The Washington Post’s Joe Brancatelli attempts to debunk several travel myths such as Rule 240, and what information is stored on your hotel key card. The article offers background and an explanation of why dressing nicely won’t get you upgraded to first class, for example. Rather than toss each legend aside, I’d recommend believing each one and making them work to your advantage.

Urban Legend #1: Invoking Rule 240

  • Why It’s Legend: “There is no Rule 240, at least not anymore. Rule 240 was shorthand for an old Civil Aeronautics Board regulation that required airlines to immediately place you on another flight, regardless of the fare you originally paid or the carrier you originally booked.”
  • Why You Should Believe It: Although Rule 240 is no longer a federal law, some of the older US carries still respect it. If your flight is canceled you may be able to get a new flight fast by invoking this rule with airline staff.
    • Sometimes due to weather or otherwise you won’t be able to get a flight no matter what rule you invoke. Also, if your airline doesn’t adhere to the old Rule 240 call the airline (instead of waiting in line) and explain your situation. Be tough, but polite, to get a new flight as fast as possible.

Urban Legend #2: Dressing Nicely Will Get You A First Class Seat

  • Why It’s Legend: “The truth, of course, is altogether different. For starters, airlines don’t give out free upgrades anymore. Thanks to frequent-flyer-program databases, carriers can easily identify their best, most profitable customers, and upgrades are awarded in fairly rigid compliance with the perks promised to that elite group.”
  • Why You Should Believe It: It’s true that you won’t be handed a magic free seat just for looking nice, but it may help to get you better service. Studies have shown that nicely dressed people often get faster, friendlier service. For flights that are not fully booked or at non-peak hours, there may not be any “elite” customers. When you’re flight has been delayed or you’ve otherwise been inconvenienced you may get a bump up if you ask.
    • Taking the next flight when a plane has been overbooked is a good opportunity to ask for an upgrade – or a voucher for one.
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Urban Legend #3: Your Credit Card Information Is On Your Hotel Key Card

  • Why It’s Legend: “Although hotels can encrypt your key card with credit-card information, they almost never do. And despite an endless series of “tips” in the last year, I’ve never seen a police report or legal documents that prove a person’s financial details were lifted from a hotel key card.”
  • Why You Should Believe It: Hotel keys cars may not contain any of your personal information on them, but you never know when they might start to. Hotel key cards are disposable and as Barncatelli points out, you can always take them with you. For the super paranoid, if you do have to give the card back, just scratch the magnetic stripe.
    • Remember, if someone wants to steal your credit card information there are easier ways to do so. A cash deposit would work just as well also.
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Urban Legend #4: Hotels Are Rarely Cleaned Well, Or Not Cleaned At All

  • Why It’s Legend: It’s not. “Hotels in every price range underpay and overwork their housecleaning staff, who then take appalling, unsanitary shortcuts in order to get their work done. And that’s no surprise: Noted lodging consultant Michael Matthews once estimated that the average hotel maid “has just four seconds per square foot to clean a guest room and is paid half a cent per square foot for her labors.”
  • Why You Should Believe It: Because it’s not a legend. Avoid using any of the glasses without washing them using soap yourself. I’d also recommend not using the coffee maker found in most hotel rooms, since they are popular with meth addicts.

Every legend has its roots in the truth and you shouldn’t believe that the laws of travel differ from those of real life. To get anywhere with (airline, hotel, etc.) staff you need to speak your mind and be firm. Make sure not to get angry and articulate yourself properly. Maintain your hygiene and worry about security where it matters.

Aside from these urban legends I’ve debunked 6 other travel myths. Heard of any other travel legends not mentioned? Let us know in the comments.