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How to Feel Better When Things Go Wrong?

My wife and I are currently on our 2nd trip to Europe. Last year, we loved our trip to Paris, Barcelona, Italy, and Dublin. This year, we're traveling in Belgium, the Rhine Valley, and Amsterdam. We're currently in Bruges getting ready to head to the St. Bernardus B&B in the countryside tomorrow.

Overall, we've had a great time attending Ghent Festival, tasting Belgian beers, friets, chocolates, etc. However, we've had some misses/roadblocks so far - oversleeping our Brussels walking tour, missing the Ghent alterpiece by 15 minutes, taking a midnight trip to the hospital (everything turned out ok), some disappointing meals, and generally trying to squeeze in too many things and feeling like we're missing some of things we came for. Can anyone help with advice on how to see the bright side of things and keep a positive attitude? Personal experiences, tips, etc... Thanks!

Posted by
10344 posts

When things go wrong on a trip, it's not fun.
It seems that you've already identified what's not working for you, and what you can change, as you said, "trying to squeeze in too many things and feeling like we're missing half of what we came for."

It's easy for someone else to tell you: look on the bright side. But IMO it also takes a change of travel behavior, not just a change of attitude.

Because the current travel behavior isn't working as well as you'd like, you can change it.
Here's what we've done, it's a matter of personal travel preference, so what works for me won't necessarily work for you, but here's some things that have worked for me: since European trips, all the way from N. America, are inherently stressful, we've slowed things down, staying longer in places, less on the move.

Staying longer in one place. Spending more unscheduled time, waking up some mornings with no itinerary works for us.
Now that wouldn't work for a lot of travelers, some would find this boring. But it's an example of what you can do to slow things down. Sometimes less is more, seeing less can enhance the quality of your trip, depending upon you and your travel style.

Posted by
2 posts

Thanks! That's one thing we're trying - cutting down our itinerary for the rest of the trip to focus on the most important sights, and leaving more free time to explore.

Posted by
441 posts

Once you get back home your clearest, funniest and most memorable moments will be all the things that went wrong. We often remember the day we almost missed our train to Paris after having our German train break down, leaving us standing in a field waiting for alternate transportation. Or the time we jumped on a train going in the wrong direction to an unknown location, and the nice young girl who redirected us and eventually got us on the right "track". Or the trip where EVERY SINGLE restaurant we picked had no one else in but us two. It was like we had cooties or were wearing signs that said "Under Quarantine". Or our most recent travels on a RS tour where we went to a Mexican restaurant in Finland (just couldn't swallow another bite of fish) that had the worst food we have ever eaten, and I spilled an entire beer over another tour member's food. Priceless memories. Every moment of travel should be savored. Don't worry about what you didn't see, just enjoy the things you do. For example, I am sure everyone will be interested to hear your hospital story. That had to be quite the experience. Here's to the rest of your travel adventures- may you create many wonderful memories together!

Posted by
10344 posts

You're not alone in the feelings you have about your Europe travel experiences.
Traveling to Europe from N. America is inherently stressful for many travelers, jet lag, being out of your routine.

Because, as you said, trying to squeeze in too many things isn't working for you, I have a feeling that you'll do some things differently for the rest of this trip and on your next Europe trip.
And then future trips will get better and better, as you discover what works better for you and your travel companion!

Posted by
6876 posts

Monty Python's Life of Brian has it covered (and always makes me laugh and feel better):
“When you're chewing on life's gristle
Don't grumble, give a whistle
And this'll help things turn out for the best...
And...always look on the bright side of life...
Always look on the light side of life.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrdEMERq8MA

In all seriousness, you're on vacation (hardly an unenviable situation) experiencing some inconvenient first-world problems...how do you feel better when things go wrong at home? You muddle through it and keep your spirits up by focusing on what's going well. Humor and humility always seem to help.

Posted by
1727 posts

I know someone who traveled to Peru and promptly wound up in the hospital with altitude sickness. She said the hospital folks were so kind to her that it was really a very special part of the experience.

Posted by
21843 posts

Since day one (1972) my wife has always had the attitude, "We will see that the next time." And we move on. We have always planned a blank day (nothing scheduled) every four or five days. Sleep in, do laundry, catch things we may have miss earlier - in other words - slack in the schedule. That really suits our style of travel.
By the way - next time after the first trip was 1990. But our next trips after have been much closer to one and two year intervals. And we are still says, "We will catch that next time."

We had have disappointing meals in the US so why should Europe be any different. But we have had many great one also. We have never had a bad trip. Have had some challenges. Our our last trip had two planes canceled - not postponed or delayed - canceled !!! Talk about screwing up the schedules. And we missed a connecting airline flight with non refundable ticket. Part of travel. It is just attitude. It happens, move on. There is always next time.

Posted by
729 posts

I'm sorry that everything hasn't worked out as you has planned but thank goodness the late night trip to the hospital turned out ok! Don't give up. Some trips work out better than others but as time goes by, you will be able to laugh at the things that went wrong...like that dump of a town in Indonesia where we could only find the most miserable, stinking hot, mosquito infested rooms with bus loads of mountain climbers arriving very noisily at 2:00 AM...it was a miserable night and one that we laugh about surprisingly frequently! Hang in there!

Posted by
285 posts

Travelor1234, we are getting to ready for another trip (Spain) in the fall. We had such a wonderful trip last year to Eastern Europe that we can hardly wait for this one.......here is perhaps the problem for you and maybe us? Such wonderful times before and the expectation level is so high to achieve once again that wonderful holiday already once had. Maybe you just have to slow down, as you already said, forget about your last trip and think only about this trip and what is waiting for you to enjoy. Sleeping in, while yes, you missed something, but who doesn't want to sleep in!!! Lucky you, a good rest! Slow down, down worry about everything to see and just like the last poster said "catch it on the next trip"

Posted by
2742 posts

I often travel with my kids (school age) and have since the older one was a baby. Kids are a recipe for a trip not going as planned, so I've learned a little bit about what works for me.

-Make lists of three tiers - must dos, want to dos, and if-possibles. Have, at most, one must do per day with some days of no "musts". Limit the musts to true essentials for you - if you don't care all that much about the eiffel tower, it's not a must even if everyone else thinks it is. Be extremely selective about the "musts", and be happy if you get to a want-to-do instead of mourning all the if-possible's you missed. The idea is that you need to be OK only seeing the musts and missing everything else (although you will have time for some of the wants as well, especially if you take the next point on my list!).

-Take more time per place - less moving around means more time to make up for "mistakes", and you feel more comfortable in your spot. Also, pad your time. A lot. If your train arrives at 3 and it's a half hour to the hotel...plan on it taking an hour or more. Less stress about "delays" and you won't schedule something too close. Get there early? Great, you have time to relax or to go to the want-to-do down the street. Bonus!

-try your best to remember that the things that go "wrong" make good stories and memories later. No one cares about my trip to the Louvre - it's been done by plenty of people - but they love my story of getting caught in a rainstorm, falling and twisting my ankle (mildly), accidentally limping into a hospital that I thought was a hotel, and getting driven to my hotel by the doctor, who didn't speak English, and my French was limited to 20 words. If everything turned out OK from the hospital, this may be your story!

-I don't really know how to do this, but I've found that over time focusing on experiences not "sights" to be extremely helpful. Just wandering around Venice with no plans to go into a museum or eat a spectacular meal. Stop at a cafe to enjoy the scene, but don't worry about the meal living up to expectations. You're in Venice - savor it, don't run to get to the 10th church of the day before closing. More of an in-the-moment kind of approach. For ME, the only way to do this is a combo of careful planning (so I know the must-sees and can feel comfortable with skipping other things) and travel experience. On your first trip, it's hard to have this perspective, but if you keep it in mind it will develop. I'm still working on it, and some days I'm terrible at it, but it's coming.

-Re-live your trip in your mind after you get back. Right away, and months later. See what stands out to you. Then do more of that kind of thing, less of the things that don't stay with you. This will vary by person, but whatever sticks with you is what matters for your travels. On a trip recently, one of the things that stands out most is a day in a park with a beautiful view, kids playing with local kids on a playground, going to a neighborhood store to get a picnic and just being there. So, more of that.

Posted by
13659 posts

"...since European trips, all the way from N. America, are inherently stressful, we've slowed things down, staying longer in places, less on the move. Staying longer in one place. Spending more unscheduled time, waking up some mornings with no itinerary works for us. "

It's exactly the same for us. We learned very early on that too much in too little time created more opportunities for wrenches in the machinery, and amplified our reaction to even minor inconveniences (those things that can go wrong). We may travel between fewer individual places but time in one spot allows us to choose a day trip or outdoor activity when the weather is most favorable, or to simply have an adventure day scouting what isn't on the list.

The bad meal here and there has never bothered us as we don't choose expensive places where that sort of error could be very costly.

Some things are simply out of a tourist's control. How much hand-wringing have we seen because Trevi Fountain has been covered in scaffolding for months? It happens. The good news is that for every Big Thing that is closed or being restored, there's usually something equally as interesting/pretty/important not too far away. Shrug it off and go find that thing: you'll have a valuable insight to share with others who are going to run into the same problem. Pat yourself on the back for being resourceful enough to make something delicious out of that sour lemon. Those little pats can go a long way where overcoming disappointment is concerned.

Heck, we got stuck in an unexpected train strike that was a real pain at the time but we eventually managed to figure a way around it. Sure, we still lost most of a day at a destination we were very much looking forward to but in the end, it wasn't ALL day (and not our only day) and it felt pretty good to have found a solution. Sure beat moping about for hours and hours feeling very sorry for ourselves?

My guess is that when the trip is history, those disappoints will quickly fade, and what you'll remember are the many perfect hours - just as you do for all of the other best moments in life!

One more thing? I don't know about you but the great good fortune of being able to travel abroad is one I've never taken for granted. You may have missed that altarpiece in Ghent, but many, many people will never be fortunate enough to explore Belgium, France, Italy, etc. at all. Just to be THERE is a gift.

Posted by
3936 posts

Yeah - some of our funny stories now are things that had me at the breaking point at the time (the best/worst being a series of train disasters in Italy with a late train in Milan resulting in getting on the wrong train an hour later and ending up in Verona instead of Bologna and missing our connecting back to Bologna by about 10 min and having to wait another hour and arriving about 4 hours late - 11pm - in Bologna! Funny now...I was crying at the time).

And you will learn to just breathe and go with the flow - it's hard - I still have a hard time going with the flow - but I am learning to try not to get too overwrought. And on subsequent trips to Europe (after a whirlwind trip in 2010 that included I think 6 one night stays out of 22 nights)...we are learning slower is better...more time in fewer places as others have said.

And it's nice to have a day just to decompress part way thru.

Posted by
672 posts

Traveler,

Your post really got me thinking back to some of our past trips, which, of course, had many mis-steps and even some disappointments. But, in spite of them, my memories are overwhelmingly positive. Somehow, the rougher parts have mellowed in my mind and I'm guessing the same will be true for you.

We, too, had a late-night trip to the ER and an overnight stay there. Being taken by ambulance to the hospital is scary enough at home and is certainly more so in a foreign country. But, what I've taken from that is the knowledge that we can cope with medical emergencies wherever we are. This is good to know. I also have a wonderful memory of a doctor patting my husband on the arm and speaking assuring words (in French) and my husband, quite well dosed with morphine, but not knowing any French, clearly relaxing and getting the message. And, now we have a story to tell about our time in the hospital in Arles.

I also think you might want to slow down a bit and just enjoy being where you are. We used to feel that we had to see/do everything possible. Then, we hit a wicked spell of weather (temps. around 100° for several days) in Croatia and we had to admit defeat. We spent lots of time in waterside cafes on that trip and, looking back, those cafes gave us some of our best memories. We've really changed our priorities over the years away from seeing everything and more toward enjoying the experience of being in a foreign country.

We've never had a trip that's gone perfectly, but they've all been good trips. I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to travel and I try to keep that in mind when things go bad. I'd rather struggle a bit in a foreign country than be sitting at home wishing I could travel.

Posted by
15035 posts

I accept that things will go wrong. It's part of life. Sometimes it's my fault, sometimes not. For the things that I screwed up, I try to accept my foibles and not to beat myself up. Just go on to the next thing. It's just part of life.

Put those things into perspective. Would it have been great to see the Ghent alterpiece? Sure. Would seeing it have made any real difference in your life? No. You're having a good time and making lots of terrific memories for years to come. Focus on that.

In April I went to Chartres specifically to take Malcolm Miller's cathedral tour. He was on vacation and due back the next day. Had I phoned ahead, I'd have known and been able to adjust my schedule easily. Then there was a bomb scare at the cathedral (some art student left his backpack inside) and they evacuated. So not only did I miss the tour, but I spent almost 2 idle hours waiting to get back inside. I'd pretty much forgotten the whole thing until your thread :-) And now, I remember what I did that evening in Paris - I stopped in at a neighborhood cafe for a drink, ended up meeting some great people, having dinner, getting a little sloshed with them and laughing until 2 a.m. Maybe if I hadn't been so annoyed about Chartres I might not have gone straight back to my apartment.

Posted by
2326 posts

I travel solo so there's only myself to blame if I don't get up and moving early enough, but I've also learned to pick and plan my must-dos carefully so that there's plenty of time to relax and just enjoy being in that particular place without a frantic laundry list of things to see.

On my recent trip to Poland and Prague I suffered what I call "second country syndrome"--the first week in Poland was glorious and I loved everything. I loved Prague, too, but after lively yet also peaceful (crowd-wise) Krakow, Warsaw and Gdansk I was overwhelmed by the crowds in Prague and there was cold, windy, rainy weather the entire time. Every day I reminded myself I was in a gorgeous city with lots to explore so I got out there and accomplished my must-sees with the exception of Mucha's Slav Epic since that wing was closed, had some wonderful food and beer and did manage to find a couple of quiet places to sit and just be.

Posted by
16883 posts

The great tips shared above hit home for me, too. I've had my share of travel "incidents," usually with the solo-traveler benefit of no witnesses. They either become funny stories or are quickly forgotten, and none have stopped me from going back. I've often said that I could be rained on in Seattle or rained on in Europe and will choose Europe. I guess I could say the same about miscommunications, flat tires, missed buses, wrong turns, oversleeping, overspending on dinner, ordering tripe soup, etc.

Post-card perfect trips are unrealistic, no matter how much planning you put into them. Setting sightseeing priorities, allowing free time, moderating expectations, enjoying the moment, and making your own small discoveries are all great strategies. Once it's done, don't think about the money spent or who is to "blame." Some of Rick's take on the topic is summarized at Making the Most of Your Trip.

Posted by
5697 posts

CHOCOLATE! That's my solution for everything (doesn't work so well for overweight and acne, however. ) Seriously, what others have said -- lower your expectations, build in more downtime, enjoy what you have instead of stressing on what you missed -- and eat some chocolate (or gelato or Creme Brulee or ...)

Posted by
13659 posts

Gelato will cure almost anything that ails a person.

Posted by
768 posts

Sometimes we have to accept that things are just out of our control. It's a good idea to check museum opening days and hours, but you can't do anything if the staff goes on strike (thinking of you, Louvre). Or if the day you expected to hike the Cinque Terre trail it is closed due to bad weather.

And without having done the trip before its impossible to know if we'll want to spend 2 hours wandering around the core of that Tuscan town and push on, or if we'll find it so enchanting that we poke in shops, have coffee, have lunch, etc. and spend the better part of a day there. If our plan for the day lists 3 villages to see then something has to give. These may be the harder disappointments to endure; the previous things were clearly external, but we can harbor the hope that if only we had read the guide book carefully enough (and perhaps consulted some other guides) we could have divined exactly how much time we'd want to spend in each town, museum, etc.

It turns out that you can trade money for predictability; one of the benefits of paying more for a tour such as the ones RS offers than it may cost doing it yourself is you get a guide who's been there before, can lead you directly to the sights (and has a bus to get you pretty close), has staff back in the States to help arrange alternatives if needed, they have group reservations to save waiting time to enter museums even if its a rainy day and everyone else decided museum as well. What the tour promises, you'll likely see. But there's another tradeoff; if you're having a great Belgian beer and decide maybe to make an afternoon reading and sipping a few beers you aren't going to miss the bus when the group leaves town in 2 hours.

Posted by
10344 posts

IMO John makes a good point: you can trade money for predictability by going on a tour.

Posted by
608 posts

I loved reading everyone's funny travel memories! When we went to Scotland last year, everything went perfectly. We even got amazing weather and no travel delays. So we had high hopes for our GAS tour with a stop in Paris this year. It started off with bad weather in Texas somehow delaying our flight from Tampa to Newark, making us miss the last flight out to Paris for the night. We did some quick research and begged the airline reps to fly us to London and then to Paris so we wouldn't miss a day of our trip. On our very first day in Paris, I pulled a muscle in my foot, resulting in me spending the rest of the time hobbling around. In the middle of our tour I got a bit of food poisoning. Then we had the worst weather our guide had ever seen on a tour so far in Switzerland. I finished off the tour by getting a case of what turned out to be strep throat. And every time something went wrong, I was so worried about it "ruining" this trip I had spent so much time preparing for, but it just didn't. It all led to interesting experiences. In Paris I laughed while my husband tried to ask for an ace bandage in a pharmacy and he laughed while I limped up the hundreds of stairs at Notre Dame. When I got food poisoning, it happened to be on a quiet afternoon when nothing was planned so I didn't miss anything and I was wowed when our waiter at the hotel packed some food for me and gave it to my husband when he found out why I had missed dinner. When we arrived to grey, foggy, rainy, snowy weather in Switzerland and our guide asked the hotel owner how the weather was looking for the next few days and he answered "not as nice as today" the tour group all laughed and had fun anyway. The things that went wrong made our tour even more memorable and we still laugh about them today. And despite everything, it was one of the best trips we have ever taken! We just got a reminder to relax and enjoy the ride (which, I'll be honest, is not in my nature, as I am quite the worrier. This is my husband's expertise. So it was good for me!). I hope you guys can find some humor in your tales and still enjoy your trip.

Posted by
15035 posts

Sorry, John and Kent, but going on an RS tour does not prevent disappointments. On my first one, my knee suddenly went out on day 2 and I was in pain and had to limit walking for the next 10 days. My second tour (last month) was plagued by bad weather - low clouds and rain don't make for Alpine hiking.

Posted by
925 posts

I hope things have turned around for you and you are feeling better about your trip. I agree with many that it's a good idea to see what is causing stress and change it, such as slowing down. Also, like anything it is usually your reaction to events that cause unhappiness rather than the events themselves. I'm bad at changing my reactions to things often, but I try! Planning a day trip to Antwerp from Brussels and got on the wrong train? Well, now I have a funny story about being on the wrong train and can look forward to seeing Antwerp on a different trip. Bad meals? Well, often they are memorable. When I'm trying to see what seems bad in a positive light I remember a college student from somewhere in Asia I met on the bus ride up to Eagle's Nest in Germany once. It was the only cloudy day so far in what had been a beautiful weather trip and I was disappointed in the weather. When commenting on the weather to this student he said he thought it would be okay because it would look mystical and beautiful up there in the clouds. He was right. Sometimes you just have to change your outlook. Good luck!

Posted by
11613 posts

Let's see, I was tear-gassed by roller-blading Paris police pursuing thieves, more people were interested in that story than in my reaction to the Mona Lisa. So those not-fun at the time moments can turn into good stories.

My fault? I planned a train/bus journey with seven (!) connections, the dominoes started falling when the first train was ten minutes late...I eventually got to my destination the next day by asking a barista to phone someone to drive me there (€40 and a great narrative by the driver).

Met my ex-husband in Piazza Navona in Roma. Made life-long friends with two young Napolitani on the ferry to Patras. Spent €60 ($90 at the exchange rate then) on lunch in Roma which included the most expensive fig newton for dessert (much better, but the key elements were the same, only fresh).

I flew into FCO two days after the T3 Fire and ended up taking the late train to Napoli, staying the night there, and continuing by train the next day to Palermo.

None of these things was on my itinerary. Sometimes you just have to laugh.

Posted by
8491 posts

I felt so sorry for all the day-trippers from around the world arriving in Murren on a day you could have cut the fog with a knife; not an Alp visible anywhere. That was the same year we got to CDG a day late for our flight back to the States. Oops. Stuff happens to everyone. How you feel is also affected by how your travel partner handles disappointment and stress. So while eating that gelato or chocolate, I suggest you sit back with a drink too and make sure you both talk it over and decide to just enjoy the drink and forget about the other.

Posted by
12964 posts

Things can and do go wrong on a trip regardless the level of planning you did prior to departure. Sometimes things started to go wrong before I got to the place of accommodation or by the first day. It's relative, you just need to work around it. That is one ay to keep an upbeat mood. It is better to have a contingency plan than the alternative. There have been trips where the entire day did not go according to plan, which obviously taxes your patience and energy. It also depends on where. In Germany and Austria I go mostly solo, so when things going amiss, I only need to consider or worry/blame (about) myself but in other countries I have to take into consideration others traveling with me.

Posted by
436 posts

I am glad you are finding your balance and slowing down and prioritizing. I am jealous because I am not in Europe this year to have and recover from these rough moments.

I have had a few :-)

I got a terrible cold in Paris but I mostly I remember the kind waiter, the helpful pharmacist, and that my husband went out on a rainy night and brought me gelatto plus I have a photo of the Eiffel twinkling in gloomy rain taken from the windown in my room.

Car trouble in Italy... but we still skiied each day and did the Sella Ronda, lots of stress but the car was fixed (eventually) in time to move to our next location. Luckily we were in one place for 7 days and the car broke on the morning of day 3.

Enjoy the trip!

Posted by
1780 posts

Hi Traveler, I'm a planner and start working on my spreadsheet a year in advance of a trip. That being said, the best experiences have been the totally unplanned things that happened. Like having a conversation with an old French woman in a park, making friends with a hotel owner, or finding just the right souvenir that I didn't know I needed. Prioritize your "must dos" and "nice to see" things. Relax, and establish your own personal "no grumps" policy.

Posted by
260 posts

I totally agree with the other posters who remember unfortunate experiences with a chuckle (after the fact). Here's my list:
1) Had my purse stolen off a ferry on one of my first trips to Europe as a young single woman. Plus side: met a cute law student who helped me to find the purser who found the purse (money missing, passport and - more importantly - eye glasses - intact). Law student took me out for dinner at Simpson's in London.

2) Visited emergency room in Edinburgh (with husband who didn't feel well ) and dentist in Denmark. Plus side: professional service, small fees and husband returned to health quickly.

3) Have gotten several colds over the years. Plus side: never remember a trip only for sickness - remember mostly the good times.

and finally: got stuck by the volcanic eruption in Iceland in Ireland for five additional hotel nights. Plus side: getting "stuck" in Dublin is my idea of good luck!

Posted by
516 posts

I second Travelingmom. I remember clearly
- pickpocket's hand in my father-in-law's pants
- Metro train quit working for the night before we got to our station
- destroying a tire in the car rental and having to buy a new one
- almost missing the train to London while buying breakfast at the station
- the broken wheel of my suitcase in Toledo
- loosing my 10 year old 2 megapixels camera to pickpockets (you don't have to be wise to pickpocket)
- buying tickets to Malaga for the wrong date.

Without these your travel stories will be like everybody else.

Posted by
1 posts

just arrived back from 16 days in Europe covering England, Amsterdam Belgium and France. I definitely agree with having a free day once in a while. I come home noticing I lost 7 pounds. Must have been all of the miles i walked. My traveler mindset didn't kick in until the 2nd week. My wife finally agreed to a day off.

We planned everything on this trip. We also learned some lessons too. Opt for the Economy upgrade seats. I don't know how this guy fit in his seat but everyone in our center row was cramped.

This is my 4th trip to Europe. I'm sorry to say my son loves Amsterdam- and not for the red lights. The Riksmuseum was phenomenal as well as the hop on/off canal ride.

The only true downside was Paris. I saw at least 5 people who lost a wallet or passport from thieves. In most cases the thieves picked the pocket as soon as the doors closed. That neck pouch by RS was invaluable.

When going up the stairs in the Paris subway always walk on the rightsize or they will knock you over like my self. My foodie highlight is Epicure Fine. Touted as the largest gourmet store in the world. As a previous poster stated you always remember the the "less than perfect things. I think its all about working thing out for the best -which they did.

I cant wait to travel again. I signed up yesterday for 14 day Viking Cruises to the Balkans.

Posted by
503 posts

What started out being a disappointing day on a trip to Germany with my sister, actually turned out to be one that we both remember with fondness and comfort. We had made plans to do some castle exploring the next day and in preparation for a long day out, we went to a small grocery and purchased some cheese, crackers, cookies and the longest Tobleron Chocolate bar we could find. It was to be a wonderful day and our picnic lunch was going to good. We woke up that morning to horrible, ugly, black skies and pouring down rain. We looked out the window, turned to each other and both said, at the same time, I'm not going out in this. It was October, chilly and we had been hitting the sites hard for about 4 weeks already. We ended up staying in our room ALL day, never getting out of our jammies, nibbling on our picnic lunch all day, using our hot water immerger to heat water for tea bags and hot chocolate mixes we carried with us. Back then, no room had radios or tvs. We read and napped and just chilled out and both agreed that we didn't even realize how tired we were. This vacation day from our vacation was just what we needed to carry us through the rest of trip and it saved us from being grumpy on what we originally thought was going to be a "wasted day"

Posted by
3696 posts

Dare I say it.... if you are trying to compare it to your first trip... just forget about it... nothing will ever compare to that first time... so just be happy you are still around to enjoy a second :)

Try something really different, and ditch all you plans, play it by ear, and see what happens.
I will gladly trade places with you:))

Posted by
187 posts

In my 13 trips outside North America, things have gone wrong only a couple times. I consider them to be learning tools and sometimes part of the experience of travel.

In 2010, for instance, I got a tick in my leg on my next-to-last day of a 100-mile-long hike on Ireland's remote Dingle Peninsula. I couldn't remove the pest, so the owner of my B&B drove me to a doctor. She extracted the tick and gave me a prescription against lyme disease, though there was little chance I would contract it, because deer ticks, rather than the sheep ticks of Dingle, cause the disorder. The doctor charged me 50 euros, which is about $60, for the visit and procedure and the seven-pill prescription was $10 for a total of $70. In the U.S., the cost would probably have been $150 to $200. It's one reason why I support the Affordable Care Act and universal health care.

Another problem occurred In 2014. On my first full day in Lisbon, Portugal, my pocket was picked on a tram crawling to the famed Alfama district. I had been forewarned about the presence of pickpockets in Lisbon, so once in the city, I put my wallet, passport and other valuables in a carry-bag. I removed my wallet from the bag so that I extract a transit card to pay for the tram and momentarily lazy, I decided to put the wallet in my pocket. After I was on the crowded tram, there was jostling as people got on and off. I looked down to see my wallet was gone. From the streets of Lisbon, I made an emergency call to Visa to cancel my charge cards. Now, any time I travel, I make sure to put my wallet in a bag, rather than my pocket.

Posted by
10344 posts

Hey, this topic is the featured Forum Question of the Month in Rick's August Travel News e-mail.

Posted by
93 posts

Even problems in a grocery store can lead to a memorable moment. While in Paris, it became necessary for me to purchase a hemorrhoid cream. This can be found in any grocery store in the US, but not in France. In faltering French, I discreetly asked the clerk for the location of such a product. She consulted with a female co-worker. Finally they discussed the matter with a handsome young man who promptly led me to the feminine products section of the store. Embarrassing for an older woman!! My husband laughed his way out of the store.

Posted by
10344 posts

Well, they do say the French are different.
Wait a minute...maybe we are the ones who are different?
:-)

Posted by
2049 posts

This is a wonderful thread-and lots of fun to read! I also have "stories" but all of yours are so much better. Thanks to all for posting!

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37 posts

Our newbie mistake: After reading Rick's books and this forum we knew not to drive in Paris. We picked up our rental car at CDG planning to drive on the outskirts of town to Honfleur for the first night. Well, we got lost and ended up in the 18th arrondissement of Paris, jet lagged, in a rental car. We saw a tent city, and the cars were bunched up rather than in lanes like we are used too. I thought we were going to die for a few minutes. When we finally managed to get to Honfleur, we couldn't find our hotel. Who knew there were three Ibises in town! However, by the time we got to bed we were so exhausted we all slept really, really well. Waking up totally refreshed realizing we were starting two weeks in France was absolutely the best feeling in the world!

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1 posts

Does it help to consider who has perfect days every day? Certainly not the people living in the countries you are visiting! Why should tourists be exempted from the ups and downs of life? We put so much pressure on ourselves when we're on vacation that it becomes a problem if we don't experience one highlight after the other. But this thinking just separates us even more from the people living in the countries we are visiting. I think it's fine to acknowledge that things don't always go perfectly and not have to paint a happy face on it. Isn't eating out always a bit of a crapshoot? The cook may have called in sick, you might have the brand new waiter assigned to your table, they may no longer be serving the item the guide book raved about, etc. On the other hand, what if you had made the Brussels walking tour and then had the most boring and hard to hear/understand tour guide imaginable? You may have dodged a bullet! If you really are missing many of the things you came for, then perhaps it's worth re-evaluating your itinerary. Otherwise, maybe it's time to re-evaluate your philosophy as a tourist. What I remember most about Greece is how I made an Athenian howl with laughter to the point of tears hearing my pronunciation of the word for "no" - I'd been on the island of Crete for about a month at that point. (Roughly, it must have been like hearing someone native to Greece speak English with a heavy Southern accent.) Not the Parthenon, the Athenian Museum, or any famous ruin in Crete.

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1 posts

Traveling the world is "everyone's" dream.....We go for it as a self-organised team (my husband and ) with small knapsacks..no suitcases and rinse off clothing in the shower.
I suppose,like many we try to see everything possible and more...problem is that sometimes unexpected ailments force one to stay put.
I would say that allowing a rest for a couple of days is a chance to "breath", see some local people and find some music...the latter is very uplifting and recommended for one's moral !
I had to miss-out on probably the most "famous" Indian location because of exaustion namely the Taj Mahal..but hopefully it will be there next time round.

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1 posts

My husband says adventures aren't fun when you're having them -- but they make the best stories when you get home. One of the writers mentioned your hospital stay. It's true that those are the experiences most people want to hear about. Like when he fell in Arles and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. Everything was okay, but like emergency rooms in the US, we were there a long time. By the time he was dismissed it was late and restaurants were closed. We couldn't even get a taxi. The hospital fed us (not the best meal but it was plentiful and we were hungry) and offered to let us spend the night in one of their rooms! As it turned out, we didn't have to because the doctor asked another emergency room patient to drop us at our hotel on his way home. That evening is one of our favorite memories of the whole trip.

When we started traveling to Europe, we tried to see everything, but now we like to leave something to come back for -- gives us an excuse for another trip!

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323 posts

It's funny about what you remember about trips. The other day I read my log I keep on our trips, and until I read on almost every page "did I mention it was raining today" I had really forgotten how much it had rained on that trip. We have the luxury of being able to take our time when we travel because we are retired. But the last two trips we planned too much travel within Europe. Maybe it's because, as we get older we don't know how much longer we will be able to travel for two months on our own in a foreign country, but we do try and stay at least two or three nights in every place we go. On arriving in Europe we usually stay a week in one place just to get over jet lag. And as for bad restaurants we do remember them, but the good ones really more than make up for the bad ones. Never been to a hospital in Europe, but we have had some scarey sick to stomach moments with high fever in several countries. The druggists there are wonderful and we have never had to see a doctor, but I feel sure they are great too.

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1 posts

Luckily for us neither my husband, nor I, have ever been pickpocketed, but my husband noticed someone eyeing my bag while I was window shopping in Amsterdam. He gave him the evil eye and he went away. We have certainly had our share of bad weather and I always wish I had worn clothing that would dry more easily (more cargo pants rather than jeans I guess). We like it when it rains though because you always get excellent reflection shots from the puddles.

One time we were in Vienna and my husband got food poisoning immediately after a huge Greek meal we got talked into eating by a very persuasive restauranteur. Rather than both of us spend the rest of the afternoon in our hotel room, he suggested I go try to find the Leica museum I had wanted to visit. Having no sense of direction and the bravery to travel alone made me a bit reluctant, but I decided it would still be better than both of us being miserable.

It was a longer walk than I thought and a bit difficult to find, but I did eventually make it to the Leica museum - about 10 minutes before they closed! Hence, I had to skip it (except there's no next time for me as we rarely go to the same place twice). I ended up going to another museum that had some sort of a funky 1960s exhibit and enjoyed that instead. I also stopped at McDonalds and bought some frucht (fruit) for dinner and managed to find my way back to the hotel with no problem. The lesson here is that sometimes a little independence is a good thing because it certainly gave me more confidence to venture out on my own. Of course these days all you have to do is have a cell phone with GPS or a good map to help you find your way around (or just ask someone for directions).

I loved Lisa's story about her and her sister staying in their hotel room all day while it rained outside. I would love to have that kind of a memory.

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1 posts

This is such a great question! I send a postcard home describing the disaster and leaving off the resolution. My kids can hardly wait for us to get home and hear about how it turned out. By then it's funny (or at least over!).

Over the years, we have complied a great list of places we will be returning to, and 'never again' places. A great example - with much effort (hours of train rides) we visited Avebury in England for an afternoon. It was stunning, and now, 6 year later, we finally returned for an extended stay. The books we bought at the museum had been read by then, maps were studied, and we had an absolutly remarkable time, sparked by that one afternoon years previous.

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2927 posts

I think one thing traveler1234 decided would make them happier was to stay off the internet! Good for them. LOL.

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1 posts

Reading all of the replies has brought back many wonderful memories of things that have gone "wrong" during various trips - all of which tend to make for more interesting stories. You really have to learn to let go and go with the flow (which for me was a hard thing to do). One "scheduling" issue that was a mistake, but ended up turning out alright, was my mother's and my decision to take the train from Frankfurt to Milan before joining the "Best of Italy" tour. We were jet-lagged to start with and then, unfortunately, our train, which was routing through Switzerland, was late. We missed our connection in Switzerland on a "non-refundable, non-changeable" ticket. Ticket agent in Switzerland was great and put us on the next train heading to Milan and told us it would not be a problem, but that we would have to change trains at the border with Italy. Arrived at the border around 10 PM and immediately hustled from one train to the next with the rest of the passengers going on to Milan. By this time, we had been awake for probably about 36 hours and were completely rummy. Ticket agent (who was older and spoke no English) comes through the train car and we show him the tickets given to us in Switzerland, which, as it turned out, did not authorize us to be on that train, meaning we could have been given significant fines. We were trying to explain what had happened but not getting very far with the language barrier - he went to find someone who spoke at least some English and they were kind enough to simply charge us the actual fare for one of us and let it go at that. Then, when we got to Milan, we took a cab to the hotel, but we got one of those less than honorable cab drivers who took us on a couple circles around the downtown area (I know because we passed the same building more than once) before depositing us at our hotel - we were too tired to argue, but we still laugh about our cab ride in Milan. Then, two days later, we squished in a trip to the Monument Cemetery in Milan (which is well worth the time to go see) before we needed to catch another train to Vernazza for the start of our trip. Bus was delayed to get back to our hotel, so we ended up missing the train we needed to get to be on time and walked in 30 minutes late for the introductory meeting. Then, the next day, I had hung up a shirt I had rinsed out in the sink in the window to dry - wind caught it and it went flying and landed on the roof of the building next to and below our hotel - no way to retrieve it, so one of the funniest pictures we have is the one of the shirt that I left behind on that roof. Point being, we saw a lot of beautiful and interesting things on that trip, but it is the little things, and often the "problems" that really create the memories of the trips, so enjoy and appreciate the fact that you are in Europe, which is incredibly beautiful and interesting.

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6 posts

I'm writing this after finishing packing to return home from a trip to Ireland and Iceland! Our plan was to drive around the Irish countryside for a week then spend 4 days in Iceland and return to Dublin for 3 days and then home. The first 3-4 days went well but we had been over ambitious with our plans for that week and were exhausted, which probably helped things go wrong! The 4 days in Iceland and 3 days in Dublin have been perfect (as was the weather!) and in future will not try to pack in so much, especially at the beginning while jet lagged!
I agree that we'll probably laugh about the restaurant we walked out of after waiting for an hour and not getting our food and then not finding anywhere else to have dinner for another hour! Just as we remember fondly the trip to the emergency room in Gibraltar after I was bitten by a monkey! And getting directions to the hospital from the local pharmacy... it's behind MacDonald's!
So, in future, less is more!!!

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3 posts

I agree with looking to the bright side of things. On our first trip to Italy in a car we went on the toll road and did not see the ticket at the machine. Many miles down the road we were told we had to go to Punta Blu. We had no idea what that was, so we spent the entire day driving from town to town looking for it. We asked at police stations etc. It was very frustrating, but we finally found it right by the toll road. We had to pay a 20 euro fine and we were on our way. That is the story we always tell and get a lot of laughs about it. Even if it was so maddening, we knew we had to laugh and add the experience to the many things that can go wrong when you are on a trip.

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32 posts

Lessons learned from "things that went wrong" on European trips:

---When you make a "dumb" mistake like missing a train or tour, forgive yourself instead of beating yourself up.
---Never stay less than 3 nights at any location. Constant packing up, unpacking and finding your new place can be draining.
---Look for train and bus journeys with the fewest connections. If one is late, you want the fewest dominoes to fall.
---Always give yourself more travel time than you think you need.
---When in Italy, check upcoming transportation strikes at www.commissionegaranziasciopero.it
---Ladies, a great pickpocket deterrent is an anti-theft crossbody purse worn in front where you can always see it. Keep it on until you reach your night's lodging.
---Give thanks that you are able to experience the kind of culture and beauty that we lack at home

Posted by
5 posts

Prayer can helps. Look for a quite place and close your eyes, take a deep breath, and talk to the God.

Posted by
2142 posts

One of the best and most fun trips I ever took was one when my traveling companion let me make most of the decisions about where to go, etc. That worked out well because we were in England - London, Bath and Oxford - we know the language and I had been there several times, how easy, right? We both thought I could be our "guide". Following are the funniest details I got wrong:
- Map reading - the distance between the British Museum and the British Library is a lot further than it appears - it was a cold, windy day and we walked it! It felt great to me because I am a daily exercise walker but my friend is not, oh dear. We still laugh about it.
- We took all our luggage with us on our way to Bath (did not think about storing the big piece at our London hotel).
- We spent so long at the V & A Museum that it was rush hour when we realized that we needed to catch the train at Paddington station to get to Bath. Our tickets cost the max! Then the train was not able to go the normal route due to a switching problem down the line and keep in mind the train is packed with commuters! We left at 5 pm I think. And we arrived in Bath after 9 pm. While on the train a kind soul lent us their cell phone to call our B &B host that we would be late. Then on our arrival all the taxis were reserved for the commuters to ferry them to their towns the train could not take them to because of the switching problem. We had to walk several blocks to the taxi office to reserve one to get us to our B & B! On the way we stopped to have a fantastic dinner at this charming hotel! Wow! Finally we arrived at our wonderful B & B well-fed!
We still laugh about this trip. There were other funny incidents but these are the best!
Judy B
Atlanta

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1058 posts

As others have said, sometimes your worst experiences become your best stories. On my first trip to Europe and traveling by myself, I had a Eurailpass for all my travel in Europe. When I gave the pass to the person to validate it at the train station, she wrote the wrong dates on the pass. Of course this invalidated the pass and to make matters worse, when I told her of the mistake, she crossed of the dates and wrote new dates on the pass. To make a long story shorter, I had to travel from Bad Kreiznach to Frankfurt to try and get a new pass. They couldn't help me there, so I had to take the train to Munich. Since I didn't have any money to pay for the train fares, I had to either pretend to be asleep when the conductor came for the tickets or convince them that my story was true. I was able to get a new pass in Munich only because the rail official was leaving for California to visit Disneyland and I was a former employee of Disneyland and planned her whole trip for her. This was back in 1975 before ATM machines and the only money I had was in traveler checks, so my entire transportation around Europe depended on me convincing the rail official that I hadn't falsified the pass.

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23 posts

On arriving in Venice for three nights, we discovered our luggage had been "lost" by the airlines. I spent part of each day the next three days, taking a bus back to the airport to press the airline to keep looking for the luggage, as their attitude was simply "don't worry , it will show up". After returning from the airport the third day, I found my wife drinking beer with a couple that was also staying at our hotel. They were in a much better frame of mind than me. They asked me to join them and the gentleman offered me a clean shirt for dinner( I had been reluctant to buy a shirt in Venice because of the prices and the airlines consistent promise that the luggage would arrive "tomorrow"). We all went to dinner and had a great evening and made new friends. We continued on to Verona sans luggage. It finally arrived in Florence after SIX days. The good news was that we now had clean clothes for the next week of our trip. The generosity of the couple in Venice will stay with us always.

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115 posts

I loved reading all the posts! My sister and I have researched, planned and gone on 17 Europe trips since 2002. I could write forever about our learning experiences, but I'm going to mention the one we laugh about the most. Waiting for our train in Vernazza, we learned the meaning of the phrase "Maggiore retardo" !!!................

Posted by
2142 posts

Dianne,
I would love to hear your story - I don't know the meaning of Maggiore retardo, please share.
Judy B
Atlanta

Posted by
115 posts

It means BIG delay before the arrival of the train. Luckily we weren't in a big hurry but it was our introduction to the Italian train system and is now our catch phrase anytime we experience a delay.

Posted by
206 posts

Was kind of hoping to see Rankster (Lisa) have a reply on this post. She did the BOE21 in the spring and had one problem after another from day one. She got lots of positive support from people on this site from her blog, and she just put each problem behind her and went on each day. All in all, the comment I remember last, was that she enjoyed the trip so much and is already looking forward to the next one. Problems happen everywhere, and if you let one ruin your trip, you will always regret it. Just laugh it off, and maybe sometimes cry it off, but don't let it ruin a trip that can still turn out to be wonderful in so many other ways.

Posted by
17 posts

Wow, what great stories! I'm currently over-planning a trip to England-Wales-Scotland and this thread was a great stress-reliever. I have already started planning alternatives for possible problems that can foul things up (OK, go ahead & laugh).

The story my husband & I still laugh about is trying to find an RS-recommended food stop in Vienna. I found the intersection just fine but there was no restaurant. My husband spotted a Subway fast food place nearby. I had a horrible sub, hubby enjoyed his. After we got back to our room, I re-read the book and found that the food-stop we were trying to find was underground, in the Vienna subway station. How ironic!

Posted by
484 posts

Managing Travel Stress
Keep in mind that as long as no one dies or gets sick or injured - everything else can be worked out.

Try not to Over-Anticipate any vacation. Not every experience can be a "Joy to the World" moment. It's easy to romanticize trips. Planning, watching heavily-edited travel shows, viewing professional travel photographs in brochures, etc. can lead us to false expectations. Try to travel with an open mind and not too high expectations. People are basically people no matter the country or language. In other words, expect foreigners/societies to behave much as we do at home. That includes everyone from friendly, helpful folks to dangerous criminals.

If all else fails, find a pub and drink a cold brew or whatever beverage makes you less stressed.

Posted by
961 posts

We arrived in Amsterdam yesterday morning. I had prebooked a taxi with Tinker - 26E. They knew my flight number and all I had to do was call our landlord prior to leaving the airport... Well guess what? No Tinkerbelle was awaiting us....and my phone only told me "not connected." Hell's bells!!! But you know what? I had a pocket full of euros and I knew where the apt. was so although inconvenienced, I was golden. Then hubby saw a Tinkerbelle flitting around the airport and chased her down. We got our taxi and the nice driver not only called my landlord, when barred from the road due to temporary construction he helped carry our bags to make sure we got to the correct place and waited for us to be rung into the building before he left. My phone just started working an hour ago. Still okay as I had my family in fb group and could communicate that way. There's usually a way...

Posted by
11975 posts

Things will always go wrong and you will find a way to work around it.

The most frustrating thing to me is lost time due to mistakes, more often than not they could have been avoided "If only I had known." A lot of those are missing the only tour by a few minutes - because you didn't know there would only be one tour or when the tour is scheduled. My experience on disappointing meals is when I'm starving and just stop somewhere, I'm disappointed. When I ask a local for a recommendation, I'm pleasantly surprised.

The more you know before the trip, the fewer mistakes you make. That's why this forum is a good addition to guide books and internet resources. You can ask questions and get advice from people who have been there and learned from their previous mistakes. Some stuff just isn't available to anyone who hasn't been there. Just one example, the metro in Barcelona is supposed to take 20 euro notes but it really only accepts up to 10 euro notes. Many guidebooks simply give you the "book answer", that you can use up to 20 euro notes for the metro.

My goal is to know as much as I possibly can before a trip, so I can pick and choose sights, transportation, tours when I get there with relative ease.

Posted by
415 posts

We (husband, wife, kids 8 & 10) were on the Eurostar half way to Paris when the train stopped for an hour in the Chunnel & then returned to London. My husband looked up current information on his iPad and discovered that striking ferry workers had burned truck tires and blocked both the Chunnel and the tunnel. (the train didn't tell us this but we informed everyone else). The earliest we would be able to catch a train to Paris would be 3 days later thus missing the Paris leg of our trip. I immediately purchased plane tickets to Paris for the next day. The price was the same as if I had purchased them a month earlier but then more than doubled 2 hours later.

By the time we got back to the station it was total chaos. It took 1 1/2 hour to get through the crowd, cancel one hotel, book another night in London. Throughout all of this my husband & I worked as a team and our kids were very calm and well behaved and did exactly what they were told. When we got everything reorganized we were ecstatic.

We dropped our bags of at our hotel and at my 8 year olds suggestion we went to a fish & chips place that she had fallen in love with & played at a park by the London Eye. Then we went to the Harry Potter store in Kings Cross and bought wands for dad and kids ($150). Only 4 days before I told them we absolutely were not buying wands. This day is now remembered as a really fun and cool day.

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16 posts

Our biggest problems were unrealistic expectations to begin with. Planned to stay in Cinqa Terre three days but left early because it was just to crowded, even on the trails. Missed a few trains...the train trip number is not always the same one on your ticket. We turned on food in one restaurant because of a helpful Italian we met who could only speak american movie English, and no one in the place could speak English at all and we had food coming at us and could not turn it off. They did understand what we wanted to do. We ate it all. The worse time was trying to get to Marco Polo airport from Venice when we met a nice Turkish couple going the same way and we all got on the wrong bus going to an airport fifty miles away. The driver pulled over on the highway and dumped us off in the middle of nowhere with all our bags. The Turks started walking the hiway back to town as we stood there completely befuddled. Luckily the cell phone had some juice and our hotel staff called for a taxi that picked us off the hiway and took us to the correct airport for €50 (would have paid ten times that I was so frustrated) got to the airport and literally ran into our new Turkish friends who had flagged down the proper buss at a roundabout. After burning down our euros we only had €49.90 but the driver was kind enough to take it with a laugh. Wow, what a trip.