7 *MORE* Travel Mistakes I Made – And How You Can Avoid Them

From the same cow onesie-clad traveler who brought you “7 Travel Mistakes I Made – And How You Can Avoid Them,” I present to you…7 more travel mistakes I made! Wait another 6-8 months and maybe we’ll have a third edition! Yippee!

So, without further ado, here’s some things while traveling I did that you should try to avoid doing. Enjoy!

1. Waiting to book transportation between countries until the day of

Just like booking a one-way flight with no return date is a romantic idea that can easily get squashed by airport officials, floating around the globe and seeing where the wind takes you is a romantic idea that can easily get squashed by your wallet. Well, my wallet, at least.

My friend Katie and I had three weeks to travel through Europe together, starting June 8. The cheapest flight out of California was to London, and we wanted to end our trip in Barcelona for the Festival of Sant Joan, i.e. the best day ever. Fireworks and dancing on the beach all night? Yes please.

In between London and Barcelona, she wanted to visit the South of France, and I wanted to visit Budapest. When we initially talked about places we wanted to go, in late February, I saw that Milan, Italy was kinda sorta in the middle of Budapest and France, and that a Megabus from Milan to Nice was €7. What we should have done was buy bus fare as soon as we saw it, because €7 is cheap as hell. But, we didn’t buy it until we were in Milan and hoping to leave the next day, and it was around €40.

Affordable ticket-booking website GoEuro doesn’t always accept American credit cards, so although it’s usually the cheapest site to buy bus tickets on, if you have an American credit card, you have to go to the station day of and hope there’s still tickets left.

SO! Cheaper tickets and ensuring you have a seat. That’s two good reasons to buy bus tickets ahead of time if you only have a limited amount of time.

If you do have a one-way ticket and no set time that you have to be back home, then by all means, follow the wind.

2. Not booking accommodation ahead of time – especially in peak season

You know how you’d love to party it up in New Orleans on Mardi Gras, get down at a pool party in Las Vegas in the summertime, or relax on a beach along the French Riviera when it’s nice and hot out? Yeah, so would literally everyone else in the entire world. Therefore, these and other beach, pool, and party-centric vacation destinations become much more crowded during the warm months or during a special occasion (such as Mardi Gras).

That means that flights will be more expensive and hotels/hostels/Air Bnbs will fill up fast, and the rooms that are available will go way up in price.

With its warm weather and booming nightclub scene, including some nightclubs right on the beach, Barcelona gets crazy busy in the summer. Having lived there during the summer of 2016, I knew this, and stupidly thought late May was far enough in advance to book accommodation for the end of June. Nope.

By the time Katie and I finally looked at accommodation, every hostel that was remotely near the city center was €40 at cheapest, and I love hostels dearly, but a hostel bed should never cost anywhere near €40.

We ended up staying at this janky hotel with bunk beds 45 minutes away from the center. Sharing our room with us was eight large Russian men who sat in circles on the floor, chain smoked cigarettes at 9 a.m. and would stop talking and stare at us whenever we left to go to the bathroom. Which is like, not ideal.

So, don’t do like me – if you’re going somewhere that’s bound to be poppin’ when you’ll be there, do yourself a favor and start figuring out where you’re sleeping 2-3 months ahead of time.

3. Thinking “it will be warm, it’s summer” and not packing a proper jacket

…and finding yourself in a torrential downpour on Grafton Street the minute you arrive in Dublin with nothing but a light hoodie to protect you.

I’ve made the “oh, I won’t need a jacket” mistake countless times, but I refuse to become one of those tourists who ends up having to buy a €30 “I Got Lucky in Ireland” sweatshirt, so until I finally learn, I’ll just travel cold.

Be prepared! Check the weather forecast for your destination before you go.

4. Not paying attention to where you’re going

It can be really easy to get lost in a foreign country, especially if you don’t know the language. That’s why maps come in handy, but my directional sense is abysmal, and it’s much easier for me to just punch in where I’m going to Google Maps and then follow the little blue dot. Yeah, yeah, so millennial, I know.

However, Google Maps only works over WiFi. But, if you look up where you’re going on Google Maps while you’re in a WiFi zone and leave the Maps app open when you leave, the little blue dot will still tell you where you are, even without WiFi! Yes, I know I talked about this before, but important travel hacks bear repeating.

You can also download an area on Google Maps prior to your trip so that you can navigate without WiFi.

To do this, you’ll need a Gmail account. Go into your Maps app on your phone, click the three little horizontal lines in the top left hand corner, sign in with your Gmail, click “offline areas,” then click “download offline area” and type in the name of the city you’ll be needing navigation in. BOOM.

I also use the app MAPS.ME, which functions entirely offline. However, if you’re not going somewhere super popular, the app might have a hard time finding it unless you pre-load the address into the app before you leave the house. So like, if you wanted to find the nearest Starbucks on a whim, you could easily punch that into the app and figure it out, but if you were supposed to meet your friend at Elegant Emily’s Family-Owned Teahouse, that’s probably something you needed to pre-load directions for before you left.

5. Treating your international SIM card like a normal SIM card

When I’m in another country, I normally either just use WiFi when I happen to find it or purchase a little janky SIM card and stop at shops to load it with more credit as needed. However, this time, because I knew there would be a lot of people I would be wanting to meet up with and because it’s a pain in the ass having to find open WiFi networks all the time just so you can use your GPS, I decided to purchase a legit international SIM card and use that.

However, I was stupid, and was treating it like it was my normal SIM card in America. When I first arrived in London, I was browsing Facebook and Snapchatting a bunch of people when I wasn’t in a WiFi Zone. I think I even posted an Instagram picture once, complete with a zillion hashtags and tags, which takes forever and eats up a lot of data.

The SIM card I had automatically refills itself when you dip under $10, which is a handy feature because it won’t ever leave you stranded if you’re unable to top it up, but it also won’t let you refill it anymore after you’ve put a certain slightly large amount of money on it, which I hit in under a week, and then I couldn’t use it at all for the next three countries I was in. Whoops.

When I arrived in Barcelona, I bought an aforementioned janky SIM card at one of the little shops for a total of €10, and it lasted me the entire 10 days I was there, plus continued to work when I was back in the U.S. Go figure.

 6. Not leaving enough time to catch your flight

There’s a million little things you have to account for when catching a flight. Maybe the security line is moving extra slow that day. Maybe you couldn’t print your boarding pass beforehand and you have to get it at the airport and all of the machines are broken except for one. YOU NEVER KNOW.

So, because of all these potential factors, especially if it’s an international flight, I’d recommend getting to the airport like obscenely early.

I’ve been to London twice, once on this trip with Katie and once in 2015. When I went in 2015, my friends and I flew out of Stansted Airport, and nearly missed our flight because we got there only an hour because our flight was supposed to depart, the airport was packed, the lines were long, and the people at security were taking every single passenger’s luggage and thoroughly searching it. The only reason we didn’t miss our flight is it left half an hour later than it was supposed to.

Now, since this was my only experience at Stansted, you’d think I would have thought to leave for the airport at least four hours prior to my flight just to be safe. Welp, I did not, we got there about an hour before our flight was set to leave, it was packed again, the security line was long again, they took forever to go through everyone’s bags again. While waiting to go through security and seeing the literal hundreds of people in front of us, 30 minutes before boarding time, Katie and I were so convinced we were going to miss our flight to Budapest that we started looking at other countries near Hungary we could fly to on the cheap. Spoiler: there were none.

After finally going through security, we ran through the airport in our socks, clutching our shoes and jackets to our chests. And guess what? Our flight was half an hour delayed again, and we made it just in time. Yeee!

When we were leaving Budapest five days later, we checked out of our hostel at 8 a.m. when we had a 12:30 flight, just in case something happened. Which it did. Which brings me to…

7. Not being prepared for/missing transportation

Once when I was in Barcelona, I was supposed to take a 7-hour train ride to Northern Spain at 5 a.m. So, naturally, I hadn’t yet packed at 3 a.m., and was still planning on sneaking in a nap before my train. Needless to say, that didn’t happen, and I had to take a train the next day.

That’s surprisingly the only transportation I’ve ever missed.

It’s a good idea to pack the night before you travel.

But here’s the thing, even when you do that and leave super early, stuff just happens sometimes, and you gotta prepare for it.

When we left Budapest four hours before our flight, we got the wrong ticket for the airport train, but when the conductor came by to check our tickets, he decided our incorrect tickets were okay, probably just because of our massive language barrier. Then, we missed our stop because we weren’t following our blue map dots or paying attention to signs. We got off the train and had to hop a fence with all of our luggage to buy the correct train ticket, since there was nowhere in the waiting area to buy a ticket, because passengers couldn’t get in without a ticket. Of course, we had tickets, but they were the wrong ones.

Then, we had to wait 45 minutes for the train in the correct direction. Once it finally came and took us to the airport, it was the wrong airport. We had to take a bus, the 200E, in order to get to the correct airport. Our Google Maps couldn’t save us there – the only reason we knew that is after walking around a desolated airport for half an hour which appeared to only be for military aircraft carriers, some dude appeared out of nowhere and told us what to do.

So, if we had only left an hour or two before our flight, we wold have been screwed. But because we left four entire hours ahead of time, we were cool.

Lemme know your travel mistakes in the comments. I wanna hear em!


My Week in Budapest Was A Huge Mess – And I Loved Every Second

If you were at Stansted Airport in London on June 12, you would have seen me running from security to the gates in my socks, my backpack bouncing from one arm while I clutched my shoes to my chest, shrieking “missing flight sorry!!!” and trying not to notice how sweaty I was from the three layers of clothing I was wearing to avoid Ryanair baggage fees.

This is, unfortunately, pretty similar to how I end up boarding most of my flights, and my flight to Budapest was no exception.

My friend Katie – current travel buddy who I’ve known since I was literally nine years old – and I took one look at the security line an hour before boarding time and were so convinced we were going to miss our flight that we started looking at later flights to Budapest and other nearby countries, BUT, by some miracle, we made it.

But, also like, it’s me, so of course the misadventures only continued once we arrived. But that’s what keeps it interesting, am I right?

To get to and from the Ferihegy airport in Budapest, you need to take a bus called the 200 Express. It’s blue and says “200E” on the front. Next to the bus is a ticket machine, and annoyingly enough, it only takes exact change. Unless we just got unlucky, but at least, the machine that we used only took exact change.

Always have a little currency of the country you’re about to land in.

Luckily, Katie had some HUFs with her. HUF = Hungarian Forints. At the time of writing, 274 Hungarian Forints are equal to $1 USD. The 200E costs 350 Forints per person, which is roughly $1.28.

Depending on where you’re going, you might have to take an additional train after the 200E, like we did.

The first thing we did when we got to the airport was look up directions to our hostel. Actually, the first thing we did was hit up the grocery store attached to the airport to get cheap cheese and baguettes. And then we looked up directions to our hostel.

Actual footage of Katie eating cheese and looking up directions to our hostel #youhearditherefirst

Google Maps is magical and if you look up directions from Point A to Point B when you have WiFi but then leave the WiFi zone, the little blue dot on the map showing where you are will continue to move with you as long as you leave the Maps app open. This is incredibly useful for things like, you know, using public transportation at night in a country where you don’t speak the language.

Looking up directions is all well and good, but it doesn’t really do much if you don’t pay attention to the little blue dot. I was busy talking to Katie and ignored my map, and I only knew to get off because the automated voice thing announced our stop, so without really looking at the blue dot, I told Katie to grab her stuff and we hopped off in a hurry.

Once off the bus, we realized we had gotten off in literally the middle of nowhere, so we followed the little blue dot to where we were supposed to be, which was a proper train stop instead a random sign beside the highway, which is where we initially were.

We met a Hungarian lady who said the 200E usually stopped at the end of the platform, not right smack dab in the middle where we were, and we had to walk way down to the end in order to buy tickets, which was roughly half a mile. Whoops.

We finally got to our hostel, but didn’t have any more HUFs, so we had to go to the ATM to withdraw cash. Always take out as much as you think you’ll need for the duration of your trip because the ATM will probably charge you a fee, so the less times you visit the ATM, the less fees you’ll be charged.

Katie was weary about using the ATMs on the street because she was worried that it would eat her debit card, but we did anyway.

Two days later, we went to go to the ATM again because we clearly didn’t follow the above rule, and as soon as Katie put her card in, a little message popped up saying “this card has been captured for security reasons”…and ate her damn card.

Use the ATMs inside/attached to the bank – not the ones on the street.

Speaking of money, Budapest is very cheap in comparison to the U.S., so it’s easy to spend a lot of money on accident, because you get caught up thinking how cheap it is and forget to keep track of how much you’re actually spending. This isn’t actually something we did, because we were actively trying not to, but it would be very easy to.

Something we did do, however, was spend roughly $40 on a “Sparty Party,” which is essentially like a Las Vegas pool party but at night and on steroids. If you’ve never heard of this, lemme break it down for you.

Budapest is famous for its bath houses (among other things). The most popular one is called the Széchenyi Spa and Baths, which costs about $17 to visit during the day and is basically the ultimate hot tub experience. There’s a bunch of hot tub-sized pools indoors – cold tubs, hot tubs, hot tubs with sulfur, etc. Outside, there’s two massive swimming pools, one really warm one and one less warm one. The less warm one also has a whirlpool, which is relaxing during the day – and absolutely terrifying at night when it’s full of drunk people going around and around endlessly.

The “Sparty Party” usually happens twice a week  on Wednesday and Saturday nights and runs from 10:30 p.m. until 3 a.m. If you buy your ticket ahead of time online or through your hostel, it costs a little less than 11,000 HUF, but if you buy it when you get there, it’s 18,000 HUF, which is $65.

During the party, only the two outdoor pools are open, and the cheapest beers are roughly 600 HUF, which comes out to a bit more than $2, which isn’t that bad, but when you get there, you have to put money on a special card thing you wear around your neck, and there’s a minimum amount you can put on the card.

Included in the price, you get assigned a locker you can put your stuff in, which you can open by using a FOB key wrist watch they give you when you walk in. They give out one wrist watch/locker per group, so try not to lose your friend. In a massive pool party with hundreds of drunk people, that’s pretty easy to do. I lost Katie for an hour and it was super stressful. Hold hands with your travel buddy and don’t let random Scottish men pick you up and carry you around the pool. Not that either of us did that, or anything.

Going to the bath house during the day is an entirely different ball game. For the bath party, you don’t necessarily need a towel, because you’ll probably be either in the pool or at the bar and not trying to lay out and dry off. During the day, however, I’d recommend bringing one. I’d also highly recommend you bring flip-flops, both during the day and at night, since both the floor of the locker room and the pavement next to the pools is covered in pool water other people have been stepping in, which is nasty.

For whatever reason, the locker situation during the day works differently than at night, and it is really complicated. You have to select an empty locker and then look for someone who works there – when I was there it was women in blue shirts and white name tags – to close it for you, and then open it for you again when you want to get your stuff out. Each locker comes with a little wooden tag that has a number on it that doesn’t correspond to the number on your locker, but you have to keep it with you and remember your locker number. See, I had to figure this out myself, so now I’m telling you so you don’t have to.

The day of our flight out of Budapest, we decided to leave four hours early because we almost missed our flight there. Which ended up being nothing in comparison to the situation we ran into while trying to leave.

From our hostel, we walked to the train station and asked someone who worked there how to get a ticket for the airport, and he pointed at something on the screen and nodded, so we printed out the ticket that corresponded with that.

Once we were on the train stuffing our faces with bread rolls and cheese wheels (again) (don’t judge OK it’s the cheapest thing to eat that’s also portable), a guy came by to collect the tickets, frowned at ours and said something in Hungarian.

“….airport?” I said meekly.

He shook his head and said more stuff in Hungarian. “Airport no.”

He sort of just stood there smiling and shaking his head, and I don’t know how to say “someone who worked at the train station told me to buy this” in Hungarian, so I just pointed at my ticket and said “….is okay?” and he laughed and said it was okay. Lucky.

If it doesn’t say Ferihegy on the ticket, it’s not for the airport.

Unlike the bus we took on the way in to Budapest, the train didn’t announce any of the stops, so all of a sudden we were passing a sign with a plane on it and I was like “is that….?”

The smart thing would have been to look up how many stops we had to go and then count the stops, but we didn’t do that, didn’t get off the train in time, and had to go an extra stop (about 15 extra minutes on the train), hop over the fence with our suitcases to go buy the correct train ticket, and wait 40 minutes for the train.

This is what waiting at a random bus stop for 40 minutes in the middle of nowhere Hungary looks like

Our story isn’t over yet, folks.

Once we got off the train at the correct stop – the stop that said Ferihegy with a little airplane sign – we looked around and quickly realized something was wrong. Although all the signs said “airport,” and from glancing at Google Maps we could clearly tell we were at the airport, we were somehow at the wrong one. It looked nothing like the airport we had flown into – there was just a parking lot and a big building that a) had a sign about military aircraft b) was locked c) appeared to have nobody inside. There were also no signs about where to catch a plane or really anything explaining anything. If I had been alone, this would have been a panic moment, but I was with Katie, so we both kind of just wandered around in confused circles and triple-checked the map.

The third or fourth time we approached the so-called abandoned building with the sign about military aircraft, a man suddenly appeared, came out, saw two clearly lost girls standing there with suitcases and told us we had to cross the street and take the 200E bus to get to the airport. Which makes sense, since we had to take a bus and then a train to leave the airport in the first place.

The 200E bus is your direct transportation to and from the airport! Also, use your common sense!

After all that, we were still an hour early for our originally scheduled flight – and it was delayed.

Be super early for flights – because YOU NEVER KNOW!

That’s just the short version, folks. Our five days in Budapest were essentially devoid of sleep, full of stories, possibly involved the acquiring of a tattoo or two and absolutely involved lots and lots of walking, cheap beer, and literal hundreds of pictures. Going to Budapest and want advice? Get at me in the comments. I got lots more.

I swear I didn’t always stand on this side of her in pictures on purpose.