In the last of our series, readers share some of their travel disasters.

We were on holiday in Hawaii with extended family. One night while we were hosting pre-dinner drinks in our hotel room, our 3-year-old daughter managed to climb into a small, ornamental barrel. For some reason she was unable extricate herself, and her little, blonde head was all that could be seen sticking out of the top.

We tried everything to get her out; pushing, pulling, twisting, to no avail. By this time she was sobbing, saying she needed to go to the toilet, and we were wondering what on earth to do to. I called down to reception, who had trouble understanding what I was trying to say. After all, "our daughter is stuck in a barrel" probably sounded a little strange. Eventually, the maintenance man, and quite a large hotel contingent (at least six others) turned up at the door to assess the situation. The barrel had metal straps around it, but fortunately the maintenance man had the good sense to bring bolt cutters. Before long he broke the barrel apart, with much clapping and cheering from the 20-odd people standing around.

Our daughter's tears immediately turned to a big grin and all was well. I wonder if those ornamental barrels have subsequently been removed from all the other rooms?
Kate Lawless

Hong Kong, and suddenly the insides started rumbling. I hung on, my dignity at stake, no facilities in sight and, roaming freely, more dogs than people among the sparse growth nearby. Oooooh, and another wee ooooohhhhh, until finally a likely looking building in sight, the odour an indication I was nearing what could be a promising "receptacle". My sandalled feet were suddenly wet, a hole in the ground looked back at me, not a skerrick of paper or water in sight; my distress must have been obvious to others waiting in the queue.


There was no language barrier as a local offered me toilet paper and a bottle of water, others pointing me to the front of the queue. What did I learn? The kindness and generosity of a stranger in my desperate moment of need and the necessity of always having toilet paper/tissues and water in my bag.

And a hug, is a universal language all of its own.
Ann Kidd

This was to be a new experience. A first-class sleeper on the night train from Paris to Milan - what a let down.

I boarded at Gare de Lyon and one can imagine my surprise to find that the cabin, if you could call it that, was old and tired looking, had hardly enough room to swing a cat and, to cap it all, there were already two other passengers inside.

Before the upper bunks were lowered I sat with my feet (not outstretched) touching the cabin wall. I was lucky to do that as my suitcase and those of my fellow passengers were also juggling for the available space.

Fortunately one of the others left the cabin leaving me alone with a lady from Paris. Did I say fortunately? Please read on.

We settled for the night - her in the upper bunk and me in the lower. The lights were turned off and I settled down to a few hours sleep. Five minutes passed then a breathless voice from the upper bunk announced she couldn't breathe, she was claustrophobic and wanted the cabin door left open.

Begrudgingly, I obliged and spent a sleepless night with the corridor lights shining in my face as well as the constant shuffle outside as passengers headed for the toilets or the nearby dining car.

Needless to say my fellow passenger slept soundly and was still snoring when we reached Milan.
Morrie Jalfon

I had a long flight ahead so thought I'd try sleeping pills for the first time. The flight had a short stopover but I checked with the travel agency and I wouldn't need to get off the plane. Perfect. On take-off I took a couple of pills, quickly drifting into a much-needed sleep.

Next thing I knew I was being shaken awake. The plane was empty and this poor airhostess was saying something about refuelling. I was so dazed from the pills (correct dosage taken) that keeping my eyes open was nearly impossible. Even walking was difficult. She helped me off the plane and I was left to stumble around the airport in some sort of twilight zone.

Desperately needing help (and to find my plane) I found an information desk but not being able to speak properly (and with limited Spanish) it was difficult to get my point across. I heard them mention drugs. No! I tried to say. Not drugs, just sleepy!

Eventually, they found my boarding pass in my moneybelt (unfashionable but invaluable) and they assisted me to my gate. Soon I was back on the plane FINALLY able to give in to gravity and ... sleep.
Hannes Schulze

I was 21 and studying in Germany in 1982. Julie, my English penfriend of many years, was au pairing in Paris so I went to visit. We met up with a German and an American and spent a lot of time sightseeing with them. The American worked in the German guy's family nursery business. Cannot remember their names!

I travelled back to Germany on the same train as them. You sat in certain carriages depending on your destination. The American and I went to find food. For some inexplicable reason we left our passports with the German. The dining car was a long way down the train. The train stopped a while. When we headed back we realised that our carriage had been disconnected. Our friend (and my luggage) headed to Germany.

We went back to Paris, no mobile phones or ATMs in those days, and stayed with Julie.

We rang the German and arranged to meet him inside the French border with our passports. Once in Germany I rang a friend. Her mum answered the phone. She was overjoyed. The Bundesbahn staff had taken off my luggage at the last stop on the then West German side of the border. Somehow a friend at the hostel where I was staying was alerted. Everyone thought I had been kidnapped and were about to contact my family in New Zealand.

Never let my passport out of my sight now.
Nga mihi
Robyn Gray