20 Scary & Dangerous Vacation Disasters (PHOTOS)

People may have different ideas of what makes a perfect vacation, whether it's a surf-and-sand getaway or an adventure-filled outoor trek. But everybody wants the same thing: a good time. Unfortunately that's not always how things turn out. For some families, vacations can turn into nightmares.

Earthquakes, wild animal attacks, weather that goes from bad to worse or even deadly -- a slew of natural disasters and other unforseen circumstances can wreak havoc on your long-awaited vacation plans. Should that stop you from heading out? Probably not. Just be sure you research the destination you plan to visit. Here are 20 potential dangers lurking in popular vacation destinations. 



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  • Bear Attacks in Yellowstone National Park


    There are more than 800 grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park. One of them killed and ate a hiker recently. If that's not enough to end your desire to explore the park, then follow officials' recommendations to travel in groups of three of more and carry bear spray to scare away the beasts, which can stand 110 feet tall and weigh 700 pounds.

  • Shark Attacks in Florida and North Carolina


    Florida is considered the world capital of shark attacks. Though they're generally not deadly, every year spinner, black tip, and other sharks try to snack on swimmers and surfers lolling near their breeding and nursing grounds. But they've also been known to attack in waist-high water, such as that found in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. In 2015 there were several shark attacks in the Outer Banks of North Carolina as well, forcing some beaches to close temporarily.

  • Risky Hiking in the Grand Canyon


    The Grand Canyon draws nearly 5 million visitors a year, including hikers who descend from the rim to the base, where danger lurks. Hundreds of rescues are performed each year after inexperienced hikers get lost, understimate the time needed for the return trip, or fail to pack enough water (temperatures at the bottom of the canyon can be much higher than at the top).

  • Ticks East of the Rockies


    Ticks are prevalent east of the Rockies, where they can cause everything from Lyme disease to quadruple amputation. Found in wooded areas and known for attaching themselves to to deer and dogs, the parasites can also catch a ride on the boot of an unsuspecting camper or hiker. In some cases ticks carry the deadly Powassan virus.  

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  • Sinkholes in Florida


    Waking up to evacuation orders or worse yet, waking up to a sinking hotel room and running for your life in your PJs, is not anyone's idea of the perfect family vacation. But if you're in Florida, that's not an entirely unlikely scenario, as the state has more sinkholes than any other because of its porous limestone bedrock. 


  • Jellyfish Stings in Chesapeake Bay, Virginia


    Ow. Ow. Ow. Take a swim in Chesapeake Bay and you may find yourself in unpleasant company; numerous jellyfish congregate at this popular vacation spot every year. Sea nettles and other jellyfish cause intense pain and can irritate the skin for days.

  • Extreme Heat in Death Valley, California


    It's the hottest place on Earth, having once registered 134 degrees Farenheit. Astoundingly it's also the site of an annual ultra marathon, and attracts plenty of visitors curious about its desolate beauty. The extreme heat in Death Valley can melt cell phones and shoes, as well as fry eggs. To survive, you need a gallon of water per person and extra food as well as plenty of gas in the car, to make it out. 

  • Tourist Helicopter Crashes in Nevada & Hawaii


    What could possibly beat getting a bird's-eye view of the magnificent Grand Canyon or Hawaii's volcanoes? Helicopter rides are risky. A Las Vegas–based company grounded all its flights after six people died in a crash returning from the Grand Canyon. A Hawaii company has had 15 crashes with 11 fatalities since 1985.

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  • Fatal Car Accidents in Montana


    Beautiful and remote, Montana can make for a peaceful getaway. Just beware when driving there. Though sparsely populated, it boasts the highest motor vehicle deaths in the country. Severe snow conditions, long drive times, and a lack of emissions or periodic safety inspection requirements can yield deadly car rides. 

  • Escaped Convicts in Florida


    Forget shark or alligator attacks. How would you like to run into an escaped convict while visiting the Florida Everglades or Miami Beach? Not exactly the kind of excitement that most people expect, but not far-fetched in the Sunshine State, which holds the record for having the country's highest number of escaped convicts (63). Given the attention that New York received in 2015 with the escape of two prison inmates, it's surprising more people don't know this about Florida. 

  • Crumbling Roads in Illinois


    According to the Department of Transportation, 73 percent of Illinois's roads are in poor or mediocre condition. So while a trip to Chicago may sound like a great idea, a road trip can be dangerous with shaky bridges, pothole-ridden roads, and aging highways, all of which constitute major driving hazards.

  • Fiery Volcanoes in Hawaii


    Hawaii is home to the world's most active volcanoes, five of which make up the Big Island. While there is a way of observing their activity from a safe distance, one of those volcanoes, Kilauea, regularly spews lava, and has destroyed buildings and houses on its way down the mountain. 

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  • Pesticides Everywhere


    While many pesticides that can attack the nervous system are banned from use, violations happen. Just ask the Delaware family that visited a luxury resort in the U.S. Virgin Islands and came into contact with methyl bromide, which may have been used to fumigate their room. The family's father and two sons were paralyzed from the neck down.

  • West Nile Virus in California


    The crippling droughts that plague California can also prompt West Nile virus outbreaks. As natural water breeding areas dry up, mosquitoes and wild birds turn to artificial water sources, such as home pools. Mosquitoes infect birds who infect other mosquitoes, who sting humans. In some cases, this can cause inflammation of the brain and even death.

  • Tornadoes in Oklahoma


    Destruction, terror, and mayhem wrapped up in one unpredictable package -- tornadoes cause millions of dollars in damage every year in Oklahoma alone (other states affected include Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas). They can also kill people and animals and destroy homes. The worst part is that even though we know that severe weather draws them, scientists still can't predict when exactly they'll tear through.

  • Flash Floods Everywhere


    Flash floods caused by hard rain, loose earth, and overflowing rivers can happen anywhere. Reports of fatal flash floods have occurred in Nevada, Texas, Florida, Ohio, Kentucky, and other places, where they carry away people to their deaths, destroy homes, and shut down roads in a torrent of water and rock. 

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  • Snake Bites in North Carolina


    The Tar Heel State may want to reconsider its moniker. Perhaps the Swollen Heel State would be more appropriate. North Carolina has higher incidents of snake bites than any other state, especially coming from the local villain, copperhead snakes. Officials recommend staying out of bushes, but one woman was bitten in her front yard. Her leg was swollen from foot to knee and she was on crutches for two weeks -- that was aside from the extreme pain she experienced.

  • Earthquakes and Tsunamis in Oregon


    Few people knew that Oregon was big-time earthquake territory before Northwest Federal Emergency Management Agency director Kenneth Murphy predicted in 2015 that 13,000 people will die in a massive earthquake and its resulting tsunami, both of which are 72 years overdue. Those with plans to visit the state's gorgeous, rugged coast, which lies just off a fault, have been warned.

  • Plane Crashes in Alaska


    The majesty of Alaska's dramatic waterfalls and hidden valleys are probably best seen by plane, but that doesn't make it the safest way, especially considering that it's not uncommon to hear about small planes who have crashed into the face of a mountain, ending lives in the grisly process.  

  • Food Poisoning in Texas


    Not all the food you eat at roadside diners or even chain restaurants while on vacation is fresh -- and some of it will be bad enough to make you seriously sick. Think about that the next time you have a burrito in Texas, among the least consistent states for reporting food poisoning, contamination, and outbreaks to the feds. 

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