Travel mistakes I keep on making

Some places are meant to be enjoyed slowly- the Monastery at PetraMost of my travel memories are very happy ones. I’ve seen things at first hand that I’d long dreamed of since learning about them in childhood books, I’ve had unexpected encounters with people who have left their mark long after I’ve returned home and I’ve been fortunate to have travelled far and wide without any particularly serious incidents.

One thing I have learned is that however many times we go on one of our trips I never quite master the art of getting everything right. Here are just a sample of the mistakes I’ve made that stick in my mind:

1. Not enough time at Petra

I had planned out an 11 day itinerary for us to visit Jordan and Syria. I knew at the time that it was ambitious, but not knowing when we would return to these countries I opted for breadth rather than depth. As a result I allocated one day to Petra, and to make matters worse our transport arrangements meant that we needed to leave the main site by around 1.30pm.

We ended up with a little over six hours to wander through the Siq, admire the main sites and hike up to the Monastery. Of course we saw a lot in the time that we had; we’re fast walkers and tend to cover a lot in a relatively short time. But we would have been able to enjoy Petra a lot more with another day to take a little more time at each stop instead of clock-watching. We would also have liked to hike up to some of the look-out points.

Another visit to Petra will need to be arranged…


2. Being tight on rental car fuel

Many rental companies give you a car with an empty tank and it’s up to you to buy the fuel you need and to return it empty. Obsessed with trying to avoid paying for fuel I wouldn’t use I have on several occasions driven the last 50-100km with the warning light on flashing, wandering whether I would regret my frugality.

One particular occasion on Hawaii’s Big Island sticks in my memory as we were driving back in the pre-dawn hours and a breakdown would have left us stranded in the middle of nowhere with a flight to catch.

Thankfully I now accept that an extra few dollars in the tank is worth paying for the peace of mind it brings.


3. Not thinking ahead for dinner

A good meal can form the basis of a happy visit to a particular destination. It is right therefore that where we eat should get careful consideration in our travel plans. At the same time there is a thin line between being happy to wait a while before dinner and feeling so hungry that grouchiness and irritation take over and anything will do. This inevitably leads to a rash decision to enter the first available restaurant whatever it looks like. Admittedly this has led to some excellent meals; on other occasions however we have left unimpressed, wandered two minutes up the street and found a place that looked far better than where we’d just been.

As a result we do try to scout out our evening dining spots if we’re walking through a city during the day; it doesn’t always work but it can at least prevent us from aimless wandering when one or both of us are suddenly attacked by aggressive hunger pangs.


I guess we should accept that however much we travel we’ll always be prone to making mistakes either in our planning or in our judgement in a particular situation. Feel free to share your recurring travel errors. As an added consolation, it is the consequences of many of these mistakes that actually create some of our finest travel memories.


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18 Responses to “Travel mistakes I keep on making”

  1. I do the last one all the time – start off being fussy, then traipsing for hours until I find something that’s just right. Except inevitably I don’t, and end up somewhere crap because I’m ravenous.

    June 20, 2011 at 2:01 pm
  2. I’ve never heard of renting a car with no petrol. Whenever I rent a car it is full and you have to return it full. It doesn’t make much sense the other way. Weird.

    June 20, 2011 at 2:08 pm
    • It seems more common in the US – I agree with you though, it’s a lot more sensible to have a ‘full out, full back’ policy.

      June 20, 2011 at 4:18 pm
  3. I’ve given myself 2 weeks in Jordan. I’m hoping this isn’t enough…just so I have an excuse to go back again!

    June 20, 2011 at 3:22 pm
  4. spend more time at fewer places is usually a good plan.

    June 20, 2011 at 4:06 pm
    • Sound advice Nanelle, but never quite so easy to follow. In this case we only had 11 days; an option would have been to spend it all in Jordan and leave Syria for another day. But then, looking at what’s happening now I am so glad that we managed to visit Syria while it was still peaceful.
      I must admit that after that trip I have become more realistic with planning itineraries but there is still a balance to be struck. We want to visit many places and know that life will never afford us the opportunity to see everything we want to see. If we leave out something on a trip we have to resign ourselves to the fact that we might never see it – not such an easy thing to accept.

      June 20, 2011 at 4:23 pm
  5. I always bring too much stuff I never use!! I never learn :(

    June 20, 2011 at 4:36 pm
  6. I have made mistake 1 and 3 too many times, and I never seem to learn. Thanks for writing about this as now that I have read it perhaps it will be fresh in my mind the next time I travel.

    June 20, 2011 at 11:07 pm
  7. Good tips. Make same mistake as you and David when it comes to eating out – for travel writers, a bad meal is a wasted meal as it’s one we can’t write about. Frustrates the hell out of me when we eat somewhere less than satisfactory.

    June 21, 2011 at 10:00 am
  8. Mine is usually not bringing enough cash.. so many times we got stuck in 3rd world countries where even if you had a CC it was of no use. Sometimes it could also be not changing enough of the local currency at the big cities – once you get out into the remote.. could be stuck for weeks.
    Good read – great post:)

    June 21, 2011 at 10:00 am
  9. That’s the thing with travel: it never goes 100% as planned. You just never know how dull or amazing a place is going to be, and therefore the time you allowed this place might or might not be off.

    Same goes for dinner: you never know how hungry you are going to be, how tired and how broke. The great little plan you had might just fall to pieces depending on the situation.

    I prefer to call these travel experiences rather than travel mistakes, because I think these situations are often out of control, therefore not mistakes.

    I have personally made “mistakes” 1 very often, but then again, I’m sort of glad I did because I get the chance to go back to places I’ve cut short on. Nothing to complain about, eh? ;)

    June 22, 2011 at 12:14 pm
  10. Made the same mistake at Petra. Most people don’t realize just how vast the site actually is. I remember our tour guide, who has been giving tours for years, mentioned he still hasn’t seen everything.

    June 30, 2011 at 11:04 pm
  11. I enjoyed your point about having a great meal. Personally, I’ve found that sometimes the best places are the hole in the wall types of cafes/restaurants the guidebook never mentions. On the other hand, some of the best meals I’ve ever had are found through the pages of LP. I like to have a combination of both over time – planned and spontaneous.

    July 4, 2011 at 2:13 am
  12. “Obsessed with trying to avoid paying for fuel I wouldn’t use I have on several occasions driven the last 50-100km with the warning light on flashing, wandering whether I would regret my frugality.”


    “3. Not thinking ahead for dinner”

    lol – I hear you man.

    But what is life, without an element of risk?

    July 9, 2011 at 12:11 am
  13. Martin Riviere-Allen #

    Being a regular visitor to Greece, I made a mistake this year that I have not made since 2001 – I booked more than the first night in advance! We always end up moving arround – which i ‘forgot’ so ended up with 2 hotels. Which was useful as it was somewhere to keep the extra ‘stuff’ we didnt need!

    July 9, 2011 at 9:09 am
  14. Andy Jarosz #

    Hello Martin, good of you to drop by. Yes, guilty of that one too. On the one hand it feels good to know everything’s arranged but as you say your plans are bound to change. I guess it depends on length of trip and transport availability. In parts of Europe you get big discounts on trains if you book ahead – it can be worth sacrificing flexibility for cost. I haven’t managed two hotels for one night yet though :-)

    July 9, 2011 at 7:25 pm
  15. ONLY *six* hours in Petra?!?!?! That’s a CRIME my friend! You gotta go back! Some of my fondest memories come from that site. Absolutely incredible. I spent 2 days hiking all over the place and think I could have still gone for one more day.

    July 19, 2011 at 1:02 pm
  16. I understand completely. I ran around Petra from about 7am for 4-5 hours and then had to rush to the airport for a late afternoon flight. We were pushing it! My problem was that when I arrived in Syria I couldn’t leave and ended up in Damascus for 4 weeks! So really cut short my Jordan experience!

    July 28, 2011 at 8:06 pm