We recently embarked on our first overseas holiday as a family of three. Me, my husband and our two-and-a-half-year-old, Sunday. We’d been on a handful of domestic flights to visit my parents previously, but this was the first big trip. I’d like to preface that the feeling of booking a holiday after raising a child in a pandemic has the power to shift an entire family's energy. All three of us craved change, spontaneity and time off from the monotony of day-to-day, a shake-up. As Melbourne winter enveloped us with her frost and the playground became less inviting, something to look forward to was profoundly exciting for all of us. After hearing Japan had no intentions of opening any time soon, Bali was a no-brainer. I’d travelled there many times with my husband, pre-baby, so it was just about doing the research to make our holiday kid-friendly and enjoyable for all three of us.
Upon my return to Melbourne and riding the high of our holiday wave I’ve been reflecting on our trip. From preparing to the actual ‘doing’, the whole process has taught me a lot about travelling with a small person. Here are the biggest things I learnt.
1. The prep pays off.
Earlier in the year, during the height of my daughter's tantrums, my husband and I invested in the Big Little Feeling course. A course to help acquire skills for taming meltdowns and helping to feel better equipped to handle precarious situations. During the course, we learnt the importance of “prep time”. Months before our trip, we spoke about Bali daily - what was to come, what it's like to fly on an aeroplane and what to expect when we arrived. We also gave her a suitcase and let her slowly accumulate the things she’d like to take: a swimming bubble, goggles, her favourite soft toys. When “Bali day” finally arrived, nothing was a surprise for her.
2. Call in a favour, get a lift.
Whilst you can do long-term car parking at Melbourne airport (for a reasonable price), this adds another dimension to a very long day of travel as you’ll need to get a bus from your parking point. To avoid this, we got the in-laws to drop us off and gave them the car for the duration of the trip to avoid buses and extra unnecessary hauls. If family lifts are not an option, you can always get a taxi to the airport as they (unlike Ubers) are legally able to transport small beings without a car seat.
3. Work the flight times with the sleep schedule.
This depends on your day naps. We booked a flight at 4pm in the hope of squeezing in an hour nap before travel and some sleep time on the plane. I felt like I had won the lottery when we managed to squeeze in a one-hour nap before leaving and she was asleep at 8.30pm (her usual bedtime) in between my husband and I on the flight. On our returning flight, the only option was a 10pm red-eye. Although I was prepared for the worst, she slept the entire trip and in the car from the airport to home.