How NOT to do a weekend away

Got a few days to spend in Barcelona? Here’s what not to do.

There are countless travel guides that will tell you what to do with your weekend away. This is not one of them. Instead, on my most recent trip to Barcelona, I kindly made all the mistakes so you don’t have to.

In the spirit of ‘do as I say, not as I do’, here are my top five tips of what not to do on your weekend away in Barcelona.

*Please note these invaluable travel lessons can be applied to most places, so regardless of where you’re heading, there’s no need for you to make the same mistakes as I did. 

1. Booking your flight from an airport two hours away is not smart
Airport codes can be confusing. I found this out the hard way when I booked my flight from what I thought was London Stansted, to save money. Rather proud of my economical decision, I realised just as I was about to pay for my bus ticket to said airport that the code STN was not the same as the one on my ticket, SEN.

Turns out my flight was actually departing at 7 am from London Southend, a casual two hours from London. With the earliest train arriving at 6:30am, I ended up having to book a car to drive me the two hours to the correct airport. The car cost more than my flight. So let’s just say that was an expensive sleep and life le$$on. Moral of the story? Always double check how far away the airport is from the city. 

2. Money doesn’t always buy better accommodation
We booked what we thought was a nice 4.5 star hotel in Barcelona called Barcelo Raval. While the location was great, there was much less to be said for the rest of the experience. The staff were rude and unhelpful, the bed linen wasn’t clean and calling the rooftop pool a pool was a stretch of someone’s imagination – it resembled more of a spa.

The final straw was perhaps when the hotel had no iron and I found myself standing in the shower with it going full blast at 40 degrees in a last ditch attempt to steam my dress for the evening. If that doesn’t make you question your life choices, I’m not sure what will.

Moral of the story? Do your research and read reviews before booking. Make sure you also look at B&Bs, guesthouses, and hostels, which may end up offering more bang for your buck (did someone say breakfast) and a better experience than often impersonal hotels.

3. Battery and memory are actually of great importance
Unless you want to be like me and find yourself desperately wandering around Barcelona deleting songs from you iPhone to make room to take photos of Gaudi’s architecture, then pay close attention to this tip.

Before you go away, or at least before you head out for the day, make sure whatever chosen method of camera you are using is fully charged and has space for capturing all your adventures. Yes sure, there’s lots to be said for experiencing everything with your own eyes, but there’s also something to be said for uploading pictures of your paella and sangria to assure your friends and family back home you are indeed alive and well.

4. Don’t leave your accommodation without the address
This may seem straight forward to some, or most, people. However, after helping my friends move hostel I, in a move to make more space on my phone, deleted the picture I had of the address and location of where they were now staying.

Off we headed to the beach without a care in the world, until, of course, it came time to get back to their hostel. Assuming they had the address, as I no longer did, it was then we discovered neither of them had brought phones and we were, as one might say lost.

Long story short, an hour and two impromptu taxis tours of Barcelona later we finally managed to find another hostel who knew the address of ours. Nothing tests a friendship like running around the main Las Ramblas trying to find free wifi to google your accommodation details. I wouldn’t recommend trying this on your holiday.

Moral of the story? No matter how good you think your geography skills or local language is, make everyone’s life, namely the taxi driver’s, easier and take a card or photo of the details of where you’re staying every time you go out.

5. One day you’ll look back and laugh
Ok, so admittedly, when things don’t generally go right, it’s not all that funny at the time. I can assure you I was not laughing when I learnt there were two London airports whose international codes start with ‘S’. And we certainly weren’t having a good old giggle while desperately trying to remember the name of the hostel and attempting to describe the area to the taxi driver. But in saying all that, once the moment has passed and you’re safely on the plane, or back at your accommodation it’s the things that go wrong that make the best memories.

When I think back on all my holidays, the funniest memories are of the disastrous treehouse accommodation in Thailand, my dad nearly getting us all run over assuming the police would stop for us to cross the road in Vietnam, ending up in The Age with our Vegemite when we were stranded in Machu Picchu, and, most recently, much to my family’s amusement, when my bag split as I arrived at the airport to move to London.

While no one wants things to go wrong when they travel, just remember when they do, which they inevitably will, that one day soon you will look back and laugh on that moment and it may end up being the highlight of your holiday or, at the very least, a hilarious story for your next dinner party.

What’s gone wrong on your travels? Do you have a tip to share with our readers to save them making the same mistakes?


    To make a comment, please register or login
    12th Sep 2015
    Check when public holidays are. No point in arriving somewhere to find that everything is shut down - completely.
    12th Sep 2015
    We made a similar mistake with Stansted airport - booking two bargain airfares from there before discovering that it was much further from London than we thought. It took my brother an hour to drive us there from his house in London and then 3 hours for him to get back home in rush hour traffic! The next trip we booked into the airport motel and travelled from and back to London by train - not much of a bargain trip after all!!

    12th Sep 2015
    Don't arrive in a Muslim country just as Ramadan starts!!
    We engineered a cheap flight on EgyptAir to Cairo from Athens - which flight immediately arrived 3 hrs late, ensuring we missed our connecting flight on Qatar by 15 mins.
    Then we found there are THREE major airport terminals in Cairo - and we arrived at T1, and had to leave from T3!
    We had no idea how far apart the terminals were, because I failed to bone up on Cairo airport layout.
    Then we attempted to catch the shuttle bus to T3 - and as it was just on sundown, the bus driver stopped halfway between the terminals in a bus depot, turned the bus off, got out, and abandoned us!
    We were sitting there wondering what to do, when another Arab stuck his head around the bus door, and asked what we were waiting for.
    We said, "We thought we were catching the shuttle bus to T3!".
    "Oh!", said the Arab - "it's Ramadan, the bus driver hasn't eaten all day, so he's gone home for his dinner!!"
    "When will he be back?", we asked. "When he's finished his dinner, I guess!", said the Arab.
    "I have a taxi!", he said helpfully.
    So - we climbed off the bus, hopped into this greatest piece of junk of a car I have ever ridden in - honestly, it was a total deathtrap - no seatbelts, the doors wouldn't shut properly, and I'd be surprised if the brakes actually worked.
    We paid his demanded US$10 each, in cash, up front - and he drove us 400M - and then abandoned us in the T3 carpark!!
    Then came the hassle of trying to re-arrange our connecting flight!
    All the offices in the airport were shut - apart from EgyptAir - and there were dozens of Arabs, all waving huge wads of Egyptian Pounds, getting preferential treatment over a couple of lost and abandoned Aussies!!
    We had to wait until 2:30AM until the Qatar office opened again - and then we were forced to pay an additional 375 EGP to replace our missed flight tickets!!
    Thank the good Lord, we were on 1st class with Qatar to Doha - and we were pleased we immediately gained access to the Qatar VIP lounge, once the new tickets were issued!
    However, when we took the lift to the VIP lounge - we found the VIP lounge was nothing more than an open-air mezzanine over the main terminal floor - and it was full of flies, had no air-conditioning, and it looked like it hadn't been cleaned for months!!
    I can tell you, it was like getting out of jail when that Qatar flight took off, right on schedule at 6:30AM - and I never want to see any part of Cairo or Egypt ever again!!

    15th Sep 2015
    I now use packing cubes when I travel and in the unlikely (hopefully) event my suitcase splits apart at least 90% of the contents are in cubes. When I flew to Darwin recently I took a carry on cabin bag (which I put in the hold) and also a black over the shoulder cabin bag. Using the cubes I had about 13 tops which were rolled up and put in one cube. A smaller cube with my underwear and another cube with my sleeping gear and cotton caftan (used as a dressing gown as well) . Another cube had miscellaneous things such as charger, small camera and another bag with toiletries.

    The only things not in cubes were a pair of shoes and thongs and three pairs of slacks.

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