Common Sense

Common sense as we know it may be dead.

And for the travel industry, that may mean more bad news – for airport workers, national park rangers, fellow tourists, pretty much everyone – because common sense has always been a precious commodity in travel.

Why is common sense on the verge of extinction? Technology is partly to blame. With tools as wonderful as the Internet and GPS cell phones, travelers are able to go anywhere without knowing anything. Lack of adversity is another culprit. It gave our ancestors generous helpings of common sense for the sole purpose of surviving. And survival “reality” shows may play a hand for featuring adventure actors rather than true experts.

Given how unprepared the traveling public has become, tourists have become walking targets for scam offers, predatory prices and junk fees, which is why a little common sense can go a long way down the road.

Don’t forget to pack your smarts! These tips from consumer advocate and USA columnist Christopher Elliot may seem unnecessary, but the scores of tourists killed, injured or taken advantage of in recent news may prove otherwise.

Don’t leave your hotel room door ajar, even if it’s just to run down the hall or out to dinner without having to remember your key. It’s a recipe for theft.

Vigilance goes for valuables as well. When you’re on vacation, you’re not thinking as clearly as your would at home or work. Don’t leave your Kindle or purse on your pool chair or bar stool while you mosey about the resort. It may not be there when you return, and the hotel likely won’t claim responsibility for your missing items.

Tune out the airport madness. What is it about airports that makes people lose their minds? Can you really claim you don’t know how to use the kiosk when the brand new iPhone you’re holding is infinitely more difficult to master? Also, make sure you know your bag allowance and what is and isn’t approved on board. You’ll make the TSA agents and gate attendant’s lives much easier (and avoid dirty looks from everyone behind you in line).

Visiting a national park? Here are some of the basics: Don’t touch the lethal plants and snakes. Don’t stand on the crumbling edge of cliffs. Don’t wander into the jungle. Don’t feed the wildlife, whether it be a crocodile, mountain lion, or a cute, cuddly bear, whose big, scary, over-“bearing” mother is likely lingering nearby. In such a vast, undeveloped area, a plethora of dangerous events could present itself. Play it safe by hanging on a park ranger’s every word of advice.

Stay in touch with the reality of the fine print. And read it! Carefully! You won’t get a refund for your non-refundable ticket. You won’t retrieve your expired frequent flier miles. Your travel insurance won’t pay a claim for something that isn’t covered by the policy. You can be the nicest, sweetest and most polite to a customer service rep than you’ve ever been, but don’t expect a miracle if the fine print states plainly otherwise.

Meet other savvy travelers. You can participate in the weekly #Travelskills chat on Twitter, which covers basic travel strategies.

Read up. Check out these travel books: The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Travel by Joshua Piven and How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler by Chistopher Elliot.

Take a survival course. Try classes like Cody Lundin’s Aboriginal Living Skills School and Creek Steward’s Preparedness Training, which will make you aware of common travel pitfalls. You can never be too prepared– especially when it comes to your life.