Oh hello there my poor neglected blog, sorry, I've just been away for a bit. I did have good intentions to be updating you with all the details but with such a full on holiday I just had to live fully in the moment, only updating Instagram every now & then. But now I'm back [over horrendous jetlag] & can't wait to relive the amazing journey we had as a family, here on my blog, so its recorded for years to come. So lets fly!
But firstly some of the details of how we pulled the trip together so I remember & in case anyone is interested.
After consulting several travel agents & not having much luck finding decent priced fares for a family group of 16 [!!], my dad was tipped off by a friend who books his travel through eDreams. We checked it out & low & behold, things started moving quickly.
We did indeed get excellent [non-refundable] fare prices and so we booked half the family onto Qantas flying Adelaide - Melbourne - Dubai - London. Next, we booked my crew taking up the other half of the family plus my brother Michael, flying with Emirates; Adelaide - Dubai - London.
We did intend to fly the family in two halves just for security. Alot to deal with if the entire family was wiped out on one plane. Not at all nice to think about but sensible. Its also worth mentioning that through eDreams we weren't able to fly without another adult as the ratio for adults to children flying with Emirates was 1 adult : 2 children. Having 5 kids meant that we needed one of my brothers to come along on our plane. Thanks Mike!
All of our accommodation was booked through Booking [dot] com & on the whole we were very happy with our choices. We aim to put reviews on both Trip Advisor & Booking [dot] com over the next few weeks. When Jeff and I travelled to the US/Canada for our honeymoon many many years ago we tended to book in the big cities but then once off road, just found places to stay in small towns wherever we were ready to stop. This time however, with 5 small children & well, European WINTER, we couldn't take any risks. We pre-booked & paid for the lot before we left.
In a few places we were able to secure apartments that housed all of us, but there were also others where we booked two rooms & we split the family in half. For all properties, we located them on Google Maps & checked out the surrounding streets to make sure there were little supermarkets, close access to tube stations & not too far from the attractions we wanted to explore.
I'll record more detail about each place we went to in future posts. The good, the bad & the ugly!
Once we knew we had non-refundable fares booked several months before we were due to travel, I started writing lists [yes, love my lists] of all the things we were going to need to pack & also things to buy. Having almost a month away from home and in the winter calls for a fair amount of clothes and bulky ones at that. In addition, we were spending a week skiing so we also needed snow gear.
Jeff & I have our own ski gear but I needed to kit out the kids. With some research & clever shopping I saved us hundreds of dollars. I kept a watch on eBay & Gumtree and found gorgeous near new snow boots for both Georgia & Charlotte for $20 each. I bought all the girls ski jackets & ski pants from a snow clearance outlet in Adelaide. They have loads of ex-rental/ last season, new & second hand snow gear. I was able to buy excellent quality gear for about $100-130 per girl. I purchased Buddy's 2 piece suit new for $70 [end of season sale] online. I found two extremely helpful stores online that helped me so much over the phone sourcing gear & working out sizes & colours. They also helped significantly with postage or sent bulk lots for free. Those awesome ski/surf shops were SnowCentral in Queensland and Ski & Board in Victoria.
Its worth noting that you can't beat 2 piece suits for young children in the snow because A] easy access for when they need to go to the bathroom/need a nappy change & B] the jacket part can be used on its own for warmth & winter weather for the rest of the holiday when snow pants are not required. Our kids wore & needed to wear their jackets every single day of the holiday. And for European winters, you need proper warmth, it can be chilling to the bone kind of cold.
Ok, lots more things required for the snow than just jackets & pants! So all other bits I purchased online as we could afford from my two wonderful ski shop contacts. One week I bought Roxy goggles for the girls & cute boyish goggles for Buddy, as well as Goretex gloves for all the kids. We tossed up whether to buy non-Goretex but really making sure kids are warm & dry in the snow is premium. Cold, wet children can make or break a holiday for the whole family. So we decided the investment was worth it. And it proved to be the case.
Another week I invested in proper skiing socks for the whole family, neckwarmers & fleeces. All of which I got on sale at excellent prices. Ski gear is generally super expensive but of course I was buying here in Australia during surf season which worked in our favour. I found snow boots at KMart [of all places!] for the twins for $12 & I bought ex-rental snow boots for Buddy at the Adelaide outlet.
Instead of pyjamas for the kids for Easter, this year my mum bought all the grandchildren thermal tops & bottoms which was fabulous. Jeff & I bought our thermals from Target on sale. I've never used thermals when I've skiied in Australia but I am so glad I bought them for this trip!
About a month before we were to leave, ok so maybe about 2 months before.... I started laying out all the suitcases & backpacks & started working through my lists & packing the ski gear, winter woolies, jeans, boots & other clothes. About 6 months before we left, I had purchased a bunch of new leggins & long sleeve tops for the girls from Target on sale for $4 and $6 a piece so that I knew they had plenty of warm & clean gear to take away & that enabled me to get it packed early.
We decided Jeff and I would each take a huge suitcase, the kids would each take smaller carryon size suitcases & all of us would take a backpack. It was a huge lot of luggage. That of course multiplied while we were away. I'll have more to say on luggage in future posts.
We had a little early mini Christmas at home before we left & gave the kids a little parcel of goodies to take away with them which included a travel journal, activity book, pencil case filled, little travel pack with tissues, hand sanitiser, baby wipes, Blistex etc. My Aunty & cousin also made them the most gorgeous large pouches to contain all the stuff we gave them. I will share those soon.
Here's a little Flipagram of plane pics I took on the way.
Emirates were awesome. The childrens meals we pre-ordered were huge and provided a good mix of options for all the kids so they didn't starve. I thought the food for Jeff and I was also quite good. The movies were excellent & the kids loved having their own screens to play games & watch movies. The staff were very happy & helpful.
All that aside, flying about 12 hours with young children to Dubai, stopping for an hour or so & then flying another 6 hours or so to London, is hard, hard work. The kids were great, well behaved & tried their best to get comfortable to sleep but for the bigger girls, they found it hard to curl up & sleep. As for Jeff and I, well all adults know its very hard to get good quality sleep sleeping upright! So we were all fully exhausted by the time we landed. We also circled for a long time through bumpy clouds to wait to land in London, so that brought on air sickness for a few of the kids. Not very pleasant.
Nevertheless, we all arrived safely, ready to start our adventure....