Vacations hold so much promise: Relaxation! Discovery! Renewal! Strawberry daiquiris! So it's heartbreaking when a trip falls short and becomes a disappointment. We've heard from you -- our readers -- about the trips you felt needed a do-over because you were duped by marketing photos and websites that never showed the dated decor, unhelpful staff, poor housekeeping, or freezing pool temperatures of the hotel or resort you booked. We feel your pain, because we've been there, too. It's why Oyster's mission is to review every hotel with honesty and clarity. But even we have our own personal list of trips we're looking to redo. Here are six disastrous trips we'd like to revisit and how we'd do them right today.
Bocas del Toro Islands, Panama
“If I could re-do any vacation, it would definitely be a girls’ trip I took to the Bocas del Toro islands in Panama. Fresh out of romantic relationships, my friend and I thought that scuba diving and beach time would be the perfect distractions from our heartbreak and an empowering way to celebrate singledom. Instead, it rained constantly, our hotel room smelled terrible, most of the restaurants were closed, and none of the dive boats were operating due to poor visibility. In the end, we cut our losses and went home two days early! If I had to do it again, I’d look into a wellness retreat with lots of activities, like yoga, surf lessons, and massages, on offer. That way, even if the weather didn’t cooperate, there’d be indoor activities and like-minded people to meet.” —Megan Wood, Editor
Pricing for Costa Rica Yoga Spa
“I base my vacations largely around food (who doesn’t?) and went to Quebec City with dreams of meat pies, cheese, and heaps of poutine. Fresh off a weekend in Montreal — where nearly every cafe, coffee bar, and bagel shop I wandered into was a hit — I didn’t think to plan out where to eat in Quebec City. Somehow, sadly, every meal was a miss. (Pro tip: Never order guacamole in QC.) Even the fancy restaurant at the Frontenac was a letdown: The big-ticket beef tenderloin was small and not especially tasty. However, the insane St. Lawrence River views and the ridiculously cozy atmosphere made up for it. I left town thinking QC was a bad foodie destination, but the reality is I goofed up with the restaurant planning. Next time, I’ll map out every meal, book a turret room at the Frontenac, and time the trip when the century-old ice toboggan run is open. Brr!” —Anne Olivia Bauso, Editor
Pricing for Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac
“When I was younger, my poor dad tried to take his two sulking pre-teen kids to Mexico on vacation. My parents had recently divorced, so this was meant to raise our spirits. Instead, we found ourselves crammed in a too-small room in a tourist trap. We ate the same fast food we ate at home, watched American TV all day, and never spoke a word of Spanish, which is ridiculous because my entire family speaks it fluently. I think we’d been through so much change and weren’t ready to experience anything that wasn’t 100 percent familiar. As a result, we never experienced Mexico. I’d like to go back as an adult and do this country justice. I’d go to Mexico City and Oaxaca, tour the museums and murals, eat the local food, and never speak English till I’m on the plane home.” —Maria Teresa Hart, Executive Editor
Pricing for The St. Regis Mexico City
“My Death Valley story is something of a legend in my circle of friends and family. Here’s the abridged version: A few summers ago, my then-boyfriend (now-fiance) and I set out for a month-long cross-country road trip in the U.S. One of our stops was Death Valley, which came highly recommended: ‘The flowers are beautiful.’ ‘Plan to spend a few hours there.’ ‘It’s a can’t-miss.’ Call it bad planning, or bad luck, but everything that could go wrong did. It was a balmy 115 degrees — too hot to spend any time outside of the car, aside from that one photo we snapped standing atop a sand dune, which by the way, still hangs in our apartment as a reminder that the biggest disasters often make the best stories (and that the two of us can handle any obstacle that comes our way). Our overworked Honda Civic — a real trooper until that point — began to overheat. The remedy? Roll down the windows and turn on the heat in already-blazing weather. Water and gas were also running out, our GPS couldn’t pick up our location, and warning signs for cougars were the only thing in sight. In short, we had all the ingredients of a travel nightmare. After a few hours of panicking, our GPS miraculously pinpointed our position, directing us back out into familiar territory and saving the day. The next time I go back to Death Valley, I would visit in the spring or fall, when the weather is more manageable and we can spend more time enjoying the landscape beyond the inside of a car.” —Alisha Prakash, Senior Editor
“I had planned to spend five days in Sri Lanka, touring historic sights and relaxing in scenic hotels, but a major hiccup in my plans led to all that being scrapped. Instead, I only spent time in the hectic Colombo and western beach town of Negombo. While I still loved my time in Sri Lanka, where I was able to visit temples, eat a ton of delicious crab curry, and meet locals, it was a bust in terms of experiencing the country the way I wanted. If I had a vacation do-over, I’d tour the central and southern areas of Sri Lanka, making sure to spend time observing the animals at Udawalawe National Park, climbing Sigiriya Rock, visiting the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (allegedly home to Buddha’s tooth), and sitting poolside while looking out onto the beautiful hills. Of course, there would be lots of curry and fresh fruit, too.” —Lara Grant, Editor
Pricing for Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge
“While I don’t need to see or do anything special in Paris — I’ve scoped the Manets, visited the Rodins, paid homage at the famous graves, and stood amid the Moreaus — I wouldn’t mind going back. I was 25 when I visited, and while I knew the city would be romantic, I had no idea that it was, in fact, a giant romantic cliche that somehow still manages to be intoxicating with all of its beauty. I’ve been a stalwart solo traveler almost all of my adult life, and have found perfect solitude in many places, but something about being alone in that place felt off. The cafe windows opening onto warmly lit groups of friends, couples seemingly manifesting from everywhere, and scenery galore — I’d like to go back with a boyfriend this time, just to know if it really does have the magic it seems to possess.” —Kyle Valenta, Manager of Editorial Content Operations
Pricing for The Hoxton
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