Have you ever gone on a trip and things did not go as planned? Maybe it was bad luck, or maybe it was your own naivety or ignorance. After years of experience, I still find myself in a mess every once in a while. Here’s some of the travel mistakes that I have made throughout the years.
I Didn’t Book a Hotel in Hong Kong in Advance
When I went to Hong Kong, I was teaching in South Korea and it was my first time going to a country by myself. I was feeling pretty cocky, so I went with no plans and assumed it would be easy to figure things out once I got there.
I’ve written about this before, but basically I went to Hong Kong without researching hotels or hostels. What I didn’t know is that Hong Kong is made up of several different islands and while it’s very easy to island hop, I had no knowledge about which islands would be best for tourists.
I almost had to sleep on the streets on my second night in Hong Kong. The first day was unorganized, but with the help of a local I was able to find a hotel early on in the day and check in early.
The second day was just a disaster. Part of the problem was that before my trip, I didn’t check what kind of adapters are used for electronics in Hong Kong. I just assumed it would be the same as it was in South Korea (yet another really dumb thing I did on this trip). I couldn’t charge my phone, so it died and I had no way of looking for a hotel or hostel online. After a lot of asking around, I was given directions on how to find a hotel, but of course had problems finding it, and after several locals helped me, I finally found it. I was then able to find a store with an adapter, charge my phone, and book a hostel for the rest of my time in Hong Kong.
It was smooth sailing from that point forward, but I would have saved myself a major headache if I had just done some basic research before my trip.
I Slept at the Airport in Hong Kong
This trip was such a disaster. My flight landed around midnight, so instead of getting a hotel I stayed at the airport since it would be free. Airports like to do construction in the middle of the night, so I got no sleep.
This was also a bad idea because when morning came, I couldn’t stand being in the airport anymore and decided to leave around 6 AM. I had a taxi take me to the big Buddha statue and there was no one around that early in the morning, which made it super creepy. I was also so exhausted from not being to sleep the night before that I ended up finding a hotel and sleeping all day.
If you can sleep through anything, sleeping at the airport can save you a lot of money. It would have been worth it to stay in a hotel for some decent sleep.
I Took the Train to Chicago, Then Took a Taxi to My Hotel Near the Airport
I had an early flight out of Chicago, so I decided to take the train to Chicago the night before, stay in a hotel, then go to the airport in the morning. Since my train would be getting in late, I thought it would be best to take a taxi to the hotel instead of figuring out public transportation. Not a bad idea, but I really underestimated how much a taxi would cost. Let’s just say the train ticket to Chicago and the hotel together were cheaper than the taxi ride.
I should have planned better and researched the price of a taxi before I went. I’m from a small town, so taking a taxi is not something that I ever do.
I Took a Guided Tour of the Vatican City
I got up early in hopes of finding a short line to get into the Vatican City in Rome. When I got there, the line was already massively long. Someone approached me and said they were selling tours and that I would be able to skip the long line if I went on the tour. By the time I walked to the tour company’s office, registered, and got on our way, the line at the entrance was nonexistent. The line probably went quickly once they opened and were able to let people through.
Another reason that this was a bad idea is because I didn’t have the freedom to look at things for as long (or as little) as I would have liked. The tour guide spent ten minutes talking about something I would have looked at for ten seconds, said “cool”, then moved on. It felt very restrictive and I felt like I couldn’t enjoy it to the fullest extent.
I Didn’t Take As Many Photos As I Should Have
This is by far one of my biggest regrets when traveling. I’m always worried that someone will steal my camera or phone, so I hesitate to take photos. For most places I’ve traveled to, I can always go back and everything will still mostly look the same.
There is now one exception: Yemen. Even if I ever got the chance to go back to Taiz, it would look completely different. Parts of the school that I worked at (and probably other places I frequented) are now a pile of rubble. I was afraid to take photos in Yemen because I didn’t want to accidentally take a photo of a woman and get yelled at. So instead I just kept telling myself I’d take photos another time. Another time never came.
I also need to start taking more photos of myself. I’m really bad about doing that and I know someday I’ll really appreciate it.
What travel mistakes have you made?