Here’s what I can see from where I’m sitting: an ironing board piled high with enough creased clothing for four people (two big, two small) for a week; a carrier bag full of a variety baby and toddler-friendly snacks to satisfy every diva demand; a drying rack strewn with last-minute laundry, and a sofa covered with new picture books for the baby, a straw hat for the boy, towels, adaptors and pyjamas. In the corner of the room there’s a large empty suitcase. Wish you were here?
It’s not normally quite like this (but not far off, if I’m honest). We’re going on holiday on Saturday and I’m putting off the packing. It has to be done, but – along with grating carrots, emptying the dishwasher, phoning in meter readings, shopping for jeans and giving birth – it’s something I really don’t enjoy.
I do, however, enjoy holidays. Or at least I did until I had children, when suddenly a holiday wasn’t quite a holiday anymore. We haven’t travelled abroad much with the children so far (not least because of the major hassle of getting their passports sorted out), and in fact this is the first time we’ve travelled abroad as a family of four. I’m sure it’ll be fine – fun, even – but I keep asking myself why we didn’t just decide on a week in Norfolk instead. These are the other questions that are vexing me as I contemplate the week ahead.
Will we fit everything in our suitcase? Is one 20kg bag really enough for a family of four for a week? Mr B assured me that it was, even though the online airline booking system was full of doubt (‘You are going away for seven nights. Are you SURE you don’t want to add an extra bag? Book an extra bag NOW at a lower price). Looking at the clothes mountain towering above our suitcase, the ticketing system was right and Mr B was wrong. The children’s swimming paraphernalia alone requires its own baggage allowance (and I shall take a very dim view if they decide that they don’t want to go in the pool after all).
How much will we have to shell out at the airport check-in? We’re flying with a so-called budget airline, but what with the hidden charges lurking at every stage of the process, it’s far from a budget option. I predict that we’ll be another £50 lighter before we’ve gone through security, probably thanks to being massively over the miserly baggage limit.
Will we make it to the airport in time? As someone who prides herself on being punctual and finds lateness the height of rudeness, it troubles me that as a family we’re never on time for anything. We’re awake by 6am every day, more’s the pity, yet we’ll often struggle to get out the door by ten. Mr B is easily distracted and prone to dawdle, the boy will spend an hour happily arguing about which socks he wants to wear, and the baby naps at the most inconvenient of moments. We need to be on the road by 4am on Saturday morning. This cannot go well.
Will I read a book? The house is piled high with books that await the children’s teenage years when I might have time to read them. It’s depressing, so in a fit of optimism I’ve bought another new book and I’m taking it with me. Whether I get the chance to read it is another matter. There’s no doubt that I will, however, be very familiar with the contents of the latest CBeebies magazine by the time we fly back.
How will the flight go? Will the baby do the decent thing and fall asleep for the duration, or will I have to spend three hours dispensing rice cakes, trying to distract her with songs that annoy the other passengers and preventing her from poking her brother in the eye (and vice versa)?
Will we avoid an emergency dash to the pharmacist? In almost a decade of holidaying together, I don’t think Mr B and I have done a single trip abroad – city break, beach holiday or otherwise – without an emergency trip to a pharmacist to buy plasters or painkillers or something else. This time I’ve cobbled together a first-aid kit – heavy on the Calpol – so maybe we’ll be spared this holiday. Maybe.
How good is Mr B’s Spanish? I’m pretty good at French, but when it comes to Spanish I’m clueless. Mr B, on the other hand, has professed over the years to have a good grasp of Spanish but I’ve never heard him in action. He’s had lessons at work, which I always thought were just an excuse for a bit of a doss away from his desk. I’ll be interested to see whether he was just staring out of the window all those hours. My standards are pretty low though; as long as he can keep us in apple juice and alcohol, I’m happy.
Will the boy eat anything? Despite my best efforts, the boy is not the best of eaters. He can be pretty reluctant to try anything new, so how he’ll react to a prawn-laden paella is anyone’s guess. They do have Pom Bears in Spain, don’t they?
How many heart-stopping hire-car related incidents will there be? There was the time in France that the hire car started spewing out smoke at the toll (he’d burnt out the clutch) and the time in Portugal when we reversed the hire car into a bollard (which sounded worse than it was, it transpired). If you saw the state of the car we own, you’d understand why hiring a car to us is not a great idea. We’ll try to take care of it, of course we will. But we’ll also make sure we pay extra for the excess insurance. You know, just in case.
What will we forget? We will forget something we’d intended to take. It’s inevitable. Top of my list of predictions are: the SatNav, the camera, the children’s hats, our phone chargers, the snacks I’ve bought for the journey and the changing bag. Provided that we remember our sense of humour and our passports, we’ll be okay.
Will we actually relax? All being well, we’ll get there and back without incident, most of our possessions and limbs intact. But will we return refreshed and reenergised, or will we need another holiday to recover? Watch this space.