A group of passengers debark from a cruise ship in Mexico.

The Biggest Summer Travel Mistakes....And How To Fix Them

Just as some pleasures are unique to summer travel, so are some of the painful mistakes one can make. Make too many of those errors, and the good stuff can go out the window. So here’s our list of the top blunders, plus fixes…because everyone deserves a true summer escape.
A JetBlue plane takes off.
John Murphy/Flickr
Mistake: Flying later in the day rather than earlier
Though we think of winter as being the time of year when flights are impacted by bad storms, the truth is summer weather can be far more disruptive to air travel. That’s because it’s harder to predict a thunderstorm or tornado than it is a snowstorm. Airlines can’t move planes out of the way as easily in summer; instead, they get stuck in the path bad weather and the delays ripple across the country. If a plane in Dallas can’t take off for, say, Denver, then the passengers who would have been taking that same plane from the Mile High City to St. Louis will also be delayed.

The Fix: Book one of the first flights of the day out, before storms build in the afternoon heat. This lessens your chances of weather causing your flight to be cancelled or delayed.
The sky reflected in a Philadelphia skyscraper
Brian Hallock/Flickr
Mistake: Choosing the Typical Summer Destinations
"I’m a big fan of off- and shoulder-season travel, both to avoid crowds and to get the most value out of my vacation budget. So I try in summer to head in the opposite direction of the beach, the lakes, and the bay. They’re just too crowded and pricey," says Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor-in-Chief of CruiseCritic.com.

The fixes: "City visits—we’ve particularly enjoyed summer trips to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and even Miami—are great as summer destinations. It’s easier to get tables in good restaurants, good deals on hotel rooms (which means we can splurge for a nicer-than-usual property), museums seem more laid-back, and the pace just seems to be less frenetic all around.

"Another great option, particularly when summer gets muggy and the appeal starts to wane: Head south—way, way, way, south, to the Southern Hemisphere. We’ve enjoyed Sydney in July and are planning a bucket list trip to Argentina’s Mendoza for later this summer," says Spencer Brown.
A woman on a deserted street in Paris.
Mistake: Choosing European Cities That Empty Out in Summer
"The summer is when most Americans get to travel, so naturally many of us think about Europe," says Ed Salvato, founder of ManAboutWorld.com. "But many parts of Europe aren’t that fun in July or August. I made the mistake of going to Paris once in mid August. The city felt deserted…except by tourists. Many neighborhood boulangeries and pastry shops were closed since the proprietors need to take their monthlong vacations too, and August is when everyone does it. It’s awful to only be surrounded by non-French people in Paris!"

The fix:"Instead, plan a trip in early September and enjoy the energy and renewal of “la Rentrée”— the short period when everyone returns from vacation, heading back to work and school with élan,” says Salvato.
A long security line.
Josh Hallett/Flickr
Mistake: Not Leaving Enough Time to Get Through Security at the Airport
"It’s an issue every year,” says George Hobica, Founder of AirfareWatchdog.com. And he’s right: When people miss their flights, they sometimes take days longer to reach their destination, as many flights have no free seats in the summertime.

The Fixes: There are a few strategies for gaming the lines:
  • Pony up for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, suggests Hobica. Yes, both programs cost money (for a five-year membership) and require a background check. But you’ll speed through the lines when the PreCheck line is open (sometimes it won’t be).
  • Scope out the airport. Most will have more than one security line, so go to the one that’s shortest. Yes, you may have to walk farther to your gate, but the time savings could be worth it.
  • Consider paying a bit extra for access to the priority lines. Some airlines now sell faster access separate from a first or business class ticket.
A mosquito chomps on a man's arm
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's Photostream
Mistake: Not Protecting Yourself Against Mosquitoes
Mosquitoes aren't just an itchy nuisance, they can also cause health issues.

The fix: Experts suggest lathering up with products containing DEET (which work better than other forms of repellent), wearing light clothing, covering as much skin as possible, and avoiding alcohol (the sugars from it make your blood even tastier to mosquitoes).
Massive crowds roam the Royal Mile during the Edinburgh Fringe Fest.
Mistake: Forgetting About Festivals
Summer is the time for massive outdoor happenings. Stumble upon one by accident and you just may find there's no room at the inn...or at any inn within 20 miles. That's the case if you accidentally head to Edinburgh (pictured) during its famed summer arts festivals, to Montréal during its Comedy and Jazz fests, to London during the Wimbledon Championships, to event-happy Chicago (it has a lot of summer fests), or to any area that's hosting a roving music festival.

The fix: Check out the calendar of the local tourist board's website before making plans. It should alert you to the bigger tourist draws.
A beach in Cape Cod.
Massachusetts Department of Tourism/Flickr
Mistake: Traveling When Everyone Else Is Traveling
We’re not telling you to stay home this summer. Far from it!

The fix: Sure, summer is considered peak season. But there are some times during the summer that are “peakier” than others. Most Americans take their vacations in short spurts, so weekend travel and long-weekend travel (such as over July 4) tend to be more heavily booked than midweek travel. And because many schools start again in mid-August, or their teams start practice then, families come home and the last two weeks of that month tend to be much slower than any period in June or July. Much of September is still officially summer, but the crowds of travelers have usually dissipated by then.