Monday, July 1, 2013

Operation Vacation

Flip-flops…check (as I extract the lone one from under the bed). Several changes of clothes (plus a few extra choices)…check. Sunscreen…where the heck is the sunscreen. Dammit, over 3oz. Guess I won’t be taking that on the plane, I think to myself as I chuck it into the reject pile.  Packing yourself for a well deserved vacation can be overwhelming at the best of times, but throw kids into the mix and your sanity can unravel faster than a roll of toilet paper with a three-year old at the other end.

Our family spends as much time as possible at the family lake house in the Cascade Mountains during the summer, but ever since we moved from Seattle to New York, our nearly every weekend trips have dwindled to one, big ten-day trip. Managing a bicoastal trip involves a lot of packing and unpacking and repacking. With a four-year old and a three-year old, preparations can start to seem like a monumental task. For some reason, when it comes to those adorable hard-side, 18 inch spinners decked out in Hello Kitty or Cars designs, my kids would rather forgo the clothes and opt for their suitcases being stuffed to bursting with cars, trains, dollies, and stuffies. I spend more time chasing after the little suitcase absconders trailing infrequent heaps of previously neatly folded outfits, than I actually spend packing.

I guess by now, I should probably learn to fold and pack all their clothes the night before we leave, but with last minute laundry loads, injured stuffies and ripped blankies that need emergency surgery, and the all important tasks of making sure the dishwasher is clean and all the garbage is out of the house (too avoid full on olfactory assault upon our return), I have no time left for stealthy nighttime packing subterfuge.

Airline ticket app and kid friendly ebooks and games downloaded, bags loaded, blankies and portable movie players packed in brightly colored backpacks sporting my kids’ favorite Disney characters, and mom and Dad running on about four hours of sleep, we plunge headlong into the melee of New York’s JFK airport. As we make it through security (thankfully without any meltdowns or pat-downs) we head to our departure gate, only to find that the previous flight is delayed, so our flight is in limbo for the foreseeable future. Tired, whiny kids in tow who, not only want us to carry all their stuff, but want us to carry them as well, we grab some breakfast and take a load off while my husband compulsively checks his JetBlue app for status updates. Forty-five minutes before our scheduled takeoff time, the app tells us that our gate has been changed to one on the opposite end of the terminal. Swell.

Schlepping our own carryon as well as the kids’ we start the arduous trek to our new gate. All I can say is, thank goodness for early boarding for travelers with small children. We jump the line and get settled on the plane, snagging prime spots for our carryon in the overhead bins, and immediately unpack stuffies and blankies to placate our increasingly grumpy children. As soon as the seats around us begin to fill, my kids snap out of their doldrums and fly to the other end of the spectrum…hyper. Groan. They excitedly babble, to anyone who will listen, their plans for this trip and begin their childish interrogation of their fellow passengers. I breathe a sigh of relief and a silent prayer of thanks for the tolerance and kind indulgence of the people seated around us and settle in for a mercifully uneventful flight.

Touchdown. We have arrived and I realize how stressed I am, as I shrug the tension from my shoulders and actually begin to enjoy the true beginning of our vacation. Camping, swimming, sun, family, and s’mores here we come. Viva la family vacation!

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