Posted by: MummyTravels | Jun 9, 2012

Long-haul travel with a toddler

Nearly eight weeks since I was last on a plane, I’m getting severely itchy feet. So I’m already thinking ahead to trips with my baby – and getting inspiration from other travelling parents. Here’s what friend of a friend Simon, who spent 10 days in South Africa with Hayden, four, and two-year-old Helena, had to say about his holiday.

The holiday: A self-catering apartment in Fish Hoek, just outside Cape Town for a week, then a drive to Knysna for three days in a lodge-style B&B.

The reason: Both our children love beaches, and South Africa has some of the nicest I’ve ever seen, although away from the tourist areas some beaches are half golden sand, half plastic bag. And we wanted to go back and see the penguins. Most of the area’s wildlife is on private land and for over-12s only but there are still wild baboons, mountain zebra, ostriches, lizards, large tortoises, eagles and vultures once you get out of the town. At one point an ‘African Skunk’ tried to steal our picnic. It’s also mostly English speaking, even if the accents are occasionally impenetrable.

The planning: All on the internet – car hire, guest houses, places to go, things to see. We’d planned to go to Mossel Bay and Port Elizabeth but reviews of Mossel Bay said it was now an industrial town and two days in the car would have driven the kids wild, while Port Elizabeth was not particularly child friendly – lots of hotels had a minimum age of 12. But the Knysna/Plettenburg Bay area had lots to do and interesting scenery.

The tricky bits: The seeming lax attitude of car hire firms about needing two child seats. In the end we went with a big firm, Avis, because they did at least seem to guarantee child seats on arrival.

The best bits: The beach at Fish Hoek was just stunning, or possibly when the penguin swam up on to the sand at Boulders Beach, meeting elephants, or discovering that Hayden (the world’s second most difficult eater) loved grilled hake.

The hardest bits: The flight, then the drive in the brand new Audi hire car from the airport after 26 hours of no sleep. It is difficult with children on a plane for that long and we got very little sleep, but they were actually brilliantly behaved for the most part.

Top tips: Plan everything before you go, including rainy day activities. That way you can just pick what to do off a list, plug the destination into the sat nav and go. And you need to be picked up from the airport, because you’ll be shattered.

They said: A couple of people said it was a waste taking the children as they’d be too young to appreciate it, and we had some commiserations about the 11-hour flight with them, but otherwise we mostly got a ‘wow, holiday of a lifetime’ attitude. Hayden keeps asking when we can go back, or maybe even live there…

Image: Marti McFly/Flickr

Posted by: MummyTravels | Jun 7, 2012

Don’t forget your toothbrush

I hate packing. It doesn’t matter how many times I travel, I always put it off until the last minute – and my unpacked suitcase sits around forlornly on my return until my husband’s patience runs out. With enough practice, I’ve got pretty good at remembering the essentials, but usually find there’s something I’ve missed out.

Apparently I’m not alone. The top five most forgotten items aren’t the obscure, but phone chargers, hairbrushes, sunglasses, toothbrushes and facewash – most of which I’ve omitted to throw in at some point. Only hairbrush and facewash escape, because I don’t use either (I have short hair and use a different type of cleanser, no jumping to grubby conclusions please).

The survey by Arm & Hammer (who’ve obviously got an interest in all things dental) found we’re over 10 times more likely to forget our toothbrush than our passport, despite using the former every day. I actually think it’s because we do that they barely register, they’re almost part of the scenery, unlike a passport which I check dozens of times in case it’s managed to grow legs and crawl out of my bag.

And annoying though it is, at least it’s easy enough to pick up a new toothbrush at the airport.

Image: Dan Lockton/Flickr

Posted by: MummyTravels | Jun 6, 2012

Travel during pregnancy – lessons learned

When I started this blog, it was at least partly in response to people telling me what I wouldn’t be able to do – pregnancy and motherhood would mark the end of travel as I knew it. So with pregnancy almost over (five weeks and counting) and motherhood on the horizon, were they right?

Unsurprisingly, I’ve got to say no (so far). But there’s no question that things do change if you’re planning pregnant travel – and not always as I expected. So here’s what I’ve discovered so far…

  • Never assume. The trickiest thing about pregnant travel is not being completely certain how you’ll feel at any point. But don’t assume you won’t feel up to it – for months, I carried on almost as normal, although I avoided booking anything more than about four weeks ahead.
  • Learning to pack light. Never a strong skill of mine, I did finally learn to downsize – partly because I didn’t want to be lugging a huge suitcase as well as the bump (when it was just me, I didn’t really care), but also because my wardrobe shrank so dramatically, I was limited to what I could take.
  • It’s not always your decision. However fine you feel, however happy you are to keep enjoying new experiences, it’s not always possible – I’m not talking about people stopping you bungee jumping (fair enough), but I couldn’t even do some relaxed canoeing or go on a boat trip as the operators’ insurance wouldn’t cover me. On the upside, people bend over backwards to make sure you’re OK. And don’t be surprised if your own attitude changes too now it’s no longer all about you.
  • The second trimester is your friend. It’s the advice everyone gives you, but there’s good reasons for travelling while you can during the second trimester. The exhaustion and sickness of the first weeks (not to mention any low-level worry before the 12-week scan) meant I didn’t venture too far at the beginning. And while I’d have been happy to carry on a few weeks after my last overseas flight at 28 weeks, I’ve definitely been reluctant to do much beyond around 32/33 weeks as it just gets too tiring.
  • An obsession with toilets. For the first time since I encountered a squat toilet, these have actually factored in my travel plans, right from choosing an aisle seat on the plane.
  • Keep an eye on paperwork. Some travel insurance won’t cover pregnant women at all, others will only cover you up to 28 weeks (assuming you’ve had no previous complications) even if airlines are happy for you to fly. Even after studying mine, I found sections were distinctly unclear. Check and doublecheck…
  • Don’t watch sad films on planes. One airline survey found we’re more likely to cry at films on planes – throw in hormones and heightened emotions, and it’s best to avoid anything weepy…

Image: TehCbing/Flickr

Posted by: MummyTravels | Jun 5, 2012

Why my favourite travel souvenirs are off-limits

I love bringing back souvenirs from my travels. One intricate brass lamp survived a plane journey back, plus seven house moves (so far), even if I still haven’t got around to putting a bulb in it. I even got banned from adding to my menagerie of carved wooden animals by my husband.

Yep, we’re not always talking high-class, beautifully crafted mementoes (although I do have some of those as well) – I’m as likely to pick up bargain bits and bobs that take my fancy, all scattered around the house to remind me of the places I’ve visited. But my favourite souvenirs are jewellery.

Whenever I’ve tried to buy clothes, it’s been a disaster. The kind of thing that looks fantastic on a beach tends to look ridiculous back in the grey UK. Scarves are about the only exception to that rule, including a deep blue silky one shot with gold thread, which I bought for a few pounds in Istanbul when I realised I’d forgotten to bring a head covering for any mosques. It folds up into almost nothing and has since become a travel staple.

But my favourite is rings. Again, we’re not talking precious stones, but random funky designs which I’ll wear day in and day out – quite apart from more exotic purchases, one swirly coral glass ring from a Belfast market and an ultra-bling sparkly one from a Leeds boutique have had more compliments than almost anything I own.

Sadly, they’re all off-limits for now. The recent hot weather, combined with the last month or so of pregnancy, means my fingers have puffed up just enough that if I ram them on, I might not get them off again. For now, I’ll just have to settle for the scarves…

Posted by: MummyTravels | Jun 4, 2012

The best of British

Cheese-rolling, bog-snorkelling and a biscuit festival – where else would you get that apart from Britain? And with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee this weekend, here’s my guest post for Yeo Valley on the best of British…


Image: UK Pictures/Flickr

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