We have all made some errors, missteps, or even bad choices in our travels. To show you are not alone in your mishaps and maybe even help prevent some, we went to the experts. We asked some fellow travelers what their most regrettable travel mistake was, and what they learned from it. Now you have the opportunity to learn from us and make better choices.
Do What’s Good For You
Juliette | Snorkels to Snow
Have you ever started planning a trip, to find yourself suddenly surrounded by well-meaning people dishing out advice on how to travel? That was no different for me when I chose to embark on my first solo trip in Europe. Everyone told me how wonderful solo travel was and how life changing it was for them. So I gave up searching for group tours and decided to go solo.
Unfortunately, no one told me about the loneliness I would feel. I expected every minute would be filled with meeting like-minded travelers, swapping contact details and selfies and generally having a blast with new friends and oodles of youthful confidence. It wasn’t like that at all. I wondered, why am I having these amazing travel experiences when I won’t be able to share these memories with a loved one back home? For me, solo travel was lonely.
My one travel regret isn’t that I experienced solo travel. It’s that I went against what I thought was my natural travel style because other people told me how I should be traveling. If you want to travel in a particular way, then do it. Don’t let anyone else dictate how you should see the world.
Do Some Pre-Planning
Laura | The Culinary Travel Guide
I seriously regret not doing my research before going to Venice. I arrived there with no idea what to eat or where to find the good stuff. The Floating City is notorious for its tourist traps that sell nothing but soggy pizza, over-cooked pasta, and tasteless panini.
After three days of culinary misery, I decided to take a food tour. Best decision ever! I ate delicious fritti and cicchetti, learned all about traditional Venetian cuisine, and came away with an entire list of great places to eat during the rest of my stay. Now I always make sure I do my research ahead of time. I look for at least three must-try restaurants and add them to My Places in Google Maps so when I arrive at my destination, I know exactly where to eat. I also make a point of taking a food tour wherever I go!
Beware of Scammers
Claudia | My Adventures Across the World
I regret not paying more attention to scams during my time in Bangkok. Even as an experienced traveler, it is easy to fall for scams, including the ones we should all know about! My sister and I had arrived in Bangkok the night before and decided to go on the classic tour of the city, visiting the various temples and then heading to China Town for street food.
We were standing on a street corner pondering on how to get to the Royal Palace when a local pointed out it would be close. We quickly checked our guide, and he appeared to be right about that. He thus explained he was a school teacher and offered to accompany us to a tuk-tuk, which would then take us to the floating market. It was something we wanted to experience so we went. It would have been all ok, were it not for the fact that we ended up paying ten times as much as the tour would usually cost. We should have known better. I hope at least he made his kids happy with the money he literally stole from us!
A local doesn’t casually stand in front of a major tourist attraction waiting to help tourists. That’s the first clue. And secondly, always pay at the end. We could not even try to get our money back as the guy who took it from us had left already!
Have a Safety Plan
Ayngelina | Bacon is Magic
I regret walking on the beach at night in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. Everyone knows that it’s not safe to walk along the beach at night. What’s worse is that I was also intoxicated, perhaps that’s why I made such a bad decision. A friend and I were leaving the bar and decided to walk back to our hostel along the water. It was beautiful out, and I was distracted until three men came up to us with a knife and wanted everything from us! Yes, we were getting robbed.
Perhaps because I had a few too many Cuba Libres, I wasn’t afraid. They didn’t seem like they wanted to hurt us, so I gave them my change purse, but they also took one of my shoes – only one! Then they ran away. That night I heard a bunch of people had been robbed. I guess they just went up and down the beach looking for people coming from the bar. It was a tough lesson to learn, and I’m lucky we weren’t hurt. Now I always listen to practical advice and never walk on the beach at night.
Consider Acclimation Time
Maider | Pack and Click
I arrived in New Delhi, India, in the middle of the night and not knowing very well what to do to kill time; I decided to hire a driver to take me to the holy cities of Vrindavan and Mathura. Little did I know it was pilgrimage season and hardly any tourists visit these sites. I’d never seen such large crowds trying to get into tiny Hindu temples. It was really hot and humid due to monsoon season, and I’ve never felt that overwhelmed in my life.
I could barely walk inside the temples, and I felt uncomfortable more than once because I could feel the stares from locals. I was the only non-Indian in most temples. I should have known better and stayed in New Delhi for a couple of days first to adjust to the time change, humid climate and culture before venturing to visit smaller villages. India is a beautiful country, and people turned out to be very generous with me. My advice is to take some time to adjust to the initial cultural shock and to go with the flow. Life happens at a difference pace in India.
Have Back Up Choices
Sarah | Uneven Travel
On my first solo trip abroad I was pick-pocketed in Moshi, Tanzania. It was a group job at a bus station, complete with distractions and decoys. I caught on in time to save my backpack, but my debit card—my only source of money—was gone.
I was stuck in Moshi for five days, living off the kindness of locals until the banks opened and my family could wire me money. I can’t say I regret the experience because I gained so much from it. I learned to keep my wits about me in crowds, figured out how to bounce back after a scary experience, and made some unexpected friends. Above all, I learned how to manage my money while traveling.
Now I carry two debit cards: one for daily use and one hidden away for emergencies. The cards are linked to separate bank accounts. If one is stolen, I can cancel that card, transfer money to the other card, and continue traveling like normal. It was a lousy situation, but it had some silver linings, including an amazing view when, after five days in town, cloud-shrouded Kilimanjaro finally revealed herself.
Carry Protection for Your Equipment
Ruben and Rachel | Gamin Traveler
We usually plan everything in advance, but we had a huge mistake while traveling around Cebu. We headed to Aguinid Falls, a 7- Level waterfall, which required hiring a guide. The falls get so tough since you can only climb by passing directly thru the waterfalls without any ropes to hold on to. And that’s the day we forgot to bring any waterproof protection for our cameras (mobile phones and camera lenses. To cut it short, our amazing guide did everything he can to carry our stuff (small load, but not waterproof) and protect it with clothes. And with him carrying them carefully, while he physically had to help us climb the difficult levels of the waterfalls. We were so thankful all our stuff were okay, and that we successfully reached the highest level – but never making that mistake again. Always be ready to protect your things.
Know Your Limits
Melissa | Maps and Merlot
Before a 6 AM international flight, I decided to attend the all you can eat and drink party my hostel was throwing. It went into the wee hours, and needless to say, I was definitely not on my very early flight the next day. After freaking out about the missed flight (and missing work the next day), I realized I had a whole extra day to enjoy Prague! The experience taught me to calm down a little, always look on the bright side, and most importantly, I will never again book international flights before 8 AM. I have no idea what I was thinking!
Don’t Be Too Cautious
Laura | Wander with Laura
In the past, I was completely under-confident about my ability to organize things. I was convinced that, unless I booked everything in advance through a travel agent or tour, that I would end up stranded, lost or ripped off. In reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
As my experience and confidence grew with age, I realized that the best way to see things is to get out there. I’m traveling through Asia on public transport at the moment, and it’s super cheap, simple and enriches your experience tenfold. Plus, the amount of money I must have spent through sheer over caution when I was younger is mind boggling! Just a little research online will bring up thousands of results of how to get from A to B and travelers recommending the best ways to see and do everything, so there is always help on hand.
In short, I learned that being unafraid of a little chaos will lead to some of the best experiences of your life. There may be a few disasters along the way, sure, but don’t they make the best stories?
Listen to Others and Your Gut
Jasmine | Fijipaw
Thankfully, I haven’t any serious “mistakes” or “errors” during my travels. I took off on a bicycle to travel the world with no experience, so everything is new to me, and it’s probably all mistakes when compared to a seasoned traveler.
I will say what’s kept me safe thus far, and able to interact with so many strangers without incident is the ability to listen. I love people and listening to their stories; I get a lot of joy and encouragement from it. In addition, people, advertently and inadvertently, reveal their true intentions in their words and facial expressions. I think we all have this sense, but some of us choose to ignore that instinct. Never ignore it. Even if you are slightly uncomfortable, that’s your brain giving you a sign that maybe this is not the best situation.
Check Your Linens
Catalina | Miss Adventures Abroad
I have always been told to check for bed bugs whenever I check into a new hotel or hostel. However, after traveling for months without a bed bug in sight, bed bugs became the least of my concern, and I stopped checking for them! After all, I hadn’t seen any yet. Well, my bed-bug free streak ended on a three-day trip to Lisbon. I was sitting on the bed, and all of the sudden a bug popped out! Unfortunately, I had already spent one night in the bed and discovered that I had several bites.
At 1 AM I had to call the owner of our Airbnb, relocate for the night, and cancel my day trip the next day so I could heat treat all of my clothes. I even had to throw out my suitcase because I discovered quite a few bugs. I learned my lesson the hard way. Always, I repeat ALWAYS check for bed bugs. They could be anywhere, and can seriously put a damper on your trip. I was so bummed when I had to spend my last day in Lisbon doing laundry and replacing suitcases.
Choose the Right Equipment for the Job
Jennifer | Just Chasing Rabbits
I regret getting near water with non-waterproof equipment. Okay, full honesty…I was literally standing in the ocean in beautiful Tulum, Mexico holding two digital cameras. A huge wave comes along, hitting me and knocking one of the cameras into the ocean, which I attempted to grab super quickly using the hand that the OTHER camera was strapped to. Boom. Two cameras ruined in about two seconds flat! Lesson learned, we now always carry a waterproof camera and leave the rest well out of harm’s way!
Don’t Support Cruel Animal Tourism
Taiss | Together in Thailand
In my younger days, when I was not as travel savvy, I had an experience in Mexico that I regret to this day. I paid to play with a lion cub on the pier in Cabo. The pier was, obviously, a crowded, extremely loud, environment, which in itself is not a suitable place for a baby lion (or any baby for that matter). Not only was I oblivious to this fact but the thought of the cub being away from its mother on a daily basis, still makes me sick to my stomach.
To this day, I think about the effect my participation had on this creature’s life. To have participated and encouraged this type of “attraction” by paying for it is a huge regret for me. In a way, this is encouraging animal abuse. I should have known better that to treat a live animal like a toy that is there for my amusement. Since that experience, I have learned to think about my actions and their impact on the world around me when I travel. I make better decisions in what attractions I visit as well as the activities I participate in, especially when animals are involved.
Ask Several People if Needed
Sandy | Voyager
We had arrived at the Rome Termini station a bit early to catch our train to Florence, and the visual displays were not activated yet. We asked someone about the platform on which our train to Florence would depart from, and he sent us off to a remote platform. We waited on the desolate and deserted platform for some time until we felt that something was wrong, we were in the wrong place as there was hardly any activity.
We decided to head back to the main concourse. A burly man who had been sleeping unobtrusively on one of the platform benches got up and scowled at us. He snatched our ticket and with a glance ordered us to stay put where we were as the train would be arriving on the same platform. We again settled down to wait, but as the clock ticked and the time for our train to depart drew closer, we again became concerned. The man was not allowing us to move, but somehow we gave him the slip and ran for dear life, only to miss our train by a whisker. We learned to listen to strangers with a pinch of salt!
Take Your Time
Jacob | Local Adventurer
For any of you photographers out there, this one will hit home. We were in NYC running around town and during an afternoon where we were in a hurry to get from one place to the next, we left our DSLR in a Lyft (read the details here). It completely ruined our trip! We lost all the photos that we had taken up to this point, and it felt like we lost a travel companion. Since then, we’ve learned that you don’t always have to rush to each spot. Also, always back up your files every night, and bring back cameras if possible.
Don’t Believe the Hype
Matt | Travelationship
I was into my 30’s and a decent traveler. I had been to Europe a few times and South America when it was purposed that I go to Africa. I hadn’t realized how much all the negative news stories you have ever read or seen, and even TV you have watched, start to impact your sub-conscious. Immediately I was apprehensive to the thought, particularly to the idea that I wouldn’t be traveling alone and feeling responsible for the safety of my new travel companion.
Oddly enough, in my circle, I was the yes man. Whenever a trip or adventure was purposed I was always counted on to be in. Compounding this quandary, my new travel buddy had already been and had no concerns at all, in fact quite the opposite. Was there a threshold to my adventures, or had Africa’s perceived reputation for being unsafe permeated into my mind. A couple more conversations and a few weeks later, tickets purchased and plans made, we were on our way. While I had a lot to learn about travel in Africa itself, I loved my time there.
In fact, I had such an incredible time; I had to question what I been so opposed to. This is one of the reasons why I think travel blogs are so important. Reading accounts from people on the ground, getting a glimpse of actual experiences is so much more valuable than the nightly news. I have since been back twice and have even more love for the place. The lesson being, don’t close the door on something before you have given it a chance.