Bitten By The Travel Bug, Only To Be Stung In Vegas

Produced in association with VISA

When you think of people who have been bitten by the travel bug, one person that springs to mind is Nicole Smith creator of Bitten by the Travel Bug (on account of the sheer amount of bites she has and how well documented they are). The Adelaide gal, who counts London and Reykjavik as her favourite places to party, and running with the bulls in Pamplona as her most exciting experience, has been bloggin’ all over the world for quite a few years now.

As such, her entry in the Visa Holiday Replay competition is appropriately epic (and painful). For your chance to win $20k to re-do your worst ever holiday experience read ahead through Nicole’s and enter down below:

What happened on the holiday you wish you could replay?

What was meant to be an epic USA road trip turned out to be the road trip from hell!

From the time I got to San Francisco Airport, after smashing the only lens I’d bought for my camera lens at Fisherman’s Wharf, en route to Las Vegas to begin the ‘road’ trip portion of my travels, and found I’d booked my flight for the wrong month, it seemed that everything was going wrong.

Some niggling thought kept me searching for my camera all week but, being in Las Vegas for a holiday, I didn’t feel the need to bring it out to the pool with me and merely dismissed my growing fears for its whereabouts.

It wasn’t until I was packing that I realised that my camera was stolen from my hotel room, just days before I was being sent on a two-week trip for work that needed photography, and my Australian bank card wouldn’t work in the USA!

My road trip buddy had extended our stay in Las Vegas after meeting a guy so we were running late, and the time was ticking by as I drove around the city trying to find a police station to file a report, so we agreed to drive long hours to make up for the lost time, and thinking nothing could else could go wrong we set off into the Nevada desert, hoping to see the Grand Canyon at sunset.

As we crossed the border into Arizona my road trip companion turned from sweet English rose into a hungover, snarling creature as the alcohol from her adventure the night before wore off.

We never did see the Grand Canyon; we arrived well after sunset and, after driving at around five miles an hour to the rim of the canyon because she was falling violently ill, resulted in an ambulance being called.

Of course, there was no accommodation available at the Canyon so we had to drive to the next town – Kingman, Arizona – nearly half way back to Las Vegas.

When I was waiting for my travel companion the next morning I went to the ATM to pull money out for the day and the machine ate my credit card: the only remaining source of money I had until I reached New York three weeks later.

It was the final straw, along with my friends snarky attitude, despite still being ill, towards the drive and running nearly 48 hours behind schedule, I put my foot down and decided to avoid all the bad road trip juju – is there such a thing? – and that we’d be flying to Colorado from Phoenix.

There was a silver lining though: after nearly 48 hours of being yelled at I made her purchase her flight first. When it was my turn to purchase flights there were none available in Economy…but the First Class seats were $20 less than the price my travelling companion had paid for her economy ticket. Score!

If you were able to do it all again, what would you change?

I’d probably not have tried to take a selfie with my camera along San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf without adding weights to the tripod. While I got a great photo I also broke my only lens!
I would also be a lot more careful with my camera, choosing to leave it locked in my suitcase instead of sitting on the desk. Since the road trip from hell I also choose my road trip companions a lot more carefully, and bring a backup source of cash with me, usually in the form of a pre-paid travel card.

Despite all that, what were some of the highlights of visiting that destination?

Even though my camera was stolen, Las Vegas is an amazing city. The bright lights, round-the-clock fun, summer pool parties and drinks by the pool at The Cosmopolitan is a must!
If you’re driving, the Hoover Dam was pretty impressive. We only had a short-time to spend there but I’d love to go back to take a tour of the place – and maybe see Optimus Prime walking across the bridge (Transformers reference, anyone?!)

Any other tales that come in second place for worst travel experience?

I’d been having problems with my wisdom teeth in London and, since I was heading home to Australia in just a few weeks time, took the chance of waiting til I was home.

On the flight between London and Shannon, Ireland, the side of my face swelled up and left me puffy-eyed, crying in pain and looking like I’d had a stroke. The pain was so bad I almost stayed in Ireland but I needed to get to New York for my flight connection to Australia and chanced the second flight. When getting to New York I was charged a whopping US$700 just to see a Doctor and US$300 for medication to last just a few days. If I’d had my VISA card on me I would have been able to call the concierge service and realise that there was a clinic down the road that treats international patients for a quarter of the cost. Thankfully, one of my closest friends live in New York so she came to hangout with me and let me eat as many Shake Shack frozen custards as I wanted, without judgement.

From all you’ve learned on your many overseas adventures, what are your top tips for trotting the globe?

The saying “bring half the amount of clothes and twice the cash” is so true.

Bring a backup source of cash – a separate debit or travel money card – for emergencies, like crazy road trip buddies or when your wisdom teeth render you looking like a chipmunk.

Ladies, always travel with a scarf. It can act as a blanket, a stylish accessory, something to cover yourself with at sacred sites, a pillow, a noise blocker, a headband and so many other things.

Consider visiting a meetup group to ‘meet the locals’.

Travel Massive is a great source connecting travellers, bloggers, and industry at fun monthly meetings across the world.

Couchsurfing hosts plenty of events and, my favourite, have some great groups worldwide – try the Melbourne Bar Raiders when you come to Australia next!

Travel insurance is worth every cent!

Have you ever lost your cash travelling? We know that feel bro. It hurts. It probably still hurts, but If you head HERE and tell us your story, you could win a chunk of the $75k up for grabs to do your holiday all over again, thanks to Visa.