I am the most unorganised and feathered headed person you might ever meet, but I knew for a task this epic I needed to get my sh*t together.
I toyed with the idea of heading over to Pinterest to get some ideas for packing up a large family (in number that is! Although, on the way back I was sure I was gonna get charged for being over-weight).
But I was too stubborn, and I decided I was going tackle the 6 people into 5 cases head-on, by myself.
I had been collecting t-shirts and shorts along the way since we booked the holiday, but somehow unbeknownst to me over the, what, 5 hours of summer we had, here in Ireland, the twins ended up wearing the majority of them and not keeping them crisp and clean like they should have been.
I was faced with: 7 days = 14 t-shirts and 14 pairs of shorts, 14 pairs of socks and you get the gist! I did not have 28 summer outfits like I thought I did, improvisation was needed.
Now, any mum will know when they pack for boys especially, there is zero chance of getting a second wear out of any garment they have worn... if you are lucky to be greeted by a clean uniform at 2/3 pm after school it's like a military operation to get them changed into their civies "Go, go, go get changed quick! There's a suspicious looking yoghurt lid edging its way to your jumper!!!"
So, what became my best friend while packing for the three boys was sandwich bags... I put together an outfit for each day including underwear and socks and I rolled them into a sandwich bag and labelled the day.
I hailed myself the new Martha Steward (or whoever the Irish version is). Okay, okay I'm guessing this is not a new concept for most mums...but I will revert you back to the opening paragraph...I am the most unorganised individual this side of the Shannon, so this was my Everest.
So packing was done, now all that was left was the check in case...the over-spill case. Obviously, all liquids went in there.
I have not checked in a bag in about 10 years so to throw FULL-SIZE SHAMPOOS in there was liberating! Now, in the interest of full disclosure, the shampoos had to taken out again because it was them or my makeup case and brushes...no contest. I enjoy sporting hun-buns regularly anyway.
On arrival at the airport, we sailed (drove) into the car-park, which I prepaid a few days before *smug face* and jumped on the bendy bus (huge holiday highlight) to the terminal.
In the airport, my previous smug face droops a little, I should have paid extra for fast track through security... myself and the twins made our way through the x-ray thingy barefooted into the arms of a rubber-gloved security man. There, he began to swab me and the twins (not a huge holiday highlight for mummy) while I held the baby. EVENTUALLY, I pulled on my trainers and gathered all my worldly possessions together and I grabbed the kids and made our way to MECCA aka DUTY-FREE.
The flight went as well as possible, the baby cried for a bit and fell asleep (I usually suffer from fear of flying but I am telling you if you suffer the same, get a lend of a friend's baby/toddler and you will be well cured!).
We arranged for a transfer to pick us up and they included baby seats and booster seats, top class service.
We stayed in Eden Village, Vilamoura. The apartment was fab, all amenities covered and the place was spotless. Now we had a 2 bedroom apartment, there was 2 single beds, 1 double and a travel cot, I searched for a pull out couch or futon but there was none.
They knew there was 6 of us, but I guess they presumed the boys could share a single... now, do not get me wrong they are skinny 5-year-olds who could easily share the bed comfortably but for their own safety, we like to keep them apart when possible as they fight like savages.
We had to make a bed up from couch cushions for one of the twins which was another holiday highlight for them.
The reception was never opened so I couldn't complain, and by the time I saw anybody behind the desk, the boys did not want a bed and requested we create a floor bed when we get home as it was 'so cool'.
There was a children's pool and a full-size pool on the property, the children's pool wasn't the cleanest and the tiles were cracked.
The teenager, boys and hubby spend every morning in the full sized pool which was ice cold, they used to have to come up to the apartment at intervals to have hot showers! But they loved every second...this is where baby napped and mum caught up on Gilmore Girls!
They splashed around with footballs and water guns every day, the sun worshippers that seemed permanently glued to their loungers enjoyed the show by all accounts, as every so often they would look out from their Ray-Bans and smile...or sneer, I'm not quite sure as the glare from their oiled skin blinded me a little.
On our last day, we noticed a sign that read "NO: water sports, rubber rings, inflatables, balls, water guns and NO to basically anything the Smith family were involved in during the week.
The apartment's location was very remote and in the end, we hired a car along with my sister and brother-in-law to bring us to Albufeira and the beach near Vilamoura.
Vilamoura is a beautiful resort but once you go around the marina and the beaches once, you've seen it all really, but this is purely subjective as I'm not one to go off the beaten path, especially with the kids, so if it wasn't signposted near us we didn't see it, its just the traveller I am!
All in all, we survived the trip away and more surprising than that we didn't have one row or dig at each other, even with a sick toddler clinging to us! High Five Mr Smith!
The sandwich bags came into use on the way home too, dirty clothes were put into them so not to mix them up with what was left of the clean clothes! Again this is probably normal for travellers but I'm usually the type to throw it all in and wash everything just in case!
I had my suspicions on a dubious bottle of sun cream that looked a bit delicate, so I sandwich bagged it for the flight home and low and behold it exploded but all within a confined area ( the highlight of mum's holiday!).
So our the kids and our marriage survived our first family holiday! I cannot say the same for my washing machine though, it didn't stop for a good few days after!!
Plans are being made to head off on our next family holiday next Easter...I am stockpiling the sandwich bags as we speak!