Seeing as I’ve just launched my new migration website, Smart Steps to Australia, I’m reminiscing about the experience of moving to Australia from the UK. Can you believe we’ve lived here for almost two years already?!
At the time it all felt like a huge challenge. Taking three kids away from their grandparents. Saying goodbye to our parents and not knowing when we’d get to see them again. Selling the house we’d lived in for ten years. Leaving all of our friends behind. There were so many huge steps involved in making the move to Australia.
Not to mention enduring 24 hours of travel to get to the other side of the world…
Long haul travel with kids
Nothing quite prepared me for the stress involved in making that journey with three young kids (the boys were four and E was just turned two at the time). As the taxi dropped us off at the airport, it dawned on me that we had SO much luggage and not nearly enough hands. I think we had 13 pieces in total between us, including hand luggage and our buggy which we’d had to wrap up to put in the hold because the airline had told us only infants under two can take a buggy to the gate. (We later found out this was untrue as we met lots of other families with young kids on the flight who’d brought their buggy – but it didn’t really matter as we had so much other luggage that we didn’t have any hands spare to push a buggy anyway!)
Why did we take so much stuff with us?
There were lots of reasons we had so much stuff. We’d packed our shipping container about five weeks earlier, and we knew it would be at least two more months before it arrived with us in Australia so we needed quite a bit of stuff to keep us going in the meantime. This meant we needed to pack clothes for all weathers as September in the UK is pretty nippy compared with September in Aus (so shoes, jumpers, coats and socks + flip flops, swimming gear, t-shirts and shorts). When packing the container there were also things we knew we’d need when we landed in Australia, or which we felt were too valuable to send in the container, so we felt we had no choice but to take those things with us in our travel luggage.
It wasn’t actually until we came to pack it all up that we realised we had so much stuff. We were still well within the generous luggage allowance of 40kg per person that Singapore Airlines gives to new migrants on a PR visa (you need to remember to ask about this when booking to get it confirmed in advance), but being allowed to take that amount of stuff and physically being able to take it are two totally different things, as we found out!
When we arrived at Heathrow, the day was saved by the luggage porters. You can ring through to them and they come and put your luggage onto a trolley and push it to the check in desk for you, for a fee. Without them I have no idea what we’d have done as we physically didn’t have the ability to keep hold of three kids AND juggle that amount of luggage, and our taxi driver just dropped us and ran!
You may have read my tips for surviving long haul travel with young kids already. The journey itself was pretty exhausting as E decided to scream for most of the journey, she was sick a couple of times and she refused to wear her seatbelt even when we were landing (that was a lot of fun – NOT). The whole time we were in the air I was dreading getting off the plane in Brisbane. I was keeping everything crossed that they would also have luggage porters there too but I knew deep down that wasn’t going to happen as we were landing late at night.
I was right to dread it; when we landed, it was all pretty terrible. There were no porters, and we really struggled to find two trolleys. We had to try to balance as much luggage on two small trolleys as we possible could, and also pull along a case each as well as wearing backpacks as it wouldn’t all fit on the trolleys. All while trying to keep hold of three small people who had barely slept and were not in the best of moods. Thankfully the airport was quiet as it was night and Brisbane isn’t a big airport – plus by the time we’d finally collected all of our luggage off the carousel, everyone else had long gone so it was pretty much just us left.
We slowly made our way through the airport, stopping every few metres when we realised one of the kids had let go of their Trunki and left it behind. Then E started to cry and couldn’t walk anymore so we had to try to carry her, and her Trunki, while pushing the overflowing luggage trolleys, all while trying to keep the boys moving.
We were soaked with sweat, exhausted and I just wanted to get out of there. Eventually one of the airport immigration staff saw us and felt sorry for us so helped us push a trolley the last few metres til we got to the gate and met our friends and the driver of the extra-large taxi we’d booked (our friends didn’t have a big enough car to fit us all in, let alone for us and our luggage!) They’d both waited patiently for us for hours – they couldn’t believe how long it had taken us to get off the plane and make it to the arrivals area.
I remember sitting down while our friend bought us drinks and the taxi driver started to load the bags. I was ready to burst into tears – the day had been so emotional, plus I was beyond exhausted, my muscles ached from carrying way too much for too long and I was just so relieved to finally be here.
We made it though. And it all got better from there onwards.
There are plenty of lessons you can learn from my experience travelling long haul with young kids:
Don’t ever travel with that amount of stuff when you have young kids in tow.
My hubby would say never take Trunkis on planes as your kids get over the novelty quickly and you end up carrying them (I still kind of like them though!)
Make sure you double and treble check if you need to check your buggy in or not for kids over two. If you can keep hold of it and take it to the gate it makes life a lot easier (providing you have enough hands to push it).
If you’ve booked a taxi pick up, remind them that you will take a long time to get through the airport as you have young kids and luggage to juggle so there is no point them arriving too early for you.
Get a friend to meet you if you can so they can take over when you walk through the gate. Having someone buy the kids a snack and drink gave me a precious few minutes to get my breath back – it was priceless after 24 hours of travelling.
If you have a lot of luggage, consider sending some of it separately with a company like World Baggage. World Baggage can send your luggage door to door and deal with everything from a small bag or a large case right through to a full shipment, and it can go air freight, sea freight or via a courier service. This would have taken an immense amount of pressure off (we ended up paying for the porters at Heathrow, and paid extra for large taxis at both ends of the journey anyway so we could have easily redirected that money towards sending some unaccompanied baggage). How didn’t I know about this service when we moved as it could have taken so much stress out of the situation?!
Be kind to yourself and plan in a massage for a few days after landing to unwind. It will give you something to look forward to as you’re dragging small people and bags through the airport!!
Keep it easy when you travel with kids
Travelling long distances with multiple young kids is never going to be fun, but there are ways to make it a little bit easier. The good news is we never have to endure that sort of move ever again as our move to Australia was a one-way trip! Next time we fly it will just be a regular holiday, with a regular amount of luggage. I suspect hubby may have hidden the Trunkis permanently though after our last experience!
This post was written in collaboration with World Baggage. All words and opinions are my own.