By now you know I am a South African girl living in the deserts of Kuwait, raising my children and supporting my husband to the best of my abilities. It’s not an easy journey by any means, but one that is well worth it. On Katie’s post An American Patriot Abroad, she put it beautifully when she said:
“Living the expat life may even strengthen one’s patriotism as we experience life away from all that we know and love.”
One of the joys about living abroad is the luxury of travel. Living here means we get 3 months of school summer holidays. With the temperatures reaching unbearably high, everyone who is able, escapes the country with kids in tow for the bulk of this period.
I have been travelling between countries for the past 11 years. All my children were born in Kuwait and have been travelling since they were at least 3 months old. That said, flying is not something that comes naturally for me, and for this reason I feel I have to over prepare in order to cope. This girls feet prefer to be planted firmly on the ground, but alas, my life story has been written a little differently to what I expected and I have been ever so blessed for it.
Last year we travelled to Portugal and this year we are going home to Johannesburg. We are simply so excited. We have a new little family member to meet, old ones to catch up with, friends to cherish, birthday’s to celebrate and a whole lot of new places to see and plenty of adventures to go on. I am even looking forward to the days where we don’t do anything at all. For the next two months I will be writing to you from a beautiful wintery South Africa.
In December, I made this journey alone with the 3 kids and we made it fine with no real drama to write about. Even so, with a very thankful heart my husband will be travelling with us and escorting us safely home this time.
So to get to Johannesburg from Kuwait we will fly to Dubai (1.5 hours) and catch a connecting flight (8 hours) into Johannesburg (JHB). I choose day flights wherever possible which goes against what most of my friends do (including Katie). I generally, find that the travel is easier on my kids when they have a good nights sleep. We then travel all day and when we get home in JHB I put them straight to bed for another good nights sleep. This way we all wake up the next morning ready to start the day with no jet lag in sight. The challenge then becomes…
How do I cope with and entertain 3 small kids in the confined space of economy class all day long?
Well, here are a few of my top travel tips when travelling with kids. We all know ever child/family is different, but these work for mine.
1 – Travel as light as possible.
2 – Each child over 4 (in my case 2 of them) carries their own little backpack. (As light as possible)
3 – My smallest (3.5 year old) and I share 1 backpack.
4 – My one on board luggage bag with wheels is strong enough to carry the weight of my smallest around the terminal. He loves to ride my bag at the airport and it saves me having to carry him or push an extra stroller as well. The girls are big enough to handle the airport walks and we simply walk at their pace, but my little guy is not. Especially if he has just woken up, or having one of his ‘moments,’ so riding the bag it is.
5 – Kids should be comfortable. I’m talking sneakers and sweat pants when travelling long haul.
6 – Starve them of as much screen time as you can for the week before your journey, those little onboard movies will be a huge hit.
7 – Pack on board luggage carefully and intentionally. Remember, you’re trying to pack as light as possible.
That leads me to some of my go to packing tips:
1 – Bring a ziplock bag full of a few of their favourite snacks. Yes, airlines have great options for kids foods now a days, but especially in the case of my one gluten intolerant child, the little comforts of familiar snacks go a long way. Of course, if I cater for the one, I HAVE to cater for the other two as well. I don’t need to be miles high with 2 tantrums and no where to hide. I traded the fancy lunch boxes for simple ziplock bags to help with the weight issue, I mean something that gets lighter while travelling can only be a good thing right?!
2 – I pack a change of clothes, not just for each child, but for myself as well.
3 – Pack a small toy for each child.
4 – I save yummy fruit gummy’s for landing, if any of them have fallen asleep and I need them to get excited about being awake, a little treat (which also helps with their ears and cabin pressure) is sure to do the trick.
5 – Wet wipes, massively important when going anywhere with kids.
6 – Lip balm, that recirculated cabin air can dry out your lips fast.
7 – Empty packet (or baggie) or two, there’s nothing worse than little wrappers and pieces of tissue littering your seat for hours on end and those poor cabin crew members have more than one family to serve. I find a little empty packet very handy when you want to contain bits of rubbish here and there and it’s pretty easy to dispose of when you need to, keeping your area tidy.
This is the first trip I will be trying out a little travel Play Doh kit from Sensory Play Kuwait. It’s small enough and light enough for the kids to carry, so let’s see what they think of it. I will keep you posted.
In the spirit of being overly prepared I even mentally map out my morning-of routine and make sure that all luggage bags are packed up the night before. One of the key elements of this strategic plan is meal times. The kids will have a bowl of plain yogurt, banana or oats before we leave the house. After we make our way through passport control we will head up to the lounges (or food court) for a second breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausages and fruit. Honestly, well-fed kids are happier than hungry ones.
Having said all this, no flight home is ever the same, I am constantly learning and refining this travelling process. I will recap once we have landed and update you all on how things went and what I would do differently. For those of you who pray, please pray for safe travels for us!
I look forward to showing you my neck of the woods. Come along for the ride, it promises to be a colourful one! I’d also, love to hear from you what you think of my country and I’m more than happy to answer any questions you may have.
Cheers from the skies,
UPDATE: Our flights went well, the kids were super stars, not much sleep onboard to report but I really can’t complain. It’s a traveling game changer when your kids have their own seats on the flight! (And that only happens when they’re over 2yrs old on most airlines)