Avoiding 7 Mistakes on Holiday Solo Travel: As the holidays approach, not unexpectedly increased traffic is expected to pick up. In the US, Thanksgiving has been the most heavily traveled date. As we are approaching that holiday on Nov. 25, 2021, travel restrictions resulting from the pandemic continue to evolve. While many are easing entry requirements, New Zealand for one has taken a step back. In the interim, positive news as to potential new treatments for the coronavirus give a sense that there is light at the end of the tunnel albeit not immediately.
For solo travelers heading out in 2021, be sure to look beyond COVID-19 to avoid pitfalls of holiday travel. Having typically traveled at that time, I have learned the hard way how to avoid the following seven mistakes on holiday solo travel. Otherwise, they can wreak havoc with your celebration.
Avoiding 7 Mistakes on Holiday Solo Travel: Getting There:
Never, ever check a bag during the holidays. I spent a large part of a past family Christmas in the luggage room at the St. Louis Airport. Unfortunately, most roller bags are black with no distinguishing marks for identification. If you must check a bag, clearly mark your items where they are easy to see in an avalanche of lost luggage. Better yet, snap a photo of your bag plus any valuables inside.
Traveling on the day before a major holiday. As I found on Dec. 24, 2019 traveling from Prague to Washington, DC, the overseas flight was literally the worst of my lifetime. (To be fair, the two prior emergency landings I had on commercial flights did rank in tandem in first place.) If you have to cancel, do not make the mistake of being a “no show”. That makes it less likely that you will be able to recover miles or get credit for the unused ticket. Check your airlines’ rules and cancel before passengers check in for the flight. Document any special circumstances for your travel insurance carrier or to make a claim with the airlines.
On an overbooked flight, failing to negotiate an upgrade using miles and cash. It pays to ask. On my return flight from Prague, I discovered halfway across the Atlantic Ocean that for four hundred dollars I could have upgraded to Business Class. Having flown economy on two of the world’s longest flights (to Australia and South Africa), I do work hard to keep to a budget-friendly plan. However, there are times that a little splurge goes a long way.
Having too many destinations packed into one holiday. Unless you are going on a cruise, river cruise or escorted tour, especially during the pandemic, complying with national border entry requirements can eat up most of your vacation time. I recognized this likely vacation spoiler as the pandemic continued, and I had a roundtrip ticket for an extravagant European six country odyssey. While the European Union can make rules for the region, individual nations can also issue their own entry requirements. Luckily, in my case, I was able to reschedule without charge for next spring, May 2022. I can only imagine what a multi-nation sojourn would mean for year-end holidays.
Not recognizing that changing planes through another country to arrive at your destination may require a visa or have other restrictions. Some time ago I had a work trip in Feb. to go from Washington, DC to Johannesburg, South Africa. A raging blizzard on the United States East Coast had left only one runway open at the John F Kennedy International Airport in New York City. Always looking for a Plan B, I thought I was very clever to check the Delta flights through Brazil thereby avoiding the snow storm. However, to merely change planes there required a US passport holder to have a visa. No such luck on a snowy weekend! Some countries do make exceptions for those in transit that do not leave the airport and depart within a short space of time. For example, at times, China has waived visa requirements for those tourists staying only two to three days or for those in transit. Be sure to check this out ahead of time.
Avoiding 7 Mistakes on Holiday Solo Travel: Ways to Save:
Failing to check special discounts based on days of travel or for pre-holiday vacations. If you are flexible, try to take your trip in Nov. while rates are lower. In any case, prices tend to climb by (or before) Dec.22. For hard hit ski resorts, early bookings when they open for the season or before the holidays will be lower than Christmas-New Year’s. I discovered this in the past at the fabled Sun Valley Lodge in Idaho. I heard about the special lodging deal pre-Christmas only after I had booked my stay for a few days later at the higher Christmas rate!
Avoiding 7 Mistakes on Holiday Solo Travel: Planning Ahead:
Not making a firm dinner reservation for the holidays, themselves and Saturday nights. As a “party of one”, it can be challenging to book a dinner reservation for fine dining. It is even more competitive at Christmas and New Year’s. I was shocked staying at a top hotel to find they did not reserve space for their own guests first. After being offered Christmas Eve dinner alone in their bar, I negotiated my way back into the dining room. Caveat: That may mean eating at 5 PM.
A special tip this year: While there are unheard of solo travel deals with no single supplements and other discounted last minute vacations, check out destination discounts. For example, see the “We Miss You” campaign in Bonaire in the Netherland Antilles described below.