Most of us have a worst holiday vacation ever tale to tell and for good reason. Vacations are the perfect place for something to go wrong. It is the old adage that if anything can go wrong that it will.
We have all heard stories of family vacations that go terribly awry so let us just say that these tales may not be all that far off from some of our own tragic memories of holidays gone wrong.
Sure sometimes these mishaps just cannot be avoided but often these holiday horror stories happen because we just don't plan well enough ahead to insure that they don't.
Having had a few nightmare holidays of my own this is my personal safety checklist of vacation mistakes that you don't want to make. Hopefully it can help.
Six Kids, a Dog, and my Mom who was Forced to Come Along
My father hit the road at a very young age in his life and this developed within him a very large case of permanent wander lust. He loved to travel, to fish, and to camp. My father played the guitar and he loved to hit the open road or a campsite when ever the opportunity presented itself.
Participating in our family vacations were six children ranging in age within a ten year period of one another.
Note that my father has a grade 7 education which was completely not his fault. The important note here is that this low education of his managed to keep my hard working dad within a minimum cash income and eight mouths in the family to feed. He also had a complete and total love of the great outdoors. This meant that my dad was very willing to cut corners whenever necessary to make ends meet.
Now add to this mix a mother who has been driven half mad from having to deal with the six aforementioned children, a very large black lab dog, and a 10 man tent. My mom really stressed out on our family vacations but us kids were in heaven. We absolutely loved our many family road trips.
Advise Relatives of Your Travel Route and Arrival Time
Vacation Checklist #1: Safety Proof your Home
Safe guard your home so it will be safe and free from complications while you are away on vacation.
The very best method of avoiding unexpected events occurring in your home while you are on vacation is to hire a house sitter. If this is not possible then there are other precautions that you can take to keep your home safe.
Cancel the newspaper for the days that you expect to be on vacation. Ask a friend, relative, or a neighbor to bring in the mail, take out the garbage, and to cut and water the lawn. Their job is to insure that your home looks like you are still at home and to call you if anything does go wrong.
Be sure to shut the water off within your home as well. Some insurance policies will not cover a flood that occurs if you have not taken precautions to insure your home's safety while you are away. Double check that all windows are closed and doors are locked before you go. If you have a home security system make sure that it is turned on.
Never Mention on Internet Forums or Websites that you are Away
There are more than a few things that can happen to your home while you are away. We arrived back home from a weekend trip to find that the inside of our house was completely destroyed. Plants were smashed, dirt was smudged everywhere, boxes of cereal were strewn throughout the living room, and our furniture was slashed.
No, we were not robbed. Turns out that we had forgotten to put the dog out into the yard where he could be cared for by our neighbor. He was okay although a bit traumatized by the event but your pet is something that you really don't want to forget (see safety checklist #4 traveling with pets).
Another time we returned home from a road trip to discover that a giant pine tree had crashed down and through our home. That event was a little more shocking. The house was beyond repair so we relocated almost immediately from Bear Lake to a little spot on a rural road about 45 miles away called Chief Lake.
Dad pitched our 10 man tent in a small clearing on the new property and that is where we lived until he got the basement of our new home built and tarped in. I can testify from experience that the first winter we lived in that partially finished house that it was pretty darn cold.
Safety Checklist #2: Vehicle Safety
Before you leave for your vacation insure that your vehicle is safe for the road. Have your car inspected for safety. Check the tires, brakes, and windshield wipers to insure they are in good working order. Get an oil change, fill the fluids in your car, and check to insure that your signal lights are working.
Bring a basic tool kit, extra oil, and windshield washer fluid. Make sure that your spare tire is in the vehicle and that it is not flat (been there and done that). Also check to make sure that you have a jack. Most important of all insure that you have sufficient car, home, and travel insurance to cover an accident should one occur while you are on holidays.
Insure that any trailer you use for your holiday trip is in good working condition and is government approved. Which brings me to another tale of horror. My dad had one of those home made trailers that he had fashioned from the rear end of an old blue car. I'm sure you have seen one of those at some point? Trust me when I say that they are not road worthy or in any manner safe to use in your travels. But that is a story that I will pass along a little further into this article.
Travel out of Country only with Adequate Travel Insurance
Be Prepared for Vehicle Mishaps that Occur on the Road
Did I say mishaps could happen? On our family vacations it was more like a vehicle mishap was destined to occur. Trust me when I say that these are road trip safety mistakes that you do not want to make.
Note: See the Checklist #2 tips on having your vehicle inspected pre a road trip. Most of the incidents on our vacations were avoidable if only my dad had done a safety inspection of our vehicle before we hit the road.
Big summer vacation #101: My dad is cooking for the railway way up in a tiny neck of the woods known as Dog Creek and he and mom decide that the rest of the family should drive up and spend the summer vacation there. Dad comes home to escort us there.
I recall our family chugging along in our old Dodge Royal en route to our new summer home. There are five kids in the back seat and baby Eric is in the front with mom and dad. The dog is riding out back in dad's homemade trailer.
I don't know why mom looked in the rear view mirror but she suddenly lets out a scream that would curdle your blood on the spot. The hitch on our car has broke sending the home made trailer and our dog roaring down the road behind us. With six kids watching our dog sail away you can imagine a smidge of the wailing and screaming that immediately breaks out in the vehicle.
Luckily the dog turned out to be perfectly fine. No traffic was behind us and the trailer slowly drifted to a stop by the side of the road. Dad says a few choice words, pets the dog, and hitches the trailer back up. He ties the joint tight with some metal or twine and away we go.
That was the end of that. The five of us kids who are jammed in the back seat settle down to a game of I spy and pretend to ignore the very loud argument that ensues in the front seat of the car.
If you Travel Alone Stick to Busier Roads and Routes
The next vehicle mishap to happen on our vacation occurs a couple of weeks later while we are headed out on a day trip to the closest town from Dog Creek. About ten minutes after we hit the road there is a sudden loud thunk which is quickly followed by half of us kids being thrown tumbling into the front seat with mom and dad. (Did I happen to mention that kids really should be in seat belts?)
Mom naturally begins to yell as loudly as she can, "What the h-ll are you doing? Are you trying to kill us...etc etc?" My dad starts yelling back just as loudly but he also includes into his conversation a few new choice and colorful words. We all bail out of the car.
To make a long story short the front axle of the car is broken completely in half so that the front end of the Dodge is laying on the road on its front bumper. A horse drawn wood cart with dogs running along under it ambles by (not a word of a lie) and they give us a ride to the nearest store.
Turns out that Mom and dad are done fighting. They are thanking their lucky stars that the axle broke on the old dirt road before we hit the highway and faster speeds. Ah yeah! So do you think we can make it through the rest of our vacation and finish our road trip home in safety?
Today They Have Pet Travel Seat Belts to Keep Your Dog in Place
Did I Mention That you Should Check Your Brakes?
The day comes when the summer is drawing to a close. Us kids really did have a lot of fun but it is time to leave Dog Creek and head back home. We just don't realize that our vacation road trip of horrors isn't quite over and there is still a little surprise ahead of us that is yet to come.
Actually we had almost made it home but were not quite to make it there without just one more major incidence to frighten the daylights out of us. Now I am not sure why the brakes were not repaired when the axle got fixed but we are about to see what happens when you lose your brakes at highway speed.
Mom is driving (that is a switch) when she suddenly starts cluing in that something is wrong. Her and dad are arguing up front which is nothing unusual until my siblings and I begin to sense fear in mom's voice. Dad is yelling at her to slow down and she is ranting that she can't because the brakes are not working. Yeah, that sounds like something that is definitely not a good situation.
We are between McBride and Prince George where the road is filled with huge hills and sharp drop offs to one or the other sides of the road. Us kids cling to each other for dear life. Dad is scanning the side of the road for pull offs and he starts chanting, "Just another mile. One more mile." Then the car is bouncing onto a dirt pull in, mom is screaming that the car won't stop, and directly ahead of us is a sheer drop off.
Dad opens his car door and clinging to the door he jumps out and tries to drag the car to a stop. To this day I don't know how he managed it but that car stopped just a few inches from the drop off. Thank God for adrenaline. You know the spooky fact of the matter is that I can now remember other occasions when we lost our brakes as well.
Safety in Numbers: Try to Travel in a Group
Road Safety Checklist #3: Emergency Supplies
You never know when an emergency or accident may occur so be prepared. Before you leave for your holiday insure that you have in your vehicle a first aide kit, blankets, a flashlight, matches, your cell phone and charger, a paper map, and an emergency supply of food and water.
Be prepared to face an overnight delay or one that lasts a day or two. Pack non perishable foods rather than ones that rely on refrigeration or ice to keep them cool.
Fortunately being well supplied for emergencies was never too much of a problem on our family vacations. My dad had grown up living on his own so he pretty much knew how to get himself out of almost any pinch.
As an adult with six kids to care for he always brought along plenty of food, beverages, blankets, and bandages. We always seemed to have everything that we needed no matter what situation came along. This photo is of my dad fishing with a branch he made into a fishing pole.
Checklist Item #4: Watch Your Kids
I remember that there were more than a few animals who came calling too close to our tent. My dad would go chasing after them flagging his arms like a madman, and yelling at the top of his lungs.
I can recall my dad chasing away a moose, a huge bull, and a bear. (It is important to include a little note here that he didn't carry a gun.) My dad was just one brave dude.
My brother was chased up a tree (another angry bull episode) and dad had to go out to rescue him because the bull refused to leave. Gosh those darn free range cows were everywhere back then.
Us kids got hooked while fishing, Nancy right in her cheek (eeek), and countless times almost drowned while swimming. We also somehow managed to forget my sister Nancy in a previous town at one point. Amid much screaming and crying from my mother we headed back and about 3 hours later we found her. She was all of 5 years old at the time oops.
One camping trip we got chained into a farmers field that my dad mistook for a campsite. We made a daring escape with dad cutting through the lock and chain only to find ourselves chased by a nest of angry bees.
Our camping trips were certainly filled with more than a few perilous adventures but fortunately we did survive to grow up to begin our own distinct family adventures.
Hide it in a Secret Compartment Diversion Safe?
Road Trip Safety Checklist #5: Traveling with Pets
Vacations can be very hard on pets and it is often safer to find other accommodations for them while you are away.Pets do not sweat like humans so they have special summertime needs. Traveling in a hot car can be very dangerous for them. It can be safer for your pet to stay at a kennel or with a sitter than to go along with the family on a long road trip.
If you are traveling with your pet be sure to take along a copy of their recent vaccinations and license registration. To insure that your pet is comfortable on the trip bring along their food, water, a blanket specifically for them, as well as a few toys.
Don't allow your pet to lean out the window as they can be hurt by flying rocks or dirt. These small items in their eyes, throat, or nose can mean a very large vet bill.
Pets should have the same rules as children and not be allowed to romp all over the vehicle while it is moving. Don't allow your pet to distract you from your driving and if at all possible place them in a pet seat restraint for the trip. Never ever leave your pet alone in the car during the summer for any period of time. A car can heat to a dangerous temperature within minutes.
We had More Than a few Adventures on our Vacation Trips
When I told my sister I was writing this article she laughed and sent me this little tidbit that happened on one of her family vacations. For this wee adventure there is my sister, her husband, and their three kids.
"We had stopped at Jasper for lunch. Me and the girls got out to go to the bathroom while Lorne filled up the gas tank.
After the washroom I went to the restaurant, Stacy and Tessa were with me, but somehow Sheri must have been a little slower. Sheri came out of the bathroom just in time to see Lorne driving away to go park the truck and camper.
Sheri took off running after the truck thinking that she was being left behind. There she was, one small girl running as fast as she could to try to catch up to the moving vehicle. Me and the other kids were watching from the window in the restaurant wondering why Sheri was chasing after the truck. Seeing the tears streaming down her face we realized then that she thought she had been left behind."
Sheri's thinking may not have been all that far off from the truth judging by the incidents that happened on our past family vacations. As a kid in our family it was kind of better to be safe than sorry.
Have a great holiday and try not to forget the pets or the kids.
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Old Country Outdoor Outhouse Toilet
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