My Top 8 Memorable Travel Misadventures

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When traveling, I have found that the best stories are not always from the good times. In fact, there is something to be said for a bit of drama in a story and if you’re anything like me you’ll find yourself looking back on your trips with fond memories and some funny stories.

These travel misadventures happened over the course of my travels and in different countries with different travel buddies. We did our best to plan for everything, but sometimes things just don’t go according to plan (or we overlooked something OR we did it to ourselves).

So let’s jump right in! Here are my top 8 memorable travel misadventures and some lessons I learned along the way.

1. The Time My First One-Way Trip Had Technical Issues

Memorable misadventure: my friend and me the day before and after our plane had technical issues; included is the meal we had
1st and 2nd try to get on the plane

If you read about me, you know that I was headed to teach in China as my first real, adult job after college. I was so excited to fly out with a friend, who happened to live in Colorado, too. She had spent the night over at my house and our plan was to head to the airport early in the morning together.

We had done everything right (the packing, the visa, passport, getting through security, etc.)…

But when we got to the gate, we couldn’t fly because the plane had technical issues. Womp womp.

Just imagine: We had said goodbye to our family. We prepared them not to see us for the next two years as we weren’t planning to fly back during our summers. We had also prepared our minds to be ready to fly into LAX and then an additional 16 hours into Beijing.

The airline called for a delay–we waited. It called for a delay again–we waited but grew concerned that we’d miss our connecting flight in LAX. Finally, they say the flight is canceled and ask all passengers to go up and reschedule their flights. When my friend and I get to the kiosk, the lady takes a look at our ticket and says, “You know you’re on a one-way flight?” 

We look at each other and say, “Yes, we’re moving to China!” Maybe that answer helped our situation because they gave us a dinner and hotel night voucher (or maybe it’s just protocol, I’ll never know). 

So we call our parents and tell them the situation. We even had people come hang out with us “one last time.” 

The next morning, take 2 went as smoothly as we had hoped, and we were on our way to China!

Lessons Learned: Sometimes you can’t control everything even though you completed all steps correctly. And sometimes, your last goodbye isn’t really your last goodbye, but that can be really good for more time together with loved ones. Also, it’s comforting to have a travel buddy when things do go wrong.

2. The Largest Sleepover in an Ireland Hostel

Memorable misadventure: Pafoua sitting on the edge of the cliffs of Moher
Pafoua at the Cliffs of Moher

My roommate and I had decided to explore Europe one summer as we had gone on a lot of trips in Asia and wanted to explore a new continent. We planned on going to Ireland as the last stop on our 4-week itinerary, and we were trying to do it on a budget.

I was in charge of finding accommodations so I was browsing through my go-to Hostel app trying to find a perfect place to stay in Dublin; perfect meaning cheap, located in a good area, and fairly safe to stay at.

The options were pretty slim. There were 2 that fit our budget standards and one of them was in the perfect location with high ratings. But the room selections were not what we had ever done before: a 12-person room with all women, a 12-person room co-ed, or a 24-person room co-ed.

We somehow convinced ourselves that the 24-person room co-ed was the best of all the options (I think we thought we’d be safer in large numbers). 

Memorable misadventure: a view of boats sitting in the Marina in Ireland
Small city in Ireland

When we arrive, we find that this hostel has assigned bunks. Thankfully our beds were near each other. My roommate gets the top bunk, right next to a group of rowdy Serbian boys. I also got a top bunk 2 over from hers. However, I think the person below me hadn’t showered in a while as the smell was not very pleasant in my corner. 

The sleeping arrangements were so strange as people were in and out a lot in such a large room. At night, it felt like being at a sleepover where we didn’t know the rules or the people. We weren’t super uncomfortable, but we have definitely felt better in smaller hostel rooms. 

Lessons learned: Sometimes, bigger isn’t better.

3. The Kiss on the Spanish Steps

Memorable misadventure: a view of the Spanish steps
Spanish Steps

While hanging out in Italy on the Spanish Steps, my roommate and I took a break, enjoyed the last hours of sunshine, and curiously watched people. 

I had made eye contact with a young man across the steps and we both smiled at each other (me out of politeness, him-not sure). That must have been an invitation for him to approach us because he started walking toward us. 

I had gotten used to making conversation with random strangers over my time traveling, so I thought it was just going to be a quick get-to-know-you-type conversation. It wasn’t. 

He walked over, sat down, and started talking about a hair salon that he owned, or maybe he was a stylist at. He pointed out photos of ladies with nice hair colors and cuts, and I was just nodding trying to understand his broken English. 

He then started talking about my hair and how he could cut it and make it beautiful. I liked my hair the way it was and tried telling him so.

Memorable misadventure: a view of Pafoua's red shoes against the black bricked path of Italy
The cobblestone streets of the Spanish Plaza

And then this last part gets kind of fuzzy, but something happened to where he landed a kiss on my bare shoulder (I was in a tank toppy dress). Eeks! That’s when I got up and dragged my roommate with me as we both walked away from him. 

So glad he didn’t follow! 

Lessons learned: If you’re a young gal out with a friend and a guy approaches trying to talk about styling your hair… run. Or maybe just hold off on smiling at random strangers.

4. The Time We Got Lost on Our Way to Italy

Memorable misadventure: Pafoua and Cate in the middle of the night climbing 300+ steps in Corniglia
Laughing at the ridiculousness of climbing 300 steps at 11pm

I wrote a super in-depth and long-winded post about this misadventure. Hop on over to read it

The short version? My roommate and I were traveling from Marseilles, France to the Cinque Terre in Italy for the next leg of our trip. 

We got lost in the Middle-of-Nowhere, France. When we finally found our way to Italy, we hopped on a train without tickets. Once we got to the Cinque Terre, we climbed 300+ steps in the middle of the night only to find out we had to go all the way back down to take the train to the end of the line to get to our hostel. 

When we got to the end, we couldn’t find our hostel, so we knocked at a random place, got yelled at in Italian, and finally found a place to sleep (that wasn’t the benches in the train station). Whew… it’s quite the story

Read next: 21 Best Foodie Cities in Europe For Food Enthusiasts

5. The Time I Got Several Speeding Tickets in France

Memorable misadventure: a view of a beautiful building in Paris

A couple of friends and I were on our way from Paris to Marseilles to meet up with another friend, and our plan was to drive. We found an affordable rental car, however, I was the only one who could drive a manual car so it was put under my name. 

We started by leaving our Airbnb in Paris, got on a taxi to the airport to pick up the rental and we would have been on our way. However, one of my friends realized she forgot her passport at the Airbnb – a major travel no-no! 

So we called the Airbnb owner, who thankfully found it before his next guests checked in, and told us that he would leave it with his barber friend nearby and would send us the address. 

We made our way back to the area and drove up and down the street to try and find the address and this barber. No luck–which was surprising since we had spent time walking this street and never noticed a barber. 

My friend was low-key in panic mode and I was trying desperately to make sure that we got the address correct with our Airbnb host. Both of my friends decide to get out and walk the streets to see if they can find the barber. 

I finally get the car parked and was about to get out to look too when I see them both on their way back with her passport in hand! Whew, disaster averted! But then we were running late to meet up with our friend in Marseilles. 

Memorable misadventure: a view of walking through the streets of Paris
The street where we walked up and down

I took some liberties and drove quicker than I was supposed to, however, I didn’t see speed limit signs up and there weren’t any highway patrol cars on the road. So I thought I was fine. 

We made good time to Marseilles… but when it came time to return the car, that’s when I was hit with speeding tickets. Little did I know, the speed was monitored by radar (I think–or maybe it was those gray boxes) and it was charged to my bill. Oops. 

Lessons learned: Check and double-check important documents and do a thorough sweep through before leaving. We also lucked out in having a trustworthy Airbnb host. Also… they’re watching your speed. Take care so you don’t get a big bill for multiple speeding tickets! 

6. The Time We Fit 5 People into a Korean Taxi

Memorable misadventure: 4 of Pafoua's friends squished in the back of a Korean taxi cab
4 in the back of a Korean taxi cab

Traveling in a group of 5 is odd, pun intended. Sometimes, there’s one left out, other times it gets weird trying to find one taxi to fit everyone, which is what happened to us in South Korea. 

We stopped a taxi and per usual, I snuck in the front to try and explain where we were headed. (I’m not sure if he saw that there were 5 of us, but he stopped anyway.) But we had tried 5 before and it was a no-go in South Korea. 

While I jumped in the front, my friends had maneuvered it so that all 4 of them fit in the back. We were running high on laughter and manic relief that the taxi driver kept driving. 

In the middle of the drive, I took a glance back and saw all 4 of my friends were all squished and happily trying to get comfortable for the rest of the ride. 

Whatever this taxi driver saw (or didn’t), I’m so glad he picked us up and kept driving! 

Lessons learned: When you happen to break the law, it’s more fun with friends. Not sure if that’s supposed to be the lesson learned, but we definitely made memories! 

7. The Time I Lost My Phone in Vietnam

Memorable misadventure: a view of Pafoua and 3 friends looking out to Sapa Valley with their backpacks on
Matching backpacks in Sapa, Vietnam

Planning for my trip to Vietnam was pretty involved compared to some of the other countries I had visited. As an American, you need to request your visa ahead of time then they send you a letter with a list of names including yours. This document is necessary to get a physical visa upon landing in Vietnam.

Once we landed, I was preoccupied with gathering my things and double-checking my documents for deplaning once we landed. I was very sure I had stuck my iPhone in the side pocket of my leggings, then I made sure I had all my documents (the letter and my passport), and gathered my carry-on backpack. 

We walk off the plane and it wasn’t until we were headed toward customs that I realized my iPhone was missing. I checked both pockets, my backpack, and jacket pockets… nada. 

I told my friends and walked back to find the counter and asked them to see if they were able to recover any missing items from the plane clean-up. Nope. I stood there and even tried negotiating getting back on the plane to do a quick look, but no luck. I had officially lost my iPhone. 

Thankfully I didn’t have everything stored on my iPhone so I was able to go through visa processing, checking into our hostel, and all the necessary things without it. 

It wasn’t until we got back that I checked and someone had tried logging into my accounts that I realized someone must have swiped my phone and I didn’t just lose it. 

Lessons learned: I lost opportunities for fun pictures (though I had friends who were also happily documenting, thankfully!). Keep your belongings as close as possible. The pockets on my leggings were pretty deep and my phone still went missing. 

8. The Time When We Almost Missed Our Flight Because We Were at the Wrong Airport

Memorable misadventure: an adorable baby elephant in Thailand
Cute baby elephant in Bangkok

My roommate and I were planning on spending our Spring Break vacation in Bangkok, Thailand. I had a work conference to attend, so I left first and she was to meet me after the conference when our break started.

We had a wonderful time in Thailand until we had a scare on the way home! We had purchased our return flights together-it was an early flight like 7 am early!

We checked our flight time and the map to see how long it would take us to get to the airport. I believe we even booked our taxi the night before so we didn’t leave anything up to chance.

The taxi comes on time and we’re speeding towards the airport. We noticed that the lines were pretty much non-existent, so we decide to exchange all our money and then get in line. As we got to the exchange booth, we noticed that it was closed.

So we pivot to take a look at the computer monitors to find our flight information — but the monitors say there are no outbound flights until waay later than our ticket says. That’s when we knew something was wrong.

We look closer and realize that our tickets are for a different airport — and it’s an hour away! All our pre-planning went down the drain. We run outside and found the same taxi driver, tried to make him understand our dilemma, and asked if he would take us to the other airport.

Memorable misadventure: Pafoua and Cate in a picture together on the floating river market in Bangkok
Bangkok Floating Market

He agrees and we were off. (During this drive, I was so scared we weren’t going to make it! The guy was so sleepy; I could see he was nodding off on the hour-long drive in the rear-view mirror).

After an hour of stressing in this taxi, we finally make it to the other airport in Bangkok, we jumped through various hoops to make it through security as quickly as possible. We sprint to our gate (good thing we only travel by backpack!) and make it on the plane!

Lessons learned: I now check every single ticket to make sure that it matches the airport we are intending to go fly from since this trip.

Memorable misadventure: Pafoua holding the handle of a door and laughing towards the camera

Wrapping up My List of Travel Misadventures

I’ve had my fair share of travel mishaps over the years. Some were downright scary, but most were laughable and even more memorable than the destinations themselves!

Share your misadventures with me in the comments below—I can’t wait to read them all.


Did you enjoy a laugh with me? It’s okay if you laughed at me. Here are a few more!

Travel tips you might enjoy:

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My Favorite Travel Tips + Resources

Here is a quick glance at all my go-to travel tips and resources that I use to plan every trip! For more information, check out my travel resources page.

  • Booking flights: I use Google Flights to check all routes and find the best flights. Then I compare them with Expedia (for reward points) and Skyscanner (for the lowest prices) before I book.
  • Accommodations: I love budget-friendly rentals or booking at a hotel where I can earn points. For hotels, I go through Booking.com or book directly with Marriott (for points + rewards). When I travel internationally, I’ll book through Hostelworld for very budget-friendly stays. For vacation rentals, I usually look through Airbnb, but you could also use Vrbo. Expedia also has some great bundles for hotels, flights, and car rentals altogether.
  • Transportation: For travel in the United States, I love renting through Expedia with Enterprise or Thrifty. They have been consistent and provide the best customer service. For international travel, I’ll book through Rome2Rio or Eurail for trains or bus fares.
  • Travel Credit Card: I book all my travel (flights, hotels, car rentals) through my favorite travel credit card. I also use this card for everything on my trip including dining, excursions, and souvenirs. Apart from earning 5x more points towards free travel, there are amazing benefits: no foreign transaction fees, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement (so I can book worry-free), fraud protection, emergency assistance – it’s really a great deal! Check it out here!
  • Vaccines and Medications: Check the CDC website for updates on necessary vaccines to enter a country, including updates on Covid-19 and recommended places to visit. I recommend getting all the vaccines you need before you go!
  • Tours + Experiences: I absolutely love my tours! Everything from eerie walking ghost tours to food tours, I’ll usually book something every trip either through Viator or GetYourGuide. I also love LastMinute.com for very affordable tickets to theaters and other experiences in Europe.
  • What to Pack: I almost always travel by backpack. For products I like, check out my packing guide page for all the things I take with me on different trips.

4 Comments

  1. Hi Sydney! Thanks for sharing. I’ve been to Amsterdam’s Red Light District and I can’t even imagine being there in my PJs! Glad you were able to get back into your rental!

  2. I agree that travel misadventures make for some of the best travel stories! One of my favorite travel stories to tell is when I got locked out of my Airbnb in Amsterdam and had to meet my host in the middle of the Red Light District to get a spare key – all while wearing pajamas. It was stressful at the time but it makes for a really good story!

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