Have you ever felt like the world is trying to ruin all your plans during your travels? Missed your flight, forgot your passport at home, got lost in the middle of the night… Sometimes things are just not meant to happen your way no matter how hard you try to make everything work.
You get to that “epic fail” moment.
Fortunately, we remember those moments because they are the ones who make us stronger and help us learn how to avoid those crucial mistakes.
Most of the times those “epic fail” moments also turn out the funniest stories to tell your friends and family.
I asked 20 travellers to share their most “epic fail” moments and what they learned from them. Enjoy!
1. Rachel from The World In A Weekend
Epic Fail: Several years ago I travelled to Tokyo. A colleague, who had never been to Japan, gave me some completely unsolicited advice on Japanese manners and customs;
“Right…. When you go into their houses … yeah…. You need to take your shoes off because it’s offensive.”
Being polite I listened.
Soon I was de-planing and unleashed on Tokyo. As much as I enjoyed the cooked vending machine meals, my friends and I decided to venture off the tourist path into nice Japanese restaurant.
In the entrance was a series of shoe racks with indoor slippers. Fully briefed, I instructed my friends to take off our shoes and slipped on the indoor slippers before taking our seats and politely eating whatever came out of the kitchen.
The meal was going well until I felt a tap on my shoulder from behind. I turned to find a lady talking to me in Japanese and pointing at the indoor slippers, and then to her bare feet. And then the bare feet of her husband, and then bare feet of everyone else in the restaurant.
Red faced we returned everyone’s shoes and quietly decided that all future dinning would be at the vending machines.
2. Kaley from Communication is Difficult
Epic Fail: This past spring I traveled to Vietnam and Cambodia from Japan. While on the way there my friend and I had a six hour layover in Korea. Incheon airport is a pretty big place, and our arrival and departure gates were both in the main section of the international terminal.
As it was lunch time, we were looking for a place to eat. The concourse had a food court so we decided to hop on the shuttle to the concourse and wait out most of our layover there.
About 45 minutes before boarding we start to make our way back to the main terminal area, yet we can’t find a way to get to the shuttles again. After consulting the interactive map we are informed that we cannot get to our gate from here.
I asked the information desk and the lady just stared at us and said, “Why are you over here?”. We were confused and said we wanted to go to the foodcourt and she called someone to come escort us to our gate.
We were then led through secret doors and back through security by two separate security officers. Nearly missed our flight as well…
3. Sarah from Life is my Oyster
Epic Fail: I was touring around Yellowstone with my boyfriend, who decides he really wants to see a bear. We got to chatting with a park employee who gives us a tip on where to spot the bears.
We armed ourselves with bear mace and go on our mission to see a bear. As we approach the trail, we notice a sign that says something like “for your security, hike this trail with parties of four or more.” The trail was desolate. I think fear finally caught up to my guy.
He reaches for the bear mace and decides to test it, without a warning. He sprays it into the wind, which blows right back at us.
Yup, we were maced! With bear mace!
Our eyes, nostrils, and throats were burning, and we were choking for about five minutes. The burning sensation lasted for the rest of the afternoon. And no bear was spotted!
Lesson learned: What did we learn? Well, I learned not to trust my guy with mace… I hope he learned that maybe if he wants to test the mace, he should do it towards the ground.
4. Ben from Huge Party Travel
Epic Fail: The Great Ketchup Debacle of 2015, at the Sofitel Pool Party in Marrakesh, Morocco.
This June in Morocco I snuck into the pool at the Sofitel Marrakech. It was pure luxury, filled with wealthy travelers and French celebrities (French Comedy Festival was in town that weekend).
Everything was going great! Sipping vodka drinks, talking to French comedians, and working on my tan, until lunch arrived.
As the waiter rushed my chicken sandwich to my table, he stumbled and lost his balance. The chicken sandwich was saved, the glass bottle of ketchup wasn’t so lucky. The bottle shattered on the ground, covering me with glass, ketchup and embarrassment.
The manager rushed over to apologize, and promised to get my clothes dry-cleaned and brought to my room that evening. I asked to have them brought to the pool, hoping he wouldn’t realize I wasn’t staying at the hotel.
Luckily I didn’t get caught. It wasn’t until after I paid for my drinks that the manager asked me what room I was staying in. I replied “I’m not staying here, but thanks for the great afternoon!”, and walked out of the hotel.
Lesson Learned: The lesson here? Order the salad next time.
5. Katrina from The Two Week Traveler
Epic Fail: After close to 24 hours of non-stop travel and no sleep, my husband and I finally arrived in Tokyo and took a 2 hour bus ride to Shinjuku Station.
I’d printed out directions on how to get to our hotel from there, but there are over 100 exits in that station and my directions only told us which general direction we should head!
We were exhausted and crabby and spent another 2 hours walking around aimlessly and bickering, looking for our hotel, getting nowhere. Finally, two really sweet Japanese girls who spoke English asked us if we needed help and they led us to our hotel.
We were so happy to get there and put our bags down and sleep, but the travel fails didn’t end there!
I told the girl at the front desk my name, but she couldn’t find our reservation. I insisted I had one and gave her my confirmation number. She pointed out that I did have a reservation, but not for tonight.
I had booked the room for the following week on accident. After much tense conversation between the agent and the manager, they were able to find us a room and we were so relieved because the week we were there was some kind of holiday and most of the hotels were booked solid on top of the fact that a typhoon was about to hit!
Lesson Learned: I am a lot more careful when I book things now, for obvious reasons.
6. Monica from Travel Sight
Epic Fail: I was on a very early flight from Mombasa, Kenya to Istanbul, Turkey. I left for the airport at 3 am and was exhausted. Landed in Istanbul, went over to the queue to clear immigration and realized I didn’t have my passport!
I sprinted back to where I thought the airplane was and got a flight attendant to escort me back onto the plane. Unfortunately all the planes looked the same and I was on the wrong one!
Sprinted back to the Turkish Airline desk and they were able to get ahold of the crew cleaning the flight and found my passport in the front seat pocket.
Lesson learned: Triple check that you have your passport before you get off every flight!
7. Pamela from Lost but Making Good Time
Epic Fail: I’m not exactly the most graceful person. Which I’m totally ok with. I am however kinda quirky and fun. While touring Mt. St. Michael a few years ago, I was in a very good mood and decided to skip down the winding cobblestone path as I was headed down.
I should really have known better as I stated before I am not graceful and I’d already had a few run in’s with cobblestone. But nonetheless I skipped.
And skipped straight into tripping over my own feet and rolling halfway down the exceedingly long winding road.
I had a few cuts and scrapes but it was mostly the people all just staring at me that was painfully embarrassing.
Lesson learned: Did I learn anything from it? Maybe I shouldn’t attempt to skip on cobblestone but knowing me, I’d do it all over again.
8. Paige from Wonderstruck Fawns
Epic Fail: I’ve had my fair share of horrible travel experiences, but my worst to date was on a train trip from Budapest to Prague. I was traveling solo, and I planned to take to 11:30 am train to arrive in Prague at 6:30 pm. 7 hours, I can deal with that, I thought.
Well, first, the train was delayed half an hour. That’s fine, I said, normal even. Next, it was a 40+ degree day and, typically, my train carriage had no functioning air conditioner, which meant it was a good 45 degrees of stale heat in my carriage. Again, I sucked it up, knowing things could be worse.
Then the train suddenly stopped again. It turned out that the engine had burned out from the heat so we were stuck there for 100 minutes. Yes, 100 minutes! I was half expecting to see Ashton Kutcher pop out at any second to tell me I was being punked… Like, seriously?!
I plugged my headphones in and waited outside. Things could only get better, I told myself… Wrong again.
Eventually help arrived and we were back on track (pun intended). At the next station, just 20 minutes along, we all got off to swap to a replacement train which was going to arrive with 4 hour delay. Turns out we only had to wait 90 minutes.
We didn’t arrive in Prague until 11:30 pm, making it a 12-hour journey.
By that time it was too late at night to walk to my hotel alone, so I opted to bunk at the train station overnight. But, naturally, the train station closed at midnight, so I found a 24hr McDonalds to take shelter in. Running off French fries and no sleep I finally surrendered to the fact that perhaps this really was as bad as things get.
Lesson Learned: Despite everything that happened, I still think if that’s my worse day, then I have things pretty good. As a full time traveler you have to expect things to go wrong, so when they do, embrace it- it all makes for a funny story eventually!
9. Heesun from Me Want Travel
Epic Fail: As college students abroad in Barcelona for the first time, the energy was palpable as we began to get ready for Razzmatazz, a club that was nestled near the Balearic Sea.
Fast-forward a couple of hours, and I was left alone with an unconscious friend who decided the club toilet would be her new pillow. “Crap,” I thought, as a bouncer approached and motioned for us to follow him.
“Where are we going?” I thought. Apparently, the nurse’s station. She began asking, “Solamente alcohol..no coca?”. “No, no, solamente alcohol” I answered, relieved that she used simple Spanish.
After determining that my friend would be okay, we left the club and headed back to our hotel, passing out as soon as our heads hit the pillows.
When it was 9 am, my alarm clock went off for our 10 am train back to Madrid. “Wake up”, I said, attempting to nudge my friend awake. It was futile…
At 1 pm, I woke up to my friend exclaiming, “Heesun! We missed our train! What happened? And why do I have gauze in my hair?”. “Oh, let me tell you….”
Lesson Learned: Sometimes our most memorable moments are the ones that others remember the least.
10. Claire from Adventure at Work
Epic Fail: My family and I were in China, going on a high-speed train from Guiyang to Guangdong, and then we had to get on a connecting train from Guangdong to Shenzhen, because there was no direct train.
We anticipated a nice ride – trains in China are extremely fast and we had bought first class seats for the second train ride!
We got to Guangdong fine, and were looking for our connection when we suddenly realized that to get to our connecting train, we had to exit the train station and then check in again in 40 minutes. But it would still be fine. 40 minutes is plenty of time, right?
WRONG. So unbelievably wrong.
The thing about China is that there is an insane amount of people, everywhere. We spent an hour pushing through crowds trying desperately to make our train, but I think you know how it turned out.
We missed our train, and since seats for the next three trains were all sold out, the only ticket we could get was a standing ticket, which means you stand in the aisle for the entirety of the train ride. We stood in the corner with our suitcases, dejected, while imagining what those first class seats in the train we missed would’ve felt like.
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