Believe me, it was hard to keep this list to 10. I always make mistakes when I travel; the act of it just breeds them.
While away from home I've gotten hopelessly lost, left my passport in the stall of a public restroom and, in a foreign language, referred to a man as a woman. But mistakes are a necessity. They are how we learn and gain experience for the next time.
That said, there also are mistakes I make time and again. These blunders are so simple, so obvious, they border on amateur. Though it's embarrassing to admit them, I hope by reading about them you'll avoid making the same mistakes.
1. I Forget We Have to Turn Off All Devices
E-readers are a godsend to a regular traveler, and I load up mine with magazines from finance to gossip, newspapers and, of course, a few books, all to be ready for whatever mood I may be in. I sit in my seat smugly thinking how unencumbered and uncluttered I am (I am so put together!) until the cabin door closes and I realize there will be a full hour (counting both ascent and descent) when my device is just a piece of expensive plastic and my only recourse is the airline magazine, which I read on a previous flight, or the totally outlandish products of SkyMall. Did you know that you can buy a yeti? Remember non-electronic reading material.
2. I Neglect to Check the Weather Forecast
I have this uncanny propensity for thinking that whatever weather I am in will be the same weather I am going to. A cold, blustery January day in Brooklyn? Singapore can't be that hot, right? I have a general sense of warm vs. cold destinations and pack accordingly, but I rarely look to see what the specific temperatures will be while I'm at my destination. If there's a fluke heat wave or a chance of rain for the entire week, it never fails that I'm completely blindsided.
3. I Leave Without an Umbrella
Living in New York has spoiled me. If you've ever been to this city you know that with the tiniest threat of rain, within three minutes there's a man selling $5 umbrellas at every street corner. The immediate response time of these umbrella vendors is so impressive I always wonder if their talents wouldn't be better put to use in some sort of emergency management. Thanks to their talent, my Pavlovian response when it rains now is that someone hands me an umbrella and I hand him $5.
4. I Always Forget a Toothbrush
Why I don't buy five toothbrushes and put one in every piece of luggage I own, I have no idea. My forgetfulness is so notorious, in fact, that a hotel I visit often now has a toothbrush waiting for me in the room when I check in.
5. I Depart Without the Printed Itinerary
Right before I leave for a trip I always print out my itinerary … then leave it sitting in the printer bin. That extra step of taking it from the printer to my purse seems to elude me every time. Thank goodness I always have it somewhere on my phone or computer, but I like to have a paper copy and never do.
6. I Charge Off Without a Charger
On this, I'm not alone. No matter what school you went to, how much money you make, whether you are Republican or Democrat, walking away from an outlet leaving your charger plugged in is an experience we all have had. Luckily, this happens on the other end of a trip as well, while travelers are packing up in a hotel room to go home. That means that most hotels (at all price points) have a shoebox full of every kind of charger that's been left in an outlet under a desk. In fact, at home now I keep the chargers from electronics past just in case my guests forget theirs. A Nokia cellphone charger from 2002? Got it!
7. I Forget the Travel-Size Hair Spray
It's hard finding travel-size products abroad. And it breaks my heart to know that after I've spent 20 minutes doing my hair, without a nice finishing spray it will look like crap in five.
8. I Think Only Warm Thoughts About Florida
The Sunshine State can be miserably hot, but anything with four walls and a roof is air-conditioned so aggressively that I'm often left wondering as I shiver through a meal at a restaurant "Isn't this the weather you wanted to escape?" Lesson: Going to Florida? Bring a sweater, even in the hottest months.
9. I Pack for Dry Land Only
I don't really enjoy swimming, so I don't usually bring a bathing suit, but whenever I see a nice hotel pool I think what if ...?
10. I Am Unprepared for Tipping
I never seem to have small bills at the beginning of my trip for the bellhop, or at the end for the housekeeper when I'm checking out. Each time it means an extra trip to the hotel desk to get change. Before a big trip we all head to the ATM, which dispenses only $20 bills, so start collecting those $1 and $5 bills a few days before you leave.