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9 Holiday Travel Horror Stories That Make Your Trip Seem Painless

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Holiday travel sucks, and most people think that it sucks most around Thanksgiving. That's not necessarily true. However, that probably doesn't make you feel any better if you're reading this while stuck in an airport on the wrong side of the country with hours to wait before your flight leaves. These next nine horror stories might.

We recently asked Gizmodo readers to send us their most awful, appalling holiday travel horror stories. Some were awful. Some were appalling. Several were hilarious in a schadenfreude kind of way. But the best part is that all of these experiences are now behind the readers who submitted them. Thank God.


Taking the train can be a delightful experience. You get to see the scenery. You can hang out on the cafe car. But as dancetilithurts explains, train rides are only fun 'til they're not:

*&$%* Amtrak! In the early '90s my girlfriend and I decided to go from DC to Chicago for Christmas via Amtrak, about a 12 hour trip, I think. The train kept stopping then moving for a bit at a time in the middle of nowhere until eventually we were told the tracks were frozen. The heat went out, the toilets backed up, and the train ran out of food before we finally rolled into Chicago after almost 30 hours.

But then — I know what you're thinking, "Fool me once..." — a couple of years later we tried it again and you guessed it, same thing. Frozen tracks, no heat, backed up toilets, no food (except what we brought this time), and arrival after around 25 hours.


If trains are delightful, planes are both miraculous and horrifying. You're going to go through hell at the airport only to get inside of a giant metal tube that's going to fly thousands of feet above the ground with no hope of escape. Then the dust storms start. Rubidor remembers:

Mine is travelling from Seattle to NZ. SeaTac to LA was fine, LA to Sydney was great for the first 14 hours, then 45min in from landing we were told that a dust storm had 'closed the city down' we then were diverted to Brisbane, landed, stayed on the plane for two hour, got off and waited in the gate area for two hours, couldn't leave as it was an international flight, then back on the plane for 1.5 more hours. They hadn't cleaned the plane, or refilled the depleted water in between... We took off and 20 min later were told that the storm had reached Brisbane and they were closing that airport. So lucky escape there. Got down to Sydney, were stacked for 1.5 hours waiting to land. Got on the ground, got bumped 5 flights, and eventually landed in Christchurch NZ at 2am the next morning. At the baggage claim and two bags came out for a full plane... Went to the sole person working at the customer service counter in time to have about 200 people line up behind me. Eventually got my luggage 4 days later... All this with a 6 month old who cut his first tooth on the plane, and a lost gate checked stroller.... google Sydney dust storm for some crazy looking pictures. In finding out more info, if our flight had arrived two hours earlier we would have been fine, instead it was 41 hours.

Backed up toilets on the ground is bad, poop in the sky is worse. Bwashburn9 recalls:

Christmas trip to our family from San Francisco to Milwaukee about 4yrs ago. We were traveling with our son who was three years old and in the midst of potty training... Long story shortened... we had packed 4 diapers & 2 change of clothes in our carry on for the trip (we had a layover in MSP). Minutes before the stewardesses close the doors, our son erupts with explosive diarrhea, the kind that goes up the back and down the legs — down one diaper and one change of clothes. He repeats again prior to takeoff - down another diaper. As we get to cruising altitude, it happens again — another diaper, and another outfit. He's now sitting in his diaper with a blanket over him. We have one diaper left and no change of clothes — and 2+hrs left. You don't know fear until you've got a toddler sitting on your lap who can erupt at any second and you don't have extra clothes and only one diaper.

By some miracle, he makes it without filling his pants to MSP. But, now we have to do the walk of shame with two bags of poo filled clothes (which we just threw away) and our son in his diaper.

So I scour MSP looking for a change of clothes and diapers. I ended up buying a Minnesota sweatshirt and pants ($25 each, but hey, no sales tax!) and found a package of 2 diapers (last ones available) in the little newsstand.

Success... or so we thought. Our son choked on cracker while we were eating in the food court and vomited all over his new pants. I wasn't paying another $25 for sweatpants so I took them to the bathroom and washed with soap and water and tried to dry them under the hand blower.


We here at Gizmodo are not exempt from the torture. Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan has a truly horrifying story of her own:

It was January 2010, and I was in Denver visiting my family for Christmas. The day came and went, and on a clear morning a few days later, I arrived at DEN for my flight home to New York. Despite the fact that it was sunny, they had bad news for me: My flight was cancelled because of an impending snowstorm, henceforth known as SNOWPOCALYPSE or SNOWMAGEDDON.

Whatever, though, right? I've been through this a million times! I got rescheduled the next day for an asscrack of dawn flight through Chicago and went home to spend the night at my aunt's house. The next morning, I get on a flight to Chicago, but when I get there, it turns out my flight home to NYC has been cancelled. No biggie, right? My sister lives in Chicago, so I spend the night with her.

The next morning I get up in the dark and get in a cab to go to O'Hare and sit on the waitlist for a flight home. It's snowing, but nothing unusual for Chicago. As the cab speeds north on I-90, I zone out, and only begin to realize what's happening as the cab spins in what seems like slow motion across the lanes and slams into the guardrail. I black out, and when I come to, we're in the middle of a completely darkened highway. The cab driver is also unconscious (he ended up being ok) and I can't get my door open to barf, because I suddenly HAVE TO BARF. After a while, ambulances and firetrucks show up and open the jammed door, and in my concussion-induced fog, I sign a paper saying I declined medical care (honestly, I think the EMT people thought I was drunk? They asked if I'd been drinking but I can't remember much else about what happened).

Some cops drop me off at the blue line after taking my name. I get on the train and to the airport and go through security, feeling really, really weird. I am inexplicably and uncontrollably weeping. When I finally get to my gate, I look at the screen showing the waitlist and realize I can't read the fucking numbers. I ask and I'm well into the 100s. I start to kind of realize something is wrong with my head, so I go into the bathroom and call my mom while crying like a baby. As any sane person might, she asks why I didn't get myself checked out.

Back into a cab, home to my sister's apartment, where I lay on the couch and she very kindly takes care of my idiot self. I went back to O'Hare the next morning—or maybe the next?—and sit on the waitlist some more with what felt like thousands of other people. I still remember when they announced they had scheduled a special 747 (I think?) that was normally used for transatlantic flights to take us all home to New York. I don't think I've ever been happier. Everyone on that plane was so full of joy—it was actually an incredibly fun ride. Anyways, I got home, after four days of misery.

In conclusion, don't be an idiot like me: Get yourself checked out after a car accident.


Head injuries are scary. You know what else is scary? Authorities leaving hundreds of people trapped in their cars overnight, halfway through a blizzard-ridden mountain pass. CaptainJack was lucky to survive:

Thanksgiving 2000, My 7 months pregnant wife, and I were returning from a road trip to visit family and it was Sunday night. Driving through Cle-Elemat about 8:30 PM there was a bit of snow on the road, and maybe six inches accumulated on the sides of the road. Being from a snowy realm, I thought little of it and assumed the slowdown approaching Snoqualmie pass was due to Thanksgiving Traffic more than the little bit of snow. By 10PM we were just crawling along, and by 11 PM we had stopped completely. By Midnight it was clear we weren't moving anytime soon. There were hundreds of cars on the road and no traffic coming the other direction. My wife had to pee, as all pregant women do, but she refused to traipse off into the forest in the snow to do so, and stubbornly held it. We were near the summit and so the snow was a couple feet deep on the sides of the road.

We had blankets and 3/4 tank of gas. Others weren't so prepared, so we let some folks siphon some of our gas so their kids could have heat trapped in their cars overnight. Around 2 AM we finally got reception of an AM radio station that stated that the Pass had been closed for the night due to snow and the State Patrol being sick of having to rescue all the holiday drivers that were going off the road at slow speeds. Funny thing, nobody had bothered to inform the folks stranded up there of that, nor did they bother to close off the pass at an exit. I got out of the car and walked ahead and saw that they had closed the road off about 1 mile in front of us. About 1 Mile behind us there was an exit that they could have easily closed the road at and turned folks around. Instead they felt it was just safer to have a bunch of unprepared holiday travelers stuck in their cars for 10 hrs trapped on the road.

At 6 AM a State Patrol officer came driving up the oncoming lanes and kept hitting his sirens and telling people to wake up because the pass was goign to be opening soon. Something they neglected to do the night before to tell us to hunker down because the road was closed.

When we commenced down the road it was clear that they had not plowed at all since the road had been closed. The driving conditions were no safer, if anything the roads were icier due to the colder temperatures and no traffic on the road for 8 hrs. It was just that it was about to be dawn and it would be easier to tow people and the state troopers could get their 8 hrs of sleep.

It was then that I came to realize just how screwed up the snow response in Washington State can truly be and how much the people who make the decisions on whether to close the roads and where are assholes and idiots of the highest magnitude. Closing the road and trapping people on it was far more dangerous than letting that last mile or two of traffic through. Since that day I have spoken to many a soul that has had a similar experience of having the pass close while they are stuck on the freeway with nowhere to exit or turn around. It is a common occurrence, and why I will gladly drive 2 hrs out of my way to go through Portland if there is even a remote chance of snow in that pass.

And since we are sharing. My best holiday travel snafu was when on a work trip right before Easter, the boat I was on dropped me off on the wrong Island, and instead of flying home through Puerto Rico, I was stuck at a beachfront resort on St. Maarten for several days waiting for a flight out. But I did miss Easter with the family...


What's consistent about a lot of these travel stories is the fact that the outcome is entirely out of your control. It's the weather or an airplane or icy tracks or something you can't control that always seems to ruin things. So, as o4tuna bravely displays, sometimes you just have to take control:

I needed to go from Boise to Tacoma, to drop off a $10K check, that would net me a $90K profit. I also had to pick up a vehicle I had left in storage when I moved a year earlier. Decided to go greyhound, so I could drive the other car back. Had to be there by 2 pm to close. Took the redeye, that was supposed to arrive @ 9 am.

Somewhere in the Blue mountains, the bus driver pulled to the shoulder, got out & walked around the bus. She came back on & had a rather heated conversation over the 2-way radio. Seems she didn't feel safe driving without chains, and wasn't physically capable of putting them on (mid 60s, 5'-2" 110ish). Greyhound told her to stay put & they'd send her out a replacement bus in about 12 hours.

Me: "I'll put your chains on where are they?"

Her: "That's against company policy"

Me "I have a CDL & have chained up many trucks & trailers, AND if I ain't in Tacoma by 2pm, I lose 100K, where's your chains?"

Her: "they might be under here (points to cargo door), but I didn't see anything..."

So I started putting them on, & a couple other passengers helped. Rolled into Tacoma around noon...


That helpless feeling when a crash or something clogs up the Interstate and leaves you three hours late for dinner? Might as well make some lemonade out of those lemons. Brdf did just yesterday:

The best one happened only a few hours ago. We were leaving home to visit the in-laws, and found ourselves in rapidly glassifying traffic. When Google started to estimate the 90 minute trip would take four hours and we were motionless for minutes at a time, we said fuck this, pulled off, and discovered that we were 5 minutes away from an IMAX showing Interstellar 15 minutes from now, which we'd been very much wanting to see. We pulled into the theater, enjoyed the three-hour show, had a nice Chinese-Indian fusion dinner, and are now on the road again with no traffic at all. Plus, we missed dinner with the in-laws! (I kid about the last bit; love the in-laws.)


We all know how techcore2 feels sometimes:

Traveling to my parent's house.....oh the weather was clear, the roads were was the fact I was heading to the usual holiday disguised spanish inquisition cloaked detailed examination of how I was wasting my life in comparison to my other siblings while trying to maintain my composure during a prolonged yearly evisceration. Snowmaggedon ? Cancelled flights ? Traffic jams ? Nothing compares to my drive into the abyss called a family holiday dinner.


And here's myrtlebeachbums with the most horrifying:

I once flew Delta.