Welcome to summer travel. It’s hell.
But some mishaps are so unusual that they beg the question: Was the trip doomed from the start?
Take reporter Natalie Compton’s first big pandemic work trip: She wanted to try sleeping in a camper van in Hawaii to test out the #VanLife car. However, the plan had a major flaw. She did not check if the van had air conditioning.
“I assumed it was a given,” Compton says of the mistake.
She ended up spending two days driving around Maui sweating through her clothes, showing up to work meetings stuffy 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,” says Compton. “No one wants to hear ‘everything went perfectly, we had a great time!’ They want the blooper reel.”
With the holiday weekend winding down, we asked Post readers to tell us about their worst vacations. Like Compton, many walked away with a good story to tell — plus a few family jokes and long fond memories.
Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
“The stomach bug got us all in the end”
Autumn Gonzalez, 44, Portland, Ore.
When I was 10 years old, in 1987, my father took my sister and I to Disneyland. The plan was to meet my uncle and cousins at the hotel we were staying at in Anaheim and all enjoy the three day vacation together. Everything was going swimmingly until, the first night we were there, one of my cousins just bent over and jumped on the pier while we were walking back to the hotel from dinner. Turns out my other cousin had caught a stomach bug on the train to Anaheim and spent the day puking in the train bathroom. I woke up to the sounds of my uncle taking a dump the next morning, and later that morning, I tweeted “I can’t believe we’re finally here!” at the gates of Disneyland and then immediately bent over and throwing up.
The highlight of the trip had to be when my cousin started to push her belly and, to be “helpful”, my other cousin and I tried to lift her up and put her head in a garbage can so that at least she could don’t be a puke. throughout the Magic Kingdom. We managed to get through the rest of the trip without too much fuss, but then my sister started throwing a tantrum as soon as we got home, and then my dad picked her up right when it was over! The stomach bug got us all in the end. This whole adventure has become part of family lore, and thankfully, now, we only cry with laughter, not horror.
“She owes me a trip to Paris”
Lily Van Bergen, 18, Forest, Va.
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 bags. the day. We ended up having to cancel all kinds 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 a reasonable level of French and was able to translate and provide some information, but for the most part I was panicking. Sometimes I lost my ability to speak French at all. 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. All this put a real damper on 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’ve learned a lot about myself and my skills.
‘A little fire in the kitchen’
Corrine Melissari, 38, Alexandria, Va.
When I was about 12 or 13, me, my mom, and two great aunts and 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 been on an extended family beach vacation in several years since my mom and stepdad divorced. We settled in on the first day and decided to get pizza that night. We had leftovers and when one of my aunts decided to microwave a slice the next day, she neglected to remove the foil. This, of course, created sparks and a small fire in the kitchen.
We called the property manager, the owner’s college son, who quickly came over to assess the damage and help us out. 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. This became a family joke with my aunt whenever we were together and ordered pizza.
“Our reservation was lost”
Loralee Bergdall, 20, Berkeley, California.
When I was 16, I went on a two-week trip to Fiji with my school. We were sent to collect data to form a national park on their second largest island, Vanua Levu. The night before the trip, our driver received a notification that our reservation had been “lost”. So, eight hours before we had to leave for the airport, they had to try to find the reservation for the 16 of us. It was a four hour drive to the airport and we weren’t sure if we could make it.
We arrived at the airport and were told at a check-in desk 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 packs, but we also had to run through security because we were going to miss our boarding time. We got through security but when we got on we realized they had booked the plane and two of us weren’t on board and we 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 make the trip without it. During our taxi to depart LAX for 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 got away in time. Now two hours late, we made the 11-hour flight to Fiji.
Everything went smoothly for 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 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 made the four hour drive home! It was such a wild 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, Md.
When we arrived at the KLM counter in Amsterdam to check in for our return flight to the United States, I realized to my horror that I had left my messenger bag with 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 mad dash through cobblestone streets with suitcases to the photo shop that could take passport photos, a turn at the consulate, a bribe to the local cafe owner to store our suitcases, a call from frantic for us. next door neighbor to break into our house and find our daughter’s birth certificate to email to the consulate, and many hundreds of dollars later (and 150,000 Flying Blue points to avoid the $3,000 exchange fees for the flight lost), we had temporary passports that allowed us to fly home the next day and return tickets.
After almost missing our connection in Paris, our parents met us at Dulles International Airport with spare car keys and we returned home two days late and much poorer – only to discover that our air conditioner had broken during our vacation summer. Our then 8 year old was a trooper. On the plus side, we got to hang out with Woody Harrelson in Amsterdam. And my family has a constant relationship with me whenever I feel frustrated on vacation.