Last week my wife and I went away for a few nights to celebrate our wedding anniversary. It was the first time in 5 years that the kids had been away from both of us for 3 nights. And while they enjoyed the time spent with their grandparents, I think we enjoyed the time away just as much.
We got to do things that were simple but something that we never seem to get time to do anymore. We went on walks, ate dinner at a leisurely pace, sat around and read books/newspapers etc. Most importantly we got to talk….without being interrupted.
We love our kids and we live for them. They make our lives worth living and give us joy and enjoyment every day and in everything that they do. However, spending alone and quality time just with my wife made me realise how much I still loved her and why I had fallen in love with her all those years ago.
Most of the conversations reverted back to the kids, however they ranged from the past – funny/interesting things they had done – to the future – what lay ahead for them. It gave us pause to realise that time was fleeting and how their personalities had developed the past few years.
I think sometimes, we get so caught up with living our lives, doing the daily chores, that we don’t pause to reflect on what we have. It is a fault that I have and I am sure others do too. Kids are relentless, chores are never ending, house work is limitless, work is time consuming and balancing it all stressful. However, spending just a few days alone with my life partner, the person I want to share everything with, the person who makes me laugh and makes me angry more than anyone else in the world, the person who completes me – made me realise how lucky my life really was.
The dishes can wait …while I give my kids another hug, the late night work can be paused … while I give my wife another hug. Most importantly jobs and chores can be delayed while I enjoy the moment that is now.
My 6 year old son just became a Qantas Silver Frequent Flyer and received a new card and pack in the mail today. He is so excited that he decided to write them a letter.
As a follow up to my previous post on some tips on travelling with kids, this time I focus on some tips on how to deal with kids at the destination. These are some of the things we always try to do when travelling with our 3 little kids and it seems to work well for us
- Have a Home Base: The first time my wife and I travelled with our son (3 years old then), we planned out trip as if it were just the two of us. We travelled across the breadth of Switzerland, starting in St Moritz and ending in Geneva, spending one night in each location and sightseeing/travelling during the day. This was a terrible idea and we haven’t done it since. Now when we travel we usually stay a few days in one hotel and one location. We then do day trips or tours from here. This means the kids have a “home base” to come back to every night. It also provides some consistency during the trip.
- Plan for Down Days: While there is always the desire to plan as many activities as possible on every day of the holiday, plan to have some “down days”. Days when you don’t have any tour or activity planned and you can have a lazy breakfast, go to the park or just wander and recover.
- Find parks: Research your destination before you get there and find parks or play areas that might exist near your hotel. Some shopping centres have kids play areas too. This is a great activity to do during the down days, when the kids can just be kids and run around.
- Themed Restaurants: Try and find a couple of themed restaurants in every city you visit. These are great experiences and also allows you to have a unique dining restaurant. Some of the themed restaurants we have visited include Alices Teacup (New York), Charlie Brown Cafe (Hong Kong), Dragon Feast (Macau) etc.
- Kid Friendly Tours: Research the tours that you want to go on and find ones that are accommodating of kids. There are tour companies (like Paris Muse) that run kid themed tours, and their tour of Louvre was a highlight of our visit to Paris. Also look for tours that the kids will enjoy doing – like activity tours, themed tours etc. In our recent trip to Hong Kong we went to see Pink Dolphins, a food tour visiting various restaurants/cafes and a harbour boat cruise.
- Travel kids: Get the kids to keep a travel journal. This is a great way for them to spend a few minutes each morning to write about their highlights of the previous day. Our kids have started writing a journal from when they turn 5 and can write. There are travel diaries for little kids that you can buy from book stores that have questions and activities for each day and place to draw pictures etc. The older kids usually take a blank journal and write what they liked and enjoyed about each day. In our last trip, my 9 year old, who is obsessed with the “Diary of a Wimpy kid” series, wrote his journal titled “Diary of an Awesome Kid” with himself as the main character. It is a great memento of the trip and makes a great keepsake of the trip.
- Buffet Breakfast: Invest in a buffet breakfast for the family in whichever hotel you are staying in. Buffet breakfasts around the world have consistent foods like cereal, porridge, toast etc. Especially if you are travelling to exotic locations where the food is quite different, the breakfast buffet serves as comfort food. It is also handy to use the buffet to pack some snacks for the rest of the day – especially for little ones. In our last trip we would make a ham/cheese sandwich and take a boiled egg for the little one for a mid morning snack as we were out and about.
- Use Public Transport: Kids love buses, trains, trams, ferries, etc etc. Whereever possible use public transport, they will be entertained, and it will save you a lot of money than having to use a taxi/hire car everywhere.
The final tip is to always travel with baby wipes and a small towel – you just never know when you might need it. And anyone who has travelled with kids will tell you – you need it more than you realise 🙂
My wife and I have always loved to travel and we haven’t let having kids slow us down. As we live in Australia, travelling anywhere overseas (US or Europe) involves atleast one or two long haul flights. We have done numerous trips across Asia, Europe and the US with all three kids and following tips/strategies seem to have worked well for us.
1. Never travel with kids aged between 6 months and 2 years. Travelling with a baby is easy, as they fit in the bassinets on the plane and pretty much sleep the whole time. They are easy to manage and settle and just need food every few hours. Kids over two are again relatively easy as they can understand, and can be negotiated with. Also, they get their own seat making the flight a lot easier for all involved.
2. Toys and Entertainment. The older kids are usually entertained by the entertainment on board – however a couple of books or activity packs are always good to have. They are especially handy during take off and landing when the entertainment system might not be accessible.
For younger kids, get some cheap little toys from any toy store and wrap them individually in newspaper or wrapping paper. The first time we travelled with a 30 month old we took about 10 toys like tops, puzzles, cars, etc all individually wrapped. The wrapping makes it a surprise and also takes longer for them to unwrap. Little short books like the Mr Men or Thomas the Tank Engine series are also great to have.
3. Spare clothes. Always pack a spare set of clothes for the kids in your carry on baggage. You never know when a drink will be spilled or disaster will strike.
4. Long stopover. Flying to Europe from Australia usually requires two long haul flights – one to Singapore/Bangkok and the next to your final destination. We try and plan to have a long stopover whenever we can. After 8-10 hours on the plane, the kids are ready for a break. Also, airports are great as they are quite spacious and they all have some sort of a kids play area. A long stop over means they can play for a while and then you can have a proper meal in any of the airport cafes, before boarding for your next flight. If they are tired enough, they will fall asleep soon and give you a few hours of peace.
5. Prescription medicine. Finally, keep some kid friendly sedative or sleeping aid handy – speak to your doctor or pharmacist to recommend one. They usually work for kids over 2 years and we normally use it for overnight flights. We give the kids a dose as we board the plane and by the time we are in the air they are asleep. Make sure you test it at home before your trip as some sedatives could have the opposite effect….
6. Ear care. Kids struggle to pop their ears, particularly during landing, and this can cause a lot of discomfort. For tiny babies, breastfeeding or a bottle works best. For older kids have some sugar free lollypops handy as the sucking motion will pop their ears.
7. Food. Most airlines have special kids meals, and they bring them out right at the start of the meal service. However, it is prudent to have some snacks with you as well. Breakfast bars, dried fruit and biscuits/crackers are a great option. Stay away from chocolates or sugary drinks as you might not want to deal with a kid high on sugar in the air.
8. Prepare the kids. Before departing we always sit the kids down and tell them the route we will be taking, how long each flight is and so on. We also set some ground rules as to how long they can watch movies, when they need to rest etc. I also make sure that the kids are extra-polite to those sitting around us and to the cabin crew. You will be amazed how much help you get if you have kids who are well behaved and polite.
The bottom line is, don’t put off travelling because you have kids. We have taken our kids everywhere and they now love to travel as much as we do.
Having two boys under 10, it is very hard to spend any quality time individually with them. For the past few months, my wife and I have been having date night with the kids. Once a month, I take one child out for dinner while she takes the other and we alternate. The kids get to decide where to go and they get one on one time with a parent. Personally it has been a very insightful experience and I get a very interesting comprehension of what they are thinking and is top of mind for them. My eldest talked about his friends and sport in our last dinner. My youngest, on the other hand, talked about Maths and spent the whole dinner explaining why he loved it and looked forward to lessons.
Its a special treat for the kids with a single parent with their undivided attention. And most importantly, what is discussed at dinner is beyond reproach and creates a safe place to share thoughts.
The relationship between my two boys, aged 9 and 6, is truly one of Love and Hate. When they get along, they play incredibly well together and are absolute angels. When they don’t get along, they are terrors with yelling, screaming, fighting and lots of tears. They also have an incredible ability to go from being angels to terrors within a matter of minutes and then back again.
Oftentimes the cause is that one feels disadvantaged by the other or more simply because the other is getting a benefit or favour. While this is difficult and hard to manage at times, it can be used to my advantage at times.
I have tried various different ways to get the boys to do their jobs/chores without bickering of having to nag. Especially in the mornings, while getting ready for school and work, it appears brushing of teeth and making of beds gets constantly overlooked.
I recently initiated a points system whereby the boys got a point for each task that they completed successfully in the morning. And for every job that they missed or neglected, the other child would get a point instead. This served as an incredible incentive as the competitiveness between the two boys came out in full force. The jobs would be done without a hitch to the point where they would look for other jobs to do to help out.
The incentive was that whoever got above a certain threshold of points by the end of the day would get a treat – ranging from a small chocolate, or getting to pick the board game to play or merely staying up an extra 15 minutes after bed time. Having a threshold, rather that a winner, meant that on certain days both boys would get the treat or on some days neither would. The strategy seems to be currently working but as I have found with all incentive programs they only last for so long…..