"This is it," my sister said querulously. "A late-night flight to Goa with Air India. Two hyperactive boys for company. And what if the pilots go on strike or the flight's delayed? Let's go back home!"
We turned to wave goodbye to our husbands, but they were already making their way out of Dubai airport. I looked around for Keith, my sister's toddler. He had taken off in hot pursuit of Calvin, my nine-year-old, who was pushing the luggage trolley at top speed towards the check-in counters.
"Our brother's getting married, remember?" I said as we set off after them. "We can do this. Piece of cake."
Except it wasn't. The flight was more than an hour late and, to make matters worse, we were dispatched for the plane in a crowded bus, which drove around the airport for at least 15 minutes.
"Goa! Yay!" said Keith, when the bus finally came to a stop.
"We're in Terminal 3 now, where the cargo planes land. There might be an Airbus Beluga around here," said Calvin. Ever the aircraft fanatic, he began leaping over bags in his efforts to look for the big carrier.
Once on board, everyone immediately started preparing to settle down for the night, except the boys. One began jumping up and down on his seat chanting "I'm Tigger, I'm Tigger!" and the other launched into a rambling discourse on the "Top Five Planes in the World".
Both nodded off at about 3am, barely 30 minutes before the plane began its descent into Goa. My sister and I sat huddled in our seats, blinking at each other like a couple of elderly owls, until we landed at Dabolim Airport.
I half-dragged, half-carried Calvin off the plane, my sister stumbling behind me, Keith heavy in her arms. "We did it," we told each other tiredly.
The meltdown, when it happened, took us completely by surprise, triggered as it was by a question put forth by a stern officer at immigration: "Why is it that none of your forms has a phone number for Goa?"
My sister and I looked blankly at each other for a couple of seconds. Then the laughter came, welling up deep inside us and pouring out like an unstoppable torrent. We laughed so hard we woke up Keith, who took one look at us and joined in, in that hysterical way that very small children have.
My sister eventually staggered forward and scribbled down a number on each of the four forms, while I leaned against a wall, hanging on to the boys and the little sanity I had left. Still shaking uncontrollably, we pushed on towards baggage claim, unmindful of the waves of disapproval emanating from Immigration.
Stepping out of the tiny airport into the humid April morning was a huge relief. We were met by our excited parents and brother, his six-foot-four frame towering over everyone.
"How was the journey, kids?" he asked, crushing his nephews in a powerful hug. "Piece of cake," said Keith, and was delighted to see his mum and aunt go into convulsions again.