How to fly with small children: Travelling Circus

A friend recently mentioned to me that she was flying to New Zealand (or it could have been Australia and I misheard over the kids being kids) which is exciting. They are a family of four, including a newly turned four year old and a newly turned one year old, and it will be the first time they have flown with the kids.

Being a serial vacationist and all, I thought I would look back over my travel blogs and amalgamate them into one big updated travel blog for her, and anyone else who is brave enough to fly with small people.

Where to start… tips for travelling with small children:

Packing: I am OCD when it comes to holiday packing.  I start about a week before we fly.  I get the clothes out and make sure they are washed.  I put together a weeks worth of outfits and thats the cut off as I use washing facilities while away, and I make sure everything matches – this is for each person as well – so that it minimises the luggage.  I’m actually going for a PB on our next trip, we can fly with either two medium suitcases, or a medium case and a surfboard bag – this trip I’m going for a board bag and a cabin suitcase, and no buggy!  Its going to be epic.  A week also allows me time to organise things like sunscreen and nappies which can be pricey abroad, and also travel money (I do not go shopping with the kids because its a pain in the ass, so sometimes I need to have all this planned five days in advance depending on the husbands work schedule).  I could dedicate an entire blog post to just packing.

Car seats: I have travelled with car seats and I have rented them from the car rental companies.  Obviously its easier to rent them but they seem to rapidly be heading north in the expense region.  Flying with them is fine, you just need to wrap them up and use an isofix protector if you want the bars to stay intact.  I’ve had to claim a new car seat before and it was pretty easy.

Sleeping: I never fly with a travel cot, I always order one through the accommodation and check that it comes with sheets…  My kids both use/used grow bags to sleep in at home, so I fly with a grow bag for my youngest so that he’s sleeping in what he’s used to.  If he sleeps well, everyone sleeps well.  And whatever you do, don’t forget their sleeping feely’s/stuffed animals.  Also ask for a mattress protector or take one with you if they are newly nappy free at night.

Plane cot: If you’re flying long haul, you can be put on a list to request a bulkhead seat where a plane cot can be attached to the ‘wall’.  I have never had this luxury due to age and timings, but seeing people fly with them – they look like they make life easier.

Food: If you’re flying long haul then pre order the kids meals.  You can also take their favourite foods/snacks with you as well.

Milk: If your kids/babies/toddlers like milk then you can fill your bottles up before you fly and travel with a cool-bag.  This will be put into a machine and tested at security.  You can also buy milk from a restaurant or cafe in the airport and fill the bottles up then.  Or nicely ask an air hostess once on the plane.  Another friend of mine travels with small bottles/cartons of follow on milk which is sold by the baby formula brands, which I think is a great idea as it doesn’t need to be kept cold.

iPad: Another friend of mine once told me to buy an iPad before we flew to Florida.  We now don’t fly without one, especially on the short haul flights where the seats don’t have personal TV sets attached.  They are also very handy for delays.  Make sure its fully charged and that you’ve downloaded a couple of movies and a few episodes of their favourite programmes.  Travel with the charger handy.  If delayed, find a wifi spot for some kids you tube.

Goodie bags: The kids are allowed hand luggage, so I pack their little backpacks with activity, sticker and story books.  Also a set of kids headphones, snacks, small favourite toys and their cuddly toy.  They are set.

Baby/toddler carrier: Out of all the times I’ve flown with the kids, I’ve only had the buggy brought to the plane on landing once.  Is this an option?  Can you request it to be there?  It has never been there and one time it just magically turned up.  We learnt this the hard way – walking from the plane, standing in immigration lines and waiting at the baggage claim, all while carrying our baby/toddler.  From then on, we always fly with a carrier, that way the baby/toddler stays in one place, is usually quiet because they’re on you, and you have your hands free to keep taking your passport out and putting it away again.

Supplies: I always travel with a spare set of clothes for both kids.  If they spill something or wet themselves with no change of clothing, you’re fucked.  Make sure you have enough nappies on board to last an extra day incase delayed.  Don’t wear white.  Order wine when you can.

Nappies/wet wipes: I take them everywhere with me.  I have checked the supermarkets in Spain, France, Portugal, America (Florida), Dubai and South Africa and the standard packs you can buy from Aldi for £4 (52/56 nappies) cost anywhere between £18 – £25 in said countries.  I’ve also had a packet of baby wet wipes cost £8!!  WTF.  Worth checking before you fly if you’re pushed for space.  I put a couple of packs of nappies in the car seats before I wrap them and duct tape them in bubble wrap and bin liners – glamorous, I know.

Calpol: I used to take calpol with me to quieten the kids down but I’m not sold that it actually works.  I always fly with it though incase they are actually ill, nothing worse than a poorly baby on a flight.

Thick skin: If you have kids you know that they are not aways little angels. What better time to perform to an audience than in a confined aeroplane cabin.  If you baby/toddler/child is screaming, someone will always tut, sigh loudly, glare at you, turn around and look over the seat or give you some advice.  You know your child so you know they’re just bored, tired, agitated or their ears hurt while the planes descending.  Obviously you try to keep your kids on a leash, physically and emotionally, but it doesn’t always go to plan, and the sooner you learn not to care when it all goes tits up, the better.

Holiday: At the end of all the travelling you have a holiday!  Which is not like a pre kids holiday, but its quality family time, which to me, is awesome.  Its definitely getting a bit easier now they kids can walk, eat anything and sleep well.

Happy holidays!

s o l o

For my birthday this year, I asked for a weekend with no kids.  Yes of course I love them so much it hurts, but theres not much time to be a couple with a family of four.  I wanted the gift of time.  I wanted to be able to hold hands and hang out together and be the people we used to be pre kids.

Well, that hasn’t happened, yet.  But I got a call from Nalu Beads and they wanted to set up a shoot down at the coast.  I could have turned it into a family trip with a bit of work however it didn’t really work out with the husbands job. I half jokingly suggested that I could go on my own for three days, which would be enough time to get the shoot done.  And he say YES!!  I was stunned, three days away, on my own?  This was serious business as I don’t get much alone time these days, and as much as I love being around people but I also very much like being on my own.

So the week came and of course, my youngest decides to be a bit under the weather. I stayed at home for two days straight with the kids to rest them up so they could attend nursery so that my husband wouldn’t need to be off work, or worse… I couldn’t go on my trip.  Kids know, they just know when you need them to be well.  Crafty buggers.

I packed my car up with my hiking gear, surf gear, wake gear, travel gear and a skate board, just because.  In preparation for my trip I had already cleaned my car inside and out, I even cleaned the inside of the windows.  I had no child seats in my car and no blanket on my backseat to prevent child grime.  Off I went.

I arrived at the most beautiful cottage (I’ll blog about that separately), where there was a wood burner fired up ready for my arrival, to make it all warm and cozy. The fridge was stocked and there was wine on the side along with snacks and yummy Devon fudge.  I was in heaven.  Until I went to bed, and then I was even more in heaven surrounded with gorgeous bedding (and the thought of knowing I wasn’t going to be woken up at 6:30am with “muuuuuum, can you wipe my buuuuum?”).

The following morning, after a glorious sleep-in, I enjoyed my cereal in peace while watching netflix (I don’t have netflix at home – will reconsider immediately). We were shooting with photographer Gareth Williams until around 3pm and then I was free to do as I pleased.  Seriously?  No plan or agenda.. what the hell was I going to do with myself?

Well I went to check the waves of course.  There were waves, decent size, but no one was out.  I watched and waited.  One person went out and another one suited up. I didn’t need to think twice, well I kinda did because I didn’t know how cold it was going to be, but I quickly changed, put the fins in my board, faffed with the key pod (we don’t use this any more as one of us is always on the beach with the kids – and if you don’t know what a key pod is, its basically a giant padlock that you store your car key in and lock it to the car somehow), and off I went!

I was in the ocean!!  Life was good.  I can’t say I had a good surf; but I definitely had a fun surf.  I was in my Mystic Diva 5.3.mm (neck entry – I’ve never surfed in a neck entry suit before… turns out, its pretty damn great! Should have done it sooner).  I was also in 7mm booties, 5mm gloves and a bloody surf hood that had a little peak on it which I forgot about but it was very handy when duck diving to keep the water out my eyes.  Now, props to those wintery surfers that can crush it with all the gear on, but I most certainly did not.  I hadn’t surfed in the UK in the winter since 2010/2011, thats a lot of years out of practice.

Surf done and kit packed away, I headed to the local watering hole to grab myself a shandy (I know but I was driving) and a bag of dry roasted peanuts.  I sat outside in the late afternoon sun and watched the waves rolling in with salty dreads in my hair left over from my surf hood (surf hoods are a girls worst nightmare, even with braids).  Complete and utter heaven. Following this slice of heaven was another slice of heaven brought to me in the form of cocktails and a yummy dinner with the great company of a local friend of mine who is also the owner of NB.

Netflix and chill.  Shower.  Bed.

After another uninterrupted nights sleep and a completely quiet and blissful breakfast, I was ready for another day of shooting.  We ventured off the beaten track to find a secluded cove, and once we were finished up there, we chowed down on some locally made slices of peanut butter and chocolate goodness – they were ridiculous!  Fuelled up and ready to go we hiked up into the forest for the next part of the shoot.

Again we rounded up around 3ish so there was time for a surf.  We bundled into the Gareth’s van and off we went in search for waves.  Rae (from NB) and I surfed together back in 2011, so it had been a while, but I’m so stoked we got to finally surf together again on this trip! (She’s a pro, trust me).  Unlike the day before, the swell had died down and cleaned up a bit, 2-3ft offshore, it was perfect!  I followed Rae around like a white on rice – because she’s local and knows her shit.  Needless to say I had my best ever hooded winter surf, and possibly one of my best surfs in the UK because there was no one out, we just kept getting waves!  After that we all headed to the local for a well earned pint..

That evening I headed back to the cottage where I stuffed my face with local fish and chips while enjoying some wine and you guessed it, Netflix.  Seriously, I know I said I was in heaven previously, but I really was in heaven.

After another lovely lay-in and child free breakie, I met the guys at the NB HQ to check out the shots from the previous two days shooting.  The shots are amazing and I can’t wait to see the finished product!

After some shop talk I left to go check the waves to see if I could get another surf before I made the trip home.  The swell had completely died off so I grabbed a sarnie from a local deli, grabbed an ocean side pew and enjoyed my lunch watching the ankle nippers rolling in.

I got home just in time to see my babies before they went to slumberland.  It was worth leaving a bit early just to see their little faces when I walked through the door, they were so cute.  I wouldn’t change being a parent for anything, but my god it was great to get away for just a few days for a bit of down time.

south africa

I have just returned from the most epic trip to South Africa!  It was extremely refreshing and revitalizing to get some winter sun as well; I get a bit grumpy in the winter months when I don’t see the sun, but who doesn’t.

To start our 24hr journey, we had to get to Heathrow board an 11hr night flight to J’bourg.  We had three seats between four of us (the babe is not two yet so he’s on our laps). The kids took it in turns to sleep, and got huge amounts of joy kicking the shit out of one another to wake each other up.  We did not get a wink of sleep.  I did not get to drink my mini bottle of wine and watch Bad Moms.  It was not a good flight.  The next flight was shorter therefore better.  However, I felt like I was on a ferry for the next day from all the motion.  Weird.

Moving on from the travel we arrived at Sunstays apartments on Lagoon Beach where our apartment overlooked the Atlantic, and the bar had a view of Table Mountain (YAAAAASSSSSS).  The place had blackout curtains as well which meant the kids slept from 8pm – 8:30am.  Winning at life right there.

The week in Cape Town was filled with family lunches at vineyards, climbing Table Mountain (well, the cable car, can’t really climb it with the littluns), hanging out at the V&A Waterfront, eating lobster, taking boat rides, swimming with penguins at Boulders Rock, using the facilities like the gym and roof top pool, and chilling on the beach with a Hunters Dry in my hand.  It was a fantastic week!

Then we moved on to Knysna where we stayed at Strode House.  This was epic.  It had incredible views, a pool and a friggin HOT TUB!!  Yes I drank wine in the tub while stargazing and loved every minute of it.  We took a trip to the Elephant Park where we got to feed the elephants (amazing!!!), trek through a pretty scary jungle where we got eaten alive, shop at the cute boutiques, (yes I bought my body weight in swimwear), found an epic backpackers lodge off the beaten track where we had lunch nearly everyday, got to have Valentines Day dinner in a ridiculously beautiful restaurant over looking the lagoon, and generally hit the beach and the pool and enjoyed the sun!  I even went boogie boarding.  Yes yes, boogie boarding.  There was an alright looking right hander about 300yards off shore, but no one was surfing it and I certainly wasn’t going to be the first, way to sharky.

It was time for our South Africa travels to come to an end.  We started out on our 24hr journey home, the short flight was a doddle.  We had a Wimpy before we flew which was gross.  Landed in J’bourg with a 5hr layover.  We hit KFC, which was also gross – what KFC doesn’t serve any form of sauce??  Then time for the 11hr night flight.  We took off, the four year old was watching Finding Dory, the one year old was passed out on my husbands lap.  I got myself a mini bottle of wine and settled into my seat watching Bad Moms.  I was as happy as a pig in shit.  I nearly ordered another mini bottle (it was a Malbec as well, nice), but I thought as I was already tipsy (I hadn’t had my plane food yet and the KFC was hours ago), it was best not to get drunk while looking after small people on a plane.

It was a brilliant family holiday and I never wanted it to end.  A definite highlight was explaining to the four year old that Daddy is South African, so that made him half South African.  I was literally watching his mind being blown.  Too funny.