My Biggest Travel Mistakes

Saturday, November 10, 2018

travel mistakes

This post is going to be mildly humiliating, but I know it's necessary for me to also share what NOT to do when traveling or planning your travels.

As much as I'd love to believe (and for you all to believe) I'm perfect and don't make any mistakes, I make A LOT. Even though I've been traveling on and off for the past twelve years or so, I'm only human. I'd love to be able to say that these mistakes I'm about to write about happened years ago when I was a traveling newbie, but nope... Some of these happened as recently as a few weeks ago. Grab a drink and a snack and prepare to laugh at my (occasional) stupidity.

Booking a flight at two different airports in London...
 Back when I was teaching English in Spain as a Language and Culture Assistant (post coming soon on that!),  I definitely didn't make a lot. Though the experience was incredibly rewarding in other ways, ya girl had to look for good flight deals. Sometimes this backfired. I searched all the various flight comparison sites I could and landed on a flight through Student Universe. Ended up booking a flight from Malaga back to the states with a layover in London. Great, no problem, I love London and am always happy to be back, if only for a short time. 

What I failed to notice was that my first flight landed in Heathrow and my second flight was out of Stansted, a mere two hours later...  A quick google search on how to get there ensued pure panic in me. This journey was estimated to take at least 1.5 hours. That's without factoring in check-in, baggage drop and security for an international flight. I knew this wasn't gonna fly (corny pun intended haha...) After working myself up to a frenzy, I called my dad to get his advice. He told me to calm down and try to call the booking agency to see if they could do anything. 

My 'home' tube station

I took a deep breath and called, not expecting much to come of the call. After all, I knew it was my fault for not reading the details closely enough. To my surprise, the agent was super friendly and she informed me that as it had been less than 24 hours since booking, we could fix it without a charge.  

She was able to get me on a flight both landing and departing from Heathrow quickly and painlessly! I've probably never thanked a customer service rep so profusely. 

Booking a tour for the wrong night...

When I traveled to Iceland last year, I had booked all kinds of tours to make the most of my short time in this incredible country! I booked tours to visit the South Coast, the Golden Circle and of course tours to attempt to see the infamous Aurora Borealis (aka the Northern Lights). I had tried and failed to see them when I had visited Tromsö, Norway in 2016 so I knew I wanted to increase my chances as much as possible to catch them this time around. After all my research, I decided on SuperJeep, which is an Icelandic company that offers a variety of tours using souped-up jeeps. My guide Omar actually told me that to make the special vehicle, they splice two cars together in the middle.

I chose to go on their Northern Lights Superjeep Tour.  I had booked it for my first night in Iceland so that way I'd still have as many nights as possible to go out Aurora hunting if she didn't feel like appearing that night-- or so I thought. I, unfortunately, forgot to calculate that with my particular flight schedule I would actually be arriving a day later than I had booked the tour for. Luckily, SuperJeep has amazing customer service! As I'm sitting in the airport in Montreal, bawling on the phone with dad (are we noticing a theme yet?), I figured I'd email them to see if they could help. Not only did they respond super quickly, but they were so sweet and let me go on the tour on the actual night I arrived.

When I arrived at my hostel and called SuperJeep around 5PM to determine if they were going that night (most tours have you confirm if the tour is on that night, based on the Aurora activity). Since the tour was on, they conveniently picked me up right outside my hotel. Come to find out, my guide for that night Omar was actually supposed to be my guide for the night I had originally booked. He explained how he searched for me for twenty minutes... *cue facepalm* moment.

In the end, it all worked out. I was rewarded with this magnificent view.

Booking a flight for the wrong month...
This is the one that I'm most embarrassed about... Especially as I've been booking my flights on my own for the last ten years or so... Not to mention that in my work as a travel agent, I book flights for other people successfully quite often. 

For the past couple of years, I've been working steadily on my goal of visiting 30 countries before I turn 31. My plans for trips throughout the year started out fine and dandy. But as the year progressed, I realized that my time was running out to visit any new countries this year and contribute to my ongoing goal! I had been wanting to return to England for a while ever since I went to grad school in Bath in 2016 and fell madly in love (with the city, not an English boy sadly. Though there was an American boy with whom everything ended in disaster, but that's a story for another time). Some of my friends and former co-workers were still around, so I figured why not? I am also a Pinterest and travel blog addict, and I had been seeing pictures of Tallinn, Estonia all over the place. So I decided while I was already across the pond that I had to fit in a visit there as well. 

I had been eagerly awaiting a couple of paychecks to officially confirm my trip. Once I had enough funds in my account to book everything, I stupidly tried to do it all too quickly. I booked four flights (including checked luggage), two Airbnbs and a hostel all within a half hour. My best piece of advice is to just take a deep breath and double-check everything you're paying for!

The worst part is that I didn't even realize my mistake until about a week later when I received an email from the airline telling me I was now able to check into my flight from Helsinki. With a sinking feeling, I hastily logged into my email and my stomach dropped. I had booked the return flight for exactly one month before my intended date. I contacted Norwegian Air to see if they could help. They offered to change the flights for a minimal fee but the new flight didn't give me enough time to catch my pre-booked connecting flight from New York to Burlington, VT. I had to just suck it up and purchase a whole new flight from Helsinki and eat the loss. 

This view made it all worth it though

It could have been much worse however I definitely could have used that money during my trip! Lesson learned: even travel agents (and seasoned travelers) make mistakes.

Do you have any embarrassing travel mistakes you've made and (hopefully) learned from? Share them in the comments below to make me feel better!

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