Vacations Gone Wrong: 6 Stories of Epic Trips That Failed


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Illustrated by Katty Huertas

Things don’t always go as planned.

This is especially true when it comes to travel. Over the July 4 weekend, flight delays and cancellations left thousands of Americans scrambling. And as the peak summer vacation season begins, travelers brace for more setbacks — from labor shortages and inflated prices to extreme weather events and an ongoing pandemic.

Welcome to summer travel. It’s hell.

But some accidents are so unusual that they raise the question: Was the trip doomed from the start?

Take, for example, By The Way reporter Natalie Compton’s first big work trip during the pandemic: She wanted to try sleeping in an RV in Hawaii to test out #VanLife. The plan had one huge flaw, however. She did not check if the van was air-conditioned.

“I assumed it was a given,” Compton says of the error.

She ended up spending two days driving around Maui sweating through her clothes, showing up to work appointments soaked and disheveled. It was a disaster but not a total loss, she said.

“Honestly, you get a better travel story from a bad time than a good one,” Compton says. “No one wants to hear ‘everything went perfectly, we had a great time!’ They want the blooper reel.

As the holiday weekend draws to a close, we asked Post readers to tell us about their worst vacation. Like Compton, many of them came away with a good story to tell – along with jokes and long-time family memories they now cherish.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

“The stomach bug got us all in the end”

Autumn Gonzalez, 44, Portland, Oregon.

When I was 10, in 1987, my dad took my sister and me to Disneyland. The plan was to meet my uncle and cousins ​​at the hotel where we were staying in Anaheim, and we would all enjoy the three-day vacation together. Everything was going great until the first night we were there one of my cousins ​​bent over and threw up on the pier as we were walking back to the hotel after dinner . Turns out my other cousin had caught a stomach bug on the train to Anaheim and spent the day throwing up in the train bathroom. Cut to waking up to the sound of my uncle vomiting into a trash can the next morning, and later that morning me chirping “I can’t believe we’re finally here!” at the gates of Disneyland then immediately bend over and vomit.

The highlight of the trip must have been when my cousin started throwing up and, to be “helpful”, my other cousin and I tried to support her and stuff her head in a trash can so that at least she wouldn’t don’t induce vomiting. all over the Magic Kingdom. We managed to do the rest of the trip without too much fanfare, but my sister started throwing up as soon as we got home, then my dad picked her up right when she was done! The stomach virus got us all in the end. This whole adventure has become part of the family tradition and thankfully now we are howling with laughter, not horror.

“She owes me a trip to Paris”

Lily Van Bergen, 18, Forest, Virginia.

When my mom and I were in Lyon, France, on a day trip to see the city, she fell off her e-bike and had to spend the night in the hospital (everything was fine), but we only brought our day bags. We ended up having to cancel all sorts of trips to Paris where we were staying, and I had to fend for myself in a foreign country for two days at 17.

Fortunately, I spoke French at a sufficient level, and I was able to translate and give some information, but most of the time I was completely panicked. Sometimes I completely lost the ability to speak French. It was a crazy experience, and when we finally got back to our VRBO rental in Paris, I couldn’t have been more relieved, but we had to fly out the next day. It really ruined our trip. Now my mom always likes to say she owes me a trip to Paris, but for me it’s a great story to tell, and I learned a lot about myself and my abilities.

“A small fire in the kitchen”

Corrine Melissari, 38, Alexandria, Virginia.

When I was about 12 or 13, my mom, myself, 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 shore 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 leftovers, and when one of my aunts decided to reheat a slice in the microwave the next day, she neglected to remove the foil. This, of course, created sparks and a small fire in the kitchen.

We called the building manager, the owners son, who is college aged, who came quickly to assess the damage and help us. I felt so bad for him when he arrived, just seeing the look of horror on his face and clearly thinking, “How am I going to explain this to mom and dad?!”

He didn’t have a replacement, so we went the week without a microwave, but at least we had an oven. It became a running joke in the family with my aunt whenever we were together ordering pizza.

“Our reservation had been lost”

Loralee Bergdall, 20, Berkeley, CA.

When I was 16, I took a two-week exploratory trip to Fiji with my school. We were sent to collect data to create a national park on their second largest island, Vanua Levu. The day before the trip, our guide received a notification that our reservation had been “lost”. So eight hours before we left for the airport they had to scramble to find the reservation for the 16 of us. The airport was four hours away and we weren’t even sure if we would be able to make it.

We arrived at the airport and were told at a check-in counter that our reservation had been handed over to an airline on the other side of the airport. Not only did we have to walk through San Francisco airport with our 40 pound backpacks, but we also had to go through security as we were going to miss our boarding time. We rushed through security but, upon boarding, realized they had overbooked the plane, and two of us weren’t on board and were left behind. The two didn’t end up joining the group for an entire day.

The airline lost half of our luggage and we were forced to travel without it. During our taxi ride from LAX to Fiji, someone had a heart attack, and the flight attendants were frantically looking for a doctor. Fortunately, there was one on board, and the person left in time. Now delayed two hours, we made the 11am flight to Fiji.

Everything went well for the two weeks, but on the way home, our flight was delayed due to bad weather, and we got stuck on the airport floor. Most of us had a mysterious stomach bug that made us extremely sick for 24 hours, myself included. I remember sleeping on the floor, wrapped in my sleeping bag, crying because I was so sick and just wanted to go home. By the time we landed in San Francisco I was so ready to go home, I left the airport at 3am and drove the four hour drive home! It was such a crazy experience, but I would absolutely go back to Fiji in a heartbeat.

“We came home two days late and much poorer”

Jeremy Rachlin, 42, Brookeville, Maryland.

When we arrived at the KLM counter in Amsterdam to check in for our flight back to the US, I realized to my horror that I had left my messenger bag with laptop, car keys and, yes, passports, on the train to the airport.

It was a Friday at noon. An Uber ride to the consulate, a mad dash through the cobblestone streets with suitcases to the only photo shop that could take passport photos, a quick ride back to the consulate, a bribe to the owner of the local cafe to store our suitcases, a frantic call to our next door neighbor to break into our house and find our daughter’s birth certificate to email to the consulate, and several hundred dollars later ( and 150,000 Flying Blue points to avoid a $3,000 change fee for the missed flight), we had temporary passports that allowed us to fly home the next day and have round-trip tickets.

After nearly missing our connection in Paris, our parents met us at Dulles International Airport with our spare car keys, and we returned home two days late and much poorer – only to find that our air conditioner Broke down during our summer vacation. Our 8 year old son was a soldier. On the positive side, we were able to spend time with Woody Harrelson in Amsterdam. And my family has a permanent point of honor on me whenever I get frustrated on vacation.

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