Welcome to Summer Travel. it’s hell
But some mishaps are just so unusual that they beg the question: was the trip doomed from the start?
Take, for example, By The Way reporter Natalie Compton’s first major trip during the pandemic: She was trying to sleep in an RV in Hawaii to test #VanLife. However, the plan had a major flaw. She didn’t check if the van had air conditioning.
“I assumed that was a given,” Compton says of the error.
She ended up spending two days driving around Maui, sweating through her clothes and showing up to work appointments soaked and disheveled. It was a catastrophe, but not a total loss, she said.
“Honestly, you get a better travel story out of a bad time than a good one,” says Compton. “No one wants to hear ‘everything went perfectly, we had a great time!’ They want the blooper role.”
As the bank holiday weekend draws to a close, we asked Post readers to tell us about their worst vacation ever. Like Compton, many of them left with a good story to tell — plus some longtime family jokes and memories they cherish now.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
“The gastrointestinal virus got us all in the end”
Autumn Gonzalez, 44, Portland, Ore.
When I was 10 years old, my father took my sister and I to Disneyland in 1987. The plan was to meet my uncle and cousins at the hotel we were staying at in Anaheim and we would all enjoy the three day vacation together. Everything was going like clockwork until the first night we were there one of my cousins just bent over and vomited on the pier as we were walking back to the hotel from dinner. As it turned out, my other cousin had caught an upset stomach on the train to Anaheim and spent the day throwing up in the bathroom on the train. Cut to waking up to the sounds of my uncle throwing up in a trash can the next morning and later that morning chirping “I can’t believe we’re finally here!” at the gates of Disneyland and then himself immediately bend down and vomit.
The highlight of the trip had to be when my cousin started throwing up and to be “helpful” my other cousin and I tried to get her up and stuff her head in a trash can so at least she wouldn’t throw up throughout the magic Kingdom. We made it through the rest of the trip with no fuss but then my sister started throwing up as soon as we got home and then my dad picked it up when she was done! The gastrointestinal virus got us all in the end. This whole adventure has become part of the family history and thankfully now we only howl with laughter, not horror.
“She owes me a trip to Paris”
Lily Van Bergen, 18, Woods, Virginia.
When my mom and I were in Lyon, France on a day trip to see the city, she fell off her electric bike and had to be hospitalized for the night (everything was fine), but we only brought our day bags. We ended up having to cancel all possible trips to Paris, where we were staying, and I had to fend for myself in a foreign country for two days at the age of 17.
Luckily I spoke enough French and was able to translate and give some information, but most of the time I was in complete panic. Sometimes I lost my ability to speak French altogether. It was an amazing experience and when we finally made it back to our VRBO rental car in Paris I couldn’t have been more relieved but we had to fly back the next day. The whole thing put a real damper on our trip. Well, my mum always likes to say she owes me a trip to Paris, but for me it’s a great story to tell and I’ve learned a lot about myself and my abilities.
“A Little Kitchen Fire”
Corrine Melissari, 38, Alexandria, Virginia.
When I was about 12 or 13, I, my mother, two great aunts and a great uncle rented a house on the Jersey Shore for a week. I was so excited to spend time at the beach! I hadn’t taken a long family vacation to the coast in a few years since my mother and stepfather divorced. We settled in the first day and decided to have pizza that night. We had some leftovers and when one of my aunts decided to reheat a piece in the microwave the next day, she failed to remove the foil from it. This, of course, caused sparks and a small kitchen fire.
We called the property manager, the owner’s college-age son, who came quickly to assess the damage and help us. When he arrived I felt so bad for him when all I could see was the look of horror on his face and I thought clearly, “How am I going to explain this to Mom and Dad?!”
He didn’t have a spare, so we went the week without a microwave, but at least we had an oven. This became a running joke in the family with my aunt whenever we were together and ordered pizza.
“Our reservation was lost”
Loralee Bergdall, 20, Berkeley, California.
When I was 16, I took my school on a two-week fact-finding trip to Fiji. We were sent to collect data to establish a national park on their second largest island, Vanua Levu. The night before the trip, our companion received a notification that our reservation was “lost”. So eight hours before we were supposed to leave for the airport, they had to struggle to find the reservation for all 16 of us. It was a four hour drive to the airport and we weren’t sure we would even make it.
We got to the airport and at a check-in counter we were told that our reservation had been handed over to an airline on the opposite side of the airport. Not only did we have to run through the San Francisco airport with our 40-pound hiking backpacks, but we also had to run through security because we were going to miss our boarding time. We ran through security but upon boarding found the plane was overbooked and two of us were not on board and were left behind. The two did not rejoin the group for a full day.
The airline lost half of our luggage and we had to travel without luggage. During our taxi ride to Fiji from LAX, someone had a heart attack and the flight attendants were desperate for a doctor. Luckily one was on board and the person made it out in time. With a two-hour delay, we made the 11-hour flight to Fiji.
Everything went smoothly for the two weeks but on the way back our flight was delayed due to bad weather and we were stuck on the airport floor. Most of us had a mysterious stomach issue that left us extremely sick for 24 hours, myself included. I remember sleeping on the floor wrapped in my sleeping bag and crying because I was so sick and just wanted to go home. When we landed in San Francisco I was so ready to go home that I left the airport at 3am and made the 4 hour drive home! It was such a wild experience but I would definitely go back to Fiji in a heartbeat.
“We returned home two days late and much poorer”
Jeremy Rachlin, 42, Brookeville, Md.
When we arrived at the KLM counter in Amsterdam to check in for our return flight to the United States, I was horrified to discover that I’d left my shoulder bag containing my laptop, car keys and, yes, passports on the train to the airport.
It was a Friday afternoon. An Uber ride to the consulate, a suitcase rush through cobblestone streets to the one photo shop that could take passport photos, a rush back to the consulate, a bribe to the local coffee shop owner to store our suitcases, a frantic call to our next door to check in breaking into our house and finding our daughter’s birth certificate to email to the consulate and many hundreds of dollars later (and 150,000 Flying Blue points to avoid $3,000 in change fees for the missed flight). we temporary passports that allowed us to fly home the next day and return plane tickets.
After nearly missing our connection in Paris, our parents picked us up at Dulles International Airport with our spare car keys, and we returned home two days late and much poorer – only to find our air conditioning had blown during our summer vacation . Our then 8-year-old was a soldier. On the plus side, we got to hang out with Woody Harrelson in Amsterdam. And my family throws a spanner in the works whenever I’m frustrated on vacation.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2022/07/02/vacations-gone-wrong/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=wp_lifestyle Vacation gone wrong: 6 tales of epic travel failures