Travelers' Tales


Nightmare stories of dream trips gone bad.

Next Prize: The best response we receive between Nov. 1, 2012 and Dec. 31, 2012, wins a trip from Caravan Tours. Caravan offers nine itineraries across the Americas, including an eight-day Grand Canyon tour (valued at $2,190 per couple). For more info: 800/227-2826,

How to enter: E-mail us at or send a letter to True Stories, Budget Travel, 469 7th Ave., Ste. 250, New York, NY 10018. Full guidelines:

Under the mask, he's not smiling
February's winner was Anna Maria Calo of Glen Cove, N.Y. Her story: My husband and I went to Santorini, Greece, for our honeymoon. The day after we arrived, Rocco had a fever, a cough, a cold, and body aches. After 24 hours, we went to a doctor, who sent us to a medical center for tests. There, we were stuck in an unfinished room with a twin bed and told we'd be quarantined until the results were in. After 36 hours, they arrived—Rocco had the H1N1 virus, and we were told we had to stay in the room for five to seven more days. Our hotel brought us our luggage, plus sheets, a cot, towels, a cell phone, and food. We missed flights to Crete and Athens (and prepaid hotels in both places) and had to buy new tickets home. I'd say we had the worst honeymoon ever!

A stormy romance
We spent our last dime on our dream honeymoon in Cozumel, Mexico. For two days, we toured the town and were looking forward to a visit to Tulum and scuba dives at some of the world's best reefs. Instead, we got Wilma, a 52-hour hurricane with winds up to 155 mph and waves that shook our hotel. We had planned on staying in the room, but not under those circumstances. Nicole and Matt Jacobson, Montrose, Minn.

Call yourself an eco-frenemy
My partner and I stayed at Arenas del Mar in Costa Rica, which is ranked as one of the most "green" hotels in the country. We were in the top floor apartment, with a balcony overlooking the Pacific that had a huge hot tub, providing the perfect sunset view. While my partner was out exploring the resort, I decided to surprise him with some wine and a soak. I turned on the faucets, adjusted the temperature, and started the jets. As an afterthought, I added some scented ecofriendly body wash from the bathroom and went in to get the wine. Within five minutes, there was a knock at the door—it was the manager, and he wanted to look at my balcony. We walked out to discover a waterfall of bubbles cascading over the tub and onto our neighbors' balcony below! Even worse, the bubbles were rolling off their patio and down the cliff, covering trees and plants that had been full of birds, lizards, and monkeys. The manager directed my attention to a placard stating that no additives should be put in the hot tub. For days afterward, we would hear our downstairs neighbors commenting (loudly) about how unusual it was that they never saw any more iguanas or monkeys around their patio. At least the bubbles were biodegradable! Bryan Craft, Naples, Fla.

Maybe it was too luxurious?
Though we never thought our family of four would be able to travel on a luxury liner, my husband and I found a way to manage the costs of a transatlantic trip on the Queen Elizabeth 2. We were in the lap of comfort, and on formal night, it was lovely to see everyone elegantly dressed. As soon as our meal was delivered, my 12-year-old daughter leaned over and whispered that she needed to burp. The next minute, she threw up all over the table. We rushed her out of the dining room and down to the dispensary, where she received a shot in her bottom for seasickness. The rest of the family had a great time, but she doesn't have such fond memories of what should have been an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Debbie Erickson, Park City, Utah

Crabs can definitely kill a romantic vibe
One gorgeous evening on Kauai, my longtime boyfriend and I were lying on the beach gazing at the stars. It was such a romantic setting that I started expecting him to propose. Instead he yelled, "Stop pinching me with your big toe. You know I hate it when you do that." I said that I hadn't touched him, and I was upset that the mood was ruined. Then he sat up and yelled, "Something just moved!" I didn't see a thing, but he said, "There are crabs all around us." To my horror, it suddenly looked like the sand was moving. We ran screaming like little children—and got engaged two months later in Chicago. Lori Wheeler, Columbia, Mo.

Beaches and fruity drinks don't sound so bad
My husband and I wanted to go on a dream trip before having kids. His idea of the perfect vacation involves beaches and fruity drinks, but I convinced him to go to the Galápagos Islands and to hike the Inca Trail. Snow delays caused us to miss our connecting flight to Quito. Since there was no way to get there in time for our Galápagos cruise, we flew home and scheduled a flight to Lima. Things were great on the Inca Trail until the third day, when I was feverish and had severe stomach pain. I shuffled on to Machu Picchu in the pouring rain but was too ill to do more than get a photo. Back in Lima, I was diagnosed with appendicitis and ordered into surgery. The operation went well (and was a bargain!), but I doubt my husband will go on another "dream" trip anytime soon! Katherine Licup, Oak Park, Ill.

You were probably better off without your contacts by then
On the first morning of my trip to the Costa Rican rain forest, I spotted a cute lizard and lifted a heavy rock to get a better look. It was actually a large snake! I screamed and dropped the rock—on my foot. A week later, I still was barely able to walk but wanted to see the jungle, so I found a man who rented horses. He accompanied my partner and me up a steep hill, deep into the forest. And then it began raining harder than I'd ever seen. The nearby river flooded, and we couldn't ride back down—we had to lead the horses. I ended up slipping and twisting my knee; I fell on an ant mound and broke my camera. Then a group of scorpions spooked our horses, causing them to frantically kick mud all over us. At this point it was raining so hard that my contacts washed out of my eyes. We eventually made it out alive, but certainly worse for wear. Maria Noll, Laureldale, Pa.

That is not the recipe for green beer
For our 10th anniversary, my husband and I stayed at a resort in Jamaica. We were there during Saint Patrick's Day, and the resort had a beer-drinking contest. My husband was up and ready to go! All the guys had to chug two beers. My husband won, but he looked a little sick afterward. Turns out the green beer was not dyed—it was Red Stripe mixed with crème de menthe. Jennifer McCoig, Omaha, Neb.

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