It’s been a while since we’ve done this. We travel a good bit as a family — in the past year we’ve taken the train to go skiing in the Alps and then the overnight train to Rome, flown to Paris and to the UK and Ireland, and driven to Salzburg and back. The kids are seasoned travelers, and we’re experience travel-parents. We’ve got a lot of miles under our collective belts.
But … we haven’t done this in a while. We haven’t done the 9+ hours transatlantic flight in almost a year and a half, we’ve never done it with a 5 year old and a 3 year old, and we’ve never done it at Christmas. Liam doesn’t even remember the last time we made this trip. With all of my experience with this kind of thing, I’m surprised, but I feel a little unprepared. I feel like I’ve forgotten how to do it.
What do I need in carry-on? What do I need to be prepared for? What do I need to tell the kids to prepare them? How is it going to go? Will they behave/sleep/scream/throw food/refuse to use the airplane toilet? The wiser part of my mind tells me it will be what it will be and that this is one of the (many) experiences in parenting that I cannot truly control. My experience tells me that this trip, like all of the others, will include good and bad elements, and that as long as we arrive safe & sound, all will be well and the less pleasant details of the journey will drift into the corners of my memory. But still, I feel a little nervous.
But even with the nervousness, I also feel excited. Not only are we flying home to see family and friends, but whatever happens, however it goes, I get to spend 9+ hours with my kids, with nothing else that we have to do. Sure, it might end up being a grueling trip, but we get to be together. With the boys in school now, a chance to be with them — to color and talk and read and watch videos, without having to think about running errands or keeping on our schedule — is pretty rare, and pretty exciting.
I’ve also discovered, in preparing for this trip, that packing for a Christmas trip is really a whole different undertaking than packing for a typical 2 week trip. I set about doing most of the packing this morning — getting the clothes together, figuring out which luggage will work best, making piles of laundry still to be done. After getting about 90% of our clothes packed into the suitcases (the rest is still to be washed), I felt quite accomplished. For a normal trip, that’s the vast majority of the work. I was feeling pretty proud about having most of the work done on Tuesday for a trip that doesn’t happen until Friday! And then, I started adding in the Christmas stuff. The stockings, the presents, the treats and sweets. And, oh my, did that ever increase the complexity of the situation. So many of the Christmas things need to be packed “just so” in order to arrive safely. Each item I tried to add to the clothes and accessories already packed required nearly unpacking the suitcase to get everything back in. And I”m not nearly done yet. I’ve probably only packed half of the gifts. Yikes.
The moral of the story is that instead of insisting on bringing truly Austrian things home for everyone for Christmas this year, I should have opted for mail-order. And, for the first time in a while, I feel almost like a rookie traveller again . . . or at least list an uncertain one. I know it will all work though, it always does. That’s the miracle of the last-minute trip preparation, and the miracle of Christmas preparation. With both of them on my side, everything is bound to come together.