It wasn’t so long ago that working people didn’t take holidays and, with inflation at 10 per cent, they may yet disappear again. In my youth, everyone worked a six-day week but usually managed a summer break. Ungratefully, while dozing in my caravan bunk, illuminated by calor gaslight, I dreamt of holidays in hotels – where I believed the middle class enjoyed full English breakfasts and three course dinners – not takeaway chips. Truthfully, we could barely afford to be away at all; my dad sometimes called my grandad from a payphone to ask for a bit of petrol money to get us home again.
No-one ever mentions the downside of holidays. On my recent trip, we didn’t even know we would fly until the day before as we had to provide clear Covid tests. These days, travel makes me mildly anxious, but we arrived at Heathrow in good time, and having paid £90 for breakfast, boarded a chock-full aircraft. It was a tired old 777; two of us had seats and trays that didn’t work properly. The meals were dreadful; why do airlines persist in serving rolls that could double as house bricks? Even with inflight entertainment flights to the USA drag, and there’s the stress of wondering about the infamous immigration queues. Mercifully ours were short this time, although people can spend two to three hours being processed. Next we faced baggage anxiety, as in will they show up on the belt? Ours appeared eventually, and we were soon passing humourless customs officials avoiding eye contact. Then, we had to find the car rental desks, accessed by shuttle train. Unhelpfully, there were no signs directing us. Honestly, finding it was like a Crypton Factor challenge, and we needed sharp elbows to fight for a spot on the packed train.
By now we assumed we’d probably caught Covid, so were fairly relaxed about being crammed in like sardines with people who’d mostly just arrived from South America. Wearily, getting the rental car keys took another hour, partly because one of the families ahead of us kept asking questions. Irritably, I struck up a conversation with my queue neighbour: “That bloke should just ask the desk agent to go with him. Honestly, why rent a car if you’re incapable of finding your way out of the airport?” At last, we crammed four bags into the car boot, three hours after landing.
Miami is a rough place, with terrible traffic, so until you’re clear of the city, endless patience and (ideally) light firearms are recommended. Arriving at our beautiful Gulf Coast destination was a blessed relief, even if one room wasn’t quite as described. It did seem a long way to go for a car park view!
Stupidly, I’d booked the flights before the hotel – without realising it was technically ‘still Easter’ and prices were doubled. We were there for 12 nights, and occasionally the weather was glorious, but we saw plenty of afternoon showers and wind too. People rarely mention bad holiday weather, do they? My sister visited the Pacific islands, supposed to be one of the most beautiful spots on earth – unless it’s wet and windy, and that’s exactly what she got!
The Fijian tourist board take their incredible brochure photographs on the sunniest calmest days of the year of course; why wouldn’t they?
Arriving home, I had a huge bill and the worst ever jetlag. My thoughts soon turned to the decade ahead. As those climate change pessimists assert, soon we’ll all be bathed in relentless warm sunshine without the bother of leaving the Island. We will all be going back to caravan holidays!