To many parents the thought of travelling long distances with their children can be daunting. There is always THAT question that gets asked about two minutes from home, “Are we there yet?” or “how long till we get there?” Travelling by car has its challenges too – no matter how big the car is, the kids always seem to manage to annoy one another regardless. We have tried endless ways to position the children in the car for easier travel, but somehow, someone is always unhappy!!
We undertook a trip to South Africa to visit family we had not seen in a long time in 2007. This could have been very daunting considering we have four children – the oldest who was 13 at the time and the youngest who was just 16 months old. Travelling from New Zealand directly to SA was not an option – with a large family to transport we had to do the cheap around the world in 80 hours flight. This meant stopping off and spending long hours waiting in airports. We flew to Singapore (which at least has a beautiful airport with lots to do) and arrived at about 7pm in the evening. Already the children were feeling tired, but our next flight didn’t depart till 1 am. We toured the airport from one end to the other till our feet ached and looked at all the beautiful sights. At least the kids were excited and this was still an adventure.
By 1am things had deteriorated – we had a hyperactive toddler who was overtired and we had two children who lay down in the middle of the airport to sleep. When it came time to board the plane, we found that lack of sleep caused Z9 and E12 to both behave in a most suspicious manner that would have made any airport officials think we were a dubious family. Z9 was in a panic and kept muttering in her half sleep state something about numbers and money that made no sense and E12 was just as bad – he was convinced that his dad was going to be arrested for carrying a laptop onto the plane. This was all being juggled with a cranky teenager and a toddler who had to be carried. I flopped down into my seat on the plane, relieved to finally be able to sit down ( never mind that I had a toddler on me because he had no seat!!) The rest of the journey was uneventful as the kids slept most of the way.
Arriving in SA again was another story. We had forgotten what it was like – being sent all over the airport because their signage was poor and then eventually queuing with so many people because of the lack of customs officials. We submitted to an interrogation of why we were back in SA, what did we have in our bags ( which we didn’t want to be too specific about in case things were stolen – we hadn’t quite lost our South African paranoia) and why we had a child from another country (A2 – who was born in NZ). Finally we made our way through customs to Patrick – the African gentleman who was to drive us. He duly hugged us all and loaded us into the car. Thank heavens we did not have to drive immediately – I had forgotten how fast everyone drives and how dangerous the roads are there. I actually felt as though I needed something really strong to drink by the time we got there – which I did – a very large, strong coffee was all I needed. I felt exhausted as did hubby, but of course the kids had slept on the flight and were full of energy.
We did so much travelling while we were in SA – about 6000km by car. The children were wonderful and enjoyed every minute of reminiscing over old places, seeing new sights and experiencing things they might never again. Our favourite part of the trip was a camping trip to the Kruger National Park. The thought of driving around all day with a toddler confined to the car was a nightmare to me, but even A2 loved seeing all the animals as we travelled. He even discovered what binoculars were all about!
On our return to Singapore we managed to spend a day just lying on the beach at Sentosa Island and soaking up the sun. Yes, the kids kept falling asleep but we had a great day just relaxing and swimming. The trip was a great success and I would recommend that if the opportunity to take your children into other nations and cultures arises that you not worry about the nightmare of travelling but that you enjoy every minute of the experience with them.