Tell Us Your Worst Travel Stories


What with body scans and TSA gropings, this promises to be an especially hellish holiday travel season. But travel has always been an opportunity for horrible and/or hilarious mishaps, and now we want to hear about yours.

I’ll start. When I was twelve, my family decided to take a vacation in upstate New York. We made a lot of mistakes right away. First, we decided to fly into Montreal and drive back down into the US, because it was cheaper. This was pre-9/11, and travel to Canada was no big deal — we thought. Next, my mom was attending a family event in St. Louis right before we left, so she would be flying from there, while my dad, brother, and I would be coming from LA. We planned to meet up on our layover in Chicago, and continue together to Montreal. All of which was pretty complicated, but might have worked, except …

Apparently a few recent high-profile kidnapping cases had made the airlines extra touchy, especially about international flights. They wouldn’t let me and my brother board the plane with my dad, because they were concerned he might be trying to kidnap us. They said we needed a signed letter from our mom, saying it was okay to take us out of the country, or both of our original birth certificates. My dad tried various gambits to change their minds, the least effective of which was probably saying, “Just look at them! You can see that they’re my children!” (I think at this point we were weeping and running in circles, which must have reflected poorly on him. We were high-strung children.)

The airline refused to let us on the flight and sent us home, where we all panicked because there was no way to get a message to our mom (say what you want about cell phones, they would’ve solved this problem). She was going to arrive in Chicago, find us not there — and then what? Would she have a nervous breakdown? Would she simply continue on to New York by herself and go on vacation without us? Might she decide she was better off without us in the first place, and simply never return? My dad put on Doctor Who to shut us up, but clearly he was concerned too.

Finally we lucked out — Mom actually got denied at the gate too, because there was some sort of problem with her passport. She had the presence of mind to call us at home, we all just stayed one extra night in our respective locations, Dad found our birth certificates, and we executed the entire plan successfully the next day. Of course then we still had to go on a family vacation (my brother would soon put gum in my hair, and I would make him cry by mocking his puppet show), but major disaster was basically averted.

Which is why I’m sure you can top this! Share your stories of road trips, flights, cruises, study-abroad programs, or family holidays gone terribly awry in the comments, and check back later on for our roundup of the best ones.

Image via Natalie Dee

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