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Travel Fails – Funny Travel Stories & What To Do When Travel Plans Go Wrong

Regent's Park with fountain at centre of footpath

Travel isn’t always pretty. Nor is it always smooth sailing. On a recent trip around the UK we were faced with more than one travel frustration, and so I wanted to share our travel fails that summed up a disaster travel day to vent, warn, and advise fellow travellers on what to do if something goes wrong on your travels and the lessons to be learned from these experiences. And, maybe these funny travel stories will provide a laugh about just how many things can go wrong in one day!

I’m no stranger to travel troubles. Losing my passport the night before international travel or suffering from a Fijian conjunctivitis epidemic the morning of a flight are strong contenders for the top spot, but our first day of a trip around the UK certainly had it’s fair share of woes (but also a few funny travel stories to tell along the way!).

sun peaking out across the horizon

Once your in the air the problems of getting from A to B don’t matter so much!

Although this travel fail wasn’t the worst travel disaster I’ve faced, it sure as heck was annoying. The most frustrating part about the story I’m about to tell you is the number of things that went wrong. One thing after enough that makes you wonder if it’s still worth it (spoilers, it is). So buckle up, these travel stories show the ugly side of travel we don’t always talk about!

Our Travel Fails – Funny Travel Stories & What To Do When Travel Plans Go Wrong

Travel Fail 1 – Don’t Rely On Sunday Train Services

It’s a disgustingly rainy Sunday morning and we’re shivering on a cold and miserable station platform, surrounded by chilly winds and a crowd of people in chaos. But let’s rewind. The day before, Kazimir and I had spent the best day laughing, eating, and drinking cocktails with my awesome family to celebrate my birthday. For a mid-October day, we were blessed with 24 degrees and sunshine. Life couldn’t have been better. Cut to a day later, when we set off on a 5 day trip whizzing around my favourite cities of the UK. Waiting at the station, cold, wet, and more than a bit down, I was beginning to worry the whole trip would have to be cancelled (I am a master of catastrophising, and I’m not proud of it). 

Man sits below clock at a station museum

The train is how late?!

When it comes to travel, I don’t mind being flexible. Preferably on my own terms though, when I can choose to change the plans. When it comes to travel on a very strict timeline, I’m eager to get as much done in a few short days so every second counts! When I arranged the travel plans for this trip, the first day was always going to be a little crazy. We had to get from Surrey (south west of London) to the south west of the UK, Bristol to be exact. We were attempting to fill the travel day with 2 major stops: a Stonehenge Tour and a visit to the Roman Baths in Bath. When we arrived at the train station, however, we found all the trains cancelled, delayed, or replaced by bus services. I. Was. Livid. The ONE day I had hoped the rail system would work in my favour, alas, it did not. 

After about an hour of waiting for the train we had hoped to catch, it finally arrived. And it crawled out the station, taunting us even more so. This set back meant that we missed our intended bus to Stonehenge, which only left every hour. Luckily, I had accounted an extra hour or so into our day for delays or diversions, but it still frustrated me no end that we were soaked through and missing out on valuable sightseeing time by waiting for a train that seemed to be driven by sloths! At this point I really started to question the decision to rely on public transport. Note to self: maybe just drive next time. 

Travel Fail 2 – Bad Weather + Traffic = Missed Trains 

Once we finally reached Salisbury, more waiting for the bus to take us to Stonehenge meant another 30 minutes gone. Time is memories, people! 

Once we set off, I had finally started to calm down. It’s a huge learning curve for me to just try and put up with things that aren’t in my favour. I’m far too impatient with a habit of getting bored very quickly – not an ideal combo for someone who has to wait around! 

Eventually at Stonehenge, we were within touching distance of beginning our excursion. Itching to get off, we were instructed to wait on board the bus while the driver went to collect our tickets. When he finally returned (it felt like an excruciating 5 minutes) he gave us a few simple instructions and began handing out audio guides. Except, this too was a rather slow affair… It felt like every second counted and this was eating into precious marvelling time!

Man smiles in front of Stonehenge in the rain

Still smiling even in torrential rain

We whizzed through the visitors centre and were faced with a decision. Queue for the shuttle bus to the stones, or walk? A snap decision, I said walk. Big mistake. Remember that blustery rain I mentioned? Yeah that came back… into our faces. For 20 minutes uphill. I was at near melting point, but Kazimir was ever-calm and seemed to actually be enjoying himself (how did I get so lucky??). Despite all the drama, the rain, the delays, we did have fun walking around the stones, listening to the odd bit of commentary, and feeling very much a part of nature. 

Conscious of our bus back to the station in order to to move onwards with our day, we hurried back (wisely by shuttle bus) to the car park about 45 minutes later. And waited. And waited… The time that the bus was due to take us back came and went, and I felt the heat of panic rising to my mind once more. 

When the bus did eventually arrive, the excruciating rigmarole of handing out the audio guides to passengers on board began again, while us soggy departing visitors edged closer and closer to try and get on ASAP. Due to the numerous delays, we tried to make it clear to the driver that we needed to get back pronto. It was a shame because our hurriedness did detract from enjoying the return journey through some really gorgeous parts of the countryside, and it also meant we wouldn’t be able to stop off at Old Sarum either (maybe for the best in this weather though!). 

Travel Fail 3 – With Delays Comes A Change Of Plans

Pulling into Salisbury station car park, I had my eye on the clock as I watched the seconds tick by until I knew our train was departing. The train was a couple of minutes delayed which bought us the tiniest bit of time. We were practically stood up at the door while the driver slowly manoeuvred the bus into the parking spot. The doors opened and we flung ourselves out the door and sprinted to the station… But it was too late. We’d missed the train. 

Blue skies and an empty station platform in London

What an ideal train station should look like instead of pouring rain and crowds of people

We took a step back and thought about our next moves. The train tickets were for that specific train time, and I was reluctant to buy new ones but it looked like we didn’t have a choice. With a desperate plea, I asked the ticket assistant if we could catch the next one with these tickets and explained our situation. Fortunately, he took pity on us and confirmed we could catch the next train. Finally a bit of luck! We celebrated with a hot cup of tea and waited for our warm, cosy train to take us to Bath.  

We arrived into Bath with elated spirits, the worst was over! The weather was clearing and we had finally completed the hardest parts of our day’s travel. Composing our thoughts and plans, we headed straight to the Roman Baths to see what could be done with the remainder of the day.

We wanted to visit the Roman Baths, the Thermae Bath Spa, and the Pump Room as part of the Ancient & Modern Spa Package. When we met with the salesperson, we were disappointed to realise we wouldn’t have time to do all three activities. This was partly due to the opening hours of the Pump Room (they close at 4.30pm), and partly due to having been delayed so much in our morning travels. Nonetheless, we opted to enjoy the Roman Baths and Thermae Bath Spa to the max, and by the time we were soaking it up in the mineral-rich waters and sweating the stress away in the steam rooms, the chaos of the morning had simply melted away. 

Reflection of green waters surrounded by old pillars and stone walls at the Roman Baths in Bath

Our lovely sanctuary in Bath away from all the travel disasters

Travel Fail 4 – Expecting The Unexpected

Relaxed, calm, and full of wonder we packing up ready to leave Bath after a brilliant afternoon and head on to Bristol. Earlier in the day, I had messaged our Airbnb host to tell them of our arrival time, and if there was anything we should know before we got there. I checked my phone to see a message from the host, telling us they wouldn’t be there for our arrival. Nothing too weird right? They went on to say that the bed hadn’t been made, he hadn’t checked the room since the last guest, and would we mind making up the bed… 

Colourful houses in Bristol on the edge of the river Avon

Our end goal: the drizzle of Bristol

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I pay to stay somewhere, I don’t usually get asked to make my own bed. I’m no prude and certainly not afraid of a bit of work for board (I mean, I WWOOFed in New Zealand so of course I don’t mind housekeeping!), but this seemed really unfair. It wasn’t just any old hostel we were staying in, we were paying a decent amount per night for the room and the least we’d hope for would be a clean bed to sleep in.

Were we being unreasonable? After a long and rollercoaster day, I couldn’t even tell what the best response would be anymore! We decided to get to Bristol and assess the situation before making any rash decisions. 

Travel Fail 5 – Pizza Solves Everything

We arrived at the Airbnb, let ourselves in and surveyed the room. It was a lovely flat, and the location was absolutely perfect right in the heart of Clifton. We’re pretty used to Airbnb’s now and this seemed fine enough for a couple of nights. Sure, it was a total bachelor’s pad, but who are we to criticise the decor?! The things that bothered me about the situation can be summarised as a lack of the host’s consideration. Let me explain: there was washing drying on the staircase as you walk in – not exactly strange but a little off-putting for new arrivals. There were no towels available to us, the guest room had no touches of comfort such as a lamp, a bin, or in fact, anything helpful for guests, there was a distinct smell of smoke (despite being a non-smoking listing), and there was a snail on the wall (don’t ask me why). Nothing drastic, but nothing that felt inviting to say the least. Oh, and when making the bed we looked at the sad, wilting pillows and old mattress and became suddenly very aware just how many people have probably slept here! After some rummaging we eventually found some clean sheets (thank goodness), made up the bed, and tried our best to move on. 

We decided to head back out for dinner as we were famished, and discuss our plan of action. We headed around the corner to Bosco Pizzeria and boy, were we in for a treat. Hands down, possibly the best pizza I’ve ever had! We ravaged our delicious soft, creamy, flavoursome pizzas in a heartbeat. The chance to sit, eat, and enjoy each others company with a beer was the perfect antidote for yet another stressful incident and unfortunate start to our trip. We replied to our host expressing our disappointment, and headed back to make our bed and turn in for the night. 

Man grins at pizza on his plate

Pizza literally solves everything

After apologies from our host (who actually turned out to be very friendly and nice, just a tad inept at being an Airbnb host) we decided it wasn’t worth getting stressed over, knowing it would be something we could laugh off in the future. We awoke the following day after a not-so-good night’s sleep (to any Airbnb hosts: good pillows make such a difference!), but revived and ready to enjoy ourselves in Bristol. 

We didn’t want to let the stresses of our travel fails cause us to feel down about the trip, and amongst all the madness we did have a lot of fun on that whirlwind day! 

What To Do When Your Trip Doesn’t Go To Plan

  • Keep calm. Easier said than done, and pretty rich coming from Captain Flap over here – Queen of the meltdown, ruler of Panic-ville. But seriously, really try not to freak out and if you can’t keep calm at least be comforted by someone who can, whether that be a travel partner, or a helpful friend at the end of the phone to listen to your worries!
  • Make a plan B. There is ALWAYS another option, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Your plans will be rescheduled and come together, just keep your options open and try not to be too strict on yourself or your plans. 
  • Step back and think. This is important, because when you’re fired up and frustrated, you can make rash and sometimes irrational decisions. Think about the options, understand that things haven’t gone wrong purposefully, and that you can overcome it. Don’t let these mishaps ruin your trip!
  • Make sure you have access to a phone to check the times of new trains, buses, etc. Or at least have access to that information somewhere! Knowing these details will help you reschedule and get back on track quicker. 
  • Take a break when it’s getting too much. Travel can be stressful, y’all. And it’s ok to say “Ok, no. This is one too many hiccups for me.” Nothing is more important than you feeling healthy and happy, and sometimes pushing yourself too hard to fix the change of plans or make things work can be detrimental to your sanity!
Street art reads: "don't think too much just do what makes you happy" in Bristol

Sometimes you just need some motivational street art to keep you going

A Lesson For All Travellers On Travel Plans Going Wrong 

  • Be flexible – don’t book too much in advance, especially if it’s the same price on the door. Had we booked the package deal in Bath we’d have had to miss out. I also booked the train tickets to Bath as specific seats, so they were supposed to be inflexible and only valid for the train we ended up missing. Thankfully the kind staff helped us out!
  • Sometimes things don’t always go according to plan, no matter how much you prepare. Taking things in your stride is a great trait to have, and one that takes lots of practice to perfect!
  • Patience truly is a virtue. When you’re waiting for yet another delayed train or bus, time can feel like it passes as slowly as watching a sloth fighting a tortoise.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask. If we hadn’t enquired about catching a different train, we might have ended up spending unnecessary money on new tickets! It doesn’t hurt to at least check, and sometimes the rules are more flexible than you think. 
  • Pizza solves everything. Ok, maybe this is more of a personal one, but I do believe a little bit of comfort food – whatever that may be – can do wonders to improve your mood. If your day is really as bad as you think, take control and enjoy something you know will make you feel better. 
Have you experienced any travel fails or have any funny travel stories to share? I’d love to hear yours and how you overcome them! 
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  • Reply
    Clazz - An Orcadian Abroad
    12/07/2018 at 4:39 pm

    Haha, I got stressed out just reading this!! I am pretty bad for packing too much into a day, and sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. Trains in the UK are ridiculous, and especially on Sundays I’ve learned not to rely on them. Sounds like you really made the most of it though. 🙂

    • Reply
      12/08/2018 at 5:00 pm

      Haha I’m glad it’s not just me! Oh totally, what was I thinking?! We certainly crammed a lot in, maybe a bit too much!

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