For the last weeks/months, while my mind was mainly focused on finding a job and being incredibly tense about it (to the point I've stopped all my eBay-ing activities), Jo has been researching travel agencies up and down looking for the best ticket to get us to visit our families again. This is quite a challenge, because while there's an abundance of flights from Australia to the UK with every obscure airline that you've never heard of before, fitting Israel into the frame is quite a feat.
The current plan is for us to visit them in December, with the main event being a family Xmess celebration in England. As a bonus we will get Israel at a somewhat less than boiling state than it was the last time we were there. The plan makes sense because holidays mean people are not at work which means we can actually spend some time with the family; in our last trip, we spent more time with the family in Israel during the meagre five says we spent there than the time we spent with the British branch of the family over the course of two and a half weeks.
I have to say, her research gets me to think that the airlines are on some kind of a vendetta. Last year we paid $2450 per person, including $300 of taxes, for our flights around the world that took us from Melbourne to San Fran to New York to London to Tel Aviv and then back home. This year my first impression is that taxes are now something like a third of the overall cost, no doubt because of those stupid gas surcharges that the airlines introduce instead of just increasing their prices.
Which doesn't mean that they didn't increase their prices, too, because this year the closest figure we could find that would give us a similar performance to last year's is $2750 - sans taxes. Which sort of gets us to think that maybe we should give up on "early bird" pricing and wait for last minute offers to come up instead.
In the process we got to learn some interesting facts, like how bad the service quality is with most travel agents, and how lacking online tools are when it comes to booking sophisticated itineraries (where you have more than one destination). Both the manual and the web enabled tools can just be described with one word: lackluster.
I assume we'll find some sort of an acceptable solution, eventually; after all, it's just a money question. But I just hate the frustration this quest results in.
Mind you, once we do take off, there would be plenty of other frustrations and challenges to face. As a colleague at work told me just a couple of days ago, "a family visit is not really a holiday".
The first challenge would be "how to stay in Israel for 10 days and remain sane". On one hand you have my family, a guaranteed recipe for loss of mental health. On the other hand I don't want to rent a car and go about travelling: There's the cutthroat driving style I don't want to face and the lack of parking space I don't want to face, too. And then there’s potential schizophrenia to face when trying to go back to driving on the right side of the road. So while I intend to encourage my friends to take leave and spend some time with us, I know them too well to expect that to really happen.
If one trauma is not enough, it will be immediately followed by another. Spending a couple of weeks in the same residence with 6 dogs is enough to make anyone sign up on Bill Bryson's petition to send all dogs to Greenland for good (all dogs other than poodles - poodles are to be shot), but that's the least of my worries; my main problem is how to survive English food for two weeks plus. One plan calls upon my mother to fix me up with some food I'd be able to take with me (you can freely bring food to the UK, something you cannot do in Australia), but in general I can see myself living on solely muesli bars, especially during the holidays themselves when everything's closed. No doubt about it, dire times are ahead; I just hope that the statement "you are what you eat" does not hold in England.
Yet another concern is the weather. Again and again I prove to myself how sensitive I am to the cold, and by now I am positively sure that the transition between Australian summer and English winter would put me horizontal for a week of the holiday. Jo definitely agrees with this observation, citing that in actual fact what would really make sense is for our family to visit us during Xmess, and unless they object to some good weather and sunshine this makes perfect sense.
But who am I kidding and why should I go daydreaming? No one seems even remotely interested in paying us a visit.