What's One Thing You Wish You Knew Before You Traveled?

Illustration for article titled What's One Thing You Wish You Knew Before You Traveled?
Photo: HALLDOR KOLBEINS/AFP (Getty Images)

No matter how fervently you research all the things you need to know before you take a vacation or a work trip, there’s probably going to be something you missed. Sometimes, it’s something simple, like a particular way people greet each other. Sometimes, it’s something bigger, like the fact that all the stores close at 7pm on weekdays so if you need, like, groceries, you’ll be screwed. Sometimes, you find out the hard way. And I want to know what you wish you knew.

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For me, the biggest “damn, I wish I’d known that” came in Iceland. I rented a car with the intention of driving the entire island, and while I do wish I’d opted for literally anything larger than a Mazda 2, I got my ass kicked by the gasoline situation.

Now, I knew that gas is expensive in Iceland. It’s an island, it’s not super populated, and you don’t really have the luxury of price shopping in some of the more rural parts of the country. That’s fine. I’d budgeted for that.

What I did not budget for, however, was what would happen if I were to select the option that is, essentially, the ‘fill up the tank and charge me whatever it costs’ option in America.

In Iceland, that option charges you the exact same amount of money, no matter how much gas you need. So, if you have an empty tank in the midst of the Ring Road, it’ll charge you about $150 to fill up. If you just top off before you drop the car back at the rental agency and select that option, guess what: it’s still $150.

This was not something that I realized until after I’d finished off my week of driving approximately one thousand hours per day. I checked my bank account to see how the budget was looking for the rest of my three weeks abroad and about had a heart attack. I had erred spectacularly, but I hadn’t known any better. And, unfortunately, I learned the hard way. The extremely hard way.

I’m sure you all have better stories, and I want to hear ‘em. What did you wish you had known before you took a trip?

Weekends at Jalopnik. Managing editor at A Girl's Guide to Cars. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.

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