Sometimes I look back to those carefree days of mini breaks and business trips, when all packing meant was slinging a few essentials into a smart black case and whizzing off to the airport in the back of a cab. If only things were so simple nowadays. This summer thanks to lots of indecision and failed attempts to save money we will end up going away twice and staying in a total of six different places, this weekend the big boys are also having sleepovers at both grandparents houses. The upshot of all this toing and froing is that I seem to have spent the majority of the summer break packing or unpacking.
My husband laughs at me when I pore over the property details of any potential holiday rental to check if it has not a pool, a sea view or barbeque, but a washing machine. Laugh he may but he's not the one who will end up endlessly washing for weeks after we get back in order to tackle the vast backlog of dirty laundry we amass if unable to wash while away.
But it's before we go that the pain really begins. Packing for a family of six is challenging enough. How can I make sure we have all the many baby essentials, times two for twins, enough clean clothes for everyone that I don't have to fire up the washing machine the moment we walk in the door and still leave room for any people to sit in the car.
Even with our giant bus of a car, plus roof box, fitting in two travel cots (nowhere provides more than one, and most holiday homes charge a fortune for a death trap of a cot that I wouldn't let a dog sleep in), two highchair substitutes (the babies are still at a point where we need somewhere safe and comfortable to park them and feed them), a steriliser, bottles, milk, food, toys, bedding, nappies for the journey, baby slings and a pushchair is a challenge. And that's not even counting all the paraphanalia the big boys insist on carting around with them. They both insist on their own suitcase full of toys to strew around the car and then scream as they get lost/crushed/appropriated by a brother, portable DVD players (a must if sanity is to be maintained on a long journey), cuddly toys, sweets and drinks (just to make sure we have to make regular toilet stops).
Once all this is in the car mum and dad are left with a tiny corner into which we squash a few clothes, swimsuit and essential toiletries. Fortunately there is no need for holiday luxuries like fat blockbuster books that I used to read whilst whiling away the hours baking on a sunlounger, or sunscreen for grown ups - I have long forgotten pampering myself with gorgeous smelling lotions, now I just rely on a squirt of the kids livid green, apple scented spray to keep the sun's rays at bay.
I can quite understand why some parents booked in for a weekend away the moment their plane touched down from their holiday en famille, if ensuring the kids don't drown/burn/get lost en route isn't hard enough work just the packing and unpacking is enough to have me screaming for a solo spa break.