That's one of the great things about working here. We have the opportunity to really see folks who thought that there was no chance they were going to see their item again, to change that, and to see them so happy is just really a blessing for us. The feedback we get from our customers—we get lots and lots of letters. A lot of thank you's and sharing some of the things they went through and how they couldn't believe that they got these back. We've had a lot of really good praise from our customers thanking us for the service. WHAT TO DO IF YOU LEAVE SOMETHING ON THE PLANE Within the first 24 hours, they should contact the baggage service office in their arriving city. If the item hasn't been located or it's been more than 24 hours, they should go on Southwest.com or AirTran.com and fill out a Lost Item Report. That report is really critical. It gets really good information, detailed information including serial numbers, and it really enables us to match them up with their lost items to return them. It really depends a lot on when they contact us, but typically, if they contact us in short order and get back to us when they're contacted that we have found their item, usually we can get it back to them in just a couple of days. It works really well. We give them multiple ways that we can return the item to them, but typically we use FedEx, and we can get it back to them next-day if it's really pressing. HOW TO GET YOUR STUFF BACK—AND WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DON'T When a customer fills out that report, we immediately send them back an email confirmation, and we give them continued emails just to let them know the status of the search for their item, but once we actually find the item, we contact the customer and ask them how they'd like to have it returned. So usually, primarily we use FedEx, but we will use other shipping methods if the customer prefers it. All items are processed by a third party and with the proceeds going to charity, Southwest earns no revenue from lost and found items at all. Additionally, it's a no charge service that we're doing for our customers. Really no other airline in our industry goes to the lengths we do to reunite our customers with their items. It has really been just a huge, huge win for us. We actually started some of these new processes almost exactly a year ago with the ability for customers to go online and our return rate and the ability to really reunite our customers with their items has been just tremendous. In just the last year, we've seen probably a 400 to 500 percent better rate of returns than we were able to do before—even high value items were somewhere around a 300 percent increase in what we've been able to return to our customers. ALWAYS REMEMBER TO CHECK YOUR SEAT BACK POCKET There are so many folks that leave things behind and they're just not thinking about it. We had a lady recently that had lost an item—I believe it was an iPad. We were able to find it for her and return it to her, and she was really happy about that of course. She flew a couple of days later and was sitting in her seat and the flight attendants actually got on the overhead and asked everyone to check their seat back pockets to make sure that nothing had been left behind, and her response was, are they talking to me because I was the one who lost something the last time? But anyway, she ended up checking her seat back pocket and had left her Notebook in there, and she was like, oh my gosh, how could I have done this again? So, you wonder how people do it the first time, but it's easy to do it multiple times. Folks just aren't thinking about that. It's crazy.