Contemporary life is busy and complicated, even before you try to do a family holiday with small kids. It’s all very idealistic to want your kids to be travel savvy, but catering for their desires (especially as they get older and their network more far-reaching) does come with its downsides. Christine Smith (an American based in Singapore) describes the logistical gymnastics of her family holidays to suitcases&strollers.
I have been living overseas for almost a decade, booking trips back and forth between Singapore and the US with relative ease each summer. So nothing prepared me for the hoops through which I had to jump – and indeed through which I am still jumping – to get all of the members of my family where they want to go – and when – this summer.
A bit of background. I don’t have seven kids. Only three. And I have only one husband. (We do have five pets – 20 paws in all – but they’re not coming, so that’s a story for another time). So, how hard could it be to book some airline tickets, you may ask? Deep breath. Here goes…
The players in this saga are my kids, who range in age from 6 to 18, with friends and interests literally across the globe. And my husband, who, contrary to popular (his) belief, is a workaholic.
Then there are all of the must-visit destinations, none of which, by the way, involves a pretty, umbrellaed drink on a white, sandy beach. My husband, Anthony, is from Ireland, and that’s where his family dwells. I am from New York, and that is where my family is. Then there’s Boston, where Connor, our 18–year-old son, needs a one-way ticket to because that’s where he is spending his gap year between high school and university. And then there’s Ohio, where my 14-year-old, Caroline, wants to visit because that’s where her best friend is going for the summer. (I always thought Ohio was just someplace you passed through on your way from New York to California. Never mind.) And you also need to know that our last name is Smith. More on that later…
So here is what we need. Anthony, Caroline, Cavan (our little one) and I need to go from Singapore to Ireland to visit Anthony’s family. Then, Anthony has to come back to Singapore to work, and the two girls and I need to get to New York. Anthony then has to get to New York a couple of weeks later so we can all go to the beach (Nothing exotic. Long Island) together with my family. Then he has to go back to Singapore to work. Somewhere in between, Connor has to get to Boston and get settled. And he wants to come to the beach with us. (That, fortunately, does not involve a flight, but a ferry ride, with a website that, unfortunately, I still haven’t managed to navigate.) And Caroline needs a round trip between New York and Ohio. Anyway, easy so far, right?
Well, Cavan, the little one, is easy. She’s 6. She goes where I go, and vice versa. But Connor doesn’t want to come to Ireland with us because he wants to fly back to the States with his girlfriend, who is leaving a week after us on a US$5,000 flight from Singapore to Los Angeles. Connor, not gonna happen. So, he needs a (cheaper) flight to Boston, via LAX, arriving in LAX around the same time as her so they can hook up in LAX and fly to Boston together. “But, wait, Connor, you don’t have anywhere yet to live in Boston,” I mention. “Oh yeah,” he says. “Maybe I should fly to New York and stay with Grandma until you get there.” Good idea, Connor. (Checked in with Grandma. She is totally cool with it. Her biggest concern is whether they need separate rooms. Yes, Mum, they do.)
Then, there’s Caroline. She can only return to New York from Ohio after I have to leave New York to get back to Singapore for work. “Caroline,” I ask her, “can you fly back on your own?” “Sure,” she answers me, “as long as Connor isn’t with me. He’s afraid of flying and he makes me nervous.” No problem, I assure her. Connor is not coming back.
So, I look at my husband and say, “There is no way we can book this online. Can you call the airline? You’re so good at it,” I bribe with a sweet smile and a bat of my eyelashes. Gallantly, he picks up the phone. “Sure,” he says, “this will just take a minute.” Famous last words.
Two hours later, we have one very exhausted Emirates rep still ruing having ever picked up our call and an American Express card maxed out (I didn’t even know that was possible). What we don’t have is a purchased ticket for Caroline because they won’t sell unaccompanied minor tickets over the phone (for which, all kidding aside, I am quite grateful). And we don’t have tickets from Ireland to New York because Emirates doesn’t fly that leg. And we don’t have a ticket for my husband’s trip from Singapore back to New York because, along with being gallant, he is quite frugal and wants to use air miles for that leg, and that involves a different airline. Oh yeah, and Connor’s flight hasn’t been booked.
That was three weeks ago. Since then, we have managed to go to an Emirates office to purchase Caroline’s ticket, book the Ireland to New York leg with a different airline and book Anthony’s Singapore to New York trip with air miles. Connor’s trip is still on our to-do list, as is Caroline’s New York–Ohio–New York trip.
And, you know what? When the airline tells you to check that all of your names are spelled correctly because you can’t change them once the tickets are issued, be sure you check. Apparently, I am flying to Ireland with some guy named Anthony Simth. I hope my husband doesn’t mind…
To read about about another modern family experience of a mother flying with her adoptive children for the first time to bring them home, see the suitcases&strollers story here.
By Christine Smith