1. Flying with kids
growing our family to five children, we’ve only had a couple of
holidays where we’ve flown to our destination. Each time, to make it
easy on the finances, we flew with budget airlines. Taking the cheaper
option is doable, but it requires extra planning, especially with kids.
I’d like to share with you some tips I learned that make our flights
easier and more enjoyable.
Each flight we’ve
taken has been delayed — one in excess of one and a half hours. The
budget airlines seem to have only a small margin for error as they turn
around flights so quickly. It appears that the domino effect for even
small delays can become quite significant and is a routine part of
flying with these airlines. For parents this means having extra food
supplies and changes of clothes for babies and toddlers.
Once, while waiting for a flight to Sydney, my toddler poured water
over one set of clothes. Then, to my horror, while waiting in the very
crowded departure lounge he had diarrhoea and dirtied his spare set of
clothes. As a result, he flew to Sydney in only a nappy and a hoodie.
In-flight food and entertainment
budget airlines don’t supply free food or activities for the kids. They
run a paid food service where you can hand over your credit card and
pay ridiculous amounts of money for junk food (or alcohol). So make sure
you pack your own food and water supplies even if it’s only an
hour-long flight. One of our flights to Sydney took four and a half
hours door to door as a result of delays. The kids were starving by the
time we arrived and their behaviour was reflecting this.
also make each child an activity pack when we fly. They were gold for
passing the time while we waited for our flights in the departure
lounges, as well as on board. Open-ended, low-mess activity packs
containing items that allowed them to use their imagination — such as
stickers, writing paper and envelopes — were a big hit with the four and
six year old. I’d taught the older boys the basics of Blackjack (no
gambling, of course). It’s a fantastic card game for the kids’ mental
maths and can be played in a confined space.
airline didn’t even have tags available for labelling luggage at the
check-in, so make sure you have your luggage labelled. Almost all budget
fares only include carry-on luggage with restrictions. At both
Melbourne and Sydney they weighed the carry-on luggage and people had to
remove items to get their weight down. Make sure you weigh your
carry-on luggage to prevent unnecessary delays.
We purchased extra luggage and, with the tight weight restriction, I have to admit that was my best-ever packing effort.
on the airline you’re flying with and the city you’re flying from, the
departure lounge of a budget airline may be located away from those of
other domestic airlines. The one in Melbourne resembled a big, old shed
and was cold in winter. To board the plane we had to walk a considerable
distance outdoors on a cold early morning. I was grateful that it
wasn’t raining as part of the walkway is not under cover. On board,
however, it was quite warm, so I definitely recommend layers for
budget airlines do expect passengers to walk on the tarmac to board and
disembark their planes. It’s part of the strategy for turning the
planes around quickly by having passengers board and disembark at the
front and back of the plane simultaneously. Our allocated seats were at
the back of the plane each time we flew, which meant walking on the
tarmac and up some very steep, steel stairs.
the cold, walking on the tarmac was a highlight for our younger kids.
They loved seeing how big the plane was and hearing the noises coming
from other planes.
Service and amenities
when I travelled on my own with all five kids I received no assistance
from in-flight staff. Before boarding commences, there’s always an
announcement calling for families and those with special needs to board
first. Make sure you take advantage of this as it will give you a bit
more time and space to get all the kids organised before everyone else
starts to board.
2. Staying home with kids
thoroughly enjoy school holidays. I love the break it gives us from the
school routine, the opportunity it gives the younger kids to play with
their older siblings and, as the school terms are so busy, I love the
time it gives the kids to relax.
because I love school holidays doesn’t mean that we’re all happy for
every moment of each day or that we’re always enjoying each other’s
company! It certainly isn’t all ‘Kum ba ya’ singing, peace and serenity —
that’s for sure. There can be major fights between kids, I can lose my
patience and the house can end up looking like a bomb zone. However,
with some forethought and planning as a family, we generally have a
pretty good time over the school holidays.
Planning for the school holidays
Due to my enthusiasm
for giving the kids some fun experiences and catching up with friends,
I’ve often made the mistake of over scheduling our school holidays. It’s
amazing how quickly you can end up with something planned every single
day. The end result is that the kids and I go back to school feeling
even more tired. To prevent this from happening, I created a school
holiday plan with the kids.
a family meeting in the lead-up to school holidays, I ask the kids
whether there’s anything special they’d like to do during the holidays.
Each child is allowed to choose one activity. We agree on the activities
and then I schedule them at intervals — where possible — so we have a
mix of days at home and days out. I aim to schedule in a day or two at
home at the beginning of the holidays (so everyone can get some rest
after the long school term) and then some days at home again towards the
end of the holidays (so that the kids head back to school refreshed).
Table 1 illustrates
what a plan for our September school holidays may look like.
Table 1: school holiday plan
important for us to have time away from the house. If we stay home for
too many days in a row, we tend to end up with cabin fever. The changes
of scenery help make sure that we’re all still getting along
are endless possibilities in terms of how to entertain the kids at home
during the holidays. I’ve found that with my kids it’s having simple
activities where they’re in control that they enjoy the most. Here are a
few things you might like to try doing at home:
• make lemonade
• cook the kids’ favourite treats with them
• paint a canvas together
• play musical statues
• make a bird feeder
• play indoor or outdoor hide-and-seek
• brighten up the pavement with some chalk drawing
• make a volcano
• make a giant cardboard construction
• do some gardening
• camp inside or outside at home (depending on the weather)
• have a water-bomb fight
• make your own movie
• make a cubby house
• set up a balloon volleyball net inside
• turn the kitchen into a café and let all kids take on a role to make lunch
• invite some friends for a sleepover
• make mud pies
• play board games
• put on a puppet show
• make a LEGO city together
• go through the family photo albums
• cook up some playdough with the kids
• make up your own bubble solution
• write a funny story together, taking turns to write a sentence each
• create an obstacle course in the garden.
Local school-holiday activities
offers a wealth of entertainment options to choose from all year round,
and even more during school holidays. Some of these are generic and can
be found in most towns and cities. I subscribe to newsletters from
places such as galleries, community houses, public gardens, libraries
and community groups so that I’m notified of upcoming events. Many free
or low-cost events book out quickly, so it’s great to be advised early
that tickets are on sale.
Here are some
low-cost ideas for having fun with the kids away from home. While some
are only available during school holidays, many can also be done year
• visit an art gallery
• join a local tree planting session
• visit a museum
• go for a bike ride
• go bush walking
• explore new parks in the area
• visit a community farm
some local live music (check out local pubs if you don’t have specific
live-music venues as they can often have family-friendly sessions)
• go fishing
• investigate community-house holiday programs
• hire a row boat
• take a train ride to somewhere new
• go market shopping for a family feast
• go rock climbing
• visit the beach/river/lake
• attend a local sporting event
• check out the local library’s school holiday program
• attend a community festival
• visit your local botanic gardens (or similar)
• see a local drama production
• swim at the local pool
• go fruit picking.
But I’m bored!
Even with the best
planning, at some point during the school holidays one of my children
will come up with the ‘I’m bored’ call. As I’ve already mentioned, I
think it’s good for kids to get to this point, but I have to remind
myself not to jump in and give them ideas on how to occupy themselves.
For our nine-year-old son, it’s deciding what he wants to do that’s the
problem. Once he’s decided on something, he’ll stick at it for a long
time, but it can often take him a while and a fair bit of whining to
find the right activity.
by this pattern of behaviour, during one school-holiday break I sat
down with him and made him write a list of things he liked to do. A
couple of his siblings sat with us and helped us build a comprehensive
list. His first task was to type up his list on the computer and print
it out (which kept him from being ‘bored’ for a while). He stuck it on
the notice board and it became a reference point for him.
After that, I’d see
him check his list regularly during the holidays and then wander off to
start something new. If he needed materials he’d come to me for
assistance, but he no longer came to me whining that he didn’t have
anything to do! This is what his list looked like:
• soccer games (outside)
• kick a ball against the wall
• go for a run
• play balloon games inside (balloon volleyball, keepies off)
• listen to a Harry Potter audio book
• play chess
• read a book
• ride my bike
• play in the park next door
• build some LEGO
• construct something with a glue gun
• play a board game (Mastermind, Scrabble, Boggle, Monopoly)
• write a story/letter/email
• create an experiment or a potion
• listen to my iPod
• do some gardening
• do some cooking
• do a puzzle
• practise batting with the cricket wiz
• unscrew an old appliance (one no longer in use)
• climb a tree
• build a fort.
Seeing this list up
on the notice board made our four year old decide he needed one too. We
created a picture list together with less choice than the one for our
nine year old. Too many options can be overwhelming and cause indecision
for a four year old. As he wasn’t at school yet, he referred to this
list all the time. This is what his list looked like:
• noughts and crosses
• play with hot wheels action sets
• pavement chalk drawing