I need to pack for a trip which I’ve been looking forward to for a year. I’m setting off tomorrow, early, but I haven’t even thought about what to take because it’s a Trip with Friends. This is completely different to a Trip with Children. Packing for that kind of trip involves several open suitcases stationed at the end of my bed for days before we leave. The suitcases are there to receive whatever I think we need to take, as and when it occurs to me, and the contents will change many times before we set off.
I’ve had some memorable flights with my children. One which stands out is when our then infant daughter started throwing up as the plane took off from Athens. We arrived in London practically naked, our vomit-covered clothes pulsating in a plastic bag. One flight from London to New York was very special because the four of us were upgraded to Business Class. Wah-hay! I thought, as the check-in lady told us about the upgrade, and assured me that, yes, it was for the whole flight and yes, it was for all four of us and no, we wouldn’t have to pay a surcharge. This was terribly exciting for me, never having experienced anything other than economy, and everything went swimmingly until the youngest was struck by terrible ear pain and screamed at the top of his voice for the last two hours of the flight. We’ve never been upgraded since.
So, we now take a fair bit of hand luggage on family trips. Besides the obvious passport, tickets, money and something to read, we take: spare clothes in case of vomit; Calpol and Nurofen in case of ear pain; plastic bags in case of vomit; sucky sweets in case of ear pain; wet wipes in case of vomit and, of course, underwear and swimsuits in case the luggage gets lost. It’s always best to look on the bright side.
But I won’t need to take any of that for the trip with my friends tomorrow. One friend lives in Italy and three of us fly over to spend a weekend with her at around this time every year. There are no men or children on this trip, just the four of us – and it couldn’t be more relaxing. I know I’ll wear whatever’s comfortable, we’ll tease each other kindly and talk and talk and talk, and we’ll eat and drink whatever and whenever we like. (I’m a firm believer that Prosecco and chocolate make a perfect snack at any time. Except for just before the school run, obviously.) Our relationships pre-date children, husbands, careers or the lack of them. We’ve lived and travelled together in various combinations. We’ve grown up together and supported each other through weddings, births, divorce, miscarriages and the deaths of loved ones. So it doesn’t matter what I pack or what I take as hand luggage or what I wear because I’ll be spending time with true friends. Besides, we’re all too old for Calpol and if we throw up we’ll probably manage not to get it on our clothes.