top of page
  • Writer's pictureCaroline Watkins

my travel horror stories

Updated: Aug 23, 2021

This photo was taken in Mexico in May 2016.

Throughout the course of this blog, I've attempted to share with you all trips and tricks to have the best experiences traveling as possible. However, like I said at this beginning of this blog, I didn't want to sugarcoat anything for you. Unlike some other travel bloggers, who only show you the highlights reel of their adventures overseas, I wanted to give you the big picture—because unfortunately, traveling anywhere has its downsides, whether that's being a passenger on crummy airplane rides or experiencing random mishaps along the way.

That's why, for this week's blogpost, I wanted to share with you all some of the misfortunes I've experienced during my travels. Although I can laugh about them now while I write this blogpost, during the time, these events turned me into a major ball of stress. So, without further ado, let's get started.

1. That one time we almost missed our flight to Paris

Ah yes, I remember it well. My family and I were leaving our home in the suburbs of Washington D.C. to go to Paris for a week. It was my first time going to the French city, and I was ecstatic. Not only did I make a list of everywhere I wanted to go to in Paris, but I also packed my best clothes in a desperate attempt to blend in with the Parisian fashion I had headed so much about. So here I am, age 16, throwing my luggage into the back of a taxi cab. I was already listening to French Jazz music on my phone—you could say that at this point, I was looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. I was beyond ready. About thirty minutes later, we arrive at the airport–but as soon as we begin to pull in, I notice the expression on my mom's face change from cheerful to absolutely terrified. I take out one of my earbuds to listen in on the heated conversation that was happening in the front seat of the cab.

"I forgot my briefcase," my mom said.

"Dianne—why do you need your suitcase? We're going on vacation," my dad barked.

"I didn't tell you this, but I'm meeting with an investor while we are there. We have to turn back now, or else I will be screwed," she said.

"Are you serious?" My dad said angrily.

Without being able to utter a further word, the cab driver was already pulling back out of the circle drive of Dulles Airport. My heart was sinking. Not only were we running late to begin with, but now we had another nearly hour-long delay because of a briefcase. I had every doubt in my mind during that painfully long car ride that we weren't going to make our flight.

When we got to the house, the cab driver's GPS took us to the back of the house—where we have an incredibly tall gate that protects intruders from coming into our backyard. Before we could ask the cab driver to turn around, my mom bolted outside of the taxi door and began to crawl through bushes and weeds behind our neighbors house—in a suit. My dad and I didn't know what to say to our cab driver, so we just sat there, mouths agape.

A few minutes later, my mother emerged from my neighbors backyard, with a pantsuit that was nearly frayed at the bottom because of her Mission Impossible-style maneuvering to get the briefcase.

And somehow, by the grace of God, we still made that flight that day.

2. That one time we almost missed our flight to London

Although this story is a shorter one to tell, my family and I would argue that it's even more cringeworthy than our briefcase fiasco. My parents and I were going to London one summer and, like always in the Watkins family, we were running a bit late. Instead of calling a cab this time, my Aunt Brooke willingly decided to drive us to the airport. We were thankful that she offered to drive, and we were able to talk about our plans for the trip to her on our way to the airport.

We arrive at the airport running behind schedule, so we hop out of the car pretty quickly to grab our bags and go. Yet, to the dismay of my father who tried to open the trunk of the car, he couldn't.

Before he could tell my Aunt Brooke to hit the "unlock" button on her trunk one more time, we realized that she, too, got out of the car. She wanted to help grab our bags. My dad was about to ask where the keys to the car were, when my Aunt said "Oh no." She had locked all of our belongings inside her car by accident. Despite the cordial short talk we shared in the car, my dad let out a slew of cuss words only a sailor could match with his lexicon. In a similar fashion to the briefcase story, my mom and I were left with our mouths agape.

We ended up calling AAA, which was able to break back into my aunt's car to unlock the trunk and car doors. We also, somehow, managed to still make our flight.

3. The one time I almost died in Costa Rica

Wow. I guess you could say I saved the best story for last. There are a plethora of times in my life where I have questioned my mother's judgement, but I would say that this particularly occasion really takes the cake. I was about 13 years old, and my parents and I went to Costa Rica.

As an only child, trips to exotic places such as these were difficult, because none of my parents wanted to partake in any of the more adventurous activities that were offered in these destinations. Naturally, as a 13 year old in Costa Rica, I wanted to go zip lining in the jungle. After begging my parents to take me, my mom decided she would be the sacrificial lamb and take me so I would shut up about it.

After asking for directions form the hotel on how to get to the canopy tour headquarters, we drove our rental car up this long and unforgiving mountain. We got lost once along the way, and found an American who was willing to give us directions. We told her we were taking the "Monkey Trail" to the top of the mountain. She looked terrified.

"A family lost a daughter on that trail last month," she warned.

Right then and there, I decided that I was perfectly fine with turning our rented Ford Explorer around and driving back to the hotel. My mom, however, thought she could handle it.

"Okay. We'll just be extra careful," my mom said.

In retrospect, those could have been our last words.

Held captive to her driving skills, I begrudgingly got back into the car with her. We started to go up this infamous "Monkey Trail" and things turned south pretty fast. The first thing we noticed was that this "trail" was hardly a trail at all. The rain had washed the dirt trail down to its very core, and had potholes that were probably more than a foot deep. It felt like we were driving up a steep washboard.

On our next leg of the trip up the mountain, we saw power lines lining both sides of the road. At this point, I thought it wouldn't get any worse.

We then arrived on the turn of the path, where the trail sat dangerously close to the edge of a cliff. And although the road was a two way street, our Ford could barely fit on the path alone. If another car would have been driving from the opposite direction, the chances of us colliding and both falling off the unprotected cliff would have been pretty much certain. I was scared for my life.

Oh, and I did I mention how steep this turn was? It was at such an incline that it felt like we were driving up the side of a rollercoaster.

Now for the worst part—we began to stall out on our lousy stick-shift rental car. I began to scream and my mom started to cry. There was nothing protecting us from sliding off the side of the cliff. We slowly started to inch our way down the incline when my mom said, "I want you to get out of the car right now and run for help. And if you hear a loud noise, don't look back."

My mom was certain that she was going to end up falling off this cliff in the middle of the jungle. I refused to get out of the car.

"You are risking your life to save a rental car. Let's both jump out of the car now," I said, as I began to bawl my eyes out.

"Let me try this one more time," my mom said, as tears also streamed down her face. Somehow, someway, we gained control of the car again and finally crept up the turn. I can't believe we made it. A few minutes later, we arrived to the top of the godforsaken deathtrap and noticed something peculiar.

As we approached the headquarters of the canopy tour, what did we see? A perfectly paved road going down the other side of the mountain.

We started to cry again.

Someone from the canopy tour walked up to our car and looked at us with pity.

"I can see you guys had trouble coming up that side of the mountain, huh?" He said, laughing.

"Why the [insert explicit word here] didn't our hotel tell us to go up that side of the mountain?" My mom said.

"Oh, it was an extra two hours out of your way," he said.

Little did he know that we almost died!

Meanwhile, my dad was at our hotel, sitting in a lazy river and drinking bottomless mojitos.


So, those were some of my travel horror stories. I hope you enjoyed them, or at least found them amusing. Despite how terrible they were at the time, they now make for good dinner table conversations.

Like always, thank you for reading this blog. Do you have any crazy travel stories? I'd love to hear them!


bottom of page