Travel Risk Management & Specialist Risk Consulting
My Biggest Mistakes While Traveling The World
April 12th, 2016   Megan & Mike Jerrard

I’ve been quite lucky that in over 10 years of extensive travel I have never once been mugged, held up, arrested in a foreign country, or found myself in any kind of trouble which requires an embassy to assist. Knock on wood.

I have, however, made my fair share of stupid decisions and mistakes while traveling abroad, and hopefully you can make note so that you don’t have to learn the hard way too. Funniest travel stories

The following are my biggest mistakes while traveling abroad.

Not Being Sun Smart

The sun is something I am incredibly conscious about while traveling. Having been viciously burnt in the past on numerous occasions abroad, I now apply suntan lotion each morning out of routine, and carry it with me everywhere we go. What not to do when you travel – international travel mistakes.

I was burnt so badly in 2009 while traveling through Europe that it ruined the pigmentation in my nose which is now permanently red. When asked on social media I may assert that it’s just very cold out, but now you know the truth!

While I have a pretty thick skin (apparently not literally) and can laugh off the ‘Rudolph’ jokes, it took a lot of expensive laser surgery later for regular color to return to my nose. Epic fails traveling travel mistakes

This was a particularly unpleasant process which saw the in-house nurse hand me a stress ball and then repeatedly zap my face with what I describe as repeated bolts of lightening. Bad things happen traveling

So please, do yourself a favor and remember that you’re not escaping the sun just because you’re in a different country! The intensity of UV Rays differ around the world so just keep that in mind! And for the love of God…you could be wearing all of the suntan lotion in the world, but NEVER forget to apply lotion to your feet. Most embarrassing travel stories

Incorrectly Spelling a Passenger Name on an International Booking

A $300 spelling mistake; in 2010 I was handling the flights to Africa for myself and a friend, and ended up having to fork over a name change fee to the airline to change “Stewart” to “Stuart”. Otherwise the name on his booking wouldn’t have matched his passport. Embarrassing things to happen traveling

Ever since then I have double and triple checked information before locking in a booking!! Possibly the most expensive spelling mistake I have ever made.

Rocking Up at the Wrong Airport

Sometimes your biggest issue may not be getting to the airport on time, but getting to the RIGHT airport on time. Embarrassing travel stories

You may find this advice to be incredibly straightforward, however I assure you that people have shown up for flights at the wrong airport before, and can assure you of this with 100% certainty because “people” was once me.

In 2009 I traveled with mum on a 2 month European Adventure. Having traveled Europe quite extensively in the past, I was our resident expert, and planned both our itinerary and accommodation. Though let me tell you, this “expert” was quickly knocked off her high horse!

As it turns out, the flight wasn’t listed because it wasn’t leaving from Heathrow. We were meant to be at Gatwick, and and there was no way we were going to get there in time to catch our flight. Bad travel stories

The good news is, we did get to Rome that evening, though as you can imagine I’ve never heard the end of this, especially since having booked accommodation in a convent with a strict curfew, if we hadn’t made it to Rome by 8pm, we were sleeping on the street. Accidents overseas travel mistakes

We were fortunate enough to cancel our flight without fees, and transfer onto a flight to Rome leaving Heathrow; proof to previous advice as to why you’ll get further being nice to airport ground staff.

Letting Someone Else Pack for Me

This was unavoidable, however still a mistake all the same. In 2010 I found myself on a group trip to the Solomon Islands where we were delayed 5 days due to a volcanic eruption in Chile. 3 of us missed the departure of a 4-wheel drive expedition to Cape York, being the very tip of Australia. The trip departed from Canberra and we met them 3 days later after flying into Cairns, Queensland. Can I let someone else pack for my travel

My sister packed a bag for me and sent it with the cars which departed Canberra. I will never forget the evening in the campsite in Cairns where I unpacked that bag, pulling out a series of clubbing dresses to the insane laughter of everyone in the group!

We were extreme 4-wheel driving, through some of Australia’s most intense terrain, so let’s just say they weren’t the most practical clothes to be wearing on that kind of a trip. But it’s the thought that counts!

Not Having Left a Copy of My Itinerary at Home

You’re probably wondering why an independent 27 year old and her 32 year old husband would still be sending mum and dad a copy of their travel itinerary. Overbearing much? Not really.

No matter what your age, never underestimate the importance of letting someone at home know where you will be.

In 2012 Mike moved to Australia. During April of that year we went on a road trip into the middle of the Australian Outback with the intent of hiking the Larapinta Trail. That’s the only information we thought to leave with friends and family back home. What to do with a travel itinerary

When Mike’s father passed away 4 days into our hike, no-one had any idea where we were. Well out of range of a phone signal, they had no idea how to contact us or where we were meant to be. Sure, they knew we were in the Australian Outback, somewhere along the Larapinta Trail; but with a total length of 223 kilometres, the trail can take weeks to walk.

Going off the little information he had, my father called the Parks and Wildlife Commission and had one of the Park Rangers leave notes at every major trail intersection. They finally caught us on a fluke and transported us back to Alice Springs where we dealt with the tragedy.

Abusing Alcohol Overseas

At 18 I took a Gap year and headed off to London for a 12 month break in-between high school and university. It was the most amazing year of my life and I returned home a far better and much more well rounded person as a result of my experiences abroad. However I drank too excessively that year and am surprised that I didn’t end up in a tragic situation.

It’s all fun and games at the time, however looking back it was incredibly dangerous to have been continually drinking to the point where I couldn’t remember the evening before, especially while I was traveling through countries with people I had only just met, and where I was not fluent in the local language. Tips for drinking overseas

I was lucky. Other’s haven’t had the same luck. There was an Australian woman who passed out drunk in the streets of Canada, for instance, and woke up with the most graphic and severe case of frostbite the world has ever seen. Literally, click through to that story – her fingers were swollen to the point of full size balloons, and she’s genuinely lucky to still have the use of her hands.

Needless to say I drank enough alcohol that year to not feel the need to drink anymore! And you wouldn’t believe how much money I now save for travel from only drinking (responsibly) on occasion!

Lying About Having Travel Insurance

In 2012 I traveled to the Solomon Islands on a volunteer program with Scouting Australia where we spent 2 weeks repairing a red cross school for disabled children. You will find that with the majority of group projects you embark on, you’ll likely be required to provide proof of individual travel insurance.

Traveling for the next two months and not wanting to ‘waste’ money on ‘unnecessary’ travel insurance (common excuses people use for traveling without insurance), I emailed through a policy which came attached to a credit card and covered me when travel was booked on that card – obviously not the case in this trip. Is travel insurance a good idea?

I mean, at that stage I had been traveling for 6 years, and had never EVER found the need to use travel insurance – what could possibly go wrong?

Well, as it happens, even if you’ve never needed to rely on your insurance overseas before, there’s no way of knowing that you’ll never need it at all. A volcano erupted in Chile and the majority of airports around the world couldn’t fly out. Being that flights only left from the Solomons on Tuesdays and Thursdays and it was Thursday when the volcano erupted, we were stuck in Honiara for 5 extra days. Luckily I managed to bunk into a hotel room with one of the girls who’s travel insurance did kick in!!

Since having also suffered an asthma attack in Budapest where I refused to receive emergency medical care because I didn’t have the insurance and couldn’t afford to pay, I’ve traveled with proper insurance ever since, and always made sure that my insurance covers health.

Megan Jerrard
MappingMegan.com