The Ultimate Worst Time Wasters on Travel

In both travel and in life, wasted time is one of my least favorite things! Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but sometimes, just a little prep work can go a long way in making the most of your precious travel time. Here are the top ways people (including me!) tend to waste time when they travel. We’ve all done some of these, since no one’s perfect, but we can all do a little better!

Having No Flexibility

I don’t mean doing the splits in the TSA line. I mean be willing to change your plan when an opportunity arises. Don’t get me wrong! I love it when things go according to plan, but the reality of travel (pandemic and pre-pandemic) is that nothing goes exactly as planned. You’ll waste less time, and be less frustrated, if you’re open to changing things up instead of waiting around for things to happen as you want.

How? Be willing to take a different flight if yours gets delayed or cancelled. Have the ability to change things up if the museum where you planned to start your day is closed or has different hours than you thought–go for a walk, visit a nearby museum, or get coffee at a local shop until it opens!

We were surprised and disappointed when the Art Deco Museum in Miami Beach was closed, but we made it a beach day instead!
Read on: 5 Habits of Flexible Travelers

Not Making a Reservation

You don’t always need a reservation for your meals, but it’s always best to check on that, just in case. If it’s somewhere you really want to eat because it’s part of the experience, visit their website or Google “Do I need reservations for ______,” and just make sure you get a reservation if you need one! Otherwise you could be waiting for a table for hours (literally, multiple hours), or you’ll find out they don’t take walk-ins at all.

This is especially important if you’re traveling on or around a holiday. Steve and I thought we’d just get take-out from the Pizza and Burgers restaurant at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. I mean, it’s a fancy hotel, but the restaurant was literally called “Pizza and Burgers,” so we figured it was their token casual restaurant. But it was Valentine’s Day. Pandemic notwithstanding, we found out too late that they were only taking reservations–no take-out at all, even for just pizza! It’s always best to check if it’s something you really want to do!

So glad we made reservations for the super-fancy and historic White Swan Inn in Alnwick, England!
Need more? Check out my Travel Planning Page!

Standing in Line for Attractions

Oftentimes, standing in line is inevitable. But when you don’t have to, why would you? Many popular attractions have been able to cut down on lines in the last decade by offering online ticketing, and usually that comes with a discounted price, too! Would you rather waste three hours waiting in line to see the Cistine Chapel, or would you prefer to be in and out in under an hour so you can move on to the next thing? Check to see if you can get tickets in advance instead of waiting in line.

We bought tickets in advance to the Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh, and skipped the line entirely!
See also: The Ultimate Worst Money Wasters on Travel

Not Having a Backup Plan for Check-in Time

Very often, Steve and I have been able to check into hotels around the world upon arrival–even at 8:00am if the room happens to have not been used the previous night. However, we’ve learned to always have a plan in case we can’t check in when we arrive.

Typically, a hotel can store your luggage for you until check in time so you don’t have to carry your luggage around with you all day. Once when we arrived in Sydney, Australia, before 8:00am, our plan was to drop off our luggage, change into running clothes, and go for a much-needed run around Sydney Harbor and soak up some sunshine to help us beat jet lag. It worked perfectly!

Whether you plan to go for a run or check off a couple of museums, make sure you have a plan to make the most of your time, even before you check into your hotel. Waiting around in the lobby until 3:00 or 4:00pm is a massive waste of precious travel time!

Just a quick run past the Sydney Opera House in the sunshine!
Read on: How to Plan A Trip

Choosing a Hotel Far, Far Away

I know, we’re all trying to be economical here. But what’s the real cost of that cheap hotel outside the city? How long will it take to commute to the things you want to do? How much will it cost to do that commute twice a day? Will you be traveling at rush hour? Because that will increase both the time and the cost!

I had some friends come up to D.C. once in the spring to see the cherry blossoms. It’s a beautiful, but crowded and expensive, time to be here. They chose to stay in Centreville, VA, about 25 miles west of D.C. Because they were coming from Tennessee, they thought a 25-30 minute commute would be no big deal if they got such a great deal on their accommodation. After three days of commuting over an hour each way and sitting in D.C. traffic, they told me it would have been 100% worthwhile to pay more for an accommodation to stay downtown! Always consider the time (and cost!) of that cheap, far-off accommodation.

Staying right downtown may be well worth the cost of convenience!
More here: Your Ultimate Guide to Accommodations

Waiting at TSA and Passport Control in the U.S.

This is for U.S. citizens travling to, from, or through, the U.S. borders. If you don’t have TSA Pre-check, Clear, Global Entry, and/or Mobile Passport, you are wasting a lot of valuable time! Even during the holiday rush, it’s extremely rare for my husband and me to wait at a security checkpoint more than five minutes. Why? We have Pre-check!

When we come back into the U.S. from anywhere in the world, my husband and I breeze through passport control in under a minute while other people on the same flight as us wait anywhere from thirty minutes to three hours to get through passport control and customs. Why? We have Global Entry! These programs cost money (although several credit cards and airline loyalty programs offer to refund that cost–check it out!), but it’s well worth the cost for five years’ worth of time savings!

Don’t waste time at passport control!
Essential info: How to Apply for Global Entry

Waiting at Baggage Claim

Honestly, I don’t know why sometimes it takes 10 minutes for luggage to arrive at baggage claim and why sometimes it takes an hour. There’s no way to know how long it will take! And that is why waiting for your luggage at baggage claim is an absolute waste of time. I realize that sometimes you can’t get around it, but if you don’t have to, why would you? I always recommend going carry-on only whenever possible!

Ready to go!
Learn how: The Ultimate Guide to Packing the Perfect Carry-on

So what about you? How to you prevent yourself from wasting time on your travels? Tell us all so we can save more time, too!

Want more? Check out my Travel Tips Page for everything you need to travel your best!

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