Currently, my partner and I are in the crucial phase of planning our big, summer adventure. Why crucial? One reason is because I have a “Type A” personality, so planning is required, and secondly, because two adults on their first European vacation as a couple plus one small boy equals, again, some advance planning.
Initially, the plan was an Italian tour – starting in Naples, extending along the Amalfi Coast and then heading toward the Puglia region. Hotel was booked! Friends and family were informed! But, then, there were no feasible flights to take. Not into Rome or Naples nor any other halfway convenient Italian airport. Lots of flights to get there, no flights without a layover of at least 12 hours to get home. So, back to the drawing board.
We attempted to book into Paris, Bergen, London. We tried multiple South American countries, all would not work for one reason or another. But then, a miracle. A moderately-priced flight with a perfectly appropriate layover was available to … Barcelona.
This was not a problem insomuch as it was, well, the same destination my son Arthur and I journeyed to last year. And, his godmother lives there, it’s a familiar place that we love and now, with another adult to take over some of the vacation’s headaches, perhaps now we could go further afield, perhaps to Andorra or Southern France, as well.
And so the planning began. Restaurant suggestions exchanged via text, menus poured over. Links to open-air markets, wineries, ideas for day trips, rates for the train, rental car. We found medieval villages that weren’t too long a drive, and looked up how easy a trip on the metro would be to this place or that.
Unlike Arthur and me, my partner has never ventured out of the U.S. – never been on a trans-Atlantic flight or ran through an airport at top speed to make a connection. So, it goes without saying that this trip feels important, at least to my family, as it promises, for good or ill, to be a life-changing experience. An important first for him and for our relationship. It’s also a big step for my son, as every year he grows a little older as we travel. A little more aware of the culture, the language, more comfortable with strange food, more open-minded and capable, a four-year-old boy of the world.
But trips like this take a lot of thought, planning and care. This is the boring part, even if it sets up the excitement and anticipation of the adventure ahead. This is the time to consider questions like, “How will we get from the airport to the hotel – the train that costs €3 or the uber that costs €40?” (The obvious answer is uber after the 12 or so hours in the air). “What days do we drive to Tossa de Mar to go to the beach?” “When do we day-trip to the medieval town of Baga or to Andorra to escape the city a bit?” “When’s the best time to book train tickets?” All these questions are answered in advance in order to save a little headache when we’re there.
My hope is that all the planning will lead to more nights sipping cava under the stars or heading from one tapas bar to the next, worry-free. A look at some menus beforehand might tell me which restaurants serve cheeseburgers for small boys with expanding but honestly, pretty limited tastes. I hope that if I put a little extra time in now, I can take a little extra time off then.
May it be the first well-planned trip of many for the three of us, and hopefully leave us already plotting the next.