13 Americans Shared Their Worst Travel Abroad Mistakes

“We came across the Friendship Bridge into Canada but got sent back because my wife had pepper spray.”

“American customs disposed of the offending spray. We went to our Canadian hotel and discovered my wife’s handgun in the luggage!”

“Who knows how much it wound up being in the end? Travel insurance is now a must for me.”

“When it came time for the return trip, I flew back alone to Chicago, where my older sister met me at the airport. She asked me if I was smoking, and I lied to her.

Later, when I got on the plane to go home, I found a note indicating our grandmother had passed when I was in the air. She also said that she knew about my smoking because she found my cigarettes in my carry-on. She promised not to tell our dad — which she didn’t — but I eventually got busted by the neighbors, who told my dad.”

“I’m definitely much more careful about incorrect GPS listings now. Some of them don’t translate well.”

“I got no sleep on my 16-hour flight to Korea. Got a quick sleep at the hotel, and then the friends and I chose our ‘random but busy day’ to be Day 1 instead of our planned relaxation Korean spa day.

Running yourself ragged is bad, especially when you’re neurodivergent and dealing with a time difference, new external stimuli, and a lack of access to your coping mechanisms (i.e., edibles are a no-go in most Asian countries). By the second day, I had a mini emotional breakdown over losing my travel pass loaded with basically $5 in Korean won. And then, by Day 4, my sleep-deprived friend raised her voice at me in a public area, and the overstimulation of it all led to a full-blown panic attack.

If you’re traveling abroad with a major time difference, make a plan, try to stick with it, and take time to slow down at the beginning — not the end — because it takes a toll on you or someone in your group.

It was a great trip, but I have regrets. I regret that we ran out of time to do our Korean spa day. Once we decided to push it back, it fucked everything up, and we took out the one day we set aside to actually breathe and enjoy things, which would’ve made the other days probably more enjoyable if we had been refreshed instead of running on fumes.”

“I want to say that I’ve never again made the mistake of wearing brand-new shoes out and about, but I would be lying. It took me far too long to learn that lesson.”

“People say that Parisians are not friendly, but between the train engineer who showed my friend where a bathroom was (after we had reached the end of the line) and got us set up in the right train going back with bottles of water, no less, to those folks who voluntarily took our bags up and down stairs, to the gentleman who let us use his cellphone to call the hotel for directions — that was proven wrong!

We also forgot our current adapter, but the young lady in charge of the hotel’s breakfast area lent us one.”

“I took German language and culture classes and always had my German/English dictionary to refer to if my German wasn’t understandable. It was a great four years, and I always appreciated that early lesson!”

“Do you know all the states in France or Austria? No? Then why would you expect non-Americans to know all the US states?”

“Some of the places he sent us to were in what looked like people’s houses, with the living and dining rooms set with tables. Amazing dining experiences on which we would have completely missed out. Make friends with your concierge!!!”

“As I learned quickly, people on public transport like quiet rides. They’re NOT on vacation.”