As 2015 came to an end, I kept seeing the #2015bestnine on Instagram and spent quite some time trying to figure out how to get my best nine. I decided to post about my nine worst travel moments of 2015. I wish travel could be all flowers and rainbows all the time, but it’s just not possible for everything to always be perfect. Things happen!
1. Learning to understand Ryanair
Ryanair: Europe’s best and worst airline. 20€ flights to just about anywhere. If it sounds too good to be true, is it? If you don’t know how to maneuver around Ryanair’s rules and regulations, then yes.
For our first trip, we flew Ryanair to London to visit a friend who was in town for work because it was over 100€ cheaper than any other airline. I’ve had experience with budget airlines so that wasn’t a big deal for me, but I’ve never experienced an airline that charges you 70€ to print your boarding pass at the airport. Sadly, we were victims of this in London (luckily they spoke English!) Our 100€ roundtrip flight became 170€, more expensive than other airlines.
Lesson learned: print Ryanair boarding passes before you get to the airport!
2. Getting robbed in Brussels
I hate to admit that I’m a gullible, trusting, never-think-it-could-happen-to-me kind of girl. Doesn’t make for a savvy traveler, right? Surprisingly, humanity only proved me naïve once in the nine months I lived in Europe. For the most part, everything felt safe and fine; until it came time to leave Brussels.
We parked our car in a garage in downtown Brussels for three days and took trains around Belgium. When it came time to leave, seeing our rental car window smashed and our suitcases strewn about shocked us. At the time, it was devastating and definitely a worst travel moment. But looking back on it, they didn’t get phones, cameras, iPads, or anything else that held our memories. After all, we can always replace clothes.
They did take my license, but they must have thrown it on the ground and the wonderful Belgian embassy found it and mailed it back to my parents house in New Jersey! There’s always a silver lining.
3. Having connecting flights get cancelled and getting stuck in Croatia and Greece
Unfortunately, Rome had a fire in the Ryanair terminal so they cancelled all flights. However, Ryanair waited until 12 hours before the flight to tell us that they cancelled it. We were staying at an Airbnb in Croatia so it was impossible to extend our stay, and our hosts had other plans and wanted us out as soon as possible. Since the flight to Rome was a connecting flight, we then lost the second leg too. Of course Ryanair wouldn’t refund it since it technically wasn’t a connecting flight.
We ended up buying another last-minute flight from Croatia to Greece with an overnight layover in Brussels and sleeping in the airport. This could annoyed us, but instead we took the opportunity to make our first music video about being “All By Myself” in Brussels!
When the fire in Rome caused cancellations the first time, we should have thought about our flight from Greece to Ibiza with a layover in the same terminal in Rome. So why were we shocked when it happened again? We lost another two flights but luckily we were able to change our flight to have a layover in Barcelona instead of Rome and only get in a few hours later than originally planned. Except the plane had engine problems so we didn’t end up getting in to Ibiza until 11:00 p.m. and our flight out was at 3:00 p.m. the next day. So it was a quick trip, but at least we can say we saw Ibiza!
4. Getting pulled over by Spanish police and having to pay the fine on the spot
It’s hard enough for an American to figure out the kilometer to miles conversion. Trying to keep track of how often the speed limit changes in Spain is like trying to count how many times a butterfly flaps its wings. Spanish speed limits are crazy and change every few feet, so we had given up trying to go the speed limit. On top of that, I decided that after a week in Spain, I already knew the way without directions. Oops.
On the way home from our orientation in Cádiz, I missed the turn to Olvera and we ended up en route to Sevilla. Then, we came across a toll that cost 10€. We had to dig for change but we were able to pay it and get on our way. Because of our little detour, we were speeding and got pulled over by non-English speaking police. Unfortunately, you can’t talk your way out of a ticket if you don’t speak their language, so we got hit with a 150€ ticket that we had to pay right then and there.
Do you believe the Spanish police carry credit card machines so there are no excuses? Luckily, that was the one and only time we got pulled over!
5. Having a flight to Paris get cancelled due to an airworker strike
Are you shocked yet about Ryanair? If not, let’s try again. We had a weekend (Thursday-Saturday) trip to Paris planned, but the Wednesday night before the flight at 7:05 p.m. (Ryanair customer service closed at 7:00 p.m.), Ryanair emailed us to tell us they cancelled our flight. Ryanair customer service was actually very helpful though and offered to change our flight to anywhere else in France. Unfortunately, nothing worked with our schedule so we had to just cancel it, but they did refund us. We didn’t get to see Paris, but no other harm done.
6. Packing too many things into a short trip and sleeping through it
For some reason, I thought we could easily handle staying up all night in Iceland to see the Northern Lights then heading straight to the airport, getting to Germany, and driving three hours to Rothenburg. I only planned for one day in Rothenburg, and unfortunately as soon as we got there, we passed out and slept the whole day away. We did wake up around 9 p.m., just in time to miss all the restaurants. We also luckily easily got up at 7 a.m. the next day to sight-see, except it was cloudy and rainy. I need to stop thinking humans don’t need sleep! Although I wouldn’t do it any differently; we saw so much and I don’t regret losing sleep over it!
7. Visiting the Algarve in Portugal in March, before boat season started
The Algarve is on the southern coast of Portugal. We had a string of warm weather in March so we thought, why not drive four hours to Portimao and see the famous Portuguese beach towns? Apparently, they’re empty with not much to do in the winter, even if there’s nice weather. I should have known, being from New Jersey where the beach towns aren’t alive until Memorial Day Weekend at the end of May and shut down by mid-September.
I reached out to at least 10 sea cave boat tours who told me it was too early in the season for them to run. The whole reason to go was to see the famous Benagil Sea Cave, accessible only by boat! Finally, though, we were able to find a boat to take us out to see the sea caves, and the beautiful weather made it wonderful! It was a successful trip, just took a little extra work.
8. Not getting a hotel for Carnaval in Cádiz
Carnaval is a two-week long celebration that’s like a cross between Halloween and Mardi Gras. Everyone gets dressed up in any costume they want and drinks, parties, and dances the night away. There are concerts, people put on political joke skits, and buses bring people in for a night of debauchery with no sleep.
However, being a newcomer to the scene and 31 years old, I wasn’t ready for a night of no sleep. Carnaval also happened on Valentine’s Day weekend, so I had hoped to book a romantic trip to some exotic beach with James. When plans fell through, we decided to meet up in Cádiz with friends Liz and Jake, fellow auxiliares in Osuna, and Kim-Ling and Guy, fellow auxiliares in Pozoblanco and authors of travel-ling.com. The four of them planned ahead and rented an Airbnb and we decided at the last minute to drive to Cádiz and drive back to Olvera. Luckily we didn’t run into any issues, but lesson learned next time to plan ahead to stay in town for the party!
9. Planning a trip to Cádiz pick up our student visas in Cadiz when Game of Thrones is filming in Osuna
Poor planning on my part, but in my defense, I didn’t know Game of Thrones was filming until after I already booked buses and a hotel in Cádiz, totally opposite from Osuna. I was super bummed about missing the filming of one of my favorite shows when it was so close, yet so far. Well, I couldn’t let that stop me. We followed through with the trip to Cádiz, stayed overnight, woke up to pick up our visas and found out they weren’t ready yet (really? All for nothing?!) and booked it to the train station to get to Osuna. All trains were sold out until 6:00 p.m. and it was only 11:00 a.m.!
Next option: 3 hour bus to Osuna. That gave me time to call hotels and check out Airbnb‘s to find a place to stay. Everything was sold out or 800€ per night! Finally, I found a hotel – with an English speaker and in the center of town, no less! – where some of the B-list Game of Thrones crew members were staying! It started out rough and was a busy weekend with a lot of wrong way trips (we also took the super long way back to Olvera by train and got stranded in the middle of nowhere, but that’s a story for another blog), but we made it all happen and got to party with the GoT cast and crew for Emilia Clarke’s birthday, so all worked out!
Do you have any “worst travel moments” from your travels you’d like to share? Leave me a comment and let me know!
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