Going Home: Surviving and Enjoying the Trip


We’re counting down now. Less than a week until we make the epic journey back to the UK, going home to visit my husband’s family. I should be overjoyed to be going back. I lived there for 10 years, and it will be wonderful to see family, old friends, new babies, and visit some favorite places, I am, however, filled with dread rather than joy…

You see, after we (myself, my husband, and our 2 young boys) survive the long haul flight (we’ll be using these tips from Felicity), we then have to somehow get into a rental car, drive 3 hours to my in-laws house, and then attempt to get our wild boys to sleep, eat, and have fun, in a completely new environment for 2 weeks!

Yes, of course, the kids know their grandparents, so they will be familiar, but everything else around them will be new. The older one has visited before, but I doubt he remembers much.

In my panicked state to locate warm coats, hats, boots, and try to plan as best as possible, I’ve reached out to a few friends, who have ‘been there’ done that’ and survived the crazy holiday trip that is going home.

Going home involves a lot of luggage

Here is the advice I can pass along…

Going Home

Survive the flight:

  1. Air Nanny – Did any of you know about this? It is not offered on all airlines but seems common on flights going to Asia. They actually offer flight staff to look after and entertain your kids! I know, life changing right!
  2. Consider buying a cheap pair of kids sized head phones as the standard ones provided don’t fit, which can cause a tantrum in itself.Going home: in flight entertainment for the kids is essential
  3. Wear socks over socks so you can all remove and either wash or trash the outer pair and feel you haven’t got everyone’s pee on your socks as you disembark.
  4. Put spare clothes for the plane in a zip lock. If you do need them, you don’t want them to be wet from the water in your bag that leaked.
  5. This is the biggest thing – honestly, don’t fret the little stuff. Your kids will probably be louder than the others, and the lady in 48B will probably complain of you changing your kid’s diaper on the floor, but who cares! They are not going to ask you to leave – that’s guaranteed! It’s only for a short time, you’ll never see them again. Smile, don’t sweat. Your kids are young and don’t know better. Although when my son threw the ham out of his sandwich and it landed on the bottom of a man’s shoe I did start to perspire a little…
  6. I take a small wheelie suitcase and put it in front of my child’s’ seat so they have a tiny bit of extra bum surface when/if they fall asleep.
  7. Spare plastic trash bags: They are never collecting trash when you need to dispose of things and it helps keep your seat area cleaner and more organized. I also always carry wet wipes and some paper towels. Things can get messy on a flight!
  8. I bought the GB Pockit this year – a stroller that you can fold up and put under the seat in front of you! Yes, you can drive the kid ALL THE WAY DOWN THE AISLE OF THE PLANE. Yes, it deserves every single one of those capitals. It’s the best thing ever.
  9. Bring extra food/snack, this solves about 90% of my problems.
  10. Take extra water on board. They never give you enough and apart from the 2 bottles of wine – being hydrated can really help you keep your cool if the children start acting up.
  11. If you’re traveling on a night flight, Changing the kids into their pajama’s and brushing their teeth really helped to settle them down when I felt it was time for them to sleep.
  12. Don’t sit in the bulk head seats, unless you need the basket for a baby to sleep in. The arm rests don’t lift up so you can’t let the small kids lay down.
  13. My poor children were desperate to sleep but it was so bright, maybe pack those eye mask things. They will also double up as catapults to fire pretzels at people who tut loudly.
  14. I cannot agree more about bringing things that do NOT require charging. We ended up on a 3 hour delayed flight once, which resulted in an entertainment unit which did not work, and you could not charge iPads. We have some portable chargers ( a really good idea as well) which saved us, but I also had some games and things that we could use while waiting at the gate.

Going home: remember to enjoy it!

Enjoy the visit:

  1. Will it be cold when you arrive? Have a warm outfit ready for when you arrive. I put coats and gloves all together in the outside pouch of one suitcase. I had to wait 45 minutes for a taxi once, on a freezing afternoon in London.
  2. Buy drinks and snacks; and use the bathroom, before you set off on the long drive.
  3. We rent from Kendall Car Hire who have several sites in and around London. They have a service where they meet you at the airport, in arrivals, help you to the hire car (which they have driven to the airport) complete with your car seats inside and do the hand over with you so you drive out of the airport yourself in the car with everything. Going home couldn’t be easier, no shuttle buses or long walks anywhere. It’s great.
  4. OR, We normally book a pick up from Heathrow and get car hire locally. I don’t want to go through all the car hire crap after getting off a 10-hour flight.
  5. Set expectations about kids’ timetables in advance. My parents have forgotten what it’s like having a baby and the importance of routine.
  6. Ask in advance for people to respect that you don’t have a lot of space and to choose suitcase friendly gifts. My kids have left a lot of Christmas and birthday gifts behind in the UK. One year it was a bike. No, I’m not kidding.
  7. Take an empty case for all those gifts people give you, even though you reminded them eight times you can’t fit much in. Honestly, if one more person buys us a kids baking set to bring back!
  8. Pack as little as possible, if where you’re going has a washing machine. So for a three-week trip take no more than one weeks worth of clothes.
  9. When you arrive at your accommodation, do a quick child proofing scan. Crawl around at toddler height. What can they hit head on? Reach? Break? Check for cables, plugs, sockets, blind cords, kitchen drawers etc.
  10. When everyone is awake at 4am, hit the shops. Tesco is open 24 hours midweek (not at weekends). It’s a great place to kill some time, and let the kids run around.
  11. Check if you can borrow car seats/strollers/toys/winter clothes from friends and family so you don’t have to pack so much.
  12. Plan a loose itinerary but don’t overdo it, when going home you’ll want to see everyone and visit old haunts but that’s not possible and it’s exhausting trying. Make sure your family knows when you’re planning to see friends or do things without them so they don’t plan things for the same time or assume you’ll be with them every second you’re there.
  13. When going to Sweden, we always keep our boys on close-to-US-time. That means going to bed at midnight and sleeping until noon. That does not work for everyone, of course, depending on what the schedule will be during the vacation, but we find that it’s easier when they sleep at new places, that we all go to bed at the same time, and also, we often meet friends and family over dinner, and it’s nice that they get to meet the kids too, and that we don’t have to do “bed time” in the middle of hanging out. And did I mention how WONDERFUL it is to sleep in every morning? Also, we have very little problems with jet lag when returning to the US. Seriously, like none.
  14. Also, here’s the best packing advice ever, from a mom of four: THIS, with the kid’s name written across four of the pockets, and then when you unpack, you just put one outfit a day in a pocket each). I even pack IN this and put the whole thing in the bag.
  15. Take a small pharmacy of whatever medicine your kids are used to. They might not have the same things at your destination.
  16. If you are going home for a while, have someone keep an eye on your house and put a hold on your mail.
  17. And lastly (and this is a difficult one for me to remember), your in-laws and husband are not the same person. Try not to take it out on him when they act crazy. Just know that there will be an end to the crazy and that you will be coming home.

Good luck! And remember going home is supposed to be fun!

Can you share any other advice? We’d love to hear from you.

Special thank you to Louse B., Louise G. Emily, Felicity, Sue, Ambar, Archana, Mel, Allana, Dee, Katy, and Nicola!


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About Michelle Laker

A California native; I spent 10 years living, studying, working, (and falling in love) in the United Kingdom. I returned to the Bay Area in 2011, with my British husband in tow. I am re-adjusting to life in the bay, feeling more like an expat than a local. I have spent my career working with international student & families. I love learning about other cultures, languages, and traditions. My desire to welcome newcomers, and help you make the most of your new life in the Bay Area comes from the unforgettable memories (and mistakes) I made during my time in the United Kingdom. If you've just arrived, and don't know where to start, email me (michelle-at-lifeinthebay.org). I am happy to help!


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