The Paulsens head State-side – Part 1

Travelling internationally with an 18 month old and a 3.5 year old is tough. Even with two adults to take one each. It wasn’t, however, as bad as I had anticipated. Prior to departure, I was filled with dread and exhausted from packing up everything we own to move countries. I really thought that the kids, Monty in particular, were going to melt down and scream for the entire flight. Don’t get me wrong, there were tantrums, lots of warnings, coercion, negotiation, wrestling and struggling to keep them in their seats, in the line, not run away but it wasn’t relentless.

Here’s how the first one went…

Our first flight was a 3.5 hour flight from Melbourne, Australia to Auckland, New Zealand. We were dropped at the airport by our dear friend, May, and made sure we were at least 2.5 hours ahead of our departure time. It made me much more relaxed to know we had lots of time to check-in and get through security.

Eliot put some effort in to preparing Gracie for each of the steps in the process as she tends to do a lot better when she knows what is coming up and how long things were going to take. He would say things to her like, ‘OK, Gracie we are at step 2 of 5, in this step we have to put all our bags on the conveyor so that they will go on the plane with us and next we have to go through passport control where they will check our photos and make sure we are the right people that are getting on the plane. ‘ I’d highly recommend these kinds of discussions with a three-nager, it made her feel like she knew what was going on and like she was part of it all, not just being dragged along. It’s also a good idea to prep your own mindset. Don’t kid yourself that at any point are you going to be able to relax like you used to when you traveled prior to kids, however if the opportunity does arise, grab it with both hands.

We had a lot of stuff with us. Four large bags (around 20kg each), a stroller, two car seats and about 5 carry on bags (containing winter and summer clothing, a porta-cot, booster seat the dinner table etc). We were offered help to push one of our luggage trolleys and accepted gladly. One of the biggest hurdles we faced was getting our bags checked in and it was largely due to system malfunctions. It felt like it took an age to get them all in. To make it less stressful and chaotic, Eliot did the bag drop and I waited away from the check-in area with the kids. I’m sure you can reduce the amount of stuff you need, particularly if you’re only holidaying. Look to rent local car seats, portacots etc. We were provided a lot of assistance but it is still exhausting lugging everything around with you.

Everything else went relatively smoothly. We checked the stroller in at the gate and that allowed us to keep Monty contained and moving at a reasonable pace. This is another thing that I would recommend if you have two small kiddos with you. It has the added benefit of being able to carry some of your carry-on so you don’t have to. Most airlines will have it waiting for you when you deplane too.

During the flight Monty had a nap, Gracie watched TV and Eliot and I managed to get a drink each. Don’t be afraid the let the kids get out and walk around. The other passengers and staff generally don’t mind and it’s not like they can go far! Once we landed, we were the last ones off the plane to allow everyone else to get off first. The kids didn’t like hanging around to start with but we had them wave to everyone and say goodbye so it turned into a game.

On arrival in NZ, we collected all our bags, car seats etc and were fast tracked through customs (there are some advantages to traveling with small children) and grabbed a taxi to my cousin’s house in Auckland. We had looked in to car services but they were really expensive. Having the car seats with us was great for this process. The staff at the airport and the were cab driver were really accommodating.

Leg one done. Some tips:

  • Prep your kids and talk them through the process
  • Prep yourself, lower your expectations and take the rest when you can
  • Check the stroller at the gate
  • Accept all help and ask for it if it’s not offered.

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