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I just got back from possibly one of the worst vacations ever. Have you ever read The Berenstain Bears Too Much Vacation? (affiliate link) If yes, that is basically how our vacation went. We were really looking forward to our vacation. We had to go to Portland for a wedding on Sunday the 26th, so we left on Friday, planned to hit up the falls, then the OMSI on Saturday, the wedding on Sunday and head to Tillamook, then down the coast to the Redwoods on Monday, where we would spend a week before heading home. Sounds pretty awesome right? We had even been hiking every Saturday to prepare for our Redwoods leg of the trip and it is what we were most excited for. But our vacation went to crap the first day.
It started when a home-made trailer on the freeway lost a plywood wall right in front of our car, then our radiator broke on the freeway, then we had to pay for a rental car, repairs, had holds put on our card (we choose to live debt free and use a debit card for everything). Then we went to our hotel to find they had the water off, because the room next to ours had their pipe burst (and they didn’t have another room for us because they were booked completely full)….things just kept on piling up. But during all of this, I was glad that we had some knowledge and travel experience, and that we were prepared as much as we could be. We have had our share of vacation mishaps, but this was not just a mishap or a hiccup. Nope. This vacation went to crap. And now, I want to share some tips with you for if your vacation goes to crap like ours did (or even if you just have a little bit of bad luck).
(Side note- a huge thank you to my blogger friends who pitched in pictures from their cruddy vacation moments to help with this post. Be sure to check them all out!)
Before Vacation (When Things Are Still Good)
(Photo Credit: Home Is Where The Mouse Is)
- Have an emergency fund. Before you head on vacation, be sure to have an emergency fund. We choose not to use credit cards, so for us, our emergency fund was cash/bank account funds. Thankfully we had it. Between repairs, rental cars, and more, it took our entire emergency fund plus some to get everything taken care of. The size of your emergency fund depends entirely on your travel situation, but $500 is a good starter amount. If you do have an emergency credit card you would use in this case, be sure you have checked that the account is in good standing, has enough credit available, and you have notified your credit card company that you will be traveling.
- Pack smart. When you pack, make sure you know where things are, and that you can access the most needed items easily. For us, when our car broke down and the Ubber driver picked us up at the repair shop (after our vehicle was towed) I was grateful I had done this. I had packed the stroller where it was easy to access to take with us to the airport to pick up the rental car, so we could put the babies in it. If you need to access clothing, medications, etc it is important you know exactly where they are. Pack important medications in your carry on if you are flying.
- Plan that things might go wrong. By this I mean, have a roadside emergency kit (I share how to put one together HERE), check your vehicles spare tire is ready, print out addresses, and maybe even directions or a map, have a list of important phone numbers. One time, heading down to California the first time, our GPS went out. We were taking back highways, had no cell service. Thankfully, I had printed out the directions. What if your cell died, would you have any important phone numbers? Do you have enough stuff to do some basic repairs on your vehicle? You don’t have to plan that the world will end, but if your GPS was to go out, you should be prepared.
- Travel insurance. Seriously think about purchasing travel insurance. I have talked about purchasing travel insurance on this blog for if you ever use a pre-pay hotel booking option, but did you know you can purchase travel insurance on your own? Travel insurance is pretty cheap (usually under $50) and can cover a myriad of circumstances from lost luggage, to having to cancel a hotel stay too late (and paying a penalty) and so much more. Normally with travel insurance you have to pay any expenses up front, but they reimburse you when you file a claim but be sure to read your policy so you know what is covered and how you file claims.
When Things Go Bad
- Try to stay calm. So you missed a connecting flight or your car broke down on the freeway. Take a deep breath and handle the situation as calmly as possible. I know this is easier said then done, especially if you are traveling with kids, but when kids are there it is even more important.(Photo Credit: Heidi’s Head)
- Baby Steps for problem solving. When one, or two, or even three things go wrong it can be overwhelming. Think in terms of baby steps for getting things taken care of. First assess the situation. Figure out what is wrong and think about what you need to do to resolve it. Think about safety. Are you somewhere safe, and if not, how will you get there? Then think about what needs to get done. So your van broke down 20 miles outside of Portland, and it is not something you can repair, or drive on. (Which is what happened to us) First, we pulled over, put on the flashers, took a look. Then we called the roadside assistance. While we were waiting to be towed, we knew we would need a vehicle to get to our hotel, so we called and reserved a rental car at the airport. Once we were towed (thankfully we all fit in the tow truck, even with car seats), we knew we needed to get to the airport. So we used Uber to take us there, along with a stroller knowing we could not carry 3 car seats and 2 15 month olds through the airport. Finally, we worried about getting to our hotel, picking up dinner along the way, and finally, how we would get our stuff (sending Mike back to get it while I stayed at the hotel with the kids).
- Try to stay positive. While things were going on, we tried to make everything as fun as possible. We knew that our vacation was going down the drain, but we also wanted to make sure that we didn’t let it ruin everything, so we focused on the positive. Riding in the big tow truck was an adventure. The Goof even got to help load and unload the car by pulling the levers. Saturday, while our van was being fixed, we headed to the OMSI for a day of fun. We still tried to do some fun things, although being a bit more frugal in our spending.(Photo Credit: Trips With Tykes)
- Take pictures. Just like in the Berenstain Bears book, we tried to keep taking pictures during our vacation, even of the stuff that seemed awful. While that weekend seemed like it was just going down the toilet, we snapped pictures of some of the experiences because we know that later (even just now, a few weeks later) we are looking back at things and laugh. Yeah, we had bad luck, but we still had some funny or new experiences.
- Go with the flow. So you might have to stay overnight in a city waiting for a new flight, or you may have to cancel the last leg of your trip (like we did) because things are going so bad and the bills keep adding up. This is one of those times that being mad about the changes won’t help. Learn to go with the flow and make the best of the situation. Be flexible. If things are going really bad, don’t feel bad if you feel the need to cancel part of your trip. Do not let people make you feel guilty because you are late or miss a meetup. Just know that you are making the best of a bad situation.
After the Vacation
(Photo Credit: Home Is Where The Mouse Is)
- Tie up loose ends. Do you need to file any claims for travel or car insurance? Do you need to contact any hotels about changes, charges, credits? Do you need to get a car looked at? Maybe you need to set reminders to use airline vouchers before they expire. Whatever it is, there most likely is a loose end that needs to be taken care of if your vacation had any kind of problems. Be sure to do it as soon as you get home so you don’t forget.
- Focus on the good parts. Look back on the things that were still good about your vacation. Did you have any funny moments? Did you still get to do something you enjoyed? Did you learn anything new? There was bound to be something good about your vacation, so try and focus on that.
- Plan a do-over/better vacation. If you had an awful vacation, you often feel a bit cheated. To help make up for it, plan your next vacation. Maybe you will finish the vacation you had to cut short. Maybe you will go somewhere else? Maybe you will just take some time off and relax. Whatever it is, don’t let this vacation spoil future ones.
In the end, you have to decide if your bad vacation was still worth it. Ours was. We still had fun seeing Multnomah Falls, the OMSI, at my niece’s wedding, and even visiting the Tillamook Cheese Factory. Did it go crappy? You bet! Do I want to go through all of that on vacation again. Heck no! But guess what, in the end, we made some great memories, our family learned we can stay calm (my kids did awesome, even the babies) and make the best of a not-so-great situation.
Have you had a bad vacation? I would love to hear your bad vacation stories in the comments!