I’ve always had the travel bug. Growing up I used to dream of living overseas – I definitely assumed that would happen before I hit 30.
I was born in Calgary to British parents and my mum and I travelled back and forth between Canada and the UK frequently – so I do wonder if it’s the fact that I was airborne from such early days, that it’s been instilled in me to love it as I do. It truly is such a big part of who I am. Always committed to that next adventure, I’m without a doubt happiest and most at peace when I have a trip to look forward to. For me, that feeling just before I go away somewhere parallels Christmas Eve. It’s magic.
I remember when I was pregnant, a friend made a snarky comment forewarning me that now I was going to be a mum I’d have to sacrifice my holidays.
“Ooh you’ll have to curb your travels when your little one comes along,” she said, smiling.
It left me seething. But I said nothing, because I thought – ‘well maybe she’s right? I have no idea what it’s going to be like, therefore I can’t comment.’
So here’s the good news. You do not have to give up who you are just because you become a parent. I mean yes, of course you do in some respects – your life does without a doubt change beyond recognition in soooo many ways. But you do not have to be chained to your own four walls. You do not have to cancel the things that bring you joy and happiness. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise. Mute the naysayers who say you shouldn’t do this or you ought to do that! You do what you want with your life and your family.
There’s no bad news.
At two-and-a-half Oscar has woken up in New York, Texas, Las Vegas, the south of France and now – thanks to Cathay Pacific he has been to Australia and Hong Kong too. And you know what? It’s been incredible. For me, travel is one of the greatest gifts that James and I can give him and I truly hope we can carry on in this vein for the rest of our days.
I know for many families it’s the actual journey rather than the trip that will put you off taking the leap. But like anything, I think being prepared is half the battle. This might sound ridiculous, but I find travelling on an aeroplane with Oscar less stressful than travelling by train. He behaves so much better in an airborne situation, and again – I think that comes down to the fact he’s actually spent more hours in the sky than he has on any other form of public transport.
So for anyone considering or planning your dream long haul, I thought I’d give you the low down on our four flights and 44 hours in the sky with Oscar when we went to Australia and back within a two-week window in November. From how we entertained him to how we prepared for the journey (and it wasn’t all plain sailing…), and also what we loved about Cathay Pacific and why they are such a brilliant choice for flying as a family.
Outbound: We flew to Australia from Manchester Airport on Friday, November 3rd. We had a three hour layover in Hong Kong and arrived in Melbourne on November 5th.
In bound: We left Melbourne on November 14th, spent two nights in Hong Kong and arrived back in the UK at 6am on Friday, November 17th.
Why Cathay Pacific?
I’d never flown with this airline before, but throughout my life I have repeatedly had people tell me it’s their favourite.
I’d been told Cathay Pacific were great when flying with children. That staff were particularly attentive. And also – priorities!! – that the food was really good. When we decided to make the trip – Cathay Pacific were the only airline we contemplated.
Family. My brother-in-law Paul, his wife Sarah and their gorgeous baby boy – our nephew Eli, live there. Melbourne has been their home for seven years, and we were long overdue a visit. And also… it’s Australia!! Of course we wanted to go on holiday there!
Two flights each way, the leg between the UK and Hong Kong is around 13 hours, with approximately another nine on to Melbourne. The longest flight we had taken with Oscar, and indeed ourselves before this trip was London to Las Vegas – which was 10 hours. Based on this we felt another three would be okay – and it was. It does feel very long though… and that’s because it is!
I had a preconception of Cathay Pacific, that it was a pricey airline. I was wrong. There are some amazing deals to be had! To be transparent, the airline generously gifted us our flights in exchange for this blog post and Instagram content – but as I write this, the home page of the Cathay Pacific website is advertising flights to the Far East from £489 per person return and flights to Australia from £709 per person return. You cannot deny that that is a steal for far flung destinations that many of us who are UK-based, might consider as a one off special trip. My point is that at prices like that, you needn’t think of them as one offs. These places and prices are attainable.
What we loved
- The staff. At your service, nothing was too much trouble and on every single leg of the journey they were so, so friendly to Oscar. He loved all the attention! On our outbound flights there were animated drawstring bags waiting for Oscar on his seats. Little touches like this make all the difference. He was delighted with his “presents” and proceeded to wear them both on his back at the same time pretty much wherever we went for the duration of our holiday. We could not go anywhere without them!
- When we boarded our very first flight in rainy Manchester, the pilot indulged my request to let Oscar come and have a peek at the cockpit. It was all very cute. As we were disembarking the aircraft 13 hours later he passed us and stopped to ask how Oscar had enjoyed the flight. He had no idea we were there in collaboration with the airline, just as none of the staff did during our flights. This was all just their regular demeanour, and we were so impressed.
- Wi-Fi in the sky!!! This blew my mind. I could Instagram from the air – brilliant!
- There were baby changing facilities in every toilet. Not all airlines offer this as we’ve discovered in the past to our detriment. This kind of thing is kind of a big deal when you need to change a nappy at 30,000 feet!
- The food was all and more than it was promised to be. And it just kept on coming. I felt like I’d eaten my way to Melbourne. In a good way! Also the children’s meals were balanced and healthy, and Oscar scoffed the lot! I liked how ice cream was served separately afterwards so that you could resist your kids eating it if you wanted to. We didn’t…
- The way we – and anyone else travelling with children – were ushered on to the plane first. Again, this doesn’t always happen with every airline. When you have a two-year-old literally running loops around you at the departure gate it’s a perk that you truly appreciate.
- Our long layover on the way home was incredible! We were going to Australia – that was our holiday – Hong Kong was a bonus. I’d never fancied visiting there prior to our trip, but of course took the opportunity. We were blown away – it was amazing. I’ll be blogging separately all about our time there, and of course all about Melbourne too.
Tips for flying long haul with tiny humans
- Where you can, if flying to Australia – take a long layover. We did it on the way home, to give Oscar a breather more than anything. I think next time we go to Australia we’ll extend the layover even more. We hadn’t expected to fall head over heels for Hong Kong as we did, and in retrospect it would have been amazing to have a couple of extra days to explore.
- Take rucksacks for hand luggage. To be hands free when you have a baby or a toddler makes everything so much easier.
- Snacks. As I’ve already mentioned you are fed well by Cathay Pacific – but when you are travelling that kind of distance I can’t emphasise enough how grateful you’ll be to yourself for having packed a variety of these. Not only will it keep their hunger at bay between meals – but more so it’s a distraction and something to keep their minds occupied in the short term. Every minute needs to be filled on a 13 hour flight!
- Sticker books. All the sticker books. We took a range of Usbourne books, like these ones.
- Books generally. Paperback ones. It’s amazing how much a couple of hardback books add to the weight of your hand luggage.
- Presents. It might sounds extravagant, but it needn’t be. Buy a load of small super cheap toys and wrap them up. Then throughout the journey you can intermittently present your little one with them (excuse the pun!). It works a treat, keeps things interesting, and it doesn’t even need to be all toys as such- we wrapped up different coloured foam letters and numbers as part of our present bundle. The unwrapping was as much of the fun for Oscar, as what was inside.
- A tablet. We’d always resisted getting Oscar one before the trip. But so many people told us it was a great way to keep boredom at bay – and they were right. We got Oscar an Amazon Fire and downloaded a selection of interactive learning games on it, which he really enjoyed. If you’re in two minds about getting a tablet for a trip like this – I say just bite the bullet. For us it was a little lifesaver.
- Cathay Pacific’s in-house entertainment is great too. Oscar has just got to the stage where he is able to sit through a movie. He loves anything Disney – especially the Lion King, so was thrilled to be able to sit and watch that on repeat!
- I’ve recommended the JetKids Bedbox on this very blog before, but as we used it again on all four flights for this trip, I couldn’t not mention it here as in my opinion it really is money well spent. The Bedbox triples up as a ride-on suitcase (Oscar loves being pulled around on it, he calls it his car!), a hand luggage item (we stored nappies, books and snacks in ours) and an in-flight bed. He slept on it on each flight, outbound and inbound. It’s a brilliant piece of kit!
- Be well prepared whatever time you are flying. Don’t like us, assume that just because you’re booked onto a 1am flight out of Hong Kong and your two-year-old has been awake ALL day, that they will then sleep the entire flight home. We thought our flight was timed perfectly for us all to sleep right through the night for our 6am arrival. And I’ll bet for 99% of passengers it worked out that way! But sweet Oscar, and his out of sink body clock had other ideas. Bless his heart, he slept for just two of the 13 hours, and it’s fair to say that we all – but he especially – were exhausted. Luckily we were prepared entertainment wise and had all of the above aforementioned to keep him occupied. But it still made for what felt like an exceptionally long journey. Oscar was an absolute trooper and slept like a log once we were home.
- Fly with Cathay Pacific. That’s my final tip – because if I could do it all again, I would do it exactly the same way with the same airline. They are not just family friendly, they also cater to families’ needs. Anyone who has travelled with children will know that they are two very different things, and both equally as important. I 100% now understand why Cathay Pacific have such a solid reputation by word of mouth. They work hard for those recommendations and they earn them.
With so much thanks to Cathay Pacific, who I have proudly collaborated with for this post.
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