Tag Archives: Luggage

Thank me later: travel tips

30 Jun

I have always had a personal rule against weaving anything into conversation that could be found printed on a mug in the Cracker Barrel “gift shop” or found stitched on a hat sold next to a five gallon jar of pig’s feet.  I’ve got standards.  Sue me.  But I know that every rule has an exception and I have recently discovered mine.  Recently, when asked about our family trip via cruise ship in the Mediterranean, what rushed out of my throat was, “I need a vacation from my vacation.”  Did I really say that?  Yep.  And I meant it too.  There was not trace of irony on my tongue.

Remember that movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles with Steve Martin and the late John Candy?  Things went screwy.  In the end, it was heart-warming and everyone learned something about patience, giving up control and finding forgiveness.  Well, if this movie were being remade today, which, thanks to Hollywood’s shortage of original ideas, is high on the probability-o-meter, and starred my family it would be called Planes, Trains, Automobiles, Boats, Donkeys, ATVs and Wheelchairs.

I am still absorbing it all and can’t possibly recap it in just one or two posts.  Instead of forcing you to sift through what would amount to a voluminous slide show, I am just going to begin by imparting some lessons learned during our inaugural trip of the summer.  It should be noted that the last time I left home for this long with suitcases and multiple stops, there were no babies on board.

The first stop of our 18-day “vacation” was Venice, Italy.  It’s beautiful and old.  It looks every bit like what you have imagined from movies and postcards.  Yes, there really are no cars there.  And yes, there really are canals everywhere with a jillion bridges that were all built hundreds of years before any sort of Disabilities Acts and inclusive building codes had been thought of and imposed.  And those bridges aren’t smooth ADA ramps.  There are cobbled steps.  Lot’s of them.  And the hotel where you might stay if you are visiting Venice…it doesn’t have an elevator or ramp of any kind either.  Don’t go if you are gimpy.

Rule 1  Pack as few bags as possible.  If at any point during your “vacation” you are going to be handling your own baggage, rethink what you are taking with you.  Pull a page from the Johnny Cash fashion chronicle and just pack a few black separates.  Consider exploring going commando, too.

We make a habit of traveling with another family.  It is great for us and for our kids to be with someone else.  Odds are favorable that because we travel together we will be doing all of our excursions together too.  That means that when it’s good it’s great and when it’s bad, you are ganged up on by double the kids.  There is a lot to see that kids may not think is too thrilling.  There is a lot of walking involved in getting from one boring Church to another boring Church.  Oh, and it’s hot.

Rule 2  At least a month before departure, cross-train your kids.  Go for long walks after dinner.  Break in new shoes.  Make them carry stuff up and down the stairs at home.  Turn off the AC on the weekends.  Give them a water allowance.  Trust me.  In fact, just go all Lou Gosset Jr. and boot camp the hell out of the kids.  It’s bad enough to hear them complain about regular stuff, don’t give aching muscles, side stitches and blistery feet a chance to enter into the mix.

If you are a regular reader of HDCA, you know that I am “aware” of potties.  This is by no means a fetish, but I do appreciate a nice bathroom.  Unfortunately, outside of the US and Japan, I am set up for disappointment.  It is ironic that a continent that values having bidets in any dwelling, puts up with what passes in public.  I will say that Europe has gotten a little more together as far as tissue is concerned, but that has been the only advance that I can speak of.  Thank God for small miracles, right?

Rule 3  Cross-train your bladder.  The only way that you are going to get through the day without the heaves is to limit the amount of time you spend in any restroom outside of your hotel room.  The solution is not to limit your fluid intake.  That would lead to dehydration.  That would be bad.  Simply put, you gotta learn how to hold it.  Don’t be fooled by the “pay-for” public restrooms.  They are worse than the others.  And on a side note for the ladies:  You will not find a purse hook in any WC.  Learn to do the hover with purse straps around your head.  It’s harder than you think and requires practice.  While the kids are doing stair drills in their cross training, you might do well to practice squats with a weight yoked around your neck.  Those strong quads will be your friend.

Because we were gone for so long and good advice, like what I am giving you, is gleaned from hindsight, we had a lot of luggage: five suitcases, four carry-on bags and two purses.  Too much luggage.  See Rule 1.  Do not let any part of your stash ride shot-gun with the cab driver.

Rule 4 Chain yourself to your bags.  At the very least, make a kid sit in the taxi until everything has been removed and counted from the car.  Believe me, no driver is going to inadvertently take off with a sweaty kid whose itouch has lost its charge.  My carry on continues to be staying out late and making friends in Barcelona, long after I have returned home.

My last tid-bit is the most important.  It is my new mantra and one that I just might have stitched on a trucker hat or screened onto a mug:

Rule 5  Buy Travel Insurance.  Things can go wrong.  Things can also go horribly wrong.  You could end up admitted in a Sicilian hospital for five nights, for example, where no one speaks English.  Worse still, it could happen to your child.  You could need to get somewhere afterwards.  One day it might be funny, but in the thick of it…not so hilarious. And it will probably never be funny if you are still figuring out how to come up with tens of thousands of dollars that just weren’t in the plan.  Regular health insurance will cover you at Wally World or the Grand Canyon, but it usually doesn’t cross international borders.  If you are taking a passport, take out a policy.  Trust me.  And for extra giggles, find out everyone’s weight in kilograms.


5 Apr

Get packing!

This past Saturday, Big Daddy decided that we needed to get prepared for our upcoming family trip.  That is happening in June.  Whatever.  The first bullet on the list was luggage.  What do we have?  Who’s taking what?  What are we checking?  Carrying on?  And yadda, yaddda, yadda.  This type of minutia is beyond tedious for me, especially double-digit weeks out from departure.  Oh, well.  In marriage, we humor one another and compromise all the way to the finish line.

Who knew that the luggage inventory would make Snakebite cry instead of me?  Apparently, we are raising a new-millennium Veruca Salt.  She began weeping that she thought the cruise was only twelve days, and WTH is this business about packing for eighteen days.  And then the statement that rocked our Saturday got vomited out between gulps and gasps…, “But, I don’t want to go to Europe, again.”  Where. Have. We. Gone. Wrong?  Am I raising a “me-me-me monster” by giving kick ass opportunities, or am I just dragging my poor kids into my own wanderlust and expecting them to be thrilled at how lucky they are and how they won the parental jackpot?  Is that so hard to get on board with???

Da plane! Da plane!

In earlier blogs, I have discussed how we stuffed a juvenile militia in a ‘wagon and rolled our happy asses down to Daytona Beach.  Granted, I did get to go on some pretty great trips before I ever got a high school diploma, but I also got left home.  A lot.  My Mom and Step-dad, Carolyn and Tom to you, belonged to this group called The Skylarks, here in Atlanta.  Basically, it was like having a part-share in a Boeing-720.   It was better than any country club.  For parents.  The Skylarks flew to Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda at least a couple of times a month.  This group, would never be allowed today, because you just showed up and went.  Sometimes they would have “mystery” trips.  You’d call in a couple of days ahead of time and get the packing list.  It was on your descent that the captain would announce where you were landing.

My first trip out of the country was a Skylark’s trip Curacao.  The plane was like having a secret access pass to a nightclub.  Everyone knew each other and was loaded by the time we landed.  My brother, Chris, and I still talk about that trip and what we did.  Chris was allowed to “casino” and won enough money to buy some YSL cologne at the duty-free shop.  On another Skylarks trip to the Bahamas, the brothers gave me Jim Carroll’s The Basket Ball Diaries and J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye to read while they ditched me at night and went to the resort clubs.  I was almost twelve.  The one time mom checked in at our room, she was pissed.  I later majored in Literature.  Who knew that being abandoned by skirt-chasing brothers would shape my academic future and influence me into a major that makes no money.

Vacation inclusion was not the norm.  Usually, us kids were secured at my Grandparent’s house.  It wasn’t the sort of multi-generational fantasy camp that most people think about when you say “Grandparent’s house”.  We didn’t bake cookies, go to the circus or play games together.  I don’t think they really liked kids all that much.  I always felt a bit jipped when we got picked up late Sunday afternoon by a couple of giddy, sunburned parents.  While my folks were swigging margaritas and dancing in a conga line on a beach, I was white knuckling it through episodes of Lawrence Welk, back-to-back Wild Kingdom and low-sodium meals.  So, now, as a parent, I take those kids everywhere!  I think that I’m doing the right thing, but… is this one of  t h o s e  things?

Will the real Veruca Salt please stand up?

One of those things is giving your kids something that you fantasized about growing up, only to have the shit disappointed out of them once they are out of college and off the parental dole.  I think it is probably a natural instinct to want to give your kids beyond what you think you had, be it material things, “quality time”, or just showering them with opportunities.  Give them too little; they’ll resent me.  Give them too much; they’ll still resent me.  Do nothing= still resentment.  I can’t win either in any scenario.  So we’re doing what I want to do. Because, really, it’s all about me.   And they’ll learn to get through it.