I was starting to think that maybe this wasn't such a good idea. It was the morning of our flight to Antalya, and faced with a large, bulging suitcase and another huge pile of things left to pack, I wondered, "Is this a vacation or a prison term?"
Ever since meeting my husband-to-be way back in December 1999, he's been telling me - and anyone who would listen - stories of the total solar eclipse he saw the previous summer in Turkey.
"A truly memorable experience," he said.
"A spectacle of nature," he said. "I told myself then and there that I would try to make it to the next one in 2006."
"And besides," he said, always with a grin, "it's in Turkey, which is practically next door."
But as the next eclipse approached, another natural spectacle came our way - three children, two years old and younger, something that might put a wrinkle in an almost seven-year plan.
The day drew closer and all signs pointed to the gods being in favor: my husband's classes were canceled for the week, I was still on maternity leave, an elderly relative passed away and left us enough money to travel with. And I was just sleep deprived and crazy enough to want to take five-month-old twins and a two year old to a foreign country for a week to watch the moon cover up the sun for three and a half minutes.
Definitely worth all the fuss, no?
The actual technical aspect of the trip became my full-time job: packing. Not only did we need to decide how and what to pack, but also how to get to the airport and back with all the luggage, strollers and baby seats - and the babies.
I decided that we would make like Noah's Ark and take two of everything: each parent would be in charge of one suitcase on wheels, one stroller and one backpack. The day before the trip, my husband did a trial run packing our standard Honda Civic and with obvious relief, the jigsaw puzzle fit together. Three kids in the backseat with the small luggage at their feet, double stroller and umbrella stroller nestled in the trunk with the large suitcase.
With a sigh of relief, we were set. On the Turkish side, we had a shuttle to our hotel in Antalya, so there was only the plane to conquer.
After having taken Ya'ir several times on tortuous trips to the States, a short hour-long jump to Turkey was less daunting. We were able to take the strollers to the plane's door and were seated in the front seats of the small charter. Piece of cake.
Unlike in my previous experiences traveling with a baby, the flight attendants were extremely helpful and even gave us two little seatbelts for the babies that attached to our own. Very cute, even if questionably helpful.
We decided to stay in what is called, in hotel parlance, a "family room." Basically, it is a mini-suite wherein there are two bedrooms instead of one, which will more easily house the two cots for the twins and mattress on the floor for Ya'ir. More importantly, there is a door dividing the two rooms, which offers this mother with hypersensitive hearing a little bit of a buffer at night. (That way I don't leap out of bed at every sound, just every other.)
Since the twins were still only breastfeeding in March, food was not an issue, and Ya'ir happily chose a varied diet of pasta for any meal it was available for.
We arrived on a Sunday and left Thursday morning. The solar eclipse was on Wednesday. The weather was clear the first few days, but on the morning of the eclipse, the skies were starting to get cloudy. Had we gone to all this trouble for a three and a half minute spectacle that we wouldn't get to see?
But the gods were smiling on us again, we saw it and ooohed and aaahed, vowing to catch the next accessible solar eclipse in the States in 2024.
Ten tips for traveling with tots
â€¢ If you feel compelled to "vacation" overseas with babies, consider doing a trial run by staying with family or friends for a night. Take the amount of stuff you need for that one night and multiply it by infinity. Decide if you can humanly carry that much, realize you can't and consider
bringing laundry detergent and much less clothing.
â€¢ Wheels. All bags should have the option of being pulled, or at least shoved, kicked or head butted to their final destination.
â€¢ Don't rely on anyone. Pack an emergency backpack that has enough equipment for a 24-hour stay without your luggage.
â€¢ Take as many diapers with you as possible. Sure, other countries have diapers, but finding yourself in a code brown situation without some back-up is much worse than being up a creek without a paddle.
â€¢ Invariably, someone will get a fever (and probably wake up at least 20 times the first night in a strange bed). Take a reliable thermometer and paracetamol. Other medicine chest items should include waterproof sunblock, rehydration formula, aloe vera lotion or anti-sting ointment, bandaids, antiseptic and gauze pads.
â€¢ Bring blankets. For some reason, none of the places we've stayed in since becoming parents offer blankets for their baby cots; bringing a blanket that smells like home can increase a sense of security.
â€¢ Take a variety of toys that can all be used in the bath, beach and dry land. Also bring a plastic cup (most hotels only offer glasses in the room) and a washcloth from home to make bathing babies more efficient.
â€¢ Adhere to bedtime rituals as much as possible. Kids work better within a loose framework in which they can anticipate the next step. If at home a story follows a bath, which leads to bed, keep to that routine.
â€¢ Maintain a positive attitude. This is supposed to be a fun vacation, after all, and kids will follow their parents' lead. Plan a morning and afternoon activity, making sure to account for nap times, and plenty of time for play.
â€¢ When asked what his advice would be, my husband says straight-faced, "Just don't do it."