When Family Getaways Go Wrong, How to Make Them Right

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This post originally appeared on Best Western’s YouMustBeTrippin.com’s blog, where I regularly contribute stories. I was compensated for this post but the opinions are mine.


You don’t travel more than 50,000 miles by car in the United States, Puerto Rico and Costa Rica without experiencing pretty much everything that could go wrong.

National Lampoon recently rebooted its classic ‘Vacation,’ but honestly, neither of those films holds a candle to the stuff we’ve experienced on the road!

  • The driver’s side door of our vehicle was blown off its hinges by fierce, tropical storm-like winds on an Oregon mountain.
  • My wife, Angela, had to get an emergency root canal in Colorado, just a week until we had to drive into Vancouver, Canada, for a Disney Cruise we had scheduled, and almost missed, to Alaska.
  • In Texas, we improperly mounted our luggage rack on the car. When we drove on the highway, the bags – and the new car’s roof rack – flew off and into the middle of the highway. How no one got hurt is honestly a miracle.
  • In the middle of a remote road in the Mojave Desert, we mistakenly drove off road, into the desert to get some cool vacation video, and consequently, got massively stuck in the sand. Three hours later and more than $200 in towing fees, we fled the Mojave Desert.
  • In Sedona, we left the keys to our car stuck inside the vehicle in a part of the trunk that prevented even roadside services from helping us.
  • Near Chicago, one of our daughters had a massive bathroom emergency, causing us to disassemble her car seat in order to clean it – and miss an entire vacation day in the Windy City.
  • At Disneyland, I got the flu. In Oregon, my daughter, Elena, got a massive blister that required medical attention. In Kansas, my son, Jonathan, got his finger stuck in a baby wipe canister until a highway police officer pried it out of the canister.

The list of mishaps we’ve had on the road goes on and on, but through it all we’ve kept it together and have built an arsenal of memories that, in the end, has made our family stronger and made for some of the best family vacations.

So what is our secret sauce?

The first secret to overcoming road tripping adversity lies in expecting adversity, setbacks, delays and discomfort to happen. I’ve heard the Marines have an unofficial slogan that says “adapt, improvise and overcome.” Well, that motto has become our family’s official road trip motto.

The second secret is that, as adults, you have to remind yourselves that you are the ones who must keep it together. Two years ago, on the very last day of a major California road trip, my daughter, Briani, badly cut her finger open at a San Francisco restaurant. The cut was so deep it clearly required stitches. Without losing a beat, my wife and Briani boarded a taxi to a nearby emergency room, Briani got six stitches and three hours later she was back at the hotel ready to board her flight home to Miami. My wife and I could have gone crazy with all the blood our precious little one spewed in front of her three siblings, but what helped us keep it together was the presence of mind we had that it was up to us to divide and conquer the situation.

The third and final advice I have is that 99 out of 100 times, don’t forget that when it comes to road trips, those flat tires, bathroom emergencies, flying car doors and plastic trapped fingers will be classic family memories. When you go through one of those moments, remember that one day you’ll look back and relish those memories.

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