It Doesn’t Have to be Stressful!
Recently, I was lucky enough to take a trip with my family to the other side of the world. I currently live in Europe, so most of the time when we go on holiday we are lucky enough to be a short haul flight away from some of the most amazing, historic and kid friendly places in the world. Paris, for instance, was an amazing romantic holiday, but with the added bonus of having Disneyland Paris (which of course I have also written travel tips for!) to keep the kids happy. So up until now I have managed to avoid taking my two little monsters on a long haul flight.
But when I was given the chance to visit Australia for the first time, I was really excited. Well at least I was until I realised that it meant being trapped in the skies with my two excitable young children for nearly 30 hours. Most of the time I can’t handle being trapped in a small space with my kids for more than 8 hours, but 30 – that was going to be a hell of a test. Add to that my issues with anxiety and the fact that it is no secret that I struggle to travel with my husband at the best of times, and you have one very stressed out mother. And that is before I have even started packing for the trip.
So knowing that I was going to have to endure the most painful 30 hours of my life, I decided to tackle the issue head on and plan ahead. What could I do to prepare myself for a long haul trip? The truth is, I didn’t plan it at all well. I did everything wrong. So with my wonderful hindsight as a gift to you, I am giving you the tips I should have followed:
1: Pack a Prep Kit
So many people forget that you don’t just have to think about the flight time, you have to think about the time before the flight. With most long haul flights, you have to check luggage in 3 hours before. Prepare. Because those three hours are just as tough. Airports are enormous and kids are tiny! They get lost so easily. One blink as you are putting stuff into the container at security and all of a sudden we are a ‘kid down’. At least on an airplane they can’t go anywhere…
Make sure you pack something to keep them entertained in their carry on luggage for the time before you board the plane. For me, charging up the iPad and making sure I had new movies and TV episodes was a great plan. I just wish I had used the powerful force of technology before we got on the plane. Because let’s face it, it’s either that or having to say “no” a million times as they continuously ask for that tacky souvenir they spotted in the window of one of the overpriced airport shops.
2: Get to the Gate
Now I know that my husband thinks I am crazy for almost running towards the gate as soon as it’s announced, but personally I like to get on the plane as quickly as possible so I can get settled and relaxed. Also – there is NEVER enough room for your hand luggage and you know you are going to have to take out the headphones, colouring books, blankets etc etc etc…
The one joy of travelling with young children: you are allowed to board FIRST. So get to the gate early so you don’t miss your VIP announcement.
3: Remember: They are Kids
As much as I dreaded flying with my kids, I was also really excited for my them. It wasn’t the first time they had flown, far from it – but there is a big difference between flying Ryanair around Europe and flying in an enormous jumbo jet with personal TV screens in each chair. My little techy geek girls were in their element. The look on my kids’ faces when they saw the airplane was priceless. So my advice would be, embrace that! Make it fun for them. Let them ask questions and point things out. My eldest loved talking about ‘how’ airplanes fly and my youngest asked ‘will we see giants when we get above the clouds’ (because that is where she very cutely believes the giants live! I blame Jack and the Beanstalk!) So make it fun. Because they are tiny and see the world as so much bigger than us – imagine what this is like for their little brains. Step outside yourself as an adult and allow yourself to see this ‘new world’ from their eyes.
4: Keep it Simple
I have to admit, I packed my kids an entire carry on suitcase full of stuff. Pyjamas, teddies, pillows and blankets. Not to mention the copious amount of colouring books, books and iPads. I was a fool. Learn from my mistakes. Most long haul airlines now cater for kids. Emirates gave each of my girls a mini bag with a blanket in it as well as colouring books and pencils. Then of course with the TV screens the girls had games to play, movies and TV to watch. The stressing out I did the night before we traveled was utterly pointless, because they were not interested at all in what I had bought them. They were much more interested in the new stuff the ‘lady’ gave them.
We came home after a 2 week holiday with that particular suitcase still packed in the same way it was the day we left. It’s great to have back up plans, but it was an entire suitcase I could have left at home and not had to lug around airports, or better yet, free luggage allowance to buy holiday gifts! Think smart and plan ahead. One book and maybe one teddy is more than enough.
5: Sleep as Much as Possible
Try to pick flights that mean your kids can still sleep at the normal times. Don’t even think about trying to fight the jet lag or tricking your body into sleeping on the flight at different times, because the reality is much harder than you think. Airlines feed you with food and then dim the lights at normal sleeping times in the location you just left not the one you are due to arrive in – to encourage you to sleep. So just go with it. Let your kids sleep as much as possible because I assure you, trying to cart around 4 man-size suitcases, 2 car seats and 2 very grumpy children is not a fun way to start your holiday.
Bonus Point : HAVE FUN
You are about to go on holiday, and it’s LONG HAUL, which means wherever you are flying to and from, this is a big deal. The tickets were expensive, you are flying somewhere so far away you can’t just pop back home. So for God’s sake, enjoy it. Treat the flight like it is part of the holiday. Treat your kids as if you are already there. Have fun, laugh and take silly selfies, because moments like these are the memories they will remember for years to come. So enjoy it while you can (says the neurotic anxious mother of two who still hid a pack of anxiety meds in her bag just in case. I promise I will take my own advice next time!)
Oh – and if all that fails… Order a G&T – you are on holiday after all!