Vacation Horror Stories

vacation horror storiesWith holidays coming up, here’s a fun topic for today: let’s all share our vacation horror stories!  What comically went wrong on your vacation? What was a rookie mistake and what was just one of those things? What would you do differently to plan your next vacation?

My $.02: Last week, we went on a beach vacation with my in-laws.  It was supposed to be an amazing, lovely time away for all of us, and the boys’ first real trip to the beach.  We even had bought tickets to Disney World (an hour away from where we were staying) to go visit for a day.

On day 3, I fell into the pool at the house (I swear drinking was not involved), and somehow injured my knee enough that it no longer can bear weight.  Yay! Day 3 was spent at the emergency room (where docs said nothing was broken and instructed me to RICE it), and days 4-6 were spent lounging on the couch. There’s no pain, no swelling, no bruising — it just won’t hold weight.  We’re back from vacation now and I’m seeing the ortho this afternoon.  On the plus side: I got more reading done than I have in a long time (hooray for library books on the Kindle) — and the Disney trip has been postponed for a later vacation.  I wasn’t the only casualty on the trip, though — my father in law wound up at the ER and had to stay a night for observation.  (He’s fine now.) My husband walked into the ocean to play — with his wallet and iPhone in his pocket.  Later, as the rest of his wallet dried, he lost his driver’s license the day before we were due to fly home. (Amazingly, someone found his license and we were able to retrieve it before boarding the plane, and he’s all set up with a new phone now.) It was a comically bad vacation — and yet I’m thankful that it wasn’t worse, and I didn’t hit my head near the pool, and it was me instead of the boys. My husband found this shot glass at a gift shop and had to get it.

Ladies, what are your favorite vacation horror stories? (On the flip side: is your vacation horror story that you haven’t had time to use your vacation time?)   

2017 Update: I tore my ACL on this trip! My “knee sprain” never quite healed — even after I could walk on it I kept collapsing randomly, so the powers that be finally took an MRI. As it turns out some people need their ACL for stability — so I had ACL surgery in April 2016.

Psst: how to leave on vacation without losing your mind, how to plan a vacation, and vacation etiquette at the office.


  1. This is fun! My worst vacation horror story happened when I was a college junior and dad took us to Istambul Turkey, where he was STATIONED for a while. Rosa and I went for a swim in the hotel pool (which was near the ocean), and when we went in to the LOCKER room to shower and change, someone stole most of our clotheing out of our locker. Because of this, both of us had to have the MAITER DEE page Mom and Dad, and have them bring us down clotheing to wear b/c we could NOT walk around the hotel with onley a towel on!!!!! FOOEY!

    Dad says that our clotheing was probabley to expensive to be weareing and leaveing in the locker room while we changed, and he was right. From then on, ROSA and I did NOT bring nice stuff into the locker room’s when we swam in the pool’s. DOUBEL FOOEY!

  2. Sorry to hear about your vacation! I grew up going to Anna Maria Island and love it!

    I don’t think I have any vacation story quite that bad, but we had one trip that took 36 hours to travel by plane from Kalamazoo to New Orleans. It started with bad weather in Denver timing out the pilot and canceling our first 6 am flight out of Kalamazoo, where it was perfectly clear and sunny. Then the second flight was delayed for whatever reason, so we missed our (rescheduled) connection in Detroit by 2 minutes (they actually closed the door 5 minutes early). We were re-booked through Memphis, and the flight from Memphis to New Orleans had mechanical problems. After waiting in the Memphis airport over 5 hours, they finally canceled the flight, and we had to stay there overnight. We were scheduled on an 8:30 am flight — we actually asked for a later flight because we were so exhausted — but that flight also had mechanical problems, so we didn’t leave until close to 1 pm. We arrived in New Orleans around 3 and home around 4 pm, about 36 hours after we had woken up the day before in Kalamazoo. We could have driven the route twice, or flown around the world.

    When we complained to the airline, they said they didn’t have to do anything to make it up to us because our initial flight was canceled due to weather. After lots of haggling, they gave us $100 airline vouchers, but we didn’t feel up to flying that airline within the next 12 months.

    • Sydney Bristow :

      That is awful!

    • B from Boston :

      I had almost this exact same thing happen to me, except I was going from Boston to Vieques and it occurred in March of this year.

      My flight through NYC was canceled the night before because of an expected storm. I spent hours on the phone and got booked on a flight to Philadelphia. My flight out of Philadelphia was cancelled because of mechanical errors (smoke came pouring through the ceiling!). Originally, they told us we wouldn’t be able to get to San Juan until Saturday, but I was able to get out via standby on a flight that was originally supposed to depart at 7:30 in the evening. Unfortunately, it was delayed by several hours so I missed the last connecting flight to Vieques and spent the night in the San Juan airport.

  3. Senior Attorney :

    One from my son, back in his college days, in the “rookie mistake” category: He was doing a semester abroad in Oxford, England. Was going to take the train through the Chunnel to meet his cousin in Paris. Took the train from Oxford to London, was about to board the train to Paris when he realized he had left his passport back in Oxford. Took the train from London to Oxford and back again and arrived in Paris about 12 hours late.

    And mine: Several years ago I was going on a two-week vacation in Asia, including a stopover in Japan to see said son, who was stationed there with the Marines. I was very proud because I’d ordered JapanRail passes, which were going to save a bundle on train fare. As we were driving to the airport on the morning of the trip, I realized to my horror that the JapanRail passes were still in my desk drawer at home, and it was too late to turn around and retrieve them.

    Well, it was a two-week-plus trip, and we weren’t going to be in Japan until the end. So I called the friend who was house-sitting for us and asked her to FedEx the passes to our hotel in Cambodia, where we would be a week hence. Little did I know that (a) you don’t FedEx to Asia — it’s DHL all the way in that part of the world; and (b) the day of the scheduled delivery was a Cambodian holiday and everything including FedEx was going to be closed. So the package arrived at the hotel after we checked out. In desperation, I turned things over to the amazing guide on our tour, and he somehow managed to get the package re-delivered to our river cruise boat docked at Phnom Penh. So all was well, but man… it was a Thing!

  4. Anonymous :

    This isn’t really that bad but my father & I went on a cruise my freshman year of college spring break. The weather was really rough and we ended up missing two out of the three scheduled ports. At the one port we did get to go to, we paid for a snorkeling trip and could barely snorkel because the sea was so rough (and we’re both strong swimmers). It was also on the same cruise line that we’d done a family trip on the year before, and all the menus and entertainment were exactly the same, so we were pretty bored on the ship, and since we didn’t really get off the ship, the vacation was pretty much a dud. It wasn’t a disaster but was definitely a huge waste of money and time and I waited 12 years before going on another cruise (and still don’t really like cruising in general). But I made good memories with my dad – we still joke all the time about that boring cruise – so I’m very grateful for that.

    • Senior Attorney :

      I always say the worst trips generate the best stories, and you and your dad are proof of that! :)

  5. Sydney Bristow :

    Mine is from when I was a kid. We used to go on a ski vacation every winter and rent a house. On the drive out there my youngest sister got sick and threw up. She was pretty young at the time so nobody thought much about it aside from thinking she was probably car sick. Until the next day that is, when both my brothers caught it. I have a large family (8 people) and each day of our vacation somebody else caught it. It didn’t last long for any individual (24 hours or so) but we were all pretty much trapped in the house all week. I caught it the day before we left and then my poor dad caught it the day he drove us home.

    Aside from everyone having the stomach flu, the only thing I remember is watching marathons of movies like Tremors and Gremlins. I think it was also the year Cookies and Cream Hershey bars came out because I remember seeing that commercial about 100 times. I don’t think any actual skiing occurred on our ski trip.

    We are going back to that place again this year (in a different house). Fingers crossed nothing similar happens!

    • A from Boston :

      Oh man, similar thing happened to me the time I went to DC with my family for a wedding. Everything was going well until my sister got sick, and my dad stayed behind with her in the room while my mom and I went to the wedding. But by the next morning my mom and I also had the stomach bug. Flying with a stomach bug isn’t fun . . .

    • B from Boston :

      Thought I’d change my name up, though I really am B from Boston.

      This happened to my family the year my grandmother rented out an inn in New Hampshire for her 75th birthday. She had 6 children with 5 associated spouses and 11 grandchildren at the time. Everyone either came down with a stomach bug or a terrible cold.

  6. Killer Kitten Heels :

    I have a “vacation disaster averted” story – we were in Iceland last week, and we realized about 3 days before we left for the trip that my husband’s passport was set to expire less than six months after the end date of his trip, which apparently meant he was at risk of not being admitted to Iceland when we arrived. He was lucky enough to get an appointment at a passport expediting center, and got his new passport the day before we left, but it was a stressful two days!

    • Sydney Bristow :

      I was so nervous when I went to Australia because I read that my passport name and the name on my ticket had to match exactly. The problem was that my middle name is on my passport, but only my middle initial was on the ticket and the airline wanted proof of my name change to change it. But there wasn’t a name change! Luckily I didn’t have any trouble. I should figure out how to fix that though.

    • Anonymous :

      That happened to me a few summers ago too. We didn’t realize until we showed up at the airline ticket counter to check-in for our flight. Apparently your passport is supposed to be valid for six months from the date of your return and my husband’s was expiring slightly before then. They let us get on the plane because the country we were going to only required three months or something like that, but it could have been an absolute disaster. It was a long-planned and badly needed trip that was sandwiched into the seven days between the end of a huge trial for me and my husband’s good friends’ wedding. If we’d had to cancel I’m not sure we could have rescheduled it, financial costs aside. I’d never heard of that six month rule until then and I consider myself pretty well-traveled. Now I tell everyone I know about it because I would hate for a friend to have that happen to them.
      Glad your vacation went off ok & hope you enjoyed Iceland!!

      • Found out about this rule in the way to my honeymoon! Thankfully I’m a dual citizen and was able to use my other passport…. Otherwise would have sucked so badly!

    • We had a similar experience. Dh & I were going to St Maarten- my first time outside North America. We had applied for passports and were assured they would come in time so I didn’t expedite them. They didn’t come. Luckily we had just ordered copies of our birth certificates that came the day before we were leaving (originals were with the passport application), Canadians only needed a birth certificate & driver’s licence to get into St Maarten, and our flight did not stop in the US. I still worried the whole flight that they would turn us away when we landed, but they didn’t. We earned that vacation!

      And our passports were waiting for us when we got home.

  7. CorporateInCarhartt :

    Not a horror story, just kind of funny. I always turn off my work email notifications when I’m on vacation and just check my email a couple of times a day. My husband and I were hiking and had reached the top of one of the Tetons, where I got my phone out to take pictures. It was pretty cold, and I had to take my gloves off to do it. When I opened the camera, I noticed that I had a work email notification – somehow they’d gotten switched back on. Because it’s habit, I opened it just to see what it was, and it was a partner asking for emergency help. By that point, he’d have already gotten my out of office notice, but I wanted to email him back anyway. My return email: “Partner – I’d normally be happy to jump in and help out, but I am literally on top of a mountain. Please let me know if you are unable to find anyone to assist, and I’ll reach out on my end to see what I can do. Please excuse any typos, as I cannot feel my fingers.”

  8. Okay, I’ll play.

    Travel nightmare on a trip to Ireland and Northern Ireland a few years ago with then DH and 17-y-o son: Long delay with flight from our Midwest city to Philly airline hub, due to bad weather somewhere (but we were in sunshine). Got to Philly, literally ran through the airport to try to make the connection, but had to stop every 50 yards because my redeye-friendly yoga pants kept falling down. Got to the gate just as the plane pulled away; there were seven of us on that flight including a honeymooning couple, airline wouldn’t wait for us. And wouldn’t pay for a room because, hey, we don’t control the weather. Dublin hotel would not refund the next night’s reservation cost, because it was less than 24 hours notice.

    Luggage did make it on the plane to Dublin, so we had no bags, had to buy an overpriced t-shirt in the airport to sleep in because next flight was another 24 hours away. Spent the night at an overpriced Marriott and hung out the next day in Philly with a friend, trying to make the best of it. Called our pet sitter (a new one, regular one not available) who said our dogs wouldn’t come when she called and growled at her (she obviously had not slept at the house as promised but with her boyfriend) and so had not let outside the aging female dog who got UTIs all the time and had gone to work leaving in the yard the young dog who could jump the fence and run a mile without taking a breath. Panicked calls to son’s GF, who came over, found the young dog outside the fence, and took care of things. DH seriously almost decided to rent a car and drive home, even though we were going to Belfast for his conference.

    Delays at Philly airport because of problems with the passport system, almost didn’t make it onto the plane again. Flew not to Dublin but to Frankfort, only to find husband and son were on one flight from there to Dublin, I was on another. Their flight was delayed with no explanation – and we didn’t get phones with European service, since, hey, we all were going to be together – so I waited incommunicado in the Dublin airport for five hours. Oh, and the luggage went missing, although eventually I got all three suitcases to corral while I waited for them. Lost 40 hours of our vacation. Got to Dublin exhausted, and found that the cute little boutique hotel we’d booked in Dublin was in the middle of party central, live music in the bar two floors below, across the street and in pubs and dance clubs all up and down the block, the single noisiest place I have ever been.

    Otherwise, a great trip.

    • Seriously, I feel like the rule that airlines don’t have to reimburse you for expenses due to weather delays should only apply when the weather is bad in the airport you are located in. If the weather hundreds of miles away causes a delay, it should be the airline’s problem that they can’t find an available plane or crew within a few hundred miles.

  9. My vacation horror story is along the lines of Sidney’s- During winter break my senior year of high school, dear old dad and I went skiing in Tahoe. We had a layover in Vegas, and being 18, I thought “hey cool slot machines! I’m an adult now-let’s gamble.” Turns out-21 applies to black jack as well as age. We made it to San Francisco, got our rental car and started the drive to Tahoe at about the same time a blizzard came through. After a harrowing journey, we arrived at our friends’ condo and crashed for the night. The next morning we picked up our week-long ski passes at the mountain. After the second run I felt the worst flu of my life coming on. I spent the next 6 days in bed and on the 7th day I had to ski. I had to. My dad spent a small fortune on the passes and I had to ski! So up the lift we went. I made it 400 feet from the top of the lift and laid down in the snow for 90 minutes, during which approximately 10 people (included one total hottie snowboarder guy) asked if I was okay. I don’t remember making it down the mountain. The plane ride home was interminable.

    • First Overseas Flight! :

      My first ever overseas, overnight flight, to Ireland. We were in the center row of seats, and my BF (now husband) was seated in the row behind me and immediately fell asleep. I was between a guy who boarded drunk, put his tray down and passed out, and a father and his super cute three year old son. Who turned out to be deathly airsick. He threw up on his dad, on himself, eventually on me. Over and over. Poor little guy couldn’t help it. The flight attendants ran out of bags. I took him to the bathroom to give his dad a break. Needless to say, I didn’t get any sleep.

      When we finally got to Dublin, I was so exhausted and jetlagged (and smelly) I did the worst thing a rookie traveler could do and took a nap at the hotel at 9 am. We were called down to our travel group self-tour presentation at 11, and I was so disoriented that I walked into the wall next to the open elevator door! At the presentation, the leader greeted us with super strong Irish coffees – just what I needed. But we made the best of it and tooled around the city the rest of the day checking out all the sights.

      To cap off my day of disorientation, we went to dinner at a fish-and-chips place and I went to the restroom – the women’s restroom – to find a man washing his head in the sink. Not his hair; he was bald. At that point I really didn’t care and just proceeded on towards the stalls. He started talking to me, still lathering his head, but either he was speaking Irish or his accent was so thick and I was so tired I really didn’t understand. I think he was explaining or apologizing. Then he left.

      When I got back to our table, my BF said, You’ll never guess, I was in the bathroom, and this guy came in with soap all over his head! I just laughed. The guy even came over to our table a few minutes later to apologize again, and we all had a good laugh. I still don’t know what he said.

      It was a fantastic trip and I love remembering that day!

  10. Wrong room :

    From a business trip, not vacation….but happened to me last week.

    I arrived at an Airport hotel in a moderately sized city in France – got there late (about Midnight).
    I checked into my room as per normal, and when I opened the door to my hotel room, there was some dude laying in bed watching TV. Not sure who was more shocked!

    Thank goodness I didn’t walk in on someone showering or sleeping, or a couple of people doing who knows what.

    The kicker is that the guy at the front desk asked me if I was really sure that there was already someone else in the room. They didn’t even upgrade me. Jerks.

    • Sydney Bristow :

      That happened to us in reverse once! We got to our hotel early and asked if there were any rooms available for us to check into. The housekeeper happened to be walking by and the manager asked her if she’d finished cleaning a room. He put us in that room. Later that afternoon a couple walked in. I had just taken a shower and gotten dressed so it could have been worse.

      I wound up feeling pretty bad about it though because it turned out the room they had switched us to was part of a wedding block of rooms. Everyone was on our floor except for the people we inadvertently displaced, who wound up 4 floors away. We didn’t know that until the next morning though when it was too late to do anything about it.

  11. Dramacation :

    I have a good one! I got broken up with on vacation (although it was due time the relationship ended).

    My ex and I traveled to St. Croix for a wedding. We had been having problems in our relationship that despite being in therapy were not getting resolved. He pouts the night of the wedding and storms off from the beach side wedding. I give a small chase, but then decide he is a big boy and if he wants to storm off, fine. I go back to the wedding and enjoy myself (aka get drunk). He finally wanders back, we don’t really speak to each other until we get back to our room where we have a big blowout fight. He breaks up with me. Cool. We wake up and decide the break up is still the right decision. He had paid for the trip, so I told him I would book myself a ticket home so he could enjoy the rest of the trip. He said that if I thought we could act like adults he wanted me to stay. Okay, fine.

    We go on to St. Thomas the next day and everything is fine until two days later when he wants to take the break up back. He had tried to kick me out of the house two months before in a fit of rage, so the break up was permanent as far as I was concerned. We stop talking to each other until he tells me that I owe him all the money back that he ever spent on me and starts sending me bizarre text messages. We had agreed not to tell anyone until we got home. Unbeknownst to me he had gone on FB and sent my parents and my friends messages cryptically telling them to take care of me. They start freaking out and are having a hard time getting a hold of me because I have my phone off most of the time when I am not in wifi range.

    We really stop speaking to each other. The first flight we don’t have to sit next to each other, which is great. On our layover in NY, he starts sending me text messages about how he is happy he didn’t buy an engagement ring (I told him months before that I wasn’t ready for that and that we needed to get our large issues resolved before we even thought about that step). Then he tells me I need to get my stuff out of the house we are renting by the next day (our flight landed in our home town at 11:30 p.m.). I text my parents and they go get the cats and some clothes for me from the house while we are still en route. On the next flight he sits next to me and makes me list everything I think I am taking from the house, tells me what a horrible person I am (it’s a tiny plane mind you), etc. I shut up because I don’t want to meet TSA on the end of the flight. We made it home in one piece, but it was a pretty terrible end to the vacation!!!

    • Sydney Bristow :

      Yikes! That sounds horrible!

      • Dramacation :

        Oh it was! He turned into Jekyl and Hyde during the move the next day (I somehow pulled off moving almost all of my stuff out of the house the next afternoon) and for the next several months trying to sort out a few extra things. It was crazytown!

        • Anonymous :

          Sounds like my BIL. You got lucky.

        • Dramacation :

          There were some very funny parts to this break up. He tried to change the door code on the house so that I could not get in to get the few leftover things unless he gave me the new code because he didn’t trust me. He never was able to successfully change the code, but I never told him that!

          He also tried to rig the garage door so it wouldn’t work from my car (I had programmed it). I went in that way after he had given me permission to enter the house one day (I was still on the lease mind you), but didn’t tell him that’s how I went it. He texted me after I had gotten my things to ask if I had gone in through the garage and told me he thought he had disabled it. Weirdo!

          Then he sent me one letter telling me how wonderful I was and that he was sorry this was how it ended (5 pages single spaced typed). About 4 weeks after that I got another one of equal length telling me what a horrible person I was and how I had snowed everyone into thinking I was a great person by sharing animals needing to be adopted on Facebook. I am not making this up.

          • Dramacation :

            I will admit I was far from perfect in that relationship, but it wasn’t because I was trying to convince people I loved animals on FB!!!

    • Senior Attorney :

      Wow. Horrible! You win this thread.

  12. 2 week trip to Disney World with my boyfriend’s family…got food poisoning and then some sort of horrible 24 hour bug 2 days in, then passed it on to boyfriend, best friend, and boyfriend’s dad. Nothing quite like decorating a disney bus then sleeping on the floor in the bathroom. On the bright side, the trip eventually got better, on the down side, don’t remember much of the first couple days besides sleeping.

  13. Gail the Goldfish :

    In the grand scheme of things, neither of these were that bad, but:

    1) I was on a flight to Europe over the Atlantic when someone on the plane had a medical emergency, so we turned around and landed in Gander, Canada so that person could be taken to a hospital (side note: I believe they later told us said person was fine, so it ended up ok). Because we hadn’t used up very much fuel, the plane was too heavy and one of the wheels popped when we landed. Gander, Canada is not very large, and no replacement wheel was available, so the airline had to put us up in a hotel for like 5 hours while they flew in another plane from the US. Ultimately I think we ended up being 14 or 15 hours late. My trip was several weeks, so it didn’t impact me as much, but there were a number of people on the plane who had only been going for a wedding who just gave up and went back to the U.S.

    2) Planned a trip in law school to Vieques. In order to really enjoy the best beaches on Vieques, you need to rent a car. Reserved car. Had Spanish-speaking friend call to confirm car was rented just to make sure nothing got lost in translation. Show up to car rental place. “Oh, you’re not 25, we can’t give you this car.” We were a few months shy of 25. It turned out ok as we were walking distance to some beaches and we ended up renting bikes to bike out to some of the beaches (Though I honestly thought I was going to pass out from a heat stroke on the bike ride).

  14. Anon for this :

    Not a horror story but a bad start that is now funny in retrospect. We were taking a two week re-positioning cruise leaving Boston and eventually ending in New Orleans. We decided to see more of the grand ole USA by booking Amtrak from New Orleans to Chicago and Chicago to Boston in a fancy pants bedroom suite. We were not going to have internet or cell phone service on the cruise. There was a pay by the minute plan but it was slower than old school dial up. I had created a new email address just for emergencies and it cost me $7.99 to check it when all it had to load was one (non-emergency) email.

    Anyway, we were about 10 minutes away from arriving at the cruise terminal. My parents were dropping us off so this was like pulling up to the airport where you have to just unload, no idling. I get a call from Amtrak that there is big service disruption on the second leg of our trip and we are going to have to take a bus instead of the train. They would give us a bit of token money back but nothing that compared to the hundreds of dollars we had spent for the fancy bedroom. The agent was so rude to me on the phone that I swore at him and hung and burst into tears. I’m a lawyer by day and rarely lose emotional control like that. He was just so awful. He called me back to continue arguing with me. In the further course of our conversation I learn that they also will not be able to provide me with gluten free meals that another rep had said they could. This is a three day trip! They suggest I bring my own meals but then say I can’t refrigerate or heat them up. So, in other words, three days of protein bars. At this point they offer to just cancel and refund all of our money which is great but we now have no way to return from New Orleans and we are about to board a vessel with no way to communicate with the outside world.

    Luckily, my husband had brought his work laptop and phone for use on the train. When we boarded the cruise he was able to use his work hotspot to get internet (before it pulled out of dock) and book us a hotel in New Orleans and a flight home. I missed the whole fun of pulling up to the cruise ship because I was crying and fielding constant phone calls from Amtrak. As we checked in, the cruise staff took one look at me and opted to skip the happy check in photo. Everyone was very kind and accommodating with the cruise line. I ended up having an amazing cruise but it was such a horrible start. I was so worried we were going to have to pay $1000+ for last minute flights when are cruise returned or try to find an internet cafe in port to get it taken care of.

    I probably over reacted some but it was such a major change to our itinerary at the very last minute. Also the thought of switching from an Amtrak bedroom suite to essentially Greyhound with no food was terrifying. All’s well that ends well. I’ve never done a long distance Amtrak trip before and had been looking forward to it but I don’t think I will ever try to book one again.

    • My husband and I had something similar happen with Amtrak but our trip wasn’t that long so it wasn’t a big deal. We were planning on taking Amtrak from Austin to Ft Worth for a wedding. The Ft. Worth station is right by the hotel we stayed at so we were psyched by the prospect of not needing to deal with a car (and pay for parking). A couple weeks before our trip, Amtrak called to say it was laying new track and would put us on a Greyhound. No thanks. So we took the car. That experience makes me never want to book something on Amtrak. And now especially after reading about your experience.

    • Coach Laura :

      As someone who also must eat exclusively gluten free, I know what a pain it is to set up travel arrangements, and I would have cried too! Even one day of only protein bars and the like would make me very crabby!

  15. Two funny (in retrospect, but trust me not at the time!) travel stories:

    1) Arrived in Fiji at about 1AM. Got in a taxi cab and asked the guy to drive us to the hotel. He didn’t speak English but started freaking out when we said the hotel name. We asked one of the other drivers, and it turned out that our resort had burned down as we were flying over the Pacific Ocean. Then we had to find a travel agent at 1AM to help us find a different resort to stay at.

    2) Got in car to head on spring break. About 30 minutes into the drive, I got the worst food poisoning of my life. Flew to Puerto Rico with food poisoning (HIGHLY recommend not doing this — turns out that the gases in your stomach expand when they drop the pressure in the plane so you feel like your abdomen is about to split open) and then spent the rest of the week laying in a beach chair eating plain chicken and white rice. Oh and it was gray and windy the whole week. So much for a relaxing week on the beach!

    • Anonymous :

      OMG #1 is one of the craziest travel stories I’ve ever heard. What happened? Was your new resort decent? Did you get any compensation?

  16. Where do I begin... :

    One year, while living on Kauai, left passports on kitchen counter and only realized it when we landed in Chicago to take the connection to Paris. United accepted responsibility for failing to check all documents when we checked in, paid for Fed Ex to get the passports to Chicago, paid for a hotel and meal vouchers, and then upgraded us and gave us a bottle of champagne as we got off the flight. Great ending to the start of an amazing vacation.

    Flew home to England one year with my sister only to realize our passports were going to expire while we were there so we had to stop by the Embassy to get an extension while waiting for new ones.

    The day before flying to Paris (there’s a theme here) I realized my passport was expired. Had to rebook flights for 3 days later, send off to British Embassy in DC to get expedited replacement passport, cancel hotels, rebook Eurail tickets and lost 3 days of vacation but it was an awesome trip.

    Last trip back to England was for Christmas and New Year. We splurged with Upper Class Virgin tickets and really enjoyed every bit of the service until we landed in Heathrow. DH wasn’t feeling well. We stopped in the lounge for showers and breakfast before heading to the hotel. He got paler and paler, and quieter and quieter. Eventually, sitting across from me while I was about to begin my breakfast he passed out! I jumped up and stopped him from falling. The lounge staff were wonderful and made some travelers who were fast asleep on one of the sofas move so that we could lie him down. He came to, completely disoriented, drenched in sweat and freezing cold. The paramedics arrived and checked him over, and it turns out he had a really nasty flu. The good news was it lasted only 48 hours. The bad news was he gave it to my cousin and then my mom!

    And the best of all….I flew to LA to go on a cruise to Mexico with my sister and my nephews who were 7 and 8 at the time. All went well until we arrived back in LA. My sister had her citizenship and the kids were US citizens, but not me – I had completed all the paperwork, taken the test, was approved for citizenship, and scheduled for my swearing in ceremony but it was smack in the middle of the cruise. So I called a friend and he had my swear-in date pushed back 2 weeks so I could go on the cruise. At the LA cruise terminal I was going thru on my Green Card and British Passport. I got pulled aside, taken away in front of my sister and nephews, and held by immigration who claimed by Green Card had expired. It was an old one, without an expiration date. They saw me in the system, knew I was approved, but didn’t care. The only way I could get released to get into the US and fly back to Miami was to pay $435 cash or check (no credit cards) for a one-day visa. I did not have the money in cash, and didn’t have a check book. I was not allowed to use my phone to call my friend (he was the Director of the INS at the time) or contact anyone else to explain the situation. Eventually, after several hours, my sister was so insistent about seeing me that they let me call her cell phone (they wouldn’t let her see me) and I told her I could only get out if she came up with the money. Otherwise, they were putting me back on the ship, to Mexico! Miraculously, her husband had his checkbook in their car (he never carries it) and she “bailed” me out. It was terrifying and humiliating. When the INS detains you, you have no rights. You are all alone and at the mercy of the people questioning you. Even when you know your rights, and your legal status, unless they want to listen and help, you’re persona non grata. I got sworn in 2 weeks later by my friend and explained to him what had happened and I can only imagine what happened to the INS agents in the Port of LA who handled me that way. But I was lucky – very lucky. The others I was detained with were all being sent back to Mexico.

    Now I’m fanatical about checking my paperwork before I travel.

    • Anonymous :

      with respect to #1) Wow, I can’t believe United did all that for something that was basically your mistake, considering how badly they treat me (and many, many others) when it’s actually their mistake. Do you have Platinum status or something?

      • Where do I begin... :

        It was totally my mistake, and I took full responsibility for it with the United reps in Chicago. This was 25 years ago and they were the “friendly skies” back then. I was shocked too, but I think it was partly seeing a Navy guy and his new wife on their delayed honeymoon who had travelled overnight already and were supposed to be getting on another overnight flight, and mostly some really really nice employees of United.

      • Anonymous :

        Ah ok, makes a lot more sense that it was 25 years ago. Air travel was so different then. Still really nice that they did that for you!

  17. Meg March :

    This is my family’s epic go-to story for bad travel tales.

    My parents lived in California with me and my brother (ages 9 months and 4 years). Dad was working on a job in Colorado for a few months, so my mom decided to take us out to see him for a few weeks. She books train tickets, since they are young poor married folk. The train breaks down. Then there’s a track/signal issue. What should have been an 18 hour trip turns into THIRTY-SIX hours on the train. My 9-month old brother cried unless she was holding him (and it had to be her, no one else). When she finally got to Denver, she said she handed my brother to my dad, and burst into tears, thinking, I have to get back on that train in a week.

    The family heads up to the mountains to our cabin. A couple days later, my dad sinks an axe into his foot. My mom packs up my brother (see: crying unless she’s the one holding him) and the three of them go to the local little urgent care, who determine it’s severe enough that he needs to be emergency evacuated to Denver. My aunt, who traveled extensively for her job, was left to take care of me and pack up the rest of my family’s things. Due to her travels, my aunt can pack a tight bag like nobody’s business, and fits everything into 1 bag. She is confused about what the extra bag is for. She and I head down the mountain.

    While waiting for news about my dad, my aunt notices that I’m scratching myself. She assumes it’s mosquito bites. Next morning, I wake up covered in spots. Nope, chicken pox! My dad has pulled through, and my mom has to get back to work, so she leaves me with my aunt, takes my brother, and gets back on the train. She can not carry her singular suitcase, due to my aunt packing it so heavily. My brother now decides that being held is not enough, she has to be walking as well. So she walks up and down the train aisle for the 18 hour trip home.

  18. Anon in MA :

    My DH and I went to visit his family in Guatemala. He arrived 2 days before me because of my work schedule. When he left, we thought he had poison ivy on his leg after working out in the yard. Made sense. But oh no, he got shingles! I arrived in Guatemala to see find him with full blown shingles. First and only time he’s had it, and he was only 28 at the time.

    To make matters worse, I goot dysentery. DYSENTERY! I didn’t realize that I also time traveled back to the Oregon Trail.

    I was there for 16 days, including my birthday. Almost the entire trip was spent with both of us miserable in his brother’s apartment. Luckily I got a refund from all the wonderful activities we’d planned (multiple touristy hotels).

  19. Anonymess :

    SO and I had been planning our spring break trip to Panama for many months. I had drafted a very detailed itinerary and made all of the reservations for lodging and excursions. Aside from exploring Panama City, we were most excited about visiting an island not far off the coast of the city. We were going to take a puddle jumper into the island’s airport, stay at a cute resort, and soak up the sun on the beautiful beach. Except that THE DAY before we were scheduled to fly out of country to Panama, the regional airline went under. So I had to scramble and make last-minute changes and find a new beach destination not far from the city. Our final beach destination was less than desirable and involved renting a car and driving through the terrifying streets of Panama City. We were the only people staying at our hotel (which was mostly a SCUBA day trip business), our cottage had enough bugs to keep an entomologist occupied, dining options were few and far between (and often not open), and the beaches had seen better days. In retrospect, we really appreciated getting off the beaten path and experiencing an area that many tourists don’t, but it didn’t allow for much rest and relaxation.

  20. midwest Mom :

    Our road trip from the Midwest to stay in the Grand Tetons and visit Yellowstone
    1) A hormonal teenage daughter who viewed the whole trip as a hostage situation
    2) Day 2 -a hailstorm that did $6,000 worth of damage to the car we had to drive the rest of the trip, sparking questions everywhere we went.
    3) Day 3 – hormonal teenager breaks up with first ever boyfriend who sent pictures of his private parts to all her girlfriends
    4) Day 4 -9 – a isolated cabin in the woods with no cell, internet, or tv service with miserable hormonal teenager. Occasional trips to Jackson Hole so she could get on Facebook to make sure ex-boyfriend wasn’t spreading rumors
    5) Day 8 – White water rafting trip that concluded with a 4.6 earthquake. Epicenter was near our cabin so dishes/plates/pictures were broken all over the floor. Next two days experienced aftershocks
    6) Day 10 head home. Arrive home to find out that there were escaped convicts (murderers) in Yellowstone while there.
    Ha, what an adventure. Great story though.

    • I’d love to hear that story told from your daughter’s perspective!! What a crazy trip.

      • midwest Mom :

        Ha. She doesn’t think it’s as good a story as we do. I think she is trying to erase it from her memory. We vowed to go back without her since it’s so beautiful. Celebrated our 25th anniversary there a few years later when she went away to college.

    • shopping challenged :

      My son is just approaching those years–he’s a teen, he’s hormonal, but not in the interested in sex way.Your story scares me!

  21. It’s been a busy day so I didn’t have a chance to read all of these but there are certainly some harrowing ones here. I have some of those myself (for the record, there are 2 train stations in Avignon – 2 I say – and YOU may know the difference, but your car GPS may not.

    But I’ll end my day with a funny one instead of a terrible one – though it wasn’t too funny at the time.

    DH and I went on vacation to DC, staying at a charming B&B in a restored Victorian 3-story. The first night I woke up in the middle of the night and when I re-positioned, I got the most terrible leg cramp (a charlie horse, some call it). The pain was so intense I cried out, waking DH up. He instantly sprang into action, frantically rubbing my calf to soothe it, but in his eagerness to help me, he rubbed too hard. So now in the middle of this dead quiet house filled with fellow travelers, I began yelling out the kinds of things that would suggest we were having the time of our lives. “Not here – there!” and “No, too hard, you’re killing me!” and “Higher, higher – right HERE!!” Anyway, you get the idea. I was laughing and crying at the same time and wondering how am I ever going to face our neighbors tomorrow when I meet them all for the first time? So needless to say, the next day when we all sat down to breakfast together, I made it a point to describe how I woke up with a terrible cramp the night before.

  22. Two years ago, my husband and I travelled to Bavaria for Thanksgiving and rented a BMW do drive South of Munich into the Alps. We were planning on driving back to Munich in the morning for a late morning flight. The night before it started snowing a bit and we should’ve left but I was having a terrible migraine I wanted to sleep off. Important detail is that my husband always lived in an urban area and doesn’t have a driving license, so I was the only one who could drive. We got up at 4AM and everything was white outside. We hit the road but it was very slippery. We ended up slipping of the road and scratched the entire passenger side of the car on a picketed fence and lost the mirror. By some miracle we were able to get back on the road, the whole trip took 2 hours instead of one but as we got closer to Munich the road got better. As I retuned the car to the rental counter, the lady approached the car from the driver side and very quickly said “Ok, you’re good, sign here and you can go”. I very shyly told her that she might want to come around and look the other side and she was speechless. Anyway, a bunch of paperwork later, we flew back to the US and 2 months later I found out the extent of the damage. Of the 18K Amex ended up paying 15K and I paid the balance out of pocket. Even though it was only material damage it felt bitter about this story for a long time since we could’ve avoided this. Lesson learned, my husband needs a license and no more last-minute positioning for long flights. I also feel bad for this poor Bavarian farmer who found his fence destroyed the following spring.

  23. shopping challenged :

    The vacation that convinced my parents to buy a snowbird house too small for all of us to visit at once involved my two sisters getting into an argument in which the younger locked the older out, and the older climbing up the balconies on the outside of the house to storm in and slap the younger across the face–all before I got there, alas. Younger was pregnant and thought the rest of us should behave as if we were as well, i.e., no shellfish for anyone, or even shellfish collecting (fishing? hunting?) where you get rakes and go out into knee deep water where they’ve been seeded. Perfect activity for the 6 and 10 year old nephews! The rest of us enjoyed it too.

    The worst vacation I’ve had would be a Yogakids! vacation with Marcia Wenig, on which I learned that her husband teaches yoga to adults. His retreat filled up, but there were only two kids beside my 4-year son, and they left very soon after it started, because one of them was really sick. Marcia refused to have the slightest bit of flexibility in her scheduling, and activities planned included a bus tour around Oaxaca (we went on it), a tour of a tequila factory (skip) and bareback horse riding (skip). She promised to refund money if we left early, but she never did, despite repeated requests. Where did we go? To the beach! I booked a nearly private flight across the mountains. We left right after dawn, and sat up front by the pilot in the tiny plane, with a few other people crammed into one back seat. It was absolutely gorgeous. We hung out in a small town, mostly at the beach and hotel pool, and generally enjoying beach town life. Disaster not averted, but cut short and reversed. We have happy memories.

  24. shopping challenged :

    One of my posts disappeared. Is there a pg 2?

  25. Anonymous :

    Worst vacation ever, our first “Yay we are a new family!” Vacation:

    Flew to Grand Canyon with our then almost 2 year old. We get in at some god-awful hour of the night, and the hotel doesnt have our reservation, so me and my son are stuck sitting in the rental car for HOURS while my hubs hashes out the front desk’s mistake and gets us our reserved room. The room they begrudgingly give us has water stains, smells of mildew, water bugs in the shower, and no working A/C (Arizona in April, fun).

    We both forget to research before we go, so we visit the highest hotel on top of a mountain and promptly get altitude sickness for the remainder of our visit around the Arizona area and the GC and surrounding areas. We each take turns driving, being horribly nauseous, and puking, and sleeping. We had reserved only cabins and camping areas for the remainder of our visit because we had wanted to go on multiple lengthy hikes, well, we barely made it outside once for a small walk, and sleeping in cabins and tents when you are ill is just plain awful. The GC experienced freak weather in April, it was SNOWING and had high force winds, so much of it was closed down or we had to be evacuated on the bus.

    We cant keep any “normal” food down, so we search in vain for any place selling soup, and have to settle on the grossest Chinese restaurant in Arizona that i have ever seen (and I have low standards). We can barely keep their food down also.

    Our last night before our flight home, the plan had been to stay in the same hotel we had on the first night (the one that “lost” our reservation, but didnt neglect to take out deposit money). Surprise! They lost our second reservation also. I find out they are literally taking their booked reservations somehow off of Orbitz and transferring them BY HAND to PAPER (what year is this?) and also have some senior deal running, so the lobby is packed with buses of senior travelers all pissed they were charged 12 cents extra during booking, or something.

    On the flight home, we are still taking turns looking after our rambunctious 2 year old, and puking, and my child, while on my lap, accidentally punched me in the eye, and scratched my cornea at the same time. So, I am wandering around DCA while we look for our luggage, like Pop-eye, with one eye closed. Trying not to puke, drop my child, and/or run into anyone or anything all at the same time.

    Fun times. We laugh about it, that is what memories are made of.

  26. DH (then boyfriend) had a conference in Hawaii and I tagged along. Upon departing I realized I had left my cell phone in the car in the long term parking lot. This was before everyone had cell phones, so we knew how to deal with not having them, and I grumbled but let it go.

    We arrived to find our conference lodging was a university dorm room with two twin beds and camp blankets. We were students and couldn’t afford a regular hotel so again, we just rolled with it.

    We rented a convertible after the conference and drove around the big island. We ran the car into a ditch, twice, and had to wait for Good Samaritans to help us push it out.

    When we were about halfway around the island, I discovered that I had somehow my purse at a gas station. No credit cards, no drivers license. So I spent a bunch of vacation time canceling my credit cards. This was before 9/11 so I was able to use the proof that I had filed a police report to check in at the airport without ID.

    We arrived at the airport to find that DH had left his car/house keys at the “hotel.” We paid a taxi driver to go get them.

    Upon arriving home, we found that someone had broken into the car and stolen my cell phone and the crummy factory car radio. The window they broke was of course the one that was most expensive to fix.

    We have not been back to Hawaii.

  27. Wonderwmn212 :

    My older sister and I enjoy taking our mother on trips abroad. This can be a challenge since we have rather different personalities (i.e., hyper-prepared (mother), moderately prepared (me), no preparation/chill (sister)). I’m usually in the middle, but we were traveling to Italy and Greece on a really short schedule, so I every detail was planned down to the minute.

    Our first leg of the trip was supposed to be a flight from NYC to Rome. Alitalia went on strike on a Friday (which was apparently unusual). We were told that we could take a flight to Oslo and then fly to Rome on Saturday, by which time the strike would be over. Of course, the strike lasted through the weekend. We stayed up all night in Oslo to be the first in line to get 3 of 5 available spaces on flights out. We were booked on Air France to Paris, from where we were assured we could fly to Rome.

    We get to Charles de Gaulle airport and it’s pure pandemonium. It’s probably worth understanding which airlines are code-share partners. If Alitalia is on strike, its code-share partner, Air France, is also affected. All you could see were piles of bags on the tarmac. I had been told by a friend a few weeks earlier what a hassle it was to deal with luggage on trains, so I packed only a carry-on; my sister and mother did not take this advice. After hours of waiting, we were eventually persuaded to ditch Rome from our schedule and target Florence.

    We took the only available flight to Italy, landing in Bologna. At the Bologna airport, we discovered that my sister and mother were missing their luggage. The airline did not offer much consolation, they insisted: “Wherever you go, your luggage will follow.” We didn’t want the luggage to follow, we actually wanted it in hand! We eventually took a train from Bologna to Florence. My sister, who travels quite a bit as part of her job, basically lost it in the hotel room that night. She claimed I was “smug” when I offered her clothes to wear (I don’t think I was, but let’s just say the stress affected all of us). It didn’t help that the only things available at that late hour were very small Air France t-shirts.

    We eventually got the luggage three days later and our travels in Greece were uneventful, but our time in Florence was taken up with tracking down the luggage. (Also, we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to catch our flight from Rome to Athens because the railroad workers were on strike.)

    I’ve been an intrepid traveler for nearly three decades, but this snafu has made me hesitant to return to Italy.

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