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Absolutely everyone makes mistakes, even people that are considered experts. Just as robots malfunction, seasoned travelers make mistakes sometimes. The good news is that amateur travelers can learn from their mistakes as they did.
Traveling can be a hectic thing so travel mistakes tend to happen to the best of us. The following stories have all happened to these very real and very experienced travelers. Hopefully, they make you feel better about travel mistakes you’ve made.
Check Before You Book
I can still remember the joy of booking my first international flight with the new (now long standing) boyfriend. I remember grabbing the dongle, dialing into the internets and sneakily buying us return flights from Melbourne to Christchurch with Jetstar.
Oh so much joy and happiness. I’d finally get to meet the Kiwi side of the family and more importantly drink all the coffee and wine in the South Island of New Zealand. I’d never flown a low cost carrier before. Never had to book seats, food and checked in luggage as added extras.
The most surprising moment came the day that we decided to do our online check in. In my excitement to book these super cheap flights I had selected seats and paid for checked in baggage – on the return flight only! As we were -24hrs to flying the cost of adding 1 checked in bag was going to be more then what I had paid for the original ticket.
So we did what all budget sensitive people do, we packed lightly, wore our heaviest clothes on the 3 hour flight over and ended up buying more clothes in New Zealand as the weather was freezing cold and we didn’t bring enough warm clothing. Lesson learnt – always double check your booking BEFORE paying for the flights.
Forgetting The Room Key
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my travels is to always bring your room key along, even if you think you’ll just be out for a second.
On our last night in the city, my friends and I decided to order a pizza to be delivered so that we could eat and relax while packing. When the food arrived, my boyfriend and I decided to go down together to pick it up while our other friend waited back in the apartment.
At the last second, my friend decided to go downstairs as well. He shut the door behind him, and unlike the apartment doors we are used to in the United States that must be manually locked, the door automatically locked. We were stuck in a cold breezeway wearing short sleeve shirts and no coats. To top it off, I was the only one wearing shoes!
After getting our pizza (that we no longer had an appetite for), we began frantically attempting to contact our host. After about 20 minutes, we finally got ahold of our host and agreed to meet him at his apartment in the Red Light District to pick up the spare key.
After Ubering to the district and begging the driver to wait with my shoe-less friends, I ran to the host’s apartment and made it back to the car within the 10 minutes that the driver agreed to wait. When we finally made it back to our apartment, I think we cheered with joy!
Needless to say, I will never leave my accommodation again without ensuring that I have a key. On the bright side, our Airbnb was the perfect place to stay in Amsterdam. Just remember to keep a key on you at all times!
Trouble On The Train
Compared to flying, rail travel is spacious, comfortable, and often cheaper…plus it’s low-stress (at least when everything goes right). Unfortunately, my overnight train from Ljubljana, Slovenia to Munich, Germany was anything but low stress.
With no way to pre-book tickets online or via automated machine in Slovenia, I was forced to reserve an overnight train compartment in person at the local train station. Using my own broken Slovenian — and the agent’s broken English — we mustered through the purchase but I was extra careful to double-check the printed ticket before leaving the station. Thankfully, our departure/arrival stations, dates of travel, and number of bunks were correct.
A week later, my sister and I showed up at the train station at 11:00 at night, ready to board. Brusquely, we were stopped by a conductor who refused our boarding! Pointing to one word on our ticket over and over again, we eventually realized the agent who sold us our ticket accidentally booked bunks in a men’s sleeping car rather than a women’s compartment. We weren’t allowed in our reserved beds and there were no open women’s beds to be found. It took pleading, groveling, and a little bit of bribery to share a train compartment with a German man.
Now, I go over everything on my tickets with a fine tooth comb, even the words that don’t appear to be important. The Google Translate app makes this much easier than it was back when I made this mistake and as always, it’s easier to correct a problem before it happens rather than in the midst of things!
Mishappenings Of Egypt
by Worthy Go
It wouldn’t be fair to say our decision to visit Egypt was a mistake — Egypt is the sort of place we enjoyed parts, but will only go ONCE. Between the horns, the feeling like we’re playing Frogger everytime we dared cross a road, the dual-pricing schemes, and the fear of rip-offs, there’s little reason for us to return.
On our flight out of Egypt, we noticed almost every currency exchange place had a fairly long line. We had a fair bit of Egyptian pounds left, but just assumed we could exchange them once we landed in Tunisia.
After landing, we found the nearest currency exchange and were flat out refused. Same at the second one, and the third one. It turns out the Egyptian pound is a closed currency — a fancy way of saying ‘once you’re out of the country, you can’t convert it to anything else’. My wife still has them somewhere, so today they’re basically expensive souvenirs…
There are about a couple dozen countries with closed currencies, mostly scattered across Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. Research where you’re going to avoid ending up with expensive souvenirs yourself!
The Case of the Expired Passport
In July 2016 I was flying to Copenhagen for 3 weeks to meet family who were already in Europe. My flight was in the evening, and I looked forward to having the day to pack, relax and mentally prepare for the trip.
However, when I tried to check-in for the flight, the system refused to check me in. I looked closely at my passport and saw that it expired a week after my return home. It slowly dawned on me that this may be a problem!
After frantic Googling I came to realize that I would not be admitted to Denmark with a Passport expiring in less than 1 month. Denmark (and all Schengen area countries) require a passport expiration date of at least 3 months beyond the date of your departure from the Schengen area.
Following several panicked phone calls and much running around, I managed to secure a new passport that day. It was only through sheer dumb luck that I was able to make my flight.
If the passport office had been busy or they had been able to reach my references or if my flight left earlier in the day, I would have had to re-schedule my trip at great expense. Lesson learned! Always check your passport expiry date before you book your flight!
No Ticket, Cannot Pass Go
One of our biggest travel mistake was not having an “exit ticket” before flying into a country who required them. Some countries require you to have an airline ticket our of their country to show you won’t be staying in the country forever. We were leaving Maldives to head to Bali, and the airline in Maldives would not let us fly to Bali until we could show them a ticket leaving Bali.
We planned to be in Bali for the month visa, so we weren’t really thinking about getting a ticket out just yet. Unfortunately, we had to guess and book a ticket right then and there at the airport, using the airport computer because we had no service at the time.
It ended up costing us way more than we wanted, and made us have to plan something we were not ready to plan. So, learn from our mistake, and look up the requirements of “exit tickets” from the country you are traveling to.
Frantically To The Airport
I had been in India for many months, and it was time to go home to Canada. I didn’t really want to go, so that may have been part of the problem. As always, I had a huge packing chore in front of me – deciding what to take and what to leave – and I was just starting one hot afternoon in Delhi, while drinking a cup of chai, when I decided to re-check my air ticket. I was feeling very casual, perhaps bordering on smug, as I had started to pack up a day early, and therefore had a lot of time. Or so I thought.
My blood froze when I looked again at the ticket. It said June 2, 12:15 am. Today was June 1. I suddenly realized, holy crap, I had to go the airport TODAY! Luckily, I still had lots of time, many hours in fact, but wow, that was a close call.
In fact, many international flights that depart from major airports like IGI in Delhi leave very early in the morning. And many people make this mistake when it’s too late. They get to the airport a day late. In the intervening years, I have heard of this happening surprisingly often. So check and double check your ticket, especially if you know it’s leaving very early or very late.
Mixing The Times Up
I’m normally very organized and on top of things, but sometimes even I can have a catastrophic brain fail on the odd occasion. The worst was when my then-boyfriend and I were flying up to Edinburgh after work on a Friday for a friend’s wedding the next day. As usual I had been the one to organize everything, and I instructed my boyfriend to meet me at check-in. But when we arrived and presented our passports, the lady at the desk looked at us oddly. ‘But your flight has already left!’ she said.
It turned out that I’d got the arrival time in my head instead of the departure time, and I’d never double checked. We’d missed the last flight of the day so we were forced to buy new tickets, go home again, and then get up super early the next morning so we wouldn’t miss the wedding!
Another time I was halfway to the wrong London airport before I realised what I was doing. Luckily I’m the sort of person who allows plenty of time to catch a flight, so I was able to change my route and did make it – just – but it was a major panic!
So now I always carefully double check my flight details the day before, just to make sure the information I have in my head is actually correct!
Requirements Slipped My Mind
One of the many travel mistakes I made was when I was traveling from Prague in the Czech Republic to Budapest in Hungary by train overnight, transiting through Slovakia. We arrived at the border of the Czech Republic and Slovakia around 4:00am.
I showed my passport, half asleep and thinking nothing if it. I started to get worried, however, when the two immigration officials started speaking animatedly to each other. Then they gestured for me to grab my things and get off the train.
It turns out that I needed a transit visa for Slovakia, which hadn’t entered my mind because I was only going to be there for a couple of hours and never get off the train. It was not negotiable, however. So, I had to wait several hours at the border station for a train to Vienna, buying my ticket in US cash on the train.
Then in Vienna, I bought another ticket to Budapest. So, I got there in the end, but it took me many more hours and a lot more money than planned, and it was very stressful. Nowadays, these countries are all members of the EU and there are no borders as such, so this wouldn’t happen now, but the lesson learned still applies!
I always, always check the routes I am taking and check and double check the visa regulations for all of those countries far in advance.
Match Made in Hell
Biggest travel mistake? Travelling with an incompatible partner. We were on a road trip across a few states and our first argument began three days in. Then it went downhill. We parted midway; I continued the road trip solo, while she caught a flight home.
My ultimate tip is to sit down with your travel partner(s) and plan what you’re going to do each day of your trip. My travel partner and I thought we’d go with the flow and wing what we’d do each day—of course we came upon conflicts and the unwillingness to compromise—one time she wanted to watch a video of the Grand Canyon showing in the visitor centre while I wanted to get an early start to the hike before the morning grew hotter. She stormed off into the visitor centre and refused to budge when I followed her in and asked why she was acting like that.
It’s also important to decipher personality types to see where you clash and unite. An early riser wont fare well with someone who sleeps in. If your friend can be bossy and be the ‘my way or the highway’ type, I’d avoid all together, even if they promise to not ‘be that way’ on the trip.
And my last tip? Travel with someone who engages in the same activities as you. If you’re outdoorsy, I recommend travelling with someone who’s likes the outdoors as well. I once was planning a trip with a friend and she mentioned how she doesn’t like walking, likes to go on group tours and shop—things I know I don’t like to do. I did inform her that this trip wouldn’t work well for either of us and we decided not to travel together.
Travel brings out a side of you that your friends may not witness in your day-today lives. I have amazing friends and I love them dearly, however, there are only a select few that I would travel with.
I was working in Almaty, Kazakhstan. A few days after I booked my return ticket home for Christmas, I learned that I would have to go for a series of meetings in Bangkok. There was only one problem: I would miss my home-leave flight from Almaty. The client stepped in and bought me a ticket from Bangkok home to Warsaw. Fantastic! I went for a great trip, expenses paid, and I even did my Christmas shopping in Bangkok.
All was well until the day before the return flight from Poland when I tried to check in online. My reservation was invalid. When I called the airline they explained that since I hadn’t shown up for the first leg of the journey, they had automatically cancelled my return. I would have to book a new ticket, but as it was New Year, their IT system was down so I couldn’t book by phone or online in time to arrive back at work.
So I drove two hours to the airport. Fortunately, that worked, and I bought the last ticket on the same flight that I would have travelled on before. I did wonder whether it was my own seat that I was buying!
I was lucky. The following week I went to the KLM office in Almaty and was able to claim a refund from them for the flights I hadn’t taken. That covered the expense of the second return flight.
Case of the Mistaken Dates
We always like to take our first holiday of the year during February half-term. I booked a great deal on the holiday park’s website one month before we were due to go away. That day we packed up the car with everything we needed for a 3 night self-catering holiday. We picked our son up at school and excitedly arrived at the front gate to the park. There we spoke to a member of staff who wanted to know what we were doing there.
It turned out the park wasn’t open for another month and I’d booked the wrong month! We were actually booked for March. How did I do it? Both February and March has a Friday the 15th and because they weren’t open in February they’d locked the booking for that month. Which meant the first month that came up was March! What a nightmare.
Our son was so upset. We rung around quite a few places trying to get in elsewhere but sadly everywhere else was booked up. Never again. Always double and triple check your dates, especially the month you are booking for.
Stress in the Airport
On our first overseas flight as a family, we arrived in Melbourne airport very tired and overwhelmed. We had only just finished packing before we left home, with little time to do it properly. We had also only just finished packing up our house the day before, ready to be leased to another family while we were away for six months. It was an intense time and way too much was left to the last minute, which was very stressful.
Now my husband and I had been overseas before but not for a very long time, so being rusty and very tired meant we weren’t really thinking clearly. We found the international departure gate and went through customs as I had completed our check-in online, then we started looking around for the baggage drop off. But ooops! We were supposed to drop our bag off before clearing customs! And there is no way back into the country once you have passed through the official international gate!
Instead of finally being able to relax and get on our flight we nervously wondered what to do. We had one bag that was over the specified weight for carry-on, and we had pre-paid to check it in. Luckily, we finally caught a break with an understanding staff member who listened well and believed our story. He was able to get the bag taken back down to the baggage drop off for us, and it didn’t cost any extra as we had already purchased the allowance on one ticket.
Avoid this stressful mistake by overestimating how long it will take to prepare for a big trip, especially if you are packing up a whole house beforehand! And try to arrive at all airports rested and level-headed too.
Big Baby Mishap
by MB Sees
On my first flight with my baby, I carefully (or so I thought) packed all the carry-on items he’d need, plus extra in case of delays. The one thing I overpacked was bottled breastmilk – I’d brought every last ounce from my stockpile. I was set! No matter what delays we might encounter, there was no way we were running out of milk.
The plan was to give him a bottle during take-off and landing to keep his ears equalized, plus whatever he’d need in-flight. We settled into our seats, and I pulled out the first bottle of breastmilk to have at the ready… only to realize the bottle nipples were in our checked bag!
Luckily, I was able to feed him right from the source, so a crisis was averted. But I can’t imagine what I would have done if he’d been formula fed. In any case, how could I have made such a mistake? I’d had a packing list, and had checked each and every item off! But that hadn’t been quite enough.
So these days, not only do I use packing lists, I have separate lists for my carry-on and checked bags. There’s absolutely no way I’m letting a mishap like that happen again!
Missing a Car
One of our biggest travel mistakes was made when booking some international travel. After landing at our destination country, the plan was to pick up our rental car and drive to our accommodation for the night. Well, in a moment of distraction, I booked our rental car for the same time as the projected landing time of our flight!
It probably goes without saying that, after the time it took to taxi in, disembark, collect our luggage, and endure a longer-than-average wait to get through customs, we were almost 2 hours late to pick up our car. So late, that we arrived at the rental counter to find our booking had been released and the car had been given to someone else… and they had no more left!
Luckily, we found another company that had one to rent to us. And now I know to never make that mistake again! These days, I make a habit of double-checking before booking. I then ask someone else to check it, too, before doing a final triple-check the following day. It’s overkill, but it works!
Lacking a Pack List
I once left a laptop charger in a hotel room. It was incredibly difficult to find that same charger again, and it meant that I was unable to do any work while I didn’t have a replacement. I know people who’ve lost Kindles but, being on the other side of the world, weren’t able to get a new one until they were back in a country that Amazon delivered to. There are some things that you just don’t want to lose on the road.
Nowadays, I travel with a checklist that I always go through whenever I leave a hotel room or Airbnb. This checklist only contains items that are expensive, items that are difficult to replace, and a couple of notes about items I’ve lost before.
You could make an inventory of everything you’ve packed but, from personal experience, I’ve found that I’m much more likely to use this list if it’s quick and easy to use.
My checklist includes items that are expensive include things like my laptop, Kindle, and noise-cancelling headphones, items that are difficult to replace like laptop and phone chargers, and a note of places where I’ve forgotten things before (the plug sockets, bedside table drawers, and the bathroom). I quickly run through it when I’m packing and, so far, I haven’t lost anything else valuable since.
Lost In The Void
Traveling can be anxiety ridden and sometimes not everything goes as planned. Sometimes dealing with luggage, transfers, late planes, carry ons and a host of other details can leave you spent. Add traveling with kids and the problems can compound when traveling as it adds additional complexity. More people add more items and attention can be spread thin.
During our trip to Amsterdam, in which we spent 3 days exploring the city, our first day at Schiphol, Amsterdam’s international airport, was a bit rushed. Our kids were tired and we had lots of luggage as we were traveling across the ocean right after Amsterdam to spend a few weeks with family.
We had brought our Nikon 3600 camera, which we use when traveling and that we’ve had for years, in a small black bag. It was kept in a carry-on backpack, however when we sat down to eat at a restaurant we had taken it out, and forgot to return it to the backpack. It was our only piece of luggage that had no name tags or luggage tags on it, and we left it at the airport.
Our entire trip was spent emailing and going from ferry to ferry thinking we had left it on a boat. Luckily, after filling out numerous site specific lost and found forms, we were contacted by a representative from Schipol airport that our camera had been found.
Lesson learned: always tag every single piece of luggage and bag that you are traveling with, because you simply never know when you might leave it or lose it by accident.
Poisoning in Guatemala
As you travel the world you will become more fond of the different flavours of food that culture had to offer. One thing you will want to avoid whilst on the road travelling, though, is becoming ill from that food. Although easy to avoid, it is equally unavoidable. So, when hunger calls, what are you supposed to do?
Whilst in transit try to avoid eating street food, especially during the evening. Once whilst travelling in Guatemala, I took a stop to get food as I’d not eaten in more than 8 hours of being on the road. It was late a night, so I’d not considered the fact that the food might not be cooked properly because I was in lowlight conditions.
After laying in bed for almost a week I missed out on my Spanish classes and had to skip many other activities I had planned. So, to avoid this happening to you always carry some snacks when travelling at night and have a decent water bottle with a filter that you can carry with you.
If you do have to make an emergency pitstop for food always make sure there is adequate lighting for you to be able to thoroughly check that the food item has been cooked properly before ingesting.
Visa Requirements Please
We had been planning our round the world trip for over six months. Everything was sorted; we would start in Ukraine, as Australians we were able to get visas on arrival, and head north from there.
We were incredibly excited about flying into Ukraine, we had watched documentaries on the recent revolution (Winter on Fire: definitely check it out on Netflix!), our hotels were booked, we had learned a few Ukrainian phrases, and had even organised a tour to Chernobyl.
The week before we left for our trip we were making our final preparations, double-checking bookings and making sure we had everything packed. Five days before we flew out to Kiev, we happened to revisit the Ukrainian embassy website.
Lucky that we did, because it turned out that the Entry Visa requirements had changed a week earlier on January 1st. We could no longer get a Visa on arrival, and now it was too late to apply for the required e-visa.
We sat together in front of my laptop, absorbing the news. The meticulous planning for the first three weeks of our trip had suddenly gone out the window. I breathed a soft “Well…damn” (Ok it might not have been ‘damn’), and we got back to work. We split the tasks; I attempted to secure refunds for all the many things we had already booked, and Ash searched for a new cheap destination from Dubai, which turned out to be Romania.
Despite the useful lesson, it’s not one we care to repeat, so now we set a reminder on our phones three or four weeks before any flight to double-check visa and entry requirements.
I recently traveled to the Galapagos from Costa Rica (where I currently live) with my husband. Before the trip I researched which vaccines were required for entry. I was particularly focused on Yellow Fever because I know that it’s required in most South American countries.
Costa Rica was experiencing a shortage of the Yellow Fever vaccine, so I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get the vaccine before traveling. Luckily, everything I read said that the Yellow Fever vaccine was not required for the Galapagos and there isn’t Yellow Fever there. I did not get the shot before going.
We had a great trip, until the end. When checking in for our flights back to Costa Rica I was informed that I could not fly. Even though the Galapagos is clear, Ecuador is a yellow fever country. I would not be allowed into Costa Rica due to the chance that I could have Yellow Fever. This illness is not spread from person to person but Costa Rica doesn’t want to be known as a Yellow Fever country.
My husband had proof of his vaccine so he was able to fly. I told him to go. I didn’t want both of us having to book new flights.
The Yellow Fever shot takes 10 days to become effective. If I got the shot in Ecuador I would then have to stay for 10 days before I could fly (or get a doctor to forge the date). Instead I booked a flight to Miami and then to Costa Rica. $400 and fifteen hours later I made it to Costa Rica.
I definitely learned my lesson! I now always check this page for required vaccines before traveling. I also immediately went and got the Yellow Fever vaccine so I wouldn’t go through this again!
Check The Train Schedule
In a life full of travel mishaps, I’ve learned a few things (or maybe I haven’t). But I know this: Always check which train station a train leaves from before you buy the ticket. After a trip to Venice, my husband and I were taking a train from this beautiful watery city down to Rome.
The problem was that when we arrived at Venezia Santa Lucia Train Station, the central train station on the Grand Canal, we discovered that our high-speed train to Rome left from Venezia Mestre, the train station on the mainland.
Quickly we had to figure out how to buy a ticket from Santa Lucia to Mestre, and luckily we made it. If I’d checked the train itinerary carefully before I’d bought the ticket online, however, I would have known to buy a ticket leaving from the central station.
You should also check after you buy a ticket, to make sure you’re going to the right place. And while you’re at it, make sure you know the correct station to get off at as well, because in many cities, Barcelona and Prague, for example, the train might stop at more than one station.
Everyone makes mistakes, even the most experienced of us. Experts are experts because they’ve learned more times than a rookie has tried. Hopefully, they’ll help you guys on your adventures.