16 Hilarious Vacation Fails That Make Staying Home Seem Awesome

Wendy Robinson | Jul 13, 2017 Being a Mom
16 Hilarious Vacation Fails That Make Staying Home Seem Awesome
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family traveling

In theory, vacations are awesome. We get a nice break from the daily grind, plus lots of family togetherness, ideally in some lovely or fun location. But let's be real, sometimes there's no relaxing at all on a family vacation. Sometimes these trips are nothing but a hot mess, especially when kids are involved -- and, well, by the definition of "family vacation," they always are. Although a vacation sounds like a great way to relax, sometimes it can turn out to be just the opposite. 

I love a good family vacation disaster story, especially when it's one that didn't happen to me. That's why I asked some friends to share their biggest, most awful vacation fails of all time. Do most of these stories involve travel with kids? Yes. Is poop involved in at least three of them? Obviously. Because no one ever forgets to pack the stomach bug. Amiright?

From forgotten kids in gas stations and pet resurrections to triple-X hotel rooms and that long road trip in which Dad decides to share about his other family they didn't know existed, these crazy hair-raising vacation stories have us considering canceling our family trips from now until 2027. Honestly, who ever said any of this was a good idea?

Warning: Reading the rest of this may make you decide that the staycation is the way to go! Or better yet, you might just decide to keep "relaxing" at work. 

  • Not Family Friendly

    kid with hands on face

    "My very Catholic family had no option but to spend the night at a Playboy-themed hotel after the freeway closed due to a blizzard in Iowa. Five kids and my parents crammed into a XXX hotel room. We weren't allowed to look at the wallpaper during the continental breakfast." -- Michelle B., Rochester, New York

  • Missing

    confused woman looking at phone

    "Last year I wrote the wrong dates in my calendar and the hotel called and asked where we were because we missed the first three days of a prepaid vacation. Damn it!" -- Jennifer K., Saint Paul, Minnesota

  • Nine Lives

    cat meowing

    "My sister-in-law and her family were on a road trip from California with their cat, when they realized the cat had died. They pulled over and everyone was crying and trying to figure out what to do with the cat. Suddenly, the cat jumped up and howled, scaring everyone! We still laugh about this even though it happened over 10 years ago." -- Anonymous

  • Feel the Burn

    tan line on woman's back

    "In college, my family took the train from upstate New York to Florida for spring break because my mother is neurotic and refuses to fly. If it wasn't bad enough to take a train for 22 hours ... my sister and I got sun poisoning from thinking our [ghost]-like skin could sit out for an hour in the Florida sun with no sunscreen. We had to take the train home all puffed up and in severe pain. I hate Florida." -- Paula G., Maplewood, New Jersey 

  • Family History

    girl in car staring out window

    "I was maybe 8, and we were going to Disneyland. Rolling along one of America's back roads, [while I'm] playing my Game Boy, my dad reaches back, switches it off, and says they have something to tell me: He's been married before and has two much older sons I've never heard about. No reason given for bringing it up now, and end of discussion. Hmm, OK?" -- Laura S., Houston, Texas

  • First Flight

    mom and daughters on airplane

    "The first time we flew with all three kids was a disaster ... About an hour into the flight, my oldest starts complaining that she doesn't feel well. Out of nowhere, my middle [child] projectile vomits all over the place. There are no baggies in the seat pocket. I'm cleaning her up and my oldest starts vomiting ... The flight attendant brings a ton of wet napkins so I'm able to clean everyone up. I ask my middle how she is doing, and she vomits again -- directly into my face.

    "When we landed, the flight attendants asked everyone to stay seated so 'the children who are sick' could get off the plane first ... When my mother-in-law asked how the flight went, I burst into tears." -- Katie D., Saint Paul, Minnesota

  • Are You Afraid of the Dark?

    roasting marshmallows on a fire

    "While standing around the campfire telling a story, hubby's pants suddenly fell around his ankles! We swear to this day he was pantsed by a ghost." -- Anonymous

  • Old Faithful


    "We went to Yellowstone, which happens to be burning ... My dad, the planner, says we have to leave via the gate he planned, because of the itinerary. Great, until rangers announce they've closed that gate because the fire is too close. So we go shopping at the gift shop ... We're puttering around in there and my dad comes in raging: The gate has been opened, and we are the only car left in the park as everyone else has made a run for it; I guess they didn't announce that in the gift shop?

    "We jump in the car, and creep down this road with fire literally on either side of us, my mom taking pictures through the windows, and my dad bitching and swearing ... Family fun!" -- Lorna R., Tucson, Arizona

  • Ouch!

    woman cleaning ear with q tip

    "Pro-tip: Don't ever EVER buy those cheap travel Q-tips. On my honeymoon in St. Lucia, the cotton tip came off in my ear and was shoved in deep. Almost ended up at the hospital, but the staff had a long tweezers that we were able to use while they all sat around and watched giving directions. So embarrassing." -- Nicole M., Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota

    More from CafeMom: 11 Family Vacations More Awkward Than Yours (PHOTOS)

  • Bottle Drama

    waiting on line at airport

    "Headed home at the end of a trip. We are about to confront the nightmare of going through security with a baby and toddler, when suddenly -- 'Where's the formula packed?' [My] husband had prepared four bottles, all of which were sitting neatly in the cooler ... back at the rental house. The baby eats every three hours, and it's a 3.5 hour flight and the baby last ate 2.5 hours ago. Husband takes kids through security while I sprint to grab a taxi, go to a pharmacy, and [get] back to airport (thank you, CVS). We all get on the plane super sweaty, the kids poop twice each on the flight. The worst." -- Sarah H., Dallas, Texas

  • A Rude Awakening

    kids playing in sleeping bag

    "While camping in our VW pop-top van, circa 1975, my dad woke up to moisture dripping on his head. We all woke up when he sleepily yelled at our dog Ralph, assuming Ralph was having some sort of insane peeing accident on him. But then my dad realized the real source of the dripping: His lovely 5-year-old daughter (yours truly!) had peed her sleeping bag in the sleeper bunk overhead. Whoops." -- Anonymous

  • Mosquito Mess

    welcome to florida sign

    "My parents took us to Florida one year to visit Cape Canaveral. Driving past a highway pullover titled 'Mosquito Lagoon,' my dad decided to pull over. Not so wise. Mosquito Lagoon was given that name for a reason. Five minutes into the boardwalk through the swamp, my sister and I were so bitten up, we ran back to the car screaming. When we finally made it into the car, we had to kill all the mosquitoes that had followed us inside. Summer vacation fail." -- Anonymous 

  • Tummy Troubles

    little boy outside in woods

    "We were doing our first big semi-rustic camping outing: a week in the woods with three small kids. I'm not the most outdoorsy gal, but I figured I could handle it. What I didn't account for was that all the kids got a stomach bug. Dealing with three kids under the age of 6 who all had the bad poops when all you have is an outhouse down the road is ROUGH. I ended up hand-washing a lot of underwear over the campfire that week. It was gross." -- Susan T., Duluth, Minnesota 

  • Where's Kevin?

    kid at gas station

    "We did the thing you don't believe anyone will ever do: We forgot a kid at the gas station. We were doing a gas stop after about 10 hours of driving and my husband ran in to get snacks while I pumped. I didn't realize Kevin had gotten out of the car and I guess my husband didn't see him go into the station to go to the bathroom. 

    "We made it about two miles before our 3-year-old said, 'Um, where's Kevin?'

    "Major vacation fail!" -- Kellie L., Ankeny, Iowa

  • Oh, Canada?

    family selfie in car

    "Our car broke down in the middle of Kansas on our way back to Canada from Colorado. My parents had to purchase a new vehicle, it was so bad. When we got to the border, my dad was so tired from the drive that he FORGOT our names -- all five of us. Border patrol wasn't buying his story, so they took him in. Fifteen hours later, my dad was released. They accused him of kidnapping and stealing a vehicle. While at the time it wasn't very funny, it's still my most favorite story to tell!" -- Anonymous

  • Bad Shrimp

    man holding stomach on toilet

    "We went on our dream vacation to the beach for a week. The first night, my husband brought home some shrimp and scallops for me to make for dinner. What he didn't mention was that he bought the shrimp out of some random van. THAT became apparent when all the adults were pooping their brains out all night. The kids were all fine, because they stuck to hot dogs. It was a very rough night." -- Anonymous 

summer break travel

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