Travel Lessons Learned the Hard Way!

We’ve all had moments while travelling where we’ve hit a bumpy road, been taken advantage of, not planned for, or just been perhaps a bit naive. Here are a selection of our travel lessons learned the hard way…hopefully they can save you from making our same mistakes!

Barbara: Pack a change of clothes in your carry-on

A few years ago, Barbara escorted a group of 25 people on a cruise from New York to Bermuda. The group stayed at a hotel in New York a night before the cruise departure and was told to leave their large bags in the hotel room to be taken to the pier. When they were leaving the hotel in the morning, they discovered that the luggage had been accidentally placed on a bus to Atlantic City. The group had to depart or miss the cruise, so they embarked on the cruise without their baggage! There were no stops on the cruise, so they had the same clothes until they reached Bermuda. While it was a pain, the group made the best of it and it became sort of a running joke throughout the trip. Ultimately, Barbara learned her lesson and now always packs an extra change of clothing in her carryon bag—even for cruises.

Bruce: Make a bike reservation when riding the rails in Germany

In 1994, Wendy and I embarked on our first biking adventure through Germany with the kids. Crystal was 13, Robert was six, Brian was three and Erik was just six months old. We arrived with our bikes and bike trailers at the airport in Dusseldorf and had understood that there were train cars that carried bikes. We got to the train platform with masses of luggage, as we had brought our camping gear, and waited for the train. When it arrived we were told that the bike car was at the end of the train, so we had to haul our entire luggage down to the end. Once we got to the bike car we were asked for the reservation for our bikes which, of course, we didn’t have! Although there was plenty of space, they would not let us on without a bike reservation. Needless to say, we were all quite frustrated by the situation. Luckily we were able to get on a later train, and now when using the German rail system, we always remember to make a reservation!

Deborah: Pre-arrange taxis through your hotel or via an airport pickup.
While in Budapest, one evening Deborah arranged with the hotel to call a taxi to take them to dinner. The rate was fixed at $40. After dinner instead of asking the restaurant to call them a taxi which would have been a set rate, they flagged one outside of the restaurant and learned the hard way; the rate was double the cost. When they inquired with the taxi driver why the rate was so much higher he just said this is my rate. Once back inside the hotel we asked the front desk about the difference in rates they suggested always have a hotel or restaurant call a taxi when in Europe as they have set rates and preferred taxi companies.
Jude: Pack only the essentials… and use a sturdy suitcase.
For many years Jude consistently packed far too much when she went away on vacation. She would frustratingly lug around a massive suitcase, and never use more than a third of what she brought. On one vacation she travelled with a long duffel bag completely packed with clothing and souvenirs. The bag was so full that the zipper burst and Jude had to keep it closed with dozens of safety pins all down the length of the zipper. Since then, Jude has tended to pack a more practical amount when traveling.
Lucas: Always bring a hard copy of all your travel documents

When Lucas travels, he stores his e-tickets, flight itinerary, prepaid hotel and tour vouchers in his gmail, which he can access through his smart phone via wi-fi. A couple of years ago he was travelling in Chiang Mai and he lost his smart phone the 2nd day after leaving Vancouver. It was very hard to not have access to his emails, travel documents and all of his contacts back home. He had to use hotel business centres and Internet cafes to email home and get print outs of all of his travel documents. He felt so stupid for not having any back up plan, and since then he always travels with a print out of his travel documents and important contacts.
Luisa: Pack a change of clothes in your carry on (this seems to be a trending issue!!)
A couple of years ago Luisa’s luggage went missing when she was traveling to Italy. She took a connecting flight via Singapore Airlines and when she arrived in Rome the luggage was not there, but en route to Singapore. She and her husband drove to Pescara and a few days later his luggage arrived, but Luisa’s was still traveling. Luckily her sister-in-law was the same size and able to lend her some dresses. After three weeks her luggage finally arrived from Australia! Apparently it had been travelling around the world for three weeks. Luisa learned her lesson and now remembers to pack a change of clothes in her carry-on.
Wendy: Don’t take your eyes off your bags…and especially your passports
In October of 2011, Wendy and Bruce traveled to Athens to embark on a cruise. After getting off the plane Wendy walked outside to catch a taxi and set down some of her bags—one of which had their passports. Something yellow was squirted onto Wendy and she thought it came from a bird. A man then approached Wendy insisting on helping her—giving her tissues and keeping her busy. Wendy sensed the presence of someone else while he helped her and once he left she realized that the bag with passports had been stolen! Wendy and Bruce ended up missing the first few days of their cruise while their temporary passports were being issued. Now, Wendy is much more careful about where she keeps her passport.
Crystal: Don’t forget to pack Tylenol or a decongestant for the flight if you are feeling a bit under the weather.

Crystal was just getting over a cold when she embarked on a flight one day. She cannot remember where she was going, or how long it took to get there…but she does remember the unbelievable pain that she felt in her ears and sinuses from the cabin pressure due to her congested state. The pain was so unbearable she practically cried during the entire journey. Now she doesn’t go on any flight without some simple medications… just in case…and especially when battling a cold!