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8 Bonehead Travel Mistakes (& How to Avoid Them)

There’s nothing worse than making mindless travel mistakes.

If you spend much time traveling, you’ve inevitably made bonehead travel mistakes that put a huge damper on your trip. Here are a few things to keep in mind in the days (and weeks!) before heading out on your next adventure.

Mistake: Your ATM card or Credit Card Gets Frozen.

Solution: If you’ve traveled out of the country, chances are you’ve bumped into issues with your credit card or ATM card. A frozen account puts a huge damper on your trip. The best way to ensure that doesn’t happen is to alert your bank and credit card to any upcoming travel. It’s only takes a few minutes (and in some cases can be done online or on a phone without having to talk to an actual human). Some credit card companies say they don’t need this information anymore because of their sophisticated software.  I don’t care.  I call them anyway. 

Mistake: You Rack Up Crazy Phone Charges.

travel mistakes

Texting and calls can cost a small fortune when you’re traveling internationally.

Solution: It’s best call the phone company to make sure they turn on your international data. Also ask about purchasing a SIM card at your destination– it’s a great way to stay in touch without getting a surprise $1000 bill.

Mistake: You Rack Up Crazy Phone Charges, Part 2.

Did I mention phone charges can add up quickly?

Solution: Luckily, if there’s wi-fi available, you can lean on apps like WhatsApp and Skype for communicating with loved ones at home. Be sure to not only download on your phone, but on your friends and family’s phones as well. Otherwise what’s the point?! Please note that Skype users can make real calls to non-Skype users actual phone lines, but they are slightly more expensive.

Mistake: You Lose Your Travel Docs.

It happens to the best of us.

Solution: It’s always good to make a copy and stash separately from the originals. If you’ll have wi-fi access (and really, most places do), it’s easy to email those documents in an attachment to yourself so if you do lose the physical copies, you could still access them electronically. Relying on friends (or family) to send you a copy is tricky because of the time change. Plus, who wants to talk their mom through sending travel docs via email? Not I! (sorry mom!).

As extra insurance, you can always snap pics of travel docs with your phone.

Mistake: Your Phone Dies.

travel mistakes

Or breaks. Or is stolen. Or falls into the Seine. Now think of all the information on that phone (that you didn’t sync to your other device) that you still desperately need, like phone numbers of key family members, the dog’s kennel, credit card contact numbers, your travel itinerary with confirmation numbers and addresses.

Solution: Make a document, print and bring it along, just like in the olden days.

Mistake: You Get Bombarded with Work Emails.

The last thing you want to do on vacation is work.

Solution: Set a reminder to turn on your out of office reply. It feels SOOOO GOOD to write one of these “So long suckers!” automatic emails. Make it short, but make it good. Last year I wrote.  “I’m on a beach in Maine.” ‘Nuff said.

Mistake: Your Ride No-Shows.

You may have a cab or friend say they’re able to take you to the airport, but have a back-up plan just in case.

Solution: Download the Uber app, or find another cab company. Just in case. Or check to see if there’s good public transportation. Things happen.

Mistake: You Sleep Through Your Alarm.

travel mistakes

Well… not much you can do about this one after the fact.

Solution: Next time, set two. And don’t be shy about setting up a wake-up call, either from your hotel or a friend.

We all make travel mistakes. What’s the biggest you’ve made? Share in the comments!

If you spend much time traveling, you’ve inevitably made bonehead travel mistakes that put a huge damper on your trip. Here are a few things to keep in mind in the days (and weeks!) before heading out on your next adventure.

This Post Has 46 Comments

  1. In booking a mulitple island trip to hawaii, I accidently booked our flight home from Lanai instead of Lihue. I was so brain dead from so much traveling that I never realized my mistake until I was trying to check in for my flight at the airport. With a smile they said I would have to stay…..but then they kindly rebooked me for no charge.

  2. Make sure if you renting a car, hotel room, campsite, etc….make sure you are in the correct country, state or city. I flew into Jacksonville, NC but my rental car was in Jacksonville, Florida !

  3. While riding the train in Wales, I put my bag of purchases (including my camera) under the seat in front of me. Apparently I pushed it up so far during the trip, I thought the bag belonged to the person in the seat in front of me. When it was time to exit the train, I left the bag and camera. I went back later to see if it was in lost and found, but no luck. I had to buy a disposable camera to finish the trip. Fortunately that was in 2001, before the days of digital cameras, so I only lost one roll of film!But I loved that camera 🙁

  4. Leaving bags/cameras in restaurant. Solution: go back to the table where you left it and ask the new diner. There’s a good chance they found it and turned it in. This happened to us at CDG airport on Sunday. The nearest waiter didn’t know anything about it but the people at the table turned it in and pointed at the waiter who took it. Of course, he knew right where he put it.

  5. I stupidly bought new shoes the day before a trip to Tuscany, without breaking them in first! I had heel blisters that were so bad I ended up having to walk barefooted (so gross!!) until we found a shoe store! There were very few choices in shoe stores where we were, and We ended paying a small fortune for a pair I didn’t particularly even care for- thus dipping in to my souvenir money to buy gifts for loved ones. Expensive lesson learned.

    1. At least you were in Italy and probably bought REAL Italian shoes with REAL Italian leather instead of pleather shoes made in China. We used to live in northern Italy (for 13 glorious years) and unfirtun

  6. If you want to bring a camera on your trip and you don’t want to look like a tourist bring a small or medium size camera. Most small and medium camera these days have a high level of megapixels. This will help if you want large copies of your photos.

    1. Most bags or purses have pockets that will fit small digital cameras. If you are bringing a medium size camera use a bag that can double as a camera bag.

  7. This past June, I was traveling around Amsterdam. We were on a tram and because it was very warm, I slipped my jacket off onto the seat. One of my friends jumped off the wrong stop and I leaped off the tram to catch her. It wasn’t until we had visited two museums that I realized my expensive Goretex jacket (as well as my new Samsung S7 phone and digital camera) were all missing! We retraced our steps to the museums, checked the police station but no luck. The tram lost and found was closed until the following Monday. Next morning, we boarded a bike/barge trip for a week. When we got back, I called the tram lost and found and they had found my belongings and had been holding them for a week! What are the odds of that happening! Nice to know that there are still honest people out there. I will never carry my phone and camera in my jacket again!

  8. Leave the expensive jewelry at home or with a trusted friend or relative. Don’t advertise to anyone except to a trusted friend or relative that you will be away from home for a long period of time. Most bags or purses these days have pockets that fit small digital cameras. If you are bringing a medium size camera bring a bag that can double as a camera bag also.

  9. Always set up a meeting place with your travel companions in case you get separated. My wife and I got separated at Termini Station in Rome. It took 45 minutes for us to find each other.

    1. More & more internationally, you can use your own phone without bankrupting yourself. Or buy a local disposable, or buy a SIM card and swap it in wherever you’re traveling. If everyone you’re traveling with has a phone, they’re instantly reachable! Just be sure you have everyone’s number.

      1. Some carriers (like the one that starts with a T) have free or very low cost texting in Europe for their subscribers.

        If you use Consumer Cellular in the US, you can switch their SIM card from AT&T to T-Mobile with no charge to use T-Mobile’s much lower rates for foreign calls. (When wi-fi calling is not available.)

  10. My very first overseas trip was back in 2004 and I was fresh outta college and ready to explore. I was feeling good about the trip. Headed to the UK with a connecting flight to final destination Amsterdam. That is until I realized that there was something called a time difference. Yea. I booked my connecting flight for the previous day. But technically it wasn’t the previous day when I flew outta NYC haha!

  11. On my Hawaii trip, I booked 9 day trip that turned into a 10 day trip because I didn’t take into account the day I gained when I traveled back to the east coast. I enjoyed the extra day. But my employer was not so happy when I unexpectedly extended my vacation.

    Note to self: Always give your self an extra day before and after a vacation to expect the unexpected.

    It’s worked well since I never miss a cruise because of weather or plane mechanical issues, and the extra day in a transfer city or home is relaxing. No rushing for plane trains and automobiles. It keeps a vacation a vacation. Living up to the minute is hetic!

  12. Learned the hard way. Make SURE your bag has identifiable tags/scarves/trinkets on it. Someone picked up my red Walmart duffle at PDX and I had to get a hotel room and stay overnight, delaying our trip south for an entire day, until the person who had picked it up by mistake returned it to the airport. I had my credit cards and an ID on me, but my license was in the bag so I couldn’t get the rental car until I got it back. Wasn’t a big deal but it could have been.

  13. Even wood in a tropical climate can get hot enough to raise blisters on the bottoms of your feet. I went to Belize this past May and decided to walk barefoot out to the palapa. Although it was hot I didn’t realize the problems it would cause. I had to curtail my walking for the next several days and my feet have still not fully recovered from the blisters.

  14. Be sure to sync your watch with the official local time. I booked a first class train ticket from Florence to Pisa and waited on the platform for my train to arrive. I boarded the train that came, not realizing that I had boarded a train one minute earlier than my train and it was a local train that stopped at every little town along the way, seriously cutting into my visit to Pisa. (Had the best pizza at the Pisa train station. )

  15. I like to plan my trip as if it starts one day early, so I am all packed and ready to go a whole day ahead of time. Then I go out to eat and spend the day as a tourist in my home town. It makes for a relaxing start to my trips, and I’ve seen things in my hometown I would have overlooked.

  16. I always buy a local SIM card at any travel destination I hit. It’s the best insurance against a surprise phone bill bloated by roaming charges. And you text only the people you want to, never hear from those you don’t coz they don’t know your local SIM number!

  17. My wife and I have dueling cameras. We usually take pictures of the same things on our separate cameras and then discard whatever we don’t use when we get home. The cameras have storage for 2-3,000 photos so it’s just bytes we’re wasting. Once, I left my black camera in a cab in Paris at night. By the time we discovered it was missing, it would have been impossible to track it down. Fortunately, my wife had her camera and so our memories were safe.

  18. Take several extra zip lock bags in various sizes – XL, XXL, Gallon and small. And stuff in a couple wash cloths. Double bag anything in glass bottles or any liquids. I have been saved by aloe gel expanding and oozing into the ziploc. I try to avoid glass but sometimes acquire souvenirs in glass. I have had a perfume bottle and a bottle of vanilla from Mexico break in my checked bag. What a mess and every item in the suitcase was saturated in the strong scent so I had to make a laundry stop. A zip lock might have avoided the major mess. And the wash cloth not only comes in handy and can double as padding to wrap glass.

  19. In booking flight to and from London, my return flight went thru Amsterdam at 11:00. My follow found it to be 11:00pm not a.m. A quick booking change and I now had a night in Amsterdam. BTW, I got profiled in Amsterdam customs due to my age.

  20. Confirm everything before leaving home. Rental car company did not have reservation because it was a 3rd part thing. I could not access my email to get the confirmation number. Instead of going to car rental anyway we took a free shuttle from the port to another rental company. The cost was higher

    but we did get a larger car. check rental car when dropping off. I left my credit card behind that I used to fill up with gas before returning. Foutrnaely no unauthorized charges where made.
    another thing in in hindsight. I had also wanted to go to the Everglades and did not go when we arrived in port because it was raining. I had a few hours to fill after I dropped my friend off to travel to see her sister. I should have kept the rental car and gone.

  21. When taking a cruise, make sure you don’t put your passport in your luggage. When you get to the dock, they will take your luggage and put them with 1000 other black suitcases and they will be gone in no time! By the time you get to the check in and realize that you left you passport and other documents in your luggage you will be extremely lucky if you get on! We sat for HOURS as someone looked for my husband’s luggage. With us sat several other people. We were very lucky that someone found his luggage, but others weren’t and they didn’t get to get on the ship. I met one lonely woman who was spending her honeymoon alone on the ship. Note to self: get luggage that stands out from the crowd.

  22. I once “lost” my credit card after a flight. I had taken it out to purchase food on the plane and did not replace it in my wallet. After calling the airline and visiting my home airport’s lost and found, AND canceling the card, I found it tucked into the magazine I had been reading on the plane. Now I’m hyper aware of placing it back into my wallet no matter how inconvenient it is at the time.

  23. For a big family trip West for 4 adults and lots of luggage, I had reserved a large SUV taxi for 6:00 AM pickup (flight at 9:00 AM). 6 AM, no taxi! Called taxi, found the person had put the pickup time at 6:00 PM. Thankfully for my cerebral arteries, they were able to get a replacement within 15 minutes. Gave me an abiding love of the European and military time vs 12-hour usage (1800 vs 6:00 pm).

  24. Flying from Irleand to Scotland didn’t read fine print on. ticket for weight on Ryan air cost me 200 euro for my luggage. Only cost 49 euro for flight,
    Then got to airport in Scotland and I had booked my car at the wrong airport. So had to take cab to the other one,
    But that’s travel just a fun goof

  25. Not carrying some back up clothing with me when I flew to a conference in Palm Springs. I was a presenter. Our airline booking had to be changed at the airport for some reason, and of course, my luggage got lost between Denver and LAX. So I arrived in Palm Springs, in 106 degree weather, in my Wisconsin clothing. I did not have time to shop for new business clothing so I had to wear what I wore on the flight for the presentation. My suitcase showed up on the day we left for home. This same thing has happened to my daughter when we flew into Seattle for a cruise that was leaving the next day. From that time on, we always “cross pack” and carry enough versatile clothing and underwear to carry us through any trip in a pinch.

  26. Hi Samantha we met you at a travel show! You signed my first passport Because it was you who encourage me to travel. When in Paris this year three of our ATM cards were deactivated because they did not upgrade the machine our banks said. We were staying in the st. Germain. The bank said since the ATM machine was not upgraded it automatically deactivate your card. He said not all ATMs are the same. Any random street ATM we stay away from. This happened in London too. Even though we called them.

    1. Before leaving, call your bank to see if they have a correspondent bank in your destination country. It can save (some) ATM charges, and give you a safe place to withdraw currency.

  27. Long ago, on my first trip to Europe, when I was a college freshman, I took a ride on the back of a motor scooter to the beach in Corfu, Greece. The scooter slipped and twisted on the winding, sandy hill down towards the water resulting in me getting a very nasty burn on my ankle from the exhaust pipe. I did nothing about the burn (thinking it was just a scrape!) and, in a very short time, had a nasty infection that forced me to visit a doctor for debridement and wound repair. Since then I ALWAYS include first aid supplies in my packed items.

  28. In 2008,when I was going to Turkey,I thought I had covered every base. well,I forgot to change my ATM passwor to four numbers,as ATMS in Turkey do not have letters,only numbers. I was on a plane flying from California. Could not call the bank from the plane. Got to the hotel and tried to call the bank on two bars,got through and explained my dilemma. I told the agent to not disconnect me! I changed the password,and was able to access my money the next day!

  29. I did not realize there were two airports in Shanghai. Luckily I always leave SUPER early. We got on a bus that connects the airports and made it on time. I thought to ask if there was a connecting bus.

  30. Not realizing there were two airports in Shanghai. Luckily I always leave SUPER early. We got on a bus that connects the airports and made it on time. I thought to ask if there was a connecting bus.

  31. European dates are written day, month, year instead of the US order of month, day, year. For Europe, July 4th is “4/7/2021”. When booking a hotel, double check that you didn’t mix up the European order of day/month. For instance, booking a hotel for April 7, 2021 instead of July 4, 2021. I’ve almost made that mistake a few times,

  32. I was at the airport in Phoenix and accidentally left my GPS on a chair in the boarding lounge. Luckily someone gave it to the gate agent. After many phone calls to Delta airlines they located it and sent it back to me. I will never take it out of my back at the airport!

  33. I had been in Paris long enough to dump my luggage and go to the Postal Place to
    change money. An hour later, I discovered…where in $#@^ is my Passport.
    Senator Strom Thurmond was still alive then–probably only 110 yrs. old
    , but he was very good to his constituents in South Carolina. I called his office
    and within 45 minutes, it was located and delivered by Ambassador Miles Pendleton,
    it had been located where?? The darn Postal Service.
    Thank goodness for some Politicians. !!
    Samantha, I don’t believe I have missed but a miniscule amount of your programs..
    so entertaining..informative and you are so darn cute !!!
    My next stop was the front desk to put that passport in their “Safe-safe”. best, Henny

  34. We booked a river cruise and didn’t realize that the trip started in Madrid not Lisbon so we booked a flight to Lisbon. The cheapest way to deal was fly to Lisbon and then fly back to Madrid. It was a very long day, but it was less than rebooking our flight. Lesson learned…

  35. We recently traveled to Ireland, Scotland & England. Our phone service is T-Mobile 55+. Included in that service is unlimited data. Driving, we used WAZE in all three countries and incurred $0 in extra charges. I accepted a single call from home from a relative while in Birmingham at a very minimal charge. Earlier, in Budapest, we did take an extra old phone, bought an extra SIM card to use with their bus/tram service for tracking the progress of those transports. Worked great.

  36. Years ago, travelling with 2 young children to St Maarten, Our plane from NY was snowed in and our flight cancelled. The next available flight was 2 weeks out, and attempting to set things up through airport staff, My wife was left alone in the small airport with 2 kids for over 8 hours while I waited at another part of the airport “10 minutes” (as in the Airport person telling me “Stay hete, I’ll be back in ten minutes”). The solution to my trouble should have been to get a flight to ANYWHERE in the US and then rent a car to drive home. Would have been way more cheaper in the long run.
    This story is very long. I abbreviated. Your welcome.

  37. When in both Los Angeles and NYC I have asked a hotel and a car rental agency to call me a cab. In NYC I didn’t realize I was in a “gypsy” cab until I tried to pay at a long red light and he told me he didn’t take credit cards. I had been in such a hurry I didn’t notice the lack of medallion on the hood or a meter in the front.

    In Los Angeles we started to get into the filthiest vehicle I have ever seen when I suspected something was odd and looked in the front for a meter. None. I told him to leave and I took care of ordering a cab myself.

    I assume the hotel staff and car rental staff have “friends” who drive taxis and/or staff “alternate taxi” companies and give them a cut every time a naive traveler gets taken for a ride; pun intended.

    I take care of my own transportation needs now!

    p.s. In Tampa, FL I called the local taxi company and it was a dude who drives for Uber, Lyft and wherever he can get work. An official taxi didn’t come, some guy who may or may not have insurance coverage and drove a dirty, smelly car.

  38. I was reading through the comments wondering why so many people were talking about digital cameras, then realized most of the comments are from 2016. How far we’ve come! Here’s my contribution on travel mistakes: arriving at a rental house/lodging after dark. Sometimes it is difficult to see house numbers. We’ve had a few experiences trying to find a rental by pulling in the wrong driveway. Not the first impression you want to make in the neighborhood you’re staying in.

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Travel Channel's Samantha Brown explains the 8 biggest bonehead travel mistakes (& how to avoid them)
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