It Wasn’t Funny Then…(Our Most Embarassing Travel Moments)

After 41 countries, countless plane rides, language barriers, and just plain old bad luck, we’ve sure had our fair share of embarrassing travel moments. We never (well, almost never) turn down a dare, so when one of our readers dared us to share our most embarrassing travel moments we sat down and had a good laugh about the ridiculous things that have happened over the years. It wasn’t funny then, but we hope you enjoy our most embarrassing travel moments and have a good laugh at our expense!

That Time Jen Fell Out of the Sauna

The Finnish sauna is an extremely important part of Finnish culture (more on the Finnish sauna culture soon!) and with more than 2 million saunas in a country with only 5 million inhabitants, it was no surprise our cottage had it’s very own private sauna. Thinking a sauna before bed would be romantic, we stripped down and hopped in. I tend to get quite hot in saunas quickly and was going to hop out for a cold shower. That is until I fully launched myself out of the sauna when I slipped on the steps going down. There I was sprawled naked on the tile floor knowing I looked like a total fool. “Way to kill the mood”, Tim said, trying not to laugh. I’ve spent the rest of the week with a huge ugly bruise on my arm and a daily warning not to fall out of the sauna again.

Our Toyota Landcruiser getting towed away

Our Toyota Landcruiser getting towed away

That Time We Filled Our Diesel Car Rental with Gasoline

If you’ve been following us for a while, you may remember this story. Thrilled to be back in Iceland to ring in the New Year, we picked up our Landcruiser from SADCars and got on our way. SADCars policy is you fill up the rental when you pick it up and return it empty. Tim pumped it full of $100 worth of gasoline before realizing it actually took diesel. I was mortified when I had to call SADCars roadside assistance for help a mere 20 minutes after leaving their office. $100 of gasoline, $200 tow and pumping of the gasoline, another $100 in diesel, and a few hours later we were finally on our way. What a way to kick off our trip to Iceland!

That Time Jen Got on the Wrong Plane

Yes, that actually happened. But it wasn’t my fault! I had just had knee surgery and was traveling by myself, so had requested wheelchair assistance. I was flying on a prop plane from Detroit to my hometown Erie, Pennsylvania. The attendant took me down to the tarmac in an elevator and I hobbled on my crutches onto the plane. I had just gotten settled in when the captain announced it would be a smooth ride over to South Bend. I looked around and asked another passenger if I had heard right. Indeed, this plane was headed for South Bend, Indiana and I didn’t want to be on it! I got the one and only flight attendant’s attention and showed her my ticket. She got me off the plane, but I unfortunately missed the flight that was headed for Erie. That was in 2005 and Tim still teases me to this day to make sure I get on the right plane.

Dog sledding in Tromso

Tim smiling before the runaway sled incident

That Time Tim Fell Off the Dog Sled

We had just started blogging professionally and were on a trip with Visit Norway to Northern Norway. Tim had successfully learned to mush just days before in Svalbard, but he clearly forgot the most important rule: never let go. Our husky caravan had stopped for a short break and Tim was snapping photos. The sled in front of us went, so our dog team took off…leaving Tim behind in 2 feet deep snow. Unlike sledding in Svalbard, I didn’t have an anchor to toss out and stop the dogs. So I tried to stick my arm down and flip the sled on its side, all the while thinking “Oh #%*!” Tim was trying to run to catch a team of six runaway huskies. When the sled in front of us finally saw what happened and stopped, our own dog team also came to a halt and Tim finally caught up. “You better never write about me falling off!”, he threatened. Hope he doesn’t read this post!

That Time We Drove Through the Desert but Weren’t Supposed To

Garmin comes up with some creative shortcuts, like the time we were driving from the Dead Sea to Petra in Jordan. We had left the Dead Sea after sunset and after a short stop for dinner, it was totally dark by the time we started the nearly three hour drive to Petra. Good old Garmin told us to turn left off the main highway and, at first, we didn’t think much of it. That is until the road completely turned to dirt and we were puttering up high mountain passes in our I-think-I-can-I-think-I-can economy rental. Garmin, of course, had no name for the dirt road; it was simply marked “Unnamed Road” and we had about 30 miles of it to go. We literally didn’t pass another car for hours and the only hint of other civilization were the campfires of Bedouins flickering in the distance. This was in 2011 and we started joking that just maybe Bin Laden was living in any number of the caves we could just barely make out. We’d love to see what exactly the pass we drove over looks like in the daylight…now. But at the time, it was nerve wracking. We were never so happy to see the glittering lights of the city of Wadi Musa.

Note: Jordan was and still is one of our absolute favorite countries and we never actually felt unsafe anywhere in Jordan, even during the Arab Spring of 2011.

That Time Jen Fell Backwards on the Up Escalator

I apparently fall down a lot, but only overseas. My mom and I had just arrived in Paris via train from the airport and were dragging our bags up the escalator. My mom somehow got her bag stuck and I was trying to help her. She gave her stuck bag one swift tug and sent me tumbling backwards. I landed on top of my own suitcase, which was now pointed wheels heading up and I myself was pointed feet heading up. I tried to no avail to right myself and was afraid of getting caught once the escalator recycled itself at the top. Just as I finally managed to get up, I noticed the cameras all around in the metro station. Some French person somewhere was surely having a good laugh at my expense and was no doubt thinking “stupid Americans!”

That Time Tim Ordered Potatoes with a Side of Potatoes

Northern Italy still has influence from the times of the Hapsburg Austrian Empire. German is widely spoken and that means restaurant menus often are also in German. We had only been living in Italy for about six months when we went exploring the Northern Italian countryside and stopped at a random place for lunch. Neither of us knows any German beyond the basic “danke” or “guten morgen”, so we fumbled around the words on the menu, randomly picked, and hoped for the best. Our waitress gave Tim a slightly funny look, but wrote down our order anyway. It was no wonder! Tim had ordered a stuffed baked potato and had requested a side of fries with it! Obviously something was lost in translation…

Now that you’ve had a good laugh at mostly my expense, do you have any embarrassing travel moments to share?

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It Wasn’t Funny Then…(Our Most Embarassing Travel Moments)


  1. says

    It’s always nice to know that we’re not alone when it comes to embarrassing travel moments. I have a few that I’ve tried to forget and haven’t told anyone — yet. :) But your wrong flight really hit home with me. I got on a plane headed to San Jose, CA instead of San Francisco that just happened to be departing at the same time. The difference between your experience and mine is that I didn’t know until we were in flight. Obviously, this was in the days when security wasn’t so tight and planes weren’t so packed. So now I’ve told that one, but the others are worse!

    • says

      Oh no! At least San Jose is rather close to San Francisco and you can hop on the train.

      My incident was after 2001, so it does still baffle me how exactly I got on the wrong plane. Security was definitely lax for wheelchair passengers.

  2. says

    You’ve got quite a number of these stories. What an expensive way to start off your visit in Iceland. The good thing about all these incidents is that you usually learn.

    And for me; I walked into a restaurant in Buffalo – wearing heels. As I got up to leave my heel must have caught something or slipped and I fell to the floor (no drinking); my arm automatically shot up and knocked a painting off the wall at the same time. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

  3. says

    As clumsy as John and I both are, I’m surprised we haven’t had more accidental mishaps when travelling. We’ve managed to keep it together in that department. Fun stories!

    • says

      Lucky you, Andrea! The stupidest things seem to happen to me while traveling. My friend Jess and I could do a whole stand up comedy act about the horrendous first trip I had to Italy with her!

  4. says

    Great stories! I do remember the Iceland diesel one, but hadn’t heard the rest. I can’t imagine getting on the wrong plane, even if it was someone else’s fault, how stressful! When we were flying from Istanbul to Rome last year for TBU, the gate we were at was originally for a flight to somewhere else in Italy but they switched gates shortly before our boarding time. We showed our tickets and started walking down the jetway when suddenly the woman who had been checking tickets came running down yelling someone’s name. Turns out she didn’t pay enough attention and just let 2 people on who were supposed to be on the other flight. I imagine they missed their flight. What a nightmare.

    • says

      I’ve never told the rest until now. And there are definitely more, but a gal’s got to have some secrets!

      The plane incident was horrible because I had to go on standby for the next flight to Erie. I had literally just had surgery a week of two prior, was in pain, and did not want to spend 12 hours sitting in an airport waiting for a flight.

  5. says

    Thanks for sharing all of your embarrassing moments – I’m sure we have all had our embarrassing moments that we cringe at. I must admit I had a giggle at your sauna fall! Good job it was private and not public! Also I must admit it is my worse nightmare falling on an escalator as I always think to myself it would hurt like hell if I fell down here – luckily you had a suitcase to break your fall!

  6. says

    Some of the best stories from travel start with “Garmin comes up with some creative shortcuts…”, allthough I must admit, I’ve never inadvertantly driven into a desert 😉

    Some very funny stories here, and even if they weren’t so funny then they create a lot of laughs for us all now, so thanks for sharing!

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