There’s nothing worse than dishing out your savings for a vacation, only to have everything you planned go horribly wrong. Except when you are a child, it’s your second real vacation, and you have no control over what you’ll do when everything decides to go sideways.
An Exciting Prospect
When I was nine years old, my stepfather at the time decided to surprise us with a cruise for Christmas. I had been to Yellowstone once when I was five, but outside of that “vacation” mostly meant spending the summers at my grandmother’s house in Florida. So naturally, I was excited by the prospect of a change of scenery as we toured the U.S. Virgin Islands. It was also my first experience on a boat of that size, having only taken short rides by Ferry on weekend trips to New York City.
We packed our bags and in the early hours of the morning, we loaded into a cab and set out for the airport. After the hour-long trip, we unloaded our bags and worked on getting our things checked in. Once we made it through security, we realized we had not eaten yet. It was still early in the morning and given our flight left around 6 AM our food options were limited to what was open. Which happened to only be a lone Burger King.
The First Mistake
With little else by way of options, we decided to order. The Airport stall was dingy and dark, but given there were no other choices, my parents stepped up to the counter and ordered us a greasy, overcooked fast-food breakfast.
I had trouble forcing down the meal that morning, but hey: it was greasy, and I was sleep-deprived. I was sure that was all it was. So, I finished. And with breakfast out of the way, we could head to our gate.
The longer we sat, the worse I felt. As time went by, my stomach began churning. We loaded the plane and I rested my head against the window, hoping the nausea would pass and I would feel better as our flight took off.
No Turning Back
We were airborne, but the discomfort didn’t ease. And as we approached altitude, I rather abruptly relented to that ill feeling… all over my dress. As soon as this happened, I was handed the little white bag at the back of the seat, but the damage was done. Once my stomach had emptied itself, I was cleaned up to the best of my mother and the flight attendant’s ability with drink napkins and bottled water.
That was just the beginning though. We did not go on long trips like this often, especially ones where we were not driving. So, we did not think to pack any spare clothes in our carry-on luggage. 45 minutes into a 3 ½ hour flight, I was covered in vomit with nothing to change into.
More Bad News
The only saving grace I had to look forward to was the plane landing and gathering our checked baggage so I could put on some clean clothes. But on top of everything else, our plane was delayed so we had very little time between landing and boarding our ship so we could set sail. We rushed to the baggage carousel so we could quickly gather our luggage, get me cleaned up, and rush to catch our ship. But, as the once-crowded carousel began to clear of both baggage and passengers, we began to sense something was wrong. There were only a handful of bags left and virtually no people left to pick them up. Bags had stopped being added to the queue well over ten minutes ago. Where were ours?
After a heated discussion with the service desk, we realized that we weren’t getting our bags back today. They had been lost in transit, and now we were all our clothing short and running late for boarding. We decided it wasn’t worth throwing away our vacation my parents paid good money for, so we rushed to catch the tail end of boarding before the ship set sail.
While I had nothing left to be sick on, the nausea had not fully subsided and given how little time I had spent on boats, my body did not take well to the steady rocking of the ocean. It took me hours to fall asleep as I tried to ignore my agony.
Making the Best of It
The next morning we scoured the gift shop on the ship and bought a few articles of clothing we could wear until we at least made our way to the first island. By the time we did manage to reach our destination, I was beginning to feel better. We spent that entire first day trying to gather corny tourist shirts as we attempted to build a wardrobe from scratch.
Eventually, things settled into a proper vacation. We Snorkeled, we explored the islands, we spent far too much time on the beaches, and we wandered the towns. Eventually, we went home and settled back into daily life. Much of the vacation is lost on me 20 years later, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget those first few days.
As terrible as the experience was, I don’t think I will ever forget the lessons learned from this vacation. Rather than turning me off from travel altogether, I feel more of an urge to travel and explore on my own terms. That will largely exclude 6 AM trips to sketchy airport Burger King stalls.
Oh, and if you were wondering when we got those bags back: 3 months later. Bring spare clothes in your carry-on: You never know what might happen.
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