We asked our readers to share their most memorable holiday mishaps. As usual, they did NOT disappoint.
I was on holiday with my husband in Fiji and we always knew we didn’t want to fly back home – we wanted to sail. So, luckily, we found – through an internet site – a nice experienced captain willing to take on two novice sailors.
Our radio wasn’t working on the way out but we never guessed that would be a problem.
About seven days into the 14-day trip we hit a storm (– which could have been avoided had the radio been working.
After two days of travelling in a steep 45-degree slant, over huge waves, the three of us were all suddenly flung through the air and water started gushing into the boat.
Shocked, we picked ourselves up and I ran for the lifeboats. The captain had a bleeding head wound and seemed dazed. Luckily, the boat wasn’t sinking but we had a serious moment when we thought we were going to die. Instead, the water had been rushing through an unsecured porthole on the roof.
We had capsized right over, then popped up the right way again. The mast was broken, the diesel had all spilled out, everything was soaking wet.
We called for help on the long-range walkie talkies and luckily had a response, before – just like in the movies – the walkie talkies stopped working due to water damage!
We floated on the water in the storm with no mast and no way to steer for 26 hours before being rescued by an Indonesian fishing ship. – Caitlin Lester, Otago New Zealand
Want to read another true story of a fishing trip that turned into a matter of life and death?
All I want for Christmas is a dentist
My husband and I were travelling to Perth, Western Australia, for a week-long vacation. Just two days before heading off, I developed a bad toothache so went to the dentist to get it treated. However, during my flight to Perth, the toothache returned.
When we reached Perth, we checked in to our holiday rental in Fremantle. The house was so eerie that it spooked us to the extent that we booked another room in the Perth CBD catching an Uber down late at night.
The house had a beach painting with three girls staring at you eerily and the house had certain noises that got us uncomfortable.
After moving to the Perth CBD area, my toothache got really bad the next day – which was Christmas Day!
I had to search high and low for a dental clinic, open on a Christmas Day, after 6pm. – Elena Woo, Singapore
(Not all forms of toothache require a trip to the dentist though. Especially if you’ve got one of these weird symptoms.)
Next stop, Paris – we hope?
My family and I once caught a plane thinking we were going to Paris, France.
Shockingly, when we arrived we had landed in Paris, Kentucky.
Long story short, we did get to France in the end, after booking more flights but our trip was delayed. – Jessica Bibby, Napier New Zealand
(If only Jessica had asked the airline exactly which Paris they were headed for, they would have told her. But here’s 13 things they definitely WON’T have told her.)
Freed by a motorcycle gang
It was Christmas Eve 1995 when I was travelling down the Princess Highway out of Melbourne, Victoria, heading for the family holiday resort on the Peninsula in my new car.
As I was approaching Geelong, a big kangaroo popped out of nowhere and hit my new car – and it rolled over and into a ditch.
Quite stunned at what had just happened, hanging upside-down in my car seat, I looked outside and noticed the feet of a whole group of people trying to get me out. I was finally released by members of the Hells Angels, one of whom just happened to be a doctor.
He checked me out; I was OK and they put me on the back of one of the member’s motorbikes and took me to my final destination and that was the best Christmas I have ever had. – Slade Yuille, Point Cook Victoria
(Now that is a surprising act of kindness. Want to hear more? Get a box of tissues handy.)
A haunting experience
I once travelled to Florence, Italy, with my family. We were six people altogether, and rented an apartment that looked amazing in the photos posted online – but when we entered, it looked like the rooms from The Conjuring. To this day I think it was haunted.
There were weird pictures of angels on the wall, the cupboards looked spooky, the beds were really bad and the doors made creaking sounds to make the experience even more haunted.
Somehow, we put up with that disaster but of course another one came our way. We had to rent a car to tour Europe but when we entered the rental shop, the lady looked at us in a weird way – then rejected our request.
We asked why, then she told us our license was expired and we couldn’t rent a car.
Despite all these disasters, we still had fun on this trip. Some disasters can be funny. – Saad Khan, Karachi Pakistan
(Are you a believer? You might be after you read these five chilling real ghost stories.)
Full marks for having a go
We were on a family holiday on the Gold Coast and had gone to a water park for the day. I thought the lazy river looked just my style but, being a rather large lady, I was a bit worried about getting in and out of the rubber ring tube you float around on.
With my family egging me on, I tried as gracefully as I could to climb into it.
I sat down, did a huge, full backwards flip with the rubber tube making a very loud noise – which sounded like it came from me – and surfaced to find not only my family but a big line-up of people waiting to go on the tubes laughing hysterically.
Determined not to be beaten by that damn tube I soldiered on – and thoroughly enjoyed myself. – Faye Cruickshank, Ballajura Western Australia
(A perfect example of the power of positivity. Here’s how to cultivate that amazing mindset and make the most of your life.)
Lost in transit
I was the lucky winner of an amazing trip for two on the Mississippi Queen paddle steamer, including travel expenses.
We had a night in Los Angeles before flying to New Orleans. With our flight departure time getting closer, I decided a trip to the toilet was be a good idea.
In my haste to get back to the gate, I became completely disoriented and somehow managed to hurry back in the wrong direction.
Eventually in the distance I saw my harassed husband and an attendant. We were the last two very embarrassed people to board the plane.
In hindsight I realised that the entrance to the toilets was a semicircle and I had gone out the opposite side to the one I entered.
What a relief they waited for me and what a wonderful experience we nearly missed – Pamela Innes, Peachester Queensland
(Being late for a flight is one thing. But what if you’re asked to leave the plane after you’ve already boarded? You better know your rights.)
Char-grilling gone wrong
“Holiday Disaster” is having your grandmother mistake gasoline for water, then use it to put out the fire while working on the barbecues.
And that’s the tale of how the meat tasted like gasoline. – John Paolo Ramirez, Caloocan City Philippines
(Come on, Grandma: it’s not that complicated.)
Too embarrassed for words
To celebrate our second wedding anniversary, my hubby and I decided to splash out on a night at the Hilton in Taupo, New Zealand. All went well, although we didn’t blend in as much as the other guests, with our beat-up Toyota Corolla and my husband’s idea of dressing up: his favourite soccer team shirt and ripped shorts.
We had a great time visiting the tourist hot spots and relaxing. Then tragedy struck our dear old “crudrolla”; a guy towing a flash boat with his late model 4WD ute smashed our driver’s door and shattered the window. The door wouldn’t close, so we had to tie it shut with rope.
Sheepishly pulling back into the Hilton, we parked next to two new Bugatti sports cars worth more than our first home.
Then, to make matters worse, on check-out the concierge offered to bring the car around. “No, absolutely not!” I replied, as my husband handed over the keys, laughing.
Next thing you know, our big-exhaust, tinted-window, boy-racer-looking, broken runabout with no driver-side window and broken glass all through it pulled up out of the carpark, with the stereo blasting and the hotel guy laughing uncontrollably. I was mortified! – Jessica McKenzie, Whanganui New Zealand
(Now that’s what we call travelling five-star on a three-star budget.)
Be careful around escalators!
I was on my way to South Africa to visit family, via Singapore and Zurich. I was staying in Singapore one night, so next morning I made sure I was dressed warm for the very cold transit through Zurich to South Africa. I wore a long black skirt and warm jacket.
As I had quite a few hours at the airport, I decided to catch the train into the city. Just as I headed down the escalator, the bottom of my skirt got caught in the escalator.
There was no-one around and I just froze, then saw some men who couldn’t speak English but they saw my problem.
By this time my skirt was around my knees. Talk about embarrassing!
One guy yanked my skirt out. I was so relieved – but had to walk around Zurich with the bottom of my skirt ripped.
I don’t wear long skirts around escalators anymore. – Lorraine Malone, Heathridge Western Australia
(Should have heeded Jackie Kennedy’s advice: a shift or a sheath dress never goes out of style.)
Rip tide terror
As a large woman I am very self-conscious on the beach. Of course, this is probably true of maybe one or two, but most people tend to be immersed in their own world rather than focus of the ‘fat’ lady at the beach.
On this particular day it was so hot, I couldn’t resist the beach. I love the beach, I grew up alongside the beach and love the smell of the sea, the breeze.
I knew the water would be cold as I was so hot, so I decided to dive straight into a crystal-clear wave, drenching myself immediately. I was covered in little tingly bubbles that made me yelp as I came to the top. I felt like I could spend my entire life bobbing in the waves.
I started to swim out past the medium-size waves to the calmer part of the ocean. I was very confident in the sea and always seemed to go past everyone else in the water. I loved the sounds of the ocean, the taste of the salt and most of all, the weightlessness.
When I got far enough out to feel myself gently bobbing, I lay on my back like a starfish, closed my eyes and enjoyed the sun beaming down on me while the crisp tang of the water felt divine against my skin.
I lay like this for some time, my ears under the water drowning out the outside world. I could feel myself moving, but it seemed only lightly moving in the waves, but after a while I looked up to see I had drifted quiet far out. I decided I had better move back in. At this point there was no fear; I am a strong swimmer and I feel like the sea is my second home.
I started to slowly breaststroke towards the shore but soon found I was moving backwards, despite my strokes. This is when I realised I was in a rip.
Still I didn’t panic. I’ve been in rips before – never this far out, but I know you just ride the rip, swim to the side of it and you will be free from its pull. So I took note of the sea around me and surmised that if I swam to my right, I would eventually swim out of the rip, then I could swim back to shore.
But as I tried to move to the right, I seemed to have swum directly into an even stronger rip. It grabbed hold of me and whisked me out to sea so quickly I became suddenly frightened and a bit breathless. I kept my head above water with gentle strokes but I clearly had no control and the shoreline was becoming more and more distant.
At this stage I realised I was in trouble, so I tried holding one arm up – not that easy when you’re in a strong rip and trying to keep your head above the water.
I could see I was too far out for anyone to see me. I could hardly see them, the people on the beach were becoming dots in the sand, I must have been a couple of kilometres out by now.
I suddenly realised I could die, and was now very scared, but something kicked in and I started to try to swim to the side still. Then, just as suddenly as the rip pulled me out to sea, I was being pulled towards the shore, fast, very fast, in fact I had to focus to keep my head above the water; it felt a bit like I was being dragged by an unknown entity.
As I got closer to shore I began to feel hope that I was going to be OK, but all of this had taken its toll and I was week, my body felt like a jelly. I felt like I had no muscle and could barely breaststroke at this stage, so I just went with the flow.
The people were getting closer and closer, I could see I was being towed close to the shore.
There was a young girl in a bikini in my line of site. She looked about 16 and was jumping the small waves with her friends. As I got near enough to her I grabbed onto her leg, hugging her thigh as hard as I could, and tried to say, “Help me!” But for some reason my voice was hoarse, possibly from swallowing some of the salt water. All I could do was make weird sounds.
The girl screamed. She tried to pull my arms off her leg, but I wouldn’t let go. The unfortunate thing; what must she have thought? Then others came to her aid and I managed to push out the words, “Help, rip, help!”
Suddenly, everyone realised I was in trouble. I felt strong hands under my arms as they dragged me to the shore. They let go of me on the wet sand and rolled me over.
I was trying to get my breath back and lifeguards came and put an oxygen mask on my nose and mouth.
I closed my eyes, and let everyone take care of me.
My relationship with the sea would never be the same again. – Sharon Ralston, Rutherford New South Wales
(Sharon’s bravery and brush with death reminds us of the pilots who crashed into the sea.)
Unwanted elephant shower
When I was four, I was sprayed with water from an elephant while visiting Sydney’s Taronga Zoo. Elephants like potato chips and so do greedy little four-year-old girls from the high country of New Zealand.
I am now 59 years old and still can remember feeling like a drowned rat. My little sister in her stroller was also wet. I can still hear Mum and Dad laughing, and other visitors. We had to go to the game keeper’s house to dry our clothes. – Catherine Houlihan, Oamaru North Otago New Zealand
(That elephant remembers it too, Catherine. Here’s proof.)
Lost on the 20th floor
Sun, sand and the sea. It can’t get better than this. Or so I thought.
June 2010 will always be remembered in our family holiday history as the day our youngest daughter was lost on the 20th floor… found on the 13th floor… and all of us reunited on the ground floor!
It was the second day of our seaside holiday. Beautiful weather, a hotel right by the scenic Tanjung Bungah seaside in Penang, and a well-deserved break during the school holidays.
Our daughters, Ani and Amy, then four and seven respectively, were looking forward to a nice, warm breakfast spread before jumping into the pool. My husband left a little earlier to book us a table while I promised to catch up with the kids later.
After shutting the door, the three of us walked down the hallway of our 20th floor towards the lift. Little Amy, ever the bundle of energy with a rainbow permanently etched over her, trotted happily a few steps ahead of us. As we approached the lift, we realised there was a young girl crying while facing the closed lift doors. Immediately, I understood that her family might have left her accidentally before she could join them in the lift. My youngest pressed the lift button, and just as I was about to kneel down to ask the young girl about her family, the lift doors opened. To my shock and horror, Amy entered the lift before I could even stop her!
To make matters worse, my frantic attempt at pressing the button repeatedly to hold the lift was of no use. I just watched helplessly as the doors closed with only my four year old inside, and I had no idea which floor of the building she was heading. Panic seeped through me, as my mind tried to imagine her running out of the lift in ANY of the floors and into ANY of the hallways, searching for us in vain.
I held both my eldest daughter’s and the little girl’s hand, got into the lift and went straight down to the lobby. Thankfully, as the doors threw open, the girl spotted her family outside and ran to hug them. I was so glad that the girl was now all right and immediately looked for my husband to tell him about Amy.
All the while my eldest, Ani, had remained incredibly calm, asking just a question or two. But most probably she must have been trying to understand what was going on. When she saw her dad and heard me say, “Amy was lost after entering the lift,” she broke down in tears, sobbing uncontrollably as she kept calling her sister’s name. We quickly reported the incident to hotel staff, and with swift action and a few calls on the walkie-talkie, we were told that Amy had been spotted on the 13th floor by one of their maintenance staff. All this was possible thanks to the CCTV available on each floor. Thank God!
It was such a huge relief, we couldn’t stop thanking the hotel staff as my husband rushed towards the lift and headed to the 13th floor to get her. Was she traumatised? Crying non-stop? All these questions were soon answered when the lift opened after what seemed like a few centuries. She was in her dad’s arms, safe and sound, with a shy smile. A bubbly maintenance worker recounted how Amy remained calm when he spotted her as she came out of the lift on the 13th floor. She answered a few questions about herself, and sat quietly on the chair available near the lift while waiting to be brought back to Mum and Dad.
Despite that, her tears flowed when she leaped into my arms in relief, sobbing just like her sister!
In the months following, this story was told repeatedly until both girls could bear no more. Yet now that they are teenagers, whenever we mention the story, both girls just roll their eyes and the eldest tries her best to deny she cried for her now annoying sister! – Shamsun Nisha, Subang Jaya Malaysia
(A rescue on the 13th floor? That’s nothing. Try a rescue at 4500 feet.)
What are the chances?
I remember my Dad losing his wallet while we were on holidays one-time – only for it to be found by someone who lived in the same town as us … and even knew our family! – Kathy Clark, Cranebrook New South Wales
(Not everyone can be that lucky. So here are the 7 things us unlucky types have to do ASAP when our wallet is lost or stolen.)
Has anyone seen my cake?
I was proud of the lovely coffee cake I had made for the Mother’s Day breakfast at our Aunt’s house.
We were running late, and as we sped down the street, I thought to myself, “Where did I put the coffee cake?”
Then I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw my foil-clad cake slide off the roof and hit the pavement behind our car. – Haniah Zahid, Multan Pakistan
(Wonder if Haniah kept her cool or flew into a bit of road rage. Would you have?)
Holiday romance gone wrong
A few years ago, before we moved to New Zealand, my family and I travelled to the beach for a holiday – which was about a seven-hour drive.
I was a young teenager at the time and my sister told me that one of the boys staying at the hotel wanted to kiss me.
On our last day, I panicked, knowing this was my last chance.
I didn’t have any breath mints, so I decided to spray deodorant into my mouth.
I spent the whole drive home, crammed into the back seat with two other siblings, violently vomiting.
I still can’t stand the smell of that deodorant to this day.
Oh, and I never did kiss the boy. – Kaylee Court, Christchurch New Zealand
(Who says romance is dead? Oh, that’s right: science does.)
Earth-shattering trip to Hawaii
On my first time travelling overseas, in 2006, I went to Hawaii – only to land in Honolulu after a 6.7 earthquake had hit the place. Quite an interesting start to a holiday, I must say. – Deborah Barton, Belmont New South Wales
(Not to pile on, but scientists do believe The Big One is coming. The only question is when.)
Girls versus boys
It was my first overseas trip with my sisters and we had just arrived in a village called Salisbury, not too far from Stonehenge in England.
We were very green in terms of travel and I rarely did any research. Both my older sisters didn’t go anywhere without a travel guide book but they had left it in London at the house share we were staying in. I talked them out of bringing it. I told them we could just explore and find the tourist information centre and play it by ear.
The first thing we did was find the Youth Hostel to drop off our heavy backpacks. We were very fortunate to be given our own room, although it meant that we were not interacting with others – which could have been beneficial in this instance.
Before we headed out to visit Salisbury Cathedral, I had to use the bathroom. The only thing I remember reading (in probably a very old travel guide) was that when travelling in Europe, some hostels have unisex shared bathrooms. Unfortunately, my brain filtered that information as: ALL hostels ONLY had unisex shared toilets and bathrooms in Europe.
So, with that in mind, I found the toilets, assumed they were the only ones and told my sisters where they were. I explained emphatically that I had read that bathrooms were shared and unisex in Europe. We used those showers and toilets the whole weekend and got some pretty weird looks from the men. It didn’t occur to me that we had not seen one other girl using the toilets.
I remember coming out of the toilet cubicle thinking, “God, these smell… and they are not very female-friendly.”
One of my sisters was at the sink cleaning her teeth and a Frenchman said, “In here?” and she snapped at him and said, “So!”
The day we were leaving we walked straight past the women’s toilets – which were located near the entrance. It was spotted by all of us at the same time. We rushed in to take a look and noticed they were so much nicer and prettier in every way, with flowers on the sink and no smell.
My sisters stopped listening to anything I had to say after that and even though 20 years have passed, they still drag that story out. I still find it funny though. – Diana Pettersen, Smithfield Queensland
(Sounds like that particular men’s room needed a few of these tips.)
The case of the missing cases
We lost and recovered our luggage four times on a trip to South America.
The first time our luggage was left on the tarmac in Dallas, when we flew to Santiago, on route to Buenos Aires.
After we received the cases in Buenos Aires two days later, we boarded our ship to sail around South America and my bag didn’t turn up outside our cabin. I burst into tears and our wonderful steward searched every deck until he found it. Other passengers weren’t so lucky, not having any bags for the entire trip.
When we disembarked in Fort Lauderdale, we were offloaded at the airport but our bags were sent on to Los Angeles. When we reached Los Angeles and retrieved our luggage the following day, we flew home to Sydney. Surprise, surprise! My husband’s bag had been left in Los Angeles.
Good reason to always carry spare clothes (and a swimming costume) in your hand luggage! – Lyn Campbell, Malabar New South Wales
(Take a deep breath, Lyn, and have a read of this to make you feel better.)
Down into the pit!
We were holidaying a long time ago in the early ’90s and were travelling back to Sydney from Sydney from Melbourne when we stopped at a roadside picnic ground for a bite to eat.
The toilets were those old-fashioned pit toilets and our daughter, aged five, went off to use them by herself.
The problem was the seat was designed for an adult – and a five year old’s rear is somewhat smaller.
I got my wife to run to the toilet for fear of our daughter falling down the toilet into the pit below. As luck would have it, my wife managed to grab our daughter’s arm just before she the point of no return. – Phillip Cunningham, Mount Druitt New South Wales
(Here’s another true story of a fall that could have ended in disaster.)
Cutting down on luggage
A few years back, me and my family went on a trip to Lake Toba, North Sumatra. Before departing, I convinced my sister to pack her belongings into my luggage so we would not need to pull along too many bags – to which she agreed.
Upon boarding at the airport, I realised I’d left the key for my luggage lock at home.
I knew my dad would make a big fuss, so I quietly told my siblings. We all held on to the secret until we reached the hotel, which by then was close to midnight.
While checking in, we secretly asked our guide if the hotel could get someone to try to open the lock for us; 15 minutes later, a guy came… with a SAW.
We started laughing as the poor guy tried to saw through the lock, while my parents – who heard and came over to our room later – laughed, too.
From then on, my siblings would never share luggage with me again! – Pamela June, Petaling Jaya Malaysia
(Close one, Pamela. That could have spiralled into a full-on family feud.)
It was the mid ’70s and I was an Air Traffic Controller in Sydney. I had the Easter Saturday and Sunday rostered off and decided to go camping, as the weather was forecast to be simply superb.
I packed everything Friday and headed off at 6am Saturday for the Blue Mountains. There were a number of camping spots I knew that on a normal weekend you hardly ever saw anyone, and you needed a four-wheel drive to get to them.
I visited six sites altogether, each one was tent city with no space available for even my small tent.
I arrived home that same evening at 5pm and, as I cooked a sausage over the coals of a small fire in the brazier of my backyard in Cammeray, I decided I would never go on holiday over Easter again. – Glenn Griffin, Ormeau Queensland
(Sorry, Glenn – but you should have read Tip No.9 on our list of Top 10 Worst Camping Mistakes and How to Avoid Them.)
Lost car keys debacle
We went camping with some friends at Ocean Shores in the far north of New South Wales. On the way home we stopped at a lagoon for a swim. Everyone was having a great time swimming, until it came time to leave.
The keys for the car were gone! Nowhere to be seen.
All four adults peered into the tinted glass of the car to see if we could see them.
We called roadside assistance, but because the car was new they couldn’t get into the lock or get through the window.
We ended up sleeping in our friend’s car (four adults and three children). Thank goodness it was a wagon!
Turns out the next day they were found under a lantern. Made for a very interesting end of a good holiday, that’s for sure. – Brianna Farrall, Brisbane Queensland
(Not as dramatic as that time a lost set of keys provided the crucial evidence in a murder case.)