Tales From Our Readers: Vacations Gone Wrong
Memories of trips that didn’t quite go as planned
We recently asked readers to share tales of woe from past vacations that didn’t quite go as planned — you know, the kind of thing you hope to be able to one day look back on and laugh. You responded with some doozies, but one common thread ran through the stories: even when things were the bleakest, most could find a silver lining and make the best of it. Here are some of our favorites.
It was an easy decision for my wife and me. We packed up and got out of there...
On June 22, 1996, my wife and I were married in a simple but elegant ceremony at our local church. After an evening at a local motel, we headed to North Myrtle Beach for a glorious and uninterrupted seven days of fun and sun. Well, lo and behold a fast-moving and “track-changing” hurricane decided to head our way. On Tuesday, our resort started making preparations, and on Wednesday it called a meeting for all guests to attend. They encouraged voluntary evacuation and stated that if we chose to stay they could not guarantee our safety. It was an easy decision for my wife and me. We packed up and got out of there. You see, my wife had lived in Florida and had some past experience with hurricanes, and she had been through a tornado while teaching at a school in Kentucky a few years earlier. Seeing as she came through those unscathed, we did not want to push our luck. To this day, 26 years later, she tells me I still owe her a honeymoon.
The Lost Key
I looked forward to exploring a particular part of Australia for months. During my few days off, I rented a car for my journey to the pristine coastal area of Victoria’s Croajingolong National Park. I started having doubts about the three-hour drive, though, after I left the last point of civilization. Those doubts only grew exponentially when the road abruptly transformed from pavement to gravel. My curiosity and sense of adventure, however, outweighed any lingering questions. This trip better be worth it.
Overjoyed at finally arriving, I eagerly walked along the beach, stretching my toes in the white sands and feeling the crisp Tasman Sea breezes. The gently rolling waves distracted me, and in less than a split second, it was gone: My rental car key had vanished in the beautiful clear blue water. Shocked, I looked around only to see a handful of beachgoers (since this was Christmas Eve)! In the distance was a lighthouse — my only hope for help since this was before cell phones. Reaching the lighthouse, I was elated to meet the “lighthouse family.” The lighthouse proved to be my refuge, and I spent Christmas with the lighthouse family before being rescued the following day by the rental car company.
Don’t Feed the Wildlife
We were limited on funds, and our vacation had to be the week my workplace shut down. We decided to rent a one-room cabin in the Allegheny National Forest. My wife called to reserve a cabin and was told there were no openings the week we required. Two weeks later, we were called and told that miraculously someone had canceled the week we had requested. We couldn’t believe our luck! When we arrived at the cabin we decided to unload prior to heading to the lake. Before we finished it started to rain. It rained continuously for the next three days. Getting to the outhouse became near impossible, especially at night. (We had made the mistake of feeding the raccoons and now had to eat inside for fear of being attacked.) On the third evening, my wife slipped on the steps and got a bad bruise. The next afternoon everyone who was still in the park was told that two escaped convicts were in the area. By evening we were the only ones left. It was still raining the next morning, and now with our lives at risk, we decided to pack it in.
A Tight Spot
...our engineer dad decided we could make it through...
We were five daughters and two parents in an RV in the summer of 1972, on a family trip to the western United States. At the top of Needle’s Eye in South Dakota, described today as “a narrow roadway … sharp turns, and low tunnels” (online at dangerousroads.org), our engineer dad decided we could make it through the tiny and very dark tunnel. After all, he had measured the RV.
Yikes! We all ducked down as he drove in, saying quite cheerfully, “Here we go!”
We would have made it, except when he measured the width of the RV, he did not include the mirrors. Shattering glass and screaming kids, BUT we emerged on the other side!
I was camping one summer with two of my teenage granddaughters. We were in a 10-person tent. They slept on one side, and I slept on the other. While getting up one night to go to the restroom, I felt a bump under the tent floor. I was surprised, because I knew when we set the tent up that the bump was not there. So I put my hand on the bump and discovered it was breathing. Bumps don’t breathe.
To say I was startled would be an understatement. I woke the girls up. They were very frightened. Honestly, I didn’t know what to do. So I just put my hand on the bump and slowly maneuvered it toward the tent opening. I knew it was close to being out from under the tent, so I carefully unzipped the opening — to see a skunk coming out backwards from underneath. The skunk looked around at her surroundings, not seeming one bit concerned, and slowly walked away. We had been skunked, but not sprayed!
Little Sailboat, Big Adventure
Several years ago my husband, daughter and I decided on a day trip. We rented a daysailer from Morehead heading to Shackleford Island to picnic and see the wild horses. As we passed the Morehead Harbor buoy left and right, we chose the one on the right. This led us into the sea channel. Seeing marine transport craft, we immediately started working our way out, taking all of the strength we had.
Finally the island was in front of us and we got out on the shore to eat our lunch. Mosquitoes decided we were their lunch! The sky suddenly changed, clouds and wind appeared from nowhere. We climbed back on the boat and sought to get out while we could. The powerful wind blew us into the Beaufort Harbor into an empty boat slip next to a yacht. The owner was not pleased as the wind was bumping us into him. The owner of the boat slip approaching in his fishing boat was even more displeased. We felt quite helpless until a Good Samaritan appeared. Seeing our distress, he towed us back to Morehead. Next time, we will take the ferry!
Space Center Snooze
Leaving Granite Falls, North Carolina on June 25, 1984, before sunrise, we ventured to Kennedy Space Center in Florida to see space shuttle Discovery launch on June 26. We had to drive straight through because tickets had to be picked up before 5 p.m. We almost missed the time — we got there at 4:45.
Long story short, the air condition was broken and there would be no cool air that night...
We arrived and checked in at the motel. The room was really hot. We turn the air conditioner on high and departed to eat while it cooled. Returning, the room was still hot. (Long story short, the air condition was broken and there would be no cool air that night.) The mosquitoes were large and numerous, so we could not open the patio door for air. Our motel, as well as the other hotels, had no vacancy. Everyone was in town for the shuttle launch.
Around midnight we checked out of the motel. They would not refund the money. We departed to the space center to sleep in our car. But it was cool, quiet, and Discovery was beautifully lit.
The next day the launch was aborted at T-6 seconds because of technical problems. It launched later on August 30, 1984.
A change of travel plans resulted in no hotel reservations and tired desperation. Upon finally walking to a room, we could hear lots of laughter and music, only to discover that the pool was centrally located in the middle of the complex and each door faced the pool! There were so many college students that it looked like we’d arrived during spring break, but it smelled like a urinal. Not a great start, but we hoped the ‘partying’ would end soon.
At this point, all we could do was laugh. So, we slept in our clothes and quickly left the next day.
Fortunately, when we entered the room, the ‘urine’ smell dissipated only to be replaced with a ‘smoky’ smell. The carpet was so dirty, we kept our shoes on. Having walked all day, we needed showers, but pulled back the shower curtain to find a filthy tub with bugs crawling in it, so no bath.
Wanted to get another room, but my brother was so tired after the extra driving, he said he was not changing rooms and sank down on the foot of the bed. It promptly cracked, broke and the headboard popped up a foot above its original position, sending him to the floor. At this point, all we could do was laugh. So, we slept in our clothes and quickly left the next day.
Unexpected Ferry Ride
Years ago, when our children were younger, we all decided to take a vacation to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia, by car. Since we had never been before, my husband asked directions from a friend who had been.
...we ended up on a dead-end road in the middle of a corn field...
He told my husband it was the most scenic route, not necessarily the quickest. So, off we headed without the aid of GPS and only a paper map and his written directions. After about four hours of “scenic” driving, we ended up on a dead-end road in the middle of a corn field. No Busch Gardens in sight.
Not shy about asking directions, my husband asked the first man he saw what the best way was to get to where we were going. He kindly told us that we were on the opposite side of the river from Busch Gardens, and the only way across from there was by ferry, which we took.
After all the wrong turns, it actually turned out to be a pretty fun detour.
You can make lemonade from lemons — in our case, family fun on a ferry ride.
One July, my family rented a camper for a week’s vacation. We looked forward to days swimming, eating and sight-seeing. Our first stop was White Lake and the swimming was great. The campground was packed, but we found a spot and prepared for bed. Everyone else drifted off to dreamland, but the noise from the cowboy movie playing next door kept me wide awake until the wee hours.
Next morning, I was a little crabby, but breakfast and fresh air helped. Next, we stopped in Georgia at a campground near a highway. Tractor trailers roared by and a bug zapper over our heads zinged away. No sleep for me. I was getting more crabby.
Tractor trailers roared by and a bug zapper over our heads zinged away. No sleep for me.
The next day, we reached our destination, Daytona Beach. It was the weekend of July 4 and the race was in town. No camping spots to be found. We finally found a spot and settled down for some much needed VACATION TIME! As we slept, there arose such a clatter from a neighboring camper we sprang from our beds to see what was the matter: a party with lots of loud noises continuing until near daybreak.
The rest of our vacation was uneventful with me sleeping late, and the children having a fine time. On the way home, my husband said he was sleepy and needed a nap. We retired to the camper and slept a while. When we awoke, it was pouring rain. We ran from the camper to the car, soaked to the skin, finally arriving home — tired, hot, hungry, sleepy and damp. We never went on a “vacation” in a camper again!
Approximately 45 years ago, for a much needed few days away, our vacation destination was to the Lake Lure and Chimney Rock area.
My sister, our navigator, would get us there safely as soon as possible in her very fast ‘Ole Blue’ Nova; this was before the necessary SUV. We also invited one of our favorite cousins. Getting to know her better was good since, as children, we didn’t venture out very much and had no overnight excursions together. Mom’s pride and joy was to plan and provide some of the food we enjoyed, thanks to the room’s kitchen efficiency.
In those days, post cards were a must to show and remember vacation memories. Little did we know that we would appear in the photos for a new post card featuring the motel’s pool!
As we settled in and started unpacking suitcases, after scanning and searching, I still came up with no suitcase. I politely asked, “Joke’s over. Where is it?” to my little innocent sons. Everyone assured me that there was no joke; my suitcase didn’t get put into Ole Blue’s trunk.
Thanks to some sharing of outfits, a quickly purchased scenic t-shirt and new underwear, our time together wasn’t devastated, and I was ultimately okay. We had gotten safely to our destination.
More tales of the unsuccessful