Family travel blog offering encouragement and tips for easy and affordable travel with kids

Travel Mishaps Part 1: Vacations in the Cold

Travel Mishaps Part 1: Vacations in the Cold

We are family travel bloggers. Our lives and adventures are out on the Internet for anyone to see. Of course, we like to share the great things, but we’d be the first to tell you that some of our trips have been disasters. Hopefully, we have learned from those disasters.

We thought it would be fun to share some of those travel mishaps and the lessons we learned from them (hopefully). After all, the perfect Instagram picture may get a lot of likes, but the journey to get that perfect picture can be just as fun.

Romance Gone Awry

I had the perfect plan. I wanted to surprise my wife with a Valentine’s Day getaway. I did all the planning and booked the flights, rental car, bed and breakfast, everything. She knew only that on a certain weekend, I had something special planned.

I had booked a flight to Little Rock, Arkansas. We were headed to the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas to go diamond hunting. What could be more romantic than digging through the dirt and discovering our very own diamond? We learned about the park and talked about a trip there, and I had made plans for the perfect weekend getaway.

And it was perfect. We had a great flight and a nice drive to the bed and breakfast. The bed and breakfast was romantic and close to perfect. We enjoyed a great start to a Valentine’s weekend.

Warm Romantic Room
Our room looked toasty and cozy, which was a good thing because our outdoor adventure was a bust.

The morning we were to drive to the diamond park was cold. We figured it would warm up by the time we made it to hunt for our diamond. That never happened.

It was about 35 degrees Fahrenheit when we entered the park. We tried to make the best of the situation, making our way to a recent upturned dig site. We read on the white board that a two carat diamond was found five days previously. We knew we’d be the next to find a diamond.

But that cold air was really cold. There was a constant wind making the conditions feel even colder.

We got our buckets of dirt filled and began to sift the soil through a shaker. Then we sent the sifted soil through frigid water troughs to shake off excess dirt (a process similar to gold panning). The icy water hit our jackets and shirt sleeves as we shook the sifter. Soon our shirts, pants, and shoes got wet.

The temperature fell, and we continued to sift through our buckets of dirt. But we were miserable. After about 30 minutes, we called it quits. No diamond was worth frostbite.

History Takes a Negative Turn

Unfortunately, we have too many examples of trips ruined by cold weather. My wife surprised me with a trip to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia as a Christmas gift. We traveled to the colonial town in January, and, you guessed it, we froze while walking through the streets where George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had once walked.

Colonial Candle
It was warm inside but you can see the empty streets during our chilly visit to Colonial Williamsburg

Lots of our pictures from this trip are taken from inside the buildings, because we were always trying to come in from the cold. We may have shown more interest in Colonial publishing or blacksmithing than we actually felt in order to hold on to the heat from the fireplaces inside those buildings.

Wig Shop in Colonial Williamsburg
Coming in from the cold at the wig shop at Colonial Williamsburg.

The Winter of our Discontent

Another time, we planned a family trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. The park had free admission for the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. We packed our car for the drive to the park, and fortunately packed heavy winter coats. The drive was sunny and warm, but as we approached the park, it grew cold and then started to snow.

By the time we got to the entrance of the park, we were wearing our coats and driving through a full-force blizzard. We still tried to make the best of the day, searching for wildlife with the kids and trying to marvel at the 14,000 foot mountain peaks. But, the animals were hunkered down for the storm and the peaks were covered with clouds.

Unexpected Snow at RMNP
You can see the snow falling at Sprague Lake. At higher elevations, we experienced blizzard conditions.

During the drive, our daughter needed to use the restroom. We found a restroom for her, but she could not open her car door due to the force of the wind. My wife helped open her door, and had to hold on to her on the way to the restroom because the gale force winds threatened to knock our 30-pound daughter over. Both of them struggled to walk through the storm, their bodies at a 45 degree angle to make their way to the facilities.

We ate our picnic lunch in the car at the visitors center. We saw a few animals, but were unable to see moose or bighorn sheep, which we had most hoped to see that trip.

We called it quits. We left the park and guess what we found? Sunny skies and warmth. Apparently, the blizzard was confined to the park. We could only laugh as we later saw cloud covered peaks to our east where the park stands.

But, hey, it was free admission.

Who Knew San Diego Was This Cold?

What about that time when we booked the timeshare in San Diego in April? What could go wrong with an April trip to San Diego? Plenty.

San Diego is temperate 51 weeks of the year. But that 52nd week? It’s cold and windy with a frigid rain. And that’s the week we planned our trip. We took the family to the San Diego Zoo and Disneyland. We also planned to spend a great deal of time at the resort at the outdoor swimming pool.

San Diego Zoo
We had a nice day at the San Diego Zoo with warm weather, but the cold weather was coming.

That didn’t work out. Our visits to the zoo and Disneyland were great. Our trip to the beach? Never mind, it was too cold. And our time at the pool was miserable. I had to take our daughter back to our room. She was shivering and her fingers and nose turned blue.

The Storm to End All Storms

We planned a holiday drive to St. Louis to visit family. Of course, the day before we were to leave, a violent ice storm hit the St. Louis area. The ice knocked down power lines throughout the city, leaving most of the city without electricity and heat. Electricians from around the country were sent to the city to help restore the power. Those without power in their homes booked hotel rooms that had electricity and heat.

Our drive to the city was treacherous. However, the trees were brilliantly lined with ice that made them amazingly beautiful. It’s a memory that is still fresh today, ten years after the event. We made it to our destination without incident (although it was a long, slow drive) and made our way to the hotel.

At our hotel, we found no parking. Electric service trucks littered the parking lot. We headed into the lobby to find what seemed like the entire population, searching for rooms. Unfortunately, the city had arranged to house the electricians coming in from out of state, pushing those who checked in late out of their rooms, with no other accommodations to be found in the city.

We arrived just in time to secure our room, although we were told that the hotel staff was preparing to release our room to a traveling service person. We were lucky. The people behind us in line were not so lucky.

You can read more of our travel mishaps here.

Have you had a bad travel experience? We’d love to commiserate with you. Tell us your story. You also can follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to see future travel worthy photos. We promise to tell you the story behind the picture — warts and all.

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26 thoughts on “Travel Mishaps Part 1: Vacations in the Cold”

  • Vacations in the cold are certainly a tough one! I try to avoid traveling during the winter months, but sometimes it’s just impossible cuz you want to get out and do something 🙂

  • Hate to laugh at your misery, but I am chuckling a bit. I think we all have our mishaps. Mine don’t involve bad weather ost of the time, though. They are more likely car breakdowns, wrong directions, and possible hostage situations. Yep, that happened. But if we have travel in our genes, we can’t help ourselves- we gotta keep on traveling again. Thank you for sharing your cold adventures!

  • These kinds of experiences are definitely worth having – you can laugh much more in the future about the things that went wrong than the ones that went 100% to plan!

    I remember a trip with my parents when I was younger, a weekend away to Paris (from London) – the Eurostar broke down in the dark tunnel and we sat there for HOURS, all of us in such a grump, with only horrible train food to eat (which tasted of nothing at all) and staring out the window at a totally black tunnel… but we still laugh about it all these years later!

  • Note to self … never travel with Lance and Amy unless we are seeking an epic weather experience. 😉 The only thing to remember is the old adage tragedy plus time equals comedy. Fun post and love your sense of humor. Next Valentine’s Day, surprise her with a trip to someplace where you KNOW the weather will be fine … a spa. 😉

  • Now I know why we avoid the cold haha! But hey, we’ve had things go wrong when its warm too during rainy seasons. It’s crazy how beautiful a life may seem on Instagram, but the reality is that the travel life includes lots of ruined moments too. Moments others don’t see, like those terribly long bus rides. Glad you share this perspective! Hope you get warmer weather soon. 🙂

  • Thanks for sharing your mishaps. Seems like disaster likes to strike when cold weather is about. You are very lucky they gave you your room! My most memorable mishap was getting kicked off a train by militiamen with machine guns in Morocco in the middle and in the desert. My friend had to argue with the guys with guns to get them to give us directions on where the next town was.

  • How refreshing and how honest! It gets a bit boring to read all about ‘stunning’ hotel, ‘awesome’ places and ‘great’ food. Yes, you look forward getting to a place and then it’s raining or it’s much colder than you thought or the museum you are looking forward visiting is undergoing renovation – and hotels often look much different offline than online. I find it also a good service to your readers that you do not sugarcoat everything. I do even get a bit miserable from time to time on trips – it’s not all peaches and cream, it can be very exhausting, too – which in the retrospect is part of the experience and even fun, but the very moment is not all that great.
    Still: wishing you lots of great trips!

  • I have also been in Williamsburg during a crazy chill. Usually, when we go to San Diego, we just spend time in the hot tub because our 3-year-old cannot abide water under 80 degrees. At least our kids will have stories to tell when they’re older, right?

  • I appreciate your this new series. It will certainly help traveling families.
    Cold can play havoc if precautions are not taken. So far, I never faced any problem even during my travel in extreme cold in Himalaya but you have alarmed me to be more careful.

  • Oh dear you haven’t had the best of luck have you! You need to start looking at tropical island destinations instead! It’s funny, we often go TO the cold, but that’s because we want to ski and snowboard so we love it! But there’s nothing much fun with cold places that are just wet and dreary when you want to go out site seeing and exploring.

    • We’ve had our share of tropical vacations, too, but they don’t always end well either. But, we love traveling and enjoy sharing these times with our readers.

    • I am so glad we packed out winter coats for the trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. That might be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

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