We've booked a holiday. Not for six months or so, but come October half term, we'll be jetting off to Florida. It will, I think, be our last holiday there. Two girls getting bigger means two girls ever less comfortable with the flying, and ever harder to move around once we get there. Surgeries threatening, more physical complications looming, mean with or without surgery, more pain, more awkwardness, less ability to sit on a standard chair for the length of the flight. And ever more bits of equipment mean ever more hassle to pack, to get things in under the weight limits, and to organise the less portable bits of kit once we get to the other end.
So far, we've booked our flights and our hotel. We have conceded the need to pay extra for direct flights; this adds around £500 to each of our costs. The hotel is probably one we'd choose anyway; except that if I had two girls who could sleep through the night without waking and without needing noisy breathing equipment, we might have gone for just a room rather than a suite. Then again, it's nice not to have to sit quietly in a dark room once they're asleep, so perhaps I shouldn't charge that cost to them.
Big cheers to Virgin Atlantic; no charge for oxygen on board, a choice of two different travel chairs (that'll be the Burnett for Mog and the travel chair for tLP then please) again at no cost, bulkhead seating provided the seatbelts will accommodate the chairs, extra baggage allowance and extra carry on for all the equipment, and no problem if we choose to take tLP's tank rather than her manual chair. A dedicated number to call for any queries at all, detailed info about what we need to do for security on both sides, assistance booked and a huge feeling of "no problem" rather than "it's a nuisance but we'll do it I suppose." Only slight issue is that the airline will only give us an extra suitcase allowance on the way out, on the theory incontinence and feed supplies will be used up by the time we come back again. Which is fine, except that in that case, where will we put all our shopping?
For the first time on holiday, I'm considering hiring some equipment out there. We're going to need a commode seat of some kind, and a transformer. Oh, and oxygen. Not because we will need it (she is NOT allowed to be ill out there), but because if we don't have it, I just know that we will definitely need it. If we're hiring those already, do we push the boat out and treat ourselves to a nice hospital bed? It would be lovely to have something high enough not to have to bend down for every change.
Taxis or hire a WAV? Powerchair, and risk damaging it in flight, and risk it damaging other people in a fairly litigious country? Or manual chair and the need for pushers, and nowhere to hang all our equipment on days out? Powerchair and the need for a wheelchair accessible vehicle at all times, or manual chair and get away with taxis with a big boot? To drive or not to drive, that is the question?
And then there's the insurance. Last time we went, we paid £370 for a week; our friends paid £37 for the same week. It seems we've added one or two rather expensive conditions to the girls' various lists of diagnoses since last time we went. At £1200, the insurance is officially costing more than the flight and hotel for one child. As I said; I think this will be our last Big Holiday.
This being our last Big Trip, do we make it extra special? Anyone fancy swimming with dolphins? Or is a Character meal special enough? Asking the Little Princess; she is most excited not about meeting Princesses (done that!) nor about flying (done that too!) but about the fountains (very cute video). I'm impressed she remembers; but a little disappointed - we can do that right here in Abingdon! Perhaps the week in the gentle warm sun (you hear that, Floridians, we are ordering some Warm Weather in October please!) is special enough. I do know that last time we went in October, the last blast of decent sunlight saw us all through to the middle of winter very nicely.
So if this were your Last Big Thing (and don't worry, neither of the girls is in imminent danger of clog-popping; I'm just aware that the practicalities of life will be limiting all of us as we all get bigger), what wouldn't you want to miss? What would you? Or what other Big Things might you do instead once flying is no longer an option?