I conked out during our recent flight from New York to Miami. The trip seemed to pass in no time, and when we landed, I turned to my children, Asa, 8, and Nell, 6, and said, "Who knew Florida was this close?We ought to come here more often."
Who knew, indeed. Miami, where we were to hook up with my husband, Ted, and nine members of his family, was the first stop on our journey to Guayaquil, Ecuador, the jumping-off point for the adventure we had been discussing and planning for years: a cruise of the Galápagos Islands, Ted's all-time favorite destination. But as our flight sat stalled at the gate, I realized that we weren't in Miami after all: while I'd been recovering from all-night packing, our plane was circling back to JFK Airport with landing gear that refused to retract. Welcome to my nightmare. In one fell swoop, we'd missed that day's flight to Guayaquil and would quite possibly miss the only other flight to Ecuador—to Quito, hours from our destination. And our ship sailed the following morning. For the next 30 hours we were in motion, or waiting to be. A steward allowed us to sit in first class for the final minutes of our second Miami flight so that we could literally hit the ground running. When our Quito plane failed to take off, because of engine trouble, Asa said, "Funny, isn't it, that the best vacation Daddy ever took is turning out to be our worst."
Yes, we connected with our group just in time—and they'd all had hitch-free journeys. But even after that, Nell and I nearly missed the boat. This last part is too painful to recount in detail; suffice it to say that at the tiny Galápagos airport, as everyone else was being shuttled to the ship, we were racing through T-shirt shacks, desperately buying replacement clothing. (By this time, the luggage I'd spent months mentally packing—the kids' extra-thick shorty wet suits from Australia; the sun-blocking hats; the biodegradable hair conditioner—was off on a long adventure of its own.)
So how was the trip?Amazing. Truly. We all count it as our most thrilling getaway. I asked my husband, who happens to be a writer, to tell you all about it. I, on the other hand, can never get beyond the beginning of this tale. I suppose that's often the case with family vacations: what you remember best, even after a particularly wonderful trip, are the unexpected turns along the way. Incidentally, if anyone's interested in some Galápagos T-shirts, in kids' and adults' sizes, see me.