What can turn your holiday into hell? Party people in the next room? Lumpy bed? Lousy coffee? Poolside cabanas all taken at 10am? The niggles are pretty much going to happen wherever and whenever you go, but to turn a holiday memorable for all the wrong reasons requires something more serious. Here's a few, with the risk factor, an idea of how likely it is to happen to you.
Accidents that put you in hospital
People do stuff on holidays they never do back home. Ride camels, horses, pilot quad bikes over precipitous terrain. Ride scooters without a licence or a helmet in places where traffic rules are a little more elastic than you're used to, where traffic might be dense and roads narrow and potholed – and you wonder why you've ended up in hospital? On a sail/bike trip through the Croatian Islands a few years back, one section called for a rather exhilarating downhill schuss on winding roads. One of the riders in our group screwed on her front brake, the wheel locked and she took a bad fall. Got transported back to the boat but wasn't feeling too well and the local hospital diagnosed a ruptured spleen. That's potentially life threatening. She wasn't a regular rider by any stretch according to her husband. If it's not a sport or activity that you do at home, maybe get in some practice. Risk factor: 0.1 per cent
Airline or tour operator goes bust
Tour operators and airlines go down the fiscal rabbit hole. When they do they sink faster than the Titanic. As more than 100,000 holidaymakers who paid for a dreamy holiday with Thomas Cook found out when the company declared bankruptcy, leaving them stranded overseas. It's happened with Queensland air ticket seller Bestjet.com, it's happened with UK charter and scheduled airline operator Monarch Airlines, it's happened recently with Tempo Holidays and Bentours here in Australia.
How do you even know this is on the cards? Unless you're privy to their finances, you won't get wind of this until the drop-dead moment. One moment they're talking to you and showing you the palmy postcards you'll be sending from holiday bliss, the next they're floating face down in the pool with no visible signs of life.
Don't expect help from your travel insurer since policies offer no protection against travel operators' insolvency. While getting shafted while you're overseas is the pointy end of the problem, others who have paid and won't be going anywhere are also out of pocket. Risk factor: 0.02 per cent
In 2017-18, 1540 Australians were arrested overseas. That's fewer than one for every 7000 Australians who travelled to foreign parts in that year, but highly inconvenient if it happens to you. The country that arrested more Australians than any other was the US, where 241 ended up in the slammer, followed by Thailand, China and the UAE. Most of those arrests were for criminal activity, with drugs and fraud cases being the most common, followed by infringements of immigration law. Risk factor: 0.014 per cent
Protesters at Hong Kong Airport. Photo: AP
Not a biggie in terms of numbers affected but this one will really mess up your holiday time, as recent visitors to Hong Kong have noticed. Add to the list of recent disturbances riots in Ecuador, demos in Barcelona, and – quite possibly – ructions to come in the UK whichever way the chips fall over the Brexit exit, scheduled for October 31. If you get caught up and your plans are affected, your travel insurer might cover any extra costs you've incurred provided you were inadvertently trapped. If there are riots happening and you chose to go, don't expect too much sympathy. Risk factor: 0.01 per cent
Too much rain, too little rain, storms, hot winds, volcanos, typhoons – what mother nature throws down can play havoc with your holidays. Especially if your trip involves water. Recently passengers on the Norwegian Spirit staged a near mutiny when storms prevented them from visiting many of the ports on their itinerary. Over summer, passengers on some European river cruises were offloaded from their vessels and shunted onto buses when water flows were too low to float their boat. Small and less cataclysmic weather events that force a change of plans – a cloudy day that prevents you from taking a mountain hike, or rain that cancels a day's outing – don't count in this case, they're to be expected. Risk factor: 0.04 per cent
According to a sample of 1000 Australian travellers in a travel insurance survey conducted by Quantum Market Research in 2016, a quarter experienced a loss on their most recent overseas trip that would be covered by most travel insurance policies. That's an astonishingly high number considering the excess that applies with most travel insurance policies, which would invalidate claims where the value of the lost items is less than a couple of hundred dollars. About half of those policyholders made a claim, of which 82 per cent were fully or partly paid. Risk factor: 25 per cent.
A favourite with that feather-bedded species that the French call railway workers, although President Emmanuel Macron's proposed rail reforms including privatisation of the SNCF, the French national railways, has derailed some of their more Bolshevist instincts. Air France occasionally catches the disease, as do Italian transport workers who tend to strike on Fridays and Mondays. The risk is mainly confined to European countries with strong unions. Risk factor: 0.06 per cent
See also: The world's most hated tourists revealed