If you read Part 1, you know that in both the planning and doing stages of travel, I’ve made mistakes. So many, in fact, that I’ve had to break up my post into two parts. As Freddie Mercury intones:
And bad mistakes
I’ve made a few
I’ve had my share of sand kicked in my face
But I’ve come through
And while I don’t consider myself a champion, I, too, have come through, and I’m laying bare my failings so you can avoid them, or at the very least, laugh at my stupidity. So, without further ado, I give you the remaining blunders:
Bring a shawl, a wrap, or something to cover up with in case an unexpected situation dictates modesty.
- It was only a day trip to Siena. I hadn’t planned this part (or any part, really) of the trip to Italy, so I didn’t realize we’d be visiting a historic cathedral. You can read the full account here or here, but the gist is that I was dressed perfectly for the summer heat but too immodestly for a house of worship. Given the choice of leaving the cathedral in shame or staying and donning a crepe-paper shawl (also in shame), I reluctantly chose the latter. Così imbarazzante!
- In Luang Prabang, Laos, our hotel put on a Buddhist Baci ceremony for its guests. It was Christmas Eve and I was dressed in what I though was a very smart-looking dress, but once again, I realized rather late, my shoulders and knees were on display at a religious ceremony. I sprinted back to our room where I found a wrap to cover my shoulders, but had to suffice with a bandana to cover my knees. So gauche.
Stay focused when packing your liquids.
- A few years ago I went on a Viking River Cruise with my mom. For weeks and weeks before the trip I struggled with a bad cold that just wouldn’t die, so I contacted my doctor in a desperate search for medications that would suppress the symptoms; I’d be sharing first a hotel room and then a tiny ship cabin with my mom and didn’t want to keep her awake every night with the staccato beat of my phlegm-laden coughs and other sputum-y eruptions. Loaded up like a drug mule, I properly packed my meds – including prescription codeine-infused cough syrup – for the flight to Amsterdam, our starting point, and as the trip progressed, I needed my medicine less and less. (In all, the “cold” lasted six weeks!) As the trip wound to a close, I packed for the journey home, forgetting all about my now superfluous medications, which were stashed somewhere deep in my carry-on. So it was with a measure of surprise when, at the Basel airport, I was stopped at security for a bag inspection after the cameras had identified a large bottle of mystery liquid. My surprise turned to panic when it dawned on me that the suspicious item was my nearly unused bottle of cough syrup. Desperate not to have it confiscated (it was expensive and would of course be needed for some inevitable future illness), I begged the man to just pour out enough so that it was within their acceptable ounce limit. Though he was very kind about it, he refused. Auf Wiedersehen spendy codeine cough syrup! I shall think of you longingly the next time I lie awake half the night hacking my lungs out.
Don’t assume shopping return policies are the same as you are used to in your own country.
- When I’m traveling, I don’t spend a lot of time returning items I’ve purchased on the trip. The one time I did, though, things didn’t go well. We were at the Rome airport awaiting a long flight home and I decided I deserved an upgraded travel pillow; I’d been getting by with one of those blow-up types that can send a healthy and fit individual into pulmonary arrest during the inflation process. I wandered into an airport shop and bought a fluffy donut-shaped one, then resumed my wandering of the terminal. Before long, I found a different shop with a travel pillow I liked better because it snapped together in the front. I bought it, then went straight to the original shop to return the first one. Well, they simply weren’t having it. I tried explaining that I had “owned” the pillow for all of 10 minutes. I even had the receipt, for crying out loud, but nothin’ doin.’ (And in case you’re thinking this was a case of heh-heh-screw-the-helpless-tourist, it wasn’t. There were uniformed airport helpers all around and they basically said, “This ain’t America, lady,” but in a somewhat nicer and less vernacular fashion.) Mamma mia! I was now the frustrated owner of two bean-baggy donut-shaped neck pillows, in addition to the archaic blow-up one. I have since bought a another one, so storage is becoming something of an issue. Maybe I’ll start up a travel pillow rental business…
Bring your eco-friendly collapsible travel cup, even if you think you won’t have many chances to use it.
- Like most humans do at some point in their adult lives, I hemmed and hawed over whether or not to splash out for a collapsible travel cup. Running the cost-benefit analysis over and over in my head kept me up most nights. But then, on holiday in Wales, on a high from surviving the Crib Goch death climb and with my defenses down, I finally gave in and bought the two-toned beauty you see pictured above. With so many trips coming up, I reasoned, it just made sense. But when it came time to pack for San Antonio, I thought, “Nah, we’ll just be gone a couple of days.” Then, while packing for SE Asia, it was a question of space and weight – of toilet paper and diarrhea meds vs travel cup – so I left it behind again. In both instances, I lost count of how many times I could have saved a disposable cup from the landfill by bringing my reusable one. Vowing to recommit myself to my environmentally friendly vessel, I made grand plans for its usage in Sedona, and dared not even speculate how handy it could be on our summertime Spain/France trip. But then coronavirus came and ruined all that, so now I’m left not only wondering when I’ll get to use my neglected travel cup again, but also ruing all the missed opportunities. Now, this is what keeps me up at night.
Just because no red flags were raised when you returned your rental car, don’t assume all’s well.
- Twice. That’s how often we’ve booked long-term rental cars during our travels to European countries. Twice. That’s how often we’ve gotten home to find – sometimes weeks later – that we’ve committed some sort of moving violation and have to cough up cash. After returning from France, a good month went by before we were alerted to
ourthe husband’s crime by letter. That fine – which we deduced was for speeding, but only after painstakingly scrutinizing two pages of densely-pack legalese with our combined mediocre French – we paid online. After returning from England, we were alerted to, once again, the husband’s violation, not by letter, but by a mysterious charge on our credit card statement. It took ages to discover that it was for driving in a bus lane. (The husband blames me, as the navigator; I blame Nigel, our GPS unit, as the navigator.) The detailed letter explaining the charges (both monetary and legal) came weeks later! Thanks a lot, Budget Rent-a-Car.
And speaking of rental cars, try very hard to return your vehicle, if not to the exact same city where you picked it up, at least to the same country.
- The only silver lining to having coronavirus ruin our planned Spain-France trip is the get-out-of-jail-free card I’m getting regarding our car rental. My plan to have us pick up our rental car in Spain, our arrival country, and drop it off in France, our departure country, was going to cost us in the neighborhood of $700 (no matter which rental company I went with), a costly and embarrassing travel-planning gaffe that’s caused no end of guilt. Someday, when we rebook this Dust-Farm-Pail List trip, I promise you: our rental car pick-up and drop-off locations will be one in the same.
Trust your gut, or your gut will get revenge.
- If something looks dodgy, avoid it. (I feel safe saying this applies to any place, event, or situation while traveling, but in this case I’m talking about a restaurant.) I may have thrown the husband under the
busrental car in the section about moving violations, but for this mistake, it’s all on me. If you read about our time in Nong Khiaw, Laos, you know that I chose to ignore the red flags that were waving furiously in the husband’s mind when we sat down at an Indian restaurant that I choseinsisted upon. Not surprisingly, illness ensued, and I learned both that a visit to a travel medicine doctor is never a bad idea, and that a sixth sense feeling should not be ignored.
Thoroughly check the details on your travel documents.
- One of my favorite posts to write – and the only one I’ve illustrated myself (consider yourself warned – I’m regularly bested by eight-year-olds where drawing is concerned) – regales the reader with the hilarious tale of the time I was nearly denied boarding a plane because our travel agent had screwed up my name on my travel documents and I had failed to notice it. I’d scrupulously gone over every detail… except my name. It almost cost me a trip to Jamaica. While fun to write about, I would not wish that experience on anyone (well, maybe a few people 😉 ), so please, please comb over your travel documents from stem to stern and well before airline check-in day.
These mistakes have been no bed of roses, no pleasure cruise. I consider travel planning a challenge before the whole human race, and I ain’t gonna lose (anymore)!
Bold words from someone who’s committed two post’s worth of travel crimes, but I’m going to try. Trusty collapsible cup in hand, I will continue to travel, avoiding mistakes when I can and striving to be a travel champion. When I can’t… I’ll be sure to let you know.