What's Your Worst Travel Mishap?

Real Simple readers share their most ghastly globe-trotting misadventures—the ones they’ll (unfortunately) never forget.

Photo by Aaron Dyer

When my father was stationed in England with the air force, we traveled to Sweden to buy a new car from Volvo. While my parents filled out paperwork, my brother and I played in a children’s area in the showroom, which included a large ball pit. Unfortunately, my father had entrusted my eight-year-old brother with the key to our hotel room. I got to see my six-foot-four-inch father swimming in the ball pit, searching for the key, to no avail. It was a great memory for me, but not for my parents.
Karen Johnson
Liberty, Missouri

One December my whole family, 20-plus people, set out for a cruise. Unfortunately, the flight to the port was delayed by snow and then mechanical failure. After three days of plane rides and hotel stays, we finally caught up with the ship, where everyone on the boat knew us by name: “Oh, you’re the Johnsons. We’ve heard about you.”
Ashley Theodore
Rockville, Maryland

I was stopped at the passenger loading zone at Chicago O’Hare airport to wait for my husband. He had wanted to check our bags before returning the rental car. While he was waiting in line, a police officer told me to move the car. I circled the airport three or four times and could never get back on the level where I left my husband. The same police officer finally stopped traffic and let my husband cross several lanes and jump the divider, or else I would still be circling that airport today!
Janice Dobbs
Choctaw, Oklahoma

When our children were young, we took a last-minute Fourth of July day trip to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. We quickly packed a diaper bag, put the kids into their car seats, and left. At the end of the day, we returned to our car only to find that it no longer started. Because of the holiday, there were no auto shops open and all the hotels were full—except one. We ended up in the honeymoon suite, with an in-room heart-shaped tub. We had packed only enough formula and diapers for the day, so after dinner my husband had to set out on foot to find the needed supplies. The only one who got to enjoy the heart-shaped tub was my three-year-old.
Rebecca Sams
West Richland, Washington

While I was on vacation in New Orleans, I slipped and fell and hurt my foot. I refused to spend my time there in the ER, so I borrowed the hotel’s wheelchair and went back to partying on Bourbon Street. When I got home and went to the doctor, I found out that I had broken a bone off my foot! I spent the next four months in a walking boot, then had surgery, then spent the following three months in a boot.
Shelly Joyner
Memphis, Tennessee

Last year I was living in Belgium and planned to travel to Rome for the weekend with a friend. We each booked tickets for the same flight coming home Sunday evening and couldn’t figure out why mine was so much cheaper. On the train to the airport, I realized that the flight I had booked left Rome at 8 a.m., not 8 p.m. After a panicked encounter with the ticket agent, who mockingly informed me there was a 400-euro fee for American ignorance of the 24-hour clock, I got booked on the correct flight.
Carrie Nichols
Minneapolis, Minnesota