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Don’t flush the frog: Our 10 dumbest travel mistakes, so far

by Michael on November 14, 2014

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We’re experienced world travelers but that doesn’t mean we don’t occasionally make stupid mistakes. From flushing frogs down the toilet to being mistaken for a dominatrix, here are our top ten travel mistakes, so far:

Top travel mistakes

1) Always check your wallet ~ Three days before we left for our global adventure Michael realized his credit cards, debit card and driver’s license were missing from his wallet. He upended everything in our apartment to find them. After an hour of turning the place into a shambles he remembered that a few days earlier he had looked at new wallets at a luggage store in Philly. He stuck his cards into various wallets to see if they fit. He called the store and sure enough, they had a wallet on the shelf with all his cards in it.

2) Always empty your pockets ~ We rented a car in England a few years ago and woke up one morning to find our hub caps had been stolen. (In the idyllic Cotswolds no less.) When we returned the car to London we hoped no one from the rental car company would notice the missing hub caps. Four hours later we were somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean when Michael heard a jangling sound in his pocket. He reached in and found the rental car keys. The car, which we were hoping to slip in unobtrusively, ended up blocking the hectic Hertz rental lot at Heathrow Airport. They noticed.

umbrellas

3) Many umbrellas look alike ~ After checking out of a hotel in Zurich, Michael took his umbrella off the counter and walked away. The elderly man who had been standing next to him berated Michael in German and tried to grab the umbrella. Even though he took German in college Michael was a poor student and had no idea what the man was saying, so he wrestled the umbrella away from the slight octogenarian and stormed off, somewhat peevishly we might add. That night as we unpacked we noticed we now had an extra umbrella. If that German gentleman is still out there we’re truly sorry.

4) Be careful in the toilet (part 1) ~ Larissa has already written about her toilet antics on the train in Malaysia. What we didn’t realize when she wrote that post is that there is a “Miss Larissa” out there who, um, toilet trains adult men. Google finds it hard to tell the difference between Mrs. Larissa of Changes In Longitude and Miss Larissa the Dominatrix. Needless to say we’ve been getting some unusual traffic to our web site. (PS  That’s not our Larissa but the other one.)

5) Don’t leave fresh produce in your suitcase ~ After one vacation Michael left a banana in his suitcase…in the attic…during a long hot summer. Unfortunately we didn’t go anywhere for another six months. Not only was the suitcase ruined but the banana wasn’t any good either.

6) Don’t board a soon-to-depart train without your traveling companion ~ Michael boarded a train in Switzerland with all our luggage while Larissa was off doing whatever it is women do in train stations. He hadn’t noticed that the train was about to leave so he was quite surprised when a few moments later the doors closed and the train took off, leaving Larissa behind at the station. Which leads to our next dumb moment.

7) Always split your cashLarissa was abandoned at the station with nothing since Michael had just gotten local currency but hadn’t split it yet. Fortunately he did remember to come back for her.

8) Check the rear view mirror ~ We were leaving our hotel in the French countryside for a three-hour drive to Paris and an early flight the next morning. As we pulled into the street Michael happened to glance in the rearview mirror and saw one of our suitcases sitting forlornly in the driveway. That little glance saved us a six-hour roundtrip to retrieve the suitcase.

9) Know your visa requirements ~ We were almost denied entry to New Zealand and faced possible deportation because we didn’t realize they required an outbound ticket. They threatened to send us back to the United States, which wouldn’t have done us much good on a westbound around-the-world trip.

Belar frog (800x647)

10) When staying in rustic accommodations always check under the toilet seat ~ We had a wonderful stay on a cattle farm in Australia. One of the quirks though was that not only was the toilet outside, it was a favorite resting spot for the local frogs who thought it was a pond. On our first night Michael inadvertently flushed a blithely unaware frog down the toilet. He felt bad about that, it even replaced the guilt he’s been harboring about the old German man from whom he swiped the umbrella.

Extra points to anyone who notices a pattern about who is providing the most bloopers.

Who would like to share any of their travel mistakes?

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{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

Richard Needham April 1, 2012 at 9:31 am

Yes, it is interesting that most of the dumb things were by Michael. Here is another male one, one of mine. When on a business trip to India, I was rushed to leave for the airport and packed my luggage in a hurry, throwing everything in. I made the flight, and when unpacking in the next city found the TV remote in my suitcase. Luckily the destination hotel was the same chain as the previous one, and they took care of sending it back.

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Us April 1, 2012 at 10:35 am

Did the remote work in the new room?

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MissElaineous April 1, 2012 at 10:20 am

Thanks for sharing! This is good stuff and yes Michael gets the prize..he is the boob.

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Us April 1, 2012 at 10:37 am

Sounds like you’re holding back from sharing your own boob-like stories.

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Barbara April 2, 2012 at 12:03 am

I guess that would have to be at Heathrow. When I was a young adult, I spent too much time gaggling in the airport and ended up going to my flight (AMS) way too close to boarding.
I asked an employee how to get to gate X and he relayed the info further on that there was one late tardy flyer coming. An employee was further down and I had my “escort” via a side door on to the tarmac and into the plane… all eyes were on me. Big DUH!

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Us April 2, 2012 at 10:03 am

Were you carrying a large bag from duty-free when everyone was staring daggers at you?

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Barbara April 2, 2012 at 10:17 am

Nada (college kids don’t have that type of bucks). Just carrying me,myself & I as fast as I could…

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Mar April 2, 2012 at 2:58 pm

I was in a train station in a small town in England, waiting to meet up with a friend. I walked away and heard an announcement: would “my name” please come to the station agent’s office. I was quite worried, wondering what I had done wrong. I had left my camera case with camera on the bench. Fortunately, my name was on the label inside the camera case.

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Us April 2, 2012 at 3:24 pm

That’s another good tip: label everything.

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aradanielle April 22, 2012 at 6:49 am

Saw this on the Matador Network and just wanted to say it was absolutely hilarious! It made me feel a lot better about all my travel mishaps.

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Us April 22, 2012 at 7:14 am

Hi Aradanielle,

Glad we could make you feel better.

Cheers!
Larissa and Michael

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Phebe June 16, 2012 at 3:13 pm

I missed a connection at Heathrow – spent too much time with a friend who was living in London and we took the bus, which went the wrong way round the airport. I ended up overnighting with her, and flying home the next day.

Then there was the time my camera was arrested in Liberia………

And the time I escaped from hospital quarantine in Moscow (still under Soviet rule at the time)……….

Or missing Notre Dame because I was pickpocketed in the Parisian metro system………..

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Larissa June 16, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Some of those sound downright scary!

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barbara June 26, 2012 at 11:43 pm

youre lucky that was all you found under an aussie toilet seat. its usually a redback spider (potentially fatal bite)

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Michael November 9, 2012 at 11:48 pm

You know we only heard about the spiders later. Sometimes ignorance is bliss,

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barbara June 26, 2012 at 11:45 pm

really dumb travel mistake is not trusting your ‘gut instinct’.
was hungry and ate food i know want any good and ended up with a bad case of food poisoning resulting in a bacterial stomach infection i am still aflicted with the affact of years later…really dumb!

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Michael November 9, 2012 at 11:49 pm

Ouch, I hope Cipro helped.

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Finland Blog October 18, 2012 at 7:19 am

Some great advice there
I am visually disabled and therefore use a white cane
Beleive it or not,someone pinched my white stick,not only once but twice
I often wonder what they intend using it for.This was in Venice,Italy last summer

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Michael November 9, 2012 at 11:50 pm

That is a strange one. Maybe someone collects them.

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Ayelet - All Colores October 20, 2012 at 5:27 am

Poor frog! The rest of the stories are hilarious. I’m glad Michael remembered to come back for Larissa!

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Michael November 9, 2012 at 11:51 pm

Yes, I’ve been remembering to come back for 26 years now and only forgot her once.

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Doz & Amanda October 21, 2012 at 3:43 am

We have a beautiful array of hostel room keys that we came back with. We like to think of them as souveniers with a story :)

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Michael November 9, 2012 at 11:51 pm

So you’re the ones that pinched my key!

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Adam December 10, 2012 at 11:18 am

I LOLd at that first one! Useful list – can’t believe you’ve done some of these things, but hey, at least it makes for good stories!

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Michael December 10, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Unfortunately we’ve done them all and even have enough incidents for a sequel.

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Bethaney - Flashpacker Family December 11, 2012 at 3:05 am

Some of these are real corkers! Especially the train station incident. I could see that happening to us actually.

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Michael December 11, 2012 at 11:00 am

Yes, sometimes they’re funny to read until you say, hey, that almost happened to me!

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Alyson December 11, 2012 at 3:15 am

Don’t try and take your son’s Dr Who toy from London to Australia. They decided it was a gun in Hong Kong, sent it on to Cairns, where they decided it was a laser gun and confiscated it. Took us months to get it back ( with much egg on the face of Cairns customs)
I should write a post about that, man, what a palaver!

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Michael December 11, 2012 at 11:01 am

You know that reminds me of the time Larissa had a can of pepper spray confiscated at Heathrow and was hauled off to security so we missed our connection.

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Cat of Sunshine and Siestas December 11, 2012 at 7:46 am

Hilarious in retrospect, but not so much in the moment! This last weekend, I rented a car for the first time in Europe. As we stopped for coffee in a small town off the map, we pulled out of the village and immediately into a roadside check from Spain’s civil guard. We played dumb when we said we didn’t know that we needed an intl driving lisence, and we were let off with a 100€ fine. But still, the international is way cheaper!!

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Michael December 11, 2012 at 11:03 am

I didn’t think you needed an international license in Spain. Are you sure they were real police?

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Reena @ Wanderplex December 12, 2012 at 11:49 am

Well you know the upside of making a really dumb mistake? You have a great story afterwards! These were awesome, thanks for sharing.

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Michael December 12, 2012 at 11:58 am

Oh how right you are. We picked up some doozies on this trip that we’ll write about in a sequel including “Don’t be mistaken for drug smugglers by the Portuguese National Police.”

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Steph | DiscoveringIce.com December 12, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Hahaha love it! I bet you will never make any of those mistakes again!

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Michael December 12, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Unfortunately we keep coming up with new ones.

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Terry at Overnight New York December 14, 2012 at 10:18 am

The flip side of a mistake is an entertaining story, and these are terrific. Keep traveling! (Nice illustrations, too!)

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Adam Sommer January 5, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Split cash – great advice! I not only split it among my wife and I, but also place it in several different bags. That way if we lose 1 bag, we don’t lose all our money.

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Euan July 9, 2013 at 2:33 am

On a trip to Ukraine I was invited to a wedding in a village between Kyiv and Lviv.
As I was the only person with a digital camera I was asked to take as many pictures as possible for them. Whilst taking some pictures of the bride and her sister, prior to the wedding, away from the crowd 2 black BMW X5s came down the lane driving very fast.
2 LARGE men got out and grabbed the bride dragging her to the car. I tried in vain to intervene and was easily pushed away.
I ran screaming and pointing to the crowd, huge language barrier, and was desperate to get my message across until someone informed me this was a tradition. The family of the groom pay a ransom which is then a gift to the family of the bride.
After a few glasses of home made vodka my embarrassment was eased and my Russian improved dramatically

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Courtney March 17, 2014 at 10:25 pm

To put your mind at ease Michael – the frogs will just climb back out of the toilet. Growing up in outback Australia I’ve flushed many frogs by accident and they’re always back again in a few hours!

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Michael March 17, 2014 at 10:30 pm

Thank you. I’ll sleep better tonight! :)

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Kate November 4, 2014 at 8:56 am

Your first two points! So cringe-worthy! I’ve made a few travel mistakes in my time too and I think you are very brave to own up to them!

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Susan November 9, 2014 at 12:05 am

On a romantic trip to the Amalfi coast, we left the car at the ferry in Sorrento for a few days while we stayed on Capri. When we arrived back in Sorrento, glowing in the romance of Italy, the mood changed fast when the car wouldn’t start. I tried again and again, but nothing. Finally we gave up and tried to call a mechanic, despite the fact that this was pre-cell phone and neither of spoke Italian. We couldn’t get an answer anywhere, which is when we realized — it was Easter Sunday. In Italy. Nobody was working. Not a mechanic to be found.

Finally we were able to persuade someone at the ferry to call someone he knew to come out and help us. The mechanic arrived with his adult son, both dressed in their Easter finery and interrupting their dinner to come rescue us. They strode over to the car, turned it on, and it worked perfectly. They looked at us and laughed.

I eventually figured out the car had a manual choke. It wouldn’t start because I’m American and had never heard of a manual choke. I didn’t know I had to pull it out to start the car.

We lost hours and missed our day in Sorrento for that. It was more than 20 years ago and I’ve still never seen Sorrento.

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Michael November 9, 2014 at 12:43 pm

You know I still remember from when I was a kid my mom’s old Falcon having a choke and her having to constantly adjust it. That’s old school.

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Renuka November 9, 2014 at 1:35 pm

Our travel mistakes become funny stories later that we tell around a bon-fire with a glass of wine or something. Isn’t it? :-) I have my share of travel mistakes too (I have dedicated a post on my blog). But my funniest one is not booking my train tickets and finally booking a train that gets cancelled before its arrival time! Argh! Thankfully, I had a friend in town who came to my rescue.

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Fabiana November 10, 2014 at 7:25 pm

Haha! This was really fun to read. I might do one of these articles soon. I have made plenty of silly mistakes while traveling, I bet someone will find them fun :)

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Susan Weinberg November 26, 2014 at 5:21 am

Do not rent a scooter, no matter how much fun it is at the beginning of your trip if the guy renting it to you leaves the transaction with his eyes looking up to the sky and frowning, to his partner after seeing you test drive it. My husband says, “It’s only $3 for all day but thousands if you damage it! Be careful!” I got this, I boastfully announced on FB… An hour and a half later, driving on the ‘other’ side of the road on curvy hilly roads lined with deep ditches in southern Thailand, I lose my nerve and rather than go zooming together into the ditch, topple the bike…onto my ankle… Immediate trip to the clinic (after scootering back to hotel) and $90 later I have meds and wraps and a splint and I can’t put an ounce of weight on it. Stupid stupid! Spent three days in bed with a purple ankle and an array of multicolored bruises all over, had to forego our trip to Vietnam and head back to Bangkok for more R&R. Refusing to give in to the mishap, I used all wheelchair services at airports (excellent service) and wherever I could to save steps and planned our outings in Bangkok using taxis, skytrain and tuk tuks. Then we came to Cambodia and got an X-ray in the Fred Flintstone Clinic at Siem Reap where roosters ran thru, the X-ray room looked like it was going to birth Frankenstein and the wheelchair was fashioned out of a plastic lawn chair. (no fracture!) We toured 4 temples and a variety of sights in Angkor Wat Archeological Park using a taxi and foot problem to be dropped in front of everything. It was a stupid mistake, but this trip has been a blast despite it all….and gave us a dose of other sorts of experiences!

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Michael November 26, 2014 at 10:08 am

Wow that’s a tough one. You have to admit though, bad travel tales often make the most interesting stories. Glad you can laugh about it now.

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