PEOPLE who go on holiday amaze me. Not because they go on holiday: lots of people do that. I'm lucky enough to be one of them. Usually a week or ten days in Spain. I'll get to that in a minute.
No, the reason other holiday makers amaze me, is how relaxed they are about the preparations. Earlier this Summer, I had coffee with a friend who was heading out of the country the following day.
"So you're all ready, then?" said I.
"Ah yeah, we just have to check in. And pack, obviously."
I may have dribbled coffee down my chin. It was the day before and she hadn't packed or checked in? Had she never read the article, Getting Ready For Your Holidays? Did she not understand check lists or countdowns?
At this point, I'll admit I have no solid memory of ever reading an article about getting ready for your holidays. But I've read various bits down the years, and I've somehow cobbled it all together in my head. Preparation is key. Would you even consider hosting Christmas dinner for say, ten people, if you hadn't at least tidied the house, done all the vegetables in advance and had the turkey in the oven for hours? Exactly.
This year, four out of five of us in my family, flew off to spend ten days on the Costa Brava. Between us, we traveled with one large case, and two small carry on cases. And I brought everything. You needn't suspend your disbelief: they are not magical cases. I am simply the queen of packing.
I know all the usual tricks and tips. The clothes rolling, the shoe-stuffing, the packing from the corners into the middle. Everything from beach towels to toiletries and a first aid and medicine kit that would rival a small pharmacy, was crammed into those three cases. I've read the stories about cases being lost by airlines, so as always, I made sure that there was at least one change of clothes for everyone in the carry-on luggage.
Because I'm so thorough, I have to start about a week before the holiday. Don't get me wrong. I don't spend a solid week packing. But if I leave it to the last minute, there's no time to hunt down something I might need.
"But aren't you going to a proper town?" one friend asked, when I bumped into him in the local supermarket. "You can just buy anything you've forgotten."
"What do you pack when you go away?" said I.
"Some clothes and my toothbrush."
Amateur, I thought.
Did he not understand the delights of sellotaping the lids on shampoos and shower gels, before wrapping them individually in (reusable) plastic bags and sellotaping the bags? Had he never experienced the satisfaction of needing something in the middle of the night when the shops are shut, and having it? Whether it was a sprained ankle, a tummy bug or a mosquito bite, I was ready.
But nobody gets all their ducks in a row. We had almost reached our departure gate, when The Eldest realised we'd left one of the aforementioned carry-on cases at security. Cue a frantic dash back through the airport, followed by a sprint back to our gate, seconds before our flight closed. The joys of air travel can't be overstated.
I have to admit, my general preparedness isn't restricted to travel abroad. On any given day, my handbag holds everything from a notebook, my current read, my purse, phone, keys and sunglasses, sunscreen and a small umbrella, to a travel first aid kit and a travel coffee thermos. I may be a frustrated girl guide, I'm not sure.
And I didn't lick it off the stones. I have great memories of holidays in West Cork when I was a child. The journey from Dublin to Cork, before we got mad money from the EU to build motorways, took a full day. At least it did, when we traveled as two families in two old cars and stopped off in the middle of the journey for 'dinner' at some hotel in the midlands.
My parents too, self-catered, and as we headed south to spend our fortnight in one half of a two hundred year-old farmhouse, my mum and my aunt even packed food and baked goods into the back of those old cars.
When it rained on the beach, each of the four grown-ups would take a corner of the large picnic blanket and unroll a heavy-duty plastic sheet over their heads and over us and all our stuff. We children, now well sheltered, would be herded to the middle of the blanket to sit it out. It was the Father Ted holiday, long before Father Ted.*
I have never heard of anyone doing that in 2019. In fairness, I never came across anyone doing that when I was a kid, except for us. As for packing, these days, unless you're travelling to Timbuktu (and for all I know, Lidl has opened a couple of stores there), you can buy as you go. Travelling light really is an option.
I prefer to travel tight. And be ever ready.
* Classic TV sit-com about three priests living together on a remote island off the Irish coast.
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