Travelling long haul with kids – is it worth it?

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If you can’t be arsed to read this post (I won’t hold it against you), then the short answer is yes. Yes, its always worth it.

..I think.

Is it easy? No.

It’s hell.

It will conjure up all sorts of emotions you never knew you could experience inside a metal tunnel. You will question why on earth you had the idea to HAVE kids, full stop, let alone take them on this stupid plane. The pane is always ‘stupid’, its always the ‘stupid plane’. Because it just is.

You will dislike everyone around you, your child, your partner, the oh-so-friendly-but-still-wont-remove-your-child-from-you airline staff, even the pilot (not flying quick enough) and the guy checking the bags in (I wish I was smuggling drugs in this baby bottle, mate.. etc etc)

But it really is worth it. I promise. Here’s why.

As modern families we can get into the groove of doing the obvious things, or what is ‘socially popular or the norm’. The world is geared up for families these days which in all honesty, is bloody great: Family restaurants, family cars, family fast lanes, family films, everything has been family-ified. Its a good era to be a family in. But it can mean we get less creative about what we want to do and a bit more lazy with designing experiences based on our personal interests and desires, especially when it comes to holidays. It is easier to just consume what companies lay on for us. But I am here to say that you can do your own THANG!

Just do it! (man someone should use for a brand or something, powerful stuff…..)

It will be ok, you will be ok, it will be fun, cool and probably more interesting than anything ‘off the family shelf’. Many people fear the flight, I can’t say there is nothing to fear, but it prob wont as bad as you may assume. I’ve done it repeated times so it can’t be that bad…or i just have a terrible memory…. Or am just lying…Weirdly, we’ve only ever been to exotic places on family holidays and have never actually done the whole package family holiday thing in Europe or even a UK family holiday. I’m not dissing those trips at all, I’m sure we will do those one day soon and I did tonnes of them as kid growing up and have really great memories. But there are a few reasons why I’ve chosen not to do that so far:

1) I don’t really enjoy being around loads of English families on holidays (soz) – I just find it so much more relaxing and interesting to be aroundIMG_7365 lots of different nationalities and expose the kids to different languages and types of people 2) I like to experience a real culture hijack. Our lives are busy, hectic and at times I’m under a lot pressure at work. I need to not just switch off, but dive into some place entirely different. its much easier to do this in far away places

3) I have a thing about not letting kids stop you from what you want to do. Ben I both loved to travel before we had a family and there are still so many places we have on ‘the list’. Kids should not stop you doing stuff, they should just change in the which you do things. They shouldn’t be a preventative force, but an inspirational source. I feel its my life’s mission to prove this. I’m doing it for you people  So Phoenix has racked up a wild list of places in his 5 earth years – Miami, New York, Bali, Sydney, Morocco, Mauritius, and most recently we just returned from 3 weeks in Brazil (FYI – epic time of year to get your summer base tan in).

(Its probably worth noting, that of course we are in a fortunate position to be able to afford to go to these places, I am aware it ain’t cheap to go long haul as a family. But if you’ve been following my blog for a while you’ll know I work my ass off for this lifestyle and so I make no apologies about this and am entirely #sorrynotsorry…so lets all move on with this post)

Some of these trips I manage to coordinate with work trips – if you do travel with work I would strongly urge you to sync up business travel with family travel, there is no reason for this other than…..why the freak not?! Others we book as stand alone hols. All of these trips are etched into my mind as amazing times we experienced time together as well as times we got to see and do entirely new things for all of us. You can’t put a price on that.

When I first started the business I was a bit crap at making time for holidays, it would always be really last minute and we never really organised stuff properly. Now we’re much better and I’ve realised for my health and well being it so important to have regular holidays and look forward to trip. I also recommend all parents take at least one, two week holiday a year – 2 weeks is a real switch off, a week I find so short now as it takes me a few days to properly relax and think about non London things.

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It occurred to me recently when I mentioned to someone we were going to brazil who like many, responded with ‘god your brave’, that i could perhaps offer some tips of going long haul with kids.

I will try.

However I will point out some things about what normally happens when we go away:

2 months before – usually win the biggest, most important project of my career that has be presented day before I go away

2 weeks before – look at diary and cry. Try and fit 4 weeks of work into 2

1 week before – working on presentation, hard to think of anything else

2 days before – find three passports. One is ALWAYS missing

1 day before – realise I’ve done no holiday shopping and find myself in the 24hr Tesco at 11.30pm buying £6 wedges with watermelon print all over them (sad and very true story)

Day of holiday – get into taxi with no idea what the hell I’ve packed, excited, knackered, still sending emails. Realise I now have 12 hours on the place with kids. Crap myself.

IMG_2630So yeah, I will try and give some tips, but despite my experience I am still a pretty disorganised traveller. Actually on the way back from Brazil a couple of weeks ago I had the biggest mum fail of all time. At the airport once I’d been through all the passports and customs I realised I had NO NAPPIES. What the hell?! Surely that is the first thing you pack?!

Im not sure how it happened but it did. We were in Rio airport which has no shops (there are no Boots outside of this part of the world people) and no one could speak English. With about 20 mins till our flight departed I ran through the airport (doing that sort of weird flip flop run when you look like you’ve wet yourself a bit – oh the irony) searching for any retail life or anyone that could help me. A woman sort of gestured to the other side of the airport back through passport control, this was the only place where there was a shop. Off I ran again only to be taken down by immigration and hauled into room which kind of looked like a scene from The Wire with various criminals being finger printed whilst I panted: “I just need to get nappies, please let me get some nappies, I have 12 hours with a toddler and if she craps Im not really sure what I’ll do”, followed by one single slow tear. While they considered my request I had various thoughts,,,

“i have at least two sanitary towels in my bag, Im sure i could fashion something from those”

“What is the probability of being able to potty train a child in a 12 hour time frame, on a plane”

“I reckon I could out sprint these guys, I’m pretty fast in these Havianas now”

Fortunately they did let me back in and out and I discovered a long lost chemist and kissed a packet of nappies as I bought them eagerly.

One hour later I discovered they for new borns. Bollocks.

But still, whats an over stretched, sticky strip, a hanging out bottom cheek and a few hours between mother and daughter? It was better than nothing.

So…

TIP ONE: pack nappies

TIP TWO: Locate all passports at least 3 weeks before you go (gives you time to get the passport office if like me one year you drop it on the way back from the post office…)

TIP THREE: iPad up

TIP FOUR: drink gin

TIP FIVE: consider (sugar free) Calpol a light sedative

TIP FIVE: Sometimes crying at the air hostess can get you moved

TIP SIX: Bribe your kids with ridiculous toy promises if they keep their cool there … AND back – “yeah of course you can have that 3ft helipad when we get back….oh sorry its sold out, how about this ball instea? TIP SEVEN: designate a child each, Do not interfere with each others business, keep your shit tight.

TIP EIGHT: Put them onto local time when you get on the plane

TIP NINE: take your own food. if they don’t eat airplane food you’re screwed

TIP TEN: if you’re on dummies take at least 47 of the things. I have no idea where they go, but they will go

TIP ELEVEN: Apologise in advance to those around you. Accept that they already hate you.

TIP TWELVE: Take their full night kit and PJ them up, brush teeth etc…even if its 7am. Hey, wishful thinking…

TIP THIRTEEN: go business.

I know they are not very useful, but I hate to say it…you just have to ride that shit out.

BUT. It is worth it.

When you land and get to some exciting place (and this is why I would add you should NEVER scrimp on accommodation when going long haul, its the most important money you’ll ever spend once you’ve done over 10 hours with kids on a plane!), you will be so happy and proud and all a bit closer (and a few years older). You will be ready to start your adventure….

And then you’ll have to go all the way back again…

See you in Spain next year, yeah?

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