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Can't decide whether to go on a "trip of a lifetime" with a toddler and a preschooler?

(64 Posts)
ReluctantTraveller Thu 07-May-15 16:20:39

I've namechanged as this would totally out me and I'm not entirely certain DP doesn't spy on me on here. Hello DP if you're reading. Yes, I'm really asking MN about this as I just don't know what to do!

So, we have an opportunity to go away for 6 weeks at Christmas to Australia and NZ where we would visit lots of friends who have moved over there. Some of whom we haven't seen for for a few years and who have had (and are having!) babies. We'd be planning to go to Sydney then fly on to NZ and travel around to visit various people and hopefully spend Christmas with as many as possible. All sounds amazing and its an incredible opportunity...

However, we have two DC who will be nearly 4 and just shy of 2 and I'm just terrified that it will be a disaster and I will spend the whole time wishing we were back at home. There will be 4 x 12 hr plus flights to be got through and I find even a 2 hour flight exhausting with a toddler who won't sit still. Plus all the travelling to/from and waiting around in airports. They are both dreadful sleepers and tend to be even worse away from home. They won't have many of their toys to play with and there will be a lot of driving around - DC2 HATES the car and tends to scream the whole time. The time changes will be horrendous to deal with. We'll have to lug so much stuff around with us.

I'm also the one who is responsible for sorting out food (planning, buying, cooking and clearing up) and sleeps etc and I know that they are both very difficult when they are overtired which is an inevitable result. DP tends to find this as "bad behaviour" whereas I am more understanding and reluctant to discipline. This tends to lead to arguments.

I also feel horribly guilty about being away at Christmas as I had previously invited PiL and my DF to come to us. MiL has always been away at Christmas before and been very sorry to miss out (although her choice!) and I know she is very excited about being around this year.

It will cost an eye-watering amount of money - especially as we'll still have to pay for childcare etc that we won't be using and I'm terrified that it will be a huge waste as everyone will be miserable and arguing!

But it is probably the only opportunity we have to do this as a family. DC1 starts school the following September and DPs work is busy during the summer break. I'd love for us to do something like this as a family as DP has never spent anything like this much time with the DC and I think it would be good for everyone (and possibly a bit of an eye-opener for DP!). I just wish it could be closer to home and not over Christmas. On the other hand, my best friend is going to have a baby in the autumn and it would be amazing to see her and our other friends.

I just really don't know what to do so please, please give me your opinions/advice/travelling tips whatever! I'm really sorry if this sounds like a stealth boast, it isn't intended and I don't mean to come across as a spoilt brat - I know it sounds a bit like it - "oh poor me having to go on an amazing holiday blah blah!"

Thanks in advance (I'm a bit scared in case you can't tell!)

widdle Thu 07-May-15 17:01:02

We have a 2 year old and DH is from NZ. We've already decided that we won't be going to NZ until he at least 5 for all of the reasons that you have listed!!

We have done long haul flights with him (we don't live in the UK and it is a 12 hour flight home from where we live) and he actually coped really well - much better than on some 2 hour flights that we have taken him on - but it is a case of pot luck!

It's very easy for someone to say "oh just go, you'll have a great time" but I think that's quite naive. The other problem is jet lag which will bugger up the kids sleep even more.

It doesn't sound as though this is the right time for this trip (especially if you will be disappointing MIL who you have already invited for Christmas). It doesn't have to be a complete no in the future though. There is always school holidays - and yes it will be winter in NZ then but the weather should still be OKish.

Given the cost, the worries you already have and the fact that you will be changing plans you have already made I would say no (sorry).

NZ is an amazing place though - just a long long way away!

Leeds2 Thu 07-May-15 17:02:21

My only experience is of flying to Sydney with 14 month DD (and OH). We had a one night stop over in Hong Kong to break the journey. Also flew business class, so had a bit more room.

The journey was hard, but doable although DD was walking around a lot so one of us always had to watch her! One of the things we found hardest when we got there was jet lag - DD didn't of course understand this so slept for a lot of the day then she and I spent most of the early hours watching Wimbledon and playing whilst OH tried in vain to sleep (he was there with work).

In your case, I think I could do the flights, but wouldn't personally fancy being away from home for 6 weeks. That is probably just me though!

NotAllThisAgain Thu 07-May-15 17:23:40

I have a nearly 4 year old and nearly 2 year old and I couldn't do it! The thought of it makes me feels a but faint tbh. grin

Sorry that's probably not a lot of help. Good luck with whatever you decide.

Tournesol Thu 07-May-15 17:29:51

But it is 6 weeks so you'd have bags of time to adjust! All your concerns are valid but honestly once you have the flight out the way then you will have lots of time over there to really enjoy it! I say go and just don't sweat the small stuff.

My friend just did similar with her two who are 3 and 1 and she had a brilliant time.

mummytime Thu 07-May-15 17:29:58

I would do it!

But we did lots of long haul flying when my oldest were little, and they were fine (well except DD who used to have bad ear pain and was often air sick). They also liked being in the car, although were also often again car sick.

But it does have to be something you are both keen to do, and will both work at. You also need to realise how little "stuff" you really need.

I think you both need to discuss this in depth, and you need to make it clear to your DH how much effort it is going to involve.

Can you really both take that much time off from your jobs? Do you really need to keep the child care going while you are away?

ConfusedInBath Thu 07-May-15 17:31:12

With what you've written in your OP I'd say no, don't go yet.

Your dc would hate the flying, being restricted, the jet lag etc.

We went to Mauritius at Easter with our very well travelled, well behaved 8 year old and that was bad enough.

Wait till they're 5 and 7 maybe.

5Foot5 Thu 07-May-15 17:33:45

I think given the age they are it would be really, really hard.

When DD was 11 months I flew to Sydney with her single-handed and on the return journey there was me and DH. She behaved like an angel on both flights.

However, a year later when she was just under 2 we took a very short haul flight (1 hour) and she was a nightmare; a year later for a similar flight she was only slightly better.

In conclusion I think babies and flights are fine but toddlers and flights don't mix - sorry!

threegoingonthirty Thu 07-May-15 17:50:57

The idea of taking my 3 year old on a long haul flight gives me palpitations.....let alone all the other stuff. Good luck with your deliberations

oldbrownboot Thu 07-May-15 17:52:55

I have travelled a lot with my DS since he was (just) 2 - long haul, across timezones, long car/train/bus journies etc. Genuinely no real problems, but then there was only one of him. A lot of preparation (snacks, toys etc) and getting advice from others in similar situations (ex-pats) helped. Plus he had been a horrendous screamy baby so I was possibly quite relaxed about fussing etc. The time zone thing wasn't as bad as it sounds as you are also trying to adjust. airports were fine, but then we were often in countries where people loved to entertain a small child.

So I would say it IS possible, but it sounds like you have really genuine heartfelt concerns and therefore might not enjoy it (or the planning of it, which is part of the fun)? Also, smaller children are a bit indifferent to amazing sights so maybe might not get maximum benefit.

Is it impossible to wait until they are school age? I know the new rules about term time holidays are strict but I do know of people who have had long holidays (usually over Christmas but beyond as you are suggesting) involving visiting family who live a long way away. they got the permission of the school through careful planning and justification. I know that is probably a whole other thread but thought I would suggest that not doing it now doesn't have to mean not doing it ever?

Notso Thu 07-May-15 18:02:06

I wouldn't but I found taking my 4 to Spain for 2 weeks stressful.

purplemurple1 Thu 07-May-15 18:04:43

I have a 20month old and 4 month old and I would definatly do it, schedules and diet dont mater that much on holiday, you can get friends etc to go to second hand shops and pick up some 'new' toys for the kids to pay with when you are there. Really whats the worse that can happen, esecailly compared to the best that can happen.

Ive travelled on my own with my eldest at 6 weeks, 6 months and 1 yr, 24hrs each way, other than wishing I'd take a sling/carrier for the airport at 6 months (he wasn't stable to sit while I got bags, and pram), it was nice. He loved the plane, other travellers were lovely and let him read their magazines and play with their keys, play areas at airports are great and theres always new kids for them to play with. I was plesently suprised how polite the older kids are and how much they looked out for the little ones.

I had some long car journeys as part of the journey, at 6 weeks I had to stop as he was a very hungry baby but by 6 months/1 yr you can just chuck a snack/toy back to them, no harm will come to anyone if they cry a little.

I think the only worry thing for you is that you OH seems to think he can opt out of perenting in the diffcult times, that cant be an option for 6 weeks in a foreign country, I would want him to be able to at least deal with your easier kid consitently at bed times before you go so they are use to him putting them to bed.

oobedobe Thu 07-May-15 19:09:29

I would ask yourself - what do YOU want out of the holiday and if you will realistically get that and will it be worth the stress and hassle of managing the kids?

You say your friends have babies and you have fairly young kids, will there be a chance for you to catch up with your friends/go out/have fun or will everything be dictated by naps/babies/routines ie boring!

There will be fun stuff for the kids, but beaches etc can all be found a lot closer and cheaper. Little kids do not usually care about sight seeing and will complain a lot if they are too hot, too hungry, too tired. Eldest might complain about missing Christmas (not such a big deal over there).

It will be hard work, going away with little kids is nearly always hard work unless you are bringing help such as grandparents.

We are planning a similar trip but waiting until next year when my dc will be 8 and 4 1/2. Previously I have been when my eldest was 2 & then again at 3, but we were not travelling around much and mainly visiting family (who could help out and give me and DH a break).

However it could still be a fun, exciting trip and worth taking - but you have to be very prepared for it to not be at all relaxing!

vdbfamily Thu 07-May-15 19:18:38

We flew to NZ with a 1 and 3 year old. We flew direct with short stop at LAX for refuelling. It was okay and the kids just slept and ate when they needed too and we took turns to nap and wander up and down the aisle with them. It helped being met by friends the other end as we were then able to have a good sleep whilst the kids were cared for. The jetlag was far worse for us than them. There is alot of driving to get from town to town but we planned the drives at nap times so they slept for much of the drives. We would love to return to NZ...have recently been looking at prices but once the kids are at school and you have to go in school holidays it is just SOOOO expensive. If you want a decent length trip,do it now.

JassyRadlett Thu 07-May-15 19:27:29

We do the trip to Australia every year and it's absolutely doable. The last two years we've stopped for 12 hours in Singapore, got a room at the airport hotel (no need to clear immigration), had a swim, had a sleep, DS had a play and a run around, and it pretty much eliminated jetlag in DS and made the whole thing much better for all of us.

I'd go for it. I'd also dispute the idea that Christmas isn't such a big deal there! It's differebt, but still a massive deal for most families.

Gumps Thu 07-May-15 19:27:51

I'm totally green with envy. Lots of my bestie are in NZ and Oz and I would jump t the chance of a trip. Unfortunately due to the nature of DH's job he doesn't get a window of more than a week which just isn't long enough.
Mine are 7,6 and 3. I've done 9 hours with the older two on my own which was fine but def don't think I could do all 3 alone.
Looking at your list of things above one of the main things is where would you be staying? 6 weeks is a great amount of time as the kids will get over the jet lag so you will have some normality. However I would hate to be in someones house and worrying about my kids keeping their kids up.
Agree with the poster above that your DH needs to step up to the plate. My DH has a high powered/stressful job and on a day to day I manage the logistics of the kids. However when he is home he would do everything that I would do and on holiday he steps up even more. Thats not meant as a gloat but if you are just going to be doing all the same things that you do at home without any help then you might as well stay at home where it would be easier.
If it was me I would go in a heart beat but I know I would have the opportunity to make the most of it.
Good luck with your decision.

Iflyaway Thu 07-May-15 19:49:55

What are you running away from...?

I wouldn't do it. And going all over the world with kids expecting others with kids to take care of you....Hmm, I'd rather do a day out in the area..

muminhants Thu 07-May-15 19:58:55

I wouldn't do it. Kids of that age are awkward baggage AND they won't remember it, so what's the point?

I'd wait five years and then go.

ReluctantTraveller Thu 07-May-15 20:16:15

OK so I make that 9 definite no's, 6 yes's and a couple on the fence! I'm glad that I'm not being completely unreasonable in not leaping at the chance!

DP would definitely help out, its more that I would probably need to coordinate/remind (nag in his words!) what needs doing and when. He is much more relaxed about meal and sleep times but doesn't have to get up in the night so doesn't suffer the consequences.

He says that he will do a lot more and step up while we are away and this is one reason I would go - it would do him and the kids a lot of good. He does occasionally get up, if I'm ill or they both wake but generally they both still yell for me as they're not used to Daddy at night.

I don't think we'll be able to stay with friends, other than maybe one set with older kids - the others all have small places or small children! I would also be more relaxed I think. I think we'd be hoping to rent a big place over Christmas where a bunch of us could stay so we can put the kids to bed and enjoy. Otherwise I can see a lot of sitting in hotel rooms with kindles - well that's my idea of fun hmm

beastling Thu 07-May-15 20:31:47

We did a mammoth trek with DD when she was 15 mo. California, China, Malaysia, Thailand. Something like 10 flights in 6 weeks- 2 of them long long haul. She was really good, didn't seem bothered by the jet lag. We had to seriously manage expectations about what we would and wouldn't be able to do/see, and we spent 10 days in Thailand just chilling- we saw bugger all of thailand, as we reallllly needed to recharge our batteries. However, amazing memories, such as taking dd round the night markets in HK in a sling, walking her along the Great Wall and other amazing experiences. I would do it again in a heartbeat. In fact, has it not been for the fact we had a family event to get back for we probably would have gone for longer!

UpSeeDaisies Thu 07-May-15 20:34:03

I would absolutely go for it. And say that as someone that is not long back from a 6 week trip to NZ with a 2 and 4 yr old! We also took the chance before school holidays chain us forever!

The flights were long but fine. We took lots of things to play with (Lego sets are great but it's a nightmare hanging on to the bits) and we bought each a hudl from tesco and uploaded loads of their fave CBeebies shows (worth their weight in gold if you can afford it).

We took a cheap stroller for each and were totally relaxed about nap/bedtimes. 2 yr old still sleeps 2hrs at lunch at home, away he slept when he slept. They often went to bed with us, sometimes earlier, and caught up when they needed to. I was worried it would be a nightmare for all the reasons you listed but it was amazing.

Obviously we were restricted in some of the things we could do (parachuting was out) but the kids were fine with moving on every few days and didn't need many toys at all, they kept each other company a lot.

Jet lag going out was fine, we had good flights and stopped in Thailand for 3 days which helped. Coming back was hard but within 4/5 days they were back in a normal routine so even if you find it bad going out, they'll adapt quickly.

Happy to pm you more info if you want it. My main advice is to relax on the rules! They ate cereal many a night for dinner when they got fussy about different food and we were generally more relaxed on treats for an easy life! Also stay in motels on campsites if you can. Hotels were hard going when we did them as you're stuck with a room and maybe a pool. The campsite were awesome and totally geared up for kids with playgrounds etc. plus the added bonus that they make friends!

Good luck and go for it. You won't get another shot at a six week trip for a long time!!

UpSeeDaisies Thu 07-May-15 20:35:52

Oh and we took all the kit we needed in one large suitcase. We each had a rucksack for the flight and we also took Brittax car seats for travelling but also for the night flights as they are approved for travel and so the kids could sleep more comfortably in them (although we didn't bother for the older one coming home as he preferred the chairs - but then we were lucky to have fairly empty flights!)

ExitPursuedByABear Thu 07-May-15 20:37:33

Whatever you decide , remember you are doing this for you, not your children, who won't remember any of it.

<bitter>

UpSeeDaisies Thu 07-May-15 20:38:56

And one last thing (then I'll go), you can't underestimate the benefit the kids get from all that quality time with you both. We have so many precious memories that we will treasure forever, particularly for DH who often worked long and unsociable hours...

306235388 Thu 07-May-15 20:40:24

I would definitely do it. Ok it might be difficult at times but the rest of the experience would definitely be worth it.

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