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Note: All travel is subject to frequently changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state and local advisories before scheduling trips. This post was updated August 4, 2020.

If you’ve spent even a nominal amount of time jet-setting your way around this big ‘ole globe, you’ve likely had at least a few hiccups along the way. Whether it’s figuring out a rideshare in a foreign country, mixing up a tour time thanks to jet lag or ordering the grossest-thing-ever off a foreign menu, these all contribute to the colorful stories behind our travel experiences.

But then there’s a whole other ballpark of nomadic mishaps. Trust us when we say these totally true (and incredibly funny) travel fails go beyond the minor misstep—and will have you crossing your T’s and dotting your I’s before traveling again. Here are 13 epic travel fails, as told to us by the globetrotters who survived them, that will make you feel like a pro.

RELATED: These 6 micro hotels prove that less is more.

That time they messed up their flights… three times

“When visiting Langkawi, Malaysia, my friend and I decided to be spontaneous and intentionally miss our flight home to visit Penang. Well, we missed the first flight as planned, then accidentally missed our second flight to Penang, so we had to stay in Langkawi for the night. The next day, we decided to take a later flight home to enjoy the beach. I booked our flight from my phone on the beach, and then we got an Uber to give us plenty of time to get to the airport.

Once we arrived, I realized I had left my passport at the hotel we stayed at. I frantically called the owner and he drove my passport to the airport just in time for us to sprint to security. I almost made it through, but the employee checking my friend’s ticket said, ‘Wait a minute. Check the date.’ I had purchased tickets for the next day! So we had to buy more plane tickets for a later flight that night to get home. We made it. It was just a very expensive delay, and we never got to visit Penang.”—Melanie Long, freelance marketing strategist

That time she missed her window to Machu Picchu

“This destination has loomed large in my mind for years, and the highlight for me was going to be climbing the actual Machu Picchu Montana—a significant hike that would yield the most incredible views of the surrounding area, or so I thought. When I arrived at Machu Picchu, I spent hours exploring and wandering through the ruins, taking all of the beauty in with wonder, only to realize that I missed my window of time for hiking the Montana. My one shot to climb the awe-inspiring Machu Picchu Montana, and I completely missed out.”Carolyn Stine, founder, Caro’s City

That time she washed her last pair of contacts down the sink

“Once, I was heading to Ireland for a conference and found myself completely sleep-deprived in my bathroom at 3am trying to put on my contacts. This was my only pair left and I mistakenly washed them down the sink instead of putting them on. And um, my vision is 20/800. My glasses are dorky and I was about to be the keynote of a conference. So I sucked it up and put on the glasses while simultaneously begging my dear friend to pick up a pair for me and ship it with my credit card to the tune of $180, in order to get them to me in time.”Meghan Ely, founder of OFD Consulting

That time he overslept for his flight

“Be careful of how fun you want to make any last night when on vacation if you have a relatively early flight to catch the next day. On my last night in Athens in 2016, I thought it’d be a good idea to stay out until the early hours of the morning and see the sunrise, but when I got back to my hotel—I knocked out like a rock. And well, my phone was almost dead. My flight back to the US was scheduled to leave around noon so naturally I had planned to depart to the airport around 9am. Instead of leaving my favorite country in peace, I was awakened at 10 am by my mom texting me worried sick. My anxiety and stress levels rose to the roof, and I had to in a haste hail a taxi while also being super hungover. I barely made my flight—but wouldn’t wish this stress upon anyone.”Kevin Mejia, traveler

That time she picked the worst possible time to visit Hong Kong

“When I visited Hong Kong, I was expecting it would be hot, but I could not imagine that it would be just unbearable. It was more than 45 °C outside with a humidity of 90 percent and then around 17 °C everywhere inside, in the public transport, in the shops, in the cafes and restaurants. It was quite the extreme contrast .

Another specificity of a low season in Hong Kong I didn’t know was a risk of frequent typhoons. And—surprise!—on my second day in Hong Kong an incredibly severe typhoon started. Everything was shut down, no public transport, everyone was advised to stay inside. So, I spent three days locked in my little hotel room, with a big aircon that finally made me sick after the thermic shock. I spent eight more days locked in the hotel room. When I started to feel better and typhoon passed, I wanted to finally explore Hong Kong, but as it was unbelievably hot and humid, I could be outside only in the evening. So, in the end, I managed to visit and do only a tiny part of what I initially planned to do in Hong Kong.”—Sasha Naslin, travel blogger, The Alternative Travel Guide

That time she drove to the border, without her passport

I once drove three hours south from Sofia, Bulgaria, hoping to spend the weekend in Thessaloniki, Greece. All was going well until we hit a traffic jam 15 minutes before the Greek border, and my mind started wandering to how the border crossing would go. I suddenly realized this was not just another road trip through Bulgaria, but an international trip…which meant I was supposed to have my passport with me. I didn’t have my passport with me. So it was three hours there, an hour stuck in traffic after realizing I didn’t bring my passport, and another three hours back. And I still haven’t been to Greece! Ugh.”Emily Parker, editor

That time she spent a fortune on international calling

In college, I got sick while in London—my first time abroad—and spent a lot of time on the phone with my family. I didn’t research SIM cards, international calling rates or unlocked phones at all before I traveled, so I just took my phone overseas with no preparation. Naturally, my phone connected to the local network and roamed all around the town. Fast forward a few months later and my family got a cell phone bill for several hundred dollars, where they were charged $1/minute for all my calls—ouch!”Nicole Faith, location-independent entrepreneur and founder

ALSO: Overpaying for a hotel is a total epic fail. Join Orbitz Rewards and start saving today!

That time she tried to pay with the wrong currency

Due to a series of unfortunate events which included robbery and border extortion, we ended up in a city in Belize with no credit cards and a fist full of Mexican pesos. Yikes. Unfortunately, San Ignacio did not have a currency exchange that would accept pesos. We scraped by for four days on some vegetables from the local market and had to borrow money to get home. Moral of the story: Try to have some U.S. dollars stashed away for emergencies!”Meg Cale, LGBT Travel Blogger

That time he found himself without money or Wi-Fi

“My first trip as a digital nomad I was offered a free stay at a beach side hotel in the small surf town of Troncones in Mexico in exchange for helping with their marketing a few hours per week. Little did I know I was asked to come during rainy season when the town was pretty much abandoned. It was impossible to get around, the Wi-Fi barely worked and none of the local restaurants took credit cards. With four days left on my trip, an ATM ate my card leaving me with the equivalent of $43 in pesos—$35 of which I needed to take a cab to the airport. I made it through eating $1 fish tacos and drinking an absurd amount of protein shakes. In the end, I learned one of the most valuable lessons for a traveler: Have back up cards and cash with you at all times.”Ryan O’Connor, co-founder, One Tribe Apparel

That time she didn’t correctly compute military hours

“When I had just arrived for a gap year in Australia, I took a trip to Melbourne. I wasn’t used to reading the time in military hours, and at around 3pm on my last day, I went to get ready to go to the airport for my 6pm flight. Only then did I realize that my flight had taken off nine hours earlier at 6am. I was a broke backpacker then, so instead of booking another night at a hostel, I hung out at the Crown Casino with a fellow travel blogger who lived in the area. When he had to leave since he had to work the next day, I spent hours moving around the casino, not drinking or gambling, but playing Sudoku to pass the time until 3am when I had to catch the shuttle for my new 6am flight.”Lauren Fritsky, blogger

That time she went to the wrong town

“Not knowing there were actually two towns with the same name within miles of each other in Ecuador, we followed our TomTom to the wrong one. We ended up in a remote village trying to follow a written instruction from our hotel for a specific road. We ended up driving through a cow pasture thinking it was a road, but was actually a horse trail! We found a tiny Internet cafe where we could look at Google maps after reading ‘where am I?’ in Spanish directly from a book to a person who spoke no English. Through miming and the net, we were able to figure out we were in the wrong town.”—Nina Thomas, travel writer

That time she went swimming and lost her key

“I was going snorkeling around Koh Phangan, and put the only key to the padlock on my hostel room door—which I shared with four other people—on my necklace. And not just any necklace, but my ‘lucky’ parrot necklace, along with the key to the padlock on my backpack, so that they’d be safe with me while I was in the water. Fast forward an hour and we’re sunbathing on the beach when I look down and realize my ‘lucky’ necklace was no longer around my neck. Half a dozen of us searched all the shallow waters nearby hoping there might be a glimpse of the key—but no such luck. We had to go to the hostel’s reception in our wet swimwear, explain that we’d lost the key and wait for an hour for their handyman to turn up—who simply took out a hammer, smashed the padlock into pieces and let us in.”Tabby Farrar, food and travel blogger

That time she overstayed her visa—and couldn’t leave

“While living in Thailand, I regularly had to go on border runs to renew my visa, something I did regularly. I had the wrong date ingrained in my head and when I got to the border they said I had overstayed two days! D’oh! But the worst part? I didn’t bring enough money for my overstay fine. It was 1000B ($30 is US dollars), and I had maybe only 300B to my name at the time. And there was no ATM within miles and miles. Thankfully, a very nice Swede also on a border run and on the same bus as me saw I needed help, and lent me 1000B! He was my savior.”Nina Ragusa, travel blogger

Tagged: Feature

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Lindsay Tigar

Lindsay Tigar

Lindsay is a lifestyle and travel writer, and content strategist. She is a passport stamp collector with an affinity for great wine, coffee and conversation. You can find a full collection of her work at
Lindsay Tigar

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