When travel experts get it wrong: the worst mistakes we've made on holiday


Experience permeates the very being of the Telegraph Travel team. Between us, we’ve seen the world twice over, taken all roads high and low and explored corners and cultures few could even name, before relaying the essence of our days in a manner designed to inspire and inform.

We’ve also missed our fair share of flights, misplaced passports and been locked out of our hotel rooms. We’re only human after all.

And so, in the spirit of humble sharing, Telegraph Travel is proud to reveal its most embarrassing mistakes – anonymously (we have families to feed). 

1. Overstaying a welcome

I overstayed my visa in Thailand by 20 days – and somehow managed to get away with a very small fine.

2. The break-in

I got stuck on my fourth-floor balcony at a hotel in St Lucia after locking myself out the room. Cue shouting for help. Then I realised I had put the security lock on the door so hotel staff had to break in to rescue me. Oh, and I was in my pajamas.

‘Alright I’m going…’

Credit:
iStock

3. Lost call

My best friend and I, coming home from LA, both had a (quite strong American) sleeping pill, timed to kick in just as we took off. Except the plane was delayed. So we fell asleep at the gate, through all the intercom appeals for our whereabouts, and through our fellow passengers actually stepping over us on the floor to board. We woke up several hours later to find the plane had taken off without us.

4. Christmas calamity

My passport got swapped with someone else’s at the customs desk. She was flying business and had left the country with my passport before I noticed about 35 minutes later. I had to sit in an awful waiting room (think purgatory) for about six hours before they decided I should fly escorted to Dubai to meet her and swap back. At Christmas. Of course my bags didn’t make it home with all my presents in time as they’d been loaded on my original flight and ended up lost in Doha somewhere.

5. ‘Probably not my fault but…’

I said I would look after my girlfriend’s backpack while she went to the loo at a bus station in Oruro, Bolivia, and within 60 seconds some devious thief had lifted it. The backpack contained all her photos and her travel diary – she was not impressed.

Quito is the second highest capital city in the world

Credit:
Matyas Rehak – Fotolia

On the same trip, at a dodgy hostel in Quito I cleverly hid my passport inside the leg of my trousers and then inside my suitcase – for safe keeping. I then got blind drunk and completely forgot I’d done so, prompting panic – and a phone call to the UK embassy to report a stolen passport – before I found it again.

6. Roadblock roulette

In Yemen I agreed with my driver that we should speed through a roadblock. We got our tyres shot at.

7. So close yet so late

I missed a flight to Lisbon despite being early at the airport. I’d misjudged the departure time by half an hour and was too engrossed in my relaxing airport breakfast to notice when my name was called (if indeed, it was). By the time I realised, it was too late. I then had to get a train from Luton to Gatwick and pay through the nose for a replacement flight.

8. Right country, wrong currency

I arrived in Switzerland for a ski trip with £200 worth of euros. Who knew the Swiss Franc was a thing?

9. I breached security without realising

When travelling to Majorca from Gatwick some years ago, I was in the company of a fellow journalist chum (an editor of a newspaper) and we were walking and talking animatedly and somehow managed to breach security and end up at a door that led directly onto the runway shoulder. We were horrified but somehow made it back through the underground airport labyrinth in time to catch our flight without being arrested.

10. Who reads the guidebook, anyway?

The first day of a two-month trip through SE Asia I got completely ripped off to the tune about $100 – enough for a week’s stay in hostel and a fair chunk of my budget – for a boat trip in Bangkok. Turns out every guidebook to Thailand ever printed has stark warnings about this, but I still managed to fall victim.

This is lovely

Credit:
iStock

11. I’m still technically in Zambia

I’m now banned from Zambia after I didn’t get the right stamp on my passport to allow me to leave officially. After a three-month stint over there I was really looking forward to getting back to the UK, but was stopped by security at passport control who said I could not leave because I was missing a crucial visa stamp (which I’m sure I had purchased). After making a fuss, I requested to see the supervisor who, after studying me carefully, asked if I was ever planning to come back. I told him no and I was sent on my way. I think I’m still technically there…

12. A watery helpline

I got locked out on the balcony on my over-water villa in Jamaica and had to send my mum swimming for help.

13. Not me, but my ‘friend’

My friend flew from Heathrow to Mumbai only to be told on arrival in India that she needed a visa to enter the country. She’s completely forgotten and had to get the next train back to London.

14. There’s a spot

On a campervan trip around the south coast of Iceland I wedged my Ford Transit firmly in the black sand of a river bank. I phoned the police to see if they might be able to help out. They couldn’t. After spending the night in the van, I was about to call on the (very expensive) services of a private pick-up truck when a friendly Icelandic fisherman passed by on his quad bike. He promised to return with his 4×4 and pull me out – and he did.

Yep, stuck

Credit:
iStock

15. Swapped my flight for a lost phone

In Buenos Aires airport, exhausted, I left my laptop with all my travel writing on it from the last three trips (before I started using the cloud) in a bathroom near the gate. I realised, with horror, as soon as I got on the plane. I ran off it again like a banshee back to the gate, back to the bathroom where miraculously it was still sitting. Scooped it up with all the jubilation on earth and sprinted back to the plane, only to discover that in my heightened state, I had just left my phone in the same bathroom. I realised at the gate, ran back to the bathroom to collect my phone, only to emerge again to see my plane taking off.

16. Adventure nearly over before it began

I very much nearly missed an South African adventure because my husband took the wrong paperwork (you need unabridged birth certificates for the kids) to the airport.

17. An airport tour of London

I once found myself on a train that had almost reached Gatwick before realising that my flight to Tokyo was actually leaving from Heathrow. That was quite a costly (and nerve-jangling) cab ride.

Farewell sweet prince

Credit:
iStock

18. Couldn’t see the wood for the trees

In a pick-up truck taxi in Thailand I was so focused on remembering to take my main bag off the roof of the truck when I got off at our stop that I completely forgot my smaller bag with all my important belongings (departure card, passport, camera, money, medication, etc) was underneath my seat. I only realised once inside the hostel and went to check in. Luckily, I knew the name of the next hostel the truck was going to and so a cleaner of the hostel jumped up and took me on his motorbike. We arrived just as it was pulling away and I got everything back.

19. From a sink to a swimming pool

At an airport hotel in South Africa, almost late for my flight, it came to light that my recently-used hair tong was way too hot to pack without it setting fire to the contents of my suitcase. So I unplugged it and gave it a little bath in the sink to cool it down (totally safe). Left the cold tap running over it, forgetting to take the sink’s plug out, so as I was darting around in the other room throwing things into my case, the sink filled up and spilled over. I returned (definitely late now) to find not a bathroom but a small swimming pool.  



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