Travel

An Ode To Bad Family Vacations

An Ode To Bad Family Vacations

What were your family trips like when you were younger? Mine were notoriously bad…

Growing up, I was obsessed with how relaxed other families looked on their vacations. Even when we were lucky enough to take a trip, I would compare our experience with any nearby family who seemed to be having a better time. Who were these families that told each other jokes while waiting for a table at a restaurant? Or who played sports together and then all said “Good game”?

The trips my family took felt similar to the opening of a John Hughes movie. There was always the following: an overpacked car that was likely missing crucial luggage (sometimes a kid), sibling pranks gone too far and minor accidents minutes after arriving (swollen arms from bee stings, chipped teeth from bouncing off unfamiliar furniture). But, funnily enough, the stories from those stressful moments have united my family more than the vacation experiences my 12-year-old self envied ever could.

So, to celebrate those imperfect trips, I asked family and friends to share their personal horror stories:

“When I was little, our family drove to Florida. The car radio was broken, and our mom only had one CD — her new Cat Power album. We listened to it for 17 hours. When we finally got to the beach, and we went swimming, I swear I could hear the first song off the album every time I went underwater. Without question, a decade later, I still know every. single. lyric.” — Owen, my younger brother

“One summer, my mom and dad loaded the six of us into our station wagon and drove to the nearby lake, where my dad loved to fish. But, on the way home, we broke down — on a highway, on a cliff. There we were, in the heat of summer, sitting next to 12 dead trout in a cooler. My dad hitchhiked back to town to find help, and the ice for the fish melted before he even left. The smell of the rotting fish got worse and worse, and we sat there for hours, helpless and miserable. My dad finally arrived with my aunt’s clean car, but just as we were about to pull away, he grabbed the cooler and put it on the backseat next to us again.” — Sharon

“One of the things I love about my parents (in retrospect) was that they handled any vacation disasters with humor and grace, but I’d say it’s pretty ridiculous that we didn’t figure out that I was allergic to orange juice for literally my whole childhood. Since we always left for vacation early in the mornings, my parents would push a ‘healthy breakfast.’ As a result, I threw up on literally every vacation. At first, we thought I just had air sickness, but then I started throwing up in the car on the way to the airport. We drove to Cape Cod every summer, and there are several parking lots that I still fondly remember as Places I Vomited. At some point (in college), I figured out that it was the OJ, and I haven’t had any ‘motion sickness’ since then!” — Anna

“In the 1970s, my parents took my two brothers and me to San Francisco on our way to Disneyland. We were staying at a swanky hotel, and my parents decided to go to the rooftop bar — and leave my older brother (12) in charge of my younger brother and me. We decided to have a huge pillow fight. One of the pillows tore open, and the feathers were like a blinding snowstorm. Desperate to clean up the mess before our parents returned, we left to hunt for a vacuum in a housekeepers’ closet — but that resulted in the three of us getting locked out of the room. At that point, the only solution was to go up to the rooftop bar, in our pajamas, covered in feathers. I don’t remember much about our visit to Disneyland, but I still remember the feeling of dread as we waited for the elevator doors to slide open.” — John

“Our family took a cross-country road trip, so my parents were stuck in a ’56 Buick with two small children for hour upon hour, day upon day, and my brother, who was maybe seven, pretty much filled up every spare second singing ‘dum dum dum dum dum dum dum dum DUM DUM,’ from Bonanza (a popular western show), until my parents’ eyes were rolling back in their heads. On day three, he got distracted and went silent for a few minutes. Finally, he said, ‘Wait, I totally forgot, how does that song go again?’ and everyone just sat there with their lips pursed, totally silent.” — Alex

“My huge extended family decided to take a trip to a water park one town away. We showed up with over thirty people — mostly hyper little kids. We even brought my 86-year-old grandpa. It was pure chaos. During our sad bologna sandwich picnic, we realized it had been hours since we had seen my grandpa. Everyone was running around looking for him, including the kids. He was nowhere to be found. Just as we really started to panic, my aunt Debbie finally spotted him waiting patiently in line for Paradise Plunge — the tallest water slide in the entire park.” — Julie

What about you? Did any of your family trips take a turn for the worse?

P.S. How to plan the best vacation, and have you ever traveled alone?

(Photo via ElectroSpark.)

  1. Nicole says...

    That last story has me literally crying with laughter!! Go, Gramps!

  2. This reminds me of a story at the airport ~ so basically we were all getting out of the plane and there was this narrow one way escalator that was going up. It was very high when you reach the top, also. So this guy in front of us drops his airplane pillow onto the ground, I was laughing so hard and he and his wife were laughing too but there was no way to get it now. I had to hurry because I had a connecting flight, so I have no idea was happened after.

  3. Andria says...

    These are great vacation fail stories. Here’s mine: our family of five always vacationed at a quaint beach resort that was completely open, except for the one tiny bathroom. As a result, everyone could see and hear everyone all the time. One night after we had all gotten into bed, we heard mom yell at dad who was sleeping next to her, “get that hot thing off of me!” We were appalled, until we realized that dad had been reading with a flashlight and accidentally dropped it onto her. We literally laughed ourselves to sleep.

    • Oh my goodness Andria, I’m laughing so hard with your story!!! That’s hilarious!

  4. Shelley says...

    My family’s version of vacationing was driving hundreds of miles covering as many provinces as possible and staying at the most obscure campsites. My parents would drag a tent trailer (with not two but three wings!), put an aluminum boat upside-down on top of the car and pack the trunk full of sleeping bags, coolers, and suitcases (all carefully orchestrated by my mother). Then they would pack all seven of us into the car, four kids in the back and the fifth between them in the front bench seat. Whenever Dad got tired of driving, he would pull over to the side of the road and nap, during which all five kids had to remain completely quiet (!). One time, Dad woke up, put the car in gear and drove off, leaving my poor mom in the field looking at the wild roses of Alberta! We all yelled at Dad to stop and get Mom. Dad agreed, because Mom was the cook of the family. Five decades later, we’re still laughing about that!

  5. Em says...

    The second to last and third to last stories literally made me LOL :) Love this post!

  6. beks says...

    when my Dad is reminiscing something he often says is “we didn’t go on many fancy vacations, but we did a lot of camping” Neither a positive or negative statement.

    The highlights:
    Losing and leaving my sister at a rest stop for hours.
    The dog sticking her head in a beehive.
    Me bleeding profusely from my head and getting stitched at the catholic hospital surrounded by terrifying saints pictures.
    Shaking my flaming marshmallow to put out the flames and flinging it into my mothers hair.

  7. Sally says...

    We’re in the UK, and on one holiday, when I was about 13 and my sister 16, we went to the Isle of Wight (small island halfway between England and Ireland). It rained for the solid week. My overriding memory is walking through the town, in pouring rain, to a boat museum. We were the only visitors, so the members of staff literally fell on us, and one guy insisted on giving us a tour. He walked us through every room, which was just boat, after boat, after boat, speaking at length about each one. It was appalling.

  8. This beautiful piece of holiday experience took me back to my childhood days. Truly, traveling with parents gives a sense of security, me and brother were naughty, It was hard to control us on streets, chasing and catching was daunting to my father sometimes. My father is very attentive and careful when it comes to dressing on Holiday. During winters we used to take a separate bag completely filled with sweaters, monkey caps and mufflers. Despite such perfect arrangement, missing something was common on a holiday. Even a small imperfection on a holiday creates great memories. I thank Stella Blackmon for sharing the genuine memory which is evocative.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Couldn’t agree more, Jill! Thank you for your sweet comment. xoxox

  9. Heather says...

    This is making me laugh so much! One trip comes to mind for us – we were doing a loop through Virginia to visit colleges for my older brother and sister. I was too young to care yet, so I was miserable and bored. At one point, I sort of convinced my brother to dare me to sing “The Song that Never Ends” non-stop for an hour in the car…. and I did. Everyone HATED that hour of our lives, to me it was hilarious, and I definitely lost my voice by the end of it. Oh and I threw up in a TGI Fridays on that trip too.

  10. Charlene Maxwell says...

    About ten years ago my extended family and I were on vacation at a resort. About seven of us all went on the lazy river together and naturally got a little separated but stayed mostly together. At the end we realized my dad was nowhere to be found. We figured he went back to the ro but he wasn’t there. He didn’t turn up for several hours and when he finally did he admitted he had thought the lazy river was back where we started and gotten off and then became lost in this big resort. I still die laughing thinking of my dad wandering around a resort with no shoes and my mom from the balcony of the room, panicked and scanning below with a pair of binoculars.

  11. Katie says...

    I thought my family trips were great! Five kids and me the youngest sleeping on top of the luggage in the wood paneled station wagon. My brother making spit snowballs against the window if it was winter.
    I’ve heard other great stories like my old boyfriend who’s dad insisted they take the 6 kids in one car for once and bolted a hanging bunk to the roof of their pinto station wagon. He removed the seats below and all the kids laid down in two rows of 3. Half way through the drive the bolts pulled out and squashed the lower kids. They just kept going.
    But the saddest is my current boyfriend. He’s never taken his two kids on a trip ever. I asked if he’d gone on any as a kid, maybe not as number 5 of 7 kids. He said the only trip they ever took was a road trip from Idaho to Indiana to visit…the casket factory!! His family owned the local funeral home. How sad is that. You can’t make that stuff up. Poor guy!

    • Luna GC says...

      Love it! hahaha.

  12. The one about grandpa and the water slide had be actually LOLing.

  13. Kiley says...

    These stories have me cracking up! We took a lot of road trips as kids, one of the more memorable ones was from Ohio to Salt Lake City, Utah and back for a family reunion. My parents, grandparents, brother and I were crammed into a minivan and trying to hit as many National Parks as we possibly could. I was maybe 7 or 8 and had a special blanket, and as we were driving home through the Badlands I realized that I’d left “blankie” in the hotel. We’d already been driving for over an hour, and I knew they’d be mad, but the whole family turned around to go back and get my blanket. That’s love right there.

    • Melanie says...

      This sounds so familiar to my family! We were driving from Zion NP to Bryce when my little sister realized she had left her beloved stuffed animal at the hotel near Zion. We drove all the way back (I’m not sure why we didn’t call first), but no stuffed animal could be located. My sister was devastated.

      Months later my dad got a call at work. The stuffed animal had been discovered in one of the housekeeping closets; they would ship it to our house. Decades later – my sister is now in her late 20s – and she still sleeps with that beloved stuffed animal. (And he’s been on a few more crazy adventures in the meantime!)

  14. Meredith says...

    shared misery becomes a fond memory!

    • Luna GC says...

      Brilliant ?

  15. Ramona says...

    My husband’s Italian stepmom tells a hilarious story about how her family went on some lame vacation to a lake that involved a long car drive. The pope died the day they were leaving, so her mom insisted on listening to the pope’s funeral in Italian on the radio the whole way there. Then while they were at the lake the new pope died, so of course they had to listen to his funeral in Italian the whole way back!

  16. Oh my goodness, where to begin? I’m the oldest of five, and every summer my parents would pack all five of us up into our Suburban and drive us from Houston, TX to Arizona, Colorado, or California. There was the time my mom accidentally locked my infant brother in the adjoining motel room in Albuquerque, and the maintenance staff had to literally break down the door to get him out. Or the (many) times my mom got pulled over in New Mexico and barked at us to “look sad!” as the officer approached the vehicle (never worked). Or the seven-mile hike we took at a stop in Marfa that ended with all five kids crying and my dad walking seven miles back by himself to fetch the car. Or the time a bat flew into our cabin in Arizona and my grandfather tried to catch it with a fishing net as the fourteen kids upstairs (us plus cousins) hunkered down because the oldest cousin decided to tell us all that there was a bear in the house. Come to think of it, should I be writing a memoir about this stuff?

    • Luna GC says...

      This whole comment thread could be one memoir. I would buy it too!

  17. JB says...

    We had a few but here’s two that are great memories now. We lived in BC and would take ski holidays during the winter. We were NOT wealthy, but my parents had 3 kids with ski equipment and so bought a 1970 Dodge Monaco to fit everyone. This thing was a boat and we called it the “Mudshark.” After a day of skiing, with all three of us piled across the back seat, we were heading home down a snowy mountain road when the engine quit. Instead of parking it in a snowbank and waiting for help, my dad threw it in neutral and we COASTED home down a MOUNTAIN SIDE with very little steering control and no automatic brakes. We survived.

    We also grew up with multiple dogs and so long road trips always ended up with kids covered in dog hair, the interior of the car stinking like dog breath, and dogs whining for pee breaks (love dogs, though!). We had a lab named Cooper, who, after a lonnng drive to the beautiful beaches of Tofino was dying to get out. We parked, my dad opened the door and Cooper FLEW out of the car, careened down the beach to the alarmed screams of beachgoers where he ran in to the shallows, did the full crouch, and pooped right into the ocean in front of everyone, while we stood awkwardly in the parking lot pretending we did not know that dog.

    • OMG Cooper!! So very funny!

    • Pamela says...

      Omg this is hilarious

    • Gretchy says...

      What a great dog story!

  18. Sarah says...

    These are so great! Loved reading this post!

  19. Rena says...

    We had our family vacation last month – 10 people, 3 generations, 4 kids under 6.
    I was the one that planned everything and unfortunately for me, I was the one having meltdowns because we were such a disorganized group :(. Never ever doing it again! Travelling with just my husband and two kids sounds so easy after this trip!

  20. Meg says...

    We were with my husband’s family in England a few years ago for a family wedding. My parents-in-law had rented a mini van, which was already tricky on the very narrow country lanes with a lot of blind curves due to the hedgerows. It was a manual, but my MIL wasn’t comfortable shifting with her left hand, so she was driving and clutching while my FIL was shifting gears! Not really a two man job! My life was flashing before my eyes.

    The van also later got stuck in a parking garage, but that’s another story…

  21. The big trip my parents and I always did was NYC because growing up it was (and still is) my big dream to live there. Our last trip going with both my parents was right after they separated but still wanted to take me together. At the start of this trip, I remember thinking how funny it was to be going on a trip with divorced parents. However, that isn’t why I remember it. My dad’s minor cold he started the trip with turned into a massive one that would later be diagnosed as pneumonia. My mom and I were left to navigate NYC on our own. We went on Christmas, but it turns out NYC kind of shuts down on Christmas so there was no one around and we ended up walking from SoHo back to our hotel on Bryant park (over 40 blocks) trying to find at least one open store to wander into with no luck. Later in the day, my dad was so excited about the restaurant he had reserved for dinner but our waiter was so drunk and spilled water all over us and had to get sent home before our meal was over. It was horrifying and hysterical. After this incident, we headed over to see Jersey Boys, a show my dad was dying to see, and our “great” seats were in the very last row with obstructed view. About 15 minutes into the show my dad had to leave because he was so ill. Apparently an usher felt so bad for him that he brought him a pillow and had him sit on the stairs so he could rest his head against the wall and still watch the show. And the next morning when we try and start the day on a positive note, I have to bring to my father’s attention he booked two flights from Maine to NYC instead of a round trip. We ended up being stranded until midnight in the lobby of our hotel when we could finally head out to the airport. I foundly recall this to my parents as the worst Christmas ever and we still laugh about it and swear to never spend a Christmas in New York.

    • Luna GC says...

      This is my favourite comment. Thank you for sharing :)

  22. Emma says...

    On a trip to NYC when I was sixteen, my dad, my two siblings, and I took the ferry for the obligatory trip past the Statue of Liberty. My mum stayed back at the terminal because she has a severe hatred of boats.
    We make it over and my sister (eight at the time) had to go to the washroom. As the other girl, it was my job to take her so off we went. For whatever reason, she decided that this was going to be a 10 minute trip where she locked herself in a stall and would not come out. It quickly devolved into me yelling at her, her yelling at me because I wasn’t her mum, and a bunch of mothers yelling at us for being rude to each other. We finally leave the washroom and realise that they’ve JUST closed the doors to the ferry going back and my brother and dad are already on it. Since we decided that we were going to save money on the trip, none of us had gotten international texting plans and I couldn’t contact my dad. Cue me having a crying meltdown while I tried to convince a staff member to either let me and my sister on the ferry or to let my dad and brother off. Sister is also crying at this point. Then the (lovely) Italian grandmother next to us got into it too, lecturing this poor man about breaking these poor babies hearts and hugging me while telling him that he was a disgrace. I think she might have actually shoved me, holding my sister, in front of him at one point and told him to look at these poor babies and see the damage he was doing. Honestly, I owe that man a serious apology.
    They did let my dad and brother off eventually (I think they had to do an announcement which was mortifying for my brother) and we took the next ferry back. Which, as it turns out, had a man have a major heart attack and required medical response. My poor mum, waiting back at the terminal, thought it was my dad when we didn’t get off that ferry. (Lack of texting plan strikes again!) So when we final caught up with her, she was hysterical and that set me and my sister off again. I’m pretty sure my dad wanted to kill us all.
    This was the same trip where we got lost every day and missed connecting trains to and from Canada (since my mum doesn’t fly). Since then, I’m the designated pet sitter while the rest of the family goes on trips.

  23. Ann says...

    My friend told me of the time she and her husband and young son were driving down to Savannah GA from NYC overnight for a vacation. She herself and her son Brendan were sleeping in the back of their old Suv for most of the journey. Her husband stopped off to get gas halfway through the trip and while he was inside the gas station paying for gas and whatnot she decided to use the bathroom and yes you can guess what happened..he got back into his jalopy thinking wifey and kiddo were fast asleep in the back of the jalopy and proceeded for hours before he realized wifey was not in the car. Meanwhile the drama was unfolding at the pitstop where she had went to spend a penny. Cops were called and she could not for the life of her tell the cops what make of vehicle husbando was driving. Eventually he was located and he had to turn back to get her but it was picture no sound for a couple of days!

  24. Mine was fun but somewhat mechanical… we did loads of tours but because I didn’t know any better, I enjoyed most of it even when we were forced to eat Chinese food in Greece (and we came from SEA where we have authentic Asian food everyday) lol.

  25. Reem says...

    These stories and comments are so lovely! Also, I have such profound appreciation for my parents now that I am older and understand what has to go into planning a family vacation with little kids…God bless parents everywhere!

  26. I have some very happy family vacation memories but the one that stands out was a trip from central California to visit my mom’s college roommate, then living with her family in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was 1978 and we were riding in style in my mom’s brand-new light blue Monte Carlo. I was 10, my sister KO was 7, and we were pretty good travelers. As the drive across Nevada unfolded, we chewed wad after wad of purple grape bubble gum. Eventually, one of us (I don’t recall which one of us) lost a wad of that gum in my mom’s new car. We hunted on the sly, terrified of what my mother would do, and when we finally found it, the gum was stuck to my sister’s favorite blanket. We were so relieved and for years afterward, the chunk of purple gum stuck in the white knit blanket was a reminder of the fact that we dodged big time trouble with my parents.

  27. jac says...

    Me and my dad would drive to Disneyland every year after school got out. We went to Denny’s for every meal and I “made” my dad listen to Ace of Base for all 6 hours. Made is a strong word.

  28. kirstin says...

    I lived in a small seaside town, miles from anywhere, or anything… and I got car sick – seriously, violent horrifically carsick within an hour….. but it took about 8 hours to get to my grandmother’s house. Every summer my brother and I were driven to Sydney to stay with Nanna, and the entire trip was punctuated by the sound and smell of me vomiting. Needless to say, as a family I only recall one family holiday, as my parents always worked for themselves. We took a house boat on the Hawkesbury River for a week, it was amazing. I was about 8, my brother 6 years old. My dad fell off the roof of the boat and broke his leg, so I had to drive the boat into a harbour for first aid… I was so proud of myself. I can’t wait to take my own son on this same holiday someday soon.

  29. Maria says...

    We’ve had quite a few ones – two that come to mind:

    1) One summer, after a 10 hour drive we were in the garage on the building we lived and whilst my parents unpacked the car me and my younger brother took our scooters and kept circling the lot (it was safer than it sounds). Eventually my brother fell from his scooter and LOST A TOOTH! As he was loosing his baby teeth and growing his permanent ones, none of us was sure if the fallen tooth was a permanent one, so my parents decided to call our dentist, who happened to live nearby. She said to come to her apartment so that she could check, and there we were, Sunday late-night, after a 10 hour drive, on her living room awaiting a diagnosis. Luckily the tooth turned out to be a baby one, so it was all for nothing, but phew!

    2) When I was a teenager we took a three-week trip all the way from San Diego to Alaska. On the second-day, in LA, my mom saw a KitchenAid mixer in a color/size/spec she couldn’t find anywhere back home, and so decided to purchase it. The thing was massive and rode in the middle of our rental car for the rest of the trip, as it wouldn’t fit on the trunk. It became more interesting when my then-boyfriend (now husband) joined us halfway through the trip, and the three of us took turns having the mixer in our laps/legroom (eyes rolling). We still joke about this mixer (which, btw, we actually ended up seeing in literally every William’s Sonoma through the West Coast, in the exact same color/size/spec)!

  30. Em says...

    I LOVE all these vacation stories from back in the day, but I have a funny one from just last year. It was the first time my family had been on vacation together in almost a decade, and it was almost like we forgot how to do it. This was especially true for my parents, who just said “wow….” as we sped past tourist attractions. I tried to get everyone to slow down and savor the moment, but it became more about getting things done. You know how that goes with vacations…

    Anyway, the funniest and most modern issue involved Uber. My Mom is very cute and tech-savvy, but could not understand Uber to save her life. She would “call the taxi” on her phone, then run up the street trying to find it. I would yell back that “they’re coming to US!!!” but she was already long gone. Once the car arrived we’d all get in and then have to sit waiting for my Mom to walk back with a huge scowl on her face. Haha

  31. Courtenay says...

    Ive been laughing out loud at so many of these comments. Thank you for such a great post!

    As for my family vacations, I grew up on Vancouver Island and spent the summers camping at various locations on the island. If you know the west coast of BC at all you know rain is inevitable. My mom, sister, dad and I would cram into the cab of the truck and my dad would always say “We’re going camping and we’re going to have fun damn it!”. One particular trip we pulled into our campsite and there were dark, gloomy clouds above us. The three ladies made my dad spend the next half hour putting up a tarp over the entire site by himself. Well it happened to be black tarp and made midday feel like 9pm. Needless to say my dad was not happy when we made him take the tarp down; be we kindly reminded him “we were having fun”. We still joke about the black tarp incident 20 years later :)

  32. Celeste says...

    These stories have me cry-laughing at my desk. Thank you, Stella!

  33. Irina says...

    My worst vacation memory is from when I went to visit my sister, who lives in Hawaii, several years ago. My parents also flew in and we all had a really good time together up until the last day, when my sister decided to treat us to a boat trip to see Kauai’s beautiful Na Pali coast. As a child, I used to get motion sickness real bad, but it got better with age, and I was assured that the boat was large enough that the ride wouldn’t be too bumpy, and that the boat would not go out to sea at all if the water was really rough. Just in case, though, I took a Dramamine before we headed out and was careful not to eat too much before or during the ride. None of it helped. About half an hour into the 3 or 4-hour trip, I got so sick that all I could do was lie flat on the deck, face down, eyes closed. People had to walk around me, and a crew member wondered out loud if I was alive. I did manage to lift my head momentarily to see the Na Pali coast through the gaps in the side of the boat but that was it. I was fine (albeit soaked from lying on the boat floor) as soon as we docked, but the experience was really embarrassing for me, and scary for my parents and sister.

    • Luna GC says...

      I’m trying desperately not to laugh whilst our son is silent reading.

  34. Silvina says...

    While my childhood vacations were quite uneventful, travelling with my parents as an adult has been funnier but also more terrifying at times due to my dad’s health issues.

    This year we went to Europe for the first time. In our second day in London my father collapsed at the queue for the London Eye so we spent the entire afternoon at the hospital. Two days later he had motion sickness during a city tour so we had to hop off at Hyde Park and wait there until he felt better (meanwhile, the weather changed from quite hot to windy and cold). Finally, one of his feet was swollen so walking was a torture for him. Luckily, everything went well afterwards. But London, my lifelong dream, is tainted with bittersweet memories. I don’t have pictures of Westminster Abbey or London Bridge but how many tourists have visited St Thomas’ Hospital?

  35. Lisa says...

    The last leg of our honeymoon was badly memorable. We did a three part trip – a week in New York, flight to Toronto then down to Cuba the same day (as no direct flights obviously from NYC to Havana); a week in a nice resort lying around, and then another week touring the west of the island. It was amazing, all of it, and went really well (the Cuba portion was organised by a travel company, who made sure we had honeymoon perks the whole way, like upgrades and a private butler at the resort. What?!) until the last few days.
    We were supposed to stay at this place near the Bay of Pigs, which was kind of a rustic set of cabins built in a lagoony area (and apparently designed by Fidel Castro), but when we arrived we found out that the whole complex had no electricity, so we had to stay at the nearest hotel, which was a government run camp, which was completely full as everyone from the lagoony place was staying there. It was incredibly run down (but a good experience, as it was the first time we had had a proper experience of what things are like for Cubans). We had a cabin with a tin roof and no aircon. The shower was essentially a dribble, and there was wildlife in there. The pool was filthy, and for some reason (algae I think?) the sea was red and smelled weird. We went out for dinner to the only restaurant around, and they served alligator (we didn’t eat it, but I still feel traumatised at the thought). We left as soon as we could the next morning for the places (Vinales), which was absolutely stunning and we picked up some hitchhikers (which is very common there, as there is virtually no public transport system, particularly between towns) who got us free drinks at their brother’s restaurant and basically hooked us up with anything we needed. By this point in the trip, however, we were chronically short on cash and it is really really hard to change money (you have to go to official government FX shops, which are only open for limited hours and in a few places, mostly Havana). We didn’t have any money to buy dinner, so we ate the Reece’s pieces I’d bought as a present for my parents (nothing has ever tasted as good!). We did manage to book and pay for a trip the next day (using a card, which is also hard as not all of our bankcards worked, only one of my husbands – sanctions!) which was a visit to an island, which included lunch (one of the reasons we went – FOOD). It was really beautiful, and that cheese sandwich was great. We then drove back to Havana and literally had enough petrol to get to the parking lot next to the car rental place. I was terrified that we would get lost (which is easy – few road signs) and run out of petrol, have no cash, and be stuck. We just managed it. While returning the car and dealing with the paperwork, we had to wait in this waiting area, where the guy next to us was watching porn on his phone. It was awkward …
    But – when we arrived in Havana the old party of the city was without electricity (and had been like that for about a week). That night, we went for a walk after dinner and a couple (she was pregnant) started walking next to us and chatting, said they’d take us to a part of the city where there was electricity. They took us to a bar, and ordered drinks. The guy then convinced my (brand new!) husband to go off with him as he knew a guy who could give a crazy deal in cigars (we tried to resist, but he was really insistent so my husband gave in). I was left with his pregnant girlfriend and sister, they didn’t speak English and I don’t speak a word of Spanish. The whole time I was wondering if I was ever going to see my husband again. The guy then tried to convince my husband to buy some cigars, but he didn’t have any cash on him (we had just wanted to go for a walk). He then insisted that we went to the hotel to get cash – my husband made him wait downstairs and picked up around $20. They then FINALLY returned, and we got into a fight with the guy (and the barmaid) as they were trying to get us to pay for all the drinks, at around $10 a drink – by way of comparison, normally they’re around $3 for a mojito, and the MOST expensive we had paid before was in the place where daiquiris (Floridita) were invented (so kind of fancy, primarily caters to tourists) was $6, so clearly we were being ripped off. My husband refused to pay more than $20 (which was all we could pay). We then ran back to the hotel and watched our backs the rest of the time we were there, in case this guy made an appearance again.
    It was insane, but the most memorable part of our honeymoon, and gave us a more authentic experience of Cuba than if we had just stayed in one of the Spanish owned / run hotels or the resorts in Valladero.

    • Marte says...

      So funny, when I was in Havana I had the same kind of scammy experience. Being chatted up by a couple in the street, going to a bar with them and having to pay for way too expensive drinks. I did not really mind all that much, since people have so little there, I was happy to provide some funds :-D This was quite a while ago (>10 years) but I see the same thing is still going on now, with added sales talks.
      I did really really love Cuba, it’s beautiful and outside of Havana people were extremely nice.

    • Lisa says...

      Everyone I know who’s gone has had similar experiences. I think it’s just that people are really desperate for money, or at least the convertible peso, that they’ll try anything. In hindsight, I don’t think it was sinister at all I was just really freaked out. On the whole people were genuinely really friendly (like the two brothers who we have a lift to), they just try to take every opportunity they get

    • Kerri says...

      Yep, we had literally the same experience (in Havana) as well!

  36. Jasmine says...

    These are just hilarious!!!

  37. LaurenPS says...

    I have one. In the late 90s, My father and step mother decided to take my 10 year old brother, our 7 year old step sister and I (who was 12ish) to our first skiing vacation in the Poconos. We were borrowing a family friend’s parents house without knowing much about it. We arrived very late on Friday night only to immediately get our Pathfinder stuck in a 10 foot snow drift at the foot of the very long driveway that my father said we can “definitely drive through no problem”. After going into the house to look shovels we realized the house had no heat, no hot water and no shovels. My parents made all us kids get plastic bowls from the cabinets and start helping dig the car out only to have all the bottoms of the bowls break from the heavy snow. My step sister sobbed the entire time from the cold and my brother didn’t bring gloves so was digging the car out with bare hands while whining/sobbing. When we finally got the car dug out we had to sleep in our coats and shoes because it was freezing. My parents decided to not cut our losses yet and save the trip with skiing after our cold showers the next morning. We got to the ski rental place only to find out everything was rented out. We ended up going tubing for an hour and driving the 5 hours home. We still laugh about it now and wonder how so much went wrong.

  38. Michele says...

    My sister and I, now grown and many years removed from living at home, decided to take a trip with our parents to Nova Scotia. Starting in Portland, Maine we boarded the catamaran that would take us there. For the entire trip, it rode the ferocious waves like a bucking bronco. Before we were done, Mother was sick and Sister was sick. An attendant came over to see if we were OK and he said, “At least you’re not having as rough of a trip as that poor guy..” and pointed to a man with his head down and arms sprawled across the table. I had to tell him, “That’s my Father!”

  39. Lisa says...

    We didn’t really have vacations when I was a kid – we just went to stay at either set of grandparents (who lived quite far from us). As a child I ALWAYS wanted a fancy holiday like other people did (I didn’t stay in a hotel until I was 27), but now obviously I’m grateful that we had those trips.

    My husband on the other hand – his grandparents lived very close (they saw them at least once a week), and his parents LOVE travelling and were teachers, so he spent all his summer holidays going on long trips. They travelled all over Europe, various places in the Middle East and North Africa, all over the USA (which means he can be annoying sometimes, as when you suggest going most places in Europe, he’s already been). There was one trip to Spain which THANK GOODNESS my father in law filmed videos of for prosperity’s sake (mostly so I can watch and laugh). There’s quite a big age gap between my husband and his older (and only sister), and for this trip in particular, they just fought the whole time. My favourite scene (and I don’t know why my father in law filmed this, but thanks!) is when my husband was in tears being comforted by his mom (who periodically tells off sister in law), and my sister in law is off in a teenage girl huff. The whole way through at least one of them is scowling.

    • Lisa says...

      Actually – we did do one trip a year which didn’t involve visiting relatives. My brothers were scouts (this is in South Africa), and every year they have a competition called Kontiki where the scout troops have to build a raft, and stay on it on a dam for 24 hours. Families can tag along and camp, which I did with my parents twice. Kontiki also incidentally somehow manages to coincide with the rainiest weekend, like torrential downpours that last 48 hours (which is probably why we only went twice …)
      Both times, my parents had to stay in a small, non waterproof tent, sleeping on the hard ground. Somehow, I managed to get invited to stay in the luxurious top of someone’s camper van with some friends (first year), and in a caravan (second year). I do hate camping so it makes sense … but my poor parents.

  40. Nan says...

    So many great stories! I have only a tiny cute one: when I was little, we used to go by car every summer to visit my grandparents at their ranch in South Dakota. As we were leaving one night (I must have been four) and crossing the flat empty South Dakota lands I happened to notice from the back seat of the car that moon was FOLLOWING us. I kept quiet before I told my parents but I finally had to share because It just kept following us! *mind blown*

  41. Alex says...

    I can’t think of any single epically bad family vacation, but i do remember lots of little tortures as a kid… how as the youngest I’d always get stuck in the middle front seat between my Grandpa and Aunt Kate on our annual summer road trip to Maine; or the time my dad gouged his eye out on a tree branch during a middle-of-the night bathroom break that ended our camping trip on the first night; or the time we went to an island off Florida’s coast and a series of tropical storms hit so it rained the ENTIRE week and we had nothing to do except the same two puzzles over and over again.

    But I also remember all the awesome stuff my parents did, the ultimate being when my Dad macgyvered an old 9″ TV set into a portable entertainment system for my brother and I during an East coast (Miami to New York) road trip. He bungeed that sucker to the arm wrests of the two front seats of the minivan, converted the electric to be powered by the cigarette lighter, and played Disney VHS tapes off his camcorder. My brother and I stayed engrossed and my parents got 22 hours of blissfully quiet car time. Dad=Legend.

  42. Joanna says...

    Like I have always said. A perfect vacation makes for a boring story. It’s the calamities that make for the best and funniest memories!

  43. Anne says...

    Out of our many family vacations, the worst was by far the time my husband rented a cabin in the Adirondacks without indoor plumbing, full of spiders and a god awful stench from something rotting. I think you can guess how thrilled my three 13 daughters and I were. Only lasted two of the seven days. Now I book the rentals.

  44. Meg says...

    My family is notorious for having crazy vacations. My three siblings (2 boys, 2 girls) would always end up fighting and my mom gets HANGRY…although this is before there was a word for that. Some highlights below.

    Boyne Highlands: circa 1994 – My older brother was run over by a snow boarder and had a busted up face. Gave my mom a lifetime hatred of snowboarders. My younger brother didn’t like our ski instructor telling him what to do, so he just took off. How did he know what he was doing? She was teaching us how to ski! Well…he just went straight down the hill and kind of crash landed, took his skis off and walked inside the lodge area. I think he was 6?

    When I was 3 or 4 we were at a ski resort that kept their water temp up really high for the hot tub. All 4 of us were in the bathtub, and turned the water on hot. I got a 3rd degree burn on my leg and spent the rest of the trip at the daycare center while everyone else skied and had fun.

    Europe: My parents rented a mini van and we drove all around, for a month. All my siblings were teenagers. My dad pretended he was on the autobahn the whole time. I fell through snow on top of a mountain in Switzerland (my siblings and I had gone off the trail) and got stuck. Lots of awkward encounters with men who thought my sister and I were older than we were and my dad who thinks he is Liam Neeson in ‘Taken’. I remember my dad yelling “GROSSE ICE” (means big ice) when we stopped at a McDonalds..he really missed his ice. And my younger brother listened to the Marshall Mathers LP the whole time. One perk is that I got really good at putting my makeup on in a moving/swerving car.

    • Elle says...

      CRYING laughing!!

  45. Michelle says...

    We were finally taking a family trip to Disney World. It was a seven hour drive from where we lived in Georgia. My brother and I got along for the most part but two kids locked in a car for longer than an hour will inevitable lead to some sort of chaos. My father began with the light threats, “I’ll turn off the music and we’ll have silence the rest of the drive”. Calling his bluff we continued, then came the big ones “Don’t make me turn this car around”. Always the kids who pushed buttons – we continued to bicker.
    Finally, we entered the road that would lead us to the magical sight of Mickey waving from the castle. As we pulled up to the parking gate my father announced, “We’ve finally made it!”. Our seat belts could barely contain us when next thing we realized our dad was making good on his threat and started to reverse the car with a jolly “Hi Disney…..bye Disney!”. Tears started to build as I saw the happiest place on earth getting smaller and smaller. As we drove to our hotel with our mouths open in shock, we listened to our mother try to plea with our dad. He wasn’t budging. She ended up convincing him to spend a few days at the beach in St. Petersburg followed by a visit to the Dali museum which in hindsight was a way cooler experience for an art obsessed eight year old.

    ps. We did end up going to Disney World two years later. Despite the obvious fun, the experience led me to one of life’s biggest disappointments ever. The castle is just a gift shop!

    • Maureen says...

      Oh my God, my Dad would have done that too, he was no joke.

    • Liz says...

      Yes, the castle is the biggest disappointment! I was hoping it was some kind of hotel!

  46. Tabitha says...

    These are so great! Luckily I’m alone in the office right now because I can’t stop laughing!

    We had our fair share of disasters — my Dad insisted on having our annual camping/ fishing trip at Virginia Beach in OCTOBER because it was “less crowded.” It was ALWAYS cold and wet and I hated it! But the worst trip was our beach trip the summer before 6th grade — I started my period for the first time and felt terrible the whole week. I still remember my little brother asking my mom why I was being boring and not playing with him. XD But apparently I forgot the fact that my parents picked the hotel based on online photos (before online reviews were a thing) and arrived to discover that the nice photos were at least 20 years old and the hotel was now gross. Our room was full of mold, which triggered my little brother’s allergies/ asthma. My Dad had to leave early since he couldn’t get a full week off work, so my Grandma came down to meet us. The last night we were there my Mom was up all night with my brother, who couldn’t breathe, and she swears that if my Grandma hadn’t been dead-to-the-world-asleep she would’ve packed us up and left at 2 am.

    We laugh about it now, but it makes me really thankful for online reviews!!

  47. Katherine says...

    Every year as a child we would drive from DC to Cape Cod. My mother would pack our Ford Explorer with everything, our two labs, my brother and me, and we would drive downtown to pick up my father, a thrifty, workaholic at 5pm on a Friday for the 9 hour drive ahead through the night. I have memories of being absolutely freezing as the cold temperatures kept him awake as the rotating NPR stations blasted (talk radio only) as we sped up 95 through the night. Only stopping occasionally for coffee at various fast food places (very pre-Starbucks).

    Each year, we brought our bikes up (rentals are for suckers per my father) and my dad took GREAT pride in the engineering of how the bikes would fit on the car, some years on the back with the hitch, some years on the top of the car. This year they were on the top, and in his sleep deprived state, we pulled into a Hardee’s in Rhode Island at 3am and he forgot the bikes were on the top as we cruised into the drive through. Well, my brother and I woke to a profanity laden tirade and the sound of scraping metal. My father had knocked the bikes off the car, dismembered the upper ledge of the drive-through, and the car was stuck. In his rage (I’m laughing/cringing writing this), he just backed up as fast as he could and the bikes flew to either side of the car into the parking lot. The concerned manager had arrived outside at this point, and my father got out of the car. My mother in hushed tones, said, “Children, pretend you are asleep.” As my father and the manager talked, I do not know what happened, but my father went in to get a FREE cup of coffee, and then climbed on top of the car to reattached our mangled bikes with his ever present spare bungee cords. My brother and I looking at each other through slit eyes, giggling. Then pretended to be asleep for the remainder of the drive.

    About an hour or so later we arrived at the motel where we spent the night before getting into our rental house. Once at the motel we then had to sneak (saw this in another story) our two 100 lb. labs up through the fire exit to our room at 4am when my dad checked us in. My mother collecting the bags and probably her lost sanity.

    As we got older I got wise on how to skip this drive (find a lacrosse camp that overlapped with the drive), and would fly up to join my family on vacation in high school. My mom tells the story of being pulled over in NJ on 95 at 1 am with my dad driving (iron foot), with three cats and two labs at the back at this point (it was like Dr. Doolittle at my house). The various odors from the labs that were sick were so bad that the cop gave my dad a warning and said to stay at 80 mph, no faster, the rest of the way.

    I spent the better half of my childhood in the back of a car on 95, from SC to MA. So many memories, and looking back spending precious family time in the car.

  48. Alex says...

    We used to take the 8 hour drive from NJ to the Outer Banks every summer, and as you can probably relate to, there were very different music tastes between two pre-teen girls and our parents. My sister and I were going through a Grease phase and wanted to listen to the soundtrack ad nauseum. My dad is a Deadhead who would happily listen to one rambling jam session the whole 8 hours if we let him. There were many arguments over what to listen to. Finally, on the way home, my dad got so fed up with all the whining, that he turned the radio off and said we weren’t listening to any more music for the rest of the ride. We were still more than an hour from home, and I decided that to spite him, I would sing the rest of the way. I belted out every word of Summer Nights, Grease Lightening, You’re the One that I Want… even Hopelessly Devoted to You. My sister egged me on with requests and I watched my mom try to stifle laughs in the driver’s seat, but my dad stayed perfectly silent the whole way.

  49. When I was thirteen and my brother was nine, my parents planned a trip for us to go to Yellowstone. We were SO excited. At the last minute, my dad had a work emergency come up in Hobbs, New Mexico, one of the saddest, dustiest towns you’ve ever seen. So we piled in the car and drove to Hobbs instead of the beautiful wilds of Wyoming. I remember my parents taking us to the janky old bowling alley and trying to sell it like it was a highlight of the trip. My brother and I have gotten a lot of mileage out of teasing our parents about the worst vacation ever. Maybe it was worth it. :)

  50. My family decided to spend Christmas in Tahoe. But our old Suburban had no heat, so we were FREEZING the entire time, which led to squabbles between my brothers and me. The whole trip ended with all of us crying separately in our beds on CHRISTMAS EVE! Haha we can laugh about it NOW… ;p

  51. My mom always gets us lost, but she calls it “exploring and getting to know the area.”

  52. Nicole says...

    Since I was a kid, my family and three others (the adults are my parents’ college friends) have traveled together over the New Year. One time we went to The Homestead in Northern Michigan. There were several cases of the stomach flu, one of the kids fell through the ice while skating on a pond, and later that day his dad broke his ankle slipping in the parking lot.

    Also, after the kids (most of us were around 10 at the time) overheard someone yelling ‘WHAT THE HECK!’ while trying to click his ski into his boot at the ski resort, we screamed this phrase together on the count of three several times an hour for the remainder of the four-day trip.

  53. These are cracking me up! My family of four only took relatively short trips when I was little, a couple hours-long drives to Las Vegas, San Diego, Sedona. My brother got the backseat to himself and I sat in the way back (probably not safe!) with my toys haha I think that prevented any squabbles between the two of us.
    Our most notable adventure was driving to my grandparents two states over. At the last gas station we stopped at, in the early evening just as it was getting dark, our dog decided to legit dive into a pile of some other dog’s poop head first – oh my word. All we had to clean her up with was baby wipes, and the car stunk to high heaven for that last hour. My mom called ahead and grandma was waiting for us at the door with a hot bath all ready for the poor pup.

  54. Maureen says...

    OK, here is one. When I was 11 and my sister was 4 my parents took us for a California road trip because my father wanted to relive his younger days of living in California before he settled in New Jersey and got married. We started in San Diego and drove up to San Francisco. We were under the impression that Cali was warm, so we packed for warm weather and FROZE in Disneyland. After Disneyland (thank god) I sprained my ankle so I was hobbling around or my parents would just leave me in the car. In one aquarium they put me in a wheel chair and when I leaned over to touch the touch tank, I fell out. In a roach motel in Venice Beach, I wet my pants for the first time since I was three! No idea why. Horrified. My potty trained four year old sister sharing the bed with me was horrified. She still brings it up at awkward moments. Then my parents wanted to do something fun by themselves one day without kids, so they left my sister and I in the parking lot of Hearst Castle with a couple of juice boxes and a granola bar to share. We sat there ALL DAY. They would have been arrested today. Also mortifying that my mother stole the jam jars, tea bags and creams from every restaurant we ate in. My sister would insult anyone who sat next to us in a restaurant, on a bus, in the plane. (“Why are you so fat?” or “You are married to him? He is old enough to be your father! No, he is old enough to be your grandfather!”) It wan’t all bad though, we camped out under the stars in Big Sur which was beautiful. Family vacations…sigh.

    • Silvina says...

      Great stories!

    • karen says...

      I am laughing out loud at my desk. So funny.

    • Lisa says...

      I think I love your family. Too funny…

  55. Steph says...

    I cannot wrap my head around the fact that someone who is an adult has a childhood memory of cat power. When did I get sooo old????

    • Jenn says...

      OMG, SAME!

    • Amy says...

      I just googled it and PRAYED they had a super early album… first studio album was 1995.. so I feel a bit better.

    • t says...

      I KNOW!!!!

  56. Katie says...

    My big, extended family went on vacations together each year when I was young, so we have lots of stand-out moments from that period. We revived the tradition last year after a period of dormancy, and it was one for the books.

    We rented a beach condo where my grandparents, my parents, my brother and his on-again/off-again girlfriend, and my husband, my baby stayed, and I stayed.

    We made it two miles from our house before our son said an epic blowout, necessitating throwing away his outfit. IT WAS A SIGN.

    Long-story short, my grandfather’s aunt, who had been sick for quite some while, passed away during our trip. My grandfather and my parents booked a too-expensive flight back home for the funeral, planning to return to the beach after one night at home.

    My grandfather was motion sick from the minute we got him in the car to go to the airport until he got back to the condo. My mom said he basically quietly moaned for 48 hours straight. They were running late after the funeral and were cutting their return flight close, so my dad dropped my mom and my granddad off at the airport while he returned the rental car. My dad ended up missing the flight, but naturally he had the keys for car they left at the airport in Florida with him. So even after they landed my mom and granddad were stranded for 4 hours until my dad could arrive on a later flight.

    In the meantime back at the beach, we were getting ready for dinner when I hear my grandmother shouting my name. It turns out she has been having mini-strokes for 2 months, and is in the middle of one at that moment. So I take off rushing her to the ER, leaving my baby with my bewildered brother and husband. My grandmother has pretty severe, clinical OCD related to cleanliness, so the hospital is a nightmare because we have to Clorox wipe every surface before we come in contact with it. She eventually gets the all-clear, and we head back to the condo, arriving at almost the same time as my parents and granddad.

    My favorite part is that on the way home, my grandparents said “we had so much fun this trip! Let’s go ahead and schedule next year!” And like a bunch of lunatics, we’re all headed back to the same condo next week!

    • Clara says...

      I *love* this – stories like this basically reaffirm my faith in love and people and humanity in general. What a wonderful bunch of crazies you guys must be!!! <3

  57. When I was a kid, we took a road trip from our home state of Washington to Montana, then up into the Canadian Rockies, and then back home. Our ancient car didn’t have air conditioning, and we were travelling (of course) in August. By the time we reached Montana, we were so hot we were literally pulling over to pour ice water over our heads. Then we crossed the border to a small town in Canada… where the earliest snowfall in over a hundred years hit, and our car immediately died. It took several days to fix it, so we REALLY got to explore the joys of the tiny town of Fort Macleod, Alberta.

    But actually, those joys included the nearby World Heritage site of Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, which was awesome (even though we had to hold onto ropes to guide us through the snow). I still intend to go back…. but this time not in August, and definitely in a car with air conditioning.

    • Shell says...

      Ha! Love this story. I live just northwest of Fort Macleod and remember that snowy August. We had relatives visiting from Australia that summer and they were so excited to see snow for the first time. Glad you had some good memories while visiting my home province : )

  58. Caitlin says...

    I grew up in a “blended” family (my parents lovely coping phrase, not mine) and family vacations always resulted in at least a dozen meltdowns, no matter at what age my older brother, younger step sister, or I was. So when we were 17, 19 and 24 respectively, the five of us went on a 7 day beach trip. We were so surprised and relieved to find that by day 5, no one had had a meltdown and things had been pretty smooth. Much to our chagrin, that night my brother had the biggest meltdown and lashed out at everyone. It was awful. It caused quite a few tears, threats to take us home early, and meltdowns from my stepmom, sister and me. My dad managed to keep his cool and everything was resolved. However, on the drive home, we stopped to get burgers and my sister and I got some of those cups of ketchup for our fries and proceeded to take them in the backseat of the Expedition and set up our little table for our meal. Well, my dad (picture a Danny DeVito doppleganger) is a biiiit anal about his car and when he looked in the backseat and saw all of these cups of ketchup, he about lost it. “F*CKING KETCHUP!? YOU GOT F*CKING KETCUP!?! DOTTIE DO SOMETHING!” Yep, his meltdown was overdo. My sister and I didn’t utter a word the rest of the drive.
    Now, this is one of our very favorite dad stories because it was just such a ridiculous reaction to teenagers eating ketchup. We are brought to tears from laughter every time we’re together and reminisce.

  59. This made me chuckle! Love these round-up posts you guys do, particularly when they’re bad-but-good-in-retrospect.

    For funny holiday horrors, The Tent, The Bucket and Me is a BRILLIANT book.

  60. Kiley says...

    These are cracking me up! I’m reading them out loud to the car on our own family road trip. Two stories from us:
    When my husband was about 10, his family took their big summer vacation to Williamsburg and we pumped to go to Busch Gardens. They got up to the gate and my father in law balked at the cost of admission. They got back in the car and left!

    When I was a kid, my family took a road trip to see the Olympics in Atlanta (which was awesome!). Our “good” car at the time was an unreliable Lincoln church lady car with a cloth roof–not a convertible, just a faux convertible look. On the highway, with a thunderous roar, the cloth part blew off! We pulled into Atlanta with six pancakes of glue on the naked roof and fraying fabric streaming behind us. USA! USA! USA!

  61. My dad was obsessed with all things “western”, so the last family vacation we all took was to Wyoming. I hated it at the time (as a 16 year old, all I wanted was to go to someplace “cool”), but we did do some cool things, one of which was going to Yellowstone National Park. The four of us were all in a large gift store of some kind, and maybe 20 minutes later, my mom realized she couldn’t find my dad anywhere. We searched and searched for probably at least an hour. This was before cell phones, so there was no checking where he could have gone. The gift shop I remember was quite a ways from the parking lot, across a field of some kind, so finally my mom just made us walk back to the car to wait for him, thinking that she had the keys, so he couldn’t have gone anywhere without her. Sure enough, my dad was standing there waiting for us, thinking that *we* had left *him*, and instead of looking for us at the gift shop, just walked back to the car. My mom was LIVID. But what a funny memory.

  62. Laine says...

    Love this post! We’ve had some epic fails over the years on our family vacations, most of which were capped by my father flipping out, but one particular trip to the Caribbean we always refer to as our ‘griswald’ vacation. My dad rented a house on an isolated island only accessible by boat and the trouble started immediately. Pour rain on all our suitcases as he piloted the boat to the island, the boat also broke, so a 15 minute ride took over an hour. Once we arrived, a transformer on the island got hit by lightning frying all the electronics in the house, the toilets could only be flushed by pouring buckets of water in the back from the ocean. Roaches kept falling down from the ceiling, and somehow we locked the oven for cleaning with a cooking pizza inside it which of course caught fire while my dad tried to open it with a fishhook/screwdriver/knife. There weren’t grocery stores on the island, so we all ate from a giant container of peanuts that my dad had brought in his suitcase from Costco. I slipped on a coral reef and cut open a big gash on my forehead. My dad dealt with the stress by snorkeling for hours and trying to catch a lobster (always unsuccessful!). We were ready to leave early when the hurricane was headed for the island, so we weren’t able to get out/be evacuated to Miami for an extra day. Then the flight back to home was delayed by another day, and when we finally made it back, the car battery died at which point the rest of us had to laugh but my father was grim. As we all like to say now, the trip was unforgettable!

    • AJ says...

      Wow! Goodness!!! That was quite a trip!

  63. Cooper says...

    When I was a teenager, my family was caravaning through Utah with my grandparents, aunt, uncle, and cousins, en route to Lake Powell. My parents and siblings were in a full-size van (you know, the kind with curtains) towing a boat, and I was riding with my grandparents, when the adults decided to take a “shortcut” that involved miles of perilous switchbacks where the road narrows to one lane next to a treacherous cliff. After passing about a dozen warning signs about NOT attempting this route if towing a trailer, I was sure my entire family would end up crashing over the cliff and I’d become an orphan. My neurotic grandmother then instructed me to unbuckle my seat belt, because if we went over the edge, our only hope for survival would be to jump out of the moving vehicle!

    Thankfully we had a relaxing week-long trip cruising around Lake Powell in a houseboat built for nine – into which we of course crammed 13 people, 3 large dogs, and a kitten :)

  64. You guys. These stories are SO fantastic. I just spent an hour reading all the comments and laughing. But, I can’t help but wonder how family road trips differ these days, with smart-devices to distract us from each other and ourselves. The stories will be very different…no memories of being stuck with only your dad’s Moody Blues CD to listen to, because everyone has Spotify on their phones and their earbuds in…no annoying little brother chanting the theme song to Jurassic Park for nine hours, because he is playing games on his phone instead. It makes me a little sad!

    • OMG my dad loved the Moody Blues! The CD we always listened to was Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass Band. We all loved it and my mom hated it! Sure enough, as soon as she fell asleep, my dad would put it on (not quietly) to keep himself awake. Poor mom, haha.

    • Alex says...

      HAHAHA! So many hours of Moody Blues!

    • GFY says...

      It’s all relative…ha.. but I looked forward to road trips as an opportunity for uninterrupted time to read Nancy Drew, Little House on the Prairie or the Chronicles of Narnia, as the years unfolded. In my pre-teen opinion, vampire stories were for winter, haha… I was largely oblivious to my two younger sisters or anything that happened along the way and I guess fortunately, reading other people’s tales, our car time was blissfully uneventful!

      We always drove 6 hours or so to campgrounds on the NC or N. Florida ocean, or else the NC Appalachians (gorgeous). Those drives were always marked by the much anticipated purchase of a large bag of boiled peanuts from whichever roadside stand we came to first and which we all loved and devoured but ONLY ate on those summer vacations. If at the beach, we always went crabbing with traps my dad brought, prepared them on the campfire and ate them in a feast at a well-set picnic table. The memories, looking back, feel like a Wes Anderson movie, I’m surprised and happy to realize now…

      At the campgrounds, we slept in a pop-up camper that slept all 5 of us comfortably (exactly like this: http://easiercamping.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Pop-up-Campers.jpg), and that I loved so much as a young teen that I asked and was allowed to sleep in it every summer back at home..it became my private summer home from about 12 onwards!

  65. Laurita says...

    My dad was notorious for being gassy when we were kids. During our road trips, when we started smelling them and would say, “Eww, Dad!” he would immediately get defensive and blame it on some imaginary nearby landfill. OR, he would randomly just roll the windows down without warning. That’s when you knew he had just let out a truly horrendous fart. And always being downwind of our dad in the car, we were trapped.

    • Jane says...

      AHHHH that was totally my dad too! We took a trip from WA state to MI and it reeked the whole way

    • Diane says...

      Im married to one of those. Every ride is a smelly deal!! Allergic to milk and ice cream. And wont give it up!

    • GFY says...

      @ Diane, LACTAID! Little enzyme tabs that will save you both! But he really should let go of dairy, his body is trying to tell him something.

      Recommeded substitutions he will enjoy:
      Ice cream: Coconut Bliss brand (amazing, my fav is Salted Caramel Chocolate)
      milk: Silk brand coconut milk (the best and ONLY one that works, imo :)

  66. Kait says...

    I honestly can’t remember the specifics of this vacation story because we went on so many road trips as a child to visit my grandparents (who happened to live near Disney!)…but I remember the culmination of a long road trip full of both parental and sibling bickering about driving skills. If my Dad was speeding, my mom would be pissed, and we would inevitably get jostled around in the backseat to where I, in the middle seat, would actually have to touch my brothers as I got tossed side to side and they would each shove me off of them, only worsening the problem as I would see-saw between them in the Florida heat. We finally had to pull over because, after 3 kids, my mom’s bathroom breaks were more frequent than even our tiny-bladdered needs and my Dad absolutely pushed my mom’s requests to stop to the brink. She wet herself. She angrily went to the gas station bathroom to clean up and get changed. While we waited, my Dad felt horrible and took us all into the gas station for snacks. He let us pick out anything we wanted. Swiss rolls, cosmic brownies, soda, gushers, powdered donuts, and cheese puffs abounded. It was our 90’s dream to have so many snacks. However, my Dad does not allow food in his car, even when he’s trying desperately to make up for his crappy behavior. There was nowhere to sit or really stand in or around the gas station so he lifted us all up on to the dumpster and we feasted. My Mom came out of the bathroom to see her 3 children sitting on a dumpster eating enough snacks to feed an army and just laughed. I was 5 at the time and I will always remember how cool it was to eat whatever I wanted on top of a dumpster and that my parents stopped arguing, and instead just laughed at the ridiculousness of it all.

  67. Lorraine says...

    when i was about 7 and my sister 11, our family went on a road trip from NJ to Maryland. the vacation was cut short when my sister got sick an we went home a day or so early. she had a stomach ailment and was throwing up a lot – something i had developed a phobia over. i spent the entire 4+ hour-drive back to NJ sitting in the backseat with my vomiting sister – me, cowering in the corner as far away from her as i could, covering my ears and closing my eyes.

  68. Johanna says...

    Ohmygod. (Sigh.) A reader’s memory of a bad family vacation involves her mother’s annoying beating to death of The Greatest. This is so depressing. I am. So old.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Not at all — it was my little brother Owen (7 at the time) who never really appreciated Cat Power :)

    • Lissa says...

      EXACTLY, Johanna. That was the soundtrack to my first year in a real job after law school. Old!

  69. ck says...

    our honeymoon! we arrived late to our campsite and had to put up the tent in the dark, just as the skies opened. we messed up the rain cover somehow, so I spent the first night with water dripping into my ear. the next day, we started out on a sunset hike, when my husband started to feel the effects of food poisoning and had to RUN back to the bathrooms. the day after that, we canoed through a deserted canyon and our canoe got caught on a rock and bent in half and filled with water. We spent hours getting it loose, but luckily it popped back into shape and we were able to continue :-) Maybe it was all a metaphor for married life.

  70. Ariel says...

    When I was in 7th grade my parents took me and my younger sister to Disneyland for Christmas. It was our special trip for the year and it ended up being a disaster. On Christmas Eve, the people in the hotel room next to ours were smoking weed and we all felt sick from the smell. We asked to switch rooms and the hotel informed us there was nothing they could do because the hotel was completely booked. On Christmas Day, my parents were enjoying the temporary Who Wants to Be A Millionaire game show in the park and my sister and I complained so much when we did it twice in a row that my dad got mad and marched us out of California Adventure and into Disneyland. He sat us in front of the Christmas tree and told us we couldn’t leave until they came back for us. My sister and I cried and cried in front of that tree in the “Happiest Place on Earth”. I was gifted my first cellphone that day and the only thing on that flip phone was the snake game. I played that for what seemed like all day, but was probably only 30 min until my dad came back and apologized. The park was packed our whole trip and we hardly got to go on any rides. We also all felt homesick for our family back home and all the Christmas traditions. We all vowed we would never do Christmas in Disneyland again.

  71. Grace says...

    My mother and step father drove us from Atlanta to Kansas City to visit family. One hour into the trip, my baby sister had the worst case of traveling diarreah you could ever imagine, then my step sister started vomiting with the stomach bug. Three hours in my step father started vomiting. I sat in horror witnessing a 13 hour trip turn into 20 hours as we were pulling over every thirty minutes to change my little sisters diaper and to dump the vomit pale and did my parents ever think to pull over and get a hotel? Heavens no. We are renegades and nothing deters us from our destination. As my mother pulled into Kansas City, we got pulled over for speeding and my mother must have looked like she just experienced something traumatic and the car must have wreaked of death because the officer very kindly just said (from a distance), “Ma’am, you don’t look well. Please slow down and get to your destination safely.”

  72. Kelly says...

    When I was in high school, we took a road trip with another family to a lake house in the Ozarks. On the way, we stopped for lunch at a specific restaurant because someone had a coupon, half price lunch menu or something like that. My mom and I ordered the chicken salad, and everyone else, all seven of them, got the turkey club. Later that day after arriving at our house, we drove about an hour away to Eureka Springs to do some sightseeing and shopping. Immediately after we got there, they started going down, one right after the other. Everyone expect for my mom and myself, were sprawled out on benches or the ground next to a park restroom, suffering from food poisoning. There was no way they could make the long walk back to where we parked, so my mom and I had to leave them there until we got back with the cars. It was a very long drive back to the house. Almost twenty years later, we still laugh about the terrible thing that happened to that park.

  73. Erin says...

    ahahahahaha these stories have me cracking up! ok so growing up my sisters and I had to go on several trips with our aunt and uncle. They were nice people, but the way they dressed. IDENTICAL. Matching t-shirts from the last place they were at – the one sticks out in my mind is white t-shirt with a panda bear on the front and knee length shorts. To top it off, KNEE HIGH SOCKS with white sneakers, maybe keds. OMG!

    My older sister and i were old enough to realize HOW EMBARRASSED we were to be seen with them. So we would walk like 20 feet behind them. and my poor little sister had to be stuck walking in between them. We were so mean.

    And we had to go on a trip with them every summer for a few years. It was torture. One year they took us to Philadelphia. and we did the usual historical haunts. Afterwards, the three of us wanted to go swimming at the hotel pool. Well, the pool was crazy chlorinated, and my younger sister went to grab my older sister’s leg. She had her eyes closed and popped up out of the water, but hit the wall and broke her tooth. My aunt had NO IDEA what to do. she was like I WANT TO GO HOME! I WANT MY MOM! We ended up driving back home that night. and needless to say that was our LAST trip ever with them.

  74. Hanna says...

    My husband’s family and my family organized a HUGE collective beach trip a few years ago. They rented out three big houses and we all caravanned down in ~7 cars. Everybody went — our parents, our aunts and uncles, our cousins, our cousins kids & babies, our grandparents. Our twins were about 2 years old at the time, and one of them had been coughing a lot and running a slight fever the day before the trip. I wanted to take him to the doctor, but I let my husband convince me that he was fine and that a last-minute doctor’s appointment was just going to mess everyone plans up for leaving early in the morning.

    Fast forward three days. I haven’t slept since we left home, I’m managing two increasingly cranky toddlers, and I insist on going to an urgent care clinic on the island, out of network insurance issues be damned. Toddler #1 has full blown pneumonia, is prescribed heavy duty antibiotics and other medicines, and has to be kept away from his brother. Fast forward 2 more days. The antibiotics have caused enough improvement that we are attempting to drive home. But toddler #1 has such severe diarrhea that we have to stop every hour to completely change all his clothes, and attempt to wash his poor little body and his car seat with supplies from gas station bathrooms. Toddler #2 is coughing badly, and has a fever of 104. We divert from our route home to take him to the doctor, and give his first round of antibiotics in the car.

    Meanwhile, back at the beach, it turns out to be *infectious* pneumonia. My uncle gets it. My grandmother gets it, and is ultimately sick for 3 weeks. All of my cousins’ kids get it, and the youngest baby ends up in the hospital. A month later, several of us swear weakly that we will NEVER to go to the beach again.

    Funnily enough, no one was mad at us (well, maybe my in laws because they thought we didn’t enjoy ourselves enough!) and our kids remember this as a WONDERFUL TRIP!

    • Katie says...

      I’m dying over this one! Sounds exactly like something that would happen to my family. That’s always the way it turns out, though — you remember the good parts and the bad parts become hilarious.

  75. Lauren E. says...

    So it’s not just my family?! We used to joke that the only thing you could count on during a Miller family vacation was rain. It rained on every. single. trip. we. took. One of my favorite memories is when we were all staying in a cabin in the Adirondack Mountains and it rained so hard the power went out. We couldn’t even heat up our sad Pop Tart breakfast. In a moment of pure boredom we started playing monkey in the middle and I threw the ball up too high and shattered the overhead light in the cabin, sending broken glass to every corner of the one room house. I’m sure my dad was mad at the time but now, 20 years later, we just laugh about it.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Oh my goodness, Lauren!!!! This is really making me laugh

    • Clare says...

      This sounds like all of my childhood vacations! We used to plan camping trips, but literally every single one of them got rained out. Once we showed up, only to be turned away by the park ranger because of flash flooding. We ended up eating at pizza hut then setting up the tent in our living room so we could still “camp”

  76. Maranda says...

    My family is notorious for bad family vacations. I’ll never forget the trip that made me swear off vacationing with them for good- we decided to take a trip to Tennessee from Maryland and my father INSISTED that we drive, rather than fly, and my mother decided to not book any hotels in advance, saying that it would be more fun this way and we’d figure it out when we got there. The first half of the trip was fine, however, the weather took a turn for the worse and my father developed anxiety about driving through the mountains… a major stretch of the trip. So pretty much we drove through the entire state of Tennessee not going over 40 mph. We finally wound up in Nashville with making no plans about hotels or things to do. We wound up driving through the city for an hour and turning back to go home because everything was booked up and by that time we were all thoroughly annoyed with each other. The trip capped off with me asking my aunt to pick me up as we drove through her town in West Virginia and I stayed with her for a week just to get out of the car and to get a vacation from our “vacation”. Never again.

  77. Rainbow says...

    Ever get really, really stressed and anxious and not even realize how stressed and anxious you are until you read something funny and you absolutely lose your mind laughing?

    I’m waiting on results for my mom’s post-lung-cancer two-year scan and these stories made me laugh like a lunatic, and also released a lot of tension for me. Thank you – these are hilarious and lovely.

    • Sasha says...

      Keeping fingers crossed for your mom Rainbow :)

    • Rainbow says...

      She’s all clear :) (!) Thank you for the kind thought!

  78. Nathalie says...

    My family of 4 borrowed my parents-in-law’s tiny motorhome – it has 4 seats but only one double bed and the seats don’t fold down. We figured I could sleep in the bed with our two young kids and my husband would pitch a small tent for himself. Unfortunately it got super windy/stormy and the tent poles snapped! My poor husband ended up squashed on the floor, sleeping on his side because it was too narrow for him to sleep on his back. Needless to say, we cut that vacation short.

  79. Caitlin says...

    ha! I have an almost identical story to Owen’s: we spent 10 days in Orlando/Disneyworld, and for some reason my parents thought our family of 6 could fit in a rented Ford Taurus. The radio didn’t work and everyone forgot CDs, save for my 5 year old brother, who managed to bring his most prized possession, 50 Cent’s “Get Rich or Die Tryin'” (my brother’s rap phase from ages 4-6 is a story for another time). I think even my mother still remembers all of the lyrics to “In Da Club”.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Caitlin, this is so, so good

    • Hahahaha….this is hilarious

  80. Elle says...

    My parents took us (3 siblings) on a road trip from Sweden to Italy (pretty far!) with another family of four. On this trip my dad managed to actually hit the other family’s car. Our car got broken into so we drove around for along time with plastic covering the drivers window (had to find a Volvo dealer!). Finally there they had rented a regular flat in an apartment block which didn’t have salt and pepper so my dad stole it from a restaurant. My dad also banged his head into a lamp hanging from the ceiling so it broke into a million pieces. Our whole family got stuck in the elevator between floors and my dad says “I wonder how long the air will last for?” We panicked. But it ended well. So my parents (why?) let us kids ride elevator by ourselves and we also get stuck. Again. But I think we were better off without my dad in there. (Both times they had to call a super who took ages to come and he had to literally pump up the elevator manually). So. On the way back we had to sleep one night in the car cause we waited until it was to late to find a hotel. And our parents let us swim in an unknown German lake when it was pitch black. My little brother was the only one who swallowed some water and he had diarrhoea the whole night in an hotel room we all shared (not with the other family though). Yes I think that’s it. It was an epic trip. Now some 25 years later we laugh about it.

    • liz says...

      Im crying with laughter….

    • AJ says...

      This is hilarious!! Your parents sound amazing!!

  81. I grew up in North Carolina, but my mom’s family is in Texas. As a result, we took a cross-country road trip every summer to go visit. It was a formative part of my childhood: I learned such skills as How to Entertain Myself for Hours on End Using Little or No Props, How to Not Whine About Anything, How to Fudge the Lyrics to Any Beatles Song, and How to Sleep (Almost) Anywhere Through (Almost) Anything. There are a lot of great memories, but some of our favorite family stories are of my dad’s ingenuity when it came to travel. He could magically transform delivery pizza into a gourmet meal, a pizza box into fancy plates, or a crappy hotel pool full of ducks into an adventure. As a family of 5, we were too large to fit into a single hotel room, but too poor to afford two rooms. As the youngest (and only girl), that meant I usually got to sleep on two chairs Dad pushed together with the nasty hotel comforter bolstering them together. But to me, it was heaven.

    There’s the time that the hotel didn’t allow dogs, so Dad instructed us to dress up our Sheltie in clothes, put a hat on her, and refer to her as “our hairy little brother” while we smuggled her in with the luggage.

    And there’s the time(s) that Dad decided to upfit our van(s) with different seating. He’s always tinkering, trying to improve on some design. The first time this happened, I was 5 years old and we had one of those classic 80s vans with only one sliding door (kids these days and their sliding doors on both sides!). Dad took out the middle bench seat to “make more room for activities.” My older brothers monopolized the back seat, so I was relegated to a metal lawn chair that my dad, in his infinite wisdom, somehow bolted down where the middle seat had been, except facing out the side window instead of forward like a normal seat. The lawn chair had belonged to my great grandmother and better resembled a cheese grater covered in chipping lead paint than a car seat. In his defense, he did manage to attach a seatbelt to the death trap, and I think he even included a cushion for me to sit on, but I spent two days in the car to Texas and two days back looking at my brothers lounging luxuriously (and safely) in the backseat and wondering if I’d ever make it to adulthood. (Spoiler alert- I did!) Then there was the time that Dad decided to do the same thing in a different van. I was 18 at the time, and we had “upgraded” to a camper van with a bed in the back. The bed/seat didn’t have seat belts, so, safety first, Dad decided to take matters into his own hands, using the Great Lawnchair Incident of 1992 as his guide. This time, Dad removed a bucket seat from his old truck and mounted it in the van behind the driver’s seat. The only problem was that for some god-forsaken reason, he decided to mount it on a swivel base which meant that every time he accelerated or decelerated too suddenly, I would wildly whip around in the chair, wondering yet again if I’d ever make it to adulthood. (I spent most of the trip sitting untethered on the bed in the back.)

    There was the time we got chased by a buffalo in Yellowstone, multiple car breakdowns in inconvenient places before cell phones, lost shoes, the occasional peeing in a bucket when there was no place to stop…These are some of our favorite family memories, the stories we tell over and over until they’ve taken on a life of their own.

    You may be wondering where my mom was for all of this. She was complicit with everything. She embraced my dad’s ingenuity while making sure we all stayed (relatively) safe and that we all got along, helped us pick out books to read, games to play, and maps to peruse.

    I’m expecting my first child in September, and you better believe he is in for some family road trips! Hopefully we’ll create some new stories to add to our family folklore, though I doubt I’ll be so bold as to strap a lawn chair into our car for him to sit on!

    • Erin says...

      OMG the bucket seat story! that had me cracking up. I’m glad you made it to adult hood!

    • Danna says...

      “our hairy little brother”, haaaaaa

    • Oh my gosh, I am dying!! Your dad sounds hysterical, and you tell the stories so well!

    • Alex says...

      Omg these stories are hilarious! Laughing out loud!

    • Some lady says...

      This is the best comment so far. Positive and grateful for the experiences, and gracious towards parents who did their best. Good on ya!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Jess, I seriously cannot stop laughing at my desk. That swivel base chair in the van has me laughing so, so much. Thank you for sharing these special stories.

    • AJ says...

      This is too much!!! These stories just get better and better!!! Sooo funny! This thread has been incredibly entertaining!

    • Kelly says...

      I seriously am crying from laughter. What great stories!

  82. Loribeth says...

    We didn’t go on many vacations growing up, but one year my parents took us to Pigeon Forge and Dollywood for a long weekend. While we were there, one of my sisters spilled her drink at a restaurant 3 meals in a row. We thought it was hilarious because it was a total accident each time but my dad got so upset after the third spill at Pizza Hut that he didn’t let us finish eating dinner and threatened to just drive home right then. No idea why they didn’t just ask for a cup with a lid instead…

  83. LP says...

    Love this, but I have to admit I died a little at the story about being a kid when “The Greatest” came out — that was only ten years ago! Am I really that old?!

  84. Kirsten says...

    That Cat Power story reminds me of when my dad took me to visit colleges in California as a 17 year old–a trip that was more for him than for me given how many engineering schools we visited ;). After a midnight Las Vegas arrival, we rented a car and then drove out to the desert and slept in the car to avoid paying for hotel. During our drive through Joshua Tree on our way to LA we got lost on some back roads and Dad managed to bash in the side of one door of our rental car on a tree. We popped that sucker back out with a stick and went on our merry way, driving from LA up the coast to San Francisco and back over the next 5 days.

    It was actually a really fun and beautiful trip, except for the fact that my dad purchased exactly two CDs in a shop in Pasadena and refused to listen to the radio the entire time: The Beach Boys and Steve Earle. We must have listened to each of those 10 times over the course of the week and I’m still not over it.

  85. NSH says...

    Thanks for sharing this. One of my brother’s had an undiagnosed mental illness that we learned about when he reached adulthood and ran into legal trouble. When I was a young child it made life tumultuous as my family tried to navigate life with him. As a child, family vacations could be unpredictable and agonizing if my brother was in a difficult state. I often longingly looked at other families wondering why our vacations never felt fun despite my parent’s best efforts and beautiful locations.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      NSH, I really appreciate your comment. You and your family sound so loving and patient, and your brother is lucky to have a support system like that.

  86. When I was VERY young my family took a trip to Lovell Island that has gone down in the family annals as the most epically abysmal and abortive trip ever.
    There were three kids- I was maybe four, which means my cousins were 6 and 8. There were also two uncles, my mom and dad, and an aunt.
    First, my dad forgot the packed cooler of food in the fridge of our house. It took a while after we got to the island to recognize that we didn’t have our picnic, only the room-temperature cheese and cracker snacks and fruit in people’s backpacks and pockets. So we started rationing them between people and scratched our plans of camping overnight in favor of returning by the ferry to have dinner.
    Turns out our plans weren’t going to be scrapped so easily- we missed the last ferry and had to settle in for a night without food. But dad was determined to right his wrongs and catch us some fish. Unfortunately the tide was out so he decided the best bet was to run and then cast to give it the momentum to go further. But he slipped on the wet sand and threw his back out.
    So there we all were in the tents (minus food) and my Dad lying pretty much prone. All night we listened to the party boats and booze cruises going by the island, and one particularly enthusiastic DJ shouting into the mic “LEEEEET’s GEEEEET SHITFACED!”
    As the final nail on the coffin, after my Mom returned with me from the outhouse, everyone realized my tiny four-year old size jacket was missing. We searched around for it and finally went back to the outhouse to see if we had left it there (it had been tied around Mom’s waist). Sure enough, with a flashlight we could see it way way way down at the bottom of the outhouse’s hole/chute.
    Even though I can’t remember the trip, I don’t think any of us would trade it for anything. It’s become part of the family legend. :P

    • Amelia says...

      This story is so so so funny. I am laughing at my desk. Thank you for sharing!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Constance, this story is legendary and so, so funny. Thank you for writing!

    • lauren says...

      Crying laughing at my desk.

  87. Nazeefah says...

    We went on a road trip last year to the small town my sister in law is from for her and my brother’s engagement party. On the way we stopped at a cool game farm/equestrian ranch. We wanted to act like cool kids and decided to ride quad bikes through the forest. Worst. Decision. Ever. Turns out my brother sucks at riding quad bikes! We stalled literally every 5 mins and a 14 yr old we had just met had to keep turning his bike around to come rescue us. Eventually we did a two- wheely. I held on to the quad for dear life and landed on my back (still on the quad). Besides a huge bruise on my butt and clothes covered in twigs and red sand I was fine! To top it all off my gran took off her set of false teeth and wrapped it in a napkin while we were having lunch. As we were leaving she realized that her teeth were missing. By now the tables were cleared and we had to dig through the garbage for her teeth, which we eventually found thank goodness! We made the same road trip for their wedding but it was thankfully uneventful.

  88. Yes can relate to that. Had a bad family vacation myself but the funny thing is that two years later we only remember the good parts.

  89. Pins says...

    Currently in Spain on a 12 person trip with my in-laws and a full blown lice infestation.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      AHHHHH!!!!! Oh my goodness, thinking of you guys — now it will definitely be a trip you’ll never forget

  90. Annie Green says...

    Genius, every one. Sitting here in a grey and damp morning, laughing until I weep. Back in the late 90s, friends of ours moved to California for three years so we went to visit them and, as we are from Britain, naturally included a trip to Disneyland. All was fine and we decided to drive back to San Francisco via Big Sur and enjoy the views. We got lost in LA and found ourselves driving round dangerous looking streets, Big Sur was shut due to spring landslides, the car heated up, my daughter threw up lasagna all over the car, my son followed suit and we ended up pulling into a motel we could not afford, just to get away from the smell. We cleaned the rental car as best we could, left the windows open all night and set off the next day, lickety-split. So lickety-split that we were pulled over by a traffic cop. Now: I am English and had never seen an armed policeman before. Also, when in America and nervous, I cannot help myself but start speaking like our own dear Queen in 1953. So when this gent leaned into the car, I could do little but focus on his gun and speak as if vowels were being squeezed out of me by force. The wave of old vomit, plus heat, hit him like a brick wall. Taking one look at two pale children, one nervous man and a woman from a different planet, he simply waved us on with: Drive carefully, folks. How we laughed…

  91. Dee says...

    There was the time my dad took us to the family mobile home near a beach and thought it would be a good moment to inform us teenage girls we had a two year old half brother. And then invited his new girlfriend to stay the entire trip so she could get to know us. Cheery! That same destination also played a role the year my sister and I decided to take our young kids down to spend time with each other. My sister is notorious for pretending to be fine when she is very ill. Needless to say, we all six of us caught her strep throat and my daughter got so sick from throwing up, fever and dehydration that we ran out of towels and clean clothes – in the end she was almost hospitalised and we had to go home early. My nephew was a baby and got diarrhoea and crapped all over the carpet after my sister left his diaper off because he also had terrific diaper rash. But before all that, my sister got so ill she passed out so I decided to take the kids to the beach to give her a break and sleep some. Her kids decided they missed her and sprinted for the busy main road while my own dear daughter was sprinting towards the ocean. Who to save? I have never ran so fast in my life, and thankfully to this day everyone lives to tell the tale :-)

  92. neha says...

    This post should come with a warning to not read the post or the comments on your desk at an open plan office! Seriously!

    • cooper says...

      Haha, I feel you! I’m biting my lip and crying silently in lieu of laughing out loud :)

    • I second that!

  93. Lesley says...

    My family spent Christmas in Colorado while I was growing up, usually alternating between Vail on our own and Telluride with our cousins. One trip started out with a canceled flight to Colorado, meaning we slept in pjs two nights in a row and woke up at the crack of dawn twice before we successfully got on a flight to Denver. Missing our flight delayed our trip two days, so after getting to Denver we immediately drove the 6 hours to telluride in our rental van for Christmas, only for my mom to discover that the Christmas presents she packed and shipped ahead of time for my sister and I never made it. On Christmas morning our brother and cousins opened their gifts, oohhing and ahhhing, and my sister and I sat there silently. To make the vacation even better, after everyone opened presents (except my sister and I, of course) we turned the tv on and the weather channel was talking about a crazy snow storm about to roll in. My parents realized we were going to get snowed into telluride and decided to take preemptive measures… The 5 of us packed back into our rental van and drove 8 hours over night through snow and rain to Phoenix, AZ. The only thing I remember about that drive is arguing incessantly with my sister over the temperature in the back of the van, and desperately trying to sneakily turn the little control nob down without her noticing. She noticed every. single. time. My sister and I did eventually get our packages of Christmas gifts… in (wait for it, literally)… February!

  94. Growing up in Austria in the 90s, my parents would take us to nudist resorts in Croatia each summer (they just really like sunbathing and swimming naked – please don’t judge :-). They would basically let us run around these enclosed resort grounds and go do their own thing. Our relatives thought it was absolutely insane that they would leave their (naked!) children unattended around other naked adults. But there are certain unspoken rules in the nudist community, and the primary one is that being nude is not equal to eroticism. The other guests at these places were always way over 65 years old, usually grandparents themselves, and they were watching like a hawk that no shady business was going on (and there never was – everyone was always very courteous and respectful). It was honestly the best free babysitting my parents could have asked for! And we loved these summers – we got all the attention and so much free ice cream!

    We were never allowed to show our friends these family vacation pictures – because everyone was nude in them! Looking back, I can’t believe my parents had no qualms about getting those photos developed without a second thought. We now have albums of photos of all of us naked in beaches. I miss those times! And yes, I still swim nude whenever I get a chance.

    • Anne says...

      I’m dyyyyying laughing right now! The photo albums!!! Hahahaha!

    • jill says...

      Amazing and Awesome, wow!

  95. Vicki says...

    My husband and I took a babymoon to Germany while we were expecting our first little monkey. We rented a car in the Frankfurt (a tiny little Ford, an upgrade from our original “economy” reservation, because, as the car rental guy told us, “aaah, the Fiat Panda? It is not a *car*”) and drove down the Romantic Road all the way to the Austrian border. Well, the day we were supposed to fly back out, we made a wrong turn at the border and took a two-hour detour through the Alps (angelic choir singing), took a hike up a million stairs to see a church (that was closed), and totally misjudged our return time. We got to the airport at 3am, but it was a little commuter airport and was closed, so we ending up sleeping in our tiny car at a gas station. Not the best six-months-pregnant night’s sleep! It was the best trip ever!

  96. Misha says...

    These are the best stories ever. So fun! : )

  97. Abby W. says...

    Oh the stories! My parents bought a camper when I was in middle school, and we toured pretty much all of the eastern United States.

    One Sunday in Birmingham, AL, we blew not one but two tires on the camper. The only open tire shop we could limp to was Big Mo’s Tire Shop, and Big Mo himself was sitting right outside ready to help us. The only tire they had in the right size was ‘used;’ so we had to buy it, change the tire, and then we drove for another hour and bought four new tires for the camper.
    My dad changed six tires that day–we were timing him by the end! If I remember right, he did the last one in under 7 minutes!

    The summer after college, I worked at a summer camp in Colorado. My parents came to pick me up in the camper. The night after all the campers left, we had a huge party/bar crawl in the town. I got wayyyy too sloppy drunk, and woke up with the worst hangover I’ve ever had.
    My dad came to get me, and we didn’t make it out of the camp before I had to throw up. We then drove out of the mountains, through Colorado, into Wyoming, and onto South Dakota. The entire time I was alternately sleeping or throwing up. My mom still wants to kill me when I bring up this story. She gets car sick anyway, and me being a hot mess did not help her feel good.

    I could keep going; food poisoning on a house boat, sick little brothers, the Pokemon gameboy song going onandonandon. Thinking about all these stories makes me so happy!

  98. Mindi says...

    These are amazing, and bring back so many memories. As a kid I was always jealous of friends who got to fly places for family vacations. Our family vacations were in my mom’s ’85 VW van complete with full sun roof (it was giant and opened with a crank!) and I didn’t realize how cool this was until I was in high school. We traveled mostly around the midwest and to Canada, going to Highland games (both my parents play the bagpipes) where we’d watch such engaging activities as highland fling, haggis eating, and caber tossing (I highly recommend looking this one up- it’s basically a burly dude flipping a telephone pole).

    My mom decided she wanted to recreate those road trips of yore (my poor dad…all he wanted to do was fly…) and when my siblings and I were in our late teens and early 20s, we drove to Disneyworld from Chicago. I was 21 and thought my mom was crazy; my sister was having none of it. My brother just decided he’d sleep the whole way. Having vetoed every musical choice the others brought, my sister pulled out a bootleg CD of Eddie Murphy’s “Delirious”. It was just the crude, ridiculous humor we needed, and my mom was so into it, she didn’t notice how fast she was driving through Kentucky. She got pulled over, and instead of turning off the CD player, kept it low enough that we could just barely hear it in the back. My sister and could not stop laughing, which irked the police officer. When we explained why we were laughing (my mom was SO mad…) she actually got off with a warning to “lose the lead foot and drive more safely”.

  99. Katie Larissa says...

    My husband is shushing me because I’m lying beside him in bed, shaking the whole mattress I’m laughing so hard. These comments are THE BEST.

  100. Julie says...

    Mine also involves OJ, but of the Orenthal James Simpson variety.

    My mom, my sister, my mom’s lifelong best friend and her daughter, and I were making the drive from Fresno, CA to Los Angeles for a weekend getaway to Disneyland on what must have been Friday, June 17, 1994. The moms had spent the entirety of the drive listening to news radio, with everything revolving around the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. Being worrisome young girls, we kept asking about this “bad guy OJ” in the very city we were traveling to. Our mothers insisted that he was “in Mexico by now” to ease our fears…however, as we start making our way into LA, we are suddenly swarmed by police and media helicopters, only to see a WHITE BRONCO on the opposite side of the freeway.

    Needless to say, the Mexico line didn’t really hold up! This memorable trip has given me the ultimate answer to the ice-breaker “tell us something no one knows about you”. I use it almost every time, and somehow it’s still topical!

    • cooper says...

      That is so crazy!!! Wow!

    • Anne says...

      You had me at the first sentence. Bahahaha!

  101. Sarah says...

    My parents are both quick to snap so my sister and I were so excited to have our own hotel room on a beach vacation. At 230 am one night my sister clogged the toilet and water began spilling into the entire room. We woke my parents up in their room and my mom, highly annoyed, took us with her to the lobby to get keys for a different room.

    When the elevator opened, we got on with a guy in his young 20s, bleach blonde tips and a shirt that said “I’d f*** me” but the word was spelled out. My mom was having none of that. She let out a “oh how lovely,” he laughed at her and then they got into it the rest of the ride to the lobby. I think he might have called her a hag. Then she complained to the overnight hotel manager about his shirt since its a “family hotel.” Oy.

    We were mortified. She still never holds her tongue but now my sister and I know enough to talk to each other about it afterwards and have a good laugh.

    • Wendy Plump says...

      I have to say, your mom sounds fantastic. I love that she took on that beach boy!

      Best, W.

  102. Mariah says...

    Our worst family trip had to be the ‘family honeymoon’ I took with my siblings after they came down to the Dominican Republic for my wedding (where I was living at the time and where my husband is from – wasn’t a destination wedding). The night of the wedding, the place where we had the after-party and my siblings were staying was robbed while everyone slept, so their passports, phones, cash and credit cards were stolen. When we realized the following morning (first day of my marriage!), we went to the embassy for new passports, cancelled the credit cards, Western Union’ed some money and soldiered on with our planned trip around the country.

    During the next week, 1) my sister fell off the back of a motorcycle that her boyfriend assured her he knew how to drive and then popped a wheelie going up a hill; 2) my brother cracked his tooth badly on a rock while chewing on dinner at a roadside restaurant, 3) it poured rain for three days when we reached the focal point of our trip – the most amazing waterfalls in the Caribbean that you hike up and jump down. It rained too hard, the falls were too flooded, and I never go to take them; 4) when my sister returned to the US and opened her suitcase, she said two giant cockroaches crawled out. Pretty much summed up that trip. That was over 10 years ago and we laugh about it now…sort of. I’ll always regret not having a real honeymoon!

  103. Jaime says...

    We road-tripped to Yellowstone when I was about 12. There were 5 kids, 2 dogs, my parents, and a Toyota mini-van that we thought was awesome because it had 2 sunroofs! One in the front seat and one over the middle row. We loved driving around with those sunroofs open, looking up and enjoying the view.
    We parked the van and took off for a hike. In the middle of the hike, it began to downpour!! All of us ran as fast as we could to the nearest visitors center and hunkered down with dozens of other tourists until the rain stopped. We were wet and looking forward to clean dry clothes and warm blankets in the van… but when we finally got to the van, we were horrified to learn we left those stupid sunroofs open and all of our blankets, pillows, and jackets were soaked! Not to mention the seats. The rest of the trip was pretty smelly and that’s mostly all I remember from that trip!

  104. Steph says...

    This is so great! I love reading things that make me laugh out loud. I would love to see more funny stories from people!

    • I love how they’re “funny” stories now, in hindsight.

  105. Louisa says...

    My family still says the phrase “visitors often miss this spot” before some ill-advised adventure — it was a phrase on a brochure highlighting a trail in a park in Maine. Few visitors = overgrown trail = lost family of 5 = bushwhacking through the woods in the rain. We wound up on the Appalachian Trail, hiked to the end (it wasn’t that far) and hitchhiked back to our car.

    We also saw Cats on that trip (it was the 80’s) and had all our luggage stolen in Hartford and rented a hotel room with vibrating beds. It was the best.

    • Julia says...

      Hahahahaha this made me laugh for a good 5 minutes! ‘visitors often miss’ is a guidebook line my family is often tempted by and usually results in something like you described above.

    • Hahah… that line’ll gotcha every time.

  106. When I was 12 or so, my family of 6 drove from Pittsburgh to Yellowstone, which is a good thing to do if you are itching to go insane. The minivan’s AC broke in Nebraska.

    What I remember most about Yellowstone is waiting an eternity for Old Faithful to “blow” (not as faithful as advertised) while my youngest sister literally poked my middle sister with a stick, over and over and over.

    • Melanie says...

      I’m dying right now drinking my coffee…”not as faithful as advertised”
      Best line

  107. I haven’t finished reading this but I cannot believe someone is old enough to say their mom had the new Cat Power album when they were little. I remember when I bought that album and I was like? I wasn’t even a teenager anymore?! The day I bought it I was visiting NYC and I had like an hour long conversation with the guy I would then date for like 6 years (terrible, awful relationship and it took me FOREVER to get that album back w/o associating it with that relationship) which tells you that I am so old help me.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Hahaha, it was my little brother :)

    • OMG my ex boyfriend used to manage Cat Power, so that’s how old I AM!

    • kim says...

      Thought the exact same thing. Couldn’t believe someone reading this is so young their MOM had the new Cat Power album. I have just aged a lot.

    • Cheryl says...

      I had the same reaction!

    • Katie says...

      I thought the same thing!!!

    • Meredith says...

      I literally wikipedia-ed Cat Power (“maybe there was a different Cat Power in like…the seventies?”) because I had this same reaction. Such a relief to hear that I’m not the only one!

    • Linda S. says...

      Worse, I’m too old to even know what you all are talking about!

    • jac says...

      Linda- I DIE. hahahahahahhahahha.

    • Kerri says...

      lol google suddenly has a dramatic increase in Cat Power searches after this post (I searched too hahah!)

  108. Lydia says...

    One summer my family was on a road trip from Pennsylvania to Florida so we took a couple days to do the drive and would stay at campgrounds along the way. My parents found a campground that was a days drive away, but when we got there it was practically a junkyard with trash and scrap metal everywhere. My parents wanted to leave but we weren’t close to anything and we’d been driving all day so they figured we’d get a couple hours sleep and leave early. Well the

    • Lydia says...

      …posted my comment before I finished.

      The campground also had tons of stray cats. They were dirty, gross cats but my siblings and I are huge cat lovers. We had so much fun watching the stray cats wander around and leaving food for them that we had the best time. My parents were so anxious to leave in the morning and we just wanted to stay and watch the cats.

  109. When I was seven and my brother was four we took a family trip to Europe, starting in England. When my parents woke me up on the plane when we landed, I started screaming because I didn’t want to wake up. When we got to the hotel there was a revolving door and my brothers foot got stuck under the door, trapping him in a section of the revolving door by himself. My parents blamed me for the door mishap and I started screaming at my mom in the hotel room saying it wasn’t my fault. She put her hand over my mouth to stop the screaming, knocking out my loose tooth which meant we were now both covered in blood. And then that night my brother fell out of the top bunk. Luckily the rest of the trip got much better!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      I am laughing so much, Madison. Oh man that is awful and so funny.

    • Kimberley says...

      This is too funny!!!!

    • Elise says...

      Hahaha ! I agree : best story ever ! I can’t stop laughing !!

  110. Mary says...

    When I was a 13, my parents hauled my sister and I to Australia for a month. On our second last day there, we stopped for a family photo on the side of the road, where my mom put her purse (with my passport, her passport, and my sister’s passport, and 3000 USD in cash) on the back of the car, and forgot it there, only to realize when we hit the next town that it was gone. Needless to say, a fruitless search ensued, and my poor distraught mother thought she had stranded the 3 of us (my dad was fine, he could have gone home) in Australia. My dad ended up driving all of us by himself overnight 10 hours to Sydney (the Canadian embassy was only open for 4 hours the next morning), where we had to get emergency passports issued. We all made it home, and of course we got a call a few weeks later saying that the purse had been found with all the contents there except the cash. Needless to say, my mother wanted nothing to do with the purse. Now when we talk about this story, its hilarious, and we have since continued our tradition of outrageous family vacations (New Zealand, South Africa, Costa Rica), except now that my sister and I are older we hold on to our own passports.

  111. Laura says...

    Every summer our family of 5 loaded into “Mr. POTs” (Piece of Trash) and set off to explore national parks and new sights. My dad would blast James Taylor as we three girls buried our noses in new books. Often the AC broke in that temperamental mini van, which meant blasting the heat, with windows wide open like a proper mobile sauna, as we travelled to exotic locales like Daytona, Floria.

    My dad is of the “drive straight through” variety and would sometimes bite off more than he could chew. Once he wearily pulled off the road somewhere in rural Colorado at 1:00 am at the only available, affordable motel within miles.

    Sure there were some questionable-looking characters hanging around outside in the dead of night. But the place was a child’s dream!

    A heart-shaped tub in THE MIDDLE OF THE ROOM! A huge waterbed that WOULD SHAKE LIKE A RIDE IF YOU PUT QUARTERS IN IT. And when you looked up there were MIRRORS ON THE CEILING! We’d never seen anything like it.

    My poor mom wouldn’t even let our golden retriever sleep on the floor that night. The six of us slept a few short hours before we woke up … soaking wet. Our pup had torn a small hole in the bed overnight. We hightailed it out of there as soon as the sun started to rise.

    It’s always moments like these that are relived — cherished, even — for years to come!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahahahaha laughing out loud right now, this is gold!

    • Renee says...

      Oh my. That is funny. Thanks for sharing! I lobe this post and the comments.

    • burcu t says...

      God I laughed so hard :) :) wish I was there :)

    • Maria says...

      Laura, you are a writer! This is so funny and I would love to read more.

    • hahaha i am dying at “mr. POTs”

    • Nicole says...

      Oh my god how funny. Thank you for writing this!

    • Lauren says...

      I saw this comment in the CupofJo email and had to find it and reply because a VERY similar thing happened to my family growing up! We were traveling with my aunt and cousin, so 7 people plus our dog in a small Honda van. After driving late into the night, headed 17 hours from NC to Maine, we pulled off at one exit only to find all hotels full due to a youth soccer tournament. Finally we found another exit with a hotel but when we got to our room it had a heart-shaped bed, mirror ceiling, and jacuzzi! My little cousin yelled that she claimed the tub for sleeping and my dad and aunt decided we wouldn’t stay (I guess too weird? I imagine there are things I didn’t notice as a kid?). We ended up all sleeping in the car at a Rbode Island rest stop!
      So fun to think of all the family vacation stories. Good to know mine weren’t the only ones that didn’t always go to plan!!

  112. Hannah says...

    This summer we went on our last family vacation before my sister’s wedding (this weekend!) and we finally gain a new member. I’ve loved our family vacations since we’ve grown – I realize every year at dinner that I would choose these people, even if I wasn’t genetically tied to them. Our only “disaster” was our last trip to disney world. It started when my brother lost his car keys (where his bag/wallet was) so my dad had to break his car window to get it out, none of us noticing that my dad’s car was running. Dad’s battery died, we couldn’t drive my step mom’s car because my brothers 4Runner was blocking it (keys still nowhere to be found). So my sister and I had to drive our family to the airport. As we’re getting onto the shuttle at the parking lot, my dad realizes his bag is still at home. We make it to Disney, my dad only having the clothes on his back and a backpack full of books/travel fan/cell phone charger. After our first day at the Magic Kingdom, my parents take a taxi to the nearest mall. Ten minutes later my brother finds his keys at the bottom of his backpack. I’m still not sure if he ever told my dad.

  113. Abbie says...

    I am in tears reading all these comments. What a wonderful way to end the day!!!

  114. Sandra says...

    Oh my gosh, this brings back so many memories. On a recent rain-soaked camping trip with our 6 yo I heard our camp neighbors (a multi-generational family group) breaking camp while happily singing the soundtrack to Frozen. That was SO not my family growing up.

    I love my parents, but my mom is really disorganized and my dad is a super anxious and snappy traveler. Back in the 70s my dad was a teacher in Michigan, and somehow they got it into their head that it would be great to drive my sister and me to Colorado each summer and camp. The 3-day drive there was the worst. We’d sit in the car mostly in silence since the radio was too distracting for my dad. If one of us was accidentally tapping a hand or foot my dad would yell “What is that noise!!??! What is that noise??????,” convinced that it was some kind of fatal engine knock. And we never stopped for fast food since it was a)unhealthy and b)too expensive. So my mom packed a cooler full of healthy-ish food, but wasn’t that great about replacing the ice in it. They made us drink a lot of milk, but it would start to go bad pretty early in the trip. My mom would insist it was fine, and all the food in the cooler usually began to reek of rancid milk. Usually we’d roll into our dusty budget campground at dusk and pray that it had indoor plumbing. My dad would swear while putting up the tent while my mom warmed up our Dinty Moore Beef Stew on the Coleman stove. Once we had a new tent, and after swearing at it for an hour my dad insisted they “made the poles too long” and sawed them off with some sort of hand saw. We’d wake up in the morning and have our cold cereal with semi-rancid milk and then drive another 6 hours to the next campground. One time we ran out of milk and my mom gave us Special K cereal with Faygo Rock N Rye pop poured over it. Not good. But I have such fond memories of these trips!

    • Steph says...

      Omg! ?

    • Brielle says...

      Haha! I almost just woke my husband up from laughing at this.

    • Lauren E. says...

      I’m crying I’m laughing so hard at this. As someone whose mother packed a thermos of milk in her summer camp lunchbox, I can certainly relate.

  115. Kim says...

    The 90s Dodge Caravan was us too. Ours was always topped with carriers on top (did anyone else call them “bubbles”?), a pop up trailer and bikes on the back. I have vivid memories of waiting in long toll lines and looking at everyone around us staring at our van. Mortifying. We were a road tripping family, including a 10 week trip across the country (4 kids). My parents were champs. We gave my dad the hardest time about the day we had to be towed twice! First for a car breakdown before we left our home state (PA) and the second time when were were pulling into the campground in Michigan after dark when he made a wrong turn and drove through a sand median.

    • Gillian says...

      OMG! Our 1984 Dodge Caravan died about 1.5 hours into a 6-hour drive from Phoenix to Rocky Point. We (mom, dad, me, best friend from middle school and my brother and sister) were caravanning (hah!) with my aunt and uncle and their 4 kids who were all packed into an extended cab pick-up truck the bed of which was was loaded up like the Clampetts’. My uncle had to tow us to the nearest garage where my dad and uncle hung out for 5 hours with mechanic. The rest of us (8 kids all under 13 and two adults) wandered an outlet mall. Later that night the Phoenix Suns went into triple overtime against the Chicago Bulls in the NBA championship series. Triple overtime started just as out radio coverage cut out so we all piled into the bar at a Mexican restaurant in Ajo where my aunt ordered a beer–that’s it! 12 people (mostly children) ordered one beer–and we all ate free chips and salsa and watched the triple overtime. We did finally make it to Rocky Point, Mexico and had a great week, but the trip down was epic!

    • Bridget says...

      I forgot about those roof top carriers. One summer in the early ’80’s the carrier on the top of our Mercury Zephyr (giant manual station wagon) fell off somewhere on the highway. The wagon filled with 5 kids and driven by my mom. No one realized it was gone for a long time and when we stopped for the night, my mom had no clothes! She called the highway patrol and he confirmed that 80 miles away there was a suitcase that had exploded on the road.

  116. I was the kid who read every. single. sign we passed. Out loud ?

    • Louisa says...

      And you grew up to be my mother-in-law.

    • SheetalR says...

      Oh my god! I do that. My husband and 6 yr old have sworn to never take roadtrips with me anymore :D

  117. Vacationmama says...

    Great post. I am reading this from my own family vacation with my 1.5 and 3.5 years olds visiting family in Manhattan. I tried to plan out each day perfectly, but a bad cold for my little one + a rainy day today, and nothing is going at all as planned. (Thank goodness for snacks, kind taxi drivers and coloring books!) Parenting on vacation in intense – there are moments when I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry! – but it also leads to some sweet bonding moments when least expected.

  118. Savannah says...

    Oh my god, I love Cat Power, but I don’t know if I love Cat Power for seventeen hours.

    • cs says...

      I was thinking the same thing but then I remembered my last break up and I’m pretty sure I surpassed that lol!

    • Savannah says...

      Good Woman on repeat, over and over and over.

  119. S says...

    So many memories of cross country trips in our ’72 wagon with 7 kids, sleeping bags and a really stinky (and squeaky) Styrofoam cooler. One classic: My Dad loves buttermilk and once picked up a quart during a road trip. He poured it into his waxy Dixie cup and put it in the plastic cup holder he’d attached to the inside of his door (remember those?). Surprise, surprise, he forgot it was there and slammed the door shut, showering the front seat with buttermilk. Naturally, the front seats had some lovely sheepskin coverings. Yuck!

    As a parent of 3 kids now, I swear I’m the worst behaved during road trips.
    I’m fine until I’m not, then everything makes me grumpy. I’m working on it.

    p.s. I actually love buttermilk, too, ha!!

  120. Bree says...

    My mom’s side of the family decided to go visit my Grandpa’s grave. Directly after we paid our respects, we found an Italian restaurant nearby to eat lunch. Gigi, my grandma, at some point took out her dentures, wrapped them in her napkin, and placed them next to her plate. It wasn’t until everyone finished eating and the tables we cleared that she remembered her dentures, but by then they had been cleared too! We informed the restaurant and they, in turn, informed us that all the trash had JUST been thrown into the very large dumpster out back. The next few hours resulted in all 18 of us (minus Gigi) dumpster-diving for her dentures. We found them though! Sweetest, stinkiest, victory.

  121. Rebecca says...

    Owen – your mom sounds very cool. Cat Power?! And how old are you?! The story linked to her 2006 album.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Hahahaha! Owen is my 18-year-old little brother :)

  122. Lana says...

    Hahaha! This made me laugh. First of all, my mom would only let our entire family listen to Aaron Neville tapes to and from our destination. I know the lyrics to every single Aaron Neville song, including Christmas favs. Second, I’ve often talked about how beautiful the island was we used to have a beach house on (Sullivan’s Island, SC) to my husband, so when my step dad loaned me our vacation tapes I was so excited to watch them. My husband and I curled up on the couch only to find footage of us eating at rest areas. There was no beach footage, no footage of the Charlestown markets, none of Rainbow Row. Just our family, all looking like we’d been traveling in the car for days, eating soggy sandwiches and Pringles at rest area picnic tables. I was devastated but my husband thought it was so hysterical. Now whenever we go on vacation he sends my steps dad little videos of our kids playing at rest areas. :)

    • lydia says...

      that is so sweet!

    • Steph says...

      Your husband sounds hilarious!

    • Oh my gosh what a crack up!!!

    • Kerri says...

      hahahah that is so funny! Your husband sounds great!

  123. The night before any vacation was always awful in our house! My mom would clean the house like a maniac (“I don’t want to return to a filthy house”–our house growing up was immaculate) and put off packing. This generally meant pizza or deli sandwiches at 9pm on Friday before an early Saturday morning call time. That got pushed back by 2 hours every year to land us in New Jersey Tpke traffic.
    One year our car broke down (hard to believe it didn’t happen more often). As we’re sitting on the side of the road my sister Laura says, “we always make fun of the losers on the side of the road. Now we’re the losers…”

  124. Oh boy! My family and my nieces and nephews went on vacation about five years ago. The ‘hotel’ didn’t have towels and we had to end up buying some cheapy ones that left lint all over us. Plus it rained the entire first day we were there! There was no pool or anything and nothing we could do! Not to mention personalities kept clashing! What a time. Ugh!

  125. Eva says...

    Hahaha love this! Once we took a family road trip to Seattle, and my dad got us milkshakes while my mom and baby sister went to the bathroom. We all loaded back into the car and headed onto the road. A few minutes later my dad asked how we liked our milkshakes. When my mom didn’t answer, we realized we had left her at the rest stop with my sister! We thought she was sleeping in the back seat!

    My mom was none too happy when we pulled back into the rest stop 20 minutes later. But I still crack up everytime I think of my dad saying, “turn around and see how ma likes her milkshake” and the response being, “She’s not there!!”

    • Karen says...

      This is gold. Thank you for sharing.

    • Faith says...

      That’s hilarious!

    • Stephanie says...

      omg! hahahahahha. this is so funny.

    • Nicole Suom says...

      actually laughing out loud! ha!

    • B says...

      Too, too funny. I burst out laughing reading this.

    • burcu t says...

      I cried laughing. I love this blog and this community :)

    • Annelies says...

      That last sentence makes the story! Hilarious

    • I am crying, I am laughing so hard. Thank God I’m the only one in my office today, so I can laugh freely. Tears are streaming!!

  126. Emily says...

    My grandparents took my sister and me from Pennsylvania to Washington state in a motor home when I was 9 and my sister was 12. We saw much of the country that summer. Unfortunately, the gentle lull of the ancient motor home instantly coaxed me into a deep sleep and I slept for much of the ride in the big queen bed in back of the motor home. My grandmother would wake me up if there were interesting things to see from the road. My sister went through puberty that summer–in a motor home w/ her grandparents and her little sister. You can see the sheer annoyance in her face in every photograph. But I learned more about my dad and his family that summer than I had ever known. I got to know my grandparents who lived so far away and they got to know us. And I learned to rely on my sister because we were far from home and I was still a little kid. I saw so many cool things-Old Faithful, the Petrified Wood Forest, Wall Drug, Mt. Rainier, so much of Yellowstone (buffalo, bears, geysers, etc), distant relatives I had never met and assorted cousins along the way. My son turned nine this year and my dad picked him and my sister’s son (who is 12) up in his RV and drove them to Acadia National Park where they spent a week. I suppose it’s now a family tradition and I hope to live a long life so I can one day treat my grandkids to a similar experience.

  127. katherine says...

    When I was in grade 2 (in a time before cell phones) my family took a trip to Disneyland. Our flights were delayed six hours, and so by the time we arrived, my younger sister was throwing a full-blown tantrum, and my mom was incredibly motion sick. So it was up to my dad to drive and me, his very serious bespectacled seven year old, to read the map of Los Angeles.

    FINALLY made it to the hotel. pulled over, my mom threw up immediately in the parking lot, and i calmly demanded that everyone acknowledge how good i was at map reading.

  128. Karen says...

    JOHN, WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?! I’m itching to know!! How rude of you to leave such a great cliff hanger.

    • John says...

      Karen, suffice it to say it wasn’t pleasant. My mother was mortified that she was seen with her pajama-clad, feather-covered children in a posh bar. When we got back to the room, we all tried to clean it up, but it was hopeless. I still can’t believe how many feathers could be in one pillow.

      Ultimately, upon hearing how it happened, that the pillow had broken open when my brother hit me, my father said it was my fault for having a hard head (he was’t joking).

      Although they threatened to cancel the Disney portion of the trip, we went anyway. Before checking out the next day, my father left a sizable amount of cash on the dresser for the housekeeping staff to try to cover the cost of the cleanup. A few weeks after returning home, my parents received a bill in the mail from the hotel along with a request that we never return.

    • Anne says...

      Whoa, banned from a hotel *in the 70’s*!!!?!?! You and your brothers are my heroes!

  129. Melanie says...

    What a great topic!

  130. Mollie says...

    I flew to Wisconsin from California to visit my mom’s two sisters when I was 10 and they thought it’d be a great idea to go canoeing on teh Kickapoo river followed by a night of camping. Well, no one had ever canoed before, and it took us 6 hours to go on what was described as a 3 hour trip. We fell in more times than I can remember, lost a paddle, and the canoe tour company was considering sending out staff to look for us when we finally floated ashore dirty, sunburned and tired. Then we went camping and made what was at the time called “hobo dinners” something my aunt said she remembered fondly from her girl scout days. We put them in the fire and forgot about them long enough for them to be burnt to a crisp. We then climbed into a camper older than all of us, and slept three wide on a scratchy bed in the humid midwest heat. It’s our most talked about family vacation. *Also, my aunt saved her watch which died on the trip to its multiple submersions in the river, and gave it to me at my wedding shower, which made us all laugh until we cried.

  131. Valerie says...

    This made me laugh so hard! It’s a family joke that all of our vacations were a disaster. Some of the highlights-AC breaking down in Death Valley, motorhome heat breaking when in the snowy mountains, my mom getting hospitalized for a migraine after whale watching, my dad getting left in Florida when it took too long to return the rental car, all of the kids getting the stomach flu while driving from Michigan to Florida, getting stranded in Dayton for several days when the car broke down on the way to the Smoky Mountains, and missing several flights. At the time it was frustrating, but now those are the memories my siblings and I laugh about the most. And bonus, it made me a great traveler! Not much phases me these days because all of the disasters have already happened.

  132. Hahaha that feather pillow one. Most summers we rented a house at the NJ shore. One year, amidst my parents fighting, when we got there our rental had been rented to someone else. I don’t know why but it may be stubbornness I’ve coughinheritedcough my dad walked around till he found a new place even though he couldn’t stay. So my mom and 5 kids ages 3-13 were there. The new place had bad pipes? so all water had to be boiled. My 3 year old sister didn’t do that and had to be rushed to the hospital after drinking the water. My other sister had a bad jellyfish sting where she screamed “help shark” hysterically and very loudly, repeatedly – which emptied the entire ocean of people and had to yes, go to the hospital. My oldest sister was swimming with some men and a wave crashed her to the bottom of the ocean, where she got knocked out, broke a bunch of teeth and yes, had to go to the hospital. And then my great uncle came down and got sick, on my birthday, so when I was sad no one but him even acknowledged it (he gave me candy bar) my mom yelled at me. And we had to take him back home to.the.hospital!

    • Melanie says...

      Oh how awful!

  133. Eve says...

    The downside of our family summer vacations when I was a kid can be summed up in one word – sunburn. My mom tans easily and didn’t really understand the torture inflicted on her fairest-skinned daughter. In every picture I look miserable, while my siblings have glowing tans.

  134. Melanie says...

    We always took road trips, usually long weekends. One year, we were supposed to go Pennsylvania Dutch to see the Amish community. My father insisted we didn’t need hotel/motel reservations. Even at age 7ish, I sensed this was not a great idea.
    Stuffed in the back seat of our Toyota station wagon, walkmen and cassettes ready, my sister and I stared out the window. My mother was chatting away, happy to have a car full of us to talk at and my dad drove the entire trip.
    We get there….drive to a hotel- NO VACANCY. Next place-NO VACANCY. Next place- you guessed it- NO VACANCY. My mother quietly fuming, my father’s death grip on the steering wheel, leaning forward in his seat as if his silent anger could magically change one of those signs. No hope, we turned around. Ate more McDonald’s. Got increasingly uncomfortable and tired of each other. I must have listened to my Wham tapes a gazzillion times (“I don’t want your freeeeeeeedom…girl all I want right now is you).
    We were so slap-happy after being trapped in the car for nine hours. My father still hasn’t lived this one down!

    • Lorena says...

      Yes! I also had parents who never made reservations and from a young age, I knew this was not a good way to plan a vacation. I remember feeling stressed as they drove around seeing all the NO RESERVATIONS signs. Needless to say, as an adult, my trips always include hotel reservations!

    • Katy says...

      I honestly don’t think I knew that you COULD make reservations at a hotel until I was in college and started dating my husband, who worked at one. Every single family vacation consisted of us driving somewhere and then my dad would go back and forth across the highway asking around to find the cheapest room. I just assumed that’s how hotels worked!

    • Clara says...

      This was every family vacation, at home AND abroad. Who doesn’t make reservations?! My parents, that’s who. Also they were cheap so they’d often book a room for two adults and sneak my sister and I in the hotel/room. My greatest joy as an adult is planning ahead.

    • JB says...

      We had a few but here’s two that are great memories now. We lived in BC and would take ski holidays during the winter. We were NOT wealthy, but my parents had 3 kids with ski equipment and so bought a 1970 Dodge Monaco to fit everyone. This thing was a boat and we called it the “Mudshark.” After a day of skiing, with all three of us piled across the back seat, we were heading home down a snowy mountain road when the engine quit. Instead of parking it in a snowbank and waiting for help, my dad threw it in neutral and we COASTED home down a MOUNTAIN SIDE with very little steering control and no automatic brakes. We survived.

      We also grew up with multiple dogs and so long road trips always ended up with kids covered in dog hair, the interior of the car stinking like dog breath, and dogs whining for pee breaks (love dogs, though!). We had a lab named Cooper, who, after a lonnng drive to the beautiful beaches of Tofino was dying to get out. We parked, my dad opened the door and Cooper FLEW out of the car, careened down the beach to the alarmed screams of beachgoers where he ran in to the shallows, did the full crouch, and pooped right into the ocean in front of everyone, while we stood awkwardly in the parking lot pretending we did not know that dog.

  135. Caraboa says...

    On a cross country trip, at age 12, we stopped at a Pizza Hut for dinner. I went to use the bathroom and realized I had gotten my first period.
    I quietly tried to grab my mom’s attention as we all piled back into the rental van and said, “Mom, I think I just got my period!”
    She calmly looked at me and said, “No, you didn’t.”
    The next day, once we finally arrived home, she took me to buy some giant pads.
    Years later, I asked her about it and she just laughed and said she could not deal with my first period, miles away from home, in a Pizza Hut!!

    • Amy says...

      So what did you do in the meantime?!?!

    • Steph says...

      Yea, what happened??? How do you not deal with that!? Hahah!

    • Alexa says...

      bahahahahahahaha “No, you didn’t.”

    • Caraboa says...

      Ha! I wadded up some toilet paper and because it was my first one, it was light.
      It was around the same time I had an overflow issue (it didn’t stay light) and I shared a room with my little sister– she saw the stain on my bed and was so concerned, “what happened?”
      I told her I ate chocolate bars in bed at night and one had melted.
      She just said, “can I have one?!”

  136. Meghan says...

    The OJ story had me giggling out loud (GOL?). Cute post, Stella! I like hearing about your relationship with your family and friends, it comes through as very authentic!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Aw, that means so much, Meghan. Also, definitely GOL about “GOL.” xoxoxoxo

  137. Cate says...

    When I was probably 12 my family took a road trip from southern Illinois to Vermont, down the east coast to West Virginia and back home. As we did on all road trips, we drove our 90s dodge caravan with the middle seat taken out so my brother and I could ride on the floor (!) watching movies on the 13 inch tv/vcr we rigged up with a menagerie of cords. While in West Virginia the van broke down and we remained stranded at a motel in this very small, sad town for several days (maybe a week?) while the van was being repaired. I got the worst sunburn of my life at the motel pool, but the upside to this whole situation was that it allowed me plenty of time to listen to my Sheryl Crow CD on my Walkman while rollerblading around the motel parking lot.

    • Sloan says...

      This is such a vivid picture of a 90s childhood! Love it.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Aw, Cate, really love this, too. I felt like I could picture it perfectly. Thank you for sharing :)

    • JO says...

      Aaah Sheryl Crow is the essence of my early teen summers! Singing along to “God I feel like hell tonight; the tears of rage I cannot fight; I’d be the last to help you understand (correct lyrics? Not sure, ha!); are you strong enough to be my man?!” Takes me back ??.

  138. Sonja says...

    Ha! I loved this post. I have extremely vivid memories of watching my baby sister projectile vomit onto my Mom effectively filling her bra to the brim at a grimy rest stop somewhere between Seattle and San Francisco – the rest of the vacation hadn’t exactly been fun for anyone thanks to a week-long bout of stomach flu. The memory of this has never ceased to make me laugh until I cried. Earlier this year my baby projectile vomited all over me and into my OPEN mouth. Proof that Karma is real and that she bides her time.

    • Sasha says...

      As a mother, knowing karma got you in the end….I’m laughing so hard right now. I’m sorry. ;)

      (As a daughter, I shouldn’t be laughing quite so hard, but oh well)

    • Jo says...

      Vomit-filling her bra up to the brim was hilarious! And u topped it with the open mouth story.. ewww and lol! ?

  139. brianna says...

    We always had great family vacations, minus the fact that they were always road trips. I got horribly carsick as a kid (still do), so being in the backseat was torture, coupled with the fact that I couldn’t do anything except stare out the window for hours. I still love to travel, but please, put me on a plane and get me there in the shortest amount of time possible.

  140. Suzanne says...

    This very funny book is all about one English comedian and her families lifetime of bad holidays, well worth a look! http://amzn.to/2wBMkjh

    • I also love the stories David Sedaris tells about his hilarious family trips :)

    • Sasha says...

      That looks like a really fun read, putting it on my list!

  141. Jess says...

    Oh, man. My mother is famous for the epic meltdowns on vacation. A few trips were planned by other people (notably, her much-hated SIL) and she reached an inevitable breaking point where she would cry, scream, and swear. I dreaded vacations.

    On a lighter note, my dad used to live in San Francisco and insisted he could navigate the city twenty years after he moved, without a map. We drive the city for over two hours (after a six hour drive) and refused to pull over. I wet my pants. At age twelve.

    Now my in-laws want to take a family trip to Europe. NO. But I don’t know how I can get out of it? Sob.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, jess, laughing out loud right now at that SF story! oh my gosh, that is too much! so funny. terrible/mortifying but also hilarious.

    • Silvina says...

      LOL!

  142. Amelia says...

    I love this! What a great idea of for a post and a perfect demonstration of the adage that comedy is tragedy plus time!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha so true, amelia :)