Your Ten Worst Holiday Travel Stories

Illustration for article titled Your Ten Worst Holiday Travel Stories

When the holidays come along, travelers get around with the poise of a chicken with its head cut off. Often, things don’t work out. These are your ten worst holiday travel stories.

10.) Gross Responsibilities

As a parent, you have to be careful with what you say to and around young children. They have easily manipulated minds and apparently, very sensitive bowel systems.

When I was eight, I took an RV trip with my family to Yosemite. I didn’t poop for an entire week because my dad said that whoever did, was in charge of emptying the sewage tank. And being eight years old, I didn’t realize that this did not include me. That was a stomach ache and a glorious dump that I will never forget.


Suggested By: AntiLag

9.) Don’t Lick Salt Shakers

$50 just to lick the top of a salt shaker sounds like a reasonable bet, until you consider the potential consequences. That’s exactly what reader Boneyard Rendezvous didn’t do.

I was in the U.S. Marine Corps and we had a block of leave coming up for 4th of July. We decided that we would go to a recently EAS’ed buddies place a couple states away and generally get drunk and raise hell. The night before we left we all went out to a steakhouse for a nice meal. Well, on a bet that involved $50, I licked a salt shaker. I figured $50 is $50.

We took off early the next day and about an hour into the trip I started to have some serious issues. My nose started running like a faucet, my eyes started to weep, I was sweating, freezing, I had a fever, and I had the bubble guts with a side of diarrhea. There were probably eight guys between three vehicles, and I was the only one who knew where we were headed.

What should have been a straight shot ended up being a prolonged race to the next rest stop, where the small convoy would pull over so I could vomit and hit the toilet. I spent the whole trip sleeping on his couch and trying to clear my sinuses in the shower.

I’ve done a lot of stupid crap, but licking that salt shaker was the worst.

Suggested By: Boneyard Rondezvous

8.) “We Hit The Road And They Are Pounding Down Beers”

It just goes to show you can’t trust those random strangers you meet on Amtrak platforms.

Left Purdue for Christmas break back around 1993. I thought it would be fun to take Amtrak from Lafayette to Minneapolis. The engine broke down outside of Chicago and we sat for a couple of hours waiting for a pull into the station in a cold dark train.

We got to the station and our connection had already left. Amtrak was kind enough to give each of us $50 vouchers for our trouble, but we were still stuck in Chicago. Four of us Purdue students, myself, two guys and a girl, got together and wondered what we should do. Do we stay at the station and wait for the next day, do we get a hotel or what.

At that time a dude walks up and says he was going to MSP and was willing to rent a car if we all chipped in. He was old enough to do such a thing. Well, ok.

We all pile in the early ‘90s rental POS and head off. Things start going further down hill about an hour out of Chicago. We stop and the dude and the two guys go into a convince store with a case of beer. We hit the road and they are pounding down beers and the girl and I are just looking at each other.

As beer goes in it wants to come out. We stop at a rest area an hour or so down the road. The girl and I are talking and it is like “WTF.” I make the call that I am taking the keys. The three amigos come back at that point, after a prolonged piss break, and ask if it is cool if they light up while we head north. No was the responce from the girl and I and I make my demand for the keys. Three amigos go in the back with the Hamms Beer and girl and I take the front.

We plot our course and I set the car for high speed mode. I was willing to take the risk of get pulled over, with three drunks in the back, as long as I was in control and we got home safe. We made it to MSP fine. I made sure the girl got dropped off first, the guys were kind of creepy, and then I got the other two dudes home before turning the car over to the older guy.

From that point on I made sure I had my own transport back home for the holidays.

Suggested By: f86sabre

7.) “Basically My Vacation Turned Into An Episode Of COPS

Never go full COPS. Never.

Easter vacation circa 2000.

My family drove down to Tampa to visit my grandmother as we always had. Our Saturn wagon was having brake problems so we got a brake job done in Fayetteville, NC at a Sears. All good for the remaining drive.

We’re driving down a local highway that has a service road adjacent, with perpendicular crossovers here and there. At one crossover, there’s a couple in some ‘80s American junk (Beretta?) stopped at the stop sign.

For some unexplained reason (we think fighting with each other) the guy guns it right as we’re passing. He t-bones us in the rear wheel and sends us into a spin, right into the center divider. Luckily the car didn’t flip. Then as my dad walks over to see what’s going on with them, he slams the car into reverse and takes off back into the trailer park. A local guy saw the accident and had my dad jump in his truck so they could chase him. I named my first pickup Curtis, after him.

Basically my vacation turned into an episode of COPS. The police had to bring out bloodhounds to track the guy down after he abandoned the car. His girlfriend ran into a trailer with two other similar women, all three with babies, so we couldn’t identify her. The guy was caught but uninsured, of course. We got a rental car and continued on our trip then picked up the repaired wagon on the way back.

Thanks to Saturn of Fayetteville and Curtis. He’s the man.

Suggested By: ToLiveNDieInNJ

6.) When In Doubt, Flat Out?

The only things this trip needed was a solid pick up truck, a decent driver, and a little “finesse.”

It happened some 20 years ago, but I can’t forget it.

Well, my dad had just bought this brand new F-1000 and had it converted to dual cab, since SUVs hadn’t been available back then. (It is pretty much the american F-150, but with a local MWM 3 liters and something diesel engine.) So, we took a trip to Caldas Novas, known for its thermal baths, heated by a dormant volcano, unpaved roads, and 1-meter rain on moonsoon season, to relax. My dad, knowing the roads, avoided travelling during rain itself on the way there. But we got mud and rain on the way back. Oh hell we did.

Well, one feature we learned to love in our pickup trucks was its a self-locking, rear-wheel drive differential. We used it. A lot. Sometimes 40 kilometers in a row, driving sideways in one foot deep mud in some places. Yes, sideways. The road was pretty arched towards the center, and allowed the water to dry up reasonably fast, but required some finesse in driving through that thin squishy slimy mud. Only motorcycles and treaded CAT construction tractors were crossing that road along with us. Small(er) cars and loaded semi-trucks were being towed by caterpillars. What was meant to be a quiet weekend at a water resort became a six hour rally through mud and heavy construction machinery on the once-paved road. The machinery kept the road usable and towed everybody else, sometimes all at once.

We left the nearly dry mud, replaced by asphalt, just in time, as it began to rain again. Well, as much you qualify someone dropping several gallons of water over your windshield per second as raining. Even the wipers knew we were hosed, as they screamed cant-see / cant-see / cant-see trying to make the road ahead of us visible. Not even the Ford logo on the front grill would be visible if it was above the hood.

We pressed on at 2 mph. Nearly hit a bridge girdle even at that speed so were essentialy driving blindfolded. The wind was now swooshing and beating down on every side, making an awfully loud clattering noise. That was not water anymore, but ice chunks the size of grapes. (Luckily my dad chose to keep the heavy steel hood instead of fiberglass, the same on the rest of pick-up, now SUV body). We thought about pulling over, when the cover of a gas station ahead of us was yanked off by the unbelievable wind, just missing one gas pump and a Beetle parked nearby. So, we pressed on, after the hint from Mother Nature. It went back to heavy rain for another 2 hours. At this point, we were measuring our progress in hours, and couldn’t care less about actual distance.

And just like that, the weather cleared, just 50 miles away from our destination. It felt like 800 miles, but still we made it in one piece. My dad had his shoulders hurting for two days after all that swerving, like we were onboard with Colin McRae. That was a freak storm though, according to the local news.


Suggested By: Gonemad

5.) All Is Fair In Love And Rally

Illustration for article titled Your Ten Worst Holiday Travel Stories

These rally nuts just couldn’t catch a break.

I’m slightly stretching the limits of what qualifies as “holiday travel,” but it happened during Thanksgiving, so bear with me:

Two years ago my friend Danny Grant and I decided the best way to celebrate an American holiday like Thanksgiving was to drive up to Canada and compete in the Tall Pines rally. We made our plans, the entry fee was paid, and as Thanksgiving (departure day) approached everything was looking good. Then, less than 48 hours before we were scheduled to set off Danny texts me that he rolled the car during testing.

In addition to the body damage it damaged both the front and rear suspension, putting the whole trip at risk. He told me to come up to his place in northern New Hampshire as planned, and he’d tried to get the car fixed. I drove up the evening before Thanksgiving and he’d almost finished fixing the car. I helped finish the repairs and we headed to his place to get some sleep before starting the 7 hour drive. As we drove to his house it began snowing, which wouldn’t have been a problem if not for the summer tires on his STi. He nearly put it in a ditch doing 10 miles an hour on a straight road.

The next morning we go back to the shop (in my car, an Outback on snow tires) to load the rally car, and discover the rally car battery is dead. We can’t get my car to the rally car because the trailer’s in the way, but no problem, we can jump it with his truck.

His truck’s battery is dead.

We end up deciding to try a bump start on the rally car. There’s a 40 foot hill we can get the car moving on, but then it’s a few small trees, immediately followed by a river. There’s no way the two of us will be able to push the car back up the hill if it doesn’t work, so we’ve only got the one shot at it.

He gets in, I give the car a shove down the hill, he waits as long as he dares, drops the clutch, and as the engine starts up he’s immediately on the clutch and the brakes, stopping just before the trees. We jump the truck with the car, load the car, and get on the road, him driving the truck, and me driving my car, which will be the recce car for the rally. Because of the fiasco we’ve now got about eleven hours to get to Bancroft, Ontario. Less than we’d like, especially since we’re towing in a blizzard, but still well more than enough to get there. We’re cruising up the interstate towards the border, joking back and forth on the two way radio, then I hear Danny go “Oh shit!” followed by silence. In my mirror I can see him slow and swing hard into the shoulder. I immediately pull over myself.

“I think I just had a tire go flat,” he finally says. I back up to him, get out, and take a look. Good news? No flat. Bad news? Well...

Somehow the eight lugnuts on the left front had managed to disappear, causing the tire to come off and leaving the truck sitting on the brake rotor. The threads of the studs were filled with chunks of the wheel, and a few were bent. Fortunately we had a trailer full of tools. We jacked the truck up and spent the next hour on the side of the interstate, cleaning the crap out of the threads and straightening the studs. We took two lug nuts off of the three other wheels and used them to secure the left front back on the truck. Surely there’s no real need to have all eight lug nuts on each wheel, right?

Down to less than three hours of cushion, we get back on the road. We get to the border and while I get through no problem they want to go through the bins and stuff in the trailer. A little over two hours of cushion. We’re driving below the speed limit because Danny says trying to maintain speed with the trailer is a little “puckery,” but we’re finally on the move and making good progress. Things are going well.

Then we hit Montreal. At 4:30. On a Thursday.

If you’ve never experienced such a joy, imagine trying to drive through New York or Boston at rush hour. Now imagine a semi truck rolled over ahead of you. Now have the overturned truck T-boned by a bus. Filed with orphans. That’s Montreal. It took 90 minutes to cross the city. We now had 80 minutes of cushion. Fortunately after we cleared Montreal traffic became sparse. We were free and clear, nothing could stand in our way now! Except Ottowa, the nation’s capital. Another 45 minutes lost to traffic. It was now dark, the snow was coming down harder, and our pace was slower. But even with the time loss we were looking good to make it with about 20 minutes to go. But then Danny’s fuel light came on. Find gas, fill truck, take a piss, back on the road. At this point we’re one eye on the road, one on the clock. Best guess from the GPS is we’ll get there less than five minutes before registration close. The GPS says to turn left on a side road. I make the turn and find myself on a road made of 77% dirt and 23% ice. Danny calls for an alternate route, I find one that looks to be five minutes longer. But it’s our only option. We get to registration two minutes after closing time. Fortunately thanks to the weather they decided to stay open an extra hour, so we were still able to register.

As a bonus, while doing recce in my car the next day we found a rock and bent one of the front struts. But on the positive the rally itself went brilliantly.


Suggested By: Dusty Ventures, Photo Credit: Dusty Ventures

4.) Did Someone Say Flight Cancellation?

Awful airline service, sleep-deprivation, and building fires always make for good holiday travel stories.

Some context: I’m Brazilian, but from 2007 - 2011 I lived in Boston where I went to university. As you may know, Christmas in Brazil is during the summer. We don’t have snow, or cold or anything like that here. Obviously, that is not the case in Boston. So traveling home at the end of fall semester was a chance to escape the cold and the snow and the short days, and get back home to family, friends, and heat.

There are many ways to fly to São Paulo from Boston, but the most popular ones are through New York, Miami or Atlanta. There is no direct flight.

In December 2007, I had the misfortune to have my flight delayed by heavy snow in Boston, making me stay stranded there for 2 extra days, getting home on December 23. I really hoped it wouldn’t happen to me again in 2008, and I took some precautionary measures like booking the BOS>NY flight several hours earlier than the NYC>Brazil flight. This was so that in case my flight got cancelled again, I could maybe take the train to NY and board my plane to Brazil, anyway.

Another important thing: in 2008, most people (including me) had “dumb” phones.

When the day came, I checked the weather forecast. Boston had had a little snow, but nothing too serious. Planes were flying out of Logan normally. I took a cab to the airport at around 2 PM and when I got there I managed to check in and the lady assured me assured my plane would be on time and all of that. Relaxed, I sat down, and waited for the time to leave. I could see the plane outside, so I thought that was that and I would be home on time.

Little did I know.

When the time came to board, nothing happened. Then, the announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, your plane is ready but the flight crew that is supposed to man it is stranded in North Carolina. They will be delayed for about 2 hours.”


Fine. That was within my time frame, still, but having checked in and all that, my plans to take the train if necessary were shot. I would have to board that plane.

The crew was actually delayed for a lot over two hours. By the time they did arrive, I was completely panicking. My connection window just became something like 40 minutes. The lady at the counter assured me that I would make it, but even if I didn’t, she already scheduled me on the next flight out of NY - which was on the next day.

So I boarded the plane, pissed off, and off we went to NY. It’s supposed to be a 30 minute journey, but the time spent taxiing and waiting for clearance on the ground makes it closer to an hour. Not good.

When we landed at JFK, the TV screen on the plane went on. The flight attendant said that if our connection showed on the screen, it was still possible to make the plane. Mine was up there. It left from terminal E. We arrived at terminal A, pretty much on the opposite end of a croissant shaped major airport with no skytrain.

By now it was around 11:50 PM and my flight was scheduled to leave at 00:10. I never ran so quickly in my life, managed to make it to the gate, only to see the door closed and literally see the plane backing out and leaving. Some movie shit. I was so angry I didn’t even know what to say or do, but I learned that it’s best to be nice to the people who work for the airplane companies, and so I calmly showed the lady my scheduled ticket for the next day, and asked her if it looked OK and if I could just come back tomorrow. “I don’t know,” she said. “You’d better check at the check-in counter outside security.” So off I went.

I got there at 1:00 AM, approximately. That’s when I saw it - a long line of very pissed off people speaking (and gesturing) mostly in Italian.

What had happened there was that American Airlines had kept these people inside a plane, on the ground for 6 hours, with no food, before telling them that the plane was broken because of the weather and they would not be able to fly to Rome that night. This did NOT make a plane full of Italian people happy, and they were very eager to demonstrate this to the agents at the counter. One at a time. All I wanted to know was if I was truly on the flight the next day, but by the time all of them were done with their oscar-worthy demonstrations of indignation it was circa 3:00.

I finally got to the counter and received good news: yes, I was on the flight on the next day. The bad news, though, was what was making people even more pissed off: Apparently I’d have to go pick up my luggage since it was ticketed straight to São Paulo, but my flight left without me & my bags. They were holding it downstairs, so down I went, where I found half of that same group of passengers who were instructed to do the same.

I had no idea where I would stay - no way would it be one of those shitty cots provided by JFK. I didn’t have proper internet access and my shitty phone barely sent SMS messages. Fortunately, I met a nice English man while in line waiting to pick up my bags. He knew of a hostel in Manhattan. I got to the counter at around 4:00 AM, where the man told me that not only did I NOT have to pick up my bags, I actually COULDN’T pick them up, because they were already ticketed to São Paulo. By this point I was just so beyond angry that I just started laughing at everything.

Anyway, the English guy & I shared one of those sketchy black cabs (no yellow ones at 4 AM) to Manhattan, and we arrived at the hostel. This was around 5 A.M. I checked in, and the lady gave me keys and told me check-out was at 10 A.M, a statement that made me laugh much harder than she was probably expecting. I would certainly be paying extra to sleep in. Finally I got to the room, and just laid down knowing at least I’d fly home the next day.


That’s what I woke up to about three hours later. I remember opening my eyes and seeing a fireman, in full uniform, wielding an axe. “Out now! The building’s on fire!”


It was true. Something happened with the boiler and it blew up and there was a fire starting and they decided the best thing was to evacuate the whole building. I had enough time to quickly get dressed, grab my backpack and my phone, and walk outside where it was freezing cold. No one was allowed back in. Even worse, as I was trying to dial home to let my parents know about all that had happened after I missed my flight, some kids who were still drunk from the night before knocked my phone into the NYC slush and basically killed it. Nice.

Well, I didn’t even bother to check out. In the end I got a room at a Radisson hotel, for the day, where I couldn’t sleep because I was so afraid of missing my flight again while taking a nap. I got a new phone and some clothes for the day, too. Finally, at night, I did actually get on the plane, where my seat entertainment system didn’t work but I was so tired I just slept through the whole flight, anyway.

So, that one sucked pretty bad, and I learned that flights coming back from Miami were way less prone to snow issues. Never happened again.


Suggested By: Mers

3.) Jail On New Years

Lessons to learn here are: Never forget to pay for your gas and never trust the judicial system.

I have three sons. Two live in Ohio and one lives in SD. I live in DC. I see them as much as I can. Established.

Last year I was getting us all together for Christmas. So I drove up to Cleveland and flew to SD to pick up the younger one. We drove back to Cleveland and spent about 10 days together, had a great time.

On the drive back, we were almost home when I had to stop for gas. Pulled up on the wrong side to the pump (rental). Jeez. Got back in swung over to another pump. Filled. Left.

Ten minutes down the road from the gas station, I get pulled over. I thought it was because my plate had fallen off (I actually noticed at the gas station but I had driven about 600 miles that day so who knows what ditch it was in). Nope. I had not put my card in to the second pump. So the station called the cops because all they know is that I filled my car and drove off.

Minor problem, right? We go back to pay and I can go off on my way right? Nope. He tells me to put my hands behind my back (remember my kid is in the car) and arrests me. We sit there for 20 minutes and he confirms that I will be transferred to the county that had the warrant for me. What warrant? Oh you failed to appear for a speeding ticket in 2008.


I am taken to jail 90 minutes away with my kid in the back seat, me handcuffed in front. The mother is called. The cop takes me to meet her on the highway so she can take my son. She smiles gleefully at the sight of me in cuffs (no way she brought that up to the family court judge, right?). I am booked and bonded and bailed hours later and ordered to appear in court. Now I have to spend New Years Eve in shithole Rapid City SD instead of Chicago (planned overnight layover) with friends.

When I get back home I find the documentation that I paid those cunts years ago, before the court date. They dropped the charges.


Suggested By: skipstheboss

2.) Unaccompanied Minors Gone Wrong

Be thankful for modern radar and communication systems. If this happened in today’s world, it probably wouldn’t go over so well.

Way back in the day, my brother an I were flying from my mom’s house in L.A. to Denver to see my Father for the holidays. We were on Braniff (see I told ya - way back in the day), and flying unaccompanied even though my brother was 10 and I was 6, when we were caught in a horrible winter storm. The pilot was good about keeping us up to date on the situation, but by the looks on the flight attendant’s faces, we all could tell things were looking grim. With the storm getting worse, airports closing and fuel running low, we lost communication with ground control and dropped off radar (we, or rather my parents, were all told this, after the fact), so the pilot, a former Air Force aviator, decided on a last ditch run to a soon to be shuttered base in Nebraska or somewhere where he had previously served.

My mother got a phone call from a Braniff representative informing her that our plane was lost and presumed to have crashed, and to prepare for the worst. They even offered to send a car for her to take her to the airport where she could wait with the other families. She was trying to not completely lose her shit when the phone rang again and I was on the other end of the line, super excited because there were all these cool planes and why was she crying?

See, they took me off the plane first because I was SOOO cute and I had to pee SOOO bad, but on the way saw a phone and asked to call home. Mom was on the phone to Braniff in L.A. trying to tell them where their plane was and convince them that she was not just a raving loon, when the pilot finally got through to corporate to tell them the same thing. We had to wait out the storm where we were, but when we got to Denver, Mom and Dad were there to meet us, and it was the best Christmas ever (even though I didn’t really understand why at the time).


Suggested By: benlama1

1.) “I Joined The Navy And Have Talked Little To My Family Since”

When this reader realized his parents wouldn’t be there for him, he took his life into his own hands.

When I was 17 my grandfather was very ill and dying. He was in Northern California and I lived with my mom in Los Angeles. My parents were divorced and my dad lived only two hours from my grandpa. My mom was going to leave Christmas afternoon to go see my grandfather. My dad was in town to see me, and agreed to take me up the next day.

On Christmas morning, my dad let me know that because his new wife and step kids were planning a mountain trip that he could not take me. My mom was leaving in a couple hours and it was her responsibility because it was her father. He said he had a new family and that I would not be joining them on their vacation. His new wife said that she did not want someone grieving ruining a fun winter trip. I left right away and went home. My mom was surprised I was there, when I told her what happened she was not too shocked. She then said that she would have to see who in the family could take me in for the week, while she went to see my grandfather. No mention of taking me, no mention of trying to get me to see my grandfather. My own mother was calling around trying to dump me on someone’s porch.

While she was distracted I packed up a bag, grabbed my backpack and headed to a friends house. On Christmas day I had to ask my friends mom if I could stay for a while as I was not welcome by my family. I then called my mom, who was freaking out at first and then relieved that someone would take care of me. I did not move back home for a month. I had a job and paid for food and other necessities myself.

When I did move back home it was a rough 12 months. I then joined the Navy and have talked to my family little since.


Suggested By: SOCdriver

Welcome back to Answers of the Day - our daily Jalopnik feature where we take the best ten responses from the previous day’s Question of the Day and shine it up to show off. It’s by you and for you, the Jalopnik readers. Enjoy!


Top Photo Credit: AP Images

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