On Monday, all being well, we will be flying to Majorca for a week of Mediterranean sunshine.
I say ‘all being well’, because as the holiday draws ever nearer, I am increasingly conscious of the fact this will be our first trip abroad as a family of four, and I worry that there are a number of things that could go spectacularly wrong before we even get there.
We’ve taken Ollie abroad a couple of times, but at least then one of us could look after him, while the other organised everything else. Now, with Isaac in tow as well, we’ll most likely have to be in charge of one child each, but then who’s keeping an eye on our luggage if both children start misbehaving at the same time? Airport security aren’t exactly known for their tolerance of unattended bags, even if you do have the legitimate excuse of an escapee child, and I’d rather not go through the embarrassment of having my underwear blown to smithereens in a controlled explosion.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m really looking forward to the holiday, if (sorry, once) we get there, it’s just that actually arriving at our hotel in Calas de Mallorca seems a long way away, and I don’t mean geographically.
It’s not that I have an issue with Isaac in particular. In fact, I’ve grown quite fond of the little reprobate over the past year-and-a-bit, and I certainly wouldn’t contemplate leaving him behind (if I was going to do that, I’d leave Ollie too), but I do worry that taking two young children abroad is likely to be several times more stressful than taking just one.
You might think that I’m being overly pessimistic and grumpy here (who, moi?), or unnecessarily harsh about our offspring, but you need to bear in mind two very important points:
- I become stressed very easily, particularly in places like airports (which are, quite frankly, unparalleled when it comes to raising my blood pressure);
- Our children, despite the four-year age gap, have the same innate ability to identify a situation where we really need them to behave, and then immediately turn feral just to piss us off.
Holidays can be a wonderful way of relaxing, and distancing yourself from the monotony and pressures of everyday life, but actually getting there in the first place can be the most stressful ordeal known to mankind – particularly when you add children into the equation. It’s almost like you have to earn your break.
Even worse, if you’re anything like me, the stress of going on holiday isn’t restricted to the day of departure – it can kick in weeks in advance. Aside from the obvious pressure of ensuring you have all the documentation stored somewhere safe, you also have to worry about buying everything you might need (and some things you almost certainly won’t).
Like a new toothbrush, for example. Why do we do this? It’s looked more like a toilet brush than a toothbrush for months now, so one more week won’t make any difference, and it’s not like any dental-conscious Majorcans will be popping round to inspect it while we’re there.
Then there are those stupid bloody plug adaptors you always have to buy, because for some strange reason everyone in the world has different plugs to us, and you can never find the adaptor you bought the last time you went away.
Oh, and you have to start wearing your shitty clothes (clothes you no longer like, or which have seen better days, rather than clothing you have actually fouled yourself in) at least two weeks before packing, so that you can keep your nicer stuff clean to take with you without the need for a last-minute laundry rush. I even do it with underwear. There is virtually no chance of anyone catching a glimpse of my boxers while we’re away (aforementioned controlled explosion in the airport aside), yet I insist on taking my very finest pairs away with me, and wearing pants for the final two weeks that, quite honestly, Compo from Last Of The Summer Wine would be embarrassed by.
You might argue that I am unnecessarily panicking over trivial issues here, particularly when this is all well in advance of the real trauma of actually getting to the airport on time, but if you are one of those people who doesn’t lose sleep over packing, then you are living life too recklessly as far as I am concerned. Frankly, you deserve to forget something, or end up on the receiving end of a full cavity search because you tried to take talcum powder onto the plane.
Fortunately, not only am I a stickler for making lists, but I start them weeks in advance of needing to tick them off, so there’s a good chance we won’t forget anything too important. I already know exactly where the passports, tickets, E111 Health cards and currency are all stored, and I’ve checked each of them five times just to make sure (I know this, because I have five ticks next to each item on my list).
So the basics are there, but then I begin to panic disproportionately about little things, like taking the right book to read by the pool. Will I finish that one too quickly, and run out of stuff to read half way through the week? Then again, is the other book over there a bit heavy going, and am I better off taking something more light-hearted for a holiday? Oh, but perhaps this one is too light-hearted, and other holiday-makers will think I’m an uneducated moron who buys The Sun.
Maybe I should pick up a cheap Stephen Hawking, but hide that new Stephen King inside? Or better still, buy a copy of the Financial Times at the airport, and smuggle FHM around within its stupid salmon-pink pages? Then everyone will think I’m checking out the latest Dow Jones, when I’m actually checking out Rosie Jones.
Of course, all of this is irrelevant, as I am making the fatal mistake of planning my packing like a man with no children. If I was being rational, and logical, I would realise that my chances of sitting down in the sunshine with a good book are almost nil, and even then I’m assuming there will be enough space in amongst the baby clothes and nappies in which to fit a book in the first place.
My wife, who is far more pragmatic than I am, is thinking more like a mother, and she is packing accordingly. Whereas I have worked out the optimum number of t-shirts to take with me (easy, one a day), she has applied a ‘vomit and shit’ quotient to her packing, and has added 33% more clothing for herself and the boys as a precaution. Add in the inevitable ice-cream/sun-cream/sand combo, that will have both boys looking like Blue Peter projects by the end of day one, and suddenly we need to take every item of clothing they own.
I then have to worry about getting us all up at 3.30am on Monday morning, to make it to the airport on time. The flight isn’t until 6am, and we’ll have checked into our pre-booked seats in advance, but I still insist on getting to the airport in plenty of time to avoid any last minute (additional) stress.
I’ve thoroughly checked the law on children travelling in taxis without a car seat, at least half a dozen times in fact, but now I’ve typed that sentence I best go and re-read it again just to be certain. Yep, we’re fine. I’ll also end up phoning the taxi company a few times, just to make sure they have the booking right, even though that probably only means I’ll piss them off so much they won’t turn up.
I’ll then check the passports and other travel papers again before we leave the house, even though I know they will be in exactly the same place I left them right before going to bed Sunday night.
Once we’ve all got up, made it to the airport on time, and dumped the 14 suitcases, I should then be able to relax a little.
You would think.
But then you have to get through security. I was always one of those kids at school who would go red and look guilty during a mass-bollocking, even though I usually hadn’t done anything wrong, and that affliction has never left me. So, although I never have cause to worry going through security, that doesn’t stop beads of nervous sweat forming at my brow when they ask me to take my shoes and belt off. And to make matters worse, I try to disguise my nervousness and anxiety by making jokes, despite knowing full well that customs officials are the most humourless and miserable people this side of a Post Office counter.
I know that there is nothing dodgy in my bags, but my mind always goes back to the time I decided to take some poker chips with me on a lads’ trip to Belfast. Rather than have them loose in my bag, I stacked them into a metal tin and put an elastic band around it to keep the lid on. I then (for reasons which remain unclear), tucked some spare batteries for my CD player – which I didn’t want loose in the bag – under the elastic band. I might as well have painted ‘Bomb’ on the top. Even I did a double take as it went through the scanner, and how I escaped the gloved-finger of a stern airport official going up my bottom, remains a mystery.
Ok, supposing we make it out of the house, through the airport, and onto the correct flight without incident. Unlikely, but just imagine. We haven’t even left the country yet.
I still have to worry about Isaac screaming for the whole flight (and this is part of the reason we chose Majorca, so that we only have to be the most hated people on a plane for a little over two-hours) or Ollie having a full-blown tantrum (which could be caused by so many unexpected factors I could write a book just on that subject).
With any luck though, Isaac will sleep through the flight, and Ollie will behave for just long enough that we arrive in Majorca in one piece and without an enraged mob of passengers chasing us to our transfer coach with pitchforks and torches (which they will have managed to smuggle through customs, even though my razor got taken off me in Manchester). We’re then just a short one-hour journey from our hotel.
But, if we do make it, it will all have been worth it. The hotel is right by the beach, and due to its shape and positioning all the rooms have a sea-view. It’s just a short walk to the resort centre, with plenty of bars and shops, and there’s a ‘land train’ that runs around our little part of the island which the boys will love.
But best of all, because both kids are fussy when it comes to eating (so dining out for every meal would be costly and largely ineffective), we’ve decided to go all inclusive. There are a number of restaurants within the hotel, including a barbecue and pizzeria (which should keep Ollie happy) and there are snacks, ice-creams and pastries in-between meal times. Most importantly, there will be unlimited, cold, delicious beer – which I plan to partake in (with gusto) as soon as we’ve checked in.
And by God I’ll have earned it.