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‘I found a snake in the toilet!’: Guardian readers on their holiday disasters


‘There were snakes all round the house!’

We went on holiday for Christmas to a friend’s parents house in Marlo – a village in Victoria, Australia. We got there on Christmas Eve to find the only shop was pretty bare – so Christmas lunch was a frozen turkey roll, Fanta, chips and some frozen peas. I made a Christmas tree out of a stick and some toilet rolls, determined to be cheerful. On Christmas morning, I woke up and went outside. It was nice and hot – yay, beach day! Then I stepped on a very large brown snake on the doorstep and screamed. I found another snake in the lounge room, one in the toilet, and others all around the house. It was my idea of hell. I had no idea whether they were poisonous but it didn’t matter. I was terrified. Lesley Podesta, retired, Australia

‘When we arrived, it was beautiful … then a rainstorm struck’ … a typical holiday scene.
‘When we arrived, it was beautiful … then a rainstorm struck’ … a typical holiday scene. Photograph: Dario Lo Presti/Alamy

‘I spent the night in a seedy hostel, with my bag clutched to my chest’

A few years ago, we went on a family trip to Tuscany. When we arrived, it was beautiful: a farmhouse with lavish grounds and a pool. The sun was shining, so we strolled to the nearest village. Walking back, the weather turned and a sudden rainstorm struck. We battled along the path that had become a stream to our accommodation to discover the downstairs had flooded. The next day, the garden was so slick with mud that my adult niece slipped over and broke her arm. We tried to make the best of it, so, during a rare burst of sunshine, we had a game of rounders, during which my wife twisted her knee, so she couldn’t walk. The following day, I took the kids on a trip to the Orrido di Botri gorge. It was a stunning place to traverse, until my 10-year-old son slipped and fell, and another trip to hospital revealed a broken collar bone. We decided that the four of us should curtail our trip; we rearranged our flights and said goodbye to the rest of the family. At Pisa airport, I handed over our passports, and I remember the look of confusion on the attendant’s face as she tried to match the photo to one of us. It was my father-in-law’s passport that we had picked up by mistake. We agreed my wife would still fly home with the kids, and I would retrieve my passport the next day. I had already returned the hire car, though, so I had to spend the night in a bunk bed, in a seedy backpackers’ hostel dorm, with my bag clutched to my chest. Rob Southern, probation officer, Cornwall

‘I spent the evening jumping around in my seat’ … a Raymond’s Bush-cricket
‘I spent the evening jumping around in my seat’ … a Raymond’s Bush-cricket. Photograph: Frederic Grimaitre/Alamy

‘We went on a romantic cruise to a nearby island … which was infested with crickets’

In the 90s, I went on holiday to Parga, Greece, with my girlfriend at the time. One night, we went on a romantic moonlight cruise to a nearby island, which turned out to be infested with crickets. I spent the evening flinching and jumping around in my seat – at one point, embarrassingly, I remember shouting to my girlfriend: “Hit it with your handbag!” It was at this meal that I picked up a terrible gastric infection, which saw me puking myself inside out for about 48 hours in a stifling room that stank of Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male fragrance and hake. When I started to get better, my girlfriend then fell ill with it too! Andy, web manager, Warwickshire

‘It was so awful that we found it hilarious’

Video provided by Jamie Proudfoot
Video provided by Jamie Proudfoot

In February 2016, we stayed in a self-catering apartment in the Scottish Highlands, booked as part of a whale-watching tour. On arrival, the building was unlit, unstaffed and unwelcoming. When we were finally led to our apartment, we discovered a litany of faults: doors would stick; drawer handles would come off in your hand; electrical switches would buzz when you tried to use them. At its lowest, the bedroom reached 5C, and we slept wearing all the clothes we had brought to wear on the boat. It was so awful that we found it hilarious – and, to make matters worse, our whale-watching trip was cancelled the next morning due to a boat fault. Jamie Proudfoot, environmental project officer, Argyll

‘On the third night, the tent collapsed.
‘On the third night, the tent collapsed. Photograph: Stuart Colley

‘I heard a cracking noise; one of the tent poles had broken’

In August last year, my partner and I purchased a brand new tent for ourselves and our 17-month-old son, in the expectation of having everything we would need for many years of holidays. We went to Cornwall. The first night was all right, but the second night I spent with my feet propped up on the table against one of the tent poles because high winds kept pulling the tent pegs out. On the third night, I heard an alarming cracking noise. One of the tentpoles had broken and the tent was starting to collapse. Fortunately, my partner’s brother was staying in a house in a nearby village so we ended up banging on their door at midnight to sleep on their floor. The next day we returned to the campsite to collect our broken tent – ours was the only one that had blown down. A couple who kept their caravan permanently on the site very kindly let us use their caravan for the remainder of our stay. Stuart Colley, civil servant, Wiltshire

‘I was trying to speak to the coastguards while throwing up into a saucepan’

I was travelling through central America and decided to get a boat from Panama to Colombia. I get sea sick but thought it would be worth it to see the amazing San Blas islands. On our last day, we woke up to worried looks on the crew’s faces. Our anchor had come off and the boat was taking on water. We had to grab our passports and anything else we desperately needed and put them in waterproof bags. They would try to sail as close to shore as possible and either run aground or call the coastguard. But by evening it wasn’t looking good. As the only person on board who spoke (broken) Spanish, I had to call for help. I never thought I would actually be saying Mayday into a ship radio! After a few hours, the coastguard came to tow us to shore. I remember trying to chat to Colombian coastguards while throwing up into a saucepan. When we finally arrived at the shore, we were told that the chief of police – apparently the only person able to give us permission to dock – was still in bed. So we waited, for hours. We had run out of fresh food the day before so we ate very old tins of beans. By lunchtime, we ran out of water and I began to feel unwell (it turned out I had an urinary tract infection). Obviously it was scary at the time, but I love it as a story now! Rosey Ellum, digital acquisition manager, London

‘When I booked the flights, I mistook La Palma for Palma’ … a plane at La Palma airport.
‘When I booked the flights, I mistook La Palma for Palma’ … a plane at La Palma airport. Photograph: Marco Wolf/Alamy

‘We flew to the wrong country by mistake’

When my second child was born, we arranged to meet our friends in Mallorca for a week’s holiday. He was 10 days old when I booked the flights, accommodation and hire car; sleep deprivation meant the small “La” in front of “Palma” went unnoticed. There were tears when, on arrival, I realised we’d flown to La Palma, in the Canaries, by mistake! We had no accommodation, car or friends to meet. But in fact we had a really lovely week: we hired a small cottage on the coast and it was just what we needed with a newborn and a toddler. Nine years later, I can definitely see the funny side. Clare, children’s voice and influence worker, Sheffield

‘We found an unused spot on flat ground’ … flooded camping equipment after heavy rain.
‘We found an unused spot on flat ground but it turned out to be in a river valley’ … flooded camping equipment after heavy rain. Photograph: Utterstrom Photography/Alamy

‘I unzipped the tent and watched my brother-in-law’s shoes float past’

We arrived at our campsite just south of Biarritz after a very long drive from the UK. The campsite was jam-packed but eventually we found an unused spot on flat ground, near a bathroom and under the canopy of some trees. After erecting the tents, we headed out to the beach and then straight on to a restaurant. Around midnight, we stumbled into our tents and fell into a drunken stupor. At some point in the night, I became aware of heavy rain beating down on the tent roof. At first light, I stumbled out of the inner tent to investigate the sound of running water. To my shock, everything in the tent was floating. I unzipped the tent to look outside and watched my brother-in-law’s shoes float past! The reason that our pitch had not been claimed was because it was in a river valley. Our food, bedding, clothes and all possessions were drenched and it took us a few days to fully dry out. Russ Sheehan, California



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