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Heartland America Blog

Oops! My Top 10 Travel Mistakes to Avoid for Your Next Flight

A must-read travel guide for smarter, smoother flight experiences!

Hobbies and Leisure Activities

by Jessie Breheim • January 19, 2024

Hey there, travel buddies! I'm Jessie B., Heartland America's Web Content Manager and your go-to gal for helpful travel tips. My passport's seen more stamps than a post office, from Canada to Europe and even South America. I'm a self-proclaimed travel junkie, but let's be real, getting there is half the battle. So, I've gathered some oh-so-essential travel hacks from my own whoopsie-daisy moments. Ready to dive into my top 10 travel mishaps? Let's go!

1. Overstuffing the Personal Item Bag

Picture me at the airport, lugging a backpack stuffed to its limits on my way to Miami. It was a nightmare to fit under the seat, and my poor husband had to play Tetris to make it work (and got yelled at by the flight attendant!). Learn from my ordeal: pack light and consider paying for extra luggage. It's better than buying an overpriced suitcase mid-trip!

Pro Travel Tip: Check your airline’s website for under-the-seat personal item dimensions. I can usually fit my backpack under the seat..when it isn’t packed to the brim! If you’re looking for a new backpack for your flight, check out this convertible black backpack with a USB port, which can also turn into a duffel bag. Plus it has an RFID safe pocket inside the backpack for added protection!

Quirky Convertible Black Backpack with USB Port $49.99

2. Choosing Low-Quality Luggage

I'll never forget dragging my soft-sided, single-directional wheeled suitcase across Europe, duct tape barely holding it together. The single-directional wheels were also a pain because I had to pull the weight of the suitcase with me (unlike multi-directional wheels). Invest in a sturdy, hard-sided suitcase with smooth, multi-directional wheels to avoid my luggage limbo.

Pro Travel Tip: Buy a hard-sided suitcase that has patterns or ridges on it to hide scuff marks. It’s also helpful to get luggage trackers in case your luggage gets lost and locks that are built into the suitcase or added to the zippers.

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Hardside 3 Piece Luggage Set $129.99
hard side carry on suitcase
Hardside Carry-On with Spin Wheels $59.99

3. Airport Security Faux Pas

I've had my share of security snafus, like chugging two energy drinks in Las Vegas before passing through security because I forgot I had them in my bag or accidentally bringing a pocket knife onboard (I usually keep it in my purse since it has a built-in seatbelt cutter). Double-check your bags for prohibited items and get familiar with TSA's guidelines to avoid these embarrassing moments.

Pro Travel Tip: Not all domestic airports ask you to remove your shoes. Wait until you get closer to the security checkpoint to listen for instructions. Wear shoes that are comfortable but also easy to slip on and off so you can make your TSA pass through a breeze and not hold up the line. 

4. Forgetting Travel Snacks and a Water Bottle

That time I had to part with my banana upon re-entering the US taught me a valuable lesson about customs. I also have been stuck on flights being extremely thirsty with no access to water and almost considered drinking from the bathroom sink (which I’d much rather not do - unless absolutely necessary!). Always check TSA's guidelines on food and bring an empty water bottle (that you refill after you pass security) to stay hydrated without the hefty price tag.

Pro Travel Tip: Bring a cup of ramen noodles and ask for hot water to make a nice hot travel snack on the flight. Avoid if there’s a lot of turbulence.

5. Neglecting Comfort on Long Flights

My long flight to France was a literal pain in the neck without a neck pillow. Always bring one along, plus earplugs and an eye mask to create your cozy corner in the sky. This is especially helpful for international flights.

Pro Travel Tip: To save space in your luggage you can clip your neck pillow to the handle of your luggage or wear it around your neck in the airport.

6. Skipping on Travel Entertainment

That flight to California felt like an eternity without my favorite tunes and shows. I learned the hard way: always download movies, TV shows, music, or games beforehand. In-flight travel entertainment isn't a guarantee, so come prepared with your own.

Pro Travel Tip: Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Spotify have the option to download your media for free (if you have a paid subscription).

7. Forgetting Essential Medication

My flight to Mexico was a rollercoaster of nausea, thanks to some unexpected turbulence. Always pack your meds where you can easily reach them, and remember, alcohol and fizzy drinks are not your friends in the skies if you’re prone to nausea. Keep your medications in your personal item bag and in a zipper pocket where it’s easy to access them.

Pro Travel Tips: Chewing gum during the ascent and descent can alleviate nausea from pressure changes and help with flight anxiety. Also, in addition to anti-nausea meds, be sure your regular medications are easily accessible, and bring some pain relievers just in case.

8. Dressing Uncomfortably for Flights

Shivering through my flight to Alaska in just a tee and capris was a lesson in dressing for comfort. Opt for layers, shoes that are easy to walk in, and comfy clothes. And don't forget those compression socks to keep your circulation in check during long flights!

lamo shoes
Women's Lamo Casual Slip-Ons - Beige $29.99
men's Velcro shoes
UltraLight Velcro Black Two-Strap Shoes $39.99

Pro Travel Tip: If you’re bringing a jacket, save space in your luggage by wearing it on the flight. It can double as a blanket too if you get cold or rolled up to be used as added back support.

9. Neglecting Post-Flight Transportation Plans

Post-flight chaos is real, and planning ahead is key. Compare ride-share costs, look into public transport, or arrange a pickup. Knowing your ride options can be a real lifesaver after a long journey.

Pro Travel Tip: Lyft and Uber have subscription plans that’ll pay for themselves if you plan on using their ride services frequently during your trip. I also use travel credit cards AMEX Gold and Chase Sapphire to get discounts on transportation services like Lyft and have also gotten multiple free flights and hotels from regular credit card use. Just be sure to pay them off right away and use them responsibly.

10. Running Out of Battery Power

There's nothing like a dead phone to amp up post-flight stress. After using up my battery on a flight and struggling to order an Uber, I learned to always bring a power bank or two. Power banks are also ultra-handy for use on your trip once you arrive.

Pro Travel Tip: Opt for a lightweight but powerful power bank so it saves space in your bag but also gives enough power to charge your phone fully at least once.

Get Ready for Takeoff Without Worry

Through all these adventures and misadventures, I've gathered a treasure trove of travel tips and wisdom. So, here's to learning from my blunders and making your next trip a breeze. Travel smart, pack wisely, and remember, every journey is an opportunity for a new story. Happy travels, and may your next adventure be mishap-free! 🌍✈️🌟

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