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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Therese, who scheduled an inopportune visit to an unfamiliar destination:
I was booking a trip to visit friends in London and Paris, and I had an extra day between them. Instead of extending my stay in either city, I decided to book a quick 30-hour stop in Luxembourg. I didn’t know much about the country but thought it would be a good opportunity to visit.
I arrived at night and checked into my hotel. I was exhausted so I slept in, but I woke up excited to check out Luxembourg City. As I wandered throughout town around 11:00 am on a Thursday, I thought it was odd that none of the stores were open yet and the streets were empty with no one around. I looked up what time stores open in Luxembourg, and saw they normally open around 9:00 am … very strange.
That’s when I decided to research a bit more and realized it was a national holiday. All shops and museums were closed, as well as many cafes and restaurants. While Luxembourg has many beautiful parks and nature to explore, it also happened to be raining and very cold all day. If I had known my visit overlapped with a holiday that shuts the city down, I would have spent that day elsewhere. Lesson learned: always research special events and holidays in a destination before booking a trip!
There’s something romantic about showing up in a new destination and not knowing what to expect, but as Therese’s story shows, arriving uninformed has a downside. Holidays, festivals and other events can impede your plans by closing down the area or conversely by drawing crowds and driving up the cost of your stay. Reading up on the local calendar is especially important if you only have time for a brief visit, since one off day can end up defining your whole experience. Even if the whole city isn’t shut down, the attraction that drew you there might be.
When your plans are disrupted and you’re looking for something to do, I recommend checking social media for ideas. An Instagram search for relevant hashtags (like #LuxembourgCity) may turn up sites worth exploring, or at least connect you to locals who have a pulse on the area. Facebook is another great resource, as you can find a trove of activities off the beaten path. Go into the “Discover” section of the event listings and you can search by date and city, or by neighborhood in some cases. It’s a shot in the dark, but in my experience, even so-so events carry a certain degree of intrigue when you’re in a foreign land.
I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Therese a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to email@example.com, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.
Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!
Featured photo by Davide Seddio/Getty Images
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