Q. and I changed our travel plans yesterday.
Instead of going to his homeland this coming Christmas, we’re going to wait until June/July 2014.
I’m so relieved.
Absolutely nothing made sense about our plan to go there this Christmas, except for the fact that we’d told his family when we last visited in July 2012 that that was when we were planning to come back, so that had been the expectation.
Granted, we haven’t been there for Christmas since 2008, so we are due, and we should try to go at Christmas at least once before E. starts school because once he’s in school we won’t be able to go, ever, as he’ll have too short a break in December to make it worthwhile.
And yes, Q.’s sister is having a baby in September, so there was an element of us coming to visit and meeting the new baby.
But let’s face it- a three-month-old baby, while delightful, is basically a blob. Whereas a nine or ten-month-old baby is a far more interesting creature. Q.’s Mum first came to meet E. when he was 8 months old, and I am so glad she didn’t come when he was three or four months as we had once discussed. She had a much better visit with him in January, even if he did cheekily start crawling the day after she’d left.
And there were so many things wrong with travelling in December.
First and foremost, E. really needs some time at home. It’s clear to both Q. and I that being here has disrupted his temperament. He did struggle with adjusting to the new life and the new home. When we get back there are going to be even more changes with him starting at nursery school. The absolute last thing he needs is to be taken halfway around the world in December, to have his routine and his biorhythms completely disrupted yet again. He needs time at home and stability. We have asked so very much of him this year already. It wasn’t fair to ask more.
Secondly, Q. needs December to work. He’s already said more than once that he’s going to have to work “every evening and weekend to make up for the fact that I did nothing all summer” (and sidenote: if I had known that was how he was going to respond to this trip, I would have thought differently about accepting the scholarship and coming here. I’m really not convinced that these four months will have been worth it if it means that Q. is going to kill himself for yet another academic year.). When we first started talking about changing our plans, he said that December was going to be his only chance to catch his breath. If we flew down under, that rest would go out the window. We love his family, but travelling to the other side of the world and back with a toddler, complete with a sixteen hour time change each way, to then live in someone else’s house, someone who isn’t used to living with a small child anymore, for that little bit too long, is not relaxing. It’s a holiday, but it’s not a vacation, if that makes sense. It is not restorative. It is not relaxing. It is really hard work.
Thirdly, I need December to work. I’m not going to finish here in the U.K. with a complete draft of my thesis like I was hoping, since my supervisor and I have rearranged a few things. In the end it will be a better thesis, but there are now more outstanding sections than I can possibly write in the next two weeks. This means that in reality I probably won’t get a complete draft of the thesis to my supervisor at the start of December. But if we’re not overseas, I can probably get one to him before Christmas, which still keeps me mostly on track, especially if we set the goal that I just have to have defended by the start of September (and even that only matters if I get a post-doc, as a teaching position would let me start so long as I had a defense date scheduled).
What really sold us on the change of plans, however, was when I was checking out the various flight options and discovered that we could get a flight in June/July for Q. using his frequent flyer points. And not just any flight- we could get a direct flight, both ways. The frequent flyer programs cheekily charge you the fuel surcharge, which just seems to keep increasing every year regardless of what oil prices are doing. Two years ago a frequent flyer ticket cost $450. This year we’re paying $950. But that still represents a huge savings on what we’d be paying at Christmas, and we’re able to stay for a full month rather than going for just under three weeks. And given my scholarship runs out at the end of August, that savings makes an enormous difference in our financial state for next year, especially if both of our FETs fail and we’re faced with starting from scratch with another fresh IVF cycle. Plus Q.’s Mum will be on holidays for a full two weeks of our visit, whereas with this December, the cost of the tickets (since now we’re buying one for E. as well) meant that we’d only be there for a week (or even a bit less) when she wasn’t at work.
We were both super relieved when Q.’s Mum didn’t seem to be too disappointed in the change of plans (I think it helped that she’s just seen E.). Our plan is still to do the two FETs in the fall. If I’m pregnant, we’ll cancel the frequent flyer ticket (it will only cost us $90) and will then look at going in Christmas 2014 with the new baby (which also sounds insane, but at that stage we really will have to just bite the bullet and go). If I’m not pregnant, we’ll leave the fresh IVF cycle (if we decide to do one) until August 2014 after we’re back from the trip, just like we did in 2010 when we did the IVF cycle that produced E.
So that’s where we’re at. It seems crazy to be planning our movements for a year from now, but c’est la vie with international families and the vagaries of the frequent flyer programs. You really do have to book as far in advance as they’ll let you, and be willing to jump on a ticket the moment there seems to be anything remotely suitable. We’ve done well with our loyalty program- we have one of the credit cards that lets you earn a point for every dollar you spend, and we’ve been running everything we can through our credit cards for years now (we pay our bill in full every month). This is the third ticket we’ve been able to buy for Q. But what we realized was that we no longer have any flexibility now that we’re buying a ticket for E. as well. It’s not fair to ask E. to fly to some other airport in Canada first, and to then fly to Vancouver only to have a long layover before the final flight. Q.’s had to do that more than once because of the limited availability of frequent flyer tickets. And our travel windows will get even narrower when E. starts school, not only in December, but in the summer as well. Plus, as I said above, the frequent flyer tickets aren’t as good of a deal as they used to be. We’re still getting the best possible value for money by using them on such a longhaul flight, but when the ticket has doubled in price in two years, it’s no longer represents such a savings. We’re planning to start using our second credit card exclusively from the fall, one where we just earn points that can be cashed in to help pay for any sort of travel, at any time. I’ve crunched the numbers a few times (I love doing this) and it’s not quite as good a deal as our current card, but it has the advantage of flexibility. We’ll be able to use our earned cash whenever we want to. In the long run, given our family circumstances, it makes sense.
For now, I’m just so relieved to know that once we get home in a little over three weeks, E. won’t have to do any long-distance travelling for almost a year.