10 Big Money Down the Drain Travel Stories

When traveling the world, nothing can top the feeling of exploring a place you’ve never been. In most cases, travelers do their due diligence, preparing for the trip to maximize their enjoyment – and lessen the load on their wallets! But, unfortunately, sometimes even the most experienced travelers find themselves throwing money down the drain. During a recent online forum discourse, men and women worldwide discussed this topic.

1. The Apartment Scam

apartment building
Image Credit: Shutterstock / ND700

One traveler speaks openly about falling victim to an apartment scam while traveling overseas. Not only did he not trust his gut when he found an apartment that seemed too good to be true on Craigslist, but the man lost over $4,000 once he arrived and realized the apartment didn’t exist!

I’ve heard some rough traveling stories, but to be out four grand and nothing to show for it? That, my friends, is the absolute worst-case scenario. To make matters worse, he says he spent a few nights in a hostel before flying home a month early. Yikes.

2. The Impulse Purchase

McMenamins passport
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One experienced digital nomad recalls the time she discovered the holy grail of traveling on her phone one evening: a great deal on a trans-Atlantic flight. Caught up in her excitement, the woman quickly booked her round-trip ticket and started counting the days until her trip to Europe.

But, unfortunately, there was one small problem: she was also waiting on her passport renewal. Fast-forward two months later: her passport still had yet to be delivered, so she had to cancel her non-refundable round-trip flight.

3. The Rental Car Debacle

A young salesman shows a new car to customers. Happy woman buy a new car. The young woman is behind the wheel, the seller gives her the keys
Image Credit: Shutterstock/Olha Tytska

Booking a rental car can be quite a pain in the bum. Not surprisingly, it’s even more complicated when traveling overseas. One traveler has a story that makes us ache for his wallet. “I booked a car in Costa Rica and didn’t realize the third-party insurance I bought wouldn’t work there.

When I arrived at the car rental place, it cost me an extra $1000 to buy the ‘right insurance.’ It turns out all the car rental places do this.” I don’t know about you, but something like this would make me bitterly walk everywhere just so the car rental company couldn’t take advantage of me!

4. The Foreign Exchange Rate Disaster

Stressed Man Looking At Too Many Credit Cards In Home
Image Credit: Shutterstock/Andrey_Popov

Traveling to a country like Japan can be a culture shock in the best way. Japan has been the backdrop for many people’s most extraordinary adventures, as everything from the sights to the history can take your breath away.

However, one traveler recently returned from Tokyo and revealed that a mental miscalculation cost him significant money at the airport’s food court! He blames it on a long flight causing him not to think straight, but the weary traveler realized too late that he had ordered $200 worth of sushi.

To make matters worse, he admits the meal was “subpar” before calling it one of the saddest meals of his life. So there’s a lesson: feel free to bust out your phone to help with exchange rate calculations so this doesn’t happen to you.

5. The Pointless Hotel Room

Deluxe room with a view at the Sun Peaks Grand
Image Credit: Savoteur

Brace yourselves, people, because this example of throwing money down the drain – while not unavoidable – still stings. “I booked a hotel because I was already tired, and I didn’t want to sit in the airport all night,” one man recalls.

“So my flight was supposed to arrive around 9:00 pm, and my departure was 8 am the next morning. My flight got delayed even more, and I ended up getting off the plane at 3:00 am, so I spent money to be in a hotel for about three hours. Also, the airline didn’t reimburse me like they said they would.”

Nothing is worse than paying for a hotel room and not getting your money’s worth! I bet he wishes he had waited until he landed to figure out his sleeping arrangement for the night, huh?

6. The Airport Mix-Up

Travel, stress and black woman at airport with headache, issue and flight delay, frustrated and angry. Travelling, compliance and female with anxiety, trouble and missed departure alone at a terminal
Image Credit: Shutterstock / PeopleImages.com – Yuri A

It’s a classic tale of buffoonery that would seem right at home in an episode of Seinfeld: the airport mix-up. One woman recalled the final day of a specific European trip that she still regrets. The woman, who became incredibly comfortable with public transit in her months-long trek through Europe, planned her final airport trip via a series of connecting trains.

Unfortunately, a closer look at her departing plane ticket revealed she wasn’t flying out of the airport that she thought she was! In a full-on panic, the woman confesses she spent $200 on an Uber to make it to her flight home on time. That’s an easy way to make your last day in Europe memorable.

7. The Rental Car Debacle #2

Car on road
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

I must include my tale of idiocy in this list because I’d like it to serve as a cautionary tale to my fellow travelers. Ahead of a recent month-long stay in Sicily, I found an incredible price on a month-long car rental and booked it immediately.

Before I knew it, my girlfriend and I were daydreaming about all the fantastic wineries we’d visit in the most remote corners of Sicily. But, of course, there was one problem: when we arrived at the rental car place, I realized in utter horror that the rental car I had booked had a manual transmission, which would be great if either of us knew how to drive a stick. At that moment, my girlfriend had proof that I was an idiot, as she had surmised for years. 

8. The $8,000 Flight Home

airplane in the sky
Image Credit: Deposit Photos

Last-minute travel plans can be expensive, but I didn’t realize it could get this expensive! One traveler laments how much he spent trying to get himself and his wife home from the UK. “Went to the wrong airport in London for my return flight,” he says.

“It was non-refundable. Due to work responsibilities, I had to book a flight for me and my wife the next day. A last-minute booking from London cost $8,000.” That’s an obscene amount of money. Where were they flying home to, the moon?

9. The “I Can Only Blame Myself” Story

hotel room at a disney timeshare
Image Credit: Disney Vacation Club/PRNewswire

More than a dozen experienced travelers and digital nomads had their version of this story: They booked a hotel room, but confusion over the European date format caused them to book nights they had not intended to secure, leaving them without a hotel room that evening. Of course, all the people who experienced this wound up paying for the correct night’s stay, but in the end, it cost everybody quite a lot of money – and they can only blame themselves.

10. The Forgetful Husband, the Enraged Wife

Bridezilla, Bride yelling, upset bride
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Viacheslav Boiko/

This story takes the (wedding) cake. One newlywed tells the story of her husband losing his passport on their wedding day, causing them to miss their honeymoon. Do I even need to say that the trip was non-refundable?

Shut it down; there is nothing that can top this story. If there’s any consolation, the woman admits she’s still married to this person, which is a sweet ending to this story that it probably doesn’t deserve!

This thread inspired this post.

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