We all make mistakes, right? I know I have and I wish sometimes I could go back to redo some things in life. Particularly, I wish I could go back in time and had done some more research on my travels to either save more money or just be a more happy and successful traveler.
I'm sharing with you all the top 5 travel mistakes I've made that I just learned within the last year:
Not Signing up for Free Reward/Miles Programs
My first mistake in traveling is one that I had not made use for up until this year. When I moved to Germany for the first time in 2014, I was solely focused on the cheapest airline to get me to my next destination and that airline almost always happened to be the infamous carrier - Ryanair.
Ryanair does not have a rewards program or miles program such as larger carriers. I suppose the airline wouldn't necessarily need to have such of a program since they are that low of a budget airline. There were some flights here and there where I had flown on major carriers such as Air France, British Airways, KLM, and Norwegian. But since I knew I would mostly be flying with Ryanair, I figured it wouldn't mean much to sign up with other airline carriers.
Well, just this year, 2019, I realized that I was doing it all wrong.
My travel New Year's resolution was and still is to not fly Ryanair this whole year. And although I can fly with other budget airlines, it's more likely that I will fly with larger carriers (such as the airlines I had mention) where you could rack up miles and utilize them in the future for flights or other airline necessities such as seats or upgrades.
After all, the sign up is FREE. The worst that could happen is that the points expire but if they don't, then it's only to your advantage to sign up for free rewards/miles.
Using Credit Card Rewards Incorrectly
This mistake here is a tricky one and is one that should be learned with caution. I'm not here to advertise credit card sign ups just for the bonus or travel rewards. From my personal experience, I was always afraid of having more than one credit card. So for two years I only used my USAA Signature Rewards Credit Card which did nothing for me travel wise. Yes, I did receive 1 point per $1 and I did get cash back but I was not maximizing this free money with the right cards.
Last year, I finally went into more research about credit cards and learned that as a spouse of an Active Duty Service Member, I was eligible to have annual credit card fees waived under the Service members Civil Relief Act (SCRA). So once I verified that information with the bank, I immediately applied for the Chase Sapphire Reserve and had opened the gates to free travel rewards!
Just with that one credit card alone, I've received over $2,000 in travel reward redemption (flights, hotels, tours, etc), discounts, and credits. It's hard to say no to free travel when I had planned to spend money on those groceries or eat at that restaurant anyway!
I utilize my credit card on items that I know I will need to purchase even if I didn't have a credit card but now those purchases earn me free travel rewards. It's a win-win for me but since I lost two years of using a credit card that didn't have travel rewards, I am now starting to see how I can maximize my free points for traveling.
Skipping Travel Insurance
I used to say that I didn't "need" travel insurance because with the price of how cheap budget airline tickets are here in Europe, I would rather risk losing the price of the ticket than paying extra for insurance which I believed I wouldn't need.
Again, I was so dead wrong.
When Ryanair left my husband, myself, and about 30 other passengers at Frankfurt International Airport, I learned real quick that I DO need travel insurance when events such as this one occurs.
While we were at the airport, we were told that the reason we "missed our flight" was due to security issues. One of the managers who gave me her name said to go online to Ryanair's website and request a refund as I was rightfully entitled to that refund.
About 8 weeks later, Ryanair told me it was my fault and that I should show up earlier to the airport to avoid missing a flight. So now, although the prices of the tickets were not expensive, I drove 3 hours to the Frankfurt Airport, I paid for parking at the airport in advance (about $60), couldn't get a refund on any of the tours I paid nor the Airbnb. I lost approximately $500 and didn't even make it to my destination!
Next time, I'm getting travel insurance.
Missing Out on Compensation Under EU 261/2004
According to Article 7, EU Regulation 261/2004, you could be compensated for flights in the EU within the last 3 years that have been delayed, cancelled, or flights that have been denied boarding.
I had learned about this from a travel group on Facebook and decided to give it a try. After months of waiting and following up with emails, I was successfully compensated 400 Euro per passenger (total of 800 Euro for my husband and myself).
Our flight was from Munich to Mykonos and was delayed 3 hours and 10 minutes - it was a rough start to our anniversary weekend in Greece. The airline Eurowings still tried their best to keep us content by giving us drink vouchers while we waited. I don't remember why we were delayed, but I ended up having to miss out on a special dinner with live entertainment due to our delayed arrival.
This flight was 2 years ago so I was unsure about this EU 261 claim because I didn't think it would compensate me for a flight that was delayed so long ago. I gave it a shot and went directly to the airline's website contact form to request compensation. I stated the flight number, departure and destination locations, scheduled departure time and actual departure time. I explained that after research, I could possibly be entitled to compensation under the EU regulation 261.
After 8 weeks, I hadn't heard back so I followed up with the airline via email and a few weeks later received the answer I was looking for. 10 business days after I gave the airline my bank information, I received the funds directly to my account!
Although this was successful for me this time, I now learned that I could have done this on flights long ago but since it's been over 3 years, I am no longer entitled to compensation.
Do yourself a favor and look into this EU regulation 261 if you've been delayed, denied boarding, or had a flight cancelled.
Not Being as Friendly as I Could Be
Most people who know me would say I'm a "friendly" [but an assertive] kind of girl.
When I travel, I'm not any less friendly than I normally am but I typically am on a mission and focus on what or where I need to get to throughout my journey. I wouldn't say I go out of my way to talk to strangers but when I have a moment where I could mentally prepare for further human interaction, I am a friendly person.
This last mistake is not to say that I should be fake but that I should be more open to interacting with other people and opening up more. I have a hard time at trusting people, especially strangers right off the bat, just as I'm sure most people do. But talking to strangers and sometimes being vulnerable can help in situations where time has been wasted by figuring things out on your own.
My best friend and her fiance visited my husband and I last month and my best friend's fiance is someone who likes to talk (this is the best way to describe him and he knows it). He can talk to anyone and not have a care in the world if it makes him look weird or vulnerable or confused, he just does it.
I thought this would become annoying to be quite honest, but I learned that without him asking people so many questions and just striking up random conversations, the locals probably wouldn't have been so nice and helpful towards us.
While I'm trying to figure out "where do I go to rent sleds" or "where is the location to ___", he was already talking to a stranger, got a direct answer from them and put a smile on their face somehow! It made us all happy and relieved to not have to stress about our next step.
I aspire to be more like him and to stop being so embarrassed to ask for help or look lost and confused. This is my most important lesson and I'll now continue to work on this throughout my travels this year.