I was honoured enough to be asked to come to the UK with NEXT. A brand I have loved for years and have been working with for around 6 months. But travelling with 3 kids under 3 internationally (over a 24-hour flight) – gulp!!!
I had always LOVED travelling. Every year I would plan a big overseas trip (possibly 2) and I lived in the UK in between uni degrees. When I met my hubby we instantly bonded over our mutual love of travelling and both dreamed of the day that we would be able to travel with our kids. But we both had the priority of having our family and focusing on that. We went on a magical honeymoon to the Maldives and Macau and then came back from our honeymoon and I was pregnant with our first, Hunter! Fast forward 3 years and we had Archie and Evie.
When we were doing our goals for 2020. I said to Adam, I really would love to go overseas with the kids but we both thought Europe probably would be a bit much for our family, 3 under 3! But God had other plans for us and as always I am so glad He did!
We honestly had the most amazing time. The things I was anxious about (like the kids not sleeping on the plane, Archie wanting to run down the plane aisles or difficult feeding Evie food as she had transitioned to feeding herself) – were all fine. Yeah there were times, Archie wanted to run and told the whole plane about it and Hunter often thought his legs were going to fall off from all the walking, but these were all small fleeting moments, that happen when we are at home, going out anyway. The memories, the laughs, the experience, the teachable moments definitely outweighed it all. Below I will go through what worked for us and maybe it will help you prepare for your trip. My biggest tip really is the biggest tip I was given by a stranger a few months before boarding:
Yes there will be moments that are hard but remember they will pass, breathe through them, be patient and just remember the amazing opportunity and experience you are having with your family.
I think keeping this in the back of my head the whole time, really helped.
My travel hacks
We went to London for a week, Paris 3 nights, Malta 6 nights and Dubai 3 nights. We changed our Italian leg of the trip at the last minute due to the coronavirus in Italy.
Luggage: We really want to I still travel into our kids and be a travelling family. So we decided to get personalised passport holders, luggage tags, wash bags, document folder (with the family surname personalised on it) suitcase and carry on from Mon Purse. Their quality is beautiful, and it is a beautiful keepsake to give the kids when they grow up. The hand luggage is a must for families, because it is super light, but extends out too which makes it double in size. The thick strap makes it really comfortable to wear too. We decided to use this and two pack backs which we used throughout the holidays too.
- Flight: if you can, I highly recommend paying extra and choosing your seats. We chose the seats on the side, 1 row behind the emergency exit. The emergency exit has everyone standing around waiting for the toilet which is annoying, but the one row behind is still close enough to the toilet and you get your meals first. Kids get served first anyway which is great because you can feed them. Just have a little toy for them for when they finish so you can enjoy your meal. We also got a seat for Evie, even though she was only 9 months and could sit on our lap and not be charged for a seat, it was great because it gave us that extra room, we were able to put the armrests up and sleep along, plus she loved the food and it saved me worry taking any food for her.
- Packing: my process may seem a little extensive for some but it saved us so much time whilst we were away and room because I didn’t overpack. When I pack, I work out the days we approximately are away for and I organised the outfits for everyone, I lay them out and take a photo of them. This is great for not overpacking (sometimes I put out certain jackets or shoes and when I am putting the outfits together, I realized I only am using it once which isn’t practical for travelling). The other great thing is, I can show my husband the photo of what the kids will be wearing each day and he can easily organise and dress them. Lastly, it keeps your suitcase organised and tidy because you aren’t throwing everything out to put together their outfits.
- With the above in mind, I then categorise the clothes in pants, tops, dresses/skirts, jackets, pjs, and accessories. I then just put them in woollies bags and label them. That way they are easily accessible and aren’t a huge mess in the bag
- Nappies: Evie and Archie are still in nappies. We had a busy itinerary not only during each day but travelling to quite a few countries in 3 weeks. I didn’t want to waste time and money going to buy nappies. I would still have to buy a big bag over there and fill my suitcase, so I took ours. We use Little One’s from Woolworths, I know they work, they don’t leak or leave the kids with a rash. The best part was, because the suitcases weren’t full, throughout the trip, it gave us more room in the suitcase (for shopping ) as we started to use the nappies
- Presents for the plane: I bought some small toys that I know the boys would love (eg. A small woody and buzz light year, paw patrol cars, mini cars and motorbikes and a pepper pig phone), I wrapped them (making sure they were the same) and labelled them. I told the boys they were going to get presents which built as our reward system for the trip as well as their toys (I didn’t have to pack any). Throughout the trip and on the plane, we would give them one to reward their behaviour or curb it if they were getting irritable. They took the time to open the present and play with the one toy rather than being overwhelmed with a bag of toys and getting bored after 10 minutes with them all
- Electrical adaptors and cords: get one electronic board with 4-5 outlets, and then just take one international adaptor. So you don’t need to buy multiple adaptors for each of your cords, just the one for the board.
- Rolling and layering: roll the clothes in your suitcase (I am an old Contiki pro!) and choose clothes that can be layered. We went to London which was snowing and ending with Dubai which was 30 degrees. Most of our trip was cold but by packing T-shirts and skirts/dresses, they could be layered with cardigans, jumpers, jackets and tights.
On the plane:
- Moisturiser: make sure you coat the kid’s faces and have lip balm, they get very dry and irritable I found
- Pack their own drink bottles and fill up with bottled water (don’t take them filled, fill up on the plane) we use BBOX for kids insulated drink bottles. If you don’t take a drink bottle they only provide the plastic cups that have the film cover (so no lid) which is a nightmare for kids
- Every few hours or when they start to get a bit irritated give them a present from their present bag which they can unwrap
- Breakfast: if you can get it included. You will know they are having a healthy start to the day and filling their bellies. It can be hard when you are out and about and they might not always like the food (I highly recommend encouraging them to always try the local cuisine if you can) but if they have had a healthy balanced breakfast then you are set for the day
- A double pram and a baby carrier. We bought a second-hand double pram stroller with a rain protector for it. It was $80 from gum tree (usually $800), but the best part was, it was in one piece. I love my double pram at home but it comes in 3 pieces and going on and off different planes and taxis, it was just too much and we didn’t want to wreck it. This easily in one motion, opens, you could recline the seats and was good to rotate the 3 kids. When both boys wanted to go in it, I would put Evie in my baby carrier. I love the baby Bjorn because it is a great support for my back and is breathable.
- If heading from London to Paris – get the Euro Star! So much easier, quicker and cost-effective. We loved it and it was a nice change then going to an airport
Eating, sleeping and behaviour:
- Don’t use the holiday to “teach” new behaviours and routines. If your kids don’t sleep in their own bed at home, don’t expect them to do it when you are on holidays. If they don’t get vegetables (or many) don’t use your holiday to make mealtimes world war 3, where they must eat all their vegetables. If your child usually is hard work going to cafes or restaurants at home, don’t expect them to sit like angels in cafes overseas. Whilst this all would be great, if they slept, ate their vegetables and sat quietly at the dinner table – don’t stress yourselves and them during your holiday, teach these behaviours at home, enjoy your holiday and try to go with the flow as much as possible.
- Don’t worry about homework, their trip will be filled with learning opportunities. I used to say to parents when I was teaching, if they are old enough get them to write in a journal each day, or get them to make a mini-movie of their trip to teach others about what they did, saw, ate, met, experienced and learned
- Whilst we were wandering the streets of Paris, I wanted to make it interesting, entertaining, ignite imagination and also make Hunter aware of his surroundings. So as we were walking the beautiful streets, I started to tell him a story of Madeline and Thomas (which I made up on the spot, being inspired by the surroundings). I pointed out their door, their unit, the library, their school and sure enough Hunter was taking over the storytelling. He was telling me that we would leave his icecream for Madeline and Thomas to have after school, because they weren’t full from their chocolate crepe. There were these painted love hearts on the streets and we said they were messages from Madeline and Thomas. Hunter always now refers to his friends in Paris and can recall beautiful detailed memories of the trip because we added a emotion to it
- Get them to point out things that are similar or different from home
- End of each day, 3 new things they saw and what was interesting about them
- Record them saying certain points about the country, piece it together so they have a memory and facts to talk about when they get home
- When arriving in a new country start chatting about familiar things they already know to help them familiarise (Eg. Peppa pig, the Queen, double-decker buses etc).
We stayed for 6 nights which was perfect (even though I could have done so much more I think this is a great amount of time for a family holiday for Europe). We stayed at the Rosewood Hotel in Holborn in central London. Oxford street was an 8 minute walk. We did get a lot of taxis (children can sit on your lap) because I was working with NEXT and these were organised for us but it is much quicker to walk. Make sure you have an umbrella or waterproof jackets. NEXT has great ones for the whole family. Our beautiful hotel was stunning and we had a joining room with my uncle which was great for the kids to go in between but provided the privacy for us both. We had breakfast in the hotel daily which was delicious and kept us full until dinner! London is beautiful at night and we feel very safe. A lot of police around and at night it is really lit up. A beautiful city to discover with your family. Below is my must-sees whilst in London as I was working with NEXT our schedule included content shoots, store visit and press day but I highly recommend going to these places too!
Must-sees: London eye, Buckingham Palace, Green Park, London Clipper, Tower Bridge, Big Ben, Covent Garden, Harrods, Hamleys, Oxford Street, West End, Notting Hill, and National History Museum (free and the kids loved it!)
Farmgirl Cafe, Roka, Wild Honey, Elan Cafe and Pret (for quick, good quality and affordable snacks & coffee).
Our content shoot with NEXT in Covent Garden
Travelling around London
We stayed for 3 nights. If you can stretch it to 4 nights I think that would be great as we had jammed packed days and would have loved to have seen more. We stayed at Villa Madame in Saint Germain. The location was great, a cafe and bakery a few steps away (which was insane!!! The best food ever) and about 8-minute walk to all the shops. The hotel was a traditional French hotel which was a great experience. We had breakfast included but just kept buying from the bakery’s because it is so cheap and delicious. Don’t catch taxis! We got ripped off from the Euro star station to our hotel which was only 10 minutes and he charged us 100 euros. From then on we downloaded the Uber app which was great. Only a kid 8 euros for a 10-minute drive. Safe, you pay upfront (so no extra charges or dealing with cash), and they are very prompt. High recommend. Otherwise, try to walk as much as you can. This really made our Parisian experience m. Waking the streets, eating at every bakery, stopping for coffee, shopping, going to churches, listening to the French chatter and the beautiful music playing in the streets. See my teachable moments about Hunter’s story with Madeline and Thomas.
Be really careful of the thieves in Paris. It is really bad and even the French get robbed all the time. Tourists spots (Effiel tower is very bad for them), large crowds and protests (very common) is where you will find them.
My tips dealing with thieves:
This isn’t to scare you, we were fine, but I spoke to a lot of people and did my research before coming so I knew what to do.
- don’t wear too much flashy/designer clothes
- keep your personal items (passport, wallet, phones) on you, in a belt or top pocket with a button), not deep pockets or in backpacks – you won’t even know if they take them
- When they try to sell you their items (like the mini Effiel towers) just say no and walk away, same goes if they come up to you and say “do you speak English”, just say no thank you and keep walking
- At the moment what they are doing in Paris is lighting people’s feet on fire, so you freak out and aren’t paying attention and they then steal your wallet. They are ruthless. Stay together and walk together. And be careful when taking photos because they will come closer than too. Just avoid eye contact and keep your belongings close
- Take minimal with you especially to the large tourist spots
- Have the right change if buying in the street (but I recommend if you can avoid buying off the street altogether)
Effiel tower, Saint Germain, Champs Elysee, Arc de Triomphe, Louvre (not opened Tuesday’s), Notre Dame (not open weekends), parks, wandering through the streets
Bakeries! Bakeries! Bakeries! Nutella crepes, chocolate croissants, baguettes and salmon!
We stayed 7 nights at the Intercontinental in Malta. We had originally planned to go to Italy for half of this, however, due to the Coronavirus, we decided to skip Italy and extend Malta. We decided to get a van for the week. Maltese roads are a bit crazy and they are quite impatient, but the island is small so having our own car was a good option for us all. We went to Gozo for the day which you can take your car on board which was really easy and convenient. One night Adam and I went out to dinner and got a taxi which was only a 3-minute drive and it cost 10 euros, so it is expensive to get taxis. On our first day, we decided to get the hop on and hop off bus which was 20 euros person which you can see the whole country. It is a great option to get an overview of the island and then you can go back and discover the places that appealed to you. Just be aware, it takes nearly 3 hours to do the whole route, I recommend you hop off when you can especially to the busy stops like Valletta as they drop you right out the front.
Valleta, Mosta Dome Church, the blue grotto (AMAZING!), blue lagoon, Sliema, the point shopping centre (in Sliema), Gozo – xendi, red sand beach, ta pinu church (where the Virgin Mary appeared and thousands of miracles occurred), Msafon
Fontella (the best bakery items), Maltese sand which (hoz-biz-zate), patizzi, kinnie, rabbit spaghetti, ravule, pepper cheese, pasta and pizza!
Towards the end of our trip in Malta, everything started to close due to the Coronavirus. We were fortunate that the day after we arrived, was when you had to self isolate for 14 days and the day after we went to the churches, they closed. We also were fortunate we got the last flight out of Malta as they were closing their borders for another 2 weeks. We tried to get home earlier (as we had 3 nights in Dubai) however all flights were booked. We didn’t allow the virus, affect our spirits, we were vigilant with hygiene and ensure we kept up to date with the latest travel and health advice.
We stayed 3 nights at The Palm Atlantis which I highly recommend. It is a beautiful luxury hotel but catered perfectly for families. We absolutely loved Dubai. It is such a clean, efficient, organized country and the people were so helpful and friendly. We stayed in a suite which was great for the family. The hotel has a waterpark and adventure park however was closed due to the virus outbreak. They have an aquarium in the hotel and you can swim with dolphins too. However the numerous restaurants and all the pools were open (which are beautiful). The beach is right off the pool and the water is clean and crystal clear. They have life jackets and floaties for the kids. Everything is catered for. We cannot wait to come back.
Whilst a lot was closed due to the virus we still were able to go shopping at the spectacular Mall of Emirates. Wow! What a place. All your favourite brands (plus the Dubai fashion is so fashion-forward!). The supermarket is a must-see, they have scanners on the trolley, they have combined a modern grocery store with their spice markets. The food is delicious too. There are numerous malls you can go to and most have adventure parks and even a snowfield (which was closed whilst we were there). There is so much to do. You have day trips to the desert, the tallest building, helicopter rides and luxury car rides.
Nobu Dubai was amazing and a must! Bread street kitchen by Gordon Ramsey was great for lunch. Saffron buffet is wonderful as kids 3 and under eat free. So many options, very clean (the staff served as due to the virus) but the quality of food was outstanding. You just try the mini kebabs with chips from the supermarkets – delicious!