What’s Your Most Disappointing Travel Experience?

Have you ever had a vacation feel like a series of travel disappointments and planning FAILS? That was us last week.

So much of travel is about adapting to your circumstances. That goes double for living in Costa Rica, where we quickly learned not to take things like water or electricity for granted!

Grocery items also go out of stock for weeks at a time, so we’re constantly trying to figure out what we can have for dinner.

Oh, getting caught in a few downpours really taught us that weather reports are useless. At least in the “wet” season from May to November in the Nicoya region. Luckily, it usually just rains in the afternoon—so wear a swimsuit if you leave the house after 2pm!

In the span of 3 days last week…

  • We drove 6 hours round-trip for a hike that lasted less than 2 hours, and cost $30 (not including the car rental, gas, and tolls!)
  • We showered at the rinse-off area of a shared outdoor pool because the water in our apartment stopped working (not because we didn’t pay the bill!)
  • We cooked our dinner without water, and then had to leave the dishes in the sink over 2 days.
  • I hitchhiked my way to an early morning yoga class in Nosara because the roads were too flooded to walk.
What's your most disappointing travel experience?

Blogged about a disappointing travel experience? Leave us a link to it in the comment section and we promise to check it out!

What I learned…

  • I don’t need to wash my hands nearly as much than I thought I do.
  • All fears about getting into a stranger’s car goes away when you’re knee-deep in muddy water.
  • We can’t control things like the weather or hiking conditions, but we can control how we feel about it.

As Jake had to remind me, a successful trip doesn’t depend on the amazing things we’ve seen, done, or can go home and blog about. Take our hike to Rincon de la Vieja. It was a huge disappointment. We drove for hours to get there and the drive had more to see than the <2 hour hike. The trail was paved too, so it felt more like a botanical garden than national park!

No story came out of the trip except that it was a bust. But as Jake pointed out, this was the first time since we settled in Tamarindo that I’d gotten that excited about doing something! And shouldn’t that be a good enough reason to try something new?

The takeaway is…

I learned that I don’t always need to come home with an “epic” tale about training with world-champion MMA fighters, or surfing with giant sea turtles. A trip isn’t “worth it” based on what stories or photos came out of it. I won’t always be the most interesting person in the room, and not everything I do will be worth blogging about.

But being part of the blogging community has taught me that listening can be even more rewarding than sharing or doing. So…

What’s your Most Disappointing Travel Experience?

Let us know in the comment section—don’t forget to post a link back to your blog if you have one!

22 thoughts on “What’s Your Most Disappointing Travel Experience?

    • Steph says:

      That’s such a great point! It’s often our expectations of travel that sets us up for disappointment. You just get so excited about a new place, and everything you’ve read about or heard that it would be, but most things will never be as perfect as we imagined them. I loved your post about London by the way – I feel the same way about many big cities!

    • Steph says:

      You said it, sister! I think what I learned most from reading about other people’s travel disappointments is that if my only problem is a boring hike and a little inconvenience—I don’t really have it that bad! So sorry again to hear about getting all your stuff stolen in Puerto Vieja! Living in Costa Rica, I worry about that ALL the time!

  1. Rachel says:

    Really interesting post. The impression you get from blogs is that everything always works out but that isn’t real life. I like how you reflected on the negative experiences and accepted them for what they and move on.

    • Steph says:

      I know exactly what you mean! Sometimes it feels like there’s so much pressure to make everything you do sound interesting but sometimes it just isn’t—and that’s OK! Thanks so much for reading, Rachel!

  2. travelling chingrita says:

    Great post! You’re totally right, gotta keep things into perspective because things pop up all the time.. Erf… I busted my toe in Ecuador and got brutal food poisoning.. couldn’t surf, eat, drink.. nothing.. I wanted to get home asap. I was feeling so miserable but now that I’m home and back to normal health, I do miss it.. a lot 🙁

    • Steph says:

      That sounds like an absolute nightmarish situation! I would have prayed to be home too—I gotta confess, I’m a huge baby about this stuff. I told my boyfriend I wanted to go home 3 weeks after we got to Costa Rica because I was covered head to toe in at least 25+ mosquito bites at one point, itching like crazy, and bleeding from at least half of them. It’s really hard to have a good vacation when you’re in bad shape, so I completely get the feeling (even if my situation wasn’t nearly as bad as yours!) The good thing is, Ecuador will still be there when you’re ready to go again!

  3. The Roaming Renegades.com says:

    We’ve had our fair share of travelling disappointments over the last few months, but we’ve also had some of the most incredible experiences during that time as well. It’s great that we’re able to share the negative sides to travel once in while because it can’t all be epic every single day! We’ve learnt so much from our bad days travelling which has made the rest of our trip that much more rewarding!

    • Steph says:

      You make an excellent point! Learning from our mistakes is part of what makes travel and experiencing new things so rewarding. And how much less special would the epic days feel if we didn’t have less-exciting days to compare it to? Thanks so much for reading!

    • Steph says:

      Ugh, you’re so right, Sher! I should be more appreciative of having the opportunity to travel. In a way, maybe traveling less and therefore appreciating it more is a good thing because you never take getting away from work for granted!

  4. Sarah Yekinni says:

    Hey Steph, great post! Too often, bloggers are reluctant to discuss negative aspects of their travel experiences. But we all know that sometimes things don’t go as planned and the destinations simply aren’t what we expected.

    My most disappointing travel experience occurred when I was on a 2-week trip with my father in India. We had visited various regions in the country and towards the end of our trip we spent a few days in New Delhi. We decided to take a day trip to the Taj Majal. We drove 6 hours only to discover that it was closed for the day! We made the most of it by taking a few pitiful photos outside the wall then hopped in the car and drove another 6 hours back. It was quite sad, but we had no one to blame but ourselves for not doing sufficient research before venturing there. Lesson learned!

    • Steph says:

      Oh no! I would have been devastated if I drove 6 hours and couldn’t see the Taj Majal. But I’m glad you were able to put a positive spin on a sad situation! Lesson learned for me too, and hopefully anybody reading this to double-check hours before they make big travel plans! Thanks so much for sharing Sarah!

  5. Claire says:

    I’ve had my fair share of bad travel experiences (I’m really clumsy and quite unfortunate with a lot of things!) I had to go to hospital in Nicaragua after a bad reaction to my malaria tablets which really stopped my holiday in its tracks. I’m also prone to unfortunate bouts of food poisoning wherever I go! But as you said, they’re always learning curves! Good to put a positive spin on it 🙂 My blog is http://www.clairesfootsteps.com 🙂

    • Steph says:

      I’m reading your blog and I’m just at a loss. I have no idea how you manage to stay so positive despite all the accidents, but you are an absolute inspiration. I honestly feel put to shame that the worst I had to endure last week was some nosy neighbors watching me shower outdoors and walking through some mud!!

  6. Tom says:

    Since you’re in Costa Rica, I’ll share that I found my trip to Monteverde disappointing. We were driving from the La Fortuna area, and I think people don’t realize how bad the road is leading to Monteverde, like so bad you won’t get out of second gear for quite some time. (approaching from the south is better). Our hotel was expensive and not great, and there’s not much of a town there. The forest itself is a lovely walk, but not mind-blowing, and there are plenty of others in Costa Rica easier to get to and probably just as good.

    A few other disappointments: Pamplona Spain when the bulls are not running (not worth it), and two cities that everyone else loves but I find wildly overrated: Prague and Reykjavik.

    • Steph says:

      I’ve only been to Reykjavik on layovers, but I agree whole-heartedly on Prague! It’s a pretty town, but there isn’t much to do. Monteverde was actually on the shortlist of places we want to visit, but it sounds like we’d probably be setting ourselves up for disappointment again! They make it sound like such a beautiful place on travel guides sites like Lonely Planet but we’ve been burned before. Those publications have an obligation to make every place sound good! Thanks so much on the heads up, Tom!

  7. Nancy Pitman says:

    You are so right when you said “A successful trip doesn’t depend on the amazing things we’ve seen, done, or can go home and blog about.” It’s about what we have learned and sometimes the people we meet or even doing absolutely nothing but relaxing on a beach for a week.
    As far as my disappointing travel experience, I usually keep a positive attitude no matter what except for this one time. We were coming back from Australia to LAX and without knowing beforehand we were upgraded to First Class! Good right? Nooooooo, I took a sleeping pill to get me through the flight so I could go to work the next day! I slept the whole way back!

    • Steph says:

      Ughhh, that must’ve been so frustrating!! I would’ve found it hard to keep a positive attitude then too. And sometimes I’m so busy trying to cram in a million activities when I travel that I forget slowing down and relaxing on the beach without a care in the world is such an amazing experience in itself! It’s definitely something worth reminding ourselves from time to time. Thanks so much for reading Nancy, and for taking the time out to share your story! 🙂

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