Travelling with kids: Weeks ago, I tried and failed to find a definitive list of items that no baby should travel without. The result is before me: an enormous but still hard-to-close suitcase.
Throw in the kitchen sink
I like to think I'm an accomplished packer. I usually roll my clothes to avoid looking like a crumpled ruin even if I draw the line at putting tissue paper between the folds. This time, however, something has gone terribly wrong.
It's nearly midnight, my flight takes off at 9am and I'm still counting pairs of knickers. I realise too late that I've expended all my time and energy packing for my six-month-old daughter. Weeks ago, I tried and failed to find a definitive list of items that no baby should travel without. So I've had to go it alone, browsing the aisles of Mothercare and chat forums on Mumsnet.com for must-haves. The result is before me: an enormous but still hard-to-close suitcase.
Given that Thora is about a fifth of my size and I'm still breastfeeding, the amount of clothing, food and equipment that I've gathered together is astonishing. I've even bought a miniature kettle in Waitrose. Even before my husband asks, "They have shops in Athens, don't they?" I know it's a complete disaster. Aiming for a motherhood medal, I decide to make a list of what I'm taking (and then what I actually use) to prevent similar failures in future. It reads: Thermos flask and bag, tin of formula, three large milk bottles, travel teats, 20 nappies, two packets of wet wipes, four spoons, three Tupperware bowls, one kettle, cold water steriliser kit and tablets, swimwear and swim nappies, two pairs shorts, three pairs of leggings, six sleepsuits ... By this point, I've packed every item of clothing that she owns.
We're going to struggle to make it down the drive to the taxi, let alone from Athens airport to the hotel by public transport (taxis are to be avoided, apparently). Adding to the frisson of excitement is my husband's sore back. He winces when he walks and has the gait of a chimpanzee, so weight-lifting is doubtful. By 1am I'm hanging bags off the pram as if it's a Christmas tree and considering whether the trip ahead should be called a holiday at all.
Scarred by the experience of jolting a wailing baby through Rome's cobbled streets in a nifty folding stroller, I've borrowed a Baby Jogger with comfy, inflatable wheels. The only problem is that the car seat won't clip into it. I hate car seats. Received wisdom (my sister, Mumsnet) dictates that it's safer to take your own than hire one with a car, because you know it's never been in a road accident. In practice, however, trying to balance one, shrink-wrapped and ready for check-in, on top of a pile of suitcases requires the skills of a circus entertainer. Back to Pram, and Plan, A, then.
It's now 2am. We practice our luggage juggling act rather gingerly, and climb into bed. I've packed what can barely be described as a capsule wardrobe for me and a frankly indulgent number of T-shirts for my husband. He wants to take shoes. Imagine? The only other casualty apart from my sanity? There's no room for the blasted kettle.