Tuesday, August 12, 2008

This month’s Marvellous Mum's theme: ESCAPE THE WINTER BLUES –Holidays with kids.

With the first two months of winter now out of the way and only August remaining, we are already getting a taste of some of the spring weather that’s on our doorstep. In just the past week, it has been wonderful to turn off the heater, open up the doors and let some of that fresh, crisp air flush through the house. Oh how lovely it’s been to breathe that clean oxygen and rid the house of those dreadful wintery germs that seemed insistent on lingering around.
While there are many aspects of winter that are charming and delightful… open fires, snowflakes, snuggling, drinking hot chocolates etc; there is definitely something about a dose of warm sun that makes you feel on top of the world, more optimistic, positive and hopeful. This was definitely the case for my husband and I as we sat looking at a sparkling blue pool under palm trees at a holiday house in Noosa just a couple of weeks ago.
Now don’t despair if you don’t have a holiday planned right now, come and join with me in this newsletter to reminisce on holidays gone by and dream of holidays to come and I promise it will make this last month of winter go by just that little bit faster! And hopefully you’ll collect some useful ideas for future holidays that might make planning for one just that bit easier.

Well before my winter holiday escape becomes another fleeting memory of the past, I thought I’d dwell on it just a little bit longer.

With our bags now unpacked and the photos developed, it is only afterwards that I sit down to really think about what I had done in preparation for our family holiday that worked, what I could’ve done better and the advice I wish I’d had before we left.

Firstly, I will say that, I am by no means an expert on this topic. My travel experiences include a trip to Hong Kong with a 6 month old, annual Easter holidays with babies and toddlers at various ages including camping, cabin and holiday house accommodation and our recent voyage to Brisbane and Noosa with our two toddlers. However, with each trip away there are always tips to share so hopefully some of these planning tips will be useful for you.

Preparing to travel- writing lists:

The thought of packing for a family holiday is always daunting. Knowing how much ‘stuff’ you’ll need while away but having to decide what to take, what to purchase at your destination and what to do without, is never an easy task. I am a big fan of lists. I begin making a list about a month or so before the trip and record what is needed as I think of it. When travelling to Hong Kong, I really wanted to take my Avent microwave steriliser and a good supply of bottles and teats but because I was travelling alone and wanted as much space as possible to bring home my bargains, I ended up substituting the steriliser for a small packet of dissolvable Miltons tablets and a special Avent bottle with disposable bottle liners. Beginning to plan early and write a list allows time to find alternatives, think through possibilities and mull over what you can live without. In this scenario, it also allowed time to try my son out on his new bottle and make sure he was comfortable using it as well as it being practical for me.

Preparing to travel- what to take:

It’s hard not to take too much; especially with young children because there are so many “what ifs…” but here are some things that I think definitely need consideration.
*A packet or two of wet wipes are invaluable. I kept a small packet of wipes in my handbag and a large one in the kid’s backpack while on our recent trip that proved time and again to be useful when wiping dirty or sticky hands, cleaning up spills and vomit, sanitising unclean surfaces etc.
*Disposable bibs are useful if you’re going somewhere without clothes washing facilities. They not only keep baby and kid’s clothes clean for longer but allow you to get rid of what may otherwise be some potentially mouldy, smelly bibs by the end of your trip. Plastic apron bibs are also really good as they can be rinsed or wiped off and reused over and over again.
*On my trip to Hong Kong I needed to take my stroller but I was so pleased that I also had my Baby Bjorn carrier with me for times when I needed both my hands free or to comfort my baby etc.
*A money pouch/bum bag to put passports, tickets and cash in when travelling overseas is very useful. That way you won’t have to keep searching through your backpack or worry about watching it so closely whilst also carrying a small child.
*Take a child’s regular pillowcase, blankie or comfort item to make an unfamiliar bed seem a little more inviting.
*On our QLD trip, I took only one portacot fitted sheet but wished I’d taken two sheets as my daughter ended up being quite sick and the one I had was continually needing to be washed. Taking a waterproof sheet for a small child’s bed would be a good idea. Even some toilet trained children can have accidents when very tired or in unfamiliar surroundings.
*Toys for a plane ride or long car trip can be useful. Some familiar tried and true toys that encourage open-ended activities and that can be used in several different ways are good as well as a few new items that can be pulled out when a distraction is needed or children are becoming restless, uninterested or cranky.
*When travelling on a plane, pack children’s hand luggage separately and, depending on the age of the child, encourage them to carry it on themselves. Some items that I packed for our toddlers included their favourite soft toy, a small packet of crayons/pencils, some printed colouring sheets of their favourite characters as well as beach scenes, stickers, a few small match box cars and ‘Little People’ figurines, snacks (including a lolly pop for take off) and non spill drink bottle.
*I also carried on a small travel first-aid kit, wipes, nappies, camera etc.
*Taking a laptop/portable dvd player to show a short dvd to kids who are getting restless (when there are no in-flight programs available) can fill in an extra half an hour too.

Preparing to travel- establishing familiarity:

There are a lot of ways that you can help to prepare your children for your trip before you leave. Obviously how much and what you do depends largely on the age of your child/ren but by trying to establish some sort of awareness, this preparation can work in your favour.
With our recent trip, I decided to start talking about our holiday only about 4 days before departure when I was getting the suitcases down and starting to put some things aside. I know how long 4 days seems in the life of my almost three-year-old so I waited until then to start talking about it. By letting my children help put things in their bags, make choices about what to take (pyjamas, teddy etc) as well as reading picture books about travelling on planes and showing them the photos of the holiday house on the Internet, it allowed them to get excited about the holiday before we left and built anticipation that it was going to be a great time.

Preparing to travel- order before you go:

I learnt a lot about this from our trip to QLD. Travelling at the same time as some friends of ours, and staying in the same street, I was able to gain a lot of good ideas about how they’d arranged things prior to leaving home to ensure their holiday was less stressful on arrival.
For starters, they ordered all their groceries on-line so that they wouldn’t have to do a big grocery shop (as we had to) shortly after arriving. And, not only were their groceries delivered before they arrived, they were also packed away in the cupboards, fruit in a fruit bowl etc ready to go! These clever people had also hired and arranged for change table, high chair, safety bed rail, portacot etc to be delivered and set up prior to them getting there AND hired toys for the children to play with- freeing up a lot of space in their personal luggage.
This really beat my efforts of hiring a car and two car seats!!
Another great idea that I learnt from Paulina, one of the mothers holidaying near us was that before she sets off on holidays with her kids, she seeks out the locations of the local libraries and then becomes a member in order to borrow books and dvds as well as attend story time or other free child-focussed activities. Isn’t that such a great idea?

For more handy tips check out this local site 'Family Travel Made Easy'

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