Guardian readers on their worst holidays: rats, sewage and lots of vomiting

We asked for your worst holiday stories and you really came through, with a truly horrifying collection of vacation misery

Following Guardian writers recalling the breaks that almost broke them, we asked you to tell us about your own holiday nightmares and you responded with hundreds of tales of disappointing destinations, missed flights, robberies, breakdowns, bad company and lots and lots of vomiting.

Creatures great and small bears, mosquitoes, rats and roaches also made an appearance in stories of holiday hell, including this episode of cockroaches on a plane via 19lux:

On a flight to Indonesia, the second the plane became airborne, hundreds of thousands of cockroaches swarmed out and over us. I was one of the fortunate ones, having decided at the last minute to wear socks and long trousers, so I could keep my hems tucked. There were so many people in shorts or skirts and sandals. I will never ever fly in anything but trousers and socks again. I think the most unbelievable part of that journey was when the stewardesses came along to offer us dinner.

And a tide of rats as told by PoppyMandragora:

The lifeguards on the beach in Majorca this October blew their whistles ferociously and gesticulated for me to get out of the beautiful, calm, azure-blue sea that I had had to myself. After the previous day and night of torrential downpours, the weather had finally broken and the sun was fantastic. Irritated, I got out and stomped back up the beach.

A little further down the bay other holiday makers ignored them. Right up until the moment about 40 minutes later when large-ish, grey-ish blobs began floating gently towards the beach.

At first I assumed it was sewage. It wasnt. It was rats. Hundreds of them bobbing towards us, first drowned and then flushed out by the previous days downpours. The sight of the lifeguards cheerfully flinging the rats into bin bags as they laughed at the holiday makers who had previously chosen to ignore them was certainly memorable.

Vomiting bugs, lice, broken limbs, fevers (and other outbreaks of disease) featured prominently:


Norovirus in a Welsh cottage at Christmas with the mother-in-law. Five people, one toilet. Boxing Day shopping trip for bleach (too late to stop infection but needed for morale). Wife and mother-in-law fell out not spoken since. Many of food left untouched and forgotten. Pretty much a Christmas clusterf*ck.


It was to be our first real family holiday. Car packed to bursting, 3 kids strapped in, off we went on our 6 hr drive (which funnily enough takes 7 1/4 hrs with 3 kids in tow) to the south coast. My daughter vomited, which set off the other two in unison. I had one bucket, running across the mouths of 3 kids. We had run out of water, so was using coke to wipe off vomit. Could not pullover, were in a mountainous area.

30mins from home, we came across some drovers moving hundreds of head of cattle. What a wonderful sight, if a little intimidating. Then some idiot started blowing his horn, which in turn spooked the cattle.

My daughter once again vomited, this time a projectile vomit right into the back of her fathers head, who was attempting to drive us out of danger, with the help of one of the drovers. The stench of vomit was breathtaking to say the least, couldnt wind windows down because of the cattle.


In 2004, I agreed to help my brother-in-law out by babysitting my nephew before a trip to Hawaii. My nephew is dropped off with a slight cold, which I quickly diagnose as a high grade fever. As I board the plane to Hawaii, I have a slight sore throat. By the end of the flight I have a fever and for the next 9 days have the worse ear and throat infection.

I spent the entire trip in the most expensive hotel room I have ever booked overlooking Waikiki Beach pretty much delirious and constantly running a fever.

I can say this was the most miserable trip ever, despite me having being caught up in a war, getting bitten by bed bugs and going to Hull.

Esther Doyle recalled her Shite Fest au Jardin in County Wicklow:

Took two teenage grandsons with me to stay with elderly aunt in Ireland. Aunts cottage has somewhat primitive sanitation involving a septic tank, which seemed to work well enough on previous visits. This particular year though, just before we arrived, there had been two weeks of apocalyptic rain.

We arrived to find the back garden six inches deep in stinking water. The septic tank had backed up due to the excessive rain and decanted its contents.

No matter, the aunt called in the local farmer with his slurry tank and he drained the septic tank. The sewage came back the next day.

Farmer did the business again and explained that the over-saturated ground was leaching water into the tank. He assured me that as soon as we got a bit of good weather it would be grand. We didnt get good weather and the next day we had the usual Shite Fest au Jardin.

And by now the farmer had gone on hols. (This was Ireland in August…)

Aunt immediately banned all bathing/showering or flushing the toilet unless wed done something completely unspeakable, on the grounds that we would only flood the garden more.

There are no words to describe being in that small cottage with two teenage unwashed chaps, plus aunt and her three dogs.

The weather became humid, and exacerbated by the gallons of water now evaporting into the already water-sodden air, herds of midges came from all over County Wicklow to devour the pallid and enticingly stinky flesh of the Londoners.

Aunt still refused to allow us to shower despite the huge itching buboes all over any exposed parts.

Then the announcement came over the local radio station that due to the previous deluge, the local water supply had been tainted so we couldnt drink that either. We lived on Club Orange and Cidona for days.

Then aunt went to bingo one night. That was the only happy day we had.

We leapt into the shower and stood under the cold water scratching for hours. Such bliss.

Raw sewerage (again) and more vomiting:


Corfu 1979. First romantic break with the boyfriend. Arrived at our luxury villa to find raw sewage regurgitating from the shower drain. The smell was dire. Complained to the tour operator who promised to do something and then disappeared. Headed to the beach on day 2. Beautiful azure water as warm as a bath. Boyfriend runs in escstatic and emerges in 2 minutes covered in jelly fish and screaming hysterically. Day three was when the vomiting started. By day 6 it was green water coming up every ten minutes. 4 hour delay at the airport with horrific toilets and profusive diarrhoea. Arrived home at 10pm weak as a kitten and stayed in bed for a week after.

Hannah MacLeod warned of the perils of trying something new:

Long weekend in Amsterdam. I witnessed great civilisations rise and fall whilst I cowered in a youth hostel bog for ten thousand fucking years. Note to self: avoid magic mushrooms.

Plus, there was a side-serving of racism in Spain from hairymo:

Worst holiday Barcelona 2005. Shop owner refused to sell me a bottle of water, my blackness seemed to truly upset him and he advised we needed to leave his shop.

Waitress refused to seat us in a restaurant and just left us standing there whilst she and her backward colleagues stood and laughed.

A man on the street, tried to pull me away from my boyfriend and called me a black whore. I still cannot believe I paid for this experience.

Nice architecture, awful people.

Luckily, all those terrible holidays werent in vain, at least some saw the lighter side:


Thanks people! I enjoyed that. Reading it all took most of the afternoon though, with popping about here and there to do bits. But very funny. Phew! Need a holiday after all that reading….


As a child we didnt really have family holidays (my parents lived in the same house but that was about it) and I used to think I was missing out. As Ive got older Ive realised that I may have had a lucky escape.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2016/dec/31/guardian-readers-on-their-worst-holidays-rats-sewage-and-lots-of-vomiting

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