A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

The Funniest Family Vacations Stories That You Will Sadly Relate To

From Disney disasters to beach flops, your most memorable (i.e., hilarious!) family travel snafus.

1 / 27

Seeing America

When I was a child—one of five—our parents left nothing to chance when preparing for our summer vacation. Lists were made and trunks packed weeks in advance. On the morning of the trip, a final check was made. When everything was deemed ready, we piled into the station wagon and began the six-hour drive. Then, sometime into the trip, our mother realized that something was missing: one of my sisters. We drove back home, where my father found her sitting on the toilet. George Doscher, Hillsborough, New Jersey

2 / 27

Honeymoon with the in-laws

After my husband and I were married, my in-laws offered to pay for our honeymoon. Visions of Hawaii or Mexico came to mind. Not quite. They told us we were heading to Disney World. Not only that, but since they’d always wanted to go, they were coming along. Turns out, my mother-in-law’s two best friends also always wanted to go to Disney World, as did their three kids, not to mention my sister-in-law and her husband. I can’t say a lot of honeymooning went on. Cristina Beitz, El Cajon, California from Budget Travel.

3 / 27

Stuffed mannequin

Throughout our tour of an early American bathhouse in Hot Springs, Arkansas, I explained to my four-year-old grandson what people once did there. When we came upon a mannequin at a desk, I told him, “She was probably writing a letter home to her friends telling them about her vacation to Hot Springs.”

My grandson asked, “And then she died and they stuffed her?” Cynthia Franklin, Grenada, Mississippi

4 / 27

Flight insurance

I was looking forward to the trip to New Orleans my mother and I were taking until we reached the airport. Suddenly I had a panic attack at the thought of having to fly. Dad, bless his heart, did everything he could to calm my nerves. “You know, you’re safer in a plane than you are in a car,” he reminded me. That reassurance eventually worked. He gave me a loving kiss on the head, then asked my mother, “Did you buy flight insurance?” Donna Sonnenlitter, Struthers, Ohio

5 / 27

Don’t sit in the exhibits

On our trip to California, we visited the Getty Museum. After a while, my bored ten-year-old, Nick, was flagging. “If you’re tired, find a place to sit,” I told him. I then went back to the portraits.

Minutes later, alarms went off and security guards were scrambling. Turns out, Nick had found a place to get comfortable. He’d crawled under a velvet rope into an exhibit and perched on a priceless Louis XIV, with his legs up on the armrest. Julie Lynch, Ithaca, New York

6 / 27


I was buying airplane tickets when my eight-year-old asked, “Can a baby be considered a carry-on?”

Before I could respond, my husband mumbled, “Well, it can definitely be considered baggage.” Bridget Slayden, Rogersville, Missouri

7 / 27

Only two cats

Uncle Bart was a city boy whose familiarity with wildlife began and ended with pigeons. One time he joined us at our cabin in the woods. In the evening, he opened the door to let our cats in. The first cat walked in; then the second. Bart stood there coaxing the third cat to come, which we found strange—we had only two cats. The third cat was a possum. Jonathan Hakulin, Baltimore, Maryland

8 / 27

Heels make you tall enough

We waited on line to enter the Space Mountain ride at Disney World alongside a woman and her son. The boy wasn’t tall enough to go on the ride, but his mother had a solution. She took a pair of high heels out of her backpack and forced him to wear them. Source: buzzfeed.com. These hilarious mom stories will make your family feel a little more normal.

9 / 27

Not so fast!

My son took his first flight at the age of four. He was scared about flying, so he called the attendant over and told her that he wanted the plane not to “flight” but just to get “going on the road!” The flight attendant played along and agreed. As the plane sped down the runway, my son called back to her, “I told you by road, but not so fast!!!” Ana Carolina Carrillo, Campeche, Mexico

10 / 27

What’s your name?

After a long drive to Canada, border patrol agents asked my father the name of us five kids in the back. Dad was so tired that he drew a blank. The brief lapse resulted in Dad being hauled in for questioning.

After convincing them that he hadn’t kidnapped us, he was released—15 hours later. Source: cafemom.com

11 / 27

Eyes on the road

Driving across California, we stopped at a red light in a beautiful old western town. As I admired the elegant storefronts and beautiful scenery, I didn’t notice that the light had turned green and back to red again. It was then that a police officer tapped on my window and said, “That’s all the colors we got here.” Yefim Brodd, Tacoma, Washington

12 / 27

Not the right mouse

“AAAAHHHHHH!!” That was my sister’s way of letting the world know she’d just seen a mouse inside her Adirondack Mountains cabin. Her husband set a trap, and a while later they heard it snap shut. As he carried the trap to the garbage, my sister scrutinized the little beast, then shook her head. “No,” she said, “that’s not him.” Patricia Chester, Suffern, New York

13 / 27

Loose pants

Before our trip to Las Vegas, my husband lost quite a few pounds. This came into play on the airplane. As he was grabbing our overhead luggage, his pants slipped down to his knees. A woman asked, “Can I help you?”

“Yes,” he said. “I’ll grab the luggage; you pull up my pants.” Jeanne Gemler, Erie, Pennsylvania.

14 / 27

Tooth fairy

Heading toward a family reunion, some of us met up at a ­Denny’s, where we found my uncle digging through the Dumpster out back. He finally got out and showed us a wad of napkins: “Granny wrapped her teeth up, and I threw them away.” For the rest of the trip, he was referred to as the tooth fairy. Ann Swann, Odessa, Texas

15 / 27

TV shows to slot machines

As my husband and I were leaving a Las Vegas casino a few dollars lighter, I noticed the number of slot machines that were based on TV shows: Wheel of Fortune, Deal or No Deal, even Gilligan’s ­Island. “I wonder what TV show they’ll base the next slot machine on,” I said.

He responded, “The Biggest Loser.” Debra Barrickman, Ashtabula, Ohio

16 / 27

Wrong rental

Upon arriving at our beach-house rental, I noticed that it was filthy. So I grabbed the cleaning supplies and proceeded to scrub the toilets, floors, bathtubs, and kitchen cabinets. I was so upset that the house was not ready for guests. Later, my family and I discovered that we were supposed to be staying at the house next door. I had “white-gloved” the wrong place. Tanya Leland, Greenville, South Carolina from Real Simple. If you’re looking to book a rental soon, check out the best vacation rental websites.

17 / 27

Turn around

On our way to go spelunking, we got lost on a country road. We stopped to ask a farmer, “Is this the road to Waynesville?”

“Yes, it is,” he replied. As we started to drive away, we barely heard him add, “But you’re going the wrong way.” Doug Hissong, Cypress, Texas

18 / 27
Dale May for Reader’s-Digest

Deadbeat door

Now we know what happens to people who don’t pay their motel bills in Texas. A sheet of safety tips for travelers in our motel room in Llano suggested, “For additional security, utilize the deadbeat provided on your door upon entering.” Fred Wilson, San Angelo, Texas

19 / 27

Dances with bees

On a trip with my Florida-based church to support a Blackfeet Nation mission in Montana, I accidentally disturbed a hornets’ nest. My zigging and zagging to evade the angry swarm prompted a nickname for me, Dances with Bees.

Cut to two years later, and I’m working on another project, this time alongside a missionary from Washington State. As I told the story, he suddenly stopped and said, “You’re Dances with Bees! I heard about you on a fishing trip in Idaho!” Christopher Parmley, Murfreesboro, Tennessee

20 / 27
Dale May for Reader’s-Digest

Innocents Abroad

When my sister’s friend Stephany was caught texting “WTF,” she had to think fast. “It means ‘With the Family,’” she told her mother. Mom, a social media newbie, bought it.

A few months later, their family took a vacation to Paris, where Stephany’s mom gushed, “I can’t believe all these Facebook likes I’m getting about our trip.”

“Why, what are you saying?” Stephany asked.

“Nothing special. ‘In Paris WTF.’” Aviad Mataroso, Beverly Hills, California

21 / 27

Mass with the pimp

During our trip to the Vatican, we had tickets to see the Pope say Mass, and my five-year-old daughter was extremely excited. Sadly, she fell asleep before he came out and didn’t wake up until the event had ended. When she did, the first thing she asked was, “Did I miss the pimp?” Madeline Sweeney, New York, New York from Budget Travel. Before hitting the road, make sure you know about these real-life vacation disasters that you need to avoid.

22 / 27

Not the best compliment

Tunisians, I’ve learned, are known for being generous with compliments. As I walked along the harbor with my husband one day, a Tunisian man shouted to him, “Hey, you a very lucky man! Your woman has big legs!”

I could have done without such flattery. Source: travelmatch.co.uk

23 / 27

Out for the fries

We were at a poolside table on Grand Cayman eating lunch when a huge bird swooped down and whacked my son in the back of his head. My son was so startled, he dropped his french fry. Before it could hit the ground, that same bird snatched it out of the air and flew off to a nearby branch. It swallowed the fry whole, then sat there daring my son to pick up another fry so it could whack him in the head again. Deborah Sayre, North Haven, Connecticut

24 / 27

Made in China

While shopping in India, I asked the store owner for any locally made yarn. The merchant brought down a skein that was clearly marked “Made in China.” I pointed it out, but he insisted I was wrong.

“Oh no,” he assured me. “Only the label was made in China.” Jane Gelman, Atlantic City, New Jersey

25 / 27

Locked in the giftshop

Just as we were about to board our plane en route to Europe, my sister went missing. Mom sent me out to look for her. The first place I searched was the bathroom. Not there. I tried the café. Nothing.

I finally found her in the gift shop. One problem: The gate was down, the owner had left, and my sister was locked inside. We had less than an hour until our flight, and we needed every minute of it to find the person with the key and make our plane. Melissa Stucki, Medford, Oregon

26 / 27

Wrong translation

During a train ride in Italy, my new husband and I chatted up an elderly couple with the help of our trusty Italian phrase book. I quietly practiced the pronunciation for “We are on our honeymoon,” then confidently exclaimed, “Siamo allupato!” The couple’s jaws dropped, and the blood drained from their faces. I rechecked the book and realized I had told this lovely couple that we were—how should I put this?—in an amorous mood. From then on, my husband held on to the book. —Andrea Palumbo, Fall River, Massachusetts from Real Simple

27 / 27

Long talk with Grandpa

Our family was on vacation in the Virgin Islands, and I went on a walk with my six-year-old grandson, Matteo. We saw a tree at the side of the path that we’d never seen before, with spiky thorns that climbed up along its slender trunk. It looked like a dragon’s back. Matteo pointed at it. “How did it get like that?” he asked.

This was a chance to intro­duce him to the idea of evolution. We sat on the ground and talked about natural selection, adaptation—the whole thing. For 45 minutes. It was glorious. The next day, he was swimming with his cousin and asked her a question, and she said, “That sounds like a science question. Why don’t you ask Grandpa?”

He said, “I’m not making that mistake again.” —Alan Alda, from his book If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? For more laughs, check out these family life cartoons that will make yours seem less crazy.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest