For a very brief moment yesterday, I was off to the Maldives for Christmas. With my parents having sensibly rejected the idea of pulling crackers with a group of potentially asymptomatic superspreaders, it suddenly dawned on me that we had been presented with a unique opportunity to fly away without being made to feel bad about it. (My father is Catholic and my stepmother is Jewish, so I am subjected to guilt squared).
Fuelled by socially distanced playground talk of “half-price, five-star holidays” in the sorts of places only Carol-with-an-e Middleton gets to go to, I embarked on one of those internet searches that requires the opening of more windows than a Covid intensive care ward. It took one phone call to the local travel agent to dash my dreams of channelling my inner Duchess of Cambridge (we’ve all got one, it just requires a trip to Hobbs and a Parlux hairdryer).
“If you had phoned three weeks ago, we could have definitely found you a bargain,” the travel agent sympathised. It turns out all the good deals have already been snapped up by better and more organised mothers than me, and the best offer going for a family of five would require us to remortgage the house.
When I later discovered that my son’s passport had actually expired three months ago, I air-punched my own inefficiency and finally ordered a very small turkey from the local butcher. Haven’t quite worked out the trimmings yet… I feel a 2am Ocado delivery slot search coming on.
The immediacy with which I set about renewing my 10-year-old’s passport sent me a very clear message, though. I need a holiday. Crikey, we ALL need a holiday! And a holiday we must have. Tis the season to be booking holidays, after all. Of course, it is nothing short of ironic that just as a vaccine is riding to the rescue of summer 2021, Brexit is looming over the proceedings like an early morning sunbed-bagger armed with a beach towel. With Michel Barnier behaving like Doris Day in a bizarre Eurotrash rendition of Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps, we still have no idea if there will be a deal or not, throwing question marks over passports, travel insurance and whether any rosbifs will ever be welcome in France again. Indeed, there has arguably never been a better time to argue for a long-haul flight to the Caribbean, “just in case”.
Regardless of the uncertainty, I am already dreaming up a 2022 skiing trip, a weekend in New York and an autumn jaunt to the Greek islands – and I suggest you do the same. Not just because we should be helping the beleaguered travel industry to recover, but because we bloody well deserve it. After all, what is life without having something to look forward to? I don’t need to be Father Christmas to tell you that.
And while staycationing is all well and good, the Cornish currently don’t want us anywhere near their Tier 1 nirvana, and a Mongolian yurt in south Somerset will never quite beat the majesty of the Kenyan plain, even if it does come with a hot tub and honesty bar.
Despite my missing out on the Maldives, there are some very good buys out there right now. A friend of mine has just booked first-class Virgin flights to Washington in May for £650 each! Apparently, the airline provides insurance for you to change the dates if they’re kiboshed by Covid. Imagine being able to smugly turn left and then be knowingly seated among people who have almost certainly paid more than you. That’s a holiday in itself, quite frankly.
Not that flights aren’t still without their pitfalls. Although the pandemic means we’d take a package deal to North Korea right now, the belt-tightening of cash-strapped airlines means it is now even more stressful to take cabin luggage. As if trying to cram a capsule wardrobe and an entire bathroom cabinet into a 56-45-25cm box wasn’t hard enough, easyJet has announced it is going to charge passengers £24 each way to use the overhead lockers.
While that should deter those selfish morons who think the space is solely reserved for their “holiday” linen jacket, it doesn’t bode well for budget flying. What next – paying to read the in-flight magazine? Plan to speak to a stewardess on the flight? That will be £19.99 if purchased with speedy boarding. Sorry, did you want to actually put your £10 gin and tonic on the tray table provided? That will be an extra £5, please. Still, these people have got to make a living, I guess.
We face many hurdles before we can all enjoy a buckets and spades bonanza. But as someone once wisely put it – a holiday is what you take when you simply can’t take any more.
Bryony Gordon is away. Read more at telegraph.co.uk/opinion