Next week, for the very first time, I will be taking two children abroad.
Both kids have a few air miles under their belts already; right before the split we travelled as a foursome to a family wedding in Madrid and a year later a cruise with my mum from Southampton to Nice. Both trips were great but my overarching memories from both holidays are ones of juggling – juggling luggage, juggling cranky kids, juggling wants, needs, worries.
We’ve done a couple of UK minibreaks since – memorably this incredible stay at The Pig – and Center Parcs is a firm favourite with us all. But these trips involve a car boot you can load to the point of bursting; this holiday is going to be the first time we’re setting foot on a plane (for 4 hours! Observe my fixed grimacey grin!) and disembarking in a foreign country as a party of three. Never before have I alone been subjected to this wonderful world of scorching temperatures and luggage limits.
Obviously my first emotion about our pending holiday is to be incredibly excited, as well as hugely grateful to the people at Mark Warner for believing in us all enough to send us off to Kos for the week. I’m also really looking forward to experiencing the holiday from the perspective of a single parent, considering what works and what doesn’t, hopefully having an amazing time in order to give families like mine the confidence to do it alone.
But fundamentally I’m a worrier, and it would be unnatural for me to embark on our first foreign single family holiday without a certain amount of fretting. Which is why I’ve been trying my best to identify my worries in order to knock them out of the park, starting our trip on one tightly organized ship (or plane).
Firstly, the luggage. We have an allowance of 20kg each, though obviously expecting a 4 and a 5 year old to cart massive Samsonites around the airport is out of the question. Instead they’ve each got Trunkis to be responsible for – I had to buy one more as we only had one, lest WWIII break out over Trunki possession – and as much of their belongings as possible will be packed into these to go in the hold of the plane. They also each have a backpack which I’ll stuff with new games and an emergency iPad each, for when that 4 hour plane journey becomes that little bit TOO long.
Me, I’ve never successfully packed for a trip less than 25kg, and enjoy flying Virgin Upper because of the massive 3 x 35kg allowance. So that’ll be an issue. In preparation I have bought all my cant-do-without toiletries in miniature, and will just have to go without six pairs of shoes (gulp).
The flight itself is from Gatwick, a generous hour from home, meaning we’d have to leave at around 5am to make sure we arrived for the 7am check-in safely. To save this mad morning rush (and the inevitable stress), the night before I’ve booked us into the Bloc Hotel which is situated above Gatwick’s apron. So it’s going to be literally the most exciting place that plane-spotting Hux has ever stayed. And to be honest, as a fairly big aviation geek myself, I’m really looking forward to this too.
Bloc is literally five steps from Security, so we’re planning on driving here straight from school (I’ve booked valet parking to eradicate the worries of park n’ride buses with two kids and their Trunkis), getting used to the airport environment and having a relaxed dinner in the Giraffe next door, where Bloc customers get a discount. Phew.
One other worry I had was the airport check-in, security and waiting process. I experienced a nightmare situation with Monarch at Gatwick a couple of years ago where the check-in took two hours and I was held back for another 30 mins because of a suspicious substance in my handbag. It was quite obviously nothing, but I nearly threw up the night before’s tequila haring it to the gate at a sprint only seen before at the Mum’s race on Sports Day. There were no relaxing bon voyage breakfast Bellinis for me that morning.
Which is why we’ll be at check-in on the dot of opening, and we have snagged fast-tracked security with our booking for the No 1 Travellers Airport Lounge. This is £28 for adults and £14 for kids and you get a hot breakfast included for the price and a magnificent view over the runways (ding dong, jackpot) – along with that invaluable fast-track through security. I predict we’ll be relaxing with that Bellini (me, not them) and an order of eggs florentine within 30 minutes of leaving our airport hotel room. No stress trying to hunt down a breakfast BLT at Pret, or dragging the kids into a beery Wetherspoons for bacon, beans and eggs. Fabulous.
I’m hoping the kids will be too entertained by the novelty of the flight to get highly strung (and if not, that’s what the iPads are for) so my next worry was entertainment at the hotel. They’ll be in Mark Warner’s marvellous kids clubs for half of each day, and in our free time together we’re going to be doing LOTS of swimming. We’re taking our SwimFins with us – these have already been a huge help for Hux as he learns to swim – and I’m taking pool toys as well, plus Tevas to protect little feet when beach walking and swimming. I’ve also planned a few hours sightseeing in nearby Kardamena and I’m on the hunt for a lovely Taverna to lunch at on this day. God, I love Greece.
In terms of kit, I’ve duplicated their Factor 50 swim suits – 2 of each – as well as sunglasses (times 2), bottles of Factor 50 cream (times 4) and sun hats (erm, 3 each, just to be on the safe side).
I’m getting my bits waxed today; throw in a bikini and my Birkinstocks and that’ll be me sorted. I’m still on the hunt for that perfect white sun dress but we can’t have it all, can we?
And so I think we’re set. Factor 50, luggage, iPads, the excitement of relaxing on a beach that isn’t in Bournemouth. What else do we need?