But still. I am, I think we can agree, experienced at transatlantic flights with young children, and I decided to blog my packing. Because that's just how much I care about you guys. (Read that whichever way you will.)
The best thing about packing is my packing cubes. I've probably mentioned them before, but this time I have pictures. I have three of the "medium"(green) ones and three of the "small" (blue) ones, and between them we manage to fit most of our stuff. They're really useful for packing several people's clothes into just one or two suitcases, or keeping underwear or workout gear all in one place. If you tend to live out of your suitcases for a week rather than unpacking, they're a lifesaver.
Then we come to hand luggage, and food. I packed a lot of nice healthy snacks this trip. How much of what you see below do you think was eaten? Oh, just the packet of mints. I henceforth swear not to bother next time. They can fend for themselves at the airport like the rest of us. (For the record, the four tubs have cheerios, pistachios, honey roasted peanuts, and pretzels. I polished off most of the peanuts yesterday, two weeks later.)
B is in charge of all electrical items except my camera and phone (but including their chargers). Adapters, cables, voltage transformers for the baby monitor, the iPod, all associated dongles and whatsits. He used to keep all that stuff in a very plain black bag, but since it camouflaged itself into the floor of the plane once - with sad results - he's started using a small purple bag, which works quite well. We also had to pack his suit this time, of course, which was folded around everything else in the blue case.
Our luggage for this trip was rounded out with a lightweight stroller (a Maclaren Volo, swapped with a friend for our Bob for the week) and the hulking great carseat in its bag. We travelled with Mabel's carseat this time, since we'd be mostly travelling by car and could use it in the aeroplane too. (It's easy to borrow a booster for Dash at the other end, but a toddler seat is harder to find and impossible to rent.) We have a bag that holds Mabel's seat that you can pull along on wheels (like this, but more annoying), so it's not too much hassle in the airport - once I've wrestled it right way round into the bag while stuck between narrow rows of seats, trying to stop Mabel taking a dive off the next seat, kick my carry-on bag out of harm's way, and not invade anyone else's personal space. (I have no idea how anyone travels alone with one or more children. B does more than his fair share of toting, hauling, lifting, and piggybacking. But I'm the carseat expert in the family.)
If we're having a more public-transport-y vacation, we leave Mabel's carseat at home and use the CARES harness in the plane, which is infinitely more portable and has certainly been worth the money over the past five years or so between the two children, not t o mention the various friends I've lent it to.
We got back last night, after uneventful flights. With unprecedented amounts of proactivity, the cubes are already unpacked and laundry is in train. We found our fridge had decided to sit down on the job while we were gone, so most of the morning was spent scrubbing fuzzy green spots off its shelves and then taking the kids out for brunch pancakes. Today they are snot-filled and sleep deprived, fragile and easily pissed off. Nothing a few nights' sleep in their own beds and a strict diet of peanut-butter sandwiches and frozen waffles can't cure.
And the thing about packing is that there'll always be another chance to get it exactly right.