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What are the worst mistakes you've made while on holiday? Here are ours...


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Beneath the picture-perfect Instagram-reel and wanderlust-provoking articles, there is another side to travelling rarely explored: dangerous or embarrassing decisions, careless mistakes, and the falling victim to crime.

Inspired by travel experts’ confessional stories from The Telegraph’s that prove even the most experienced travellers are prone to mistakes, I have compiled a list of the worst mistakes students have made on holiday, ranging from painful hangovers and angry park rangers to stolen passports and life-threatening illnesses.

 1. An accidental detour into the Belgian countryside

In the summer of 2016, I embarked on my first backpacking trip across Europe. A few weeks into the trip, convinced by my perfect track-record navigating the European rail, I confidently boarded a train from Brussels to Amsterdam. An hour into the trip and after stopping for the twentieth time at a tiny countryside station, I logged into Google Maps only to realise that I was bobbing further and further away from my destination into the Belgian countryside. At the next station, a small two-platformed station surrounded by stretches of green fields, I leapt from the train and began to devise a route back to Brussels using four different regional trains. At least the views were good.

2. Squatting behind a tree in Yosemite

On her gap year, one University of Birmingham student travelled for the first time to the breath-taking Yosemite National Park in California, famed for its spine-tingling waterfalls, ancient sequoia trees, and towering mountains. While exploring the park, she became desperate to release her bladder and had to resort to squatting behind a tree… attracting a very angry park ranger. When she carried on with her hike, it turned out a block of toilets was only 100 metres away.

3. A last minute dash to the British Embassy

Aspiring blogger and University of Stirling student Jo Elliott had a travel nightmare when her bag was stolen on her final day in Greece. After making a last-minute dash to the British Embassy with a faithful friend, she was thankfully able to fly home the next morning.

4. An uninvited visitor in Jerusalem

This story dates back to the 1970s when my mother travelled to Jerusalem in her gap year to work on a farm. Sharing a first-floor hotel room with another female student, the two students made the decision to leave the balcony windows open in an attempt to combat the sticky heat. In the middle of the night, they were woken by a young man scaling the building to climb through their open balcony windows. Luckily, the commotion the pair raised scared the unwanted visitor back out of the window. Needless to say, they kept their windows securely locked for the remainder of the trip.

5. Typhoid scare

The National Student’s very own assistant travel editor Caitlin Clark had a big scare on her year abroad in East Africa after making the mistake of drinking contaminated water from a boat. After falling ill, Caitlin had to be flown from Zanzibar to a private hospital in Nairobi by AMREF Flying Doctors to be treated for typhoid fever. After a long two weeks in hospital, she was flown back to the UK by her insurance.

6. A loved-up hostel dorm

On a lighter note, Caitlin once made the mistake of staying in a 5-bed hostel dorm in Lisbon with two loved-up couples. It wasn’t the smartest decision.

7. A hungover boat party

On a lighter note, student Lee Thomas’ worst travel mistake came about on a lad’s holiday in Ayia Napa in Cyprus. After a wild night out, Lee made the mistake of boarding a boat party which combined seasickness and a hangover from hell. After managing not to chunder as the party-boat sailed to its location, the DJ organised a competition for the best dive from the boat’s 10 metre diving board. Despite having no experience and a relentless hangover, he attempted a double front-flip only to belly-flop miserably, resulting in a gigantic bruise all down his right side. Needless to say, he didn’t win any prizes but the DJ gave him a shout-out in the most Cockney accent going: ‘Oi! This geezer has the biggest fackin’ bruise I’ve ever seen!’

8. Safes, not always so safe

You’d think a locked safe would be the best option to guard expensive and important items on holiday. However, these two stories demonstrate why we shouldn’t always count on them.

Cardiff University’s Anisah Hussain stored her passport in a safe overnight only to forget the combination just was due to depart for the airport. After two hours trying to open the safe, she luckily remembered the correct combination and made her flight in time.

Becca Barnes, a student at the University of Southampton, was not so lucky. After storing her passport and valuable jewellery in a safe to go for a drink with her friend, she returned to find the entire safe and its contents, including jewellery and passport, had been carried out of the hotel. Moral of the story: don’t store your valuables in a safe small enough to be carried away.

9. A long wait at McDonalds

The National Student’s opinion editor, Gursimran Hans, spent four and a half hours outside a McDonalds nearby Southend airport in the early hours of the morning after finding the airport was closed. Unfortunately, the McDonald’s drive-thru was the only 24-hours facility, meaning that he had to order a taxi to make a food order. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

10. Birmingham mix-up

University of Birmingham student Georgie Rowe found herself in a pickle after mixing up UK’s Birmingham with Birmingham Alabama when booking an upcoming holiday to Canada. With only a one-letter difference in their airport codes, this mistake is easier to make than you’d think. Luckily, Georgie avoided a nasty surprise by realising her mistake and thanks to a friendly Delta support person on Twitter was able to rectify her mistake before it was too late.

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