Traveling is fun, but don't travel mistakes seem kind of inevitable? I'm pretty sure there have been hiccups on every large trip that my family has taken. I have to admit that those mistakes make the best memories, though. Here are my family's top 6 travel mistakes:
#1 Nein, Nein, Nein
When my family was in Germany, we rented a Ford Kuga to explore southern Deutschland. We weren't familiar with auto start/stop technology in cars because they weren't too popular (at the time) where we are from. After the car "randomly" turned off several times, my parents feared that the engine would decide to shut off while we were on the autobahn and decided to call the closest rental car company location. We asked to switch cars "because something was wrong with the car we were given." The lady, in broken English, tried to tell us that there was nothing wrong with the car and that was normal. My mom, still thinking that this wasn't normal, explained everything to the lady again and tried to reassure her that there was something wrong with the car. The lady, obviously annoyed at this point (who wouldn't be 😂), raised her voice and said "Nein, nein, nein! Bring the car to me, I will show you!" Let's just say, we did a little research, realized the car lady was correct, and we decided not to take the car to her.
Lesson Learned: Research your rental car and learn about its features before you drive!
#2 Never Leave Your Belongings
We did a road trip from Texas to Key West, Florida and back with my grandmother once. We were on our way back from the Keys and having so much fun! Of course we had to stop in Everglades National Park to do a swamp ride (we did a swamp ride at the beginning of the trip and it was really fun, so we wanted to do another one) while we were in the area. We found a swamp ride business in the middle of nowhere... I am not kidding, nothing for miles. When we were paying for the ticket from the car, the cashier lady told us to leave any valuable belongings in the car and she told my mom to put her purse under the front seat. She claimed that the swamp ride would be pretty muddy and underneath the front seat of the car would be a safe place for it. She also said we would have the opportunity to see a lot of alligators in their natural habitat.
The entire ride was basically a scam. There was absolutely no mud. As a matter of fact, we were practically on the top deck of a double decker bus thing, driving down a dirt road and looking at trees. In the middle of the ride my parents both heard a somewhat loud sound in the distance, but neither paid any attention to it. Toward the end of the ride we saw two alligators (the only ones we saw on the entire ride) that were kept in a fenced in area that wasn't even swampy.
We got off the bus/vehicle thing disappointed and, as it was the evening, ready to find a place to stay for the night. We walked up to the car and realized someone had broken into it and stolen my dad's phone and my mom's purse. The business practically wanted nothing to do with it and rushed to leave the area. A kind police officer came out to "investigate" and guide us to the nearest police station to vacuum up all the glass. Over the next two days, we had to drive the entire way back home with a bag over the window and my mom spent a large portion of the drive canceling cards and reporting stolen items. The criminals managed to drive to Miami, max out a card, write a check to pay it off, and charge more on the card.
Lesson Learned: never leave your belongings in the car!
#3 Press the Green Tick
One time on a layover, my mom and I went to a sandwich shop in Manchester Airport. After swiping her credit card, a message popped up on the card machine that we had never seen before. My mom asked the employee what we were supposed to do (there was a line behind us by then) and the employee said in a very thick English accent, "press the green tick." At this point, I was thinking "just press buttons", but my mom, of course, says "the green tick? What's a green tick? Where is that?" The employee restates "the green tick" and points to the green check button. My mom said "oh the check mark", to which the employee jokingly and dramatically replied "oh sorry, the ~check~." The people in line behind us were not very amused, but the employee kept joking with us. This isn't necessarily a mistake, but more of a funny miscommunication.
Lesson Learned: some people call check marks ticks!
#4 Let's Take the Train
On our second trip in Europe, we decided to travel by train throughout the United Kingdom, starting in London and ending in Edinburgh. On the day we were supposed to go from London to Warwick, we went to the nearest train station and asked about the best way to get to Warwick. The lady kindly explained that we would have to take the Tube to a different station and get on another train there that would take us to Warwick.
We walked through London Victoria (the second busiest London terminal, might I add) during rush hour, with each person on the trip carting around a suitcase. After getting lost on the way to the platform, we finally saw the train we needed to get on and it was about to leave the platform. My mom basically yelled "that's our train" and ran with my brother to hop on the train. She was shoving people so she wouldn't miss the train... apologies to all the people she shoved. My dad told me to get on the train through the next set of doors behind that. As I went to get on the train, I heard something to this effect: "This train is ready to leave. Please mind the doors." Well, I thought my dad was trying to get on with me, so I stepped onto the train as the doors were closing and I didn't quite make it. The doors closed on my backpack and I had to shove myself and my little suitcase onto the train... apologies to all of the people I had to shove and to all of the people staring at me as I did that. The doors closed and I turned around to see my dad still standing on the platform. Yep, he was left behind 😂.
At the next station I got off the train to try to catch the next one and see if he was on it. Once I got off, I saw my mom and brother in the next train car and yelled across the platform to get them off. We were able to catch my dad on the next train and all ended up in the same spot! In the moment though, it was very stressful!
Lesson learned: never bring large luggage on the Tube during rush hour. Also, never rush and squeeze your way onto a train because you may end up leaving a member of your party behind and everyone will DEFINITELY stare at you!
#5 We're Going to Miss Our Train
On the same day... as a matter of fact, at the station we were supposed to leave London from, we waited for a long time to see which platform we'd have to go to in order to board our train. The platform number didn't pop up on the screen until 5 minutes before departure and it was the first time we were using BritRail passes. Needless to say, we were nervous we would miss the train.
Once the platform popped up, we went up to the employee who checks tickets and we showed her our passes. She told us that she couldn't let us through until we filled out each of our passes with the departure time/date, departure location, and destination. Confused (we didn't know we had to do that), we asked the lady if we were filling out the passes correctly. As we're telling her we are about to miss our train, I asked her if we could use the other tickets we bought earlier that got us from Victoria Station to the station we were at. She says "hold on one second everyone, I need to let this family through." I assumed she was talking about a different family, so when my family started walking I stopped them. The lady said "no no, go through so you don't miss the train!" I started walking with them and the lady stopped me again to tell me "ma'am, you cannot use that ticket for this train journey." Assuming that she thought I was with another group, I explained that I was with the group she just let in and she said "I know, I just want to let you know you can't use that ticket. You have to use the other passes."
We, again, made it on the train and all ended up in the correct location! (Thankfully haha!!)
Lesson Learned: Know the Ins and Outs of train passes completely before you use them!
#6 Sausage Platter
We stopped at a restaurant with outdoor dining in Fulda, Germany. It was a beautiful day and the restaurant had a sausage platter on the menu, so we thought it was the perfect place to stop and enjoy some German sausage. We love German sausage and we were just in Nuremberg, which is known for a special type of bratwurst. When the waitress brought out the sausage platter, everyone was staring at us (probably questioning our decision to order the sausage platter). The platter was full of cold sausages, like salami and summer sausage, which weren't bad. There were some interesting-looking ones, though. One seriously looked like jelly... in the form of sausage... with meat in it.
Lesson Learned: Never order a sausage platter 😂
Like I said before, it seems that mistakes are somewhat inevitable when traveling. In the moment it is aggravating and tough, but afterward it is funny. It also makes for a great story!