All of my recent talk about holidays got Terry and I reminiscing about the various trips we’ve taken together, and some of the things that have happened on them – both good and bad. 

Now, as you know, I can’t have a thought without writing it down, so today I’m going to share some of my worst holiday memories with you: because, let’s face it, they can be SO much more interesting than the good ones, can’t they? As it happens, we’ve been pretty lucky so far, so none of these are particularly awful, but who knows: maybe you’ll have some holiday nightmares of your own to share? In the meantime, here are some of mine…

Holiday nightmares: some of the worst things that have happened on vacation

01. The hotel room above the karaoke bar

The worst hotel I’ve ever stayed in was one in which Terry and I were given a room directly above a karaoke bar. Actually, I tell a lie: we weren’t directly above the bar – there was a room under ours, and IT was The Room With The Constantly Barking Dog, so there was no end to our troubles on that vacation. I mean that literally, by the way: there was no end to it. The dog would bark all day long (I have a lot of patience for barking dogs, but not when it’s all day, every day…), and then the karaoke bar would start up, and our room would be filled with the sound of drunken holiday makers screeching their way through Hotel California and the like until 3am every morning. NOT fun.

02. The room with the all night rave

On one particularly memorable night at that hotel, no sooner had the karaoke stopped than a new form of torture began: that of a pounding baseline, which was SO loud we figured it must surely be in the room with us? Nope: as it turned out, the music was coming from the car park directly opposite our hotel – a car park which had all of a sudden filled up with cars, all of which seemed to be blasting out music at top volume, while people milled around, drinking, dancing, and doing God knows what else. After around an hour of this, we complained to the hotel receptionist (Who attempted to feign surprise, even although she could barely hear us over the sound of the music), who grudgingly called the local police. Terry and I returned to our room, and watched as the police duly showed up… and politely asked the party-goers to turn the music down a notch. They DID turn the music down… for as long as it took for the cops to drive away, at which point back up it went, and it kept on going until around 6am  – at which point we returned to reception and asked for a change of room.

03. The room with the super-small bedsheets

Our room change request was duly granted (Yeah, this is still the same hotel, by the way: needless to say, we never went back…), and this time we got a room which only got ear-spitting noise for as long as the pool bar was in operation. This was at least better than the previous option, so we took it… only to find that the double bed we’d been given was fitted with bedsheets designed for a SINGLE bed. So they were basically just draped on top of the bed, like a tablecloth – nice. By that point we’d lost the will to live, and would probably have slept through anything, so we just put up with it for the few days before we left, despite the fact that every time we tried to lie down, the bedsheets would wind themselves around us like a snake. Comfortable it was NOT.

And why did we put up with this catalogue of disasters, I hear you ask? It’s a perfectly reasonable question, especially given that I’m the kind of person who can hear a pin drop in the next street, and who’s so sensitive to noise that I never leave home without a set of earplugs. Under normal circumstances, I’d have demanded a change of hotel on day 1: the only reason I didn’t was the fact that this was the holiday of…

Clearwater Beach, Florida

04. The Worst Flu in the World

To be fair, this was one thing that WASN’T the hotel’s fault. I’d had the flu the week before we flew out, and thought I was over it, until I woke up on the first day of the holiday, shivering uncontrollably, and feeling worse than I’d ever felt in my life. For the first few days, I left the hotel room only to go out to hire a heater – because although we were in Tenerife, and the temperature was far from freezing, I just COULD NOT get warm, no matter what I did. I vividly remember lying in bed, listening to the karaoke bar below, and wearing every item of clothing I’d packed, topped off with two of Terry’s sweaters, and with beach towels piled on top of me, because all of the blankets in the room were STILL not enough for me. Terry couldn’t believe I was still cold, but every time his back was turned, I’d drag myself over to the heater I’d made him hire, and sit as close to it as I could: I. WAS. MISERABLE. (Oh, and I was also pretty sure I was going to die, which is why changing hotel rooms was the last thing on my mind. Fun times, indeed…)

05. The cockroach house

If you’ve ever rented a private villa somewhere, you’ll know there’s often a locked cupboard somewhere which contains the owner of the home’s personal belongings. This was the case in a house we rented in Florida one year, only in THAT house the cupboard didn’t just hold the owner’s stuff: it also held cockroaches. Lots of them. And one night they all started piling out through a crack in the door, like some kind of scene from a horror movie. After a quick trip to the supermarket to buy bug spray, we thought we’d dealt with the problem… only to wake up in the night to find more of them creeping towards our bed (the cupboard was right next to our bedroom door, creepily enough). Another bug-killing spree ensued, after which I somehow managed to nod off to sleep: I do, however, remember waking in the night to find Terry sitting at the bottom of the bed, staring at the door with a mad look in his eye, and a pillow in his hand, ready to attack any approaching bugs. We remember it as “The Cockroach House.” This helps distinguish it from “The Ant Attack House”, which… well, you can imagine, can’t you?

06. The house with the Dexter basement

Anyone watch Dexter? The year we visited Miami, Terry and I had just finished binge-watching several seasons of the show… which was unfortunate, because we found ourselves living in a creepy house, with a basement I was convinced looked like the kind of place Dexter would totally use as a kill room. Actually, it wasn’t even a basement: it was a garage which had been converted into a bedroom, but the weird layout of the house meant you had to go down a steep flight of stairs to get to this stuffy, windowless room, which had no air-con (And bear in mind this was Miami in the heat of the summer), and which I was absolutely convinced was haunted by the souls of the people who had surely died there. I was so convinced of this that I couldn’t bring myself to go into the room – not even after a couple of glasses of wine, or on the few occasions when I stood at the top of the stairs and tried to dare myself to do it. It was as creepy as hell – and I wasn’t the only one to think it, because my mum couldn’t set foot inside it either.

(My dad and Terry, meanwhile, were just FINE about it. Terry, however, used a totally haunted bathroom for the duration of that holiday, without even realising it was haunted. And let me tell you, that bathroom was TOTALLY haunted. Which just shows you what HE knows, huh?)

At the Queen Mary

07. The time the Queen Mary almost killed me

We were walking away from The Queen Mary, in Long Beach, California, when the ship all of a sudden let out such a loud HONK that all four members of my family dropped to the ground and LITERALLY DIED with fright. Then we all had to straighten up and pretend that nope, that didn’t happen…

(OK, this isn’t exactly a holiday “nightmare”. It WAS pretty funny, though…)

08. The hire car that wouldn’t go uphill 

It was a Fiat Cinquecento, and it was so past its best that it slowed almost to a stop on any kind of hill – and by “hill” I mean “gentle slope”. It also didn’t like being put in reverse, so one time we had to get out and push it backwards, to get it out of a space. And yet STILL we never complained. WHY? At least we managed to keep track of it, though, which is more than can be said for…

09. The car that got impounded 

Well, our Spanish was pretty limited at the time (Mine still IS limited: to “can I have a dry white wine, please?”): how were we to know we were parked in a tow-away zone? Or that it would cost 100 euros to get our crappy car back? Or that only one of us would be allowed into the building to arrange the release of the car, and that while I waited outside, I’d be hassled by a group of men who I became convinced were going to try to kidnap me. And, you know, Terry had just spent our last 100 euros getting the car back: WHO WOULD FREE ME NOW?

Miami beach, Florida

10. The snorer next door

You know those stone-built Spanish apartment buildings? You’d think the walls on those would be thick enough to block out the sound of someone snoring in the next room, wouldn’t you? You would be wrong, though: as Terry and I discovered the year we were woken every night by the rumbling snore of what sounded like a hippopotamus in the next room. Every single night. Banging on the wall didn’t help, so in the end we were forced to take the mattress off the bed and sleep in the living room. We could still hear him from there, but at least it was a LITTLE bit quieter…

11. The time we broke the honeymoon house

For our honeymoon, Terry and I rented a house with a pool, in Lanzarote. It was a beautiful home, in a picturesque little village in the hills, and we were determined to look after it as if it was our own, so on our last night there Terry went out to top up the water in the pool… and managed to completely drain the water tank in the process. We came home that night to find we had no running water, no working plumbing, and as the next day was a Sunday, no prospect of getting it fixed, either. Our flight home wasn’t until 11pm the next night, so we had to spend the day using public toilets, and trying to stay out of the heat of the sun, because we couldn’t shower. Oh, and worrying that we’d BROKEN SOMEONE’S HOUSE, and that it would cost us, like, a million pounds to fix it or something. Luckily for us, no lasting harm was done, but… let’s just say it was a memorable last day.

So, tell me: what’s the worst thing that’s happened to YOU on holiday? 

18 Comments
  1. Oh hahahaha, that gave me a good chuckle.
    Mine was definitely the arachnid hotel. It was my 16th birthday, and my family was on a driving holiday in the Christmas break. Of course, the only rooms available in the whole town were in this hotel, with wonky floors and what not.
    We hired a room for my parents and one for my brother and I to share.
    We got to our room and found a large spider on the wall. I’m terrified of spiders, panic attack inducing kind of terrified. So my dad came in and killed it. All good. I watch a bit of TV. I look over. I see another large black spider on the wall. I run out into the sloping hallway and get my dad again. He disposes of the menace. I am now terrified to be in the room but I return, bravely.
    Two new spiders crawl out from behind the mirror. At this point I’m like, “nope, nope! Not doing it!”
    So my brother and father dragged a mattress from that room into their hotel room. So that night my mother slept on the single mattress from the spider room on the floor and my dad, brother and I shared the big bed in their room. My brother was in the middle and during the night he had a nightmare and thrashed, elbowing me in the nose.

    I can’t say I’m keen to repeat that trip.

  2. Brilliant stories – the ship one had me almost laugh at loud at my desk because I could actually imagine that happening!
    I have a similar basement story to that one too – we’ve stayed in a few villas in Florida with creepy rooms in basements with no windows and no air circulation whatsoever (fortunately there have always been enough other rooms for us to stay in, phew!). But the weirdest one was where the bathroom “section” of this bedroom was open to the rest of the basement, which also had a camp bed type thing, and housed the cars and fishing “area” (lots of fly fishing equipment etc.). What was so scary was the cupboard in the middle of the room though – it was part of what I imagine was a pillar to hold up the house above it, and we opened the door only to be confronted by a giant buffalo head…yes, a real buffalo head!! Dead and stuffed, but nevertheless, lifesize (which is actually a lot bigger than you think when you’re up close) and in a dark cupboard. Crazy!

  3. Mine was pretty bad – I got on a bus from Sofia in Bulgaria, to visit a friend in Skopje in Macedonia, only to fall asleep and miss my stop in Skopje. Luckily I realised as we were climbing the hill out of the city, and my frantic shouting prompted the driver to stop the bus, shove my rucksack at me and point me back down the hill. Not so bad, I hear you say, just a walk. Nope. Whilst on the bus, Macedonia had erupted into political strife caused by an ethnic conflict in the Tetovo region, and Skopje had been militarised. So I arrived, speaking none of the language, with no money, at a road block of sandbags and soldiers shouting at me. I was arrested and taken to a local jail, where I desperately tried shoving my friend’s phone no at anyone who would listen. 4 hours later, someone finally called her and she came to get me. I have never been so pleased to see someone in my life. Macedonian jails are just not fun, especially as the only toilet was a bucket in the corner, and I had been on a bus for 7 hours, and my cell was in the main officers common room, so I had an audience of around 20 blokes when I realised I could hold it no longer. 🙁 I’ve been back to Macedonia since, and it was a lot less traumatic. In fact, highly recommend Lake Ohrid as a stunning and cheap holiday destination. Just check there’s no war on before you go.

    1. Wow. Holy cow! Thank god your friend was able to come and get you!

      “Just check there’s no war on before you go.”

      Sage advice for travel in general!

  4. Oh man, I am with you on the noise issues — which given I’m of a demographic that is mainly dependent on hostels, can be pretty stress inducing. The last hostel I stayed at (quite recently) had the perfect storm of crazy thin walls, crazy noisy staircases, creepy roommates, inconsiderately chatty roommates, and inconsiderately drunk roommates. I got (judging from the gap in whining texts to my mother) about thirty minutes of sleep the whole night, and ended up booking into a nearby hotel at 4:30 in the morning. You know you’ve had a bad night when you get to a kind of mediocre hotel room that is outside your usual budget and weep with joy because its quiet!

    My other biggest holiday misadventure was booking into a hotel which looked like it hadn’t been redecorated since the 1950s (and not in a charming retro way either) and which my travelling companion and I later found out was a front for the local branch of the church of Scientology. Not sure whether to be offended or relieved that they didn’t try to recruit us (as other guests complained about).

  5. Oh, god, the cockroach house part gave me the creeps…
    My worst was a hotel in Liverpool, where we were told upon arriving (in late December) that the whole hotel had only one shower with working hot water, and all the guests had to share it. They gave us the option to cancel and go someplace else, but we were tired and cold, and only had to two days to stay there… So we stayed. And used the shared shower.

  6. When I was fifteen, my mom and my eight siblings and I had to stay the night in a fantasy sex suite, because a tornado had ripped through the Midwest and none of the hotels had any space. The room was space themed and we still don’t know what the land rover that was labeled “Caution! Extreme heat!” did. It was not the highlight of our vacationing career. Though we did get some great picture with the solar system walls.

  7. Thanks for the laugh, Amber. 😉 Peoples’ holiday stories are always brilliant!

    I’ve had a few, but the stand out incident for my by far was in Indonesia. While undoubtedly very beautiful in the unspoilt touristy areas, Indonesia is a complete dump elsewhere. The jungle is strewn with plastic bags, plastic containers, plastic everywhere. The pristine, picturesque white sands of the Thousand Islands is scattered with electrical waste, dragged north by the currents from Jakarta. (Cathode ray tubes, cathode ray tubes everywhere!)

    The village of Charitas serves as the jumping off point for boat trips out to the island remains of Krakatoa. It is described in the Lonely Planet Guide as having ‘rustic charm’. Which frankly should have been a warning in itself.

    The week my friends and I had spent in Indonesia had prepared us for the plastic strewn village and oil and plastic streaked beach. What it hadn’t prepared us for was accommodation that comprised of concrete shacks with blood on one of the walls and holes that let mosquitoes through (close enough to Sumatra that Malaria is an issue!).

    After playing cards for four hours to kill time and distract us from the depressing surroundings, we all decided to turn in at 8pm. That’s when my male friend and I who were sharing a room discovered there was only a single, thick woolen blanket and a single-sized mosquito net. We ended up sleeping back to back in our underwear,his knife hidden under a pillow (because, you know, blood streaked walls!) and playing ‘Shag, marry, avoid’ in the dark for three hours.

    The next day (yes, there’s more), I woke up with tropical flu. We took a boat out to Krakatoa, me half dead and propped up against one of the railings. Too ill to walk up the volcano, I ended up waiting for everyone in the jungle. Except, do you know how many things live in the jungle that like to use the human body as a spawning ground??? Plenty. So instead of sitting on the jungle floor, I propped myself up against a tree, leaning on one finger. For half an hour. Meanwhile my friends, worried I was going to expire while I was out of their sight, literally ran up Krakatoa, took a picture and then ran down again.

    The second our feet hit the ground back in Charitas, we legged it for the bus back to Jakarta. The bus ride back was an event in itself – the doors stayed open and they drove at 60 miles per hour along potholed roads!

    It was ghastly, but also hilarious. 😉

  8. Just wrote the following response, but my battery died before I could post it, so here I go again.

    The worst holiday experience we have had was probably in Marrakech. I had insisted on staying in a riad in the main souk – big mistake (for me). The riad was lovely, but it was in a warren of very narrow (5 feet wide) streets, so that even the taxi driver couldn’t take us. Local lads had fun with us, with us paying them to lead us a merry dance round and round the streets, without getting anywhere. There are no girls, and very very few women in the streets. The most scary thing was not the open butcher shops with flies buzzing all over the meat hanging from hooks. It was the higgety piggety way the houses had been built, and fallen down, and the electric cables crossing between houses, across streets, and what looked like very unsafe connections. I was terrified it would burn down, just like the Great Fire of London in 1606(?) and I would never find my way out and would die there. i never slept a wink, I was so scared, but here I am and Marrakech is still standing. Oh, and we went every evening to a cafe in the grand square where sheep’s heads, among other things, were cooked for the discerning diner, in constructed restaurants that replaced the daytime market stalls. Anyway, back to the cafe – some months after our visit it was bombed out, and there were many deaths and injuries. (We also sailed in the ferry across the English Channel not long before it sank, killing many).

    Like you we also had a cockroach hotel, where they fell out of the air conditioning ventilator when I opened it in the middle of the night. Picture it – me screaming at the top of my voice, and jumping around the room trying to kill them, and Raymond telling me to come back to bed!!! The hotel receptionists were not amenable to coming to have a look at 3am, but we did have someone spray it in the morning. This was in Kos, where the hotel’s dining room was open to the elements, and wildlife. One morning at breakfast, the hotel cat leapt up and sunk its claws into the chest of a bird flying overhead, which crashed to the floor, hitting Raymond on the face as it fell. His face was scratched probably form its claws, and his face and shirt were dripping in blood. When we pointed it out to the waiter he indicated Raymond should use his napkin to mop it up. The worst thing was that the bird had chicks in its nest in the pergola above us. At the end of that holiday our overnight flight was delayed by nine hours, and passengers coming in to the airport in the morning were looking in disgust at everyone sprawled over the chairs, or sleeping on the floor.

    The holiday in Copenhagen was interesting. On our way back to the airport by train, Raymond left his rucksack containing our airline tickets, passports, credit cards, money, keys for our car and house. The train people was very helpful, but not hopeful as the train had only one more stop before crossing into Sweden. Luckily, I remembered which carriage it was in, and where, and they managed to phone the train driver who transferred it to a train coming back to Copenhagen. When the train arrived, it was very long and we went in different directions to see if we could find it. The platform had emptied, when the train’s whistle blew, and then we noticed a disembodied arm appearing from the guard’s carriage at the back of the train. (We hadn’t expected to be starring in a spy movie!) Phew!! We had to run the mile back to the check-in desk at the airport, and barge in front of people queuing as we heard the announcement, “Last call for passengers ..” We had to run to the gate, only to have boarded passengers glare at us as we tried to find our seats. We laughed all the way home.

    There are more, but I think three is enough, we’ve also had some absolutely fabulous holidays, but they’re not funny.

  9. Mine was staying in Valencia when it was their national day, which meant fireworks at midnight. Incredibly loud fireworks that went on for about half an hour and that we couldn’t see. Naturally, we thought it was bombs. We were about to flee to the British embassy before one of us thought to google national celebration days… Seriously though, those were louder than British fireworks and there was no cute whizzing!!!

  10. I had an “ant-haunted house too once”, but to be honest it was our fault. We left a piece of sandwich on the table when we left for the beach, and when we came back it was COVERED in ants.
    But the worst thing happened this year, during our new year’s vacation in Paris. It was the last day of holiday, we would have left the morning after… and burglars entered in the apartment we rented and stole everything valuable we had, including our camera with all the photos of the trip. Needless to say the owners didn’t have insurance for theft, so the year started on a quite disappointing note.

  11. Not exactly a *holiday* nightmare- but still awful.
    I recently moved and while we were looking for a house my family and I stayed in a rented place where, for some reason, WASPS kept invading my room.
    I’d wake up to find them dead on the floor, I’d lie in bed and they’d sting me from their hiding place under the duvet (I started shaking my duvet out every night after that) and whenever I switched my bedside light on at night there’d always be one circling me like a vulture.
    One time we went on holiday amd when we came back my bedroom carpet looked like a wasp graveyard.

    Needless to say, I was glad to move out!

  12. The only holiday nightmare that comes to mind right now is when I was in an isolated hotel in the middle of nowhere, in the mountains. I had a room that was visited daily by ALL sorts of insects. Seriously, every morning I would invariably find some kind of animal scouring on the pavement. The first night there were like 15 flies, and before going to sleep I had to kill them all, or I wouldn’t have been able to sleep from the sheer buzzing of the insects. The second night came the cockroaches, and I had to pick them up with a glass; there were like 10 of them. The third day came the giant worm, who proceeded to climb my walls for half an a hour; it was six in the morning and I was so sleepy that my usual phobia for worms didn’t kick in at all, and I observed it with mild interest for several minutes, before getting a friend to take it out. The morning after there was a scorpion in the bathroom, and I got rid of it with a glass. The same night came the giant green cricket, who got out of my room and then proceeded to climb my hair on the porch; I took a nice selfie of me and my hair with such a green, fashionable hair accessory. Then the morning of the fifth day I was packing to leave, and got a bunch of the clothes I had left in the closet and dumped them on the bed to fold them properly. In that moment a huge scorpion bolted out of the clothes and found cover under my last pair of clean underwear, that I had lay on the bed to be worn after my shower. Honestly, by that point I was so used to insects I sort of shrugged and went with the flow. Needless to say, I had to take out the miscreant with a glass, and couldn’t use the underwear in fear that it was contaminated with poison or something, so I had to renounce to clean undies until I got home, some hours later. Another creepy highlight of that vacation was that we had wood ceilings, which emitted crackling noises nonstop; I was convinced they were ridden with insects, waiting to come out at night and crawl all over me… Fun times, those nights were, very relaxing! 😀

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