Travel Myths: Which are True or False?
We debunk seven common travel myths—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 1: Flights are Always Cheaper on Tuesday Evenings
Sorry, night owls, but it turns out you aren’t going to score brag-worthy fares by staying up late mid-week. One study showed that tickets for the same flight were actually about five percent less over the weekend. An annual airfare study 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 2: Your iPhone can Crash the Plane
Verdict: False, mostly
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 ’90s. In the decades since cell phones became ubiquitous, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued mixed signals—literally. On most flights your cell phone is not likely causing much interference, but some plane models have experienced interference from Wi-Fi signals in the past. There are no reports of airline accidents attributed to cell phones, but during critical periods of the flight—usually take off and landing—you may be asked to completely switch off your phone to be extra sure that there is no radio interference between your phone seeking a cell phone tower and the pilot’s instruments that help them navigate. This is an area where the FAA and airlines are exercising an abundance of caution for your safety, not because it’s something that has happened.
Myth 3: Money Belts Won’t Protect You From Theft
It's estimated that around 400,000 pickpocketing incidents happen everyday. While violent crime rates are not relatively high in Europe, its major cities—such as Barcelona, Rome, and Paris—see a particularly high rate of petty theft. Before you leave your hotel, be knowledgeable about potential danger zones, and lock away any important documents or valuables in a safe. For items you'd prefer to take with you—like cash, credit cards, or keys—use a money belt. This will make you less of a target to thieves, and it will give you extra peace of mind. Couple the money belt with an RFID wallet for your everyday use (you shouldn’t access your money belt while out sightseeing!), and you can protect your gear from digital theft as well.
And always protect your most important gear—here’s how to keep your passport safe.
Myth 4: Tours Lead to Inauthentic Experiences
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.
M yth 5: Flying is Getting More Expensive
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. Of course, you’re not always getting as much on that budget flight—like less legroom and less luggage included. But adjusted for inflation, airline ticket costs have declined around 50 percent over the past 30 years. One thing that hasn’t dwindled? The hassle of getting through airport security. For that, checkpoint friendly bags can help.
Myth 6: 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 7: Circulated Air on Planes will Make You Sick
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. A common travel misconception, 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 highly efficient HEPA 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 jet lag, travel fatigue, and the germs on armrests, trays, and bathroom door handles. So maybe lose the face mask, but hold onto that hand sanitizer and always turn on your air vent to keep the fresh, clean air coming your way.
Heading on a trip soon? Before you leave, be sure to check out our Ultimate Travel Packing List .
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By Alexandra Baackes on February 12, 2020
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.