Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Spring Break 2016 - Italy!

This year we had quite an exciting spring break trip planned - our first trip back to Europe in 5 years - Italy!

When initially discussing spring break plans we knew that we wanted to be traveling as an extended family this year, which included my sister's family of four and my mom. We had a couple of milestones birthdays with my brother-in-law turning 50 and my husband turning 40 so we wanted to make it special and travel together. At first we tossed around the idea of Hawaii. Some of us hadn't been there yet and a beach trip is easiest with kids in tow. However, after spending countless hours stalking the American website, I couldn't find tickets to any Hawaiian island using flight miles, which for our family of 5 was a pretty imperative aspect of my travel plans. We then started looking around the Caribbean. We loved Grand Cayman last year but also like to try new places. We finally all settled on the Bahamas, or so we thought, but didn't have luck finding any appealing lodging options. Just when I tought this trip may never happen, my brother-in-law mentioned that going to Italy was always on his bucket list. But of course! Why didn't I think of that?! So, I checked flight mile tickets and voila (or rather "eccoti"!) - tickets were booked! My sister was on board and quickly booked tickets to Italy for her family as well. Then my mom did the same. Within a few days this turned into a multi-generational, European vacation! Woohoo!

I spent a lot of time researching for this trip, after all Europe can be a little overwhelming! Knowing we were flying in and out of Rome, we had to decide what all we wanted to see. I pulled out a map of Italy and asked the kids if they'd rather go south towards Naples, Sorrento, Amalfi Coast, and Pompeii, or north towards Tuscany, including Florence and Pisa. We talked about the things to see and do in each place and we all decided north to Tuscany was best for our first trip to Italy.

Finally, early April came and spring break was here! On an early Saturday morning we left home and drove to Chicago's O'Hare airport. We did encounter construction, traffic, and bad weather on the drive to Chicago, so we were glad we had left home with plenty of time to spare. In fact, just as we pulled into the parking lot, a huge gust of wind carrying snow and sleet hammered down on us. We ran with our luggage into the building to catch the train to the terminal. We had a few hours before take off so we spent it in the American Lounge. We snacked, read, wandered, and watched planes take off. In fact, Braden even had fun making a few time-lapse videos which are especially neat from the airport.

We ended up with a delay so we didn't take off until 10 pm. At least we'd be really tired and hopefully sleep on the plane! After dinner was served, we all settled in and I encouraged everyone to try to sleep as this would be the most sleep we'd be getting for a while. I caught a few winks here and there but woke up once with my head almost on the shoulder of the lady next to me! I didn't want that to happen again so I really didn't sleep well after that. I watched some shows on the TV and kept checking the flight map to see how much longer. Finally, breakfast was served and I doled out the kids prepacked breakfast. Shortly thereafter we landed at London Heathrow! Phase one of the trip was done.

The kids passing time in the American Lounge at O'Hare, waiting for our departure to London

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