When we start making plans for that long-awaited holiday, we never imagine that anything will go wrong. However, despite the most careful of planning, sometimes the unexpected does occur and a hiccup or two puts a spanner in the works.
Sometimes these stresses are temporary - you get horribly lost and can’t find your accommodation or the weather plays havoc with your plans, for example - but these are just temporary problems and you can usually laugh about them a day or two later. What is a real concern is when the issues are more serious and cause you to cancel, delay or change your travel plans.
I’ve been lucky to enjoy many fabulous overseas holidays in the past and most have gone off without a hitch. I’m not an adrenaline junkie - I don’t sky dive or swim with sharks and don’t even suggest bungy jumping to me - but despite being Non-Risk-Taking Nancy and an obsessive planner, there have been a few occasions on my travels when things didn’t always go according to plan. Let me tell you about them….
A scary storm
On our first family holiday to Europe back in 2000, my husband, two sons and myself were staying in Holiday Parks on our seven week driving holiday around Europe. We were very budget conscious so had chosen to stay in pre-erected tents at Holiday Parks throughout Europe. For the majority of the trip this was fine - except on one of the nights we were staying near the Black Forest in Germany. A storm like I’d never heard before thundered overhead just as we turned in for the night and the wind got progressively stronger as the hours went on. As our tent was erected under a couple of very large trees, I began to panic that a branch would fall and we’d all be squashed to death. After tossing and turning for hours, we decided to ditch the tent and camp the night in the Holiday Park’s recreation room.
By now the rain was bucketing down, too, so despite the ban on driving in the Park after 10pm, we piled into our car with our pillows and blankets and drove the 200 metres to the rec. room. Sleeping on hard wooden benches and on the floor in a room that reeked of cigarette smoke, meant it wasn’t the most comfy of nights I have spent, but at least I felt a little safer with a solid roof over my head. At day break, the storm had passed, and we sheepishly drove back to our humble tent, hoping that no-one would notice the wussy Australians who abandoned ‘ship’ during the night.
We have since stayed in Holiday Parks on numerous occasions - but now I always book a mobile home. Somehow it feels a little safer!
A French Railways strike
It wasn’t the weather but French railway employees who upset our plans in Europe last year when they decided to ‘pull’ a snap strike. We arrived at Barcelona Sants railway station for our 9am train to Perpignan only to be told the train was cancelled. After queuing for ages at the information desk, we were issued with new tickets on a train leaving at 5pm. This meant we had all day to wait in Barcelona but it also meant we needed to phone Perpignan and let the car hire company know we’d be late to collect our vehicle. Snap strikes are pretty common in France and Italy but despite being inconvenienced, we could have been a lot worse off as at least we were able to travel the same day and we weren’t out of pocket at all.
A hospital stay in France
Speaking of France, I’ve previously written about the time my husband ended up in a French hospital for five days after suffering a kidney stone attack. It caused a major re-shuffling of our itinerary and heaps of stress but all ended well. Thankfully we had travel insurance (I never travel overseas without it) and we were able to claim back around $6,000 in out of pocket expenses.
A chipped elbow in Vietnam
I’m probably lucky I didn’t end up in hospital myself whilst attending a conference with my husband in Vietnam earlier this year. I tripped over at the hotel we were staying at, flew through the air and landed unceremoniously on my elbow on a concrete path. Man, it hurt! I was extremely lucky that I didn’t hit my head on a concrete garden bed that was just a few centimetres from my final landing spot. With blood pouring from my elbow (and knee) and my face as white as a ghost’s, I headed back to our room where my husband found me shortly after. I spent much of the next 12 hours putting ice on my elbow, which was now black and blue and very swollen, and it was still giving me pain a week after we arrived home. Back in Australia, I decided to visit my GP who recommended an X-Ray. It turns out that I had chipped a piece of bone off my elbow. The doc offered to put my arm in plaster but I’d battled on with a dodgy elbow for a couple of weeks already, so I declined. Imagine if I had broken my ankle or leg instead - urggghh. It doesn’t bear thinking about!
Forgetting the passports
New Zealand’s South Island was a great place to spend a family holiday but it was a tad stressful when I realised I had left everyone’s passports in the bedside table at our apartment in Queenstown. We were now an hour away in Wanaka, heading back towards Christchurch, so whilst the kids and I amused ourselves at a fun park (me, feeling hugely guilty), hubby did the two-hour return trip to collect them. I had some serious Brownie points to earn that day!
Travel delays caused by a medical hiccup
We had to make some last minute changes before our trip to Europe this year as we were advised not to travel until the results of some tests my husband had were available. This was all at very short notice so the day before we were to fly out of Australia I was cancelling our flights, accommodation in Paris, and a train reservation, and putting the collection date of our leased Citroen on hold. Thankfully, a few days later - after much worry and stress - we were given the all-clear and I set about re-booking. Once again our travel insurance more than paid for itself. We ended up losing five days off our holiday and around $1400 in cancellation and re-booking fees which was refunded by our insurer, but again, we were thanking our lucky stars that things turned out for the best.
None of us know what’s going to happen tomorrow, let alone in a few months time - think the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004 or the shocking MH370 disappearance - but in most cases, with careful planning and the peace of mind of a good travel insurance policy, many holiday ‘disasters’ can turn out to be not so serious after all.
Have you had any near misses, accidents or sudden changes of plan on your holidays?