I thought that when we had our daughter, Nancy, Christmas would be all about her.
But so far, it’s been more about all the relatives wanting to see her. And when your family’s as far-flung as Brighton, Leeds and Newcastle, it takes a Stone Roses-scale tour to visit everyone.
There’s no way to liven up a five hundred mile round trip. It’s hugely boring and can be cripplingly expensive.
So, forward planning and military precision are needed to minimise both the boredom and the expense.
One of the biggest hidden costs we’ve found is the service station.
Even if you think you’ll just nip in for a sandwich, a packet of crisps and a drink, you’d be hard pushed to get change from a tenner.
The prices for basic stuff are bumped up, because companies aren’t daft.
They realise that if you’ve pulled over on the M6 for a comfort break, you’re not in a strong position to comment on the outrageous cost of a cheese and onion pasty (because once you’ve stormed out and done a tour of the arcades and toilets, you’ll be back to buy said pasty because there’s nowhere else to go).
In our house there’s no time to make anything you’d look forward to eating on a long car journey. The collective groans are not worth the bother of making peanut butter sandwiches, so the treat is to get something nice from the local shop before we set off.
It feels like a bit of a luxury at the time, but it’s about half the cost of a curly motorway sandwich.
The other moneysaver, and one we’ve learned the hard way, is to fill up on petrol before you start out. It’s not just sarnies and crisps that seem to cost twice as much at the services – the price at the pumps is enough to cancel Christmas altogether.
It’s so obvious.
But when you’ve got to remember the presents, the travel cot, clothes to look Christmassy in / get grubby in on the Boxing Day walk, and everything else, it’s no surprise when the red light comes on the petrol gauge minutes after leaving.
Our main long journey dilemma though – and I’m not sure how to solve this one – is how to arrive at our destination still friends. Everyone’s patience can wear a bit thin when you’re driving for miles and miles.
It’s tough for adults to sit in a car for hours, but kids? No chance.
And I nearly always forget to put the toys for the journey somewhere accessible. After carefully selecting things that might entertain a travelsick one-year-old, it’s a complete heart sinker to remember they’re packed in a bag in the boot under the pram.
So, I’ve gone and got a whole load of audio books and children’s music CDs from the library this time. They cost a fortune new (and to be honest, you don’t ever want to listen to them more than once). This way, I can just give them back afterwards.
And it means that we can listen to Wind The Bobbin Up while Nancy’s awake, and Murder on the Orient Express when she’s nodded off.
So all that’s left to do is to wrap all the presents, write and send the cards even though the last postal day has passed, pack the bags, re-pack the bags, pack the car, re-pack the car, switch everything off and double lock the front door.
It’s OK though, because I’ve decided that next year we’re not going anywhere.
We’re going to wear our pyjamas all week and spend the petrol money on Cava.
She can’t say more than the odd word yet, but I’m pretty sure that’s what Nancy wants, too…