Seasoned travelers know that it's only a matter of time before you do something that completely derails your travel plans. Like when I thought a one-hour layover was enough time to catch my connecting flight out of Heathrow (spoiler alert: it wasn't). Or when I spent weeks looking at the weather report for the wrong city and ended up packing sweaters for 80ºF weather.
1. "I was traveling in Belfast and then taking a flight to Paris from the Belfast airport. When I got to the bus station, I asked for a ticket to the airport. I got my ticket and got on the bus. Thirty minutes into the trip, I checked my Google Maps and saw we were headed in the wrong direction. I asked someone if the bus was going to the Belfast airport. He looked horrified and told me it was going to the Dublin airport. I missed my flight and had to get a new, way more expensive flight from the Dublin airport."
2. "I agreed to carry a parcel of raw meat home to LA from some acquaintances in Dhaka. I had gotten ill in Dhaka, so I was in no mental state to question why the fuck they would want me to do that. It leaked blood inside my luggage, which ensured the customs officials wanted nothing to do with it. I still wonder what that was about."
3. "Arriving at 1 p.m. for a 1 a.m. flight, 12 hours too late. The flight was from India to the US so it was a very expensive mistake."
4. "My wife had her PhD defense in her home country (we lived in another country at the time), so she flew there a few days in advance to get everything ready. I flew there the day before her defense. I drove to the airport and parked in one of those cheap parking lots with shuttle service to the airport terminal. Once I got to the terminal, I realized I had forgotten my passport at home. After a solid two minutes of panicking hard and sweating, I decided that I could still make it for the next (and last) flight of the day. Of course, my ticket was not refundable nor transferable, so I was screwed on that front. But missing the flight would have been WAY worse."
"The next shuttle to the parking lot was in 45 minutes. So I got a taxi, went to get my car, bolted through a substantial number of speed traps on the highway, got home, took the passport, bolted back, and stopped to leave my car at the same parking as before, but the guy informed me that the next shuttle to the terminal would be in 45 minutes, again. There was no way I'd make it.
So I just said screw it and went to the short-term parking in the terminal itself which costs 10 times more. But at that point I was fighting for survival — I HAD to get on the next plane or I would have missed one of the most important days in my wife's life. When I finally found a spot for the car, I sprinted to the airline desk to buy a ticket. Of course, there were no economy tickets left so I had to get a business class ticket that assassinated my credit card. But hey, I made it on time.
Once I finally boarded the plane, I was exhausted. I took off my jacket and folded it under my head as a pillow. I just wanted to sleep. Hey, what do you know, there was something in the pocket of the jacket. I. Wanted. To. Fucking. Die. It was my ID card. I could have flown with just that. There was no need to go back for the passport. I had it with me the whole time."
5. "I booked a trip to Istanbul in December. I assumed it would be warm because it was on the Mediterranean and in the Middle East. Didn’t check the weather predictions, didn’t pack any warm clothes, and it was snowing when I arrived."
6. "I once booked a month-long Airbnb for the wrong month. I also remember buying a plane ticket for the wrong day. If there is one lesson I feel the need to impart to the world, this is it: if you feel you’re getting a really good deal unexpectedly, make sure to check the details instead of rushing to pay for it."
7. "Went on a week-long hiking trip to the Grand Canyon in college and I forgot to pack a single pair of underwear. I ended up going to the doctor when I got home because I had such a bad rash on my scrotum."
8. "I took a taxi from my hotel in Granada to Alhambra. Had a fantastic chat with the taxi driver, beautiful morning. I pulled out my wallet to pay him and put it back in my pocket. It must have slid right back out and fell on the floor of the taxi. The cab was already halfway down the hill before I realized. I jumped in another cab waiting in front of Alhambra and shouted, 'Follow that car!' but we didn't catch them. I had to give up because I only had the cash change from the first taxi ride."
"With my wallet now firmly lost, I went back to Alhambra and did my best to enjoy the trip. While the tour was going on I didn't have cell coverage, but when the tour was through the cab driver had sent an email to my work address (my business card was in my wallet) saying he had it! I would have to contact the cab company to dispatch them to me to pick up the wallet and I'd have to pay a few bucks.
My Spanish isn't very good, so when I got back to my hotel I had to play a literal game of telephone with the front desk and the cab company to get them to dispatch the driver. Something was lost in translation because I sat around the lobby for hours — no money and no hope. Eventually, after a few hours, I decided to use my last 0.75 Euro to grab a soda.
I walked down the street and I see the cab driver go past. I ended up sprinting a few blocks down to chase him and got the wallet back (tipped him 20 bucks) and got on my way. I missed my bus and had to reschedule my hotel, but I got everything back. Needless to say, I never leave all my money in my wallet and now spread credit cards and cash throughout my luggage/person."
9. "I took a red-eye charter to the Greek Islands in the 1990s. Opened the duty-free on the plane and got wasted, as good 19-year-olds do on a boys' trip. When we arrived, we saw our two bags on the luggage band. We grabbed them and took the chartered bus to the hotel. After checking in to the hotel, we crashed in bed. After one hour, we got woken up by the tour guide knocking on our door. He had two identical bags in his hand. He informed us we took some other guests' bags at the airport. Oops."
10. "Mine was being an inexperienced 19-year-old traveler bringing lots of German beer to Liverpool in a duffel bag. About 10 or 12 bottles broke and the bags on the conveyor belt were soaked in beer. People were angrily mumbling over it — then mine came. The whole bottom was drenched and eyes were all over me as I quietly snuck out."
11. "My friend booked us a bus to Amsterdam from the south of Germany. We got on the bus and slept. Sometime later, she woke me up thinking it was weird that we were in France. We contemplated it but figured it wouldn't be totally unreasonable for the bus to drive through the west of France and Belgium to get to the Netherlands. But after we checked the city names, it was clear we were already near the English Channel."
12. "I do a really stupid thing almost every time I travel! Most notable: Leaving all cash and IDs in my safe in the hotel room in Mexico and going into town with only one credit card. Didn’t realize it until I had to try and get a ride back to the hotel and no one had the ability to take credit. No banks would give me a cash advance, obviously. I had to beg a shopkeeper to charge my card for cash — he charged me $80 and gave me $30."
13. "I showed up for my flight exactly 24 hours before departure. Luckily, they got me on or I would’ve had to go home and repeat the whole process the next day. Extra vacation day I guess so that was cool."
14. "On a very drunken night out in Thailand, I gave my wallet to a lovely couple we had spent the day with on a trip to keep safe as I had no pockets in my shorts. Needless to say, I woke up the next day and the doom hit me. I kicked myself for the next few days and carried on with my trip with the help of my friends, mostly transferring money to them online. A few days, later I logged in to a computer at the hostel and found an email from LinkedIn with a connection request and a short message from the couple! They had tried finding me on all my socials but the only one that they found me on was LinkedIn. They managed to post it to my next hostel and it was on my bed waiting for me! Heroes."
15. "I booked a ticket to the Anne Frank museum tour and stood in line. The ticket was for the following year."
16. "I am subscribed to a flight deal service and was waiting for a flight to pop up to France or Italy for a trip to Corsica. A deal finally popped and I was stoked. I started talking to my then-partner about dates and stuff knowing we had about a day or two before it expired. We kept clicking on different cities to find the best price and settled on Florence."
"When the time came to buy a ticket, it had gone up about $100 but was still cheapest so we chose it. When I went to pick seats after we paid, I was confused as to why it was a regional plane. Maybe because it was such a good deal? Nope. I had booked a two-week trip to Florence, South Carolina. Luckily I caught it within 48 hours and was able to cancel it, but we missed the flight deal."
17. "I booked a train from Venice on the Trenitalia site. When the train never arrived, I discovered I'd booked a bus. We missed it."
18. "Drunk, February, late-1990s in Brussels. I clicked my apartment key against the old-fashioned elevator door as I ascended. Shocker, it fell. I went outside at midnight with only a bus pass and 35 Belgian francs to my name (I didn't have a credit card) because I idiotically thought I needed to get on the bus before it stopped running. A man on the bus offered to let me stay in his apartment. I said okay, picturing myself sleeping on the couch in the living room. Instead, it was a tiny garret with blaring radios strapped to the doorknobs. Woke up to him blowing his hair dryer on me under the covers because it was cold. Nothing awful happened, but man, it sure could have."
19. "Not me, but my husband. The night before our first trip to Barcelona he noticed his passport had expired. Hotels were nonrefundable at that point so I waved goodbye and did the trip solo."
20. "I was leaving Germany after surprising my then-girlfriend in Berlin last minute. I’d booked a very cheap flight from NYC to Frankfurt, but, of course, had to trek from Frankfurt to Berlin and back for the flights. While taking the ICE train from Berlin to Frankfurt, a gal came and sat inside my little private car. Turns out she was a dancer at one of the private clubs in Berlin and was on her way to Frankfurt."
"She was rolling a huge joint toward the end of the trip and offered to roll me one. I decided not to smoke the joint and instead tucked it in my waistband for the flight. While going through security, I got flagged for a secondary search. I was freaking the F out walking behind the two officers and crumbling the joint inside of my pants, letting it fall out of the bottom of my pants leg.
I anxiously got into the scanner, answered a few questions (surely sweating), and was cleared to take my things and go. Walking back toward the initial security section, I saw the weed and paper scattered on the floor and was more than positive they would see this and run cameras on it.
Needless to say, I was waiting on the flight for them to come in, jerk me out of my seat, and lock me up for seven life sentences. I prayed for the doors to close and to be wheels up. Finally, it happened — we took off and I felt so damn relieved. In hindsight, I was overreacting, but I was also very stupid.