My Best Travel Mistakes

This is a fun post inspired by Jeremy’s post. While I haven’t travelled nearly as much as Jeremy and Winnie, after travelled to 20 countries so far, some of them multiple times, I have made a few laughable travel mistakes of my own.

My Best Travel Mistakes

The Forgotten Passport

As you may know, in 2004 I worked in Germany for 8 months. The very first trip I took, after arriving in Germany, was a quick weekend trip to Amsterdam with the other Canadian students that were working at the same company as me.

Being young, the night before all the Canadian students got together to have drinks. Between the 4 of us that drank (one didn’t drink), we ended up demolishing a couple crates of 0.5L beer and had to purchase more beers at the convenience store nearby. The one Canadian that didn’t drink packed it in around midnight and told us to meet him at the train station by 7:30 AM to catch the train.

Being “reasonable” the rest of us shut it down for the night around 2 AM (or was it 3 AM?). I was pretty drunk and stumbled my way back to my dorm room. Before going to bed, I set my alarm for 6:45 AM, remembering that we had to meet at the train station by 7:30 AM.

I woke up the next day with the alarm showing 7:30.

I nearly had a heart attack. I must had turned off the alarm without knowing.

I was going to miss my first very trip in Europe! Damn it!

Still in my clothes from the night before, I quickly grabbed my backpack to catch a tram to go to Hannover’s main train station.

Knowing I didn’t have much time, I tried to run to the tram station (about 5 minutes away from the dormitory), only to find that I would throw up if I tried to run.

I was still drunk!!!

So I walked briskly to the tram station, got on the tram, and prayed that I would show up on time.

I arrived at the train station at around 8 AM, thinking I had totally blown it. To my surprise, everyone was waiting for me. The person that organized the trip (the one that didn’t drink the night before), had anticipated us getting there late, so he built in a 45-minute buffer, and told us an earlier time to arrive.

Phew!

We all, except for the lone Canadian that didn’t drink the night before, fell into a deep sleep when we got on the train.

When I woke up later, finally somewhat sober, I realized that I had forgotten my passport. And the Dutch border police was about to board the train to check for identification!

When it was my turn, I gave the police my Canadian drivers license and told them about my drunken story. They just laughed and let me continued on my trip. Thank god!

Me being sober in Amsterdam

On the way back, I pulled the same story with the German border police and they just shook their heads and told me to remember my passport next time.

Lost Credit Card

A number of years ago, I went to UK with my parents and brother. Upon arrival, we went to a train station to pick up pre-booked train tickets.

Later that night, when my dad was about to pay for dinner with his credit card, he discovered the card wasn’t in his wallet. At first we all thought his credit card was stolen. But after some tracing back, we realized that we had forgotten his credit card at the train station earlier that day.

Unfortunately, the train station office was closed by the time we went back (we were in a small UK town). When we went back to the train station the next morning, the staff told us that they had tried to contact us by couldn’t reach us. And for security measure, they had cut the credit card.

Luckily we had already gotten all the pre-booked train ticket. My brother and I were both carrying credit cards, so we paid for the stuff the rest of the trip. Crisis avoided!

Later on, my dad had to call the credit card company a few times to explain the silly mistake to get a replacement card.

Lost in Japan

The first time I went to Japan was for a last-minute business trip. I basically booked the plane ticket 3 or 4 days prior. Before leaving for the trip, I printed out the hotel address, thinking I’d be able to easily find it when I got to Tokyo.

When I arrived at Norita airport the next day, I asked for directions to the hotel at the information desk. I was told to take train A, change at station B, take train C, change at station D, take train E, then get off at station F.

Simple!

When I got off at station F about 1.5 hours later, I realized that the Japanese train station was way bigger than I had imagined. This particular train station had 4 different exits (North, South, West, and East).

I had no idea where to go.

This was before Google Maps were available. So I went out one exit, walked around to see if I could find the hotel, went back to the station, tried the next exit, etc.

After an hour and trying all 4 exits, I still couldn’t find the hotel.

I asked a few people for directions but nobody could help me due to the language barrier.

It almost 9 PM at night. I was jet lagged and lost in Japan.

Solution? I tried all the exits again and at one point I saw a Caucasian walking around with a suitcase. I followed him, thinking he was probably going to the same hotel as me. My guess was correct! As it turned out, the hotel had a very small sign outside that I didn’t notice when I walked past it a couple times prior.

Mistake Happens

Echoing what Jeremy stated, travel mistake happens. It’s unavoidable, it’s part of the travel experience. Rather than beating yourself up for the mistakes and feel stressed out, relax and see how you can resolve it. When you look back later, these mistake often become the most memoriable part of your trip.

Dear readers, what are your best travel mistakes?

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14 Comments

  • Reply
    German
    February 7, 2019 at 11:12 am

    These are great stories! Don’t drink, have extra cash, and let google maps take care of the rest 🙂

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      February 7, 2019 at 3:55 pm

      Haha yea it’s a lot easier to travel around with Google Maps and smartphones.

  • Reply
    Shaidah Karim
    February 7, 2019 at 2:19 pm

    Great stories! A few years ago on Xmas eve, we took transit to YVR with all our luggage to go to Mexico to spend Xmas and New Years with family. We go to check in and provide our passports. They wouldn’t let us check in because our passports expired a month before. [A reminder letter to renew your drivers licence is sent out but not to renew your passport!?!?. Passport expiry date is now in Google calendar!] We took transit back home. We even emptied all the perishables in the fridge, including dumping a jug of milk so we had no groceries. After hours on the phone with the airline, a half bottle of scotch, we spent $1000 to change our flight to leave 1 week later, reduced the trip from 3 weeks to 2 weeks. And then we had to wait a few days for the passport office to open since it was Xmas, and boxing day, and then I think Sunday. THEN pay to have our passports expedited. That was an expensive mistake!

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      February 7, 2019 at 3:56 pm

      OUCH! That’s one expensive mistake you got there. I’ve been pretty good with making sure that my passport is at least 6 months valid whenever traveling but it gets a bit tricky having to keep track for all 4 of us.

  • Reply
    Joe
    February 8, 2019 at 7:43 am

    Great stories. I’ve had a few mishaps, but they weren’t that bad. I forgot most of the older stories by now.
    – I fell asleep at the gate. The agent called, but that didn’t wake me up. They put me on the next flight. Not too bad.
    On our recent trip to Thailand…
    – I thought our flight from Thailand to HK was a day earlier and booked the hotel accordingly. I realized the problem a few days before the flight and had to rebook our HK hotel and extend our Bangkok stay for one more day. No refund for the extra night in HK.
    – I booked a flight from Bangkok to Phuket using the same names on 2 tickets. It was a debacle to get it changed. I had to buy another ticket with the right name. Air Asia gave me airline credit for canceling one flight. No cash refund. Now, I have to use that credit by March…
    Total damage due to dumb mistakes ~$120
    It happens.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      February 8, 2019 at 9:48 am

      These mistakes don’t seem that bad though so I guess you’re lucky. AT least it wasn’t one of the long flights that you made the name mistake on, that would have cost more than $120. 🙂

  • Reply
    Norm
    February 8, 2019 at 2:29 pm

    My wife and I just missed a flight for the first time ever in Malaysia. It was a combination of not leaving enough time, and poor/incorrect signage. But the same cheap flight runs 6-8 times a day, so we just reserved the next flight for $40 or whatever and left two hours later. No big deal.

    My real travel mistake was several years ago. I was on a cruise with my dad in the Caribbean. We stopped in Mexico and went on an excursion for the day to a resort. The cruise dropped us off there with a busload of people. We both fell asleep by the pool. When I woke up, I realized I didn’t see anyone from our bus. There was also a time zone difference playing into this, if I remember, but yeah, we missed the bus back to the cruise ship. We panicked and had to find a way back to the port, and like terrible American tourists, we didn’t even know where the port was. But we hopped in a cab, who drove for about 40 minutes as we mentally panicked and calculated how we could possibly “catch up” with the cruise ship(?) which undoubtedly left without us. At that point, we figured our cruise was over and we’d have to go to Miami a few days later to get our stuff from the boat when it docked.

    The cab dropped us off in some city (where I noticed the police brandish assault rifles) where we got picked up by another guy who worked for a company that worked for the cruise ship. He brought us to an airport where we had to, I kid you not, hire a Cessna four-seater airplane for $100 to fly us back to the cruise ship. Luckily I had my credit card because my dad didn’t have anything to pay with. Yes, they held the cruise ship for us (and one other family that did the same thing, and arrived later than us. Apparently this stuff happens). In the meantime, the captain made an announcement that the ship was held up by a couple passengers, so there were some people on the upper deck ironically cheering for us as we got to the ship. I can’t remember how long we held it up, but it was at least an hour or two. It was very embarrassing, but we all had a good laugh later. The lesson is, always set an alarm!

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      February 11, 2019 at 2:08 pm

      Wow that’s quite a story Norm. Crazy that they actually waited for you. My parents do a lot do cruises and they “almost” missed the cruise a few times. Can’t imagine what it’d be like to actually miss the cruise. 🙂

      Definitely set an alarm when you’re out about.

  • Reply
    Paul
    February 9, 2019 at 9:00 am

    I love stories like this – though these are hard at the time, they definitely make you feel alive when you’ve got some stress outside of your comfort zone.

    I was working in Switzerland long ago, and I needed to fly from Zurich to Geneva. I had been taking the train but needed a fast turnaround this day. In my mind, this was a “domestic” flight, and I was shocked when I needed my passport at the airport (there are no “domestic” flights in such a tiny country…) – and there wasn’t near enough time to return to the hotel in morning traffic to get it. All of the Europeans were like “duh” and the immigration guy told me he’d allow me to leave, but his counterpart in Geneva most surely wouldn’t let me in (because he himself wouldn’t – the Swiss aren’t as forgiving as your passport control guys). Thankfully the hotel staff was able to dig through my underwear drawer and find my passport and bring on the next airport shuttle, but it was a bit of a shock. Travel can be a hoot!

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      February 11, 2019 at 2:09 pm

      Wow I had no idea that you need a passport going from Zurich to Geneva, that’s crazy. Glad that everything was OK and the hotel staff went the extra mile for you.

  • Reply
    DivvyDad
    February 10, 2019 at 10:45 pm

    Great stories, and I’ve had my fair share of mishaps with oversleeping after a night of a few too many beverages. Here’s a few of mine, which are all pretty minor:

    Normally I always booked my own work travel, but one trip I asked our admin to make my reservations. I drove to the airport and made it to my destination. Meetings went well and a couple of days later I was heading home, and while waiting in security line, I glanced down at my boarding pass and noticed my return flight was to the other airport in our hometown—yet my car was waiting for me at the airport I departed from. Doh! I ended up renting a car, driving to the other airport, and retrieving my car.

    Traveling for work, a colleague and I spent a couple of days in our London office before heading to a conference in Barcelona. As we left the office, a local colleague told us that British Airways departed from a given terminal. We blindly took his advice and had the Heathrow Express take us to that terminal. We got in to the terminal and realized the flight to Barcelona departed a different terminal. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, the Express arrived again and we got to the correct gate just before the doors closed.

    On a trip to London, we had a nice group of colleagues all on the same flight. We met in the United lounge and were enjoying a few drinks. Apparently we were having such a good time that we lost track of time and our boarding time had passed. Eventually they came over to us and informed us that our flight was waiting and they were holding the gate for us. Definitely was a perk of having about 10 people all in business class seats, as I’m sure they would have left us otherwise.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      February 11, 2019 at 2:19 pm

      Nice stories. Hopefully you’ve learned to check your travel plans beforehand instead of just relying on co-workers/travel agents. I’ve definitely done the same thing myself too. This can happen when you travel to the same place a few times already and you just take things for granted. When something is different than what you expected, you get surprised.

      And yea, having the flight held for you because you travel in business class is one nice perk!

  • Reply
    Michelle @ FrugalityandFreedom.com
    February 22, 2019 at 1:39 pm

    Haha, I enjoy reading travel mishap stories, mostly as a reminder not to mess up myself! Having been to 40 countries so far and being on a 1-year USA adventure at the moment, it will only be a matter of time though before SHTF.

    After seeing too many people leave things behind when getting up from seats on buses/at airports/at restaurants, I have developed a super-strong compulsion to always look behind me when leaving a seat. Hasn’t failed me yet.

    Oh, now I think about it, I had been hit with bed bugs while in Florence Italy a few years’ back; trying to get laundry done to defeat the little a-holes and get itch cream from pharmacies while using my rudimentary command of the Italian language was exhausting! After trying to get rid of them for a week after travelling through two other cities (the critters had gotten into my bag seams, apparently), I was seriously considering burning all my gear and going home to Australia empty-handed. The Terminator of the bug world. May none of you ever experience them!

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      February 22, 2019 at 2:54 pm

      Yucks bed bugs aren’t fun, definitely something to watch out for when you are travelling and sleeping on different beds.

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