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10 Hilarious Travel Mishaps That Made The News

by Lesley Connor
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Lots of planning and research goes into arranging the perfect holiday. Itineraries are mapped, flights and accommodations are booked, and we wait patiently to arrive at our dream destination. Finally, the big day arrives and we excitedly head off on our much anticipated trip.

However, despite the best-laid plans, things sometimes go wrong. Often, we make simple mistakes like leaving something at home, booking the wrong hotel, or missing transportation connections. Occasionally, mishaps occur that are beyond our control, and we often see tourists taking silly risks to get the perfect Instagram photo.

But a few travelers have recently had holiday mishaps that were so funny that they not only made the news but also went viral on social media. Many of these would be unbelievable if we didn’t have the photos, Youtube videos, and social media shares to prove them.

10 Long-Distance Water Taxi, Anyone?

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Organizing transportation connections is a vital part of planning any overseas holiday. When arranging a visit to a foreign country, the local geography can understandably become a little confusing. However, simply looking at a map or using one of the many online tools available can usually help to clarify things.

Not so for one tourist from India. His question on an online travel forum would have to be one of the funniest “dumb tourist” questions the site has ever seen, going in the news and on social media. The responses must have been plain embarrassing.

The tourist was finalizing his itinerary for a planned road trip in Australia and New Zealand. “What’s the best way to drive from Sydney to Auckland?” he asked bemused fellow travelers.

Evidently, he had failed to consult an atlas before posting his query. It is 2,155 kilometers (1,339 mi) and a three-hour plane journey across the Tasman Sea between the two cities.

Submarine or water taxi were cited as his best travel options if he didn’t want to fly.[1]

9 An Unexpected Stowaway

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Many of us have packed things in our suitcases by mistake for the trip home. The odd bath towel, book, or article of clothing can find its way into our luggage.

Imagine the shock one Scotswoman received when she was unpacking her cases to find that a large Australian reptile had stowed away in her luggage. The woman had been visiting family in Queensland, Australia, when a 60-centimeter (24 in) spotted python had appeared in her bedroom during a storm. A snake catcher was called, who searched for the reptile to no avail. It was assumed that the snake had slithered outside.

A few days later, the woman packed up and returned home to Scotland. After a 40-hour flight from Brisbane to Glasgow, imagine her surprise when she unpacked her luggage and found the snake curled safely in one of her shoes.[2]

The snake had survived the 18,000-kilometer (11,200 mi) journey unharmed and had shed its skin during the hibernation. Fortunately, the Glasgow snake catcher was more successful in catching the python. He removed it to a wildlife sanctuary.

8 Pretty Venomous Sea Life

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Anyone who plans a trip to Australia is aware that they have some seriously dangerous wildlife. In fact, the fear of being attacked by some of their killer critters is often the number one concern for many potential tourists.

Really, though, as long as you take a few sensible precautions and take heed of the warning signs, you are usually fairly safe. Which is why an Asian tourist’s holiday snap holding “a pretty octopus” went viral. Not for the insta-worthy shot but for her breathtaking ignorance of how much danger she had put herself in.[3]

The woman posted photos on social media holding a “pretty orange-and-blue octopus” she had found in a rock pool. The unsuspecting tourist was actually handling one of the Pacific region’s most venomous creatures, the blue-ringed octopus. A bite from this creature can cause paralysis and death within an hour. The octopus carries enough venom to kill 26 adults within minutes.

Amazingly, the tourist was able to shake the octopus from her hand before it had a chance to sting her.

7 How Much Can A Koala Bear?

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It isn’t just tourists who have funny interactions with the local wildlife. A South Australian winegrower recently had his car hijacked by a koala bear that seemed to have become a little hot under the collar.

It was a scorching day when the man drove out to inspect his vineyards. He left his dog in the car with the door open so that his pet didn’t get too hot. When the man returned, he was astounded to find that a koala had jumped into the car to take advantage of the air conditioning.

Even the loud howls of protest from the dog were not enough to persuade the koala to move on. The marsupial ensconced himself firmly in the front seat, taking full advantage of the air conditioning vents.[4]

The driver eventually gave up trying to remove the cool koala and drove the hijacker to nearby bushland. There, the intoxicating lure of delicious eucalyptus leaves eventually saw the koala take off into the bush.

6 Boxing Kangaroo

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Soaring with the eagles gives paragliders a bird’s-eye view of the world, often captured on the GoPro cameras attached to their helmets. Most experienced paragliders are aware of the risks associated with changes in weather conditions, inappropriate landings, and unfortunate encounters with birdlife.

However, one Australian paraglider’s GoPro film went viral as he captured an unexpected encounter when touching down. After a morning paragliding near Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory, the man floated into a nearby national park to land. He was initially delighted to see a couple of kangaroos hopping over to say hello. Or so he thought.

Unfortunately, the ‘roos weren’t as pleased to see the man invading their territory. One of them came over to deliver a few well-timed punches to the unsuspecting paraglider before retreating into the bush.[5]

A good example of where the term “boxing kangaroo” came from.

5 Have I Forgotten Something?

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We’ve all left something behind in the airport when traveling. The umbrella, the duty-free bags, maybe even a suitcase.

In early 2019, flight controllers in Saudi Arabia initially thought the cabin crew was joking when they made a request to turn back. The flight from Saudi Arabia to Malaysia was forced to turn around when a passenger realized she had left her baby in the boarding terminal.

Imagine going through the check-in, settling into your seat, listening to the safety procedures, and taking off before it occurred to you that you may be missing something?[6]

Reportedly, the flight was in midair when the mother realized she had forgotten to bring her baby with her and requested that the flight be turned back. The child was still sitting safely in the boarding area when the flight landed. Fortunately, the child was unharmed and mother and baby were reunited.

4 Landing In Hot Water

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Many major tourist attractions around the world do pose potential safety risks. These usually have prominent warning signs, and protective barricades are often put in place as an additional safety measure.

However, a tourist in Yellowstone National Park stunned onlookers when he crossed the barricades and strolled up to a steaming geyser to use it as a foot spa. Apparently oblivious to the fact that the boiling waters can cause serious or fatal burns, the man proceeded to remove his shoes and socks and attempted to wash his feet in the geyser.

Fortunately, the man was relatively unharmed. He put his shoes and socks back on before heading on his way.[7]

3 Modern-Day Jonah

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We’ve all heard the biblical story of the prophet Jonah who was eaten by a whale after being cast overboard from a ship during a storm. Jonah spent three days in the whale’s belly before being regurgitated onto the shore unharmed.

In early 2019, an experienced South African diver snorkeling off the coast of Port Elizabeth had a closer encounter with the marine life than he was expecting. Rainer Schimpf was well aware of the need to be vigilant for sharks chasing schools of fish.[8]

However, when he was suddenly engulfed in darkness, he suspected that he had just been mistaken for a small fish that was part of a large bait ball. A huge Bryde’s whale had taken Schimpf headfirst into its massive jaws.

Unlike Jonah, Schimpf was fortunately too large for the whale to swallow whole and apparently not to the creature’s taste that day. The whale spat out its victim, who swam away unharmed.

2 Ice Queen

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When we are on holiday, we are always on the lookout for that spectacular photo opportunity. One Texas grandma’s great holiday snap recently turned into a major rescue operation which went viral on social media.

While vacationing in Iceland, she and her son were strolling along the beach when they came across a large chunk of ice shaped like a throne. This looked like an ideal photo opportunity.

The woman perched herself regally on the ice chunk to pose for the shot. A freak wave suddenly broke around her, sweeping the iceberg out to sea with the grandma clinging precariously to her perch.[9]

Her family initially thought it was a prank when her son posted photos of granny floating out to sea on her ice throne and the rescue attempt which followed.

Mounting an operation to save the woman from the sea, the coast guard returned her safely to shore.

1 We’ve Reached Our Destination?

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We’ve all made travel mistakes—getting on the wrong train or bus, missing our stop, or missing the plane altogether. But at least we expect our aircraft crew to get it right, don’t we?

Not so in the case of a planeload of surprised Londoners headed for Dusseldorf in Germany.

Many of the passengers aboard the British Airlines flight noted the unusual scenery below. Some took to Google Maps and were confused to see that they were headed north toward Scotland.

It wasn’t until the plane landed in Edinburgh that the mistake became apparent. Incorrect flight details had been provided, and the crew had believed they were headed to Edinburgh.

A show of hands indicated that everyone aboard had expected to land at Dusseldorf. After several hours delay, the flight was redirected to the correct destination.[10]

Lesley Connor is a retired Australian newspaper journalist now providing travel stories for online publications and her travel blog Empty Nesters’ Travel Insights.

fact checked by Jamie Frater