Then there’s the jetlag.

Jetlag, welcome, old friend. Jetlag sucks. Your body is somewhere in the middle of somewhere else and you just want to do what you need to do. But you can’t because right when you’d happily sit up chatting with others your body is telling you it needs to sleep.

jetlag eye mask

Jetlag. It’s unavoidable, if someone has a miracle cure which works for me then please tell me it. So we’re seven hours ahead of the UK. I’m also a bad sleeper. I picked up some Boots Herbal Sleeping tablets in the hope it might help and I think it has a bit – it gets me to sleep, but doesn’t keep me asleep.

So the times of your flights come into it as well. Usually when we fly to Australia I’ll book tickets for the evening, which means we arrive very early morning in Australia (like 2am) or late in the evening (10pm). Neither really works as I can’t sleep at that point – it’s still only early evening in my body.

Add a seven year old into that mix and it’s fun… no, not really.

This time we flew at 9am in the morning, doing the longest leg from around 1pm to 10pm. So by the time we had landed in Singapore H hadn’t slept, none of us had. She was shattered but had watched several movies in the process.

Fortunately in Singapore there are plenty of seats you can crash out in near your connecting departure gate, so we did just that. Even an hour’s sleep can help.

By the time we boarded our flight to Australia it was 9am in Singapore, but midnight our time. So now the trick is to sleep but not for long as by the time you end up in Perth (same timezone as Singapore) it’s going to be 2pm. You don’t really want to be sleeping in the afternoon, it’ll mess up your sleeping pattern. Quick naps should be okay though…

Apart from if your child is sick, then you’re a walking zombiefield traveller. Jetlag was rubbing its hands with glee by then.

Getting out of Perth Airport at 2pm in the afternoon took us 20 minutes. It was so fast! Probably helped by the fact Shaun and H have Australian passports.

When we got to Toodyay H crashed – no food, just sleep. It had been a hard, long journey. But she slept, and hasn’t woken in the night since (three nights in, so far so good). I think she might have adjusted. Doing the daytime flight seems to be a better option than the others.

When they introduce non-stop flights to Perth later this year I’m definitely considering it. A daytime flight with no stops… could be one of the best flights we have!

As for Shaun and I, we keep waking up, but now on Sunday we slept through from 10pm to 7am which is a better sleep than I’d get a home. The Boots herbal sleeping tablets are working, getting me properly off to sleep. I’m getting more Vitamin D out here which might be helping my dodgy sleep patterns too.

While I don’t think the jetlag has completely gone, it is definitely the best it has ever been travelling here. We’re only seven hours ahead (rather than Sydney or Melbourne who are 11 hours), but it’s still enough it takes some adjustment.

Purple Parking Meet and Greet

Looking for a parking solution when you’re travelling away for your holidays? We got to try the Purple Parking Meet and Greet service recently, read on to find out what we think!

Purple Parking logo

Purple Parking Meet and Greet services are a new twist on their regular parking options – rather than parking away from the airport, dragging your cases to a shuttle bus (and remembering where you’ve parked) and getting to the airport, you can now park within the airport and go.

We had a few options to get to Heathrow (bus, car, taxi), however, I hurt my back six weeks before we went, so dragging a case anywhere wasn’t an option – I had almost 24 hours of flying to do and the slightest twinge could make the experience uncomfortable.

For Purple Parking Meet and Greet you turn up at your Terminal, leave your locked car there, hand over the keys  to the Chauffeur at the Purple Parking stand, and head off for your holiday. We were offered a full wash and valet for £18 on dropping the car off which we declined – mainly as Shaun had given the car a thorough clean inside once we’d heard the word ‘Chauffeur’ being mentioned!

Purple Parking Meet and Greet

It really is as simple as that – and the convenience was something which appeals a lot to me. I was able to get a trolley for our cases, Shaun got them from the car and loaded them up, we handed over our keys and got a booking slip (keep it safe as you need to show it when you return to get your car back!) then all we had to do was make our way to departures to continue our travels.

On our return I spotted our car immediately. We headed back to the same area of the Terminal 3 car park and were dealt with quickly and efficiently. The parking ticket in the car park is validated by Purple Parking so you don’t pay to leave the airport.

I would say we spent no more than ten minutes at the Purple Parking Meet and Greet area – it was extremely efficient and is something I will definitely use again. It’s the ideal service if you want someone else to park your car and bring it back. Given I’m the kind of person who often forgets to write down where we’re parked (I’m thinking Stansted 2004 when we spent two hours wandering around the car park trying to find our car at 11pm), I highly recommend Purple Parking Meet and Greet and we’ll definitely be using it again! I would also say it is a service to consider when you’re travelling with children – the ease of transfer from car to airport takes away a hugely stressful part of the journey.

We were given free parking with Purple Parking Meet and Greet at Heathrow for three weeks for the purpose of review. All opinions are our own.

SQ321 to SQ215

If, like us you’ve booked flights to Perth from Heathrow, and you’ve used Singapore Airlines, then it’s possible you’ve gone for SQ321 to SQ215.

SQ321 to SQ215 has 50 minutes between flights. The Changi Airport website says to allow an hour between flights – so you can understand why we’d feel a bit nervous. I’ve missed a connection once before and it’s when you arrive at your destination and the unknown which makes it stressful – that and knowing you’re running late.

Our incoming SQ321 flight was running 20 minutes late – so I’d calculated less than half an hour to get to our second plane. I knew it was do-able but with a well-behaved four year old? Who could say.

As it was, we got to the gate and disembarked – and we started to run like crazy, to find our connecting plane was the one next to us! We did it – we changed from SQ321 to SQ215 in ten minutes! Amazing – the gate was easy to get through and all the x-raying was straightforward. The relief? We couldn’t believe it.

In fact our Perth-bound flight was slightly delayed for the baggage change and left 20 minutes late, but still landed in Perth at the correct time.

So if you happen to find this and find yourself on these flights, if you’re running a bit late you’ll be fine. I’m not sure about when you’re an hour late, but SQ215 might still wait. Don’t quote me on this.

We were on foot in Singapore for five minutes, so you get the idea!

Oh the relief! Fortunately on the way back we have three hours between flights, so things will be much simpler.

Our review of Singapore Airlines will appear on my Airline Hell blog once we return.

The Last Minute Holidaymaker

Or what not to forget when you’re going away. Here’s some top tips:

1. If, like us, you’re going to Australia you can get your vistors visa for FREE now. You used to have to pay. Mine came through 30 minutes after applying from here. Don’t fall for the trap of paying for one when they cost nothing. Places like STA Travel charge you £20!

2. We collected two Travelex Prepay visa cards today from the branch near Shaun’s work. This will make things much easier. We can also change our PIN numbers at any Visa ATM which is handy as I don’t want to remember something new this late in the day.

3. We also realised our Nationwide Flex Account could be upgraded to a Flex Account Plus which gives us Worldwide Holiday Insurance as well as free ATM withdrawals throughout the world. We don’t have our new cards just yet so Travelex will cover things if our cards stop working while we’re away and the new ones haven’t arrived. The Flex Account Plus costs £10 a month, but also includes things like Breakdown Cover and phone insurance which we can amend our existing policies to reduce costs. Not allowing enough time for your new cards to arrive MAY be a problem….

4. Online check-in. Up to 48 hours before our flight we can check-in online. This is a big bonus – we’ve confirmed ourselves and chosen our seats, as closely as possible to the exits (thanks to our 50 minute stop in Singapore), meals are ordered so we just have check-in left. Some flights we’ve taken don’t offer it.

Purple Parking logo

5. Purple Parking. We’re lucky enough to be reviewing Purple Parking’s Meet and Greet service, so will report back once we’re home. I like that we can drop the car at the terminal, and that it is there to be picked up when we return – it feels nice and simple with no shuttle buses involved.

6. Keeping H entertained. We’ve put party bag sticker books into her YUUbag so we’re ready – this is the one thing we’ve been really organised with.

7. Overseas phone tariffs. Our networks suck! I’m with EE and Shaun is with Vodafone and both have rubbish tariffs in Australia. Only 3 seem to be any good, where you can use your own allowance overseas. I’m considering unlocking my phone and buying a SIM while I’m out there as it will be less hassle. 100MB of data for 7 days for £20. I think I’ll be looking for free Wifi! (or 500MB for 7 days for £40 – shocking).

8. Wifi on the plane. Of course I’m going to try it – if it doesn’t cost much. Also, we can connect our iPods/iPads to our in-flight entertainment system – that might be essential for H!

9.  Top tip from my friend Louise – if for some reason one of our suitcases should go astray, we should pack a few of each others clothes in each case. This would never have occurred to me had she not said – makes perfect sense anyway!

10. Make sure your suitcases still close….!

Our Top Travel Budgeting Tips

Caxton FX are asking for Parent Bloggers top budgeting tips when travelling, and given we’re about to have a huge journey across the other side of the world soon (and have done it before with H) I think we may have a few – so here goes…

1. Book a hotel if you’re travelling in wintertime and snow is forecast. When we went to Australia in 2010, South London saw a huge amount of snow – our train to Gatwick was delayed and ultimately the flight took off without us. We missed check-in and even though we got to Gatwick eventually, we were too late – even though our plane was delayed. It was an evening flight (8pm) and had I booked a day room in a hotel and headed up there earlier in the morning we would have been fine. Worth bearing in mind if you’re flying long-haul and bad weather is forecast. We couldn’t get a hotel room once we were there, or get a cab home so fortunately stayed with friends for two days until flights resumed.

2. Take the bus if you can! We live in Carshalton where the X26 bus stops – going from Croydon to Heathrow in an hour and a half. Sure, you have to lug your cases to the bus stop and from there, but when your travel costs can be paid on your Oyster cards (as London buses no longer accept cash), it’s a very cheap option. The X26 runs every 30 minutes as well and covers all the terminals. The downside, you’re on the bus with lots of suitcases and bags.

3. Freecycle is good for buggies or strollers. We didn’t want to take our Maclaren with us in case it got damaged, as we knew it would be kept in the hold. We were able to get a stroller (minus a footrest) so it didn’t matter if it broke in transit – most Airports provide strollers for little legs that can’t keep up. It didn’t break in transit anyway, so it meant we had a buggy with us the whole time.

free stroller dubai

4. Try to book things in advance. This time in Australia we’re planning on a trip to Sydney. If we book flights enough in advance from Perth we should get a good deal. This means we need to be organised and know what we’re doing, which of course is another matter altogether..!

5. Car Seats. Check the law in the country you’re travelling to. Most UK car seats are no longer legal in Australia, so see if you can rent a car seat when you arrive. This law can vary from country to country, but don’t get caught out!

6. When you have a mother in law who is crafty and pays for everything when you’re not looking, you try to find ways to spend your money. Get a prepaid Currency Card and load it up with cash, and distract her at the appropriate moment… 😉

7. Check the exchange rate when you’re buying in-store – I’ve been caught out before now and bought them overseas, to find that they’re cheaper in the UK. Download a good currency converter for your phone so you can check what you’re spending on the go – I spent £35 in Pumpkin Patch on a bag, for it to go on sale in the UK for £20. (sob!) If you’re anything like me, keeping on top of exchange rate calculation is quite a task – so find a reliable app. Mainly for the point when your husband says “can’t you work it out?” as he’s had enough of being asked!

8. Overseas phone tariffs. This is a tricky one. Often we just change networks and know we’ll be charged, relying instead on Wifi connections for our iPods. We’ve then had £80 phone bills for calls and texts, so make sure you overestimate what you’re going to use when you’re there. BUT! Even if you buy for overseas, don’t get caught out like we did – one call from Singapore cost us a lot as we’d only planned for Australia. Overestimate your data usage too so you don’t get hit with hefty fines. Shaun gets charged £5 for each chunk of data he goes over in the UK, so imagine that overseas – ouch!

9. Take an address book. Pen and paper rarely fail you, unlike a digital gadget which could get damaged in transit, or just wiped! Needing contact information from people you’re visiting, and having to wait for them to reply could be the difference between a cheap flight and a much more expensive one! Make a note of email addresses and mobile phone numbers too.

10. When booking your flights, find a site which will search across a range of dates. We found a site which gave us the best prices on the dates we want to fly, saving us a lot of money – £500 in fact.

This is our entry for the CaxtonFX giveaway to win a prepaid Currency Card

YUUtuu Can Make A Spluush!

We were given an opportunity to review a YUUtuu bag – a brand we’d heard of as we saw the episode of Dragon’s Den and were Googling them as they did their presentation – we were impressed then, and we are now.

YUUtuu Spluush Bag

YUUtuu bags are designed for little ones – and with our big trip to Australia coming up it was something I really wanted to try – now H is almost five she’s carrying her own things in her own bag – water, games, snacks and important things like a case to put her glasses in if she takes them off. We were sent the YUUtuu Spluush in fuschia which H loved immediately. There’s pink and blue on the bag (her two favourite colours) and she loved it immediately.

The great thing about the YUUtuu bag is how much space and storage is inside. There are compartments and space for loads of things – we tried it out last weekend for our trip to Wimbledon and then the Carshalton Carnival with all H’s essentials for a day out. So how does it fare?

It’s a well padded backpack – think along the lines of a carrier with proper padding, designed for comfort. The bag is ergonomically designed to support growing spines – the moulded shell evenly distributes weight and H has found it very comfortable to wear. She also loves that there’s a whistle on the chest clip and loads of little extras which make the bag feel like it’s hers.

YUUtuu Splush out and about

Then there’s the space – there are many compartments within the bag, an inside pocket which was the right size for H’s water, and plenty of pockets with zips to put things like lipbalm which always gets lost in my bag. The YUUtuu bag also has a fold down desk which is handy if you’re like H and need to do a spot of playing or writing when the moment takes you.

The YUUtuu bag comes with a fun pack which includes colour pencils, an A5 pad, a magnetic snakes and ladders game, keyring, deskcard insert and a membership card for YUUclub.

We’ll be putting it to the test properly when we fly to Australia, I’m confident it’s going to be ideal for H and is cabin luggage compliant – plus you can fasten the bag to the back of a drivers seat which may come in handy if we have any long drives to Merredin (approx 4 hours… each way!)

The YUUtuu bag is suitable for ages 3-6 and comes in two colours, and sells for £38.99. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Travel Money Using a PrePaid Debit Card

So we’re heading to Australia this year and I’m looking for a good prepaid debit card.

Aussie Dollar

Prepaid debit cards are ideal for overseas travel – and it’s something we need to look into. Previous visits to Australia have had us use our Nationwide cards as they offered 0% on cash withdrawals from ATM’s (though the less said about the last time the better when my faulty card was eaten by a machine in Toodyay) – not any more though.

These days Nationwide have a set fee – not huge but I’d rather save money where I can. So we’re looking at what’s out there to see if there’s something which suits us.

The main things I’m looking for are :

0% for ATM withdrawals
0% on purchases
something which will control my spending and that I can monitor online when I need to.

At the moment the only card which seems to suit my needs is the Travelex Passport – I can order a card with minimal currency and put a little in there each month until we go, then spend it anywhere which has a Mastercard symbol on our travels.

If I need to transfer more money into my account I can do it online and don’t need to be in the UK to do so which is essential.

In fact, as far as I can see the only thing which could go wrong is forgetting to take the cards with us!

There’s a Post Office prepaid debit card but you’re charged $3 per ATM transaction. I always like to carry a good amount of dollars with me so this isn’t the end of the world, but actually those $3 will add up and I may as well use my Nationwide card! The bonus is there are no fees on transactions which is a good thing as I do tend to use cash for eating out and my card to buy when we’re shopping or need petrol.

The other thing I need to consider – I need a visa to enter the country. Shaun and H both have Australian passports so don’t, but if I buy using my Nationwide card I’ll be charged an additional interest fee which isn’t ideal. If I use a prepaid debit card which can be used for online purchases that’s a good thing too.

So I’m asking on this rainy Saturday night, what have you used when you’ve travelled? The Travelex card sounds ideal for us, and especially for online purchases and gets a good writeup and Money Saving Expert too.

Momondo Helped Us Find Cheap Flights to Australia.

Australia is the other side of the world. We have half our family over there and finding a good price for flights can be hard. Step forward Momondo – a flight tracker which will tell you when is a good time to book and when it is more expensive.

Momondo is a flight tracker, and a really reliable one. We’re heading to Australia. Not for good, mind. Just a few weeks later in the year. The last time we travelled with H she was fifteen months and only just walking. This time she’ll be four and so very typically a four year old.

We hunted around for flights and it felt like something we couldn’t afford until we came across Momondo Flights – bookmark it, you’ll thank me for it. We were able to search across the dates we wanted to go and find the lowest priced flights, thanks to them showing in graph form at the top of the page. This is BRILLIANT. When it makes a difference of £500 pounds on a flight it’s not to be sniffed at.

Momondo flights

You just put in the dates you want to fly and it’ll work out what is available and find the lowest price. Considering we tried several places which claim to do the same thing and only Momondo found cheaper flights with a good airline (Singapore Airlines). There are plenty of filters which help sort your flight so you can work on the number of changes (to Australia a minimum of one is unavoidable). It’s handy if you want to fly around a time when flights will go up (like around school holidays) too.

I logged onto the Singapore Airlines site and our booking is confirmed. I’m editing the booking to add additional information they’ll need from us.

My biggest concern now is that we only have 50 minutes at Changi Airport once we get to Singapore. Thinking rationally, they wouldn’t offer the flights if they weren’t doable. My panicked thinking is we’ll miss the connection by minutes (I’ve had that happen in the past).

australia 2010

Other than that, the big one is how to keep H entertained for twelve hours in the sky. Previous experiences with Emirates were interesting… For most of the twelve hours she’ll be sleeping thanks to us taking off at 10pm. So if you’ve kept a four year old occupied in the sky, do let me know! Oh, and any 50 minute turnarounds at Changi Airport stories would be good too. I know we’ll be in the same terminal. We will do it. We will we will we will.

Big thanks for Belinda for recommending Momondo to us!

Planning to Travel?

It feels mad to think it, but only two years ago we were in Australia getting ready to celebrate Christmas – H was fifteen months and we’d had quite the journey from our house to Gatwick, to Forest Row and eventually back to Gatwick three days later due to the snow.

I did a post a while back with hints and things we found worked for us, and things I wish we had done (in a nutshell, had it not snowed heavily causing gridlocked cars, we’d have made our flight with plenty of time to spare. As it was, Shaun had to drive H and I to the station where we then waited even longer as he was stuck getting the car back home – we eventually got a train to Victoria to attempt the Gatwick Express, but all trains were at a standstill, and we missed our flight).

So my biggest bit of advice, especially now the weather is getting colder is to look for a good deal for a day room prior to flying! Get there hours before you need to and if your flight is still on schedule you’ll be ready – and most importantly of all, make sure you have insurance which covers any problems if there’s snow and you end up staying in a hotel for a few extra days!

Of course, there’s also those of us who plan way ahead. If we were planning on going to Australia next year, then you can usually get good deals online around now – though even if you’re planning on going away at short notice then most places have last minute deals.

Next year I would love to head over to the Netherlands for a trip to Utrecht and a few other cities, taking in the Dick Bruna museum – and I’ll be looking for some good deals so we can have a fun few days away – I would really like to try the Eurostar with H, as she’s fine on trains and it could be much less stress than flying!

My top tips for flying with a 15 month old are :

Introduce them to the tv a bit before going. Long haul flights are tough, you can’t always sleep when your child does, and if you get a bit of time to all wind down then the in-flight entertainment is a good place to start. There was plenty of choice and she was a little more interested in looking at the pictures than listening anyway.

Take sticker books – especially if they’re new ones your child doesn’t know. You can pick up sticker books in bargain book stores really cheaply. Alternatively, there’s magazines like the Cbeebies or Friends ones which always have loads of stickers, though I was always worried the chair would end up covered!

Know what your food options are. At 15 months we were offered baby food, mush in a jar. H has never eaten mush as we did Baby Led Weaning, but we did keep everything else (wipes, spoons and so on). We ordered her a child meal which was packed full of sugar, so quickly swapped it with our things.

Buy some new books. We’ve followed quite a few books in series – so Topsy & Tim went down well, as did stories about airports (I can still recite ‘Busy Airport’ off the top of my head several years later).

Finally if all else fails, you can guarantee the remote control will be fun to press all the buttons on. Just make sure you watch what they press so they’re not summoning the stewardess every ten seconds!

We’ve been quiet, I’m sorry

We went on our first family holiday – I didn’t mention it (as there’s no reason to!), but that’s why things are quieter at the moment. However, we went to loads of places and I’ve loads of things to post about when I get a chance.

Our biggest surprise was on the journey home – National Trust members can go free to Stonehenge – which is a good thing as we’re in our third year of membership – although H wasn’t overly impressed with it and just wanted ice cream. Never mind… at least we wont be out of pocket!

One shop which has made a lasting impression is Alice’s Bear Shop in Lyme Regis – the owner Rikey Austin says they’re set to feature on a Channel 4 programme very soon. Their bears are cool, and even cooler than that, at the back of the shop is a Teddy Bears Hospital – I’ve not seen one of those for years! Please check them out – Rikey has written and illustrated some really lovely books (which we’ll go into later) which we bought in the shop – it had a real charm! (and I can’t wait for the programme – the lady in the shop claimed it’d be like The Osbournes…. !)

I stupidly didn’t take any photos.