Our Top Ten Travel Mistakes and How We Survived


Let’s be honest, everyone makes mistakes, every single day. Some mistakes are small and relatively insignificant, such as writing the date wrong or buying sparkling water when you meant to buy still water. Other mistakes may cause a lot of headaches and/or cost a reasonable amount of money to correct, such as booking a hotel for the wrong day or location.

Mistakes are frustrating, but we survive even if we do have some temporary embarrassment. Mistakes when traveling can be especially frustrating, regardless of how small or big the situation is. Getting on the wrong train can add travel time that you don’t have or money that you didn’t budget.

Even as seasoned travelers we have made our share of mistakes while traveling. Some are small and not that significant; others have been very frustrating to have to overcome. Here, we share ten of our most notable travel mistakes. Hopefully, you can learn from them!

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Not having SiriusXM in Kansas

If it wasn’t for the SiriusXM free trial with our new (to us) vehicle many years ago, we might have never known what we were missing. After the free trial ended, we tried to live without SiriusXM. We turned it on a couple of times when they offered us a good deal. But we kept convincing ourselves other items were a higher priority in the budget.

The "home screen" of the Ford F-150 SYNC 3 system.
We will never be without Radio Margaritaville again!

We took a somewhat spontaneous Christmas road trip in 2013. This trip sealed the deal for us to add SiriusXM to the long term budget!  We had a tentative plan to travel but didn’t really know where we would go or how long we would be there. Our travels took us across Kansas on Christmas Day. Having to look for a new radio station every 30 minutes or so (sometimes even more often that that) got real old, real quick!

Yes, we had our phones and even a USB drive with music, but even those got old after a while. We finally decided that we were doing enough spontaneous travel to remote parts of the country that we needed to make the radio a budgetary priority. We have had SiriusXM ever since. Yes, it often seems like a frivolous expense, but we enjoy it.

Read more about some of our travels through Kansas.

Not Eating Regularly (and Getting Hangry)

Our first big road trip together was a two-week vacation to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. One day we got sidetracked by amazing sights and adventures and just never found a time or place to stop and eat. We ended up getting into a huge argument over where we should eat, of all things!

Bonnie enjoying a well-deserved snack after a tough hike.
A well-deserved meal after a frustrating hike! We knew we had to get some food so that we would not get upset with each other during the drive back to the campground.

Grant and I had been looking for that “just right” location when it devolved into a disagreement that it is a wonder we survived. We both realized that day if we don’t eat somewhat regularly, we will get hangry (angry because we’re hungry)… And that’s not fun!

We now know to keep snacks in the car (or somewhere handy) and not let it get too late before we eat lunch. It is sometimes mildly offensive to be told “you need to eat,” but we generally know that it will likely help. And since we are both susceptible to the “hangry” condition, we know how to identify and overcome it!

Read more about some of our adventures in Grand Teton National Park.

Leaving Water Bottles out in the Smokey Mountains

Anyone who has camped anywhere that is considered “bear country” should know that leaving ANYTHING even remotely related to food out in the open is a major violation of bear safety rules. While we both were fairly familiar with bear country “etiquette” we thought that empty water bottles sitting on the picnic tables would be ok. We were wrong.

Sunset overlooking Wears Valley from a newly-opened section of the Foothills Parkway, part of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to some amazing views and plenty of bears.

We left both of our CamelBak bottles sitting out on the picnic table, with a few other camping supplies while we took a drive. When we came back we found a “lovely” note about our violation… and no more water bottles.

Yep, the rangers took our bottles and threw them away. We were upset, of course, but mostly with ourselves, since we should have known better. Now we are very careful to put everything away in the truck. Having a camper now makes it easier to keep our food items safely away from bears!

Read about our latest trip to Great Smokey Mountains National Park.

Forgetting a Cell Phone

Now, we start getting into bigger mistakes. This one actually came on the second day of our very first trip together. We had gone to Savannah to visit some of my friends, before heading up to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for Spring Break. For some reason, I had placed my phone under my pillow that night/early morning.

Yep…out of sight, out of mind. Since this was still relatively early in the smartphone era, I wasn’t quite as attached to my phone as I am now. We were at least an hour or two into our drive from Savannah to the Outer Banks when I realized that I didn’t have my phone.

The Outer Banks were still a great vacation despite Bonnie not having a phone.
We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to the Outer Banks, despite Bonnie not having a cell phone for the week! Good thing Grant is generally the primary photographer.

We were definitely too far away to turn around. My friend mailed my phone to my house and I spent the week without it. Funny thing is…I don’t remember it being too traumatic! Now, I can barely handle one day without my phone. I really have no idea how I survived nearly a full week without it!

Not Carrying our Passports with Us on a Day Trip in the Czech Republic

In 2015, we spent about a month in Eastern Europe. We thought we were being smart by leaving our passports locked in the hotel safe. Unfortunately, that almost backfired on us! We took a day trip to Kutna Hora (to visit a bone church and a salt mine) for the day. Buying train tickets back to Prague, we had problems. The attendant apparently wanted to see an ID before returning our credit card and a train ticket to us.

Bones in the Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora
This chandelier at the Sedlac Ossuary in Kutna Hora is made from at least one of every bone in the human body.

She didn’t speak English. We didn’t speak Czech. It took a while for us to even figure out what the problem was (or what we thought the problem was). Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only 10-15 minutes, Grant showed his US Driver’s License. That seemed to make her happy enough and we got the credit card and the tickets and were able to go on our way.

This was the only time we’ve ever had to show an ID when traveling abroad, other than at a border crossing. We definitely learned our lesson, though, and kept our passport on us at all times during the remainder of that trip. In the future, we will always have either a passport or a passport card on us each day when traveling abroad.

Read more about our trip to Kutna Hora and the “bone church.”

Forgetting Medication

This one would have been a much bigger problem had we not been only about an hour from home! A weekend getaway with friends was one of our first trips after Grant had a heart attack, thus having medication packed was not on our “checklist.” Grant realized late the first evening that he had forgotten his medicine. Thankfully, we had one “emergency” set of pills stashed in my purse.

We really enjoyed a weekend with friends at a cabin in Jasper, GA but Grant did have to make a trip back to the house to get his pills.
We really enjoyed a weekend with friends at a cabin in Jasper, GA but Grant did have to make a trip back to the house to get his pills.

But, he knew it wouldn’t be wise to go the entire weekend without the medication his life depended on! We thought, briefly, about going to the local CVS to get a couple of extra pills, but since we were only about an hour away from home, he figured it was easier to just drive back to the house.

While it may have been inconvenient, it really was the best time to learn a very valuable lesson!

Read about Grant walking off a heart attack in Croatia.

Flying to the “Wrong” Airport

I suppose a slightly more accurate statement would be “not realizing that there are two airports,” but the outcome is still the same. In Italy, we flew from Sicily to Venice. We both “knew” there were two airports in Venice but didn’t think about it when making our travel arrangements.

We chose to stay at the Hilton Garden Inn in Mestre so that we could save money by redeeming points for the stay and having the hotel shuttle from the airport. Our flight arrived in Venice fairly late, so we had already confirmed with the hotel we could get a shuttle. We called the hotel when we arrived and they said someone would be there within 10-15 minutes.

Seeing the Grand Canal in Venice by gondola is an experience not to be missed.
One of our biggest travel mistakes was flying to the wrong airport in Venice, Italy. I think we were both responsible for that one.

After about 30 minutes of no shuttle, we called the hotel and they assured us the shuttle should be there. We searched everywhere. We walked everywhere that seemed logical and many places that didn’t seem logical looking for this shuttle.

Finally, we figured out that we were at the “wrong” airport. We were not at the main airport closest to Venice but at a secondary airport about 20 miles outside of town in Treviso! To get to the shuttle, we had to take a cab to the train station and then a train into town. We finally were able to meet up with the shuttle and get to the hotel, probably almost two hours later than it should have been!

Thankfully, all we lost out on was some rest and relaxation time, as it was well after dark by the time our flight landed. We could have missed out on a lot more had the timing been a little different!

Read more about our time in Venice.

Being Too Spontaneous in Sicily

When on extended trips, we rarely plan all the details for every single day in advance. For Italy, we had a loose itinerary but did not plan details until one or two days before. We had planned all along to take an overnight ferry from Naples to Sicily. However, we didn’t know what we were going to do in Sicily until the day before.

A house buried in a lava flow.
A house buried in a lava flow.

Thus, we had booked a ferry arriving in Palermo, on the northwest part of the island. But then we decided to stay in Catania, on the southeast side of the island, and spend our time visiting Mount Etna.

The good part was that we got about a three-hour “tour” of the interior of the island during our bus ride across Sicily. The downside was that we lost well over six hours of sight-seeing in the cities by sitting on a bus. We could have taken a ferry to Catania and saved ourselves a lot of travel time and headache. We did get to see a lot of the remote countryside, which was very pretty, so it wasn’t a total loss!

Read more about our excursion across Sicily.

Forgetting to Turn on the AC for the Cat

The summer of 2016 was our first long trip in the camper with the cat. Learning how to travel with the camper was a big adjustment. Learning how to travel with a cat was another challenge. Just stopping to use a bathroom at a rest area is a big deal when it is 90 degrees outside and you are traveling with a pet!

On July 4, we made our biggest mistake yet when traveling with the cat. Our campsite was near Plymouth, MA and we were spending the day on Cape Cod celebrating the Fourth of July. We left fairly early in the morning, trying to beat the heat and the crowds. After driving for about 45 minutes we realized that we didn’t turn on the air conditioner before leaving the campsite.

Alee in the camper
Alee in the camper

At that point, we were probably about 20-30 minutes from our first stop. However, we just could not risk leaving the cat locked in the camper, knowing the temperature was expected to hit the mid to upper 80s.

We had to turn around and go back. So, 45 minutes back to the camper, 30 seconds to turn on the AC, and 45 minutes back to Cape Cod and we were ready to start the day! It was frustrating to have “lost” that much time, especially since we started out early to beat the crowds. But, we had to “save the kitty!” We are just thankful that we realized our mistake early in the day and didn’t put our cat in too much distress.

Read more about our day on Cape Cod.

Booking a Flight for the Wrong Date

This was definitely our worst mistake to date but thankfully ended up being not a huge problem. We definitely had some travel luck on our side with this one!

Our 2015 trip to Eastern Europe basically started in Prague, Czech Republic and ended in Dubrovnik, Croatia. However, we could not get an open-jaw flight on Delta (at least not on good dates at a reasonable price). So, we did a round-trip flight to/from Prague and booked a one-way flight from Dubrovnik to Prague for the day before our flight home. Or we thought we did.

Dubrovnik in the morning
Dubrovnik in the morning

We discovered our mistake when our Dubrovnik-Prague flight was canceled! A few weeks before leaving the US, we received a message about this flight cancellation. While reviewing the cancellation, we realized that we had booked the Dubrovnik-Prague flight for the same day was the Prague to Atlanta flight!

I suppose another mistake was booking a flight through Expedia, which is something that we NEVER do. However, that was the best way to book a flight on Smart Wings, so we did it. Dealing with Expedia to fix this was a nightmare, but that’s not the point here!

Ultimately, we figured out that Smart Wings canceled this entire flight route, so we had to take a more expensive flight on a different airline with a layover in Rome. Everything worked out well, other than a less-than-pleasant layover during construction at the Rome airport.

We did make it back to Prague in time for our flight home. We got to correct our mistake without losing any money. All in all, this worked out as best as it could, despite being a HUGE mistake!

Read more about our time in Dubrovnik.

How to Avoid Travel Mistakes

So, how do you avoid these mistakes? Planning ahead and paying attention to details is the best advice. Keeping good notes and reminders helps as well. The big thing to remember is that mistakes are going to happen. Hopefully, they won’t cost too much in terms of time or money to correct. And if nothing else, hopefully, you will learn from the experience.

When something goes wrong, deal with it and move on. It doesn’t matter whose fault is it. Fix the problem and don’t let it ruin the rest of your vacation!

While all of these were frustrating at the time, we can look back on them now and laugh and use it as a learning experience not only for ourselves, but our friends, family, and readers as well!

Have any big travel mistakes you’re willing to share? Or advice on how to avoid or overcome travel mistakes? Leave a comment below!

Travel Resources
What do you use to find a flight?

We use Skyscanner to find deals on flights. Skyscanner has a great interface and compares tons of airlines for the best pricing and routing. That said, it does not always have every airline and some airlines will have better deals on their website. Still, Skyscanner is a great place to start.
Click here to search for a flight.

What do you use to find a hotel?

We typically stay at Hilton properties, so we use the Hilton website. You can find good Hilton Honors discounts or AAA discounts for a hotel there. We make great use of our free night certificates from our Hilton Honors American Express.
Click here to book a Hilton property.

If there are no Hilton properties available, we use TripAdvisor to read reviews and book the hotel. We find we can get the best price that way.
Click here to search for a hotel.

What if I need more space than I can get at a hotel?

We use Vrbo for the times when we have rented a cabin for a weekend getaway, like this cabin in Townsend, TN, or needed to rent a house for a large family vacation. We had a great experience with them in terms of refunding deposits when COVID hit and will continue to use them.
Click here to search for a vacation rental.

Who do you use for rental cars?

As a general rule, we book with Hertz for rental cars. We have had nothing but good experiences with them. Plus, we really like unlimited mileage and not worrying about crossing state lines. We have even rented from Hertz overseas in both Slovenia and Croatia.
Click here to book a rental car.

How about booking a cruise?

We have found some amazing prices booking a cruise through Cruise Direct. We have saved a lot of money on our cruises compared to what we found elsewhere, making a last-minute Bahamas cruise even cheaper.
Click here to book a cruise.

What if I want to rent an RV?

We highly recommend Outdoorsy for RV rentals. We rented a camper van for a week to visit Rocky Mountain National Park for the elk rut and Custer State Park for the Buffalo Round-Up and had a blast. The program was easy to use and we really enjoyed the freedom of having a camper van for that trip.
Click here to rent an RV.

What do you use for booking tours?

We don’t often book tours. Typically, we like to do stuff on our own. That said, there are some experiences you just can’t have any other way. So, when we do want to book a tour, we always check Viatour first.
Click here to book a tour.

Do you use anything to get discounts on the road?

We make extensive use of both Good Sam and AAA on the road. Good Sam is normally regarded as a discount card for RVers at campgrounds and Camping World but anyone can use the 5 cents off a gallon at the pump at both Pilot and Flying J.
Click here to get a Good Sam membership.

We have had AAA as long as we have been married and it has more than paid for itself in discounts at hotels, aside from the peace of mind of having roadside assistance. Add in paper maps and the ability to get an international driver’s license and it is more than worth it for any traveler out there.
Click here to get a AAA membership.

From painful radio to wrong flight dates, we share ten of our most notable travel mistakes, how we overcame them and advice for avoiding the same mistakes.
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2 thoughts on “Our Top Ten Travel Mistakes and How We Survived”

  1. My husband and I recently traveled to Rome and Naples. Being the ever-organized, pre-planning traveler that I am, I had created a Vacation folder in Google Email and was tossing all traveling confirmations into that folder for easy reference. Well, it turns out that just because a booking firm confirms your reservation that does not necessarily relate to the actual hotel confirming your reservation. Our room in Naples was a far cry from what I had reserved, the stay was miserable, and it was all my fault for not opening the email from the hotel. After we returned to California I went back into the Vacation folder and opened the email from them. Yep! They had asked me to please confirm 48 hours in advance that we were still interested in the room, something I had not done. So when we did show up it was a surprise to them and we got the worst room I have ever had. That is one mistake I will not be making again! Lesson: confirm your reservation both with the booking company AND the hotel!

    • Thanks for the great advice! I can totally see us not paying attention to a detail like that! Thankfully, we have never had a problem with Booking.com but I can totally see that happening. Ugh. At least you were able to get a room!


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