With COVID restrictions loosening, many people are comfortable traveling again including this Memorial Day weekend as millions expected to get away. Before you hit the friendly skies or book that next trip, you need to be aware of some travel pitfalls that you may face that could cost you.
Traveler Marcus Pellom learned the hard way that no matter how prepared you can be to travel internationally during the pandemic, you can still hit roadblocks. He was flying to Kuwait to be reunited with his wife, Halima.
Before flying, Pellom said he used the app that Kuwait uses to make sure you have all the proper documents to make sure you comply with their COVID guidelines.
"I downloaded that and we went through and checked off everything," Pellom said. "Everything started off red on the app and then it pretty much turned blue as we completed an item."
He arrived at the airport and showed Turkish Airlines the app along with his documents, including a negative COVID test, and was able to take off.
His layover was at the Istanbul airport, and when he tried to board his connecting flight to Kuwait on the same airline, he ran into problems.
"Why would you let me leave and come here, put me at more risk at COVID if this whole thing is about COVID. I'm sitting in an airport now exposed to all these random people. If the airline let me leave the US, I feel like I should have been able to make it all the way to Kuwait," Pellom added.
Pellom says the airline refused him because he didn't fully pay for his hotel in Kuwait where he was going to quarantine. Instead of boarding, Pellom was stranded and scrambling to find somewhere to stay in Istanbul. On top of that, the delay caused his mandatory COVID-19 test to expire, which meant buying a visa to get a new test.
"It's just kinda hard to witness and experience, personally, just being rejected and having to cough up extra money, time and just not being sure exactly what is going to happen and being in a foreign country, kinda scary," Pellom said.
The next day, he says with the same documentation he presented before, Turkish Airlines allowed him to board after he spent more than $500.00 on all the additional expenses.
ABC11 reached out to Turkish Airlines and they never got back to us, they've corresponded with Pellom and his wife but so far still no reimbursement for the extra costs.
To prevent travel pitfalls like this, no matter if you're traveling in the U.S. or heading out of the country, know the restrictions and COVID testing requirements as they are changing often.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) suggests working with a travel agent could be helpful.
"Agents can help keep you in tune with the different restrictions that are in place and knowing how open a state is of where you're traveling to or another country," said Mallory Wojceichoski, president of the Better Business Bureau serving Eastern North Carolina.
The BBB also says right now more than ever, you need to be aware of travel scams. Watch out for phone calls or letters claiming that you've "won a trip" or websites offering deals that are too good to be true. It's easy to extend questionable offers like these, but the vast majority of them leave hopeful travelers in limbo and out of money.
Always do your homework before booking. Research the hotel to see what's open and what's not. If you're booking a rental online, also watch out for fake copycat postings, where scammers steal pictures from legit rental listings and post them online for much less than the actual rental price.
Always consider travel insurance, but read the fine print, see exactly what is covered and what's not, with COVID, many learned the hard way last year that was not a covered event in many policies.
When it comes to paying for your vacation, paying with a credit card offers the most protection.