Those of us who live away from our parents often just don’t get to see them enough, particularly if your parents are older or ill and aren’t able to travel themselves. Once the kids come along, seeing your family can become all the more important. Unfortunately, at the same time, the travel to see them can become more complicated.
When this happens you may also find your family totally unprepared for the joy of pitter patter’s in their own home. In this situation it can pay to do some planning beforehand to ensure everyone is comfortable during your visit. Here’s some light-hearted tips and some thoughts from my own experiences to help get you on your way;
1. If travelling as a solo parent, have someone drop you off and pick you up if you can; having a helping hand at either end can be helpful while you are navigating toilet stops and luggage.
2. Discuss where the kids will be sleeping beforehand, with both your parents and the kids (if they are old enough). What your family have planned for you might be different to your preference. For instance, would you prefer the kids slept with you or you had a cot in or out of your bedroom? Kids sharing a room? Often its easier to have this sorted out before you get there.
3. Don’t be afraid to send a shopping list on to your folks, just a general list of any nappies, fruit, veg and cereals you and the kids like. Your folks may be unsure what to get and will be happy to have an idea of things you like. It will make it easier than having to get out to the shops once you get there. Don’t forget to mention some treats too!
4. Discuss visitors. No doubt, if you don’t get home much everyone will want to catch up with you and the kids. See if you can limit the visitors or organise a weekend lunch or something with an open invite – otherwise you may find you’ll have visitors everyday. This can get hectic and you may not get to spend time with the ones you love most.
5. Try for an early night the first night. You may find you have slept with one eye open throughout your journey and need some catch up sleep. Also, don’t forget to take a book, you may find you cant sleep at all or are going to bed a bit earlier (maybe with the kids) so may get more reading done than usual.
6. If things get hectic and the kids are unsettled, don’t hesitate to put on a favourite DVD for older kids. Lots of new faces and travel can be tiring and overwhelming. You may be fussy about screen time at home, but a spot of Wiggles during a dinner your folks have organised may get you through.
7. Pick an outing you all enjoy and repeat. There is a family restaurant and a park my kids go to with my parents and they look forward to going each time they visit – its creating some lovely shared experiences.
8. Look on ebay. If you parents don’t have much in the way of kid activities at their home, look on ebay using your parents postcode. You may find something close to them they can pick up and have ready to play. We got some great push bikes and scooters for my parents farm for $5.
9. Pack wisely. Sounds silly really but it’s so hard to do. Pack so the kids have ample underwear and fewer outfits (things that can be worn a couple of times – this gets easier as the kids get older and less grubby). I used to like taking “good” outfits for my kids (so they looked lovely and all) but in reality jeans and runners really do wash and wear easily. Lately I have been travelling in “nice” outfits that can also double for a special occasion if need be. I then keep it simple and they wear the same clothes home. And think about the climate and how comfortable you are likely to be. (My folks always warn me about how cold it is at their place in winter and to make sure we bring coats. In reality, we are living in a colder climate and tend to get warm at my parents house – even in winter! The coats don’t get worn and take up too much valuable packing space).
10. Don’t forget safety while you’re away, What is “safe” for some may not be for you. For instance, plan ahead for any carseats etc you may need. See if family may be able to borrow some gear from a friend or hire what you need. If the kids are travelling in family or friends cars, check that car seats etc have been installed correctly and straps are at the right heights. If you visit regularly, as we do, it may pay to purchase some car seats and leave them at your parents house. We have done this and keeps it simple for us.
So, you’ve saved up the cash, booked the time off and are ready to take the leap…have a great time and remember to take lots of photos!