9 Travel Fails That Will Make You Cringe

Apr 21, 2018

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Get ready to cringe.

Traveling can shuttle you across the country — even the world — exposing you to different cultures, thousands of people, and beautiful, life-changing experiences. But eventually, you will fail. Miserably. Maybe you’ll forget something crucial back home (uhhh, you do need bathing suits at the beach….), screw up your flight times, or (gasp!) forget to use your points while booking. (Not that you’d ever do that.)

We asked our TPG Lounge members on Facebook about their biggest travel fails and boy, did they deliver. How many of these uncomfortable travel moments have you experienced — and more importantly, what did you learn?

1. You show up at the wrong airport.

Living in a large city with multiple airports —*cough, NYC, LA, DC, Bay Area, cough*— makes you a prime target for this fail, especially if you’re prone to booking flights quickly and not paying attention to the details. Plus, most airports are too far to get from one to the other in enough time. Learn from Prash K.’s mistake and double-check those three little initials:

“Wife dropped me to LGB for a JetBlue flight to Boston. Didn’t realize that the flight was out of LAX. Called my wife back and got her to take me to LAX. Just missed my flight and had to take first (and last Spirit) flight to JAX and connect to BOS. Terrible experience.”

2. You forget something important.

Sunscreen? Check. Directions to the hotel? Check. Luggage? Uhh…wait a second. Even the best-laid plans can be foiled. Melissa D.’s experience might take the cake:

“I showed up to the airport to realize I had no luggage. My 3 suitcases full of ski gear bounced out of the back of my pickup truck, and I’m sure were scattered across the highway. Never found them.”

Maybe remember that story the next time you’re annoyed you forgot to pack an extra pair of jeans.

3. You are way too optimistic.

Maybe the red-eye’s a little cheaper and the timing seems to work out. But when you’re actually doing it? You might not be at your best. Kevin C.’s biggest travel fail was “Thinking to myself: ‘Sure, i’ll just take the red eye back from Vegas and go right to the client site.’” 

That’s a no-go.

4. You book the wrong flight.

With so many options swimming through your head and your browser window, it’s not uncommon to skip reading some of the necessary details, like whether your flight is leaving out of Portland, Maine or Portland, Oregon, or accidentally booking the flight in the wrong direction—or leaving in the a.m. or p.m. Here’s Andrea W.’s story: 

“I was debating between a Sunday night flight or a Monday morning flight to Newark. I accidentally booked a Monday night flight. I realized it Saturday night when I couldn’t check in for the flight. Delta had no Sunday night or Monday morning availability to Newark but I luckily was able to fly to LaGuardia instead and somehow was still within the no penalty change window. It was a pain though having to Uber all the way from LaGuardia to NJ.”

Her words of advice should be added to your travel to-do list: “Now I always double check my dates right after booking flights.”

5. Your alarm fails.

Oversleep for a morning flight and the punishments are threefold: you’ll sprint through the terminal, you definitely won’t have time for a bathroom break, and if you’re trying to check a bag — good luck. There’s usually a cut-off time at the bag drop and no amount of sweet-talking will get them to check your bag for you. Believe me, I’ve tried. Hot tip: Set two alarms for the morning. Actually, three. Okay, seven, just to be safe.

6. You miss your flight.

It doesn’t only happen in movies. Missing a flight is one of the biggest fails of all, screwing up any connections you were supposed to make or obligations you had on your arrival. The worst part is standing in the middle of the terminal talking to gate agents or being on hold with the airline, trying figure out your options.

Take it from Alex Z.: “In the days of paper tickets I went to the Maui (OGG) airport to catch my flight home to the mainland. Unfortunately my flight departed from Honolulu (HNL) and tucked in the back of my ticket book, itinerary, rental contract, receipts etc was a ticket OGG -> HNL that I was unaware of. Obviously I was at the wrong airport at the wrong time and missed both flights to get home.”

But wait! This fail turned into the rare happy ending:

“United was nice enough to route me through San Francisco on my way to Seattle, and as chance would be it was Easter Sunday and all of the flights were way oversold. I volunteered my seat in SFO not once, not twice, not three times … but 12 times over the next 12 hours and walked away with 13 free round trip tickets plus they gave me meal vouchers so I was very well fed 12 times over! #SCORE”

(Photo by Dave and Les Jacobs/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dave and Les Jacobs/Getty Images)

7. You have passport problems.

How many blank pages do you have in your passport? You might want to check. Olivia C. was on a birding trip in Malaysia when she realized she didn’t have enough pages for the entrance and exit stamps for the next countries on her trip:

“We missed the last day of our birding trip to race back to the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur before noon to have additional pages added. Some countries use an entire page for their stamps—so, get the most pages possible when renewing your passport, and check to make sure you have at least 2 blank pages for each country you plan to visit.”

Also check if your passport is about to expire — after a hiccup during a business trip, Frederick B. got advice from a friend to always consider your 10-year passport to actually be a 9 1/2 year passport, since some countries require it to be valid for six months after entry.

And then there’s the other fail: Forgetting your passport at home.

8. You forget about the time change.

Daylight Savings Time can certainly mess up your plans, but combine that with actual time zone changes? Forget about it. Joey P. was on his first international solo trip with his friends and didn’t realize the time changed the day he was flying back to the US.

“Our cell phones were all on airplane mode as we had already turned in our rental SIM card (back in the day of very expensive roaming and getting a local rental SIM was the most affordable option for high speed), so we got to the local train station to get the train back to the airport and suddenly realized we were an HOUR LATE for the train. We ended up spending 3-4x the amount we planned on the express train to the airport.”


(Photo by olaser/Getty Images)
(Photo by olaser/Getty Images)

9. You lose your luggage.

This one isn’t entirely your fault (isn’t it more fun to point fingers at the airline?) but it stings all the same. David Y. had this slip-up: “I checked two bags at SEA. I wasn’t watching closely when Agent printed out both tags and affixed them to bags. When I arrived at baggage claim in DFW, one bag came out on carousel with two tags on it!! That means other bag was unlabeled.”

But wait! Luckily, a month later, he found the bag.

And despite all these fails and inconveniences, it pays to look on the bright side — everyone has stories they can tell for years. Kristie H. has the right attitude about all these misadventures: “They may have been a hassle at the time, but sometimes the flavor of life is made through the mistakes and challenges, rather than having everything run smoothly and efficiently! You hardly learn lessons from the flights you make, it’s the ones you miss that bring you something!”


But seriously, don’t forget your passport.

Featured photo by anyaberkut/Getty Images

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