This week I am so excited to have a guest post for my #RealMomsWhoTravel series written by a personal friend of mine. We have both had the pleasure and stress of flying long-haul with kids, so this guest post from her focuses on her experience and she shares some helpful tips for long-haul travel with kids. Flying with kids doesn’t have to be stressful if you can prepare in advance and keep your calm.
For those of you who don’t know, I grew up in Zimbabwe. When I was 19 I left for the first time, and within a 10 year period, almost everyone I knew in my generation also left the country to go explore the world and escape the turmoil that the Mugabe regime created as they started their land grabbing and subsequently sent the once-thriving country into chaos. The chaos that continues to this day, 20 years later.
But I digress. A lot of us moved to the UK. Some of us stayed there forever, some of us moved on to other countries, or returned home. I did all of those things. But, my friend Shannon stayed. She got married and had a little boy, Joshua. Shannon has written this post about her experiences as a real mom who travels, specifically her experience of long-haul travel with kids.
Our International Family
My husband, myself and our son Joshua live in Bristol, the South West of England. We have been here since we got married in 2004. Simon originally from Salisbury, Rhodesia (Harare, Zimbabwe) grew up in Durban, South Africa post Zimbabwe’s 1980 Independence. I, the crazy lady they call mom aka Dominic the donkey also seen as the cleaning, cooking and general sh*t picker upper fairy hail from a very small town called Kadoma in Zimbabwe. Our son who was born and being bread in Bristol is the only true Englishman amongst us.
Our family and friends are scattered across the globe, spanning from West Canada to New Zealand. The one advantage of having your family and friends scattered across the globe is that you get to visit said friends and family who are scattered across the globe.
I struggle with the daily grind of parenting, being a wife, working and generally keeping it together day by day, by taking it day by day. I long to go on holiday to visit family regularly but unfortunately financially it doesn’t always allow multiple trips, but to date, we have taken some fantastic holidays abroad.
I can remember the first time my husband and I first flew together. We were that couple who looked at each other and said “I hope we don’t sit next to those people” (who had kids), to now being “those” people, the ones flying with a child. This quickly became apparent on our first ever flight to Amsterdam whereby our one-year-old son would not, I repeat, NOT sit on either of our laps to get ready for take-off.
With a lot of back arching and screaming, I think we eventually pacified him with snacks and his own sock as a puppet! I had tried to do my research and was pretty confident I had covered enough entertainment for the short 50-minute flight across from Bristol to Amsterdam. It was the perfect first-time flight to trial him on.
In It For The Long-Haul Travel with kids!
As a family trio we have taken two absolutely brilliant holidays abroad, our first long-haul flight was to Canada when our son was just two-years old. We caravanned/camped from Calgary all the way west over to Vancouver Island and back covering an estimated 2500km. This is my ultimate “happy place holiday” as it is back to basics whereby you “make do” with what you have. Staying overnight at different campsites every couple of days with barbeques most nights and s’mores.
We were a group of eight people, seven adults and one child, so we had no shortage of help with childcare. Our Son did absolutely brilliantly on this trip as we drove and drove. Some of our driving journeys were 6 – 8 hours long with stops involved. The Canadians definitely know how to do outdoor living and long distance traveling and camping is a must if you ever visit Canada.
Failing To Prepare Is Preparing To Fail
For the Canada trip, I had a year or so to research, save and to prepare for the flight. It was the one thing I was more worried about than anything else to do with the holiday. Our son is extremely active and sitting still is not an option, let alone in an enclosed space for 8 to 9 hours. I exhausted every Pinterest page, google search, mummy friend who had done long-haul travel with kids, as well as my Amazon account, before we set off.
Following this research we also added an 11 hour long-haul trip to South Africa under our belts, when our son was three years old, as well as another couple of trips to Amsterdam to visit our friends.
Travelling Solo with Kids
Feeling like a “seasoned travel pro” in June 2018, I embarked on a trip to Canada (Edmonton) solo-parenting. We were going to my brothers graduation, and our son was now 5 years old. Although I would be meeting up with my brother and my parents the other side, this was my toughest most challenging experience with my son as I had to make sure I had covered all areas of entertainment and organisation for the nine-hour flight and 10 days holiday.
When we fly as a trio, my husband and I agree that he takes care of the paperwork, check-in and passport control while I take care of Joshua. I couldn’t rely on my husband for the back-up solo parent travelling. So if there was a tantrum brewing or an “I need to go to the toilet” moment right when you are having a bite to eat, I had to be prepared to make a plan!
I once again took to Pinterest for inspiration and found that you will gather brilliant ideas to entertain your children depending on the different stages, ages and interests at the time. I also received an amazing child-friendly “map” from our airline showing what would happen while at the airport. This actually proved invaluable for us, and definitely made our experience of flying long-haul with children much easier. The airline staff were fab and just loved the fact he was telling them what would be happening next.
These are my Top Items Of What To Pack for Long-haul Travel with Kids:
Here are my top tips for long-haul travel with kids based on my frequent flier experience of travelling between the UK and Canada:
- Small “gifts” – I take a gift for each two-hour time-lapse i.e. for an eight-hour flight I take four gifts. I found the Lego or Playmobile blind bags an absolute winner! Just make sure you have somewhere secret to store them without the kids seeing them otherwise you will never hear the end of it! #schoolgirlerror
- A pair of headphones that don’t have noise cancelling. Sounds crazy but the older they get the noise cancelling is too quiet for the noise levels on flights.
- Haribo sweets and/or lollipops – for ears and a cheeky treat.
- Empty water bottle.
- Snacks in a Tupperware – not too many sugary ones (you can use the Tupperware while on holiday for daily snacks/lunches etc)
Keeping Them Busy Out and About
On our Edmonton holiday we spent a vast chunk of the time in the city of Edmonton. The public parks are absolutely amazing and each day we tried to do something a little different if the weather was going to hold out. Aside from graduation day, we visited West Edmonton Mall, it is absolutely massive. You could spend an entire day there. They have an indoor amusement park which boasts the largest indoor roller coaster, an indoor wave pool, hotel, food court, clothes shopping, bowling, crazy golf and marine life shows just to name a few things.
We also carried on with my son’s school “project mini beasts”. Finding all the different critters that Canada had to offer was enthralling for him and took pictures of everything. So many of the things you do can be used as learning opportunities without them knowing. We visited the Alberta Legislature Building which has wading pools open to the public in summer. Take your swimmers and a towel and enjoy a little dip.
We crammed so much in this visit which came to an end with four days camping in the Rocky Mountains. Once again I found myself in my “happy holiday place”, back to basics making do with what we had. While camping we day tripped to Miette Hot Springs and Maligne Lake. My brother and I hired a paddleboard for the lake which our son absolutely loved, he also got to go “fishing” on the lake which was ice-cold … brrrr.
Over the last few years I have cut down the amount of stuff I take to entertain him as half the time he didn’t even play with it, he was more interested in the in-flight entertainment or whatever someone had bought him. Besides making memories and taking pictures of those memories are much more valuable.
We made a scrap-book for Joshua to take to school to show all his friends and he can look back at it any time he wants. In this day and age of digital technology it was the best way to show or remind Joshua of our holiday memories.
No 1 piece of advice for long haul travel with kids is this: –
Research your destination and on flight entertainment. And leave your routine at your front door when you start your journey to the airport/holiday destination
These are my Top 3 bucket list destinations.
What does the future hold? I have no idea, but my top 3 bucket list destinations for our future family holidays are:
#RealMomsWhoTravel Long Haul Experience
As a mom who has also travelled long haul with my kids, I think the tips and advice Shannon has shared are spot on! Thank you my friend.
And also, I think I need to visit Canada! It looks so beautiful.
If you like this post please share it so that we can help convince other moms who are considering travelling long-haul travel with kids that it is worth it! It’s not easy, but it’s so worth it! And don’t forget to Pin the image below to refer back to next time you are planning a long-haul trip with kids.