This is what happens when you travel with a little one:
You plan and pack. Planning I love. Packing, I am sure, is something invented by companies wanting to sell you things (for more on that, consider Father’s Day).
You make sure all the right things are in all the right places and can be found quickly/tasted/removed/placed in small sealable bags and aren’t likely to be sharp/metal/cutlery/explosive/the sort of thing that would roll if dropped during take-off. You also make sure that you can honestly say you packed the cases yourself and that no one else could have put anything in them, by making them just too full to be free.
After this you need a holiday, which is good because you may well get one.
If your child is under two you are not allowed to buy them a separate seat on a plane. I don’t mind this too much, and Easyjet recommended taking the middle and aisle seats on flights so we could use the window seat as well if no one wanted to push past two parents and a little wriggler. This is a Good Thing. Easyjet also allow parents on early. This is Sensible and causes Relief . I will not talk about our experiences with an alternate company, except to say that we will be Flyin’Rarely with them in the future, so we will.
When you arrive at check-in you have to queue, which in French is ‘tail’. You tail the person in front and wonder whether they are more likely to be frisked than you are, and usually decide that they are, which is a surprise when the opposite happens. You learn that a crying child sometimes gets you through tails quicker, and that teaching a child to cry on demand is something you must never admit to. It can be achieved by removing toys the child enjoys cuddling, apparently. You suddenly remember that you left the baby nail clippers in the pocket of the changing bag and that someone may mistake you for a terrorist and furtively secrete them into the depths of the other bag where no X-ray dares to look.
After checking in you go to an area where you can use real metal (sharp) cutlery, sprays and glass objects which makes you consider how you might get NVQ level 2 in Terrorism with a portfolio of evidence from the airport alone.
On holiday, having hired a car in French (until the point where you have to ask ‘Quelle type de petrols avez-vous pour ce voiture ici SVP?’ and they give in and talk perfect English to you), you wish you had jumped the tail so that you do not have to interpret the instructions for putting in a child’s car seat (which really are written in a foreign language) as it has started raining.
The gear stick is on the other side and so are you.
Luckily for everyone in France, so is tout le monde and the wipers work and so does the map, so you are off. Again. This time the child may sleep, but probably not until 10 mins before arrivee.
It is good for all concerned that at this point you are able to STOP and have A Drink, which is a relief after hitting 90 to 100 kph on near-empty roads and thinking perhaps you had missed the rapture. All there seems to have been, apart from the odd tractor and no Citroen 2CVs are fields and fields of goats. No sheep.
It is around now that you are well and truly ready to dispense responsibility for your very loved and very tired child to someone else, preferably the Other Parent. This would be ok if only one of you is thinking this way, but it is naturelle for both parents to be ready to delegate.
Advice # Un: Plan when each parent is to rest and to be responsible, so you have no nasty surprises. There are lots of great things you can do as a little family, as well as sharing responsibility when out and about having meals.
Advice # Deux: Each parent deserves time off, and this must be engineered if it is to actually happen.
Advice # Trois: Form an orderly tail and choose something that works for both of you. If you are going to read the same book, do it in succession.
Advice # Quatre: Plan in couple time too. You need to be agreeable if you are going to be under each others’ pieds a lot of the time.
Advice # Cinq: There is only so much time off dans les vacances. Plan regular time for each of you to rest on your return, as well as couple time. It is good for the whole family.