In 2012 we moved out of London, dumped all our stuff in storage and moved in with my parents. Jobless, homeless and the wrong side of 40 we realised we needed to do something with our lives.
So we ran off on holiday and crossed our fingers that things would magically be better when we returned.
We arranged on a five week trip to the States split into four week long holidays to New York, New England, San Francisco and L.A. plus a road trip down Big Sur from San Francisco to L.A.
With a 2 year old and a 6 month old baby.
When we told people our plans the most common reply was ‘Why would you do that?’
Travelling to the world’s most developed country where they speak the same language and shops are open 24 hours?
Madness I tell you, madness.
We might as well have told people we were taking the kids disco dancing in Iraq.
Gaily we laughed off the warnings and flew across the pond.
We had a few fun days in New York ignoring the hysteria on the news about Hurricane Sandy.
Happily we skipped past the queues of people outside the supermarkets as the trains and subway shut down.
Then our flight out of town was cancelled and we were stuck.
Suddenly Iraq looked like a better bet.
We decided to hire a car and drove out of Manhattan two hours before they closed the roads.
I don’t know if you’ve ever fled a natural disaster with two young children in tow?
It’s not something I’d recommend.
We drove for 4 hours – no toilet breaks, no snack stops, no let’s all have a break from the screaming baby stops – 4 hours on empty roads listening to the emergency services radio telling us to stay indoors.
It was terrifying.
The only positive note was that my bum was clenched so tight for the whole 4 hours my pelvic floor almost returned to its pre-pregnancy state.
In 5 weeks we took 6 flights, drove over 850 miles, stayed in 7 different hotels and holiday rentals and only encountered one natural disaster.
And this is what we learned.
1. Don’t call it a holiday
Holidays are what you used to go on.
Holidays have cocktails, sun loungers and lazy afternoons by the pool.
You are never going on holiday again.
Call it an adventure or a trip instead.
2. Pack light
No lighter than that…… Now go back and take some more stuff out….. And some more….. still too much.
We took 2 large travel bags, 2 bags of hand luggage, a Maclaren pushchair and a car seat.
I was in charge of the pushchair, the 2 year old, hand luggage and the baby in a sling plus additional responsibilities for snacks and entertainment.
Mr Eeh Bah had both large bags and the car seat – he was in charge of tickets and passports.
The system worked fine until we arrived back into NYC and found the f*cking baggage handlers had broken our buggy.
The airline let us ‘borrow’ a manky, smelly one from lost property and the four of us spent our final night in a hotel cobbling together one working/ non smelly buggy using a hotel sewing kit and a spoon.
It was like a CBeebies version of Scrapheap Challenge but with swearing.
Lots of swearing.
3. Take a car seat
It was a massive pain to transport but when we saw what was on offer with the hire car companies we were glad we’d made the effort.
This was in the States I can only imagine what is on offer in the rest of the world.
And I have a notoriously lax attitude to safety.
4. Don’t rush to board the plane
Who came up with the idea to let families with young children board first?
The plane is not going anywhere til everyone is on board and it just means the kids are bored of being in their seats even before take off.
Plus if you get on later you can see the look of horror on your fellow passenger’s faces when they see who they’re sitting next to.
5. In airspace no one can hear you scream
Planes are noisy!
On top of that most people wear headphones so no one else was bothered when our son screamed for 3 and a half hours on the delayed flight to San Francisco.
Three and a half hours.
That is quite a long time.
6. Take a nanny
Ours came in the form of a tablet loaded with 3 hours of Peppa Pig loaded on to it.
It also had all our guide books so we could read about the museums, sights and restaurants we were missing out on as we pushed the kids in the swings at the park.
7. Toys not drugs
I packed a first aid kit with all kinds of creams and medicine which we never used.
I’d heard tell that some people dish out a cheeky dose of medicine on the flight but we never bothered instead we had a well stocked travel kit with toys wrapped up like presents: crayons and paper, sticker book – one all about airports and holidays went down well, a ball and a lifetime supply of snacks.
8. Your photos will be rubbish
As a rule small children don’t like posing for photos and when you have more than one you never have free hands.
Accept that you can either have great photos or a great time.
I took four cameras but our photo album contains just one picture of us all together as a family.
And my hat was on wonky.
9. Lunch is the new dinner
Very young children are not good in the evening.
In five weeks we ate out once in the evening that was in the steak restaurant of the hotel we were staying in.
We only managed starters and drinks before the crying began.
We finished our 16oz steaks back in our room, perched on the end of the bed watching Spongebob Squarepants.
10. Jet lag is a bastard
You know how much it affects babies when the clocks go back an hour?
Jet lag hits small children hard.
It took our children 2 weeks to adjust to east coast time and another to get settled on the west coast.
When we came home sleep patterns were disturbed for about 6 weeks.
But hey we were home and getting a lie in.