Italians don’t say “not the sharpest tool in the box”… they say “merry goose” (Oca giuliva). That should set the stage appropriately for this (and following) posts about my take on our first family trip abroad.
Many months ago, my husband talked me into a trip to Italy with the kids. Reality is, we both love to travel, and our last trip abroad was “technically” to Mexico a few years ago but REALLY to New Zealand on our honeymoon (8 years ago this year). I also assumed Ella would be “much older” by the time we traveled (almost 3!), and Zoe was a great travel companion already.
And so, I agreed. YOLO, right?
Flash forward to the weekend before travel… Nothing like the wire to point out that:
- We will travel on trains, planes & automobiles (read: tiny rental car)
- We have a BIG bag, a medium-sized bag and 2 little suitcases…
- We’ll be gone for almost 2 weeks
- When kids bring “rolling bags”, the PARENTS end up carrying those rolling bags
At the last minute we were out buying a second medium-sized bag and two very small backpacks for the girls. (SPOILER ALERT: we have carried those backpacks 60% of the time so far. In fact, at one point I was carrying my backpack, a kid in a carrier attached to my body, a kids backpack and a folded stroller, in the midst of an Italian-style mass exodus down 2 precarious steps from a train… but I digress.)
I’m actually quite proud of our packing. For a 12-day trip, I packed for 7 days for myself and the girls (Bart is always great at packing light), with the intent of doing laundry once in Italy. We’ll see how all that works out.
I’m even prouder of our Google doc (created by my husband, mind you) that details all the key info for the trip. I’m most proud that we actually went on the trip.
We left our home at 1:30 pm PT on Tuesday 6/13. We arrived in Milan at 11 am PT on Wednesday 6/14. Yes, that’s almost 24 hours of travel (with about 15 of those spent sitting on a plane from LA to London to Milan). With only a few tears, we made it to Milan, greeted by light rain and 90 degree heat.
After a very thankful “free” dinner in the Glam hotel and a night of mostly sleep (the girls woke at 3 am, then Ella and Bart fell back asleep from 5-8 am, yay, jet lag!), we had breakfast at local cafe (Motta Autogrill) and then got on a train for a two hour ride to Florence.
A few things we’d do differently next time (yes, I realize we just got here):
- Get taxi to or plan to park car at airport. Our Lyft driver showed up not willing to take us to the airport without carseats (which FYI we would prefer but are not required in state of California for transit providers). He literally tossed our bags out of his car and left in a huff, while we had to scramble and drive ourselves.
- We booked a flight to London on Air New Zealand (my idea because you get better features for same/lower price) then changed planes to go to Milan. This required going through passport screening, baggage claim, changing terminals, checking in bags again and going back through security. Luckily, we made it. Oh, and it would be a tough tradeoff to lose our Sky Couch, but maybe?
- Leave kids at home. Ok, ok, Bart would not say that. But it is incredibly exhausting to navigate travel with two small children. It just is.
In fact, just picture Bart dragging those two medium sized bags and me pushing a stroller with two children and 3 other backpacks on these streets:
That photo was taken just outside the car rental service, where picked up our Fiat 500L in Florence, and I took a deep breath and let my husband drive us to our next destination, an apartment in a farmhouse in Pontassieve (thanks, Airbnb!).
Yesterday we met our host, Giovanni, in a parking lot so we could follow him up the lovely vineyard covered hill to our apartment. While it looks VERY like the pictures online, you never know how a place is going to BE until you’re in it. In 90 degree weather. Without air conditioning. And with tile floors and a steep concrete staircase up to bedrooms and bathrooms (did I mention no A/C and two small children?)
Thankfully I watched the movie Passengers on the plane (I do not recommend it), where I learned from a robot that “You can’t get so hung up on where you’d rather be, that you forget to make the most of where you are.” I’m working on it.
Tonight: Cooking Class in Florence! Pizza and gelato for the family – they had me at “parents get to drink wine”!
I must say that overall the kids have been pretty terrific (for kids stuck in vehicles), and of course, I’m incredibly thankful to be here! So we’re off to the next phase of our trip, more rested after a couple of nights in actual beds, and I feel confident it’s going to be amazing from here. Stay tuned! Arrivederci, amici!