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The 20 Worst Travel Mistakes

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new,” said Albert Einstein. As travelers, we couldn’t agree more.

We asked our well-traveled colleagues, readers, Facebook fans and Twitter followers to tell us about the biggest travel mistakes they’ve made while touring the globe. It turns out they’ve tried lots of “new” things, from sweet talking immigration officers to getting tangled up in timeshare schemes. (The most common mistake? Choosing the wrong travel partner.) Here’s a selection of 20 answers we received — but we want to hear from you too! Share your worst travel mistake with us in the comments.

“I think this happens to a lot of people, but we once booked the wrong return flight from a trip and it ended up costing us hundreds of dollars to rebook at the last minute (i.e., we thought we were going to leave on a Sunday morning but the flight we booked was actually for a Monday morning). D’oh!” — John Deiner, CruiseCritic.com

“Packing TOO much. Happens every time.” — Stacy Small, Elite Travel International

“Not having extra cash for emergencies.” — unerasia

“Forgetting my passport in my London apartment, and only realizing after stepping off the Eurostar in Paris. What did I do? Put on the charm! Sweet talked the exit officer in Paris and the immigration officer in London to get back into the U.K. Sadly, I’ve had more difficulty getting into bars, than back into the U.K.! That was [before the London bombings of July 7, 2005] though!” — funkstop

“The second time I ever flew, the TSA had just put the liquid and gel rules into effect, and I had packed full-size bottles of shampoo, conditioner and hairspray without realizing that was a no-no. So I checked in and went through security, at which point I was told I’d either have to throw away my $30 shampoo or check my bag. With 30 minutes left till takeoff, I tried to check my bag, which meant I had to go back downstairs (and, later, back through security) and wait in HUGE lines. I was so stressed out about it that I started crying, and an airline worker took me right to the front of the line, where the lovely woman at the counter tagged my bag for Fort Lauderdale. (Too bad I was Miami-bound.) I made my flight by the skin of my teeth, and when I got to Miami, I had no clothes for three days.” — Ashley Kosciolek, CruiseCritic.com

“Going to Krakow without any Polish money before ATM’s existed and not being able to buy anything (it was Sunday, maybe?).” — Holly Fink, The Culture Mom

“Opening a window in a hotel in London! … At 3 a.m., I was startled awake when I saw a light come into the room. … I woke up and saw a very dark hooded figure moving in our room. I screamed which woke my husband up and then he screamed too. The intruder quickly climbed back out the window, and he and his accomplice that was still on the stairs ran off. We called the front desk to let them call the police. And then we weren’t able to sleep until we could see daylight.” — Deb B.C., via Facebook

“I’ve made so many it’s hard to single this out. Probably the most recent worst mistake was not reading the fine print (or frankly any print) on an airline ticket from Helsinki to Copenhagen with an overnight, then on to New York. The overnight, which came at the tail end of a very relaxing vacation in Finland, got the big kibosh when I misread the date and missed the flight entirely. Twelve hours later I realized, to my horror, what I’d done and we were lucky enough to get on the first flight to Copenhagen the next morning (at a grand price tag) so I could catch my New York-bound plane, but the frenzy was expensive and erased the vacation mood. And I lost out on my time in Copenhagen.” — Carolyn Spencer Brown, CruiseCritic.com

“When I went to Kamakura from Tokyo, I didn’t write the correct station and left the train in the wrong place. I had to wait about an hour for the next train.” — ferussa

“Overpacking — definitely. EVERY time. I pack 20 oufits — I wear 5. Major major major problem.” — Natalie Eshaya

“I was traveling by myself in Maui and I stopped at one of the discount tour kiosks they have all over downtown Lahaina. The guy was offering a cool snorkeling excursion for a really cheap price. The catch, he said, was that I had to go to a hotel where they’d give me free breakfast and give a spiel about their property. How could free breakfast be bad — so I signed up. The hotel was actually a timeshare property and I had to meet one on one with a salesman, lie to him about how I owned my own apartment and had lots of money while he asked me probing questions, and then take a tour of various condos on site. Breakfast was a muffin and a slice of pineapple. I hate lying and spent a very uncomfortable hour or two there, wasting a morning of my vacation. The snorkel trip was fun — but not THAT fun. I won’t fall for that trick ever again.” — Erica Silverstein, CruiseCritic.com

“Went to the WRONG airport in London and missed one day of our vacation in Cannes. AHHH!!!” — Allyson Blake, Crossing This Pond

“Hanging my purse on the back of a restaurant chair in Paris. It was stolen!” — Veronica Stoddart, USA Today

“Booking the hotel for the day after I arrived — and arguing that their reservation system was wrong — turns out I was wrong!” — Julia Rosien, GoGirlfriend.com

“Years ago, as a college-age backpacker, I used a hostel booking site to reserve accommodations in Florence. I was vaguely aware that the hostel was a little outside the city center, but I didn’t worry about it — I liked to walk, after all. When I arrived in Florence, I followed the hostel’s directions and hopped on a bus … and didn’t get off until 45 minutes later. The hostel was more than a dozen miles out of town on winding country roads, which I’d have known if I’d taken a closer look at a map before booking. Having prepaid, I was stuck commuting an hour and a half a day for the four nights I stayed in Florence. Lesson learned.” — Sarah Schlichter, IndependentTraveler.com

“Inviting the wrong person to go with me (never again)!” — Laurie Weed, Songlines

“Four people, six bags, one bad back. Booked a hotel in Seville Barrio — all roads to hotel were pedestrian only; no cars, no parking. BIG mistake.” — Julie Reynolds

“To fly from New York to Bristol, England, I tried to save money by booking a cheap Aer Lingus flight to Dublin for about $500, and then a 40-minute Ryanair flight to Bristol, which cost one cent plus taxes. A real bargain! Of course, I got delayed in New York, missed the Ryanair flight and then had to spend $250 dollars to get from Dublin to Bristol — which made the trip much more expensive than the direct flight I could have taken in the first place.” — Carrie Gonzalez, IndependentTraveler.com

“Accidentally matching a high-risk profile. My parents, who live in another state, gave us a car. We bought one-way tickets, checked no luggage and, due to a misread of our departure time, arrived at the gate very early. We were pulled out of line and subjected to a VERY thorough screening. We barely made the flight!” — Meg A., via Facebook

“The worst travel mistake I ever made was because I was a new traveler going abroad for the first time. I didn’t put any clothes in my carry-on, and I put my coat, hat and gloves into my checked luggage. My first flight was heavily delayed and I narrowly missed my connection. As the passenger in front of me congratulated me on just making it, he wished me luck that my luggage would, and then I realized there was no chance. I spent my entire trip worried about where my luggage was. It truly spoiled my trip. But it was a blessing in disguise. I realized that no one cared that I wore the same black sweater and jeans all week and that I didn’t need to bring a change of clothes for every day, rather a few pieces that could be mixed and matched to change up my look (if only for photos!).” — Lissa Poirot, FamilyVacationCritic.com

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