Last Updated on July 3, 2022 by Christine Kaaloa
What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you when you were traveling? I’m talking about your worst case scenarios and things that ruin your vacation?
For many of us there is no “do over” when a once-in-a-lifetime trip goes awry. Experiencing worst-case scenarios can royally suck. You want to make every moment count. Here’s how…
This post has been updated from 10 ways to 15 ways to ruin your vacation
A ruined vacation is an opportunity
I encountered a fair amount of worst case scenarios for a traveler. It’s not because I’m accident prone, but the more I travel, I get relaxed about following my travel rules and I encounter a vast spectrum on scenarios.
I try to focus on the adventure and the fact i’ll probably get a good travel story out of it as a weird compensation. But if I can prevent a ruined vacation or flip it around after encountering it, then I feel like i’m winning.
I see worst case scenarios as a two sided coin. On one side, you have certain defeat; the other side, you can be the hero or heroine of your travel story. Like an athlete you can survive a worst case scenario and overcome it, and gain greater travel confidence.
Top 15 things that will ruin your vacation and ways to recover it
1. Travel Theft
Encountering theft is usually ranked the top of worst and most feared travel experiences (next to violent crime). Someone lifted something from your bag when you left it in your hotel or hostel. Maybe a thief slashed your purse and ran off with it or you got pickpocketed in a crowded subway. You feel violated, alone and like you’ve been punched in the stomach. It certainly can color your experience of a country. I’ve seen grown men cry.
Read my 23 hostel tips for travelers
How to deal with theft when you travel
- Keep a carnet (a carnet is a single form that lists all items a photographer would be traveling with, it proves ownership and eliminates the need to pay taxes and deal with U.S. customs agents). I travel with a copy of my gear list (inclusive of serial numbers) for both insurance in the case I need to file a report with the police and my insurance company.
- As soon as you encounter theft, file a Police report. While in most cases its improbably the police will apprehend the criminal, you need that police report in order to file with you travel insurance company for compensation.
- Keep all your police report, travel documents, reciepts for what you spent as a result (and if you still have it, proof of your product receipts) for your insurance to deal with when you get home.
How to prevent theft when you travel
The best way to deal with theft when you travel is to prevent it from happening. While life is a gamble, you can minimize your chances of losing by increasing your chances of winning. Here’s tips for preventing travel theft:
- Leave valuables at home
- Do not flash valuables in plain sight
- Get travel insurance before you leave on your trip.
- Research what types of crime that city/country is known for
- Know how to outsmart pickpockets and thieves
- Practice street smarts and read my Safety tips for solo travelers
- Practice safety when staying in hotels
2. Getting sick or in an accident
From a bad bout of food poisoning, traveler’s diarrhea, dengue fever to drinking bad water… getting sick (and getting sick when traveling alone) really sucks. Getting into an injury accident is another!
Travel insurance is always a good precaution. I like to use World Nomads. They handle Americans and cover over 150 countries.
See a travel doctor before your trip, so he can diagnose common ailments of the country, travel shots and medicines to take. I always pack an antidiarrheal & Cipro in my first aid kit.
- Especially for solo travelers: Notify your hotel or guesthouse so they know you’re sick and are more likely to help you. They can direct you to the nearest hospital or pharmacy.
- If the virus or bug doesn’t work itself out within a few days, I go to the hospital, without question.
- For accidents, take photos of the situation and any damage. If you are renting a car or vehicle, take photos of the before. Also remember to have a police report drawn if the accident is serious; your insurance may cover it.
Read my travel tips: How to eat street food and not get sick
3. Getting scammed
No one likes being scammed. In my Bangkok Taxi Scams video I occasionally get mean comments from male viewers who side with the taxi driver who was trying to scam me. Getting scammed is never a good feeling. It can put a huge damper on your trip as you feel your self trust forsaken. You feel violated by an unsavory person’s manipulation, power play, deciet, and they take advantage of your naivete or trust. Sometimes, these folks can resort to bullying.
- Research common scams of the destination you are traveling. This will prepare you for what you may encounter and this foreknowledge helps immensely!
- Trust your gut and intuition. If someone or a situation doesn’t feel right, excuse yourself immediately, unemotionally and walk away. Being a female soloist, my reliance upon gut and intuition has grown to point my psychic abilities are stronger.
- I wrote a post on how to deal with scams if you want more tips.
4. Overstaying a visa
Whether or not you have a paid flight ticket, had your agent book a flight for you or have proof of onward travel, you will need to have a visa if a country requires it. Even if you’re merely passing through it in order to get to another country.
- Always check the visa requirements of the country you’re traveling to. Some countries offer visa on arrival ( you can apply and pay for a visa when you arrive), some cities/countries offer transit visas if you just have a layover in them, but most have an application process, which requires you filling out an application and taking it and your passport to an embassy.
- Beware of “transit’ layovers. If you have a layover, make sure you don’t need a visa in that city or country. Before people assumed that if they had a paid flight ticket to Nepal and could prove onward travel, they would not need a transit visa in India for their layover or connecting flight. They were wrong and were sent back home, without having ever landed in Nepal. I’m not sure if the regulations in India have changed. But beware that the country you’re laying over in, doesn’t require a visa.
You might be interested in this: How to Get your Global Entry Pass
5. Missing your plane
You don’t know how many times I’ve had to haul ass past TSA, down the hallway to gates spread apart, just to arrive- sweat drenched- in time for the final call of boarding. Some people like to push their chances, by arriving at the airport one hour before takeoff. Other times, it can’t be helped if your bus or taxi gets stuck in traffic.
- For international flights, always make sure you’re at the airport 3 hours in advance. Domestic travel requires you arrive 2 hours in advance. But beware, the gate can close anywhere from 30-45 minutes before takeoff.
- If you miss your plane, see if that airlines ticket counter can reschedule you. If you’re lucky, you might just have to pay a change fee and wait on standby for the next available flight.
- If your flight has been delayed or arrives late and many passengers have to reschedule flights, use your mobile phone to connect with the airport WiFi to check flight schedules as you stand in the airlines’ ticket booking line.
- You might have to buy another ticket and risk a longer layover, which can result in a night or two in that city. See my layover guide.
- Research your airlines and any layover options they have. For instance, Turkish Airlines offers a free hotel stay for passengers with long layovers.
- My favorite site for airport layovers: www.sleepinginairports.com
Read tips on how to book cheap flights
6. Bad Weather
There are times I feel like I travel with a raincloud over me. It can spoil a trip. Bad weather can be anything from experiencing a rainy day, a storm or god forbid, more.
- Try your best to check in advance the weather conditions. For reasons which deal mostly with clothes packing, I check weather statistics anywhere from a week to a month or two, depending upon my time in that country.
- Always pack a raincoat and cheap rain poncho. I stash this in my day pack. If bad weather hits, I’m prepared.
- Revert to indoor activities, galleries, museums, concerts, even checking out shopping malls and grocery stores, etc… I like to check out Get Your Guide for inexpensive day tours
- In some cases, you might get held up for an extra day or a few. You can stay at a hotel or research airport facility options. Another option is to sleep in the airport or check out airport layover options. Some airports have sleeping capsules or lounges areas for comfortable resting, while other layovers can earn you a day’s worth of sightseeing in a city!
Read 46 Ways to Travel for Cheap. I share how creative types of budget accommodations.
7. Credit Card /Debit Card won’t work
Have you ever gotten your credit or debit card flagged abroad? I’m always traveling to cash-based countries, that don’t take credit cards, so I’m reliant upon my debit and ATM cards and due to my bank’s tightened security, I’m constantly getting them flagged.
- Notify your bank and credit card company of your travel itinerary and the countries you’ll be in.
- Always bring cash as backup (which you can change at a money exchange at the airport).
- Take options: I carry an ATM and a couple of credit cards in the case one doesn’t work. It may sound like overkill but I’ve had my card flagged or not accepted at certain ATMs. It is never fun to be in a foreign country with the inability to withdraw cash!
- Prepaid credit cards allow you to place a certain sum of cash on your card. That way, if you ever lose it, only the money on your card will be lost. They have Visa, and Mastercard and the options are expanding. Prepaid cards are popular in western countries like the United States, Canada and Australia.
- Travel caution: If you’re booking accommodations and flights from the road, you might get flagged if the service provider (airlines carrier, Agoda.com, Hostelworld, etc…) is located in a country, which you have not listed on your travel itinerary. For example, I was traveling between Greece and Turkey and I was making last-minute arrangements for a hostel through Hostelworld. Hostelworld is located in Ireland, so my bank card was immediately flagged as my bank saw me making transactions in Ireland.
8. A bad tour
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about being stuck on a bad day tour with a guide that does not speak your language well. But for longer tour durations, you might be able to get off your tour. <– Tips to How I Negotiated my way out of a Delhi Scam tour
- Check the tour contract states on trip cancellations.
- Know you probably won’t get the majority of your money back.
- Sometimes, parts of your tour are refundable or can be pro-rated based on the amount of time you’ve been with them and the level of discontent you’re experiencing.
- If you are allowed to cancel or leave your tour, be prepared to wing your trip or scramble to make new bookings and plans.
- Be proactive: Research your tour beforehand and check out the customer ratings and reviews! Keep in mind, not all travelers have the same travel style. I use GetyourGuide.com to find good tours and I always read the reviews before booking!
9. Equipment Breakdown
Luggage, cameras, laptops, shoes…. what happens when something primary to your travels breaks on the road?
- Don’t take anything that you know will break soon, unless you’re prepared to spend your time shopping in that country.
- Invest in gaffer tape or duct tape, and bring some with you. I like to wrap some gaffer tape around a pen.
- Technology is the hardest to repair or replace on the road. Bring backup cables, chargers or secondary items if you think your tech gear might fail. I know my cameras have a way of failing on me when i travel so these days, I always pack an extra camera. Check out my vlogging gear list
- Do not assume there are Mac or PC stores at your destination. You will waste time hunting for a shop and if you do find one, a proper repair can take up to a week or longer! Keep in mind: using un-certified third-party dealers or parts might disqualify your manufacturer’s warranty!
Read Packing essentials for Travel Vloggers and Bloggers
10. Forgetting to Pack Essentials
Despite how well you aspire to pack, I feel like it’s a given that travelers forget something.
- Important documents like a passport are something you don’t want to forget. Period. Thus, I always make extra copies of my important documents, stash them in different parts of my bags and I’ll even send myself pdf versions to my phone, so I have them on hand. Obviously, never take identity or financial information with you, like social security cards, bank account numbers, and pins.
- I like to use Google docs to store more personal and private information.
- Other things like toiletries and clothes, you can easily buy when you arrive and it will give you an opportunity to shop those as souvenirs.
Try my free ultimate packing checklist tool and download your personal packing list today!
Stories from other travelers:
robbie025 – Too much trip planning will kill the trip… In our case, on the second trip ever, we had a freaking schedule for every day, from morning to the end of the day. It was soooooo exhausting. From that day, we don’t really plan any visits or day trip. We have a list of some places we want to see, and we plan the day before. It is so much better!!
12. Losing valuables
C Smiggee: “I had a friend learn the hard lesson of bringing expensive items on trips like sunglasses. Yep, left them in a rental car on the return. Now I always just have my $10 version for travel and try to limit expensive stuff on trips as best I can.”
Ken Norris: “I never take any valuables with me….I bought a cheap flip phone for that reason!”
Travel Tip: Always get trip insurance like World Nomads. If your gear or luggage is stolen, then always file a report with the police and keep the copy as proof. You will need this to file this with your insurance!
13. Being attacked
rubymimosa : “I think the worst thing that’s happened to me is grabbing a pickpocket’s wrist when he tried to cut my purse strap in Portugal, he threw a punch at my face (he must have been so scared). But even that wasn’t ruining, just a quick startle but it was all reflex stuff and the end was only a cut purse.”
Travel Tip: Always report your attack to the police. You want these type of assaults on record ; it may help the police catch them or prevent this from happening to another traveler.
Read Best anti-theft bags for solo travelers
14. Lost luggage
Les Aventures de Mélanie – “My first oversea travel was a solo travel to Japan, I got up late… missed my flight, one of my suitcases was lost…. but I still had an amazing time!”
Siena Ruggeri: “The airline we flew to Sicily on LOST my sister’s wheelchair for a couple of days! Really, people? She was basically stuck in the hotel room until she got her chair back. If that wasn’t bad enough, they also lost all our bags for four days.”
Travel Tip: Always get trip insurance like World Nomads. It is an essential part of traveling these days and will save your trip. If your luggage is lost, always get a copy of the luggage claim ticket with the airlines. You need this as proof for your insurance claim.
15. Losing your credit card or money
ABC hapa – “#1 losing my credit card in SanFrancisco airport the day before my first trans-Pacific flight. I broke down crying, no one knew how to help me and they were freaked out I was crying, and the airport phones weren’t working – I couldn’t figure them out. People were leaving for the day (after 5 pm) I got hustled around from airline to airline to the police to lost and found moments after I lost it but I had exited the terminal so I couldn’t go back and look for it myself. No one wanted to deal with me. I just had to cancel the card and leave without it – eventually, the replacement was sent to my mom and then mailed to me because I was out for a long time. #2 missing my flight from Korea to Japan – because I was late, the counters were closed, and because I booked a really cheap flight I forfeited the ticket cost. Spent the night in the airport and bought a ticket for the next day – less stressful than the first scenario but costly and unpleasant. Not the most uncomfortable night I’ve had in an airport though. That would be when I tried to book a next-day flight from Boston international on my phone but the ticket sale didn’t go through and we didn’t find out until the next morning. Boston has its benches all sat directly under freezing cold AC with uncomfortable armrests so it’s basically impossible to sleep before you get past security. We ended up renting a car in the morning and driving.”
Wayne Samuel – “My experience with a credit card is I put it in a bank ATM at a railroad station in Paris. Then it won’t release my card. I had the account number written down. I was staying at a friend’s apartment in Paris. I called the Visa number and they arranged to send me a replacement card from London by messenger to the apartment I was staying at. They replaced it like the next day so that helped saved my vacation.”
Kirk Davidson: “My biggest scare was forgetting to take my bank card out of the ATM machine in downtown San Jose, Costa Rica, and it just ate it! Luckily it was right at the bank branch, so I returned the following business day with my passport, and got it back.”
Travel tip: If your credit card is lost, report it to your credit card company so they can shut it down and flag further purchases. Always get trip insurance like World Nomads too in the case your purse or bags are stolen. If your gear or luggage is stolen, then always file a report with the police and keep the copy as proof. You will need this to file this with your insurance!
The worst trip ever was when my husband and I went to his hometown back east to visit his family and friends and a couple of people there treated me like shit. I was stuck in their homes and felt like a prisoner. Our long, planned trip was totally ruined. Granted I let them have it, which felt good, but certainly a waste of time and money
Fast forward, those two people are all good with me now and we leave again tomorrow.
The famous Thailand taxi scam. The interesting part it happened when I was in Cha Am and not Bangkok. I almost let it ruin my last week in Thailand. I learned a valuable that I practiced on my other trips. Always have another travel option. I also map out walking directions.
** a valuable lesson**
The only thing that can ruin a good vacation is when I want to see a good place then my husband just wants to go fishing somewhere else.
Krissy: LMAO. That’s the best response!
We always seem to have issues with our bank whenever we are away! Causes so much unnecessary stress. Right now some of our money has gone missing and trying to work that out but with time differences and expensive phone calls it’s so hard.
I think scary travel journey are a nightmare aswell. With bad driving and scary near misses it’s makes our heart miss a few beats.
@Finding Beyond So sorry to hear you’re encountering setbacks with your bank at the moment. That’s a bugger! I almost always have a make at least one phone call to my bank per trip– I do it via Skype where the rates are still pretty decent. Good luck to you!!!