Family travel mishaps can feel like some of the worst moments of your life when you’re in the middle of them. Well, any travel mishap can, really. Hopefully, hindsight will let you laugh at the situation. But traveling with kids certainly takes the stress and frustration to new levels. Whether it is self-inflicted due to poor planning, or some other situation that is suddenly sprung on you, kids just complicate things that I otherwise might handle well on my own.

We’ve had a few mishaps over the past couple years, from the mildly inconvenient to the downright scary. Luckily, each was resolved without serious issue. I’m sure others have had worse. I feel like I’m blanking on a couple of other things that happened during our adventures from 2017 through now, but here are the top four family travel mishaps that come to mind:

Missing The Taipei Miniatures Museum and Getting Stuck in a Basement, Soaked

Everything conspired against us during our last day in Taipei. Well, the morning started out well. My son and I headed to the Guandu Temple, and then even farther out to Tamsui, followed by lunch at Din Tai Fung. All was going swimmingly.

But then the weather, my lack of preparedness, and the Taiwanese government proceeded to derail the rest of the day. We’d been informed by the Grand Hyatt Taipei that there would be an air raid drill that afternoon. The notice was clearly printed and left on our desk, and it even had the exact time the drill would take place. The advice was to stay inside the hotel with the shades drawn.

I wasn’t too keen on that idea. Instead, I figured we could spend the time at the Taipei Miniatures Museum. We’d still be indoors, and it was one of the activities I’d pitched to my son that piqued his interest the most. After lunch at Din Tai Fung, I figured we had just enough time to take the metro to the museum before the air raid drill started.

family travel mishaps

What I didn’t plan for was the thundershower. It was raining when we popped up from the subway. Not just raining…it was pouring. Think East Texas rain, where you are soaked in like 12.3 seconds. We have plenty of rain where we live, it just tends to be gentle. Cold, but gentle.

I slapped some cash in a guy’s hand and we ran off with an umbrella from a store very close to the subway stop. If I’d have only known that wouldn’t make a difference. We still got soaked from nearly head to toe on our mad dash to the museum.

Good news: we made it just in time. Bad news: the museum was closed. I’d picked the one day of the week that they aren’t open. Instead, we sat wet, dripping, and disappointed on the basement floor of the building, waiting for the air raid to finish. I felt awful for disappointing my son. We wasted more than the half hour, as a trek to the hotel for dry clothes was in order.

Trip Down the Mountain From Volcan Irazu

My wife and I might have three kids ranging from 5 to 12, but we have not been parents all that long. In late 2017 we adopted our three children from Costa Rica, and it’s been quite the adventure ever since. We ended up spending the bulk of our time in San Jose, sadly, during our time in country. Costa Rica’s capital is *not* a tourist destination. It’s the other parts of the country that are exquisite.

But we were able to get out and see a little bit of Costa Rica’s natural beauty, including a couple multi-night getaways and a couple day trips. One of these was to Volcan Irazu. You have to drive a winding mountain road to over 11,000 feet in elevation. We enjoyed the volcano, but the trip back down the hill turned into a disaster. There really aren’t any restaurant options along the way or up at the volcano itself, but we found a place on the way back. It was already well after lunch, so waiting nearly an hour for food with three hungry kids made things tense.

Disaster struck when the youngest vomited all of his fried fish all over the back of our tiny rental SUV. We were almost at the point of breakdown, having to clean everything. All we wanted was to be back in the aparthotel, having the kids wind down for the day. Needless to say, this was one of the worst days of our entire time in country. The second may have been when the same child got stung by dozens of ants.

Getting Lost in Metz, France

I wrote about this one previously, recounting my wanderings through the city, desperately trying to find my way to the main highway to take us back toward Paris. I rarely get lost (and hate it more than almost anything when traveling), but I was ill-prepared for navigating Metz, as we were just there to pick up the car. We’d not spent any time in the city.

Luckily, I can still use the sun well enough to navigate. After shushing the kids and doing some quiet thinking for a few minutes, I settled on the most likely direction back to the train station. It paid off, and soon we were on our way back to the airport.

family travel mishaps

Almost Losing a Child on the Beijing Subway

This takes the cake as the top family travel mishap. I ended up creating some ground rules for the older kids after this incident. Watching my son step onto the Beijing subway and the doors slide shut between us will be indelibly etched into my memory. He’d gotten a few steps ahead of me while I still had my daughter’s hand. I tried to yell at him to get off at the next station, but there were two layers of glass and it was not possible for him to hear anything.

Luckily, there are station attendants at many Beijing subway stations. Someone must have seen the panicked foreigner yelling at a kid alone on the train. The doors slid open, and we were all reunited. But I never want to experience that again.


Besides these, we’ve had a sketchy situation on BART, which I guess shouldn’t be all the surprising. It is filed more under “scary incidents” and less under “family travel mishaps”. Overall, my older two travel well and are have learned to stay alert and close by me when we’re moving. Or they rib me when the mishap is entirely my issue, such as getting lost in Metz.

Now I’m curious about your stories. What sorts of family travel mishaps have you had over the years?