I have certainly made my fair share of travel mistakes over the years, as can be expected, but I’d like to think that I learned from each of those experiences. Hopefully by sharing a few of those travel mistakes with you, you can avoid repeating my errors and have much better vacations.
I Didn’t Keep My Valuables Safe…
One of my most recent travel mistakes was a doozy, especially for me, as I’m someone who is at once very organized and very paranoid, particularly when I travel. We were checking out of a hotel in Madrid and in the process of clearing out the hotel safe, we threw everything onto the bed, on the very fluffy duvet. In the rush to get out the door, I grabbed everything in sight and put it in one of my two suitcases, then we checked out and went on our way. About four hours later, when we arrived to our next hotel in Sevilla, I went to get one of my camera lenses to use that afternoon…only to realize it was missing, along with my iPad and some other unimportant toiletries like my razor. I am positive that in my haste to leave the items had gotten buried in the duvet and neither my mom nor I noticed them on the bed. When I called the hotel to have them check, then called a few hours later to check again, I expected the supposedly five star hotel to find the lost items and determine the best way to ship them back to me. Instead, I was given the same heinous lie both times I spoke to them, that they “hadn’t found anything in the room.” Clearly my expensive possessions had been stolen by the staff and at that point there was really nothing I could do about it. The lesson from this travel mistake? Double, triple check the room before leaving, and if possible, keep a list of everything you brought with you, especially the most valuable items, so that you can check it all off when you are repacking to leave any place.
I Didn’t Properly Pack My Carry On Bag…
Another of my travel mistakes occurred on a trip to Greece when I was younger. Due to several mishaps in planning (the first and last time I have ever seen my mom use a travel agent) we arrived to Athens extremely delayed and missed the cruise we were supposed to catch. On top of that the airline lost our luggage and because we were hurrying to board a ship, we were informed that we would not receive our bags until the end of the cruise. Neither my mom nor I had packed any essentials in our carry ons. We had no change of clothes, no toiletries, nothing other than the meager items we’d taken on board with us. After a horrible ferry ride to reach our cruise ship in Mykonos, so late that we never actually saw Mykonos, we were lucky that the cruise staff were helpful enough to provide some basics like toothbrushes. But we then had to buy new clothes and the like at our next stop in Ephesus, Turkey, which was a hassle in and of itself and led to some vast overspending caused by confusion with the exchange rate. Needless to say, the lesson learned from this travel mistake is one that I harp on in most of my travel advice–always be prepared. If I am traveling on any sort of international flight and even on most domestic flights, I am sure that my carry on has at least a few days worth of supplies and at least one extra outfit, just in case. I also make sure I do not check items that cannot be replaced, including my valuables and my prescription medicines.
Along those lines, I have had way too many arguments with gate attendants when they try to gate check my luggage. It is a constant source of stress for me knowing that the things in my carry on absolutely cannot be checked so to at least partially alleviate the worry, I now keep a few extra foldable tote bags with me so that, if I am being forced to gate check my bag, I can unpack the things I want to keep with me and put them in the totes. Thankfully this has not come to pass yet, mostly because I’m stubborn and will go off on anyone who tries to touch my bag, but it feels better to be prepared.
I Didn’t Time Things Well…
The mention of a poorly planned flight brings me to the third of these travel mistakes: not booking enough time between flights (or between transfers of any kind). If you are planning a trip and you see something along the lines of a 30 minute layover in a huge international airport, maybe pause and reconsider. Even with an hour layover, I have had situations happen too many times where my first flight gets delayed and then I’m full-out sprinting to get to the next flight. This is what happened to us in Greece on that same trip where they lost our luggage. We had a layover in Rome but it was only about an hour long so when our first plane arrived 40 minutes late, we missed the connection and had to wait for another flight. We were supposed to have landed in Athens and headed immediately to a cruise ship, but when we were delayed in Rome, the cruise ship left without us. We then had to arrive in Athens, spend hours trying to sort out the luggage debacle, find a taxi to the port, get a last minute high speed ferry to Mykonos, only to realize our seasickness pills were in the lost luggage and so we got violently ill, then we finally made it to Mykonos late at night and stumbled onto the cruise ship. It was way less than ideal. To help things run a little more smoothly, you may want to download some travel apps to help you plan and keep all of your plans together in one place.
I Can’t Stop Overpacking…
Admittedly I still have not entirely learned from one of my most common travel mistakes. I have a very consistent habit of overpacking. At home I have no problem wearing the same outfit twice or sometimes three times in a week assuming no one saw me repeat, yet when I travel I somehow think I’m going to change my shirt 3 times a day and that I’ll need that skirt I bought back in 2014 on sale and have never worn. Some useful advice: plan your outfits beforehand for each day and try to create multiple looks with a few key pieces. Take some time to assess what you will really need and what you really won’t and don’t let your baggage weigh you down. That said, there are still some things I rarely travel without.
I Didn’t Get the Points and Perks That I Could Have…
It took me too long to realize the value of points programs on credit cards, airlines, restaurants, etc. There are so many ways to earn points every single day on credits cards and rewards programs, especially on airline and hotel loyalty programs that can often earn you free flights and stays. If you haven’t started looking into racking up rewards points, you may be just leaving money on the table.
I Didn’t Leave the Tourist Area…
I get so upset when people tell me they hate New York City yet all they have seen are Times Square and the bottom corner of Central Park along 5th Ave. I live off Wall Street and I get pissed every other day at the throngs of tourist groups taking up the entire sidewalk as if they had never heard of common courtesy before. But I still love New York City dearly despite these touristy traps. Yet I sometimes find myself doing the same thing when I travel somewhere new. I’ll write down the “top things to see” and do my best to work those into a schedule, but in the past few years I have really tried to include things that aren’t the typical tourist sights. I would much rather see where the locals hang out–the trendy restaurants, the best new bars, the coffee shops and boutiques, the interesting parks, and the off-the-beaten-path gems. Next time you visit a new city, seek out the places where you are the only tourist around. Use guides like those on Goop and AFAR, which cater to a more immersive local experience. You’ll get a much better taste of the place than sticking solely to the Times Squares of the world.
I Let Travel Mistakes Ruin My Trip…
Unfortunately I have a hard time letting go of things, especially when they are negative, a trait that I’ve had to work on as I’ve gotten older. I truly regret all of the times I let a few mishaps ruin my entire outlook on a trip or a place. For example my first time visiting Barcelona–we arrived extremely jet-lagged and I wound up sleeping half the first day away. Then, when we did finally go out, we realized it was siesta time and very few places were even open. I was also a very picky eater (I was 13, to be fair) and found the Spanish cuisine almost impossible to eat. We were yelled at by a cab driver in Spanish, I ate almost nothing for the two days were were there, people were generally rude to us, and I downright hated Gaudi’s art and could not understand why everyone kept making a big deal about him. This past month I returned to Barcelona with very low expectations and while I still did not like the city very much, I had a much more positive experience because I was able to roll with the travel mistakes rather than getting completely caught up in them. It’s a bit of a lesson for life, as well, that you cannot let yourself dwell on the bad things. You just have to focus on the good and do your best to find the upside to every situation.
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