My Very Worst Travel Goofs and how you can Avoid Them


Let’s get something straight. I have had my share of travel goofs. Just because I have traveled for a living doesn’t mean I am perfect when it comes to not getting lost, not getting scammed, and not spending way more than I should. Yep, when it comes to travel I am human. I’ve had my share, an embarrassing share really, of travel goofs. And now I’m going to share some of the best (or worst) and show you how you can avoid them.

You. Are. Welcome.

Travel Goofs #1 – The compromised credit card

First up on this travel goofs list is getting my credit card compromised in South Africa. Now this can (and does) happen everywhere in the world, even at home. What makes this a travel goof is it happens in South Africa to something like 10% of visitors, and the sad part for me is I’m pretty sure it happened right in front of my eyes. The clerk swiped my credit card in one machine then, another. “That’s queer” I said to myself. I shrugged my shoulders and went on my way. 

Just like that over SEVEN GRAND was racked up. The worst part was the two months of struggle to get a new card sorted out and shipped to me.

How to avoid this travel goof:

I would later find that because this is a common problem in South Africa all vendors bring credit card machines to you. Never hand it to someone that is taking your card out of sight. If something fishy does happen in front of you, question it. 

Also, have a second credit card with you for such instances as this.

Finally reunited with my credit card in Beijing…2 months and 10 countries later. I was a little excited 😉

Travel Goofs #2 – Overpaying for food

This travel goof is a tough one to swallow. It was most embarrassing in Tokyo where I paid $398 for a tempura dinner instead of what I thought was $39. Ouch. What will forever be known as the “tempura incident” was brought on by jet lag and poor attention to detail. The worst part? The tempura wasn’t even that good. We had a Kobe beef feast in Osaka (sort of) for a fraction of what this travel goof cost.

Never again.

Eating Kobe Beef in Osaka…sort of 7

Then there was our self-inflicted travel goof while exploring South Africa’s Cape Point with PG Tops Tours. This company is great and focuses on personal experiences. They don’t take you to tourist traps or shitty restaurants like box tours. Sadly, when it came to lunch time, we did it to ourselves. While dining at a harbor front restaurant (our own choice) we up sold ourselves on a seafood platter that was way over cooked and way over priced. The sad thing is most harbor front restaurants are tourist traps and I already knew this.

This travel goof was worse than it looks.
This travel goof was worse than it looks.

How to avoid these travel goofs:

In the tempura incident’s case, never eat at an unknown restaurant after an 18-hour day and jet lag. We only ended up at that restaurant because we were too lazy to walk the extra few blocks to my favorite eatery in Asia, Japanese 7-Eleven’s! Don’t be lazy and don’t experiment under these conditions. Stick to something easy if you are in this state!

For getting upsold at the harbor side restaurant, avoid these tourist traps in the first place. Check reviews online and search out other options.

Travel Goofs #3 – Getting lost

This travel goof has been mitigated thanks to Google maps and easy access to international sim cards and the Internet. Still, I managed to get lost more than once. In Tokyo, I was late getting to my EyeExplore Tokyo night photography tour because I went to the wrong subway station meeting point. You think I would’ve learned from this travel goof but I did the exact same thing in Osaka, this time missing my tour altogether.

Whoops.

How to avoid these travel goof:

Pay attention to detail. Read directions and meeting point instructions carefully…then read it again. Often, as I found, train stations in Japan have very similar names. Make sure you are clear on which one you are heading to.

Eyexplore Tokyo

Travel Goofs #4 – Overpaying on travel

I like to think that I have become an expert at finding cheap travel. I mean I booked an around the world trip for $1,600 and booked flights to Africa and Japan for under $500 combined. So for me to pay more than a grand to fly from Cape Town to Europe is crazy. Or how about paying 70 Euro for a cab ride instead of what you thought it was 17? How about getting scammed by a tuk-tuk driver in Bangkok? Or missing the last subway home in Tokyo and then paying $40 for a cab?

Yep, guilty on all these travel goofs.

How to avoid these travel goofs:

For the flights, book ahead or as early as possible. Set fare notices with Sky Scanner and book when it drops. I passed on a $300 flight to Istanbul and ended up paying over a grand because I decided to wait.

For the cab ride we had heard the driver say $17 and even asked him to repeat it. Although his Austrian accent made it sound that way. Instead, write the numbers down and show the driver to clear any confusion.

And the subway in Tokyo? If you’re going out late look at the operating times for public transit and plan accordingly. The sad part on this travel goof is it has happened to me before in the exact same city. What is it with me and Japan??

Travel Goofs #5 – Items left behind

My last embarrassing travel trip up is the shocking amount of items I have left behind. Sweat pants, cell phones, sandals, and worst of them all – my beloved travel guitar. Shame.

How to avoid these travel goofs:

Chalk it up to old age but I’m struggling with this one. Make an inventory of your items and hand check them off as you leave the hotel or hostel. Easier said than done but it works!

My travel guitar in better times.

What say you?
Thoughts on these Travel Goofs?
Let’s hear it!

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  • Hannah Chau

    The worse I’ve done was left my iPhone on a taxi in HK on the way to the airport… first time ever leaving my phone…. sigh… that was defo my worse travel Goof…

    • Ugh sorry to hear. If it makes you feel any better I had my iPhone stolen in Vienna. That’s a story for another post…

  • Becky Angell

    Ha ha these are brilliant, I have to admit to a couple of these myself. I actually got scammed with my debit cards in Argentina, stupidly put 2 cards in the same cash machine that was being weird. Luckily the scammers only took money when I got home…one bank stopped it and one didn’t but still a pain to sort out!!!

    • Sorry to hear about your debit card but glad it was only an inconvenience!

  • Sherianne Higgins (SherianneKa

    I love this list! I tend to overpay on plane tickets ALL THE TIME. I need to do better with this. I don’t leave stuff behind ever — packing cubes help. Now I need to go find some wood to knock on!

  • Christie

    I’ve definitely had some of these same goofs, but it’s good to remember to help reduce the chance of repeating them 🙂 So sad that your guitar was left behind! Keeping an inventory of your items to check off before leaving is a great idea, it’s so easy to overlook something otherwise.

    • Cheers and guitar update, it was found and shipped all the way back to me from Tanzania!

  • Medio Hippie

    Thanks for sharing these tips how to avoid to get ripped off. I only can relate to the tuk-tuk drivers in Bangkok when we first arrived without any knowledge we ended up paying for a ride around 10€ and a few weeks later and with a bit of experience that ride was about 2€… :S Luckily I have never experienced the credit card scam, but what I usually do is: I create two accounts one with a card and one without. I only leave a small amount of money on the account with a card like 200€ and the rest on the one without the card. Most of the time if I need more than what I have on the card I just transfer it through online banking.. Not a perfect solution because if you have no internet but until now I have never had any embarrassing situation because of it.

    • Cheers and sorry to hear you fell victim to the tuk-tuk’s in Thailand too! Nice work around with the cards but for me its the hassle of getting it sorted then the actual $$$. The money is covered by the card company so no stress there.

      • Medio Hippie

        At least you didn’t lose that 7000$. I feel with you on the recovering papers. I got robbed in Ibiza once just right after I went to the bank to sign up for my account and on the way home they stole my backpack with IDs, passport, money, iPhone, iPad, credit cards… basically everything about my identity.
        The funny thing was that I was able to locate where the thief lived because the find my iPhone app, but it was an area of 3 building block of around 100 houses and this made it even worse to be so close and not be able to do anything… I waited there for a long time maybe I spot something familiar, but no luck. I told the police but they never recovered anything…
        It took 3 months to recover most of my papers and I couldn’t travel anywhere during that time. I was lucky that I lived there, I don’t know what could I have done if I was a tourist.

  • Amanda Blizzard

    Haha I think we’ve all been there at one time or another!! Most recently my son was upset that I forgot his clip-on sunglasses in our rental car in Mexico… Thankfully we had been in a few times that week for they remembered us and held onto them! I managed to pick them up again the following week. My son was one happy boy!
    Great Tips!!

    • Glad to hear I’m not alone and that you were able to find your son’s shades!

  • Tony Wilson

    100% agree with all you wrote. First thing I will be doing is crossing of South Africa. Was never on our list, but will never be on it. Agree with the restaurants, plan and stay clear of touristy ones. Been stung a couple of times there. It’s a shame you can’t enjoy a countries culture without getting scammed by the locals. Some great tips to keep in mind for future travels.

    • Whoa. I think you totally misread this. South Africa is awesome, even though my credit card was compromised. I would go back in a second. You can enjoy culture without being scammed. To think otherwise is nonsense.

  • Suruchi Mittal

    It is a great list and have myself faced certain of these goofs. I was not aware of compromising credit Card in SA. The most common one that has repeatedly happened with me is knowing about the touristy restaurants and still going to them and paying hell of money. I liked you have added how we can avoid these goofy and creating a checklist of your things is a great idea.

  • LOL….a lot of it happens to most of us. For me, one of the key things is carrying the right charger or plugs . I always mess that one up. Loved reading yours and the solutions you have for the same. Will be useful to a lot of people.

    • Ha! Itmohe said to show how good we have it now when the worst issues we have with travel is a dead phone!

  • Fábio Inácio

    How I laugh reading your post remembering when similar stuff happens to me… I think the most crazy to me it was when in Beijing 3 guys invited me to drink tea, we went inside a small room, someone bring the tea and they make me pay 40€ for that, I just drink expensive teas from now 😀

    • Ha sorry to hear! I have already started my second list and I have a similar experience unfortunately.

  • Ouch, I can definitely relate. One of my biggest issues is that I sometimes get excited about a flight deal, especially if it’s a cheap business class ticket. And then I book the ticket without realizing it’s too close to another trip I’m taking so I end up having to pay over $400 to change the ticket or cancel it.

    • Ha! There are definetly worst issues then too much travel!

  • Evie

    Hahah it’s normal right? I’m always messing up, especially with booking flights. Haven’t had a bill like that though!

  • Vyjay Rao

    Some of your goof ups were hilarious. I totally agree with you that all of us have had one or the other goof up at least once during our travels. And learning from them is the only way you can avoid messing up again!

  • Emily Louisa

    Oh no, $398 on tempura! I think I’d have cried. I’m sorry to say I giggled at some of you other goofs. But I have also messed up on many an occasion. My worst one was getting scammed by baggage handlers when leaving Zanzibar who said we needed to give them a departure tax. No we did not. Live and learn!

    • Live and learn indeed! I can’t imagine how many scams like your used to happen before the ease of sharing knowledge!

  • Monica Calangian

    What an interesting read! I have my fair share of travel goofs and I have the same with you – mostly with getting lost and paying for expensive food and flights. Until now, I am yet to master the art of getting cheaper flight tickets. I usually buy spontaneously. Any tips?

    • Well spontaneity usually pays off in the flexible sense. But if you are looking for specific dates/routes and is last minute it usually cost you.