It happened to me. What was your worst travel mistake?

October 20th, 2009 in Travel

I'm sure you have heard those travel stories … Like the executive who missed an important client meeting in Japan because he didn't realize his passport had to be good for six months after his trip. Or the sales person who booked tickets to the wrong city and had to rent a car and drive all night. Or the guy that forgot to book a hotel and the only free room for miles around was the $600 penthouse suite. (These are all true stories. I know the people they happened to.) Depending on your personality either you think "I'd never do that!" or "I hope that never happens to me!"

Well, it happened to me. I always figured if I was going to goof on my travel plans, I'd book a ticket for the wrong city. But no. I just booked a ticket to Brazil and didn't apply for a visa. The airline kindly informed me of my mistake the day of the flight.

What was your worst travel mistake?

23 Responses to “It happened to me. What was your worst travel mistake?”

  1. Marina says:

    Oh :(. That’s not too good…
    My story was that I got a transit visa to Czech Republic that allowed staying in the country for up to 5 days multiple times and tickets to Prague for about a 10 day trip. This was back when I had a green card and something called a travel document for which it turned out some countries did not have a way of providing a visa.
    Getting a transit visa was part of the plan to visit both Prague and Budapest on the same trip. Turned out that to travel do Budapest by train I also needed to be able to enter Slovakia and they did not provide a visa for the travel document. Not sure why we didn’t consider air travel. Perhaps it was too pricey or maybe there was a problem with getting a Hungarian visa too. Well, we thought Vienna might be a good city to visit. However, Schengen countries like Austria and Germany could not provide the visa for the travel document either, at least not in a short amount of time. My last attempt was getting a Polish visa, which worked out and we ended up going to Krakow by train for two days.
    Good thing I lived in DC that summer and could visit the four embassies I had to visit to make this trip happen (Czech, Slovakian or Hungarian, Austrian, and Polish).

  2. nothing too exciting – I had to switch to a different flight out of Portland (Oregon) back to the UK (where I lived at the time), had run out of cash, and didn’t know there was a change fee on my ticket. Had to get my parents to arrange to deal with the change fee until I could get back and sort it out, and spend 24 hours in Portland airport with no money. Not the most fun time ever. I wrote some fairly bad poetry on gum wrappers, and ate the third worst slice of pizza I’ve ever tasted. The hours just flew by.

  3. James Henstridge says:

    Probably the most embarrassing thing that happened to me while travelling that was my fault was on one of my journeys to the US.
    I was in San Francisco after flying from Perth via Sydney. I’d gone through customs, changed terminals, got my onward boarding pass, rechecked my luggage, gone through SSSS security screening and then fell asleep in the gate lounge from jet lag. I woke up about 15 minutes after the plane had left.
    The flight was going to Orlando, and the best the airline could give me was the same flight 24 hours later so I missed out on one day of the meeting. When I finally arrived in Orlando, it turned out that they hadn’t bothered unloading my bag from the flight I missed so it was waiting for me at baggage services.

  4. Jeff Walden says:

    I haven’t traveled that much, so mine’s nothing more than missing a cross-country flight and having to get one one a few hours later.
    On the other hand, I do know someone who booked a flight to Los Angeles when he was supposed to fly to San Francisco — and neither he nor the travel-plans-approver in his company (who approved the flight before it was fully booked) noticed the flub until something like two days or so before the fact. Roughly as minor, to be sure, although a bit weirder in that multiple people made the same mistake…

  5. Claudio says:

    So, no Latinoware and no Día GNOME in Chile either? That’s really bummer..

  6. Claudio says:

    I think you don’t need a visa to visit Chile, by the way :)

  7. stormy says:

    I wasnt going to Dia GNOME in Chile, just Latinoware. (Unfortunately they are at the same time.)Lots of awesome people are trying to help today and Im heading back to the airport this morning. Well see …

  8. I once fell asleep at the terminal in San Paulo and didn’t realize they switched terminals for my flight. Being confused and not understanding Portuguese I got on the wrong flight and went as far as stowing my luggage and sitting down before a second check of the tickets had them pulling me off the plane. The good news is I didn’t end up in Chile, the bad is I had to go out of security and re-book for a later flight.
    The issue between Brazil and the US is they have a tit for tat diplomatic policy. Once the US imposed visa requirements on Brazilian citizens, Brazil imposed their own requirements. If you get one though it should be valid for 3 years. I had a 3 month and then a 3 year visa but since I lost my last passport I think I have to apply again even if I find my old passport.

  9. Chani says:

    for tokamak 2 I managed to book a return flight for the wrong month. didn’t find out until I showed up at porto airport at 5am. spent a day waiting for them to talk to their people in vancouver, which thanks to timezones didn’t relly work… then spent the entire next day in the airport talking to people there and on long-distance calls persuading them to rebook my flight… in the end it probably wouldn’t have cost much more to just buy a new ticket and spend that day seeing the city :/ but I was so stressed out by it that I couldn’t even eat.

  10. stormy says:

    I wasn’t going to Dia GNOME in Chile, just Latinoware. (Unfortunately they are at the same time.)
    Lots of awesome people are trying to help today and I’m heading back to the airport this morning. We’ll see .

  11. stormy says:

    I know and my bag is packed …

  12. stormy says:

    It’s my biggest fear. I always double check on the map where I’m going and where the airport I picked is …

  13. stormy says:

    Ouch! But I think after flying from Perth to San Francisco, you have every right to be tired!

  14. stormy says:

    Ouch! It’s very stressful to have travel problems. I think because there’s not really anything you can do but try to convince somebody else to help …

  15. stormy says:

    Yikes! Why did you have to go back through security.
    I bet you have to get a new visa too. I did with India. I got a new passport and had to get a new visa …

  16. stormy says:

    Living in a major city like that can be an advantage some times … Denver doesn’t have (m)any embassies. We have to go to Houston, Chicago or San Francisco. Or mail our passports there …

  17. stormy says:

    Nights in airports are never fun. I spent the night in the LA airport once (was supposed to spend the night at a friend’s house but that fell through) – I woke up to the cleaning woman standing over me going “God bless you! God bless you!”

  18. James Henstridge says:

    I guess one of the things about that experience that surprised me most was that the plane left with my checked luggage on board.
    In most parts of the world I’ve travelled to, it is standard practice to unload the checked luggage of a passenger who fails to board. After all, if you had a bomb in your luggage you might be less inclined to fly on the plane.
    Yet in the US — a country that appears to have more stringent airport security — they didn’t seem to have any problem leaving with my luggage.

  19. Nick HS says:

    Eeek all the stories bring back bad memories but my worst experience by far was flying from Singapore to Indonesia and nobody telling me I needed six months on my passport. Of course Indonesian passport control noticed and ensued a five hour drama involving me paying a very large *cough* fine to avoid staying overnight in one of their “hospitality suites” (which would involve a whole new range of *cough* fines).

  20. CS says:

    Napping in airport is certainly a mistake. I was to fly from Bremen to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Montreal, and Montreal to Toronto. For some odd reason, Bremen airport could issue only the boarding pass for the first flight. The attendant at the counter told me to get the boarding passes for the remaining trip in Frankfurt. The airline’s counter in Frankfurt was super busy so I thought I would come back in an hour. (There was a 3-hour wait between the flights.) Instead, I fell asleep near the gate.
    I woke up about 30 minutes before the flight was to depart. The passengers were already lined up in front of the gate. I tried to get a boarding pass from the counter, but my seat has been already taken. In other words, the airline thought that I did not make it to the airport. Worse still, the flight was completely full! I explain to the attendant at the counter that Bremen could not issue the boarding passes for my second and third flight. The attendant realized that there was an empty spot in first class and put me there. So my mistake turned out to be good: I got leg room, service, food and wine from first class!
    (Disclaimer: Do not attempt. You may end up stuck in the airport instead of flying in first class.)

  21. Phil says:

    My wife and I had booked airline tickets for our honeymoon in France and since this was almost 30 years ago we’d booked them under her “married” name. We got to the airport and since all she had was ID showing her “unmarried” name they were not going to let her on the flight unless we could show them a marriage certificate, proving she was the person who was named on the ticket. Lots of tears and hard words didn’t move them. Long story short, our best man made a frantic high speed drive to find the priest who’d married us, got a copy of the form, and made it back to the airport just in time to get us on the plane.

  22. Cheryl says:

    My niece flew back to Jhb on 8 December 2009 via British Airways. After boarding she put her cell phone in the basket and her handbag went through the conveyor security machine. She lifted her handbag on the other side of the conveyor security machine and waited for her cell phone. The cell phone did not surface. She asked where her cellphone was. Security insisted that someone ahead of her had stolen her cellphone. She said “but surely 5 security people should spot someone stealing my cellphone”. She is convinced that one of the security ladies stole her cellphone. The airport announced her name to board during the commotion and she had to rush to catch her flight. The cellphone has never been found. Who would be responsible for this??

  23. We tried to check in at the wrong hotel in London. They had two Holiday Inn hotels on the same street within 100 yards of each other in Kensington (don’t know why, but I’m guessing two competing franchises). We had a receptionist who didn’t bother to tell us about the other one and wanted to sell us a room. It was only when we left in a huff in search of a new hotel that wouldn’t charge us the rack rate that we found our intended hotel.