My worst travel gaffes

I plan a lot in advance but you can’t know everything and you can’t plan everything. I am sharing some unlucky trip moments to set the right expectations from your trip and plan ahead. Like a wise man once said, “You can plan a pretty picnic but you can’t predict the weather” 😉

1. Missed flights

One time, we were out and about and lost track of time. Another time, I missed the flight to the destination so they cancelled my trip back as well. Yet another time, the queue at TSA was very long due to spring break. Once, I waited at the escalator to the gate instead of the gate. Once I thought the departure time of the connecting flight was the departure time of the first. There were too many flights on that trip. Airlines have canceled flights too due to bad weather or not waited for me at a connection because my ticket was cheap. I saw flight staff disallow a woman from boarding a flight because she was too eff’d up. It looked more like hard drugs than your regular weed/ alcohol.

Lessons learned:

Even if you have flown a billion times from an airport, lines could be very long this time. *Arrive 3 hours early* Check in online if possible. Set multiple alarms. Double check your flight time. Check if your flight is on time before leaving. Keep your pick up posted. Check the weight and dimensions of your bag in advance. Avoid wearing a lot of accessories you’ll need to remove through security. Liquids in a plastic bag before they ask you. Download a rideshare app and enter your credit card, book your ride to the airport in advance. Pay or setup payment in advance for this if possible. Pack your bag fully a day in advance. Pay all bills. Charge all devices. Download movies, music, books, podcasts well in advance. Don’t carry odd metallic items in your carry on. I tried carrying a trophy once. I had to step aside. Print and download your boarding pass on your phone to avoid any kind of network glitch problems. Just do whatever the hell you have to do to avoid a last minute rush. If your wait area looks fishy, just ask. Better to look like a n00b than miss a flight like in my case Ugh. I have run to the gate in socks, begged flight staff and nearly cried in spite of having traveled several times.  It sounds like a good idea but please do not show up too drunk or messed up. Your flight staff cannot allow you to board in that condition. They are not equipped to handle an emergency with you if you do. Just common sense.
On the plus side, these experiences made me paranoid enough to go so early, I’ve checked in at a previous flight and saved money. I’d misplaced my poster before flying to a poster competition and recovered it right before my flight. Everything is possible if you arrive early. I’ve even taken a little detour to squeeze some extra sight seeing in yay!

2. Not carrying enough cash

I thought I had enough cash but my flight was cancelled twice and I shopped more than I thought I would. Yay! My cards were blocked too as it was an unexpected transaction. I asked my landlord to exchange some cash for store credit I bought him. It helped me get by some. Not having cash on a remote island is rough my friends. If you are afraid of theft, there is a lot of anti theft gear available. I need to look it up myself…

Lessons learned:

Call all your banks and inform them about your travel. Either that or withdraw extra money and use anti-theft gear. Book tickets to events at your destination well in advance and keep the printouts with you. If you make your purchases in advance, you’ll need to worry less about payments while traveling.

3. Losing the way at night

Thrice in Japan now. Once I lost my phone. I printed out the Airbnb receipt and address but that address could be any place in Japan is what some Samaritans told me. Whoop di doo. One of my new friends finally got through my Airbnb host’s phone #. Save! The second time I took a bus to what I thought was the same neighborhood. There was no bus back or cab at that time. Yikes. I walked into a police station. The cop offered to call a cab to my hotel if I had “Moto paiso” i.e. enough money. That worked out no so bad. The third time, I did not have data connection. I could not figure out the intersection and roamed the streets for hours. I fell flat on my face and tore my stockings too. Bummer! After asking several folks for directions, asking a pedestrian to call my Airbnb host, I reached my room. Same thing at the Gorge, WA after G’n’R. What a concert! Very good value for money. But the camping situation was a disaster. The parking was according to arrival time. I knew the exact time I parked, thought I studied the neighborhood but I was still very confused.  Security couldn’t help neither could some volunteers. Finally, I decided to bunk outside The security office. They had carts but for emergency only. Oh well. On my way there I thought may be I should just signal my car if it is in range and it BEEPED. Phew! It was a night of drunken cat calls till then.

Lessons learned:

Offline maps. All I have to do is download them using Wi-Fi. Drop a pin. Clever tall tent decoration. I could not search for my tiny tent among the RVs that showed up later. I wasn’t the only one who lost her way. There were no designated camping spots or numbers. The zoning was ambiguous. Something I had not anticipated…

4. Flying/ Hiking precarious terrain with bad gear

I’m usually good about this but it was one of those days I felt ‘lucky’. ‘At least I’m doing it’. I needed to get my butt out there to do something. I hadn’t worked out in a while. I made the mini gaffe of entering the name of the trailhead instead of the exact coordinates from Gets me every time. Some guys gave me bad directions which wasted some more time. I finally reached the trailhead at 4 p.m. in running shoes because they matched better with my cute pjs and noodle strap tank :). BAD idea. Now the Pacific Northwest (PNW) has a lot of hard and strenuous hikes. I’ve done some. But this was at a different difficulty level in terms of skill. Couple of red flags:- 1) People passing comments like ‘It’s a bit late but if you’re a fast hiker heehee’ or looking me up and down at my gear and saying it’s a strenuous hike. If you are from around here you know people are standoffish and cold. If they got themselves to say that to you, it was absolutely necessary. 2) No dogs or kids on this hike. 3) Everyone looks like they could be on the cover of a sports magazine. This one I didn’t mind 😉 Beware they always say ‘The view is totally worth it! It’s NOT. I reached the highest point but didn’t have enough daylight to walk across to the viewpoint. Getting down alone was a nightmare. I timed myself to start the descent so that I make it out of the danger zone before it got dark. I had to rock climb between rock and ice and slippery grass on a slope below. I grabbed at grass for support when I was able to get down. I walked through a steep stream. I got out of the danger zone when it got dark as I had planned. I did the rest with a headlamp. I reached home after 11 p.m. I was just happy to be home that night alive and bones unbroken. I did not enjoy that hike.

Lessons learned:

Always enter the trailhead coordinates. Hiking shoes. ALWAYS. Save the more difficult hikes till you find company. Do the simpler ones solo. Read or download the instructions even if you have the map. Some routes are just quirky. There are several arguments both ways but I recommend hiking shoes with ankle support for moderate+ hikes. You don’t want to limp your way down Mt. Si like I did. I’ve had several buddies carry really noisy or easily breakable luggage on flight. Why do you guys do this? Why? Get a spinner already 😉 Ooh and a world charger 🙂

5. Traveling with an unprepared/ selfish Buddy

If I mention instances, that would be a total giveaway. But you know what I am talking about. Those who put it upon you to plan everything and let you know last minute if they are in or out. Then show up completely unprepared and ride on your effort. That. Some are just clueless about the effort it takes to plan a good trip. They have never done it. Some, won’t stop, wait or listen to you. Some are just not into the things you want to do. I gauge my friend’s travel savviness by planning simpler outings first.

Lessons learned:

If you don’t have the right buddy, change your plans or the destination to fit a solo trip. Drop them politely. Just lie. “I am going to meet an ex there. I don’t wan’t it to be awkward.” “X and I wanted to discuss her new business plan and wanted some privacy.” “My family is joining”…and then oops they couldn’t.

6. Bringing your work to vacay

I had to respond twice while I was on a road trip. Clicking furiously at my phone is such a hassle. Some websites don’t work well on cell phones. I was trying to get away and relax and what I got, was the opposite.

Lessons learned:

Either wait till after 5:00 p.m. to respond if you can or before 9:00 a.m. when most tourist attractions open.

7. Not carrying a medical kit and getting sick/ injured

If you’re an adult and you got sick, your fault. If you have allergies, you can rent a suite and cook there. Getting too drunk is, just your personal choice, to be polite. Eating at a shady place, what can I say. I grew up in India. Even there, you could completely avoid getting sick. Our rules were to eat at a good restaurant. Good = one that has a good crowd at peak times. Eat hot food only. Drink mineral water and no roadside food, no salads, no tap water and no previously opened bottled water. We once had a fellow hiker get sick. It was a long day. She got sick on the summit and said she threw up and now she was fine. She threw up a couple of times on her way halfway down and then ran out water. Some of the others hiked down and told us what was up. We waited and then hiked back up to get her. We gave her water, hiked down with her and stopped twice on the way back for her to throw up. I was her ride. Fun.

Lessons learned:

If you are sick, say so. She could have been better off having her ride and co-passengers accompany her on her way down. Carry extra water. We are instructed ‘enough’ which could just be off the mark. Basic food hygiene when you’re traveling out of your comfort zone. Avoid activities that could give your immune system a beating. Hang with your ride and don’t abandon. Its mean and against the law.

8. Carrying illegal devices and substances out and about

I tried walking into a hotel with a dagger for self defense in India. They let me! It was nuts but I won’t try that again. We were interrogated for an hour in the UK for carrying a pepper spray. One hour gone from our packed trip. So no Westminster’s Abbey for me in addition to no Buckingham palace. Who would have thought? If you can buy a substance easily, it doesn’t make it legal. Weed in India, and hard drugs in Amsterdam for instance. Ooh another thing…possession of cannabis is still a federal offence in the states. So don’t fly with it.

Lessons learned:

Some items are known to be problematic e.g. weapons and drugs. If you’ve dealt with them at home, use the same common sense abroad.

9. Carrying a single wifi enabled device

As bad as losing your phone abroad is, its worse without a backup device. This is worse when you’re traveling solo. I lost my phone in Brazil on my last day. So that is as good as throwing it into an abyss. I inquired at the restaurant the next day but apparently no one found it. That’s never happened in the US. I lost one in Japan. No one steals there but good luck figuring out where you dropped it and playing charades with the staff i.e. if you end up in the same city again. This was a huge huge hassle. I spent several hours at the cafe taking printouts. I couldn’t take pictures of the best view of Mt. Fuji because no phone. I couldn’t take a picture of the Golden temple because my iPhone randomly powered off and I did not know how to quickly turn it back on. Which brings me to my iPhone story. So there I was in Japan without a phone or a camera hanging out at the cafe, printing out my itinerary. I’d almost given up on buying a phone then. Phones are only available in Japan with contracts and they are locked to their carriers. I asked the staff if I could buy a used camera anywhere. So I went to their thrift store. It was called second street. I tried my luck and asked for a phone or any wifi device. They had an iPhone. I took it. I was thrilled!! I could only use wifi which they had warned me before the purchase. I tried unlocking it several times here in the US. I went to AT&T to see if their SIM fits so I can sell. I have Verizon. And that iPhone 5s only supports GSM. I went to Apple to unlock it. They said I have to call Docomo. I looked at the unlock rates for Docomo and it was not something I wanted to spend. I bought a cheap phone in the US. I use the iPhone to take pictures. The whole thing was a massive waste of time and I am unhappy with my phone situation now. Ugh.

Lesson learned:

Carry a backup wifi device. Period. Buy mine 🙂

10. Getting swindled

Used to leaving your coat on your chair when you dance? Think again. My friend saw the guy take off with her credit card but she could not catch up. I’ve lost mine once or twice and not blocked it in time. We booked a ‘suite’ in Rajasthan which turned out to be in the basement. We had a much better experience with palace hotels in Rajasthan. Those Goa flea markets! They’ll lie to your face. “If the color runs, bring it back”. I swear you won’t find her again. And I promise the color will run 🙂

Lessons learned:

This one just needs a lot of detailed research. Some things are just too good to be true.

11. Being a car novice

My parents and I put 6 hours worth of driving off so we could spend some extra time in Denali national park, Alaska. We found ourselves with a flat tire 6:00 p.m. Saturday night in Fairbanks. I dismissed their efforts to ask others for help. Then someone approached us. His wife told him that we looked like we were in trouble and needed help. He fitted the donut for us. Bless his soul! But one can drive with a doughnut at or below 35 MPH only. So basically, we could not drive to Talkeetna with it. We needed a better solution. I called every tire company and drove to a few to buy a new one. My dad mentioned that we could plug it but I wasn’t sure if such a service was available in the US. I exhausted all the yelp options. doesn’t service that area. There was a commercial one but it was too $$$. Then I found a pawn shop on Google in North Pole, Alaska. They had spare tires if we needed them. We ended up plugging the tire and went on our way. The whole thing took 3 hours + 6 hours of driving till 3:00 a.m. sheesh. This was our best option because we had already booked our stay and also that there was no guarantee that someone could help us the next day.

Lessons learned:

Yelp is not the only holy oracle lol. They had the pawn shop we went to listed but in the wrong section at that time. Also, don’t be a car dummy.

Though I’ve never done these things myself but oh Lord! forgetting your passport or losing it is game over for you. Getting pickpocketed or mugged is pretty bad. Putting yourself in any kind of danger is always the worst. I check such destinations off my list. I always have a standard place I put my passport in a plastic bag – the inner pocket in my purse. Always. I’ve never gotten mugged or pickpocketed on a trip. I have been duped…different story. Its not luck. I’ve just chatted over up to 6 months with people about which places are safe for solo female tourists and which ones aren’t. I follow dress codes. I avoid any deserted shabby looking alleys or bars. I observe neighborhoods I go to very carefully. Are the walls and fences too high? Are the houses in shambles. Is there any other woman walking on the street by herself. What does the white noise sound like? If there’s none, bad sign. I text my location to a friend. If I land up in such places, I get the hell out of there asap. I barely drink or consume anything offered to me on solo trips. I cover my drinks with my palm. I don’t hang out specifically go to private parties with strangers till I get a very good idea of where they come from and what they are up to. Just a few follow up questions are enough. I learned some self defense.
Conversations with other tourists have always been very useful though. I once bought a tent off 2 tourists while my travel buddy chatted with an agent. We camped at Cullebra off Puerto Rico in it impromptu. It was the best beach I’d seen till then 🙂
Vacay time is too short to repeat the mistakes I mentioned. None of these gaffes ruined my trip. If I missed a flight, I rescheduled, mostly for free. If I fell or injured myself, I got back up and continued. I use a lot of shady hacks to continue with the same enthusiasm 🙂 My travels are worth it!


28 thoughts on “My worst travel gaffes

  1. Thank you. Thank you so much… I have been traveling since my childhood… and I missed a flight to Amsterdam because I confuse the departure time and my return time, which were similar, at 30 mn difference. I thought I had plenty of time to go to the gate… I still carry the shame! You made me feel less lonely. Thank you, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lots of these I did laugh at while reading. They’re so simple, yet so easily done! Thanks for your honesty, travelling isn’t all fun and games.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good list! All are valid! Flights and lack of hiking gear are probably the most relevant for me. I hate airports, too many rituals… and on hikes I still miss a proper DSLR bag.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I can so relate to many of these! I actually missed my first flight ever recently on my way to Oman. I had a layover in Doha and went to the lounge. The lounge lady circled my flight time at 7:30am, but I thought she told me it was the boarding time. I was exhausted from traveling all day so wasn’t in the right mind frame and got to the gate at 7:30 and they had just left. Fail. The next flight wasn’t until evening so I missed my entire first day in Oman. I wanted to cry! Oh, and carrying pepper spray in some countries is actually illegal! I didnt know until someone told me, so be careful!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Haha. I can so relate to this. I have had a few of this experiences too. I always think that I should not let myself go through it again. And somehow end up making some other travel gaffes

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I like this post so much I got inspired to do my own list. I mean why not, any travel mishaps or mistakes that we experienced could help our readers plan their travel better. I have never missed a flight but it almost happened to me one time. I really thought it was for a later hour, good thing I had the mind to check my flight itinerary or it would have been a disaster.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve experienced most of them except #s 8, 9 and 11. The most important thing is we learned our lesson. One of the worst things tho is bringing someone on a vacay and they’re too selfish to do things on their own as if there’s no one traveling with them. lol Luckily, I’ve never missed a flight and hopefully won’t! Safe travels to you! X

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Some of these remind me of travel woes we have had. Like our flight from Frankfurt to Toronto getting delayed multiple times and they kept changing the gate we were departing from (it was so much back and forth! What a headache!) then they gave away our plane to another flight/destination because of crew hours…. oh yeah… good times.
    My sister had her debit card sucked into an ATM machine on her travels (Because of unknown activity- which was her- she was travelling out of Province) and she had to wait for the bank to open up (it was a weekend in a small town) so she could get it back!
    It is so true- when you travel- you need to be prepared for anything.

    Liked by 1 person

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