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FlyerTalk’s Dumbest (and Funniest) Travel Mistakes

FlyerTalk’s Dumbest (and Funniest) Travel Mistakes
Jeff Edwards

Although infrequent flyers are prone to making travel-related mistakes that can ruin a trip, such as accidentally booking tickets from Philadelphia to London, Ontario rather than London, England (it actually happened to someone we know), but even seasoned travelers can occasionally make boneheaded decisions when traveling – a few are even willing to admit it.

Enter the Dragon

Forgetting to declare an item while traveling internationally can be costly if discovered at the airport. For one FlyerTalk member, it was nearly life-changing.

“When I was traveling in 2007 I went to Japan and bought two Japanese throwing stars for about a fiver each, and had them gift wrapped,” travbod57 explained. “I put them at the bottom of my backpack and continued on through Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore for 3 weeks before flying to Australia. I landed in Melbourne and our luggage got scanned again as we left the airport (I thought this weird at the time). However the machine beeped at my bag but I thought nothing of it. They asked whether I had anything in the bag that could have set the beeping off to which I replied no, completely forgetting about the throwing stars. Of course they got discovered and I looked like a right tit. They read me my rights and issued me a formal warning of which I have kept the documentation as a souvenir. They told me that legislation for this kind of offense had changed in the last 6 months and had this incident occurred 6 months earlier, I could be facing a jail term or up to $50,000 fine. A close shave. I think they took pity on me because firstly they were gift wrapped and secondly I said that if I were to bring a weapon into the country with the intention of causing harm, Japanese throwing stars would not be my weapon of choice!”

A “Stupid” Mistake

Presumably, Georgina Cammalleri is a much more savvy traveler now, but that wasn’t always the case. She freely admits she was once young and “stupid.”

“I went on a school trip to the US when I was 17. I thought myself very cool and ‘grown up,’” she recalled. “We get to immigration control and we have to fill out the immigration cards. For occupation, a person my age would normally write ‘STUDENT’. So, imagine my shock when the officer checking my details goes to me: ‘So, you are a Stupid?’ I had written in big capital letters under occupation: ‘STUPID’ not ‘STUDENT.’”

Garcon! Garcon!

FlyerTalk writer and verified idiot Jeff Edwards, opted not to share a story about boarding the wrong train in Barcelona and ending up two hours away from his intended destination – a nearby hotel (lest he be assigned a social worker and 24-hour-a-day supervision). Instead, he shares a much more embarrassing, but somewhat less troubling tale of an ugly American facing a language barrier with less than ideal results.

“The scene is the bar car of a train somewhere between Paris and Antwerp,” Edwards confesses. “A waiter asks a question in French which I loosely translated to ‘Would you care for a drink?’ I reply, ‘Cote du Rhone, si vous plait’ in practiced French. To which the waiter (now speaking very clear English) responds, ‘I am not your f***ing waiter; I am the conductor. Now, could I have your ticket please.’”

Checked a Coat, but Not the Weather

Airport coat checks are a great option for passengers headed for tropical climates who don’t want to haul a heavy winter coat with them to a beach resort, but will require a bit of extra protection from the elements on the ground at their city of origin. The service is even better when it comes included as a perk of using a parking service, but there can be unexpected drawbacks.

“For my flight 2 days before Christmas to a hot, sunny destination I was happy to get free coat check due to my parking option,” FlyerTalker Fragola admitted. “I was happy to take advantage of it since it was -20 C and windy outside, knowing that my 737 would be boarded from a jetbridge and I could comfortably get myself into the terminal wearing my puffy down parka but not have to worry about lugging it around. I was NOT happy to learn at the gate we would actually need to walk outside on the tarmac and board using the stairs. Staff were reminding everyone to put their jackets back on. All I could do was do up all the buttons on my sweater…unlike the guy in line who was only in shorts and t shirt.”

Any Port in a Storm

A passenger running late a for a departing flight cut some corners when returning a rental car, but it turns out the rushed driver might as well have just left the car in short-term parking. It seems brand loyalty isn’t a big concern for this particular traveler.

“When I returned my rental car at the Detroit airport, the attendant mentioned that another car nearby wasn’t theirs,” Dragonbelle related. “The renter had left it and dashed madly for the shuttle bus. If she’d waited for her receipt, she’d have realized she was at the wrong agency.”


We are all guilty of occasionally finding an airfare deal that seems too good to be true; if we are lucky, the reason for the bargain-basement price is clear before we pull the trigger. One FlyerTalk member, however, didn’t realize there was a catch until it was too late.

“A few years ago, looking to fly from NY to south FL for a long weekend in February, dead of winter,” RBirns confessed. “Big prices, naturally. Got online to search one day, and found a very low fare to FLL, so I booked it. Turns out I booked the reverse trip. No wonder it was so cheap. Who wants to go from FL to NY in February?”

There Are No Problems, Only Solutions

A FlyerTalker learned that traveling with a paper drivers license extension card can make renting a car nearly impossible. Fortunately, a rental agent offered an unlikely solution to the problem.

I accepted that it was my problem but was there any way to solve it?” sjclynn wrote. “She has one of the service guys take me to the local DMV where they verified that I was actually legal in CA, gave me a quick vision test and in a matter of 10 minutes I had a temporary South Dakota drivers license.”

Same, Same

BuildingMyBento had a concise but universally understood “dumb travel mistake” to admit. Unfortunately, it is a mistake many of us are guilty of repeating over and over again.

“Flying to EWR,” the FlyerTalk member wrote with no explanation required.

This is Where We Used to Live

There are rough trips and there are those journeys that can make you lose track of major life events. If one of the goals of travel is to make you forget your worries, then this excursion must have been an overwhelming success.

“Have you ever had that feeling when something is not quite right but you can’t put your finger on it?” a FlyerTalker with the handle Roger Wolco posed. “After a long multi-segment journey I was relieved to be driving home from the airport and was looking forward to unwinding chez Wilco. The light bulb did not go off until I discovered that my key would not open the front door – and then it took me a moment or two to figure it out. No, Mrs Wilco had not changed the locks. We had moved house the previous year! I must have really liked the old place. Fortunately it was only a few miles away.”

Ever booked a flight to the wrong airport, misread the departure time, left a passport in a taxi or slept through a change of gate announcement? Well, misery loves company. FlyerTalk members are sharing their best “I can’t believe I did that” stories and sympathizing each other’s tales of woe in the forums now.


[Featured Image: Shutterstock]

View Comments (15)


  1. LukeO9

    July 25, 2019 at 6:23 pm

    “Flying to EWR” ???

  2. zoombee

    July 26, 2019 at 5:39 am

    Am I being dumb by not being able to find a link to this thread in the forums?

  3. dwcatty

    July 26, 2019 at 5:46 am

    I have a two parter.

    After spending the first five nights of a trip in Paris, Mrs dwcatty and I rented a car and spent the next five days touring the chateaux of the Loire Valley. We picked up the car at a Hertz agency in the city and headed south. As it was the start of a holiday weekend two things resulted; as a Gold member with a longstanding reservation for an economy car I got the mother of all upgrades to a brand new Renault SUV (the hotel guys were impressed when I returned to pick up our luggage), and every road leaving Paris was jammed.

    Fortunately the car had a GPS unit and I was able to get us out of traffic on the packed autoroute and onto some smaller, less traveled roads. Unfortunately I was new to GPS and once we were on another road didn’t know how to change the scale on the map and so was unable to determine which way we were going. All I knew was we were on a road – the scale was set for city driving but out here in the country all I could see was a single line of a road with us on it.

    I pulled over to figure out how to adjust the map – all the instructions were in French! Ultimately I pushed enough buttons to find out how to change the language and then learned how to use the map. We were headed – sort of – in the right direction, and soon I had us on course.

    Part two: After five great days driving we returned the car about 8 pm on a Sunday night at CDG, spending the night at the airport Hilton before flying home the next day. That morning I sorted all our luggage to depart, patted my pockets and (!!!) could not find our passports. After several anxious minutes I realized I didn’t have the small bag I kept them in, and that I must have left it with them in the rental car.

    I rode the Hilton shuttle van to Hertz, on the way seeing our car still parked in the return queue, not moved since we dropped it off the night before. It took a few minutes for a Hertz employee to find the keys, but when he did we walked out to the car and there was the bag in the backseat with two passports inside. Worst part (best part?) of this episode was that the car was unlocked!

  4. MitchR

    July 26, 2019 at 6:22 am

    I went online to check my 11 year old son in for our trip to Costa Rica the next afternoon. It was then that I realized that his passport had expired. Our flight was at 3 pm so I showed up at the Dallas, Texas Passport Office at 8 am for expedited processing. four hours and a few hundred extra $$ later we were on our way to the airport with a new passport.

  5. iamrich

    July 26, 2019 at 6:25 am

    Talking about funny travel mistakes, my wife and I had one of the best.
    We arrived in Cancun to start our one week vacation. As we went to the conveyor to pick up our luggage to take through customs I grabbed our tan Samsonite suitcase. The customs agent asked for me to unlock it so he could look inside. I simply took out my Samsonite Key and opened the two locks (at the time it was OK to lock your suitcase). As the agent opened the suitcase about 6 bags of Rock Candy fell out which was a surprise to my wife and I. The agent then picked up the bags and demanded an answer as to what this item was? Since it turned out not to be our luggage my answer immediately was of shock as I confessed that I had no idea what that stuff was? He then kept on insisting that I explain what this illegal drug looking substance was in spanglish, to which I replied, I don’t know , this id not my luggage. He then called another agent over to further discuss that they may have captured a kingpin to a major drug smuggling ring.
    All of my pleads for mercy could not stop customs from giving me the third degree. I kept explaining that I must have picked up the wrong bag and that I was surprised my key opened it. I also said that I believe the suspicious substance was what we call “Rock Candy”. He then began to look further into the suitcase only to find other types of candy along with all types of sexy women’s underwear, bras and lacy negligees. Mind you that I am a 275 pound big husky guy and I did not look like I crossed dressed.
    I then convinced them to allow me to go back to the conveyor and pick up an exact duplicate of my luggage except that this one had my name on it. After comparing my ticket to the name tag they decided to let my wife and I go. I do not know what the women that owned the bag we mistook had to go through, but I was just glad that we didn’t have to spend our entire vacation in a Mexican jail, especially since my change of clothing would have been a Red Teddy.

  6. Ronlap

    July 26, 2019 at 8:44 am

    I worked for a company which always booked Car Rental company A and went to work for a new employer who booked with Car Rental company B. After a cross-country flight I automatically went to Car Rental company A and since I have status I drove out of the lot with my car from the preferred aisle. A few moments later, my cell phone pings with a $2,100 charge on my American Express card. It turns out that since I didn’t have a reservation nor a contract number on the account, I was charged the rack rate of around $400/day for the week that I told the gate guard I would have the car.

    We did manage to hash it all out between my company’s travel manager and the local rental manager.

  7. DeltaFlyer123

    July 26, 2019 at 10:13 am

    Back in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s our company had a travel agent booking our trips, so we told the agent where we were going for how long, and they arranged the flight and hotels. Nowadays, we can book online.
    I was going to Indianapolis, got my ticket and itinerary, arrived at IND picked up my car and headed to Holiday Inn Airport North. I drove round and round, only found one Holiday Inn, no North or South. So I tried to check in, and the agent saw there’s something wrong – even though the itinerary said Indianapolis, the hotel’s area code was Minneapolis! Thankfully, they had a room, and the hotel agent made sure the no-show penalty at MSP was waived.

  8. azmojo

    July 26, 2019 at 11:42 am

    My dumb travel mistake was related to daylight savings time. I arrived at the airport and thought I had plenty of time. Everyone kept telling me that I’d better hurry and I just kept blowing it off thinking they were just uptight. Finally got to the gate and I had just missed the flight and had to wait for the next one. So stupid!

  9. PhilnLiz

    July 26, 2019 at 12:57 pm

    Trying to returning to the US via LHR after a cruise with a stop in Belgium. Being the chocolate lover I picked up some great chocolate and a unique gift for the wife- chocolate massage oil. Going through security they ran my bag twice then called me over to secondary. I was clueless what could be the problem. After a hand search they ran the bag through the scanner again. Another hand search finally found the bag with the chocolate and the massage oil. After a good long laugh all the guy said was “well that will make for a fun Friday night”!!

  10. Mauricio23

    July 26, 2019 at 2:39 pm

    Flew into Calgary and picked up a rental SUV to drive to Canmore. About half an hour into the 1.5 hour drive, I get this nagging feeling I’m being followed. Sure enough, this burgundy sedan keeps steadily behind us – but then again, I’m driving the speed limit and so are them. I take the first Canmore exit – so does the sedan. I make a left turn, so do they. I go into a cul-de-sac – sedan right behind me. I come to a stop – the sedan does too. I get off my SUV, the sedan door opens, a woman steps out, sees me, and lets out a primal scream. She had followed the wrong car for 1.5 hours. I never found out where she was supposed to go.

  11. Great_circle

    July 27, 2019 at 1:12 am

    My dumbest travel mistakes are a continuing story and consist of losing things while travelling, from leaving my camera on the aircraft, a shopping bag full of new clothes from a famous London department store in the London tube, a bank card in an airport ATM, the list goes on..

    Other travel mistakes would be travelling to Ko Phi Phi during high season and travelling on Ryanair 🙂

  12. CEB

    July 27, 2019 at 12:59 pm

    Six flights in one week, DEN-MSP-LAX-DEN-IAD-DEN. Had all the flight times down pat. With Denver as home base at the time I ‘knew’ I had time to have lunch with my wife between flights, so landed at DEN about 09:30 had a leisurely lunch and headed back to the airport to catch my flight. All pre 9-11 so no problem going through security, etc. Walk into the 1K lounge to check in and Frank welcomes me with “Hello Dr. CEB, we expected to see you this morning about 10:00. Your flight left at 11:13.” Embarrassed as I was, I simply cursed myself under y breath and asked if they could help me out. Sure enough, I had already been booked out on the flight at 15:00 for IAD. Unfortunately I missed the absolutely wonderful dinner my client had arranged for that evening!!

  13. azoomee

    July 27, 2019 at 1:50 pm

    @mauricio23 pretty good one. Most of my mistakes really focus on not arriving with enough time to the airport. With the security as it is, and with some airports being slower at security than others, when I’ve cut it close — I always end up having to run through the airport. Now I just get there early. One occasion I was traveling with my family, we arrived 2 hours in advance for an international flight. Unexpected extended times to check in our luggage combined with an overly crowded security checkpoint created some craziness. My wife spoke with a TSA agent about the concern we’d miss our flight. Somehow the next is almost a blur — the friendly agent, grabbed a wheelchair, asked my wife to sit in it, then wheeled her (and us following frantically) to the front of the line, and through the gate. Now we play it even more conservative for check-ins. (thank you TSA agent, you saved our vacation!)

  14. RSSrsvp

    July 28, 2019 at 9:56 am

    I once missed a flight JFK-AMS because I looked at the date of the hotel check in and forgot I was flying on a red eye the day before. The DL phone agent was sympathetic when I had explained what had occurred and booked me JFL-CDG- AMS the next day without any additional fees or service charges.

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