I like to consider myself a pretty savvy traveller. I’ve been globetrotting, flashpacking or living abroad for the past 10 years. Luckily, I’ve never had any major travel disasters…. knock wood! I always take out travel insurance before any trip so know I’ve got myself well covered but thankfully I’ve never had to use it. I’ve heard some serious travel disaster stories from fellow travellers involving iPhones being pilfered in Paris, dodgy travel agents selling fake airline tickets in Bangkok or buying a suit and ending up with $10,000 of flights to the US on a credit card. The absolute worst story I’ve heard though would have to be my friend Izy from The Wrong Way Home who got slashed with a machete and almost robbed in Indonesia.

Most of my issues on the road have been more blunders than disasters… not thinking things through before making an actual decision. Most of them come from my pre-family travel days. Needless to say, I’m a lot more cautious now! Always one to put a positive spin on things, I’m going to tell you my biggest travel blunders and how you can avoid them yourself.

 

Snowy London Through the Window

Snowy London

Flying Out of Heathrow on Christmas Day

Whilst living in London, I used every ounce of my annual leave as strategically as possible so I could make the most of living in such a central part of the world. I excitedly found flights to Egypt that were much cheaper departing on a snowy Christmas day which meant I could work right up until the holidays and get a bargain… or so I thought. You wouldn’t think of it as it’s a major city but the London Underground doesn’t run on Christmas day! Meaning, no tube to the airport. The only option for me was to take a minicab (dodgy unlicensed taxis) at triple the normal rate. A whopping £90 one way! Stupidly, I did the same thing again the following year when visiting Milan at Easter. No public transport to the airport meant another huge cab fare.

Tip: If you’re flying or travelling on a public holiday always check to see if public transport will get you to the airport, train or bus station. A hefty cab fare can mean cheap flights end up costing you more in the long run.

 

Pyramids at Giza and Sphinx, Cairo, Egypt

Egypt goes down as my worst ever trip! 

Getting My Card Banned in Egypt

Same fateful trip to Egypt… the whole thing was a disaster from the word go. I arrived in Egypt with a few British pounds to change into Egyptian pounds at the airport, really only enough for a visa on arrival and a taxi to my hotel. The next day my plan was to hit up an ATM and get enough cash for the rest of my trip. Only problem was, all the cash machines refused my card giving me a strange error. I called my bank in the UK and they told me they had blocked the card due to “unusual activity”. I had to find the only HSBC bank in all of Cairo, which was easier said than done, in order to reactivate my card.

Tip: Always call your bank in advance and tell them you’re travelling, giving them a list of the countries you’ll be using your card. Always, always have some emergency cash hidden in your bag in case your cards get stolen or eaten by a hungry ATM machine!

 

 

Booking an Extra Day Car Hire in Ireland

I had planned a week long trip for my Mum and Aunt to travel around Ireland. They were both novice travellers so needed help booking flight, hotels and car hire. I found a good deal online and booked them a a car for six days figuring they’d just use public transport in Dublin on the final day of their trip but they wanted to keep the car. They called the car hire company directly and requested an extra day hire. No problem right? Wrong. My mum got home to her credit card statement in New Zealand a month later and found she’d been charged more for that one extra day than for the entire week I’d booked online. A $300 mistake.

Tip: If you’re extending a car hire or hotel stay that you’ve booked online always double check the rate. Booking direct with a car hire company or hotel is almost always more expensive. See if you can book it online for cheaper and just tack it onto your existing booking.

 

 

Have you made any big travel blunders? Or had any major disasters on the road? Tell me about it and how you’d recommend avoiding it in the future.

 

 

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Showing 22 comments
  • Sheralyn
    Reply

    Great reminder about letting the bank know where you’re going ahead of time! Will make a point of doing that before next year’s adventure! 🙂

    • Reply

      Sharon, it doesn’t seem to make too much of a different. Our card has been stopped about 5 times on our trip. I wish they’d just call and let us know instead of automatically stopping them – so annoying!

  • Wheres Sharon? (Sharon)
    Reply

    Mine have just been stupid, or we just couldn’t have known. ones off the top of my head:
    1. Our last trip, I booked the wrong night for our one night layover in the tunes hotel at KL LCC airport :-/ they were full and we were mucking around for hours trying to sort something else out with our 11 month and 2 year old. not good and so made at myself still!
    2. Flying sick to europe when i was 21. i was already sick but went anyway and ended up fainting on the plane… caused lots of dramas, and i ended up with paramedics taking me off the plane at heathrow. it was made worse by the airline and i still refuse to fly singapore again!!
    3, Census day in argentina – we didnt know this was happening until it was and EVERYTHING was shut. nowhere to eat, nothing. I shudder to think how we would handle that if we had had kids then!! always have emergency food!!
    4. i lost a paper plane ticket once and it couldnt be replaced so i had to buy another :-/ thankfully it was covered by insurance and i got the money back e v e n t u a l l y.
    so don’t lose things, quadruple check any booking before booking, dont fly sick and dont travel anywhere where they are going to have a census lol

  • TammyOnTheMove
    Reply

    Only to forget to apply for our Indian visa in advance and then not being able to board our flight from Bangkok to Delhi. Oooops. 😉

  • Erin
    Reply

    We went to China in August and even though my boyfriend had called his bank to tell them we were going, the ATM ate his card halfway through our week-long trip. We had a trainstation employee call the ATM owner (we were so thankful she offered to help) to see if someone could get us our card back, but they said we’d have to wait a week to get it mailed back. Since we were too afraid to use my card after that, we were stuck the rest of the week with hardly any money left. Thank goodness a friend was travelling with us and had pulled out a lot of money a few days earlier.

    As far as the bank being the reason the card was taken, they said they had no blocks on the card and that the ATM shouldn’t have kept it. So, sometimes the ATMS will eat your card even if your bank didn’t tell them to!

    • Bethaney Davies
      Reply

      Yikes!! I’d be afraid it would eat my other card too. I only ever use my debit card in machines because I can always rely on a credit card (or even paypal) to book a room online and then access my emergency cash stash.

  • Erin
    Reply

    Also on our trip to China (we had a lot of problems there), we ended up stranded in the middle of Beijing after a tour driver and guide tried to extort us and then locked us in their vehicle when we tried to leave. I guess they didn’t think we knew how to manually unlock a car door. lol. But it was still pretty scary with as much as they were screaming and yelling at us.

  • Alyson
    Reply

    I would NEVER have thought about how to get to the airport on Christmas day! That’s the sort of thing we do to save money all the time. Knowing my husband, he’d probably make me walk!

  • Reply

    Ahhhhh the unlucky Irish car hire. It’s a problem I tell ya. Great post… Wonder might mine might be?

  • Bronwyn Joy
    Reply

    The biggest blunders (my friend who’s a safety systems analyst tells me) are combinations of blunders.

    With this in mind, mine was probably NOT packing a change of clothes for my toddler AND letting my mother feed him all the beetroot dip he wanted, which was a lot, THEN leaving the carry-on suitcase open when he was wandering around naked in the parents’ room with a full bladder as I hurriedly washed the pink diarrhoea out of his clothes and dried them under the hand drier whilst keeping an ear out for final urgent boarding calls for our flight.

    That one stands out.

    • Bethaney Davies
      Reply

      Oh Bronwyn! That is an epic blunder!!! Any story that involves diarrhea wins!!!!!

  • Renee - RambleCrunch
    Reply

    Fun thread! We booked tix to Amsterdam without checking on national holidays. Turns out we bough non-refundable, non-changeable that has us landing at the airport of Queen’s Day, their biggest holiday of the year and a 3-day weekend. We’d bought a camper online but the dealer was closed for the holiday. Most hotels were booked and the ones with rooms didn’t want out dog, who was traveling with us. Eventually I found a hotel about 30km out of town that would take us but it cost more than $900USD for 3 days. Rates were crazy everywhere. The hotel ended up being fun but the expense was brutal.

    Also once we (and by “we” I mean my husband”) accidentally left his laptop & briefcase of important papers in the car here in Mexico. It was just an oversight on a busy day, but nevertheless everything was gone within 10 minutes.

    I agree with Alyson in that I wouldn’t have expected getting to the airport on Xmas to be a problem. And that Irish car hire….bastards. I know it’s normal car-hire pricing, but still…

    • Bethaney Davies
      Reply

      We did the same thing recently in Sydney! Queen’s Birthday weekend was celebrated the previous weekend in NZ than it was in Australia so we weren’t expecting a holiday weekend. Everything was insanely busy, we couldn’t get a hotel room under like $400 a night, so we ended up hiring a car (one of the last at Sydney airport) and driving out to my cousin’s out of town. Worked out cheaper even with the expensive cost of gas in Oz.

  • Jenny P
    Reply

    Although it wasn’t a disaster when I left my unlocked ipad in the security tray at Sydney airport, it made for a very stressful flight to the Gold Coast. Thankfully it had been collected by security staff by the time I phoned Lost and Found. I have now put a security lock code on my ipad and always double check all the trays as I leave the Security area.

    • Bethaney Davies
      Reply

      It’s so easy to leave stuff behind in those trays! Especially if you’re juggling multiple bags, kids, laptops etc.

  • Sally@Toddlers on Tour
    Reply

    Yes public holidays can really cause you to become unstuck.
    Years ago I was in California doing a road trip down highway one. I did not think about American Holidays. We arrived in San Diego on 4th July with no accommodation booked. We could not get a room anywhere no matter whatt price we had to pay.

  • Amy
    Reply

    I have missed two flights by thinking a had time for just one more beer!! I am starting my year long RTW trip in 30 days so I had better make sure to not get too comfortable in the airport bars! BTW, I am starting my trip in NZ and cannot wait!!

  • Shi
    Reply

    I’ve had my phone stolen from about a foot from my face while I was sleeping. The thief broke into my hostel in KL and came into my dorm..
    In Sihanoukville, Cambodia, I had my cross-body bag ripped off me by a guy on a motorbike.
    I also had cash stolen after keeping it in the safety deposit box that the hotel reception staff had a key for.

    Lessons: keep your phones, cameras, etc locked up in a safe that the hotel staff has no access to or under your pillow while you sleep and don’t wear cross body bags!

  • Melinda
    Reply

    Its always super helpful to hear other people’s mistakes! We were on a road trip with friends, from the US to Mexico and when we got to the border our friends realized they had forgotten all of their passports! Luckily they lived about three hours away, so they turned around and went back for them. That made for a much longer travel day than we had planned on.

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