6. Renting a car? You can probably skip the insurance
If you drive, you should already have waiver and liability coverage with your own existing insurance. Alternatively, if you have a credit card, check to see if it provides waiver coverage — many do. While you're filling out the paperwork, always make sure you have someone sign off on the visual inspection of the car — or better yet, take 360-degree photos of the vehicle. You don't want to end up paying for someone else's mistakes. Finally, pay attention as you leave the facility for gas stations to visit on the way back. Rental car companies may charge $8 or more per gallon for empty tanks.
7. The truth about 'free' flight vouchers
Volunteering to be bumped from a flight? Always ask for cash-equivalent vouchers. "Free Flight" vouchers might sound like a better deal, but they are intentionally difficult to redeem and subject to all sorts of restrictions and blackout days.
8. You passport could get you stuck at the border
Believe it or not, even with a valid passport in hand, you could have trouble entering or exiting a country. Passports must have at least two blank visa pages. If you have fewer than that, you can order additional visa pages through the State Department.
Many countries also require that your passport be valid at least three to six months after your date of travel. The rules vary by country: For example, all visitors to New Zealand must carry a passport that's valid for at least three months after the date of departure; travelers to Brazil must have a passport that's valid for at least another six months when applying for a visa. Check with the embassy of your destination country to confirm which rules apply to you. If you need to expedite a new passport, contact the State Department.
9. Your credit card may be rejected at the counter when traveling abroad
You thought you were playing it smart by using your credit card rather than getting nailed by withdrawal fees at the ATM. But in an effort to reduce fraud, more and more countries are switching over to a "chip and PIN" system over the "swipe and sign" system that we're more familiar with in the United States. The chip and PIN process involves credit and debit cards that have an embedded microchip, and consumers must type in a four-digit personal identification number.
According to Bankrate.com, we're not likely to see a wave of chip and PIN cards in the United States, since the cost of implementing the new system is prohibitively expensive. But if merchants overseas say they can't accept your card, don't just walk away. Many vendors still have the capability of processing those magnetic strips — they just don't necessarily know that. Certain places, however, such as automated ticket kiosks, may cause some problems, so always carry some extra cash in the local currency as a backup.
Peter Greenberg is a travel news journalist.
Published March 2011