The Cost of Taking My Son on His First Overseas Adventure

Even though my toddler probably won’t remember the trip, it was still worth taking.

Which way to the beach?

I was sitting at home one day watching my 10-month-old son, Sid, looking at the rain pattering against our window in disgust. The next thing I knew, I was booking easyJet flights to Italy.

A double-whammy Christmas and birthday gift for myself, my wife, and Sid, I decided to put together a small holiday package that would take us to Viareggio via Pisa to see that famous leaning tower from both air and land.

The flights

Booking the flights was a snap decision, but I did take the time to weigh up my options regarding times, dates and available airports.

After asking Mr. Google to check the best times to go to Viareggio, I settled on May as it is off-season but usually pretty hot (well, for a pale sweat machine like me, anyway), meaning it would be more relaxing and less daunting for Sid. Also, Google told me it would cost less.

Then I considered the “flight time vs. cost” decision, and decided to fly out of London Luton Airport, which is a good 160-odd miles from our home but offered the most convenient flight timetable, coupled with prices that didn’t make my eyes bleed.

I pressed the book button, then looked down at Sid with pride and said, “Son, we’re going to Italy,” to which he replied, “Aaaaaaaaaaggggh”, which I can only imagine translates to, “stop ignoring me dad and feed me my dinner.”

The return flights for three of us (Sid travelled for free) cost a total of £200 ($255) and airport parking for five days came in at £45 ($57).

The accommodations

I didn’t think putting Sid and ourselves in a hotel room for five days would be a good option—I assumed Sid would have a full-on meltdown by the second or third day of hotel life—so I went to good old AirBnB in search of decent digs.

I found a quirky little one-bedroom with a piano-clad lounge, a balcony, and a travel cot on the edge of town for a decent price, so I booked it up with haste. The overall cost for five nights was £250 ($320), and the host was very helpful with my requests which is always a bonus.

There was a slight communication breakdown regarding the check-in time, causing us to turn up early and have an international game of charades with the housekeeper in an attempt to explain our over-punctual arrival, but after we got that sorted we were greeted with a warm and welcoming place to call home for the week.

The only negatives were the noise coming from the rowdy pub across the road, the midnight tap dancer that lived upstairs, and the air conditioning unit that leaked all over me during the early hours of the morning, soaking my head and my underpants. But the morning view of the Apuan Alps from the balcony more than made up for those small setbacks.

The transfers

The transfer from Pisa Airport to our apartment should have been cheap and cheerful, but I made a blunder.

On the way back to Pisa International, the combo of the train and the airport rail shuttle took a total of 30 minutes and cost us a total of £12 ($15). But, on the way to Viareggio, we made the mistake of grabbing a metered taxi which cost us £70 ($90) — a colossal difference.

To make things worse, the screenshot of my booking confirmation cut off the address. This sparked a squabble between myself and my wife which culminated in my phone sliding under the front seat of the taxi — in the end we managed to call our host and grab the address before we had to drive around in circles and racking up more cab-based debt.

The trip

When Sid is older he won’t recall visiting Viareggio as a toddler, but for me and Lynsey, watching him interact with a new culture, try new foods, play with the sand, and splash in the sea for the first time was utterly priceless. It’s a feeling I’ll never forget.

Together, we saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa, cooked pasta, roamed the sea front, swam in the Tyrrhenian Sea, dined, explored the town, and had the best time. Anyone who knows us personally will understand just how much we needed that trip, and although Sid might not remember his first overseas adventure, I believe it helped his development and, in some strange way, meant something special to him.

Sid loved his holiday, so much so, that when we got on the flight home, he cried the whole way back to Luton… and from the airport terminal to the car… and from the car park to our front door. My ears took a bashing on the way home, but it was well worth it — and with a mix of eating out, home cooking and modest activities, the whole trip only cost around £860 ($1102) for five days of pure family contentment.

Dan Hughes is a writer with a penchant for oddball fiction, the bass guitar, beer, Bukowski and traveling to strange places. You can find out more about him by getting lost in his Catchy Space.

This story is part of The Billfold’s Vacation Series.

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