June and July are our winter holiday months here in South Africa and many of us from Gauteng head down to the coast to enjoy the gorgeous SA sun! We have family in the Western Cape, so I take the kids down there to spend a few weeks with my mom.
We have been doing it for a few years now, so we are pretty seasoned travellers as a family and have taken the train, flown down and driven. Flying is definitely the easiest option – yes, even flying with four kids on my own! I have learnt how to make the trip easier for myself, the kids and the passengers around us.
“When I relax on our travels so do the children, which makes everything easier.”
1. Book a midmorning flight
I have always booked an early morning flight. My folks live two hours outside of Cape Town, so it just seemed to make sense but the airport at 5am or 6am is crazy. All the business people catch those early morning flights in and out of the big cities, so you have a lot of people in a hurry. Two years ago, I booked the 9am flight to Cape Town and it was perfect. The airport is quieter, there are a few more families travelling at the time and less people rushing from meeting to meeting. It does mean we get to my mom a little later, but everyone is calmer.
2. Plan your bags
If you’re travelling with babies, you may feel like you need to take all your bags with you on the plane, but you really don’t. Limit your carry-on luggage to one bag and if your kids are big enough to carry their own bag then get them a small backpack. When you pack your baby bag, put the nappies and wet wipes at the top and ready-made bottles in bottle pouches on the side of your bag if you bag has them. This makes it easier to find the items you are most likely to need.
3. If your little ones can carry their own bag, get them to pack some toys in
Colouring books come in handy, especially because once your little one figures out the tray comes down, it’s all they want to do.
4. Check-in online
This makes life a lot easier for us because we’re a fairly large party, so I make sure we have seats next to each other. The earlier you check in the closer you can get to the front (or the back). I like these seats because it means I don’t have to struggle all the way through the plane to find our seats and we are close to the toilet. Usually I book one whole row for us but this time I booked three seats and then the two behind it. This limited the fighting over the window seat. It also makes check-in easier, as OR Tambo has a separate queue for those who have checked in online.
5. Give yourself enough time
I don’t enjoy rushing when I’m with all the kids. One year I had to sprint across OR Tambo with the oldest two to catch our flight and it was so stressful. I try to make sure we arrive at the airport with enough time to get through check-in without having to rush.
6. Ask for help
Don’t try to do it all yourself. More often than not if you ask for help, someone will step up. I have always found airline staff to be helpful and generally other travellers are also pretty helpful.
Most important though, have fun. Don’t stress the small stuff and just let the kids (and yourself) enjoy the experience. When I relax on our travels so do the children, which makes everything easier. Travelling is supposed to fun and exciting, so nurture that from the beginning in your kids.
Laura has four children ranging in age from 16 to four. She runs her own business from her home in the mornings and in the afternoon, she turns into mom’s taxi and takes her many kids to and from their various afterschool activities. In-between all of that she blogs over at HarassedMom about her journey as a mom.