As much we we don’t like to admit it we all make mistakes. Horrendous. soul destroying, embarrassing kind of mistakes. There is seemingly this illusion that as travel writers/bloggers/vloggers/influencers that we live in a perfect utopia world where we get to travel for free, nothing goes wrong and we all smell like tropical roses on a summers eve. The true couldn’t be further from this myth. Maybe it’s a self perpetuate myth that we have created for ourselves.
Travel is a lot of fun. It’s also a whole lot of guessing at where we are going and what we are doing. There’s hours of research, moments of forgotten research and simply serendipity at letting the universe do it’s thing against us.
To show you all a raw and honest view of travel bloggers weak spots we’ve collaborated with some hilarious other folks who have made travel mistakes.
Traveling during festivals
Festivals sound like fun. They are joyous, happy and supposedly a great way to connect with locals right? What other way could be better to connect with the locals than to travel during a festival? Wrong. Earlier this year I travelled to Myanmar during Thingyan,aka Burmese New Year. Which is celebrated with 5 days of throwing water at people to wash away sin and bad luck. Sounded like an amazing idea. What I didn’t know was how the entire country pretty much shuts down for the entire month. People travel back to ancestral villages to spend the time with family. Due to the influx of domestic travellers it’s near impossible and uber expensive to travel around on buses. The local trains were impossible to get a ticket on. We ended up paying near triple the usual price for bus tickets and had to pay for private taxis between cities.
The ultimate travel mistake on this journey was partying with locals in Mandalay, where water from the canals was pumped via fire hoses to wash away the sins of party goers. Which resulted in me contracting a horrendous bug and being too ill to parktake in a hike in the Shan state. My number 1 reason for traveling to Myanmar!
Celebrating in Shanghai
In 2015 I booked a 4-day trip to Shanghai. Halfway into my planning, I stumbled upon a mention in Lonely Planet: “There are two periods when you do not want to travel to China’s biggest cities: Chinese New Year and National Day (October 1st)”. Dreadfully, I realized that my dates coincided with the latter, which meant having to play tourist along with a gazillion Chinese coming to Shanghai to celebrate and explore the city.
It was so packed that on the day of the celebrations, I was literally lifted off the ground as the masses of people encircling me walked towards the Bund to watch the fireworks. Terrifying!
Catherine, The Go Fever
During a month-long backpacking trip throughout southern Africa in 2013, my friends and I booked an overnight excursion into the Okavango Delta from Maun, Botswana. Since we were traveling on a shoestring, we booked a self-catered tour in which we had to bring all our own food and water.
However, while we bought three meals worth of food, we somehow only ended up buying one gallon of water to split between the four of us.
Needless to say, the water didn’t last two days. In fact, we ran out of the water after only a few hours under the intense African sun and found ourselves in the awful situation of being stuck in the middle of the wilderness without potable water. Out of necessity, we ended up boiling the murky brown water of the Okavango Delta and drinking it to stay hydrated.
Luckily, nobody got sick. And in the end, we learned the tough way that some things (like water) should never be compromised for the sake of saving money.
Erika, Erika’s Travels
Always remember the sunscreen.
I went skiing with my then boyfriend’s (now fiancé’s) family for the first time in Zermatt, Switzerland, and we decided to spend a day snow shoeing altogether. We all bundled up in layers, knowing that it would get hot in the sun and we would probably be taking them off throughout the day. Yet, somehow, when thinking about the sun, I completely forgot about the possibility of getting sunburnt! I didn’t put on ANY sunscreen at all, and then spent hours hiking at a high altitude, where the sun was beating down, without anything covering my face.
My face was bright red and puffy for three days and I was bed ridden with sunstroke for two!
Kelly, A Pair of Passports
Tag the bag
Three weeks into my first solo trip aged 19, I was catching a Greyhound bus to Penticton, Canada. Running late, I hurried through the depot without bothering to tag my backpack, worried I’d miss the bus. The journey was supposed to be direct but the bus developed a fault along the way and we had to change. I went to retrieve my backpack but was assured it would be put on the next bus, so I left the driver to it and went to buy a snack.
Cut to me standing stranded at an empty station with no backpack. Fortunately I still had my small day pack with my passport, money and other documents inside, but all my clothes were gone. After receiving a lecture from the driver on why you should always tag your luggage, I watched the bus desert me leaving only clouds of dust behind. I spent the next hour frantically calling numbers from a phone box trying to locate my backpack, working up commission charges because I had no change on me. In the end my backpack was never found.
Even if your journey is direct and you are running late, ALWAYS tag your luggage!
Shannon, Sole Seeking
Time to go.
I lost track of time during a coffee break in Kiruna, Sweden and missed the free bus to the train station. Luckily, a man told us we could take a city bus quite close to me the train station. We got within sight of the train station and got off with 5 minutes to spare. We could run the long and proper way – or we could cut through someone’s snow-filled backyard to the two-lane highway. We chose the latter. At first the snow was packed, but soon I ended up waist deep in an enormous snow drift just a few feet from the highway. I had to throw my body weight forward with a 20 pound backpack on and crawl through the snow, eventually sliding down the giant snow bank onto the highway. Luckily, we made the train in time and had a good laugh.
Lesson learned: always give yourself enough transit time!
Allison, Eternal Arrival
Mighty Mojito and a missed flight.
Colombia – the land of palm trees, empanadas, and a very heavy party scene! Getting swept up in the excitement at our Chapinero hostel in Colombia’s capital, Bogota, Craig and I joined the other backpackers in pre – club drinks, in cups the size of my head. Quite a few mojitos later we paid the door cover to a club, once you were in, drinks were free.
All sounds great right? Wrong! Not when you have a flight to Santa Marta the next day!
We made it to the airport with ample time and were instructed by the check in staff to go to gate ‘quince’ and the gentleman kindly wrote ‘15’ on our gate ticket. An hour passes as I drift in and out of sleep, I awake wondering why we were still at the gate. The airport is creepily quiet, no tannoys to be heard. Finally we find out that the flight was never at gate 15 and it left without us!
Moral of the story? Leave a day in between partying and parting ways with Colombia’s cities!
Gemma, Two Scots Abroad
A weighty issue
Being a rather sentimental person I enjoy collecting brochures, magazines and knick knacks during a trip. Little did I know my small collection would weigh so much when packed together! Although I had weighed my luggage beforehand with a portable luggage weighing scale, I hadn’t considered that it could possibly be inaccurate. It was an unpleasant surprise to find myself about 7kg overweight at the check in counter! I had no idea what it weighed that much, it was mostly clothes- not much more than what I started with. When I took out what seemed like a small bag of papers however, it took a whole 4kg off! I carried this extra bag by hand and only then realised how heavy it was.
I learned that these papers become unnecessary baggage- won’t let that happen again!
Anna, Singapore Beyond
Misplaced boarding pass.
After landing safely in London from Tokyo, I made it across the airport to my next flight up to Edinburgh. Only to find I had no ticket for my onward journey. Somehow I had managed to loose my boarding pass after getting off the flight! With only 30 mins to make my flight on the other side of the airport I had to dash to the service desk, pay to have my boarding pass reprinted.
It’s safe to say that I’ll never forget this moment or my on going boarding pass again.
Kate, Love From Scotland
We were driving back to Bulgaria from Skopje, Macedonia late at night. Planning to do the responsible thing and leave early failed after having too much fun. So here we were in the middle of the night on a route that was supposedly “only straight away”. After a while our travel companion noted that we are approaching the border.
“The border? That’s not the border. There’s still plenty of time to the Macedonia – Bulgaria border” – we reassured him. With no other place to turn we were stuck on a queue.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t a queue for the toll taxes as we initially thought. It was indeed a border, the wrong one! We realized we are waiting on the border with Serbia with no way to go back. Imagining how we have to cross the border only to make an U-turn was hilarious. Explaining it to the border police would have been even more absurd. Lucky for us, there was an exit on the road just before it, so we managed to turn around and get back on track. Turns out our detour was only about 15 minutes but gave us a funny story we still remember.
Sianna, EO Stories
Tired, confused and cashless.
We were tired. We were hungry. We were lost in Tokyo Station. We had all of our luggage with us. And we had minimal local money left. All in all it was a less than glorious start to our long planned family holiday to Japan. Unfortunately when we arrived we had a horrible start to our trip. We could not initially work out how to draw cash, we managed to get lost inside the Tokyo train station complex and had trouble finding our accommodation, all while feeling quite fatigued after an overnight red eye flight.
On past trips I have always have exchanged enough cash before I departed so that I could last the first few days without having to draw more cash. In most countries this strategy works OK as Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) are usually plentiful and easy to use.Japan is the first country I have been to where this is not the case. If you have a credit or debit card which is not from Japan you are only able to draw cash from ATMs which are designated as International ATMs.
Let’s not even get started on the bidet issue…
Subsequent days were much better but we would probably have been able to avoid having a less good first day if we had pre-booked hotel transfers and given ourselves some additional time to ease into being in Japan
Shut down by my visa
Oops I planned Iceland way too excited! My biggest travel mistake till date has been booking my NON-REFUNDABLE tickets to Iceland on a really short notice in December last year without checking the visa dates. Excited I woke up day after and finally looked at my tickets, opened the visa window to look for dates, only to realize the the embassy was scheduled to be closed from 24th Dec, to 2nd January. I obviously could not make it for the trip, and ended up loosing $500 on the tickets.
Moral of the story – Check your visa details and requirements before you hop on to the booking site and seal your tickets.
Planning the visa basics is 80% of a successful international trip, rest can always follow in time. For what’s it worth, I am planning the same trip again this year way in advance, and making sure I capture the Northern lights.
Verified by your Visa
Don’t we all have one or a dozen visa horror stories to tell? You know, like that time your Schengen visa got denied and your travel dreams were shattered.You raised hell, ranted on Facebook and cried yourself to sleep at night. You wake up the next morning and…your Schengen visa is still not there.
My biggest travel mistake was buying my roundtrip flight tickets even before getting my Schengen visa approved. This mistake cost me over $1000+. When you’re applying for a Schengen visa you have to include your flight and hotel details. I made reservations for my hotels and bought my flight ticket. Unfortunately my visa was denied so I could not take the flights I booked. I had to appeal the visa rejection and then book new flights. This is when I realized I could get a flight reservation easily from a travel agency or online. I booked my new flight reservation for visa application online for 20 euros. And after I got my appeal approved, I bought my new flight tickets.
I’m never buying flight tickets again without a visa!
DJ Yabis, Dream Euro Trip
On my first international trip in years, I had a 9-hour layover in Sydney. I was vigilant in finding visa requirements for my destination, but it didn’t cross my mind I would need one for Australia. My assumption that it would fall under similar laws as the EU were wrong. I arrived at the airport and attempted to check-in. Instead, I received an error message that I couldn’t board my flight until I obtained a Visa.
After a huge adrenaline rush, where I thought I’d miss the whole trip, I was directed to a website. I filled out a form and paid a, not insignificant, fee. Then I had to wait. Thankfully, it seemed to be an automated system and within 15-minutes I had my visa.
In the end, I made my flight, had a great time in Sydney and unexpectedly used my Visa on my route home, but also felt like an idiot.
Megan, Traveling Nine to Fiver
Have you ever made a travel mistake? Let me know in the comments below!
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Love the honesty in this post! I’ve definitely been in some travel mishaps myself!
Ha ha these are great. I remember arriving at Delhi train station at 530am with a pre booked and paid for hotel but no address for it!! All I knew was the enclave it was in. A lovely taxi driver drove around and around asking people. Finally found it
Great blog! I haven’t had the joy of traveling as much as you… but your post makes me feel like I’ve been there!
Wow! Totally reminds me of some of the mistakes I’ve made on some past trips. Always an adventure:) Thanks for sharing!
Travel blunders are the best. I once packed my passport into my luggage that was quickly delivered to the belly of the plane (why does that happen when you don’t need it to be) and had to politely talk my way into locating it so I could go on my trip.
Nice one! This is a lot of info. I think everyone makes a lot of travel mistakes and sadly we have to learn it the hard way.
Ah the stresses for travelling. Thanks for highlighting that life on the road is not all paradise and hope that your readers learn from our mistakes!
Haha love it! It sounds like you’ve had some pretty crazy adventures! But yes, little mistakes are SO easy to do when you’re travelling but at the end of the day they make you all the wiser and give you some great stories to tell 😉 Thanks for sharing, I’m definitely keeping these tips in mind when I get the opportunity to travel more! xx
I love these stories! It’s so true a lot of times we make traveling looks glamorous and easy, but in reality stupid mistakes happen and things go wrong that leave doing the face palm. I’ve definitely had my fair share of travel mishaps from forgetting to check into a flight to realizing I was staying in a country one day longer than the normal tourist visa would allow. But hey you learn and its always an adventure.
You’re so right there Natalie! It’s always an adventure
I remember when I was traveling to Beijing, I wasn’t a seasoned traveller and my husband said he thought the kosher meals on the plane would be lunch meat and such….boy was he wrong!! I didn’t on the way over to China or on the way back, lol!
Oh airplane food can be so dramatic. It’s either wonderful or so terrible.
Eek!! I’m learning from these mistakes that’s for sure!!
There’s some good tips in here and some good stories ? Thanks.
Everyone makes mistakes, all the time, and experience does not make you exempt from that. Remember, even monkeys fall out of trees! And I think so many travellers put far too much pressure on themselves to get everything right all of the time. It isn’t going to happen. Sometimes the biggest mistakes can become your funniest stories too, so it’s never all bad!
Oh lucky you picked up on that mistake!
Just wrote a post about booking a flight without looking at the actual flight times & the fact it was with non-partner airlines, meaning I didn’t have a lot of time in the transit airport to go through customs & immigration, collect my bags & check in with the onward airline. I ended up cancelling that flight with a $300 fee but then picked up an even cheaper flight on another airline that carries me all the way through to my destination… always read the details before pressing the submit button!!