Haunted hotels? Been there, done that—yawn. Leave it to a group of family travel pros to scare up some seriously frightful stories from the road for your entertainment… and ours (now).
I like to refer to mine as the “throw Mama from the train” tale:
The conductor woke me from the sleeper car where my toddler and I had snuggled into a tight bunk. It was a little after 2:30 in the morning and we’d be the only ones dropped at a station an hour outside Barcelona, so I hustled my son into his carseat straps since the train would only briefly pause. We arrived at the deserted station and I hopped out, placing my son on the platform and stepped back in to carry off the folded three-wheeler all-terrain stroller that had become part conveyance, part backpack holding all of our worldly belongings. That’s when it stuck in the door. Tight. With me trapped behind it. My mind raced. I’d carried the thing on, no problem. But now, it was wedged, a solid barrier from ankle high to well over my waist.
“Ayudame!” I cried, panic rising. Two sleepy passengers hurried over and we kicked, we pried, we yanked—one gentleman tried to detach a wheel, explaining the doors on the left (where we boarded) were four inches wider than the right. That’s when the train started. With no sign of the conductor to alert, it was picking up speed. My drowsy toddler looked quizzically from his seat, with an outstretched arm. As he grew smaller and the end of the platform came into view, I grabbed the man’s shoulder, shoved one foot on top of the stroller and launched myself from the train—Supermama.
I got up from (skinned) hands and knees 15 feet from the end of the elevated platform and scrambled back to hug my entirely unfazed boy; not caring in the slightest that our passports, IDs, credit cards, and cash were heading to France. Turning, I saw the stroller catch the light of a streetlamp as it arced into the dark night, landing in a mangled heap a quarter mile down the tracks.
Jennifer Miner, co-owner of The Vacation Gals, a popular, award-winning women’s travel blog, shares her story of being “pound-wise, penny-foolish” in Puerto Rico:
My parents rented, sight unseen, the cheapest condo on a VRBO list, and off we went with my two-year old, infant, husband, and brother-in-law. Big mistake. It rained every day, and the roof leaked. The crib was decades old and unsafe, so our infant slept in our small bed with me and my husband. There was nothing to do in the residential neighborhood, and rain made beach time unpleasant. The final straw came when my brother-in-law decided a fun game to play with my toddler would be “Let’s pretend this penny is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
Naturally, my two-year old swallowed that penny, and in the ensuing chaos I completely lost my already tenuous hold on Spanish. Rushing into the hospital, the best I could muster was “Dinero. Me niña comer dinero.” This translates, basically, into, “Money. My girl to eat money.” Fortunately, after an x-ray and a few hours of waiting around, we learned that we would luckily only have to be patient and wait for that penny to make an eventual appearance in her diaper.
When my husband, daughter, and I left the hospital, we blinked our eyes against the bright late-afternoon sunlight. Scariest thing of all, it seemed, was that we missed the only sunny day of the week.
Jamie Pearson, founder of TravelSavvyMom.com—a family travel site earning nods by Babble, LA Times, Parenting and others—shared her, ahem, laundry list of why one hotel stay was disastrous:
One time in Belgium, my husband and I let our then two-year-old son eat waaaay too much chocolate. Back at the hotel, poor Max blew out his diaper. When my husband (who was now wearing a hotel bathrobe) tried to change him, Max somehow managed to get poop all over his bathrobe, the bathmat, and (in the process of trying to clean it up) all the towels. Before I knew what was happening, my husband put it all in the bathtub to “soak.” We had to call the front desk and ask them to send someone to take away the mess. I made my husband tip the housekeeper €20, but judging from her face, it wasn’t enough.
A relaxing multigenerational Mexican vacation turned into a nightmare when a stranger tapped me on the shoulder, “I think your father is having a heart attack.” My husband, toddler, and I had just been served steaming bowls of delicious-looking soup in a café in the tiny town of Todos Santos. My dad had gone outside to get some fresh air; he wasn’t feeling well after a night of too many margaritas. I never did get a chance to taste that soup. Instead I climbed into the cab of a local’s beat-up pickup truck with my ashen father. My husband set off on foot, running as he pushed our daughter’s stroller over dirt roads and broken sidewalks to the clinic several blocks away. We arrived at small, crumbling building and were greeted by handsome doctor-boys and a stretcher. Upon examination, we learned my dad was just extremely dehydrated. After an IV of fluids and cash payment of a few dollars for what would have cost thousands in the U.S., he was (thankfully!) on the mend.