“Myths are true legends of actual facts that never happened.”
We are in the middle of winter and we are all just coasting along until the next edition of The Global Scavenger Hunt begins April 15th. Many of us are now susceptible to believe things that just aren’t true—like campaign commercials!
Travel is no different. Urban legends and false truism abound among travelers.
Culled from my vast travel-related archives, here are my dirty dozen travel myths that don’t seem to go away:
Travel Myth #1 – The famous Dream Seat lives! No, I am sorry to say, it is not real. The utterly romantic belief that the person of your dreams (aka your future significant other that you will live happily ever after with…) will just plop down right beside you on that 45-minute commuter flight to Des Moines, or on that 13-hour flight between LAX and HKG—is utter BS. No one likes to be drooled on fella. And everyone gets bad breath after eating the mystery meat too. I know of no couple that has ever met on an airplane! Do you?
Travel Myth #2 – You never feel the bobbing and weaving on cruise ships. Right…and I have this 20% annual rate of return investment vehicle for you too! Indeed, it has to be said, that for the most part, cruise ships are incredibly stable. Most have stabilizers and modern technological advances; but, different folks have different tolerances for the pitch (up and down) and roll (back and forth) movements of cruise ships—especially during heavy high seas. Seasickness (aka motion sickness) is real and there is a big market for it—on cruise ships!
Travel Myth #3 – The airline brace position will save your life in the highly unlikely event of an airplane crash. Hmm, a lot of things might save your life—like where you are sitting on the plane, whether you are drunk or not, whether the plane hits the ground at 600mph or at 120mph, whether it explodes into a fireball or not, whether you land in the water or into a mountain, whether the plane disintegrates midair, whether the plane is full of fuel or empty, whether your incident occurs in a rich country or a precarious failed state, whether you are flying with a CAA approved crew or not, etc…Yes, these things might decide your fate. But, putting your hands on your head and your head between your knees (if you can actually fit there with smaller and smaller seat sizes)—maybe not so much! It could just be a Cold War era remnant from the duck and cover mentality (aka kiss your ass good bye)? BTW: The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) itself claims that the brace position is designed to help minimize fatalities and injuries caused by flying debris in the cabin—not in the crash itself.
Travel Myth #4 – Everyone always needs an international driver’s permit (IDP) when driving outside North America. Nope, you don’t always need one, in fact you usually don’t. Different countries have different rules. Most European countries, and former British Commonwealth nations like South Africa Australia and New Zealand (BTW: Canada is in North America!), among others, you don’t need one to rent or drive a car. A valid U.S. or Canadian driver’s license is enough. For the most part, the so-called international driving permit issued by AAA, is nothing more than your own valid driver’s license translated into different languages for local non-English speaking cops to be able to read!
Travel Myth #5 – Your personal electronic devices will interfere with the plane’s navigation systems. Utter hogwash! (But never argue with a flight attendant about shutting off and stowing your electronic devices.) Who amongst us hasn’t inadvertently left them on for an entire 5-hour cross country flight at some point? (And I have the roaming charges to prove it!). All those laptops and iPads, MP3 players and gaming platforms, iPhones and Blackberries, don’t affect the airplanes electronics—or they wouldn’t be allowed period! There are twin non-electrical-related issues here: 1) people might not pay full attention to the flight attendants in times of emergency; and 2) those items, like any airplane item, risk becoming lethal projectiles in the event of an impact or sudden deceleration. It is all about safety (and airlines figuring out a way to make new fees)—not the planes navigational systems.
Travel Myth #6 – Those hotel key cards have all your personal information coded on them. Nope just another urban legend. Don’t worry about losing them or someone “hacking” them either. All they have is a random alpha numeric code to open one door in the whole hotel.
Travel Myth #7 – You can accumulate one million miles flying a year on your frequent flyer program. Well, not really. This is huge a myth among so-called road warriors—wing-nuts who take flights to nowhere just to accumulate additional airline miles. Maybe you can use an affinity credit card a lot to purchase other goods and services, but you certainly can’t fly a million miles a year unless you are an astronaut. Just do the math: 1,000,000 miles divided by 365 days = 2,740 miles-a-day (at least six hours a day of actual time in the air) every day for a year! Nuff said…
Travel Myth #8 – Train travel is always cheaper than air travel in Europe. Nope, not any more with so many no-frills discount airlines, both domestic and international, exploding on the scene over the past decade. I recently flew from Vienna, Austria (VIE) to Paris, France (CDG) for US$20! Of course my bag cost another US$30, but hey, it was still cheaper and faster. It cost US110 and took 13-hours by train. Ditto for most other major inter-European destinations.
Travel Myth #9 – You will be arrested for attempting to join the infamous Mile High Club during a flight. Well, maybe yes, but usually no. I would not attempt it in an Islamic nation that’s for sure… But, according to the Civil Aviation Authority again, there are no specific laws that govern the matter. That said, various countries have their own laws governing public sex and in reality the flight attendants that I have talked to say go for it, but be discreet—no screaming, yelling or kicking—and be quick! And never try to join the club by yourself in your seat!
Travel Myth #10 – The more megapixels a digital camera has the better. That’s just the bigger is better, and more is always good mentality speaking—it’s not true after a certain point. As you may know, megapixels are those tiny dots that make up a picture, so a five-megapixel camera captures photos that make up five million tiny dots of information. Two things: It doesn’t matter what the megapixel size is if you take a bad photo—it will always be a bad photo! Plus, the bigger the megapixels size the bigger the memory card needs to be to hold all your photos. But, here’s the bottom-line, megapixels only really matter if you are either cropping out large portions of a photo or making a giant poster-sized enlargement of one. So, unless you are a pro, having a four or five megapixel camera is perfect. The rest is all marketing hype.
Travel Myth #11 – Travel now while you can before you have children, because you can’t travel afterward. This is just plain bull sh#t! Of course you can still travel with them, but yes you will have to slow down and adjust to their level, lower your expectations about what you can and cannot do and travel is obviously much easier and less expensive without them—but you still can. As I like to say, “Traveling with my partner is a real vacation, traveling with my kids is a real adventure.”
Travel Myth #12 – There is a right way to travel. Wrong, there is no formula right way to travel. There is no cookie cutter one-size-fits-all approach to travel. Some folks love to sleep on the beach, while others are adrenaline junkies. Some like the tried and true and hang with the herd, while others head off to parts unknown by themselves off the beaten path. Some folks just need a long weekend to get a vibe, while others need to immerse themselves for a whole year. There is no right way to travel, and one is not better than the other (ridiculous traveler versus tourist debate); like appreciating art, it is wholly subjective, personal and an individual experience.
What are your top travel myths? We can’t wait to hear them…