19 Funny and Crazy Travel Stories: The Misadventures of Traveling

I love traveling! The new places, cultures, and people! The food! (Oh, the food…) It has the potential to be more than just “time off”; it so often feels like an epic adventure! That is… until something goes awry and your idyllic vacation starts morphing into one of those unexpected or crazy travel stories.

Then you’re scrambling, adjusting, and hoping things don’t go from bad to worse. And yet, sometimes those MISadventures make for EXCELLENT stories later on!

The 19 Funny and Crazy Travel Stories

These are my best and more unexpected crazy travel stories over the past several years of traveling. Some of these are funny stories of cool and unexpected things that happened on vacation. And many of them are crazy travel stories about some kind of misadventure we experienced.

Several relate to some kind of physical illness on vacation. Others are from our own mistakes – things that looking back on, we could have avoided with maybe a little more precaution. And others are just plain ole bad luck.

However, all of them make for a funny travel story now, and are certainly things that we have learned from!

Here are some of the memorable crazy travel stories we’ve experienced while globetrotting:

1. Got an Infection in Iceland

Oh boy, this was a crazy travel story that was definitely stressful. We were doing our big Iceland road trip, and I woke up from a quick nap in our campervan to the unmistakable (I’m unfortunately no stranger to this situation– TMI?) burning feeling of a UTI. Craaaaaaap.

It was particularly bad timing because we were about to go on a 5 hour guided glacier hike, where we would be on a glacier, in a small group, with a harness on. So, no place to pee and definitely no privacy.

I was stressed and literally praying like crazy that I could make it through the hike okay. I went to the bathroom several times and chugged a ton of water to help flush things out as best I could, and then we just went for it. And, I made it through the hike with absolutely no problems (and it was one of the coolest experiences, ever). 

A woman in a yellow jacket on an Iceland Glacier. Falljokul Glacier.
Enjoying the wicked awesome glacier AND the fact that I didn’t pee my pants

However, within a day it was a BIG problem (the classic UTI stuff of needing to go to the bathroom every 2 minutes) so we stopped in the city of Höfn and found a doctor’s office to get a prescription.

Not my favorite experience ever, but I also definitely feel like a boss for managing that while on vacation. 

2. Puked out the window of our car in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco

I find the older I’m getting the more I’m becoming prone to carsickness (NOT COOL, INNER EAR!)

When we started our road trip through Morocco, we quickly learned that there are basically no straight roads in the whole country, they wind and swing back and forth constantly. Those first few hours out of Marrakech and into the Atlas Mountains I got nauseous – really nauseous.

Driving through Morocco – a crazy travel experience if there ever was one!

After moaning for a while, I finally got to the point where I knew I was going to hurl. We were in the tight switchbacks of a rather steep mountain road at that point, with no shoulder and definitely no place to pull off. I ended up rolling down my window and puking out the car while we were going up and through the mountains – the first and only time I’ve ever had to do that!

At one point as my head was still out the window, we passed a road construction crew and the only thing in my mind was “don’t throw up in front of the crew. Don’t throw up in front of the crew.” 

While I obviously felt pretty awful during those couple hours, and no one wants to upchuck out the window of the car, for some reason it was also extremely funny to me, even in the moment. As in a “I can’t believe I’m throwing up in AFRICAAAAAAA! WOOOOO!” moment. I was just super stoked to be on the continent, I guess, ha!

A woman tries to clean vomit off the side of a car with a water botte.
Trying to clean my puke off the car… with my hand. Not my most glamorous moment, ha!

It also helped that even though we continued to have winding roads, once I threw up, I was fine from there on out. Thankfully, this was one of the crazy travel stories that resolved quickly and was a really funny story to me, even as it was happening!

3. Took 9 Covid Tests Solely for Travel

As soon as countries began re-opening their borders to travel following the covid-19 pandemic, Matthew and I were chomping at the bit to explore.

Generally speaking, this period of travel was fantastic – we enjoyed much lower crowds and the accompanying lower prices.

It also meant, however, that we had to take a lot of covid tests. Some countries required testing upon arrival at the airport, some required a covid test to be taken in the US prior to boarding the airplane, and we always had to test for re-entry into the United States.

It was a decent number of tests, but SO WORTH IT. 

4. Car Was Towed in France

While most of the crazy travel stories in this article are just due to bad luck or circumstances beyond our control, this one was definitely the result of a not-so-smart move on our part. This experience happened during our European Christmas market tour, where we traveled through Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and finally France, hitting up a new market every day.

We were trying to maintain a really tight budget on this trip and were looking for ways to save money, so we were always on the hunt for free parking.

In the little village of Colmar, we parked next to a church that had free parking, and was about a 10-15 minute walk from our VRBO. Well, it was indeed free every day, but… on Saturday a local farmer’s market set up shop and the lot was closed. There were signs at the lot saying you couldn’t park there from 6-12am on Saturday, but they were very small and not obvious at all, and so we showed up Saturday morning around 10 to get our car, and found a market there instead. 

Luggage awaits a non-existent car. Food trucks in the background.
Suitcase in tow, ready to take off, only to find a market and no car

We talked to some of the vendors there about the situation and they said it’s actually pretty common to have cars towed because of the poor signage. They were also super, super nice and really helpful with helping me figure out where to go and what to do to get our car back. I was also particularly proud of myself for having that more technical conversation in French!

It took us several hours to get our car back, which involved walking back into town and to the town hall to get some paperwork at the police precinct. This actually took us several hours, because, being a Saturday, a lot of things were closed. It took quite a while to figure out where the police precinct was and how to get in.

Then it was another chunk of time to walk down to the towing company, pay the fine ($120), and collect our car.

A charming Christmas market scene in Colmar, France. A large Christmas tree stand before a pink, decorated half-timbered home.
Colmar – an insanely adorable village that we loved, despite our bad parking experience!

We got delayed several hours and definitely did not end up saving money on parking in Colmar, but we were just incredibly grateful that we got our car back on a Saturday in France.

I’ve only heard bad things about French bureaucracy, so while it sucks to get your car towed anytime and really sucks to get your car towed in a foreign country, I’m SO GLAD we came out of that situation as well as we did.

Funny Travel Stories #5. Took Some Hilariously Bad Photos

One of the fun parts of running a travel blog and Instagram account has been learning how to take better pictures. We’re not professionals at all and are still learning a lot!

We take a lot of pictures specifically with blog posts in mind (horizontal, capturing the area more than the people in it) but we’ve also tried to get better at taking cute pictures of me or Matthew and me together.

Usually we end up with a whole bunch of not great photos and then FINALLY one or two good ones, but the most epic fails we had were in the Sahara desert of Morocco. I had seen this awesome inspo picture on Instagram that I wanted to copy and didn’t look too hard – we could totally do it!

We tried for the same type of sand flipping picture. Here’s what we got (my face LOLOLOL):

A beautiful woman fails to throw sand properly.
A woman in a red skirt tosses sand in Sahara Desert.
A woman in red and white kneeling in Moroccan sand dunes.
Face is okay but the sand is… not great
A woman in the desert at sunrise.

This memory is such a funny travel story to me – I legit cannot stop laughing at my faces!

6. Inexplicably Bruised My Big Toenails 

What’s funny to me about this travel story is that I don’t even know how I got injured! I’m still a little baffled even looking back at it.

We were in Disney World for a week and I was wearing some cloth sneakers around. The first couple of days were totally fine, but then on day 3 and 4 my toes, in particular my toenails, were really hurting, which seemed… weird.

The very last day, I noticed a little bit of bruising on my toenails. The bruises got darker over the next couple of days and then stayed bruised for the NEXT 9 MONTHS until they finally fell off. 

Bruised big toenails.
I do apologize for showing a picture of my feet… but I had to do it!

The whole thing was so bizarre, partly just because I had dark blue toenails for the better part of a year, but mostly because there wasn’t any specific injury to them, and my feet had felt fine walking around those first days!

Crazy Travel Stories #7. Crossed the German Border in an Unexpected Way

Like the story of getting our car towed in France, above, this story also comes from our tour of Christmas markets where we were on a budget and trying to minimize parking expenses.

For this story, though, we were arriving in Basel, Switzerland. Basel is a unique city because its right at the intersection of the borders of 3 different countries: Germany, France, and Switzerland. Basel is really close to both Germany and France – in fact, if you arrive at the Basel airport, different airport exits lead to different countries!

Anyway, if you are driving into Switzerland from another country, there is a 40 franc (about $40 USD) fee you will need to pay as you enter the country. Then, parking in Basel is extremely expensive – as we were researching ahead of time, the least expensive option we could find that was at all close to our hotel was going to be around 30 CHF a night (and we had two nights). So we were looking at 100 CHF just to be able to drive into the country and park, so we could spend one full day in Basel!

Basel, Switzerland. A church rises over homes along a river bank.
Beautiful Switzerland

We were feeling extra frugal at this point, and were just not enthused about what felt like a crazy high cost just to drive literally a couple miles across the border.

So.

Knowing that Basel is so close to the German border, and learning that there are, in fact, free parking lots on the Germany side of the border, we thought – hey, why don’t we just park in Germany at the free lots and then take the free tram across the border?

That was the plan, except we ended up arriving at the parking lot very late – at midnight. There were no more trams for the day.

No worries! It’s only 50 minutes on foot, we’ll just walk!

A man passes a toll booth with luggage.

So, to paint the picture, we are crossing the German border into Switzerland, on foot, at midnight, to avoid paying a fee. The situation hearkened back to many a World War 2 novel I’ve read (except, for the small point that our lives weren’t in danger and the border wasn’t actually guarded. Details schmetails!)

Thankfully, it worked out totally fine, the route felt safe and straightforward, and we arrived at our hotel in good shape after the refreshing late night stroll. It ended up being a pretty funny travel story!

8. Regularly Exceeded our Initial Travel Budget

As someone who kind of makes it “my thing” to travel on a budget and get great travel deals (I mean, I wrote a whole post about how I score super cheap flights!), and I almost always write a “travel budget” post for our destinations (see here, here, here, here, and here), it is a little embarrassing to admit that we do regularly end up spending over our budget when we’re in a destination.

I will say though, that I don’t really regret those extra dollars spent (especially since it’s usually not more than a couple hundred, and not like we’re blowing our budget by thousands of dollars), and they are almost always spent on fun experiences we decide to do in the moment. 

A WWII aircraft carrier and destroyer sit at the end of a pier.
Charleston’s Patriot Point – really a must-do!

A few examples? Well, doing the Patriot Point museum in Charleston ended up being a highlight of our time there, going ATVing in the Sahara was wicked awesome, parasailing for the first time in Costa Rica, with a running beach start, was so fun and rather unique for parasailing, and doing the longer glacier hike in Iceland was a surreal experience that felt like another planet.

These costs were all late additions to our budget and EXCELLENT uses of our money. And okay, okay, this may not really qualify as one of the “crazy” travel stories, but I think its definitely a relatable experience (ha!), and for sure are times when things don’t go exactly as planned.

9. Frequent and Very Long Road Trips

As people who like having control over their schedule, and as a couple who has four kids, we end up roadtripping A LOT!

A selfie of a mom and four daughters in a packed car.

The amount of time that we spend in the car, and in particular the amount of time we spend in the car with our kids sometimes baffles people! We really think nothing of an all-day driving expedition, regularly doing 15-20 hours in one day.

This summer we did a massive road trip around the US with our kids, which involved over 100 hours of driving time, and 24 hours in the car just to reach our first destination!

We’ve also regularly done international road trips, like our 7 day Iceland road trip (still one of my top 3 travel experiences, ever!), our Morocco road trip, driving around southern France, and even our smaller Costa Rica road trip. We love getting on the road and checking out new places!

10. Got Tear Gassed in Rio de Janeiro (Our Funnest Crazy Travel Story!)

As far as crazy travel stories go, this one was actually, beginning to end, the COOLEST experience and one I feel extremely lucky to have had.

But let’s set the scene. We’re in Rio de Janeiro and going on a favela tour (an activity I found enriching and incredibly interesting – you can read all about that experience here).

While on that tour, our guide was wearing a Vasco de Gama shirt and talking about how excited he was to go to the big game tonight – apparently there was a big rivalry match between two of the biggest clubs in Rio: Flamengo and Vasco de Gama.

We had REALLY wanted to go to a futbol match in Rio since Brazilians love their soccer and the Maracana stadium in Rio is a pretty big and famous spot for futbol/soccer. However, we had had a really hard time finding information about tickets, or even a schedule, online, and had given it up as not possible.

So I jumped at the opportunity to get information from a local who clearly knew things and asked him if he could give us any information about how to get tickets for the game.

He immediately invited us to go with him – he said he was going to scalp tickets there for himself anyway and could definitely find 2 more for us. At first, we were like, “Um are you sure?”, but then happily (but cautiously optimistic- would it really work out?) accepted his offer. We exchanged numbers and made plans to meet up at the stadium later.

At the Stadium

When we got to the Maracana stadium about an hour before gametime, there were big crowds of people congregating, singing songs and getting SUPER hyped up before the game, setting of firecrackers, and getting absolutely plastered (ha!).

We met up with our new Brazilian friend and in fact he had gotten us tickets! We were golden! He introduced us to all his friends and in we went. Going in was an experience unto itself, too. We go in with a big crowd of people and as we’re entering someone sets off another firecracker right in front of us, everyone backs up really fast, and we get pushed back and against the walls.

Then we had to find the rest of the group, since we had to go in at different entrances. We were with a couple of the Brazilian friends, who were all really nice to the foreigners they had just barely met that night.

A rowdy crowd at a Brazilian soccer game.
Maracana – one of the craziest and funnest travel experiences ever!

However, it was REALLY crazy because there’s no assigned seating and we were going into the area behind the goals, where the most intense fans sit. Everyone is crowded really close together. People were standing in the staircases so we had to wind our way up and really squeeze past people. Then almost everyone was standing two 2 deep in the rows – meaning someone was standing on the seat and another person standing on the ground in front of them.

People were super sweaty as we were squeezing past them (but everyone was also really, really nice about it) and beer was literally flying as people tossed their cups in the air as the game started.

Normally, I am not into this kind of vibe, but we were at MARACANA so it was all just part of the fun.

During the match, the fans literally were singing songs nonstop. There were massive flags being waved in our section, and a group with drums playing beats. I’ve been to college and professional sports games in the US and fans are intense here too, but this was a whole different beast of nonstop singing, cheering, and yelling the whole game. We loved it!

We don’t speak Portuguese really at all, so we just clapped and jumped and cheered with everyone and sang along to random words with their songs. It was awesome and just such a fun and crazy travel experience!

A view of the Maracana stadium during a Vasco de Gama match.

After the Game

So then, the match is over (the side we were with, Vasco de Gama, lost to Flamengo, which was pretty much expected because Flamengo is known to be the better team), and we figured we would just walk out and grab an Uber. Easy peasy.

Oh, no no no.

We hung out in our seats with the group for a while after the game to let the crowd dissapate, specifically to avoid most of the troublemakers, because fights can and do break out after games.

Still, as we left, we heard some more bangs, like the fireworks that were going off a lot before the game, but we were told afterwards there wouldn’t be fireworks and that was not a good sign.

As we left the stadium, our Brazilian friends were keeping us close and making sure we stayed together, and they were more serious and intense than anytime up to that point. At the street corner, we found out what the bangs were – not firecrackers, but tear gas that the police were using to disperse some fights and troublesome crowds.

We got the tail end of that tear gas (it spreads a lot), so everyone in the area just huddled and covered noses and eyes for a few minutes. Even not being in a direct hit area, that tear gas stung!

Then we carefully skirted by a Flamengo fan holding a handgun and walking menacingly (the only part of the night where I actually felt nervous).

Then we hustled by a whole bunch of riot police looking threatening, in full-on riot gear, including some on horses, and into the metro station. Of course, here some Vasco fans began hurling insults down at Flamengo fans. The police came running by and decided to break up that ruckus with more tear gas as we got on the train, and we got part of that tear gas, too.

A woman uses a face mask to try and block tear gas.
Tear gas on the metro

Then, the metro started and we rode back to our stop in peace and calm. The whole thing was one adrenaline rush to another, and one of my craziest travel stories to date. Despite what was definitely a tense situation after the game, we actually felt pretty safe – the Brazilians we were with were super nice about watching out for us and got us out without incident.

Four people in Vasco de Gama gear ride a metro.
We survived!

When we were on the train and going, we asked them, “so, was that actually dangerous?” And they just laughed and said oh, no it’s always like this (REALLY?!) and it’s usually fine as long as you aren’t in the middle of the main, crazy group.

That was our baptism by fire into Brazilian football! It was seriously so fun and wild and such a different and authentic experience that just fell into our laps. The guys we were with were unbelievably nice and welcoming – we loved having that experience.

When we got back to our hotel, we just looked at each other and laughed – a night like no other, to be sure.

11. Last Minute Food Poisoning

The funny thing about this travel story is that we had been very careful in Morocco, in particular paying attention to the food preparation techniques at the stands in the famous Jemaa el-Fna square (where accounts of getting food poisoning are common). 

But then in the very last hours of the very last day we spent in Morocco, we visited the stunningly blue city of Chefchaouen. And there we bought a cup of freshly squeezed orange + lemon + sugar cane juice.

A stunningly blue stairway and alley in Chefchaouen, Morocco. Flours pots line the alley.
Chefchaouen

I drank some of it, but Matthew drank most of it. Now, you wouldn’t normally suspect juice to be a food poisoning culprit, but it is the only thing we had that day that makes any sense of giving us food poisoning. Perhaps the fruit or sugar cane was unwashed, or the guys hands, or maybe it was the water mixed in. Either way, our insides were soon unhappy.

We flew from Morocco to Paris, where we planned to spend the next three days. My stomach felt a little off for a little bit in Paris, but Matthew got pretty sick basically the whole time we were in Paris – boo! 

Thankfully, he was not throwing up all the time, but he was also not feeling great a lot of it, either. Oh, and news flash, Paris does not have a lot of public toilets! At least the juice tasted good.

12. Kidney Stones at an Incredibly Unfortunate Time

Back in 2006 my parents surprised my brother and I with an international senior trip to France! This was the first time I would be leaving the country, I had been studying French in high school, and had been wanting to go to France.

They surprised us with the plane tickets about two months before departure, leaving enough time for me to plan basically everything else (which they knew I would love to do!)

So, after all this anticipation for this big, international senior trip, literally the morning we were supposed to leave, my dad starts getting severe stomach pains and quickly ends up in terrible, terrible pain and in the ER. Diagnosis: massive kidney stones. 

In fact, these kidney stones were so big that he had to go to surgery to get them blasted out. As our plane that we were supposed to be on was leaving, he was in surgery. While we were most concerned about my dad’s wellbeing, all of us were devastated about the trip. 

By some miracle, Dad actually got to go home after surgery that night, took some pain pills, and was seemingly better in the morning. We were, very surprisingly, able to rebook our tickets for no additional cost for the next day, and ended up going on our big France trip after all. 

A father and daughter stand on a street in La Rochelle, France.

We had THE best time together, although there were some definite adjustments we had to make to accommodate my dad (he had a stent put in as part of the surgery, and had to be careful to walk slowly and eat and drink very, very small amounts to prevent the stent from moving). We actually had a few scares while we were in France!

A man lies on a stone bench in agony.
Willing the stent to not move and cause more pain – my introduction to all the crazy travel stories that would follow

This was really my very first crazy travel story and one that actually had some unexpected benefits for my dad! A client who my dad had worked with heard that story from another co-worker said, “That guy has six kids and went around France with a kidney stone? He’s too tough for me.” That street cred actually helped my dad negotiate some really favorable contracts with the client later on.

You can read the whole story with all the details (and pictures!) here.

13. Lost a Cell Phone… and a Remarkable Ending (TWICE!)

We were on our way to a cooking class (one of our top top favorite activities in Morocco – can’t recommend it enough) and had taken a taxi to the meeting point. After we got out and had walked down the street, Matthew reaches into his pocket to double check the map only to realize that he doesn’t have his phone – it was gone.

The Koutubia mosque stands tall over a park in Marrakech.
Marrakech

Cue STRESS!

We frantically searched the square and the spot where we had gotten out – no phone. We figured it had either gotten left in the taxi, or had dropped on the ground and someone had scooped it up already.

We tried calling the phone, but it rolled to voicemail – Matthew hadn’t been getting great cell service in Morocco, and we figured if someone had grabbed it, they would’ve turned it off or taken out the SIM card. We tried calling it many times with no success, and finally just had to accept it: the phone was gone.

We tried to put it out of our heads and enjoy the cooking class. An hour or two later, I got a text on my phone from a friend back home, saying “Matthew left his phone in a taxi.” I responded with, “Yes, I know… but how doYOU know???” Apparently the taxi driver had found the phone, and been calling contacts, trying to get a hold of someone to return Matthew’s phone to him, and had been able to talk to this friend of ours.

With that information and a spark of hope, we tried calling Matthew’s phone again, and long story short, with the help of the cooking class instructor, we were able to get in touch with the taxi driver and meet up with him to get Matthew’s phone back (and give the driver a very big tip).

Losing the Phone Part II – Medellin

Then, less than a year, later, we did the exact same thing in Medellin, Colombia. 🤦‍♀️

The Palace of Culture in Medellin, Colombia. The building is made of alternating black and white stones.
Medellin

We got out of a cab and 30 seconds later Matthew realizes he doesn’t have his phone. Again, we just thought it was gone, no hope of getting it back.

We do start calling his phone from my phone non-stop, and after several calls, the taxi driver picks up. He doesn’t speak English, and we don’t speak Spanish, so Matthew says a little bit in English, and then just keeps repeating the name of the place where we got dropped off, over and over.

The driver said “uno momento” and then a few minutes later we see him pull up, Matthew’s phone in hand. We thank him profusely, give him a big tip, and say goodbye. After that, ever single time we got out of a cab or Uber, we always did a “okay, you have your phone, wallet, and keys?” check before I shut the door of the taxi.

In my opinion, the main reason these experiences qualify to be on this list of crazy travel stories isn’t even that we lost the phone, it’s that we actually got the phone back. And twice! We got so incredibly lucky both times that the taxi drivers were both so honest and helpful, going above and beyond to make the situation right for us.

Crazy Travel Stories #14. Blustery Days in South Dakota

The setting was the beautiful Badlands National Park – a spot that was rugged and gorgeous. We were loving the striated hills, watching the prairie dogs run from hole to hole, and the wild bison sightings. Everything felt so raw!

…Including the storms.

We spent 2 days and 3 nights in the Badlands and were camping just outside the entrance to the national park. When we arrived at the campground, we were warned that the winds can get strong and to stake down our tent really well, which is exactly what we did.

However, that night, when the winds started picking up, our big family tent was not able to withstand the 40+ mph gusts. The stakes kept getting pulled out of the ground, the whole tent was just billowing in the wind, and on particularly strong gusts, half of the tent would just collapse into itself.

We were working on the tent for over an hour in the middle of the night before we finally realized there was nothing we could do at that point. We moved our 4 kids out of the tent and to the car, pulled our suitcases out, collapsed the poles, put the suitcases on top of the now flat tent to weigh it down, and slept in the car.

Certainly not ideal, and thankfully the next night the wind was much calmer and passed without incident.

The Last Night

HOWEVER, on the third and final night of our stay in the Badlands, we arrived back at our campsite at 10pm after a long day of hiking, exploring, and star watching, to see that our tent had been basically destroyed in the afternoon thunderstorm that had rolled through.

All of the poles had snapped and the tent was totally collapsed in.

We had unthinkingly left the windows unzipped that day, so rain had gotten in and soaked all of our things. In fact, there was actually a good 2 inches of standing water in the tent. Our sleeping bags and pillows were floating in water and absolutely sopping.

To put the cherry on top, we had also left our suitcases open and all of our clothes we had brought for this multi-week road trip were soaked.

Snapped tent poles – also notice the pools of standing water on the tent 😬

We got out and just kind of stared at the collapsed, flooded tent, and said, “Well, crap.”

We pulled all our things out, spread them out to dry the best we could on the picnic table and threw some things in a dryer (so thankful for the camp laundry at that point!). We were almost laughing about it, because at this point it was either laugh or cry.

The funny thing about this was that even after all that, we still went back into the park at midnight to watch the stars (it was a clear, dark night with no moon and almost no light pollution – you can’t miss out on that!), came back to camp to sleep in our car (minus any pillows or blankets since they were all still dripping wet), and then woke up a few hours later to head back into the park to go watch the sunrise.

I don’t know if we otherwise could’ve pulled ourselves and the kids out of the tent to get in the car and drive into the park at 5am, but since we were already all in the car, it was easy to just drive in and park by a great sunrise spot. I’m so, so glad we did, because the sunrise by Big Badlands Overlook was absolutely spectacular.

A beautiful sunrise over Badlands National Park. The sun rises over red and white striped rock formations.
Sunrise over the Badlands | Crazy Travel Stories
Sunrise at Big Badlands Overlook. A woman in a pink and white dress watches the light strike the badlands.

15. Got Hustled in Marrakech and Scammed in Bogota

Encountering scams is, unfortunately, a part of travel, particularly in certain destinations. Here are 2 that we somewhat fell for, one in Marrakech, and one in Bogota.

Marrakech

Alright, so we encountered a lot of hustling attempts in Morocco, mostly in the form of people on the street trying to take you places or give faulty directions. We knew what to watch out for, but we still fell for a scam our first full day in Marrakech. We were looking for the El Badii palace and the map seemed to indicate we could cut through a particular side street. 

A friendly young man stopped and told us that “oh, that way is closed” and ostensibly, it did look closed. Then he said “El Badii closes for lunch from 12-3 each day,” which sounded weird, but, hey, maybe it did. He kept chatting with us and then convinced us to let him take us to this “super great artisan market.” 

Well.

El Badii, as we double checked later, was certainly not closed from 12-3 each day.

El Badii Palace Marrakech. Trees fill a courtyard in a ruined palace.
El Badii, when we finally did visit it a couple days later

Our second mistake was going to the “artisan” market with him, which was a huge warehouse of goods where the locals get a kickback when they bring customers. To underscore that point to us, he saw us again later, asked if we liked the store, and when we were like “meh” he said oh, you should go back later (and buy something so he could get his commission). 

We wised up a lot after this encounter, however, and the many other times we encountered a similar type of scam in Morocco, we just ignored them and continued on to our destination. You can check out my post about different scams you’ll encounter in Morocco here!

Bogota

One of the days we were in Bogota, we decided to take a daytrip to the Zipaquira Salt Cathedral, that’s about 1.5 hours from the city. To do that, we took a taxi to the main bus terminal and caught the bus to Zipaquira.

The taxi we picked up outside our hotel decided he was going to try to take advantage of the international, non-Spanish speaking travelers. First, he took us to a spot that was nowhere near the bus station. It was a taxi terminal and he said, “oh, here you’ll get another taxi there to the bus station.” Wait, what? This is not what we had agreed to.

A street with yellow and orange buildings in Bogota, Colombia.

Second, Matthew noticed him messing with the meter as we were driving, but he didn’t register it as something to weird at the time. So, as we arrived at the spot where he dropped us off, he pushes the button that has the meter give the final cost, and the meter said 45,000 pesos (about $10). Matthew, passed him a 50k bill, and the guy did some fancy handwork, showed us a 5k bill. At first Matthew just reaches for it, as that should be the change, but the guy says “No, you gave me the wrong bill.”

We both recognized here that something funny was going on, both with the handwork, and Matthew was like “No, I gave you a 50. Plus, see, look, all my bills are creased from my wallet. That 5k bill you’re saying I gave you has no crease – it couldn’t come from my wallet.” We went back and forth with him about this for a bit (using Google translate), and then finally just got out of the car.

At that point, we realized the extent of the scam – not only was he trying to get us to pay an extra 50k, there was no way that the ride we took actually cost 45k pesos (we checked an Uber-type app which said the trip should have been about 14k). And of course, this was all to the wrong spot!

Even though we could tell things were getting weird on the ride, we didn’t put the whole thing together until about 1 minute after we got out of the cab. And by then, we were mad. We were real mad!

It’s a little crazy because we’ve traveled quite a bit and have encountered plenty of people trying to take advantage or be dishonest. Usually we’re quite good at avoiding getting scammed. And yet, there can still be situations that catch you off guard. This is definitely one of those travel stories that I really wish didn’t happen, but that we’ve definitely learned from!

Read More: Navigating Moroccan Scams: How to Spot Them and What to Avoid

16. Days So Windy We Basically Couldn’t Go Outside

It was 2019 and Matthew and I were having a delightful time traveling around southern France. However, we arrived in Marseille to strong winds, and the next two days we basically couldn’t do anything in the city – those winds were actually 50+ mph and were literally blowing us over. We tried to do some things, but halfway through the second day we just called it quits and spent the rest of the day in our rental apartment. 

A traditional French apartment. Large windows light a tiled room with a large rug.

Thankfully, we were staying in an adorable AirBnb that had all this old French architecture and a view over the water, so we bought groceries, cooked a meal, and hung out in our French apartment (unfortunately this apartment is not available to rent anymore). It actually ended up being a really fun afternoon and evening and one I actually have very fond memories of, despite some of our plans being cancelled.  

In general, I try to not get too bothered by less than ideal weather and go with the flow rain or shine, but this was one time we really had to just ditch our plans for the day!

Crazy Travel Stories #17. Was Homeless in London for a Night

During my sophomore year of college I did a 3 month study abroad in Paris, and it was one of the most magical times of my life! I went with a group from my university, and we lived in pairs with French families around Paris. 

During these three months, we took advantage of living in Europe and did several weekend trips to different spots. We visited the Loire Valley chateaux and Normandy with our entire group, and then I went with a small group of friends on separate occasions to visit Brussels, London, and Rome. 

It’s pretty funny to me to look back on those trips, because we did so little prep and research before taking off for the weekend. (In contrast to the massive amount of planning I do before trips now!)

In fact, a few days before we spent the weekend in London, we were researching hostels to stay at that were less than $20/night – we were on a pretty shoestring budget and anything more than that felt exorbitant! For our last night in London, we couldn’t find anywhere that felt appropriately cheap to stay, so we just put off booking anything, saying, “We’ll figure it out when we’re there.” 

Spoiler alert: We did not, in fact, figure it out.

We kept avoiding thinking about that pesky little fact all through the weekend, and when 9pm on that final night came, we just said, “Well I guess we’re not going to stay anywhere tonight.” 

A view of London looking pasts statues of lions toward Big Ben.

So what did we do?

We ended up wandering around London for quite a while. Around 1am, we started riding busses. We rode the bus to the end of the line, and then would turn around and ride the bus back the other way to the end. At one point, I think around 4am, we ended up falling asleep on the bus and woke up an hour or two later to the bus driver saying “HEY! You can’t sleep here!”

Apparently while we fell asleep the bus driver finished his route for the night and drove back to the bus depot, where all the busses were stored and maintained, and we had slept through until he realized there were still some stragglers in the back.

We were jolted out of sleep and like “oh, sorry” as we stumbled out of the bus and made our way out of the bus station… to walk across the street and catch another bus back into London, ha!

This is one of those crazy travel stories that was pretty funny to us at the time (and I mean, I still think it’s a funny story), but also, we could have just paid $50 and actually gotten a good night’s sleep!

18. Our First Meal in Costa Rica

So the first night we were in Costa Rica, my parents’ bill for dinner came to about $72. My dad gave our waitress his credit card and told her to run it in colones, which is the currency in Costa Rica. A few minutes later, he got a text from his credit card company that his purchase was denied because it was over his credit limit.

He understandably had a short heart attack before figuring out the issue – $72 is 23,000 colones, and our waitress had mistakenly run the bill as 23,000 DOLLARS!

Several plates of traditional Costa Rican food.
That first meal in Costa Rica – good, but not $23,000 good! | Funny Travel Stories

We really believe it was an honest mistake and everything got sorted out just fine, and we never had this problem anywhere else in Costa Rica. But WOW that dinner got real bougie real fast!

19. Getting Lost in the Wilderness on a Snowmobile Trip

Back in 2010, Matthew and I went with my family (my parents and four of my brothers) on a snowmobiling trip in northern Minnesota. My family has lived in Minnesota for years – I was born and raised there! – but this was our first time snowmobiling up north. We couldn’t wait!

We stayed in a cabin in the middle of the forest and rented four 2-seater sleds to drive around. It was exhilarating zooming along the snow covered trails, with the pine trees coated in white snow.

Two snowmobiles, with two people on each, sit on a frozen lake.
Me in front

One day as we were snowmobiling, Matthew and I were on a sled together at the back of the pack, and we had to stop real quick for me to adjust my scarf. The scarf had shifted, and the cold was hitting my neck and was absolutely freezing. I toughed it out for a while but then just had to stop and fix it.

While we did this, we got way behind the rest of the group, but figured they would notice and stop for us a little bit up ahead.

Well, we kept on going…. and going… and going… and never caught up to them. In fact, we reached the point in road that was a turnoff point and they weren’t there (which was extremely surprising because my dad would always regroup at any trail junctions).

Two people sit on a snowmobile with a cabin in the background.
Matthew and I ready to go on that fateful morning! | Funny Travel Stories

We weren’t sure what to do. We were in the middle of nowhere, so we had no cell reception. We weren’t sure if they just made the turn, forgetting to check for everyone, or if they had just kept going straight. We decided to keep going straight for a while and see if we could find them, but after several minutes we still couldn’t see any sign of them.

Stumped about what to do, we decided to go back, make the turn, and continue on the planned route. The plan was to go to Hungry Jacks, an isolated restaurant up in the woods. We figured that wherever they had gone, they were also heading to Hungry Jacks, so we’d find them there.

Well, we show up to Hungry Jacks and… no family. We talked to an employee about if they had seen a family come through (maybe we had missed them? no luck), ate dinner, refilled our snowmobiles with gas, and made the 2-3 hour journey back to the cabin, thinking FOR SURE they’d be back at the cabin. It was night at this point, and the stars were bright overhead, light reflecting off the snow. It was beautiful!

But, when we got back, there was still no family. This was honestly the first time we were concerned — this whole time we had figured they were fine and had changed plans! About an hour later, the rest of the family pulled in. My mom walked in with this concerned expression on her face, saw us, and said, “OH THANK GOODNESS.”

My Parents’ and Brothers’ Side of the Story

The rest of the family had had quite the adventure. They were cruising down the straightaway, and because it was open and straight, everyone was just going full speed. Finally, they came to a point where there was a stop, and they were waiting for everyone to catch up.

Well, they were waiting and waiting for us to catch up, thinking “wow they are going really slow.” But of course, we never showed up. So then mom and dad figured they should go back and try to find us. Some people stayed where they were, and some went back for several miles, realizing as they did how far ahead they had gone. They never ran into us though, and so they were really confused about just where the heck we had gone.

Four people with two snowmobiles in the woods.

My parents were starting to get nervous for us, because we weren’t anywhere on the trail, so they thought we had made a wrong turn and were lost in the woods by ourselves somewhere.

They started going down some random trails, thinking maybe we had made a wrong turn somewhere, but then those trails became impassable, so it was obvious we hadn’t gone there.

Things Get Really Rough

Then, my dad’s snowmobile got low on gas while they were all still out on the middle of nowhere. It was weird because it was the only snowmobile was running out of gas while the other gauges were still high. Well, it ran out of gas, and now they had 2 people stranded on the dead snowmobile and two people (Matthew and me) who were separated from the group.

It’s starting to get dark now and Mom actually was starting to feel panicked, knowing that I have type I diabetes and was pregnant at the time, and what if I had a medical emergency while being lost in the woods by ourselves.

A pristine trail in a snowy forest.

At this point, the three snowmobiles were split up: Dad and one brother were with the dead snowmobile, my two teenage brothers were still on the side of the trail (in the snow, alone, as it’s getting dark, so they could grab us in case we happened to come by) and my mom and 5 year old brother went to go find help somewhere, praying they could find something somewhere that would be open.

Thankfully, a little farther down, the trail ended at a road and on the road they found a B&B with the owners at home.

This couple was so nice and helpful – they had an extra gas can they brought back to my dad’s sled so he could drive again, they gave some directions to Mom and Dad, and they called around to the other resorts in the area – including Hungry Jack’s, who told them that yes, we had been there, gotten dinner, and had headed home.

It wasn’t until this point that mom and dad realized that they were, in fact, the ones who were lost, and Matthew and I were on the right trail. (In their defense, the maps of the trails were absolutely terrible. They were truly incredibly difficult to read – Matthew just happens to have an excellent sense of direction).

Mom and dad were incredibly relieved to know that we were okay. When they showed up an hour or so after we arrived back, I was really shocked to hear how crazy their afternoon and evening had been – it made ours feel so much tamer!

How to Prepare for When Travel Goes Awry

There’s a lot that we do to try to avoid bad, trip-interrupting experiences. We plan our itineraries instead of winging it, we download offline maps, and we bring some back ups of essentials.

We also practice good safety measures (e.g. keep our valuables secured, don’t wander into dangerous situations, learn about common scams in a destination ahead of time, etc.), and generally, that has served us really well! None of these crazy travel stories in this post have ruined our trip.

We also try to be pretty laidback and flexible when we’re on vacation. Have to make a detour to the doctor’s office in Iceland? It’s fine, it’s fine. Lose a phone in Morocco? Don’t stress, we can make it work. Tent collapsed and all our clothes, pillows, sleeping bags, and gear is sopping wet? Just laugh and shake your head at the absurdity of it all.

➡️Always Have Travel Insurance

However, one of the biggest things we always do before any trip is get travel insurance. Securing some travel insurance is an important part of prepping for any international trip – you really never know when something might happen, and your regular insurance generally won’t cover you overseas. 

Costs for a medical emergency on vacation can add up extremely fast, so it’s just better to be safe than sorry. (If life, and especially covid, has taught me anything, it’s that you never know what could happen!)  

I like booking insurance at Insure My Trip, as they offer a variety of plans with different coverages to choose from, so you can find the right option for you. Plus, they have great customer support if you need help before, during, or after your trip.

👉Check rates at Insure My Trip here!👈


Final Thoughts on Experiencing Those Sometimes Funny, Sometimes Crazy Travel Stories

I’ll admit, many of these experiences were not exactly ideal, to say the least. They were often stressful or frustrating. But some of these were just really funny travel stories!

However, learning how to handle curveballs has definitely helped me a lot in life! Things happen, even (and especially) on vacation. Being adaptable to what happens, taking it in stride, and not letting it sour the entire trip has been a valuable lesson to learn (over and over again, ha!)

And I’m sure I’ll be adding more crazy travel stories to this list regularly in the coming years!

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