My 5 Biggest Travel Mistakes: Part 1

My Biggest Travel Mistakes

It’s always fun to read about people’s travel mistakes. Today I’m giving you the gift of schadenfreude and detailing a few of my own. I labeled this as Part 1, since I’m guessing I’ll be able to do a Part 2 or more after the next several trips I hope to eventually take. Something always goes wrong.

Mistake 1: Not bringing backup camera equipment

During our wedding and honeymoon in the Mediterranean, I had two major photography snafus. The first was that I left my one and only camera battery in its charger on one of the most beautiful sightseeing days we had. I got zero photos of the Amalfi Coast that day, and I still heavily regret it. It’s one of the big reasons we decided to go back to the area next year.

The second was when that same camera decided a few days later to just give up on life, and it kicked the bucket somewhere between Greece and Turkey. The shutter had reached its maximum capacity of photos and could function no more. It’s something I didn’t even know could happen to a camera, and the repair costs were more than the camera was worth. I ended up buying a new camera in Turkey! It was a big expense that we had not been anticipating, but I couldn’t imagine finishing the trip with no camera! Now I know to ALWAYS bring backup gear.

My Biggest Travel Mistakes
A shot of Santorini using the new camera I bought in Turkey

Mistake 2: Not wearing the right footwear

When we went to London, I really wanted to look somewhat “stylish” and I also was concerned about keeping my feet dry in the notorious London weather. These two factors led me to choose a pair of black leather ankle boots for my walking shoes. They were super comfortable wearing around my hometown, and I wear them with my orthotic inserts, so I assumed they would be good.

Wrong! After the first day or two, my feet hurt so badly by afternoon! The boot soles were harder than I realized. Since rain was actually not in the forecast, I ended up purchasing a nice pair of tennis shoes that made it feel like I was walking on clouds. I felt like I was wearing circus performer shoes or something, though, considering the rest of my clothing was dark and neutral. But at that point I really didn’t care. Needing fewer breaks and being able to walk longer each day was worth having extremely vibrant feet.

My Biggest Travel Mistakes

Mistake 3: Booking a too-cheap hostel

When we went to Norway, one of the places we stayed at was the little tourist town of Flåm. It’s extremely small and there are only a handful of options for accommodations. We’ve stayed in hostels before, and they are usually sufficient for our needs, so I thought booking the hostel down the road would be a good value compared to the much more expensive hotels. When we travel, we don’t need anything too fancy. Well this hostel gave us many reasons to regret our choice, but the main ones were size and noise issues. Our room was more like a poorly insulated closet. We couldn’t believe they considered this room a double (that bed is barely wider than a twin bed)!

My Biggest Travel MistakesWe hardly had space to open our bags and take anything out! And we certainly had no room to move around each other if we were both standing. That, coupled with the lack of sound proofing, had us rushing over to Fretheim Hotel the next morning to see if they had an open room for that night. They did, and we took it! We paid more than we normally would for a night’s stay (and still had to pay for that night at the hostel in addition), but it was totally worth it.

My Biggest Travel Mistakes

My Biggest Travel Mistakes

Mistake 4: Forgetting earplugs on an overnight train

When Kevin and I took my brother Logan on a trip to New York City, we thought it would be fun to take the overnight train from Milwaukee. We’ve slept on flights before, so we thought sleeping on a train would be better with the larger seats and foot room.

I’m not sure if it was because trains attract a different crowd or if we just had some bad luck, but the two people directly in front of our seats never shut up the whole night. It was a full train car, with everyone else trying to sleep, but these two had just met each other at the train station and were both drunk, so they felt that getting to know each other was way more important than not annoying literally everyone else on the train. They were shushed multiple times, but they were too out of it to care. I even went to go find a train employee to complain, but he never came by to do anything about it. This couple maintained full day-time volume in the otherwise silent train car the entire night, and we had no earplugs. Lesson learned!!

My Biggest Travel Mistakes
(Yes, this is actually a Norwegian train, but you get the idea)

Mistake 5: Accidentally bringing pepper spray through the Hong Kong Airport

This is my worst one. I used to have a little pepper spray on my keychain for walking through my work parking lot at night. I get done with work at 6pm, and during the winter, it is extremely dark out and there is a very creepy vibe in our parking ramp. I’d had it on my keys for several years (pretty sure it had expired), and forgotten about it. On our Australia/New Zealand trip, I made it through airports in Chicago, Auckland, and the first time through Hong Kong with no problems. But on our return flight back, during our second Hong Kong layover, the security guys found my little pepper spray and had a small meltdown.

They brought me into the back, took all my belongings, and carefully inspected the pepper spray and my passport and tickets. There were quite a few security people by this time, and they all seemed confused about the pepper spray; Kevin was feeling a little irritable, and so he asked them with a bit of a tone, “Want me to show you how it works?” He claims he didn’t mean it that way, but it sounded like he was threatening them! I had been calm about the situation up until that point. I was worried they would try to arrest him too!

After running a background check on me, making me sign some forms, and telling me these weapons are illegal not only in the airport but also in the country, they finally let us leave. They told me they could have easily arrested me for this, but they decided to just give me a warning due to my clean background check and my cooperation. They could tell I was just a dumb tourist who made a mistake. Hopefully that will be the closest I ever come to getting arrested in a foreign country (or at home, for that matter)!

My Biggest Travel Mistakes

In the grand scheme of things, most of these weren’t that bad (well maybe that last one…); they were pretty manageable problems, even if some of them cost us extra money. And while I know I’ll be making more mistakes in the future, at least I can do my best not to make any of these ones more than once. And now that I’ve shared them with you, you can avoid them too! Do you have any funny or silly travel mistakes? Let me know in the comments!


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