In 2012 we decided to do our first “giant” trip that involved planes, trains, and automobiles, multiple weeks, and multiple countries in Europe. We started out in Brussels, headed to a fifth floor (EUROPEAN fifth floor, so really sixth floor. Don’t let them try to fool you) walk-up with narrow curlicue stairs in the Gambetta in Paris, then went off to Madrid, Barcelona, and back to Brussels before flying back to Zambia.
There are many things you can’t plan ahead for while traveling, no matter how dedicated, resourceful, and thorough you try to be. Like, for instance, a rotovirus outbreak.
You can’t plan for a rotovirus outbreak, people. YOU CAN’T PLAN FOR THIS.
I’m not going to lie, I’m THAT mom more than I’m comfortable with. I’m THAT mom whose kids melted down at the dinner table after a full day of sightseeing while other children sat beautifully and quietly in starched dress clothes and said things like, “Please, Mother, might I have a bit of cheese?” At least, that’s what it seems like the other kids are doing when I’m THAT mom at the restaurant.
I’m also THAT mom when my son chooses to run-off to the bathroom without telling anyone while we are checking our luggage at the airport and in a time crunch due to unexpected traffic. You know the one, THAT mom who loses her mind and marches her child, goose-stepping toward the immigration officers who look like they are caught between fear of bringing the matter up and causing an explosive incident and wondering if the flight will be safe with that much frustrated anger in one economy seat.
This time, though – this time I was the mother who should have been featured on Passenger Shaming. Specifically, this mother, although not really that mother, just one with the same sort of detritus left by my offspring.
I’m a HomeAway junkie, I’ll own it. Whenever we decide to make a trip, HomeAway is my first stop to find accommodation. We’re usually traveling with at least three children, and like any parents we like a little bit of privacy.
Two weeks in single hotel rooms with two double beds and a roll-away is a recipe for disaster. Also death threats. Possibly sanitarium time. Definitely a need for a vacation-from-the-vacation.
Every year we take a big trip around Christmas time. There are a few reasons for this – first, the kids’ school lets out for about a month around that time and we have a free travel schedule. Second, if you plan your travel right (and far ahead) and aren’t too worried about methods, you can get some seriously excellent travel deals. Third, and this is probably 75% of the reason for us right here, we live in a climate that isn’t very Christmasy and I feel a deep urge to go somewhere pine trees are an indigenous species.
We all have our priorities.
Our first major overseas Christmas trip involved thirty days, three countries, five major cities, two overnight train trips, several smaller train trips, a bout with norovirus, an anti-austerity demonstration in Spain, and business class travel both to and from Europe for under $5000 (not including food).
Johannesburg, South Africa is not a vacation destination that immediately pops up when people talk about traveling abroad. Paris? Yes. London? Yes. Hong Kong? Bangkok? Yes and Yes. And if one actually does think about trekking to South Africa, it is generally Cape Town that does the honors (and believe me, it totally deserves that).
Johannesburg really should not be overlooked, though. And if you’re going to Cape Town or Kruger National Park you’ll be flying through JoBurg’s OR Tambo airport anyway – why not give it a quick stop?
You get to the airport barely before the recommended two hours and head to the check-in desk. You tried to plan ahead and checked in online, but there are bags involved.
Bags tossed onto the magic belt, you head toward security. On the way there, your child finds two pieces of chewed gum under a trash-can lid, touches the floor approximately 97 times, grabs a stranger’s pant let thinking it’s you and then howls in – what? fear? rage? At this point you don’t know and are quickly reaching the don’t care point.
Lugging the carry-on and a child(ren), you head toward the security line, where you wait. And wait. And wait for someone to take embarrassing pictures of you and single you out for extra touching. While in line, your child wiggles along on the floor, sometimes singing, sometimes crying. The snotty nose makes an appearance. A strange smell starts to waft around the line, and you make knowing motions toward the elderly person with the walker ahead of you to try and deflect suspicion. You know it is your child, but you can’t exactly leave the line to take care of the problem. And everyone is staring at you with great hope that you will not be on their flight.
Welcome to flying with children. You’ve now completed the easy part.