The last time I was in Europe I was pregnant with Jack. Younger Me is heartbroken over this terrible fact. Present Me is resigned and accepting. Future Me is horrified at how much money Phillip and I are going to spend to go back.
OH YES. For YEARS now my parents have been talking about going back to Italy to see their godson graduate high school. Quick back story for anyone new around here - my parents MET while teaching elementary school on American military bases in Europe, then they went back to the states and had a bunch of children, then they went BACK, taking us with them. I was 10 and starting 5th grade when we moved to Sicily. Two years there, then three years at a base on a 12x18 mile island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, then three years (for me) at an Air Force base in northern Italy, about an hour north of Venice. I graduated from high school there, then went to college in Seattle and, as you may have deduced, stuck around. My parents were there, what? 13 years? And moved back to the states 5 weeks after I had Jack. And they haven't been back since.
So it's kind of a BIG DEAL. And when they started throwing around the idea of going back, I started throwing around the idea of going WITH. Because OBVS. Right? Right.
Except DEAR GOD has anyone checked the prices for transatlantic flights these days? Pass me my smelling salts. I used to mosey on down to STA Travel on the Ave and sit jealously while a tattooed and pierced and clearly well-traveled young agent found me a $700 ticket to Venice. Flights are now TWICE THAT. And my family has MORE than doubled in size.
But I've never been one to let a silly thing like MONEY stop me! I did spend my entire savings on a European Tour the summer before my senior year of college, not knowing quite how I'd PAY for that senior year of college when I returned. (The answer: a better paying job than the year before, trimester-long "emergency loans", and the fact that tuition at that time did not require signing over your firstborn, sheesh.)
(Phillip, on the other hand. Pray for the ulcer.)
NO, I'M KIDDING.
Basically all we REALLY decided was 1) my parents are renting a HOUSE and if there is ANY time to take your family to Europe it's when your parents are footing the bill for LODGING and 2) hey, maybe Phillip's job could assign him to one of its European offices for a week? Maybe pay for a plane ticket? Hmm?
Anyway. Weeks of me furiously pecking at my laptop and Phillip having breezy oh-so-casual conversations with his superiors has resulted in the following (though, to be sure, no tickets have actually been purchased yet):
Taking a one-way flight from Seattle to Venice in mid- to late May of next year. Yes we ARE taking the kids out of school. I felt very anxious about this until I started pricing things out and decided to take extreme advantage of my parents' generosity.
Hanging out with them for a week and a half to two weeks, depending. In a house that they have rented. With enough room for my family AND my sister-with-the-new-baby's family. We shall take the train to Venice and drive to Austria and get fat(ter) eating all the things we all miss and probably go to Venice again and THEN...
Because Phillip will be super irritated with me if I drag him to Europe and he doesn't get to go to Paris AGAIN, we will probably leave the kids with my parents for a night or two and take a cheap flight to Paris and blow whatever we were going to spend on their combined orthodontic work. Again, I am banking on the extreme generosity of my parents and also our good friend who is an orthodontist.
AND AFTER THAT. We will take everyone on a cheap one way flight from Venice to London because Phillip's job was all, "Sure, yeah, totally fine if you want to visit the London office, we won't pay for your plane ticket because we're not SENDING you there, but we'll pony up a generous amount of pounds for your tiny business traveler hotel room OR, say, a three-bedroom flat you find on airbnb.com, whichever works!" So we're talking 4-5 days in London, maybe more? Depending?
Second week of June-ish we take a one way flight from London to Seattle. The kids will have one week of school left if they'd like to return for the festivities, IF they recover from the jet lag fast enough... And summer will have barely begun.
I have to tell you guys that the only way in the WORLD we can pull this off is knowing that we don't have to pay for a hotel or vacation rental. If we had to do that there is NO WAY NONE. I'm still not exactly sure how we're going to make it happen what with renting a car and the price of gas and how much food my second grader now eats on a daily basis. I've priced out flights and WOULD YOU BELIEVE that it is CHEAPER for us to fly one way to Venice on a Wednesday than it is for us to use my [many] FF flyer miles on Alaska Airlines on the one Sunday they have an award flight? The fees are RIDICULOUS. It's even worse flying back from London. With miles. Flying out of another city actually made it cheaper all around, since Venice is such a pricey spot. And easyJet and Ryanair flights are dirt cheap making it easy for us to GET to London in the first place. (And Paris. Ack.)
It's been nebulous and free floaty for so long that I have to write this all down to quite believe it might happen. We've been waiting to see what Phillip's work would say about overseas travel, expecting that they would agree, but not with the crazy flexibility. I mean, Phillip is basically going to tell THEM when he's going. That's the other thing that makes it possible - because he'll be working (for real!) he won't have to take a whole three weeks of vacation time. (Uh, all his vacation time for the year. Maybe some from the next year too. Oops.)
I have no qualms about taking my "young children who won't remember" on such a big and expensive trip. I think Jack and maybe Molly WILL remember. And also I'm the person who took them to Disneyland when they were BABIES because *I* would enjoy it. Heh. Having my parents there for two thirds of the trip will of course make it easier to have the kids along too. My mom is already talking about taking the kids to all the places where she used to go on field trips with her class. I speak and understand enough Italian to order in a restaurant and read road signs and get on a train. The airplane ride is going to blow. The jet lag will be awful. The figuring out logistics on site with my husband will of course be nightmarish. But we are SO. EXCITED. Way back I gave Phillip an out, telling him it was TOTALLY OKAY if he didn't want to stress about the money or take the time off or whatever, but he was more into it than ME. If we don't go when my parents are offering us FREE BEDS TO SLEEP IN, when would we go?!
So. There's your heads up about this blog turning into a bakery slash Europe trip planning blog. Not sure if it was possible to get MORE boring, but I'm trying my hardest! Oh, also consider that a desperate plea for any and all Budget European Travel Tips & Advice THANK YOOOOOOU