Monday, 2 November 2015


It doesn’t require a miracle or magic… these tricks are simple and successful for keeping your sanity on your next family holiday. With Christmas just around the corner, I've decided to share my ultimate top ten tips for a stress-free family vacation.
Wish me luck!! 

It was only today that I flew solo with two kids under-five and a microwave (that’s a long story) from Sydney to Vanuatu. But, needless to say, here I am, just a few short hours later, alive, un-frazzled, (un-microwaved), writing my next feature piece, in peace. So, there’s something to be said for that yes? Yes… and still, no.  

While it may sound smug for me to say I made it un-frazzled, let me tell you, it has taken years of self inflicted torture, travelling the globe with my two toddlers in order to discover a few tricks of the trade that make the world of difference.

enjoying the moment with Francesca
It doesn’t have to be so stressful to embark on international travel with little ones, for this kind of trip, if you do it often and you know where you’re going. That’s all I’m going to say on that one, because I am sure I am being hated and judged by many right now for the fact that both of my muppets are asleep, exhausted, I have a gin and soda in hand and I can hear the waves crashing as I type this… and I literally only spent three hours in the air to travel direct from Sydney to the most exquisite island in the South Pacific.. Don’t hate me, just follow a few simple steps on your next holiday with the kids, and then you’ll be so glad you decided to do that family vacation!

But, yes, admittedly, no all trips are like this. Memories flash to that hiddeous once-and-never-again night flight to Bali with the kids when they decided to scream like chukky until half an hour before landing. Don’t think I haven’t been there.

My least favourite memory of travelling the globe with very small children is one that has traumatised me for life. I experienced something of a panic attack (for the first time in my life) while stuck in a window seat on a flight from London to L.A. with my 18 month old daughter on my lap and the plane was stuck on the tarmac for three hours before takeoff. Isabella decided to experience a bout of projectile vomiting. The hostesses were, shall we say, less than helpful, and my darling husband was blissfully unaware, busy sipping champagne in business class after he had accepted the last minute offer of an upgrade. I sat there, covered head to toe in vomit, unable to leave my seat or climb over the two passengers next to me, a child screaming and convulsing as if possessed on my lap. I actually considered pretending to be a security risk just so I could escape this scenario. And yet, two years later, I have since travelled a huge chunk of the world, with two kids in tow… and I’m still married! The moments, when they do go right, of seeing the beauty of the world, with your babies by your side, is indescribably beautiful. So, here are a few handy ways to make that happen.
enjoying the little things with Isabella

1.    See the world from a kid’s perspective
Instead of stressing the entire way from start to finish, because the kids are asking ridiculous questions, or are fascinated by an ant when you’re trying to get them into a taxi, think again about the entire purpose of a holiday. It is to slow down, to see things from a different perspective and to spend quality time together, which con often mean doing ridiculous things in your eyes, but to them, are amazing and full of discovery.

2.    Be relaxed about all items except the passports
I spent the first two years of travel filling my suitcases with nappies and wipes, bottles, sunblock, kid’s toys etc etc, until I finally realized that I wasn’t travelling to the moon. Even in the most incredibly remote tropical island third world destinations, I have always managed to find all of these items available in shops! Leave the bulk packing behind, travel lightly and just take your essentials. The rest you can collect along the way.

3.    Switch off
I love arriving in foreign accommodation options and seeing they choose not to provide a TV. Seriously, this makes me smile every time, because it takes the pressure off me to turn the darned thing off and force my kids to open their eyes to their surroundings and their family members standing right in front of them. The same goes for all the travel paraphernalia that you may be tempted to bring along. Leave the portable DVD player at home and bring some pencils and colouring in books instead if you really need to give them some distractions!

Look mum, i've stolen the import buggy!

4.    Choose your destination carefully
This applies to both the location and the accommodation. Hotel rooms are possibly the trickiest scenario with kids. Closed in spaces without outdoor escapes are hard. Kids sense a kind of cabin fever. It’s also wise to choose a villa without a pool attached, if you’ve got little ones that cant swim unattended. You wont be able to close your eyes for a moment. Get the garden villa and then hang by the main pool instead!
If you are going to do a trip to a destination that involves a sizeable flight, drive, train etc then I do suggest staggering the journey. Stop overs can be some of the most rewarding moments on the trip.

5.    Embrace your destination
Just because you’re a long way from home doesn’t mean you can’t explore all the local kid-friendly activities, cafes, parks and playgrounds. Think like a local and for that matter, ask the locals who have kids the same age where they would recommend you go. The best activities are usually the ones that suit your destination. Last week I had both my kids kayaking in Vanuatu one day and horse riding through a lagoon the next.

6.    The transit tricks
Just when you are most dreading the waits in airports and the hellish in between moments getting to and from your family paradise, think again. Many airports now fast track families with young kids. Some airlines now even have complimentary inflight nannies! The kids meals are really well thought out and so are the kid’s entertainment packs. And, did you know that almost all airlines carry spare nappies, milk and other bits and pieces for those unfortunate inflight dilemmas where parents get caught out unprepared.

7.    Always carry an umbrella
At least Dad loved the adventure!
An umbrella pram, that is! They’re the ones that cost about $30 from kmart and fold up totally flat, like an umbrella. These are the prams that can go anywhere, don’t have to be checked in as luggage and can even go right up to the gate of the plane with you, ready to be handed back to you the second you step off. Oh, and if you lose it, or break it, they’re super easy to replace!

8.    Escape the kids
Just because you’re on a family holiday doesn’t mean you can’t steal some moments to be grown ups, without the kids. It will make the world of difference. It doesn’t matter how young they are, your marriage is important, and a couple of hours of hiring the hotel babysitter is going to give you all the more sanity to enjoy the rest of the trip. Some of the best babysitters I’ve ever had have been the ones provided by hotels around the world.

9.    Lead the way
It’s so easy for us big people to forget that our little ones are absorbing every tiny detail. If you get stressed, they get stressed. If you’re chilled out, even when the sh*t hits the fan, then they’re going to respond and handle challenges better too. Holidays, when families are suddenly in each others’ pockets for bigger periods of time, are major moments for kids to learn from our examples.

1.Leave the guilt at home
When the kids say they’re bored, or miss their mates, or hate the place they’re at, or you’re having a massage while hubby feeds them lunch… these are the moments when your internal voice needs to toughen up. A family holiday is not the worst thing in the world you can be doing to your kids. A short break away to an amazing new place is incredibly good for them, no matter how much they whinge. For them to see you looking after yourself in these moments is also equally as important. They can’t respect someone who doesn’t respect themself. Keep the perspective healthy and leave your self-doubt at the door, along with your sarong, as you climb up onto that massage table. You deserve it!

A glass of wine always helps!
Ps, The microwave survived the journey to our little family holiday house, after Tropical Cyclone Pam destroyed so much, white goods are impossible to get over there in Vanuatu! I did secretly pack it into the kid’s travel pram bag. Those things are amazing! Sssshhhhh!!!


Wednesday, 10 December 2014

So, you're travelling... with kids... at Christmas... OH DEAR.

You're smiling... for now
Climbing the walls
  Every year we do it to ourselves! We make that decision to either stay at home and face the onslaught of relatives and inevitable family disasters, laced with a demolished house, the clean up that goes with hosting a Christmas feast and the inevitable declaration to our better halves at the end of the day (if you're still on speaking terms) that you're NEVER going to do that again!!!

Or, you fool yourself into thinking a little trip away with the kids, to escape the rush and chaos of Christmas at home might be the better way to go. You're wrong!!!!!

But, if you're going to do it anyway, then you're going to need some help. So, here it is.
Use Santa as your trump card!

Happy family flight... or is it?

Car trips are so much fun... NOT
This is the sentence that will bring you much joy. It's more effective than a lollipop. Than a gobstopper. Than actually pushing them out the window of the plane itself. Use it wisely and sparingly. Keep it secret. Keep it safe.


A messy crash waiting to happen
Did we really need all this?
In a nutshell, avoid them at all costs. If there's no alternative, and you're keen on a divorce, then I suggest packing plenty of visual tools - iPads (with headphones), toys they've never seen and for god's sake, keep all snacks and toys to a "non mess" standard. There's no faster way to crash your car than by the distraction of a spilled yoghurt or dropped bottle of juice all down the back of your neck.

Find a new kitchen sink!

That's right, a lighter pack is a happier pack. You may think you neeeeeeed the prams, the bikes, the extra outfit options for each child in case of every weather scenario, the bath toys, the sand castle building implements... but you don't. And neither does your back or your sanity.  When kids are in a foreign environment, the last thing they want is their "old" toys. They are happier (and healthier) being introduced to the joys of completely new surrounds and all the adventures that can go with it. We all know most of it never makes it home with us anyway!
Oh, a conversation... about television


We often feel like the kids call the shots. We get to that breaking point where we believe it's just easier to let them have whatever they (think) they want rather than argue and start world war three. So, what's the answer... don't even have the option. When you're away from home, you have the perfect excuse and they can't argue with you... "we didn't bring the xbox". "This villa doesn't have Foxtel".  "There's no wifi in paradise". Go outside and play!!!


We all think we know our kids. But think back to when you used to HATE seafood... (hopefully, you've grown out of that one). Holidays away are the perfect chance to see where your ever-evolving kids' tastebuds are at. Don't be shy. It's not just stuff they've never tried before, it's stuff that's simply cooked differently than at home. Perhaps leave the ingredient details out of the conversation until they've finished.

busted kissing!!

You've worked so hard, you and your partner, to get to this stage. If you're on a holiday, with your kids at Christmas time, then that's all that needs to be said. You deserve a break!! Book ahead and line up one night, that's the bare minimum, just one night, with a local, highly recommended babysitter that you're comfortable with, and take some time alone, without the kids. It will be the difference between a trip from hell and a trip from purgatory. Chances are, if the kids do even notice that you've gone, they're going to appreciate you more for having some self respect. My small tip, if they're not already asleep when you leave, make sure you sit them down and give them a really adult explanation of what's happening. Mum and Dad are going out for dinner. Our friend "Flossy" is going to be here to hang out. We have our phone. We love you. We will be home soon.
Be a big kid!
Stop and smell the sea water


The whole point of going to all this effort is to spend some quality time together as a family. Let's face it, chances are some sort of drama or disappointment has already gone down, either with missed flights, sick kids, under-parr accommodation, stolen wallet, torrential rain, missing cat, flat tyre, etc etc... so why not use this opportunity to stop caring about all the logistics, all the usual cares of your world and just sit for a bit, with your kids. Do NOTHING. Breathe. Watch the clouds. Pick flowers. Build sand castles. Write a letter to Santa. Whatever it is, just reconnect with your kids. It's the "Holiday Mum and Dad" that they will remember for the rest of their lives - and quite probably describe you as at their wedding... so make it good.

Too young to care
Or your family photos will look like this

Put the camera away. Remember the moments. Stop tidying up. Eat chocolates. Let the kids stay up late and look for shooting stars. Build a bonfire (except on extreme fire danger days). Turn off your phone. Sleep in. Let the kids sleep in bed with you. Play loud music. Dance like a parent. Tell Dad jokes. Be sprung kissing in front of the kids. Play in the rain. Be a kid again, with your kids... show them how its done... and let them show you how it's done again!!!
Sleep ins are the BEST!
Touch the sky butterfly!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014


A few weeks ago my husband and I took our first official international trip away together… without our two small kids.

Look kids, two hands!
I feel the need to write that final line once again… without our kids… because of the weight that it carries, or rather, doesn’t carry. Do you know what I’m talking about? The lightness of travelling without prams, nappy bags, toys, bottles, and so on and on and on. And then there’s the screaming… well, the only screams were mine, screams of joy, as I sipped champagne at the airport, with two hands, all to myself!!!

We drifted through the flight, read books, watched movies, napped, even… had. a. conversation. Insane!!!
We swam, we lazed, we loved every moment!

Then there was the destination itself. We slept till we woke naturally. We wore white clothes without the need for several changes throughout the day from food, poo, vomit, dirt and other unidentified substances.

We drank cocktails. We had lazy long lunches. We spoke with other human beings for more than ten seconds without interruption.

This is me in paradise (Vanuatu) still using my two hands
And we missed our monsters like crazy. It was the longest four days of my life. I cried when we called them. I thought of them constantly. My heart ached for them. We searched for awesome little presents for them all day long. We practically bolted through the airport upon arrival home to throw ourselves back into their arms.

That was the trip without kids.

And then, last week, I foolishly attempted a trip of a different kind – with an outcome I could NEVER have expected.

Hubby was in Germany for work. I decided to seize the opportunity to visit my gorgeous Mum, who happens to live on the NSW Mid North Coast in a seaside sleepy sunny village called Sawtell. It also happens to be a seven hour drive from Sydney. When you consider I did this drive as a solo adult, with a one year old, a three year old and our two dogs, it was more like taking seven years off my life.

I was also attempting a detox. No alcohol, caffeine, carbs, sugar, dairy… or anything delicious or calming for the nervous system. I had a grilled chicken salad at McDonalds. It was HELL!!!!!!!!!!

All calm at the beach with Granny
When we drove into the driveway at my folks, the first thing they said was “darling, have a glass of wine” and the second thing they said was “there’s no way you’re driving back.”

The week was beautiful. Sunshine, swims, reading books, making sand castles, listening to old tunes, mum’s cooking, walks on the beach, day trips to the Butterfly House and nearby rivers in lush rainforests.

Grandma with Frenchie at the Pet Porpoise Pool
And then there were my kids. My youngest may have been teething, out of her routine, frustrated at not being able to do as much as her sister, going through a clingy faze, a tad snotty, missing her Dad, having a growth spurt, constipated, or all of the above, but for whatever reason, she was hell on wheels!!! Screamed, wanted to be held, constantly, screamed some more, cried, whinged, a tornado of destruction. She broke me.

This was hands down one of the hardest weeks of my parenting existence… and my life to date. I was in tears daily. I took long walks on the beach simply to calm down and learn to breathe again. I was a bundle of anxiety and stress on what should have been a really enjoyable, calm and grounding week.

And it was on this trip that I told my husband via skype in Germany that my previous desire to one day down the track expand our family to three kids, was now 100 per cent out the window. Along with my alcohol free diet.

This was actually a big decision for me. It wasn’t about my longing for another beautiful little cherub of a baby. Of course I would love that. There’s nothing better. But this was about my belief in myself as to whether or not I would be capable of being a good parent to another little cherub of a baby. And the outcome, from deep in my heart was no. I was done. Spent. Capput.

And so, as we boarded that plane to come home, with my step dad driving our car and the dogs the seven hour journey back to Sydney for me (world’s greatest man!!!) I thanked the gods for my two magnificent children (who only screamed for the entire duration of the one hour flight home) and I thanked the gods for the journey that helped me reach such an important conclusion.

We never know what the outcomes will be from our travels. We often have such expectations, or fantasies about our trips away, with or without our kids. But they are so rarely met. The one thing I do know is, I never lose appreciation for home and for that feeling of unity when we walk back in the door, safe, healthy, together, wiser and grateful.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

BALI BELLY...LAUGHS!!! How to survive the island paradise with kids.

Family holiday in Bali... we survived!
We took a trip to Bali a couple of weeks ago. Score fifty points! We took the kids. Minus ten points. We chose to stay at three different locations during our two week trip. Gain ten points and lose five. We also attempted a day of shopping in Seminyak with the kids. Deduct fifteen points. But we made up for it by booking sitters so we could escape for a few amazing romantic nights out on the town! Bonus thirty points! Overall, it was a win win experience, and i've got a stack of tips for you if you're headed to Bali with the gidgets any time soon. Here they are!

We flew Sydney to Denpasar on Garuda. The airline was shocking, but not the worst I've seen. And we flew overnight, landing around midnight. Our three year old had a nice little dose of phernergen and slept like an angel!! Our 14 month old chose to have the biggest spack-attack i've ever seen from her and then slept for the final hour of the flight. Go figure.

Half an hour before landing
The must-do tip for the actual travel side of the journey was that we pre-booked an express customs chauffeur for about $30AU per person, which meant that we could bypass all customs and immigration queues, all visa lines, and are personally escorted past the other hundreds of bedraggled passengers with kids screaming with fatigue all waiting in line, straight to our car and driver ready to deliver us direct to our hotel.

The only downside was that our pram (the $25 target umbrella pram special!) was the last item to come out through the compulsory oversized baggage area - so almost everyone in those long lines at customs eventually overtook us anyway!!

Parents-escape dinner in Seminyak!
We stayed in the heart of trendy Seminyak at the U Paasha hotel - which had THE BEST breakfasts and the most incredible rooftop pool!!! The rooms were fantastic and the hotel was right in the best position on Jalan Laksmana (the main shopping street) only a few doors down from Seminyak Square and only a short cab ride to some of the most incredible restaurants in Bali.

They also offered a babysitting service if you book more than 24 hours in advance. And these girls were sensational! In fact, Balinese women generally are!

We also took a boat trip to an island called Nusa Lembongan (where we got married four years ago) and spoiled ourselves in true Bali island style with a private villa with our own pool a house-girl, babysitters, gardeners, and even masseuses that only charge $13 an hour. This was the most extraordinary experience. If you are looking for a very special treat, then this is the way to go.

The best part was that we were just a short beach stroll away from an amazing beach club called Sandy Bay Beach Club that was super kid-friendly and served the most delicious fresh juices and homemade gelato of all time!

Meep Meep!!
Some people may find this next bit a little controversial - but we also hired a motorbike while we were there on this island (with practically no cars or real roads). People move around this island either on foot, on motorbike, or on golf cart. Its slow. Just the way we like it.
So, with both our daughters between us (Frenchie strapped onto me in a baby bjorn) we putted off on little adventures around the island. Issy was so comfortable on the bike she actually fell asleep on one ride! Frenchie spent the rest of the Bali holiday pointing at every vespa she saw and screaming until I let her sit on them all, immediately pacifying her. There were many.
(*nb: For the record, there's no way I would do this back on mainland Bali, no matter how many local Indonesian twelve year old kids you see confidently riding motorbikes in and out of peak hour traffic through Kuta!)

We collected shells. We spent all day every day in the pool. We hung in hammocks. We had afternoon siestas. We picked flowers. We stood still. We had quality family time.

Back on the mainland we headed up to the famous cliff / surf spot of Uluwatu where we stayed for three nights and hung out at various kid friendly beach clubs and hidden surf locations that only the locals will tell you about if they like you! I got in good with my morning yoga instructor and she spilled the beans on all the amazing little gems in the area!
Blue Point Beach

Either way, you need to check out the incredible cliff-side cafe and surf shack area of Blue Point Beach. Make sure you go Allll the way down the stairs to the cave at the beach. You won't regret it, even when carrying a toddler in thirty five degree heat!!

And, for a day of really cool relaxation, the kids will be stoked at the gondola ride down the cliff face to Finns Beach Club at the Semaya Resort.
Finns Beach Club
It's a little hair raising, but so worth the ride!! And for a special dinner or two, you need to book a cliff-side table at the Alila Resort (it's the one in all the magazines!) and at the Karma Kandara Restaurant. The views are the ocean equivalent of "The Wall" - and yes, you will feel like John Snow when you stand on the edge.
Karma Kandara

And then finally, to cap off the trip back in Seminyak, Steven and I discovered some really exceptional spots for dinners once the girls were down. Methis was phenomenal. Potato Head was mind blowing.
Potato Head
And Sarong has the best crispy fish in the world. The Rock Bar at the Ayana Resort is out of this world. But the list was endless. I spent the entire trip imagining ways we could live in Bali, like expat kings, being warm, creative and free.
Living the dream
And while I will continue to quietly plot this fantasy in my mind from our wintry cold reality back in Sydney (it's winter here in July for my international readers needing a reminder) I take comfort in the knowledge that we went, we saw, we conquered... and we will go again, as soon as we humanly can!! You should go too.

Terima Kasih
(Thank you)

And my other favourite phrase..."Berapa harganya?"... "how much is this?". It's only a problem when they answer you back in Indonesian.

Let me know if you need any extra tips!!

Monday, 12 May 2014


I heard a horrifying story in the news this week – one that will make your toes curl up – and at the same time, might make you feel better about any trips you are planning to take with your little ones any time soon.
Emergency crews on the ready for the sixty sick kids!
An emirates flight bound for London from Dubai was loaded with SIXTY children travelling as part of a children’s choir. That’s horrifying in itself. But it’s the fact they all contracted severe food poisoning during the long haul flight that will make you gasp.
All but a five of the sixty children came down with sudden vomiting and diarrhoea during the flight with flight attendants rushing to provide sick bags in time and the children forced to line up to share the limited toilet facilities.
Thank goodness the children have all made a full recovery now – but my thoughts remain with the fellow passengers who must still be suffering trauma beyond belief!

In other news, something that will put you at ease for where our airlines are headed – namely in favour of travelling families, Etihad airlines have recently launched their new “FLYING NANNIES” program with over 500 flight staff across the international airlines’ services now entirely dedicated to helping out with travelling kids in the skies. Trained in child psychology and masters of the art of distraction, these fluorescent clad airlines staff spend the duration of the flight entertaining and caring for small children, regardless of what class they are travelling in.
Etihad's super nannies! I want to fly Etihad next time!

Now that’s a smart idea!!

And in another sign of the times, this one’s so futuristic it might just be our grandchildren who will benefit from it but a 3D designer has created an invention that will mean we no longer have to travel with luggage. That’s right! No suitcases, no overweight charges, no stress with juggling bags and kids, no problem if you’ve forgotten anything… all you do is 3D print your travel items when you get to your destination!! Everything from bags to sunglasses, dresses and shoes!
As I said, maybe not quite one that will be available for us just yet, and no mention of nappies being printed in 3D – but hope for us all, nonetheless.
Where do i find 3D Nappies?

And, here’s a winning top tip of the week for travelling with little ones, courtesy of my pregnant friend Jo who flew as a solo adult from Sydney to London with her three year old son. She was particularly pleased to find one advantage of flying with kids (in amongst so, so many obvious disadvantages!). She said she never had to wait to use the toilet, with all passengers insisting she jump the qeue with her little one… a rare treat when we know the frustration of having to stand in line for what can sometimes seem an age and your bladder is close to bursting!!
I am yet to clarify whether or not she trained her son up to say the words “Mummy, I really need to poo” whilst waiting in said qeue, but either way, I’m impressed!!!
Have a lovely, poop-free week my friends, wherever in the world you find yourself.