2. Read those airline rules
Airline policies can be counterintuitive, even bizarre. For example, a one-way ticket can sometimes cost more than a round-trip ticket on the same plane. A change fee can exceed the actual value of a ticket. Also, "non-refundable" means non-refundable, except when it doesn't.
Confused yet? If it's any consolation, even airline employees sometimes get mixed up about their own rules. Don't laugh, I've seen it.
Kelly Hayes-Raitt remembers seeing an unbeatable deal for a flight from Los Angeles to Tampa, Florida. But when she arrived at the airport, she noticed her itinerary. "The plane landed in Phoenix, Dallas, Houston and New Orleans before finally arriving in Tampa," remembers the writer from Santa Monica, California. "I still groan when I think of how stupid I was."
Based on the cases I've mediated, my best advice is to familiarize yourself with the always-changing, often Byzantine rules developed by the airline industry - rules that are often created for the sole purpose of "protecting" an airline's revenue or, to put it in terms that everyone else can understand, to separate you from your money.
They may make about as much sense as a coast-to-coast flight with four stops, but you - and you alone - are responsible for knowing the rules.
3. Take photos of your rental car
Anna Arreglado didn't do that when she recently rented a car in Bardonia, New York. "My mistake," says Arreglado, who works for a pharmaceutical company in Ridgefield, Connecticut. Sure enough, the car rental company came after her, insisting that she'd damaged the vehicle. She couldn't prove that she'd returned the car unharmed. It was her word against the company's.