For the past several years, our family has been a family of travelers. We travel whenever we can. We travel during the summer, during holiday breaks, on long weekends, and any other time we can fit a trip in.
Usually we have trips planned anywhere from 3 weeks to 12 months in the future, and sometimes even farther in advance. This is great when we use miles and points, because planning ahead is one of the best ways to make sure you can find available award flights and hotel nights. Sometimes, however, things come up that throw a wrench in your plans, no matter how thought out your trip may be.
With my wife, Chrissy, being a teacher, and our two boys, Ryan and Cole, being students, our travel is very dependent on when school is in session. Luckily, there is fairly good consistency in our school district calendar. Every year, our school’s spring break is the week before Easter, and knowing this lets us look for flights as soon as the schedule opens the year before. We have never had trouble finding four seats to awesome locations across the globe. Last spring we talked about desired locations for our 2017 spring break trip, and after poking around with award availability, I soon had flights booked to Peru.
How We Plan
Vacation planning in our household is most often split between myself and my wife. I am the miles and points wizard and take care of transportation and lodging, while Chrissy takes care of all of the details of what we will do once we arrive at our destination. She reads reviews, online posts, and guide books. She talks to friends. She never lets us down when it comes to seeing the best parts of a destination and, as she puts it, maximizing the fun. So, true to form, once I had the flights booked, Chrissy got started on her end of the planning.
Our main goal for this trip was to see Machu Picchu. This quickly expanded into a few days exploring the Sacred Valley, a couple of days in Cusco, and a night in Lima on the way home. I found us places to stay, booked train tickets and set up car services, and made sure all of our documentation was in order. Chrissy planned which sites we would visit, found us recommended places to eat, learned the best way to hire guides, and planned approximately one billion other details, most of which she doesn’t share with us until we are on the trip. She did most of this planning through the fall and winter, in anticipation of the trip taking place the first week of April.
Machu Picchu has been on our short list of places to visit for many years. Having seen pictures and talked to friends who have been, we couldn’t wait to see these magnificent stone structures up close. You will probably find that Machu Picchu is a bucket list destination for lots of people, so you can imagine how excited we were for this trip.
Even The Best Plans Can Fail
Fast forward to late January, and Chrissy starts to feel a little ill. We thought nothing of it at first, and our trip to Peru was the furthest thing from our minds. Then, as time went on and she didn’t feel any better, she made her first visit to the doctor. She came home with a few orders for tests and no concrete answers. It was the beginning of February at this point, we still assumed this would be an illness that would pass, and we had no worries about spring break.
Throughout February and March, Chrissy would see a dozen different doctors, with a variety of specialties, and have over 100 more tests. Her fatigue and other symptoms would continue to get worse and no one could figure out what was wrong or how to treat it. Towards the end of March, we began to realize that if she could travel, she certainly wouldn’t be able to do most of the strenuous hiking and climbing at high altitudes that we had planned for this trip.
We started to talk about alternate vacation spots, canceling the whole trip, or possibly traveling without her. None of these were good options, so we put off the decision, hoping that she would feel better or that she would get some sort of treatment that would help her be able to travel. A week before the trip, Chrissy had a test done that made the decision for us. The side effects from this test meant that she couldn’t possibly travel. I told her I would cancel the trip and we would have a relaxed week at home.
Chrissy would have none of that. “Why should the kids miss out on spring break because I don’t feel well?”, she asked. “Because we can’t leave you home sick and go on vacation!”, I countered. We went back and forth like this for most of a day, and I finally gave in and agreed to take the boys on my own if she couldn’t go. I still held on to the hope that Chrissy would wake up and feel better and be able to go, so I didn’t end up changing her flights until the day before we left. None of us really wanted to travel without Mom.
Sadly, that morning where she wakes up all better still hasn’t come. She’s been to a few more doctors, had a couple of dozen more blood tests, and still doesn’t have a diagnosis. The only things we know for sure is that she missed out on Peru, she didn’t get to see Machu Picchu, and we really missed her on vacation. Sure, my limited Spanish got us through the trip, even though Chrissy has actually taken classes in Spanish and knows many more words than me. Of course, we had an amazing time visiting Incan ruins throughout the Sacred Valley. It almost goes without saying that the people of Peru were friendly and welcoming and the food was delicious. But we would have given up any of these sights, snacks, or experiences to have Chrissy with us.
Leaving one of the family behind when you take a trip is never easy, but it is especially difficult when you have to travel without Mom. We will continue to hope for her recovery and certainly don’t want her to have to miss any more family trips. Sure, I’m a Traveling Dad and I definitely had a wonderful trip with my two sons, but boy did I miss my better half.