January 10th, 2015

Travel Myths: Are They True or False?

We debunk six common travel misconceptions—and the results may surprise you.

The world of travel is rife with myths and misconceptions about everything from when to click “purchase” on killer flight deals to how our cell phones could affect the plane’s navigation. Why do these legends live on? If there’s one lesson to be learned from our examination of the following travel myths, it’s to always do your research before basing big decisions on an oft-repeated urban legend.

Myth: Flights are always cheaper on Tuesday evenings
Verdict: False

Sorry, night owls, but it turns out you aren’t going to score brag-worthy fares by staying up late mid-week. One recent study showed that tickets for the same flight were actually about 5 percent less over the weekend. Another found no consistent correlation between any single day of the week and cheaper fares. Conclusion? There’s no magic time window that will replace monitoring fares and comparison shopping in order to land the best deal.

Myth: Your iPhone can crash the plane
Verdict: False

There’s been a long standing fear among flyers that interference from cell phones could wreak havoc on a plane’s most important instruments—a fear that’s been reinforced by the ban of cell phone use on flights dating back to the ’90’s. Yet a 2006 study by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was inconclusive, and not a single airline accident has ever been attributed to cell phone use. Which leaves savvy travelers to wonder: Is this a case of public safety, or of your flight attendant not wanting to listen to your phone call?

Myth: Tours lead to an inauthentic experience
Verdict: False

There’s often a sentiment among hardened world wanderers that signing on for a tour is akin to signing away your traveler street cred. But sometimes, it’s the best way to get an authentic taste for a new destination. Taking an interactive chocolate tour of Brussels led by a patriotic Belgian with a penchant for cacao will certainly lead to a deeper—and more delicious—understanding of the city than wandering around trying to find the world’s first Godiva store with an outdated map from your guidebook.

Myth: Flying is getting more expensive
Verdict: False

While it might seem as if that deal you scored on a getaway to Tampa two years ago is a distant memory, in reality, fares are going down. Adjusted for inflation, airlines ticket costs have declined around 50 percent over the past 30 years. One thing that hasn’t dwindled? The hassle of getting through security. For that, checkpoint friendly bags can help.

Myth: Duty free has great deals
Verdict: True. Sometimes.

Ah, the no-tax allure of duty free. While the government might not take a cut, the base price of luxury goods like perfume and sunglasses is often elevated at the airport, meaning you’ll end up paying the same price—if not more—than you would without the runway view. The big buck savings come from heavily taxed items like alcohol and cigarettes. In fact, in some countries like Iceland, booze taxes are so high that residents are notorious for stocking their liquor cabinets each and every time they re-enter the country.

Myth: Circulated air on planes will make you sick
Verdict: False

Face masks, hand sanitizer, and Emergen-C: Are these standard packing items for your carry on? You might save some room and ease up the next time you’re at the drugstore. Studies prove that the air inside a no-aisle-seats-left cabin is actually cleaner than most other crowded public places. Plane passengers inhale a healthy mix of fresh and recirculate air—the recycled part maintains temperature and humidity and is circulated through number filters, and the fresh stuff keeps things from getting stale. In fact, there’s a total changeover of air every two to three minutes! So what keeps you from feeling your best upon landing? Likely a potent mix of jetlag, travel fatigue, and the germs on armrests, trays, and bathroom door handles. So maybe lose the face mask, but hold onto that hand sanitizer.

What travel myths would you like to see debunked?

Alexandra Baackes is a traveling writer, designer, and underwater videographer. She is currently in her third year of living as a full-time nomad—follow along at alexinwanderland.com!

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