When an English friend living in Sydney told us a few months ago that she was getting married to an Aussie guy, it seemed like an ideal opportunity to take a holiday with the family.
The reasoning was that our daughter would be a month short of her second birthday and that we could see the world without having to pay more than a few pounds for her ticket.
At the time, our flat in London was on the market; the idea being to move out to somewhere in the country with a bit more outdoor space. When we received a very generous offer for it at a time when the property market was already starting to falter, our holiday plans suddenly became a lot more ambitious – rather than just go to Australia and back in ten days, the money from the flat sale meant we could go on a fully fledged round-the-world trip.
But where should we go? An explorer ticket on the oneworld alliance meant that most corners of the globe were within reach and we put together an itinerary that would take in Rio de Janeiro, Easter Island and French Polynesia before getting to Sydney. We winced at the fares which had ballooned from £650 to £1,500. Even our daughter’s infant ticket – for which we paid a tenth of the fare plus taxes – now somehow cost £208. We swallowed hard and paid. After all, this was the trip of a lifetime, even if our daughter would scarcely be able to remember it.
Then reality bit hard. The sale of our flat fell through and suddenly we were looking at a hugely expensive trip that we could ill afford. But by this time we had already arranged to hook up with various friends on the way round and I had been asked to be Master of Ceremonies at our friend’s wedding. We decided to go ahead anyway and hang the cost.
We started thinking about the logistics of the flights. Our daughter has travelled to Australia before, when she was four months old. She was almost a dream baby, making little noise and sleeping at all the right times even given the ricketty nature of airline bassinets, the small cots that affix to the bulkhead.
But now our daughter is a very active toddler, so much so that her grandmother calls her a “jifflebum”, something that our daughter loves to mimic.
How would my wife Clare and I cope with 12-hour flights when all she wanted to do was jiffle? The bassinet was no longer an option: the last time we tried her in one her legs were left hanging comically over the end.
As the day of departure drew closer, the trip began to take on epic proportions and we started thinking about what we could do to keep her entertained. We stocked up on sticker albums, Mr Men books and crayons and paper – anything to keep her from disturbing the other passengers. We even cajoled her guardians into coming on part of the trip with us, to help look after her on some of the flight legs so we could get some sleep.
Today is the day of departure and we woke early. There was plenty to do, not least the packing that we had put off till the last minute. Almost inevitably, our daughter ended up with the biggest suitcase, almost a quarter of it taken up by the nappies we would need. She uses about four a day – as do many other toddlers according to a controversial Environment Agency study on the impact of disposable nappies.
Given that we we’re going to be away for 20 days, I suddenly realised that our daughter was about to go around the world in eighty nappies. My wife and daughter helped me close the suitcase, we threw it (actually, almost had a hernia lifting it) into the car boot and we set off for Heathrow. Phileas Fogg eat your heart out.