Tag Archives: getting ready

Preparing for another BIG trip

Eliane's Travel Journal 2014-2015  - Camping in the USAWe are getting ready for another big trip, this one for 6 months to the US. We’ll be spending 3-4 months of the time driving/camping, so we have a whole different set of things to figure out for this trip, from solar battery chargers for the phones etc, to what’s the best laptop/tablet etc solution for me to be able to work as we travel, to how to we keep the kids up with their school work.

I have already got travel journals sorted for all three kids (I had a gift voucher from Blurb, so I actually made them one each, with loads of blank pages for drawing and writing, a big map of the states, and lots of photos from the last o/s trip we did, 3 years ago).

Also we’ve got house sitters sorted out for our house here (though we have a lot of work to do on the house before we hand it over to them, including MORE decluttering!), but we still need to find a house to sit ourselves for our last two months over there, in Berkeley CA. So sing out if you need someone to look after your house in the winter!

Getting passport photos for the kids

Back when we got Liam’s first passport, when he was about 18 months old, there were still lots of those little photography shops around, where you went to get your film developed. Camera films, remember those? Anyway, that’s also where you’d go to get your passport photo taken, and the staff pretty well knew what they were doing.

Getting a passport photo for a baby or toddler is tricky (at least in Australia – I have no idea what it’s like anywhere else), because they are supposed to be:

  • Looking at the camera
  • Mouth closed
  • No hands in the photo (and no other part of the parent or anyone else in the photo)
  • Head not tilted

These days you get your passport photo done at the post office, by whichever postal worker happens to be available.

It wasn’t until after I’d paid for photos for all three kids that I discovered they don’t have a seat or even a stool that Eliane could sit or stand on. They were able to fetch a stool that lifted Mikaela up to the right height, but for Elli I had to crouch down, out of sight of the camera, and hold her up above me, with no part of me visible to the camera. Easier said than done, especially as I had to hold her there for quite a few minutes while they tried to get a shot where she was at least looking straight at the camera. They didn’t manage to get one where her mouth was closed, but hopefully that will be alright for a toddler. The postal worker seemed to think so, but then she was probably just happy to be done.

I don’t know how you’d go getting a real baby passport photo (ie for a baby not yet sitting up, or worse, able to hold their head up). I’m glad I don’t have to do that, anyway.

Flying with babies (and young children) – the car seat issue

So, we have not yet resolved the umbrella stroller issue (though I have had another recommendation of the Esprit Speed Sun Stroller, which certainly looks like a better stroller overall than the ones I was looking at yesterday, but over $100 – my theoretical limit – and also a bit bigger when folded), but tonight I am focusing on researching the car seat issue.

We have booked a seat for Eliane even though she is under two, because I just can’t see how it is possibly safe to carry her on our laps if it’s not safe for the rest of us to be unrestrained (although yes, I realise air travel is much safer than car travel), and also because for 32 hour trips, or even 8 hour trips, I think having her own seat is going to be a god send. I know we both felt it was well worth the money for Liam’s seat on long haul flights to and from the States when he was this age.

So, we will be taking a car seat for Eliane. The question is about Mikaela. She is still in a five point harness in the car, though she’s big enough to be in a booster by Australian standards (over 14kg) and she’s getting close to the top limit for the standard car seat which is 18kg. She’s not there yet though. So, do we take a car seat for her as well? I don’t think so, simply because transporting two car seats, a toddler, hand luggage for the lot of us and a sleepy Mikaela and Liam between flights just might be pushing things too far.

For instance, we have one transfer where we have to get off the plane in Singapore after flying for something like 8 hours, it will be about 12:30am our time, and we’ll have 1½ hours between arrival and departure (so presumably significantly less than that actually off the plane) , and will have to go through security again (though I really don’t know why – we’re getting back on the same plane, for heaven’s sake, but have to take everything off with us. Grrr.). Then there’ll be another time when we’ll have 45 minutes between arrival and departure (it was an hour when we booked) and need to get from one plane to another. I’m thinking we’ll have Liam pushing the pram with the Eliane in it, me pushing a trolly with bags and car seat, and Chris carrying Mikaela, just to get there quickly enough.

So, no car seat for Mikaela. So I’m thinking maybe we should invest in a CARES harness, but according to this site, British Airways (who we will be travelling with for some flights) approves the harness for 12 months to 4 years. Mikaela is five but she is more than 2 kg under the weight limit, so what the? I’ll have to double check if that is up to date info. In the meantime I’ve found this awesome site: flying with children written by an ex-flight attendant who has also travelled internationally a lot with her own children, and she says:

Just a reminder to never use car seats provided by a car rental company. I had a bad experience once and unfortunately, this is not rare. The car seats provided by rental companies are at best dirty, worn and incorrectly washed (i.e. soaked straps). At worst, they could be expired, missing parts and could have been involved in a recall. Your children’s safety is too important to take the risk of using one of these. Always bring your own or make other arrangements at your destination.

Huh. I’m really not sure what we’re going to be doing about transport on the ground in the various places we’ll be. It’s going to be tricky if we don’t hire cars, since the five of us can’t fit in many other people’s cars along with them. But we can’t afford to hire cars for eight weeks. However, this has reminded me that I’d been wondering if we should invest in a couple of those backless booster seats (this sort of thing) that don’t provide any head support or protection, but do at least position the seat-belt right – just so we have something we can fit into other people’s cars pretty easily. Liam is still small enough to use a booster seat, although he doesn’t legally have to any more in Australia and most of his peers don’t – and of course Mikaela is still in a car seat.

Wow, you just really don’t travel light with children, do you?!

Edited after the trip to add: The only place we had trouble using the CARES harness was on the way to Sydney on a Qantas Dash 8 plane. They told us it was ‘not approved’, and I didn’t argue because I foolishly hadn’t printed anything from the Qantas website (it is approved), and we were among the last getting on the flight for reasons beyond me. By the end of the trip we’d learned a good thing to do was to send Chris on first with the car seat and the big kids, so he could get the seat in and strap Mikaela in, then I’d get on last with Elli, so she wasn’t strapped into her seat for too long. Anyway, on no other flight did anyone question our use of the CARES harness for Mikaela.

To Do List

  • Travel insurance! Must email our travel agent, Emma, for a quote, but from quick perusal of the brochure she gave us, NRMA looks better.
  • Buy an umbrella stroller – last time we didn’t know what an umbrella stroller was, and the stroller we took was big enough it had to be “checked luggage” for a number of our flights, especially on smaller planes. We definitely want to have that stroller with us for the in between flight bits, where we have to get a toddler, two older kids, hand luggage for the lot of us, plus Elli’s car seat (which we will be using for most flights) from one plane to another, sometimes with a couple of hours to fill in. And we’ll be wanting to take a sling to carry Eliane in, cause that stroller is going to be full!
  • Return stroller to friend’s who lent us one that they have used as travel stroller but that we’ve decided is too big.
  • Buy a second suitcase. We have one good suitcase, which was fine with just the three of us last time, but with the five of us? I don’t think so!
  • Consider whether we have appropriate bags for our carry-on luggage.
  • Oh, get passports for everyone (except me, I had to renew mine last time). Getting a baby passport photo done is always fun! (not.)
  • Declutter/tidy house for the house sitters!
  • Organise to use that house cleaning voucher I bought a while ago, before it runs out at the end of August!
  • Decide whether to let the housesitters manage the chooks or ‘board’ them with a friend.
  • Book accommodation for the night we are spending in Athens (part of a night anyway – our flight out is about 5am, and it’s an international flight, so I’m guessing we need to be at the airport by around 3am. Fun!).
  • Write packing list.
  • Buy gifts for people we’ll be staying with.
  • Ask friend’s who own the house on Karpathos whether there’s anything they’d like us to take over for them. Get a housewarming present for their house (which is new) (I’m thinking some kids books to leave there – and maybe some grownup ‘holiday reading’? After all, what’s a beach house without an Agatha Christie novel?)
  • Pick up the tickets from the travel agent.
  • Check with the travel agent about that flight that keeps getting moved up and back by five minutes – should we be worried about the connecting flight yet?  There’s now only 45 minutes between them.
  • Get approval for Eliane’s car seat from qantas and find out whether or not we’ll have to take it off the plane in Singapore.