Monday, May 6, 2013

Ramp up to the family vacation, or, how I learned we NEED all this stuff to go with us.

The Wife, Sidney, Nana, the Admiral and yours truly spent a wonderful week in Orlando, taking Sidney to theme parks, the pool and generally running him around in the [occasional] sun.  However, before we get to that entertaining story, I thought it would be appropriate to share the adventure that was packing for and getting to Orlando (it also means I get at least two posts out of the trip; huzzah for content).  How adventurous?  Let's find out.

I have mentioned in the past that travelling with a child (and My Wife) can make one feel a bit like a Sherpa, but I now realize that this description, although completely accurate, does not convey the entire experience.  To fully appreciate the undertaking we need to go back a bit (to pre-packing ... yes this is a thing apparently), stay a while in the middle (actually packing and then making it to, and through, the departure airport) and, finally, forward a smidge (to flying and arriving at your destination) along the Sherpa time-line.  Confusing?  Oh, it just gets better.

Pre-packing begins when My Wife decides that an upcoming trip is close enough to warrant starting packing lists and purchasing whatever "essentials" we lack.  If this sounds vague then I have properly phrased it.  For a while I thought the length of a given trip would dictate the pre-packing deadline (ie, a linear equation), but the lists and purchases would come no-where near when the math predicted; total failure.  Determined to figure it out, I would add and modify variables in (vain) attempts to refine the calculations.  Distance being traveled, the climate of the destination, the "excitement factor" of the trip, the significance of the trip; none of it worked.  Some combination of relativistic time dilation, exponential calculations, wave function collapse and Dadaism are likely at play, but that's the best I can muster.  So pre-packing begins when it begins, but once it does there is no stopping or off-ramp.  The aforementioned lists will include breakdowns of clothing necessary (by day), supplies, required peripherals, optional peripherals (which become required) and items we might have forgotten in the past, but do not want to forget again.  The lists are subject to modification at any moment and any list you might have previously referenced could have been replaced so double check with The Wife first.  The lists also multiply, because the packing list gives rise to the purchases list and those together will give rise to a to-do list in order to coordinate the shopping, the packing and Sidney's schedule.  And we're just getting started.

Pre-packing gives way to packing in a very organic manner, which is to say we can't really pinpoint the moment it happens.  They run into each-other slowly; one moment The Wife is going over the lists, buying stuff we absolutely need, and the next piles of stuff that will be packed start forming.  I used to be of the mindset that "packing" didn't start until there was a suitcase out being stuffed, but then just before one short trip down to Philly I saw our dining room table covered in zip-lock bags, each one filled with an individual, but complete, outfit for Sidney.  Sure, there was no suitcase yet, but come on, how is that not packing?  For this latest trip, packing started about 3 days before departure, with small piles of Sidney's clothing appearing  on the dining room table (but no zip-locks this time).  We were done by the night before, partly because I just waited until the end and then threw stuff in a suitcase, but mostly because trying to pack with a 15 month old "helping" means you spend equal times putting things into a suitcase and chasing the little bugger down to get back what he just pulled out of the suitcase.  I swear the child must think his full name is "Sidney No!".
But, finish we did (after he went to bed) and I'll let you guess the bag count.  It's for 2 adults and a 15 month old for a week in Orlando.  Have your guess?  It was six.  Three large suitcases, two small suitcases and a stroller bag.  Oh, and the stroller bag had the stroller and a bunch of Sidney's toys packed in it (tip: most airlines let car seat and stroller bags be checked for free/don't count against bag total, so use them for more than just the car seats and strollers).  Now, of the six, guess how many I was packed into?  3/4 of one of the large suitcases.  The rest of the storage square footage was Sidney and The Wife.  And before you ask what was in all that storage space I'll just tell you that: (1) I only can guess at half of it; (2) I don't want to ask what it all was; and (3) I am sure it was all absolutely necessary and could not be left behind.  Yeah...moving along.  So now we have six bags and a child to get down an elevator and into our car, then out of our car and into the airline's hands.  We had decided to curb-side check because that would be "easier."  Unfortunately, the curb-side attendant was nowhere to be found so we ended up having to take turns running luggage into the ticket counter and showing our IDs for check-in as the other stayed with Sidney and the car.   Naturally the curb-side attendant showed back up to his post after we were done and pulling the car away.    Sonofa ....  

Next we parked the car in the pre-reserved parking garage because I'll be damned if I am leaving the car out in the elements of Newark, NJ for a week.  Unfortunately, this parking was attached to Terminal C and we were leaving out of Terminal A.  This means we had to get 2 rolling small suitcases, a backpack, large purse, car-seat and a 15 month old from Terminal C to A.  "Luckily" there was an air-train that went form terminal to terminal, but to get to it we had to go up three levels using two elevator banks separated by a few hundred feet of mazes (Newark airport, designed with something in mind.  Nobody knows what that "something" is, however).  Finally over the river and through the ill designed woods, we got to go through security.  My take on the TSA/Airport security: it's a farce.  Some of you will disagree with me (and you are certainly entitled to be completely wrong), but the whole strip down to stocking feet with no belt, carrying no fluids, and then being subjected to the Freedom Grope™ by marginally trained individuals (not their fault, it's the fault of those providing the marginal training) is not stopping t'rrists, it's humiliating and delaying law abiding citizens.  Add trying to get yourself and a child through with baby food and formula and security checkpoints are akin to death by a thousand rusty cuts.  The Wife, Sidney and I joined one of the pre-verification programs, hoping to avoid these theaters of the absurd, but unfortunately the airline we were flying hasn't joined the program yet (and now I can say, with no satire, hey, JetBlue, get with the damn program!).  So we muddled through the rape of the 4th Amendment and were finally at the gate.

Because we had to budget in plenty of time to get through Not-Actually-Security, we were at the gate about an hour before boarding.  Sidney spent this time running around, saying hello and bye bye to everyone he saw, and exhausting his parental units.  But then we got to board the plane!  Yes, get the 2 rolling suitcases, the kid, the car seat, the backpack and the purse onto the plane, then secure the car-seat onto the airplane seat, get the luggage into an open overhead before they are full and then get our own asses into the seats before an over-eager "In-Flight Specialist" (or whatever they call sky waiters/waitresses these days) yelled at us for violating one safety code or another for breathing on the wrong side of the plane.  However, we were on the plane!  Sidney was an absolute pleasure on the flight.  He played, he ate, he watched some cartoons, he laughed ... then he fell asleep just 40 minutes before landing.  Luckily for us when we woke him as the plane reached the gate in Orlando he did not rouse cranky, but then we had to get him, the car-seat ... you know the rest ... off the plane and onto another air-train so that we could get to the baggage carousel and pick up the three large suitcases and the packed stroller bag.  Nana and the Admiral met us just before the carousel and Nana ran to grab her grandson.  To be fair, we were sort-of holding him out and yelling "LOOK, NANA!"  It's win/win people ... 

Join us next time when I talk way too much about taking Sidney to Universal Studios, Epcot and The Magic Kingdom.  If you'll excuse me, I need to go lay down and rest after our vacation.

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