Limerick native Orla Kennedy O’Brien, her husband Ian and their two adorable kids, Danny, four and Ted who was 15 months, took off to Australia in November and has reported back to Getaways with Kids on what they did, her tips on what to do and not to do and all that fun stuff.
Fights, 7 day car hire, 3 hotels (total 10 nights) and travel insurance – €6,018
Approx spending- €5,000
Dates- Nov 8th to Nov 28th
The flight was definitely my biggest fear. It meant paying an extra seat for the four year old, and then restraining our lunatic of a one and half year old on our lap for ALL THAT TIME. A friend of mine who has done this before with kids of similar age told “Accept that it’s a long ass flight, go with it and don’t rush it,” and we did just that. We made sure we were at the airport in plenty of time, went for breakfast after check-in, and built up the excitement for them as well as us Half way through the flight we changed the kids in to pjs and washed our own faces and brushed our teeth. We kept to our own bodyclock.
We flew with Emirates from Dublin to Dubai and on to Melbourne. We booked flights and some accommodation with Trailfinders as we wanted to keep it all in the one itinerary. Also when you book with the one agent, your international flights are connected to any internal flights, therefore you get to keep your international baggage allowance for those smaller flights. If you book them directly you will end up paying for extra baggage on what started out to be a cheap internal “handy” flight. We booked 3 weeks in total. Trying to keep with the kids sleeping schedules, we booked the first leg to Dubai during the day, so we were up and about the plane, eating at the regular meals times, and then when getting the second leg (the longest one) they were ready for sleep.
When packing we took into consideration where we would be staying. We had the first leg of our trip with friends and family, the second leg was hotels. Either way there was washing machines in both so DO NOT OVER PACK. A key piece of baggage, and a most unattractive one, is backpacks for hand luggage. Forget the satchel, or cute on board bag, you are travelling with 2 small kids in very busy airports. You need both your hands free at all times. We had a backpack each that contained all the kids snacks, toys, books, bottles (empty), spare change of clothes for each of them, small compact nappy changing bag and pjs. And the second backpack was ipad, passports, chargers, toiletries and spare change of clothes for us. This meant the second bag was the one that was dismantled at every security check; i.e. the ipad and electronics and toiletries needed to be taken in and out. The four year old had his own small bag, but not too heavy or you will end up carrying it for them. We also brought a buggy for small fry. We borrowed a neat collapsible one with a buggy bag. I would recommend checking it in at the gate instead of the desk, as you can hang your backpacks off it when going through the airport. In Dubai airport however Emirates have free strollers in several places in the airport so there is no need to have yours.
Emirates are renowned for being ideal to travel with kids, and I can safely say they were. We had bulk head seats on each flight due to travel agent pre-booking a bassinette for youngest (even though he didn’t fit in one by the time our holiday came around). This was great in terms of space for them to play on the ground in front. The kids meals always came first They have jar of Heinz dinners for babies and regular kiddies meals for other kids. You can bring your own snacks too. Our four year old lived his best life with endless tv and movies and food brought to him on a regular basis! The changing facilities were fine, and having the small compact nappy bag ready in your backpack meant it was easy to get it and go change him. We also bought lots of little toys in Tiger/Argos/Heatons that were cheap and cheerful but were a new thing for them. Bring them out intermittently throughout the flight, not all at once and also try and hold back one or 2 for the return flight. Be careful of your connection times. While 1 and half hours overlay might get you on a flight quicker, and thus to your destination earlier, remember it’s a long flight so just accept you’ll get there when you get there. You have to consider unloading children (compliant or not), all your stuff, getting fed (regardless of what time it is) and boarding again. The second leg of the flight was definitely the toughest, for us parents. The kids slept well, thankfully, but we didn’t. When we landed at Melbourne airport we were shattered. The time of year we went was November, so it was cold at 2am when we landed but we still had our Irish gear on. I was expecting worse in terms of jetlag, but we all seem to recover over 2 days.
We stayed in Melbourne, with a friend, for 5 nights in the area of Abbotsford near Collingwood. In the suburbs there was parks every couple of yards, and very good public transport.
PLACES WE VISITED
Abbotsford Convent ($7 per child and $12 per adult, or $25 for a family ticket)
Healesville Animal Sanctuary – 40min drive outside Melbourne (we hired a car). Beats the zoo as you get to witness animals, feed Kangaroos, impressive interactive bird show etc in more of a natural environment.
The Four Pillars Distillery (stopped on way home from Sanctuary (no child seats).
Melbourne Museum– Free entry. massive kids play area, with fab interactive games and climbing frames. $15 adults, kids under 12 Free
Melbourne Beaches – A must
We hit The Great Ocean road (think Conor Pass in Kerry). I’d love to say we were like Thelma and Louise, excitedly heading in the sunset, but it was more National Lampoons minus Grandma strapped to the roof. We brought our own car seats, something we debated about for a while, but they do have good car seat facilities when hiring a car anyway. We got GPS Maps in the car, which is an absolutely must. They drive on the same side of the road to us, however navigating the lanes out of suburbia and in through any town was a challenge. We stopped often for beach visits and ice cream. Visited the Twelve Apostles, stayed overnight in Mount Gambier, drove though Coonawarra wine region and finally visited family in Adelaide.
Barristers Block Vineyard -fabulous tables and chairs amongst the trees, large selection of pizzas in their stone ovens or cured meats with wine and beer, a large sand box play area with toys for kids, and a few farm animals. -Mount Lofty Point- we saw a koala and her cub in the wild.
This is where we got an internal flight from Adelaide to Sydney. They are very reasonably priced. Note that this aircraft is like a London to Heathrow one, so less overhead space and no movies to occupy the kids. This part was the biggest challenge, when we landed in Sydney. We had 2 large roll suitcases, 2 backpacks, a buggy with stuff in buggy bag, 2 car seats, 2 children and no pick up car booked. I would advise have whatever accommodation or taxi company pre book a pick up for you so it is waiting for you when you land. It was a domestic terminal, therefore no big trolleys for luggage, and taxi rank/ traffic just a toddler dash away. We stayed at the Holiday Inn down by the Rocks and right in the middle where you want to be. This big hotel was so set up for kids. It had a cute kids corner in the lobby. Nothing fancy in terms of restaurant or bar, but you are right in the middle of the biggest tourist parts of Sydney so plenty of choice around the corner. The ferries that go to all the harbour points is just a 5 minute walk, and you are facing Sydney Opera House (when there isn’t a massive cruise ship in your view). Much like our own Temple Bar. The Rocks area is cobbled and quaint but difficult enough with a buggy. We stayed in the city center for 3 nights to get to see all the tourist bits on the bucket list. Restaurants are expensive in these parts, so picnic as much as you can. The hotel had a laundry machine on a higher floor you can do yourself for only $2 per load. No frills about the room, but perfect location and cost effective with kids. In Sydney you get several ferries out the Harbour, which brought you to Taronga Zoo, Manly beach, Luna Theme Park, Darling Harbour. There are several tour operators right at the ferry point, all offering the same packages, so just go with whoever. We went with Captain Cook tours and did a just loop around the bay on the ferry the first day. There is both underneath behind glass on the ferry where you can see all, or go up on deck. We took a walk back up through the city streets to the Sydney Tower. Always say your child is UNDER 4 when purchasing tickets, as they are free then. And also do not buy tickets in earshot of said four year old so he can’t shout “but I am 4 already”! This saves you an extra $14 for any child over 4. Tickets are approx. $20 per adult. We then took ourselves out to Coogee Beach for the last leg of our holidays. It was chill out at the beach time for us all. There is beautiful cliff walks all along from Coogee to Bondi, but there is also regular buses too. We stayed in Crowne Plaza Coogee which was on the beach front. It had a roof top pool but it wasn’t heated, so if the weather wasn’t too hot the water was cold. We basically chilled here for a week, back and forth to the beach, walked along the headland, to the playground, etc. I will say that the sun is extremely hot in Australia, due to thin ozone layer, so full size swimsuits (or rashies as they call them) and factor 50 for everyone is a must. We went to a fab brunch venue called The Grounds of Alexandria and the Centennial Park was so beautiful to walk around. You can rent bikes to cycle around, there’s a lovely water park area with fountains where the kids can splash around so pack the togs for the day. And so ended the holiday of a lifetime. The repack began and we flew out of Sydney to Dubai and on to Dublin. We had a longer stop over this turn so we prebooked a lounge in Dubai airport. By the time we had landed from Australia and due to fly out it was down to a 5-hour layover, so comfort is key really. We touched down on the green grass of home and was hit with Christmas cheer. Felt strange having been on a beach only 24 hours previous, but we were rested and ready for the madness that December brings! We would highly recommend going a long haul with small kids. You are teaching them life skills or waiting in line, seat belts, new views, new wildlife, different cultures, etc. They are never too young for new experiences. The flights were the biggest part I feared, and I can’t say it enough how good Emirates were for travelling with kids. Plan your times, stock up on entertainment and just go with the flow. Happy kids, happy parents, and that is what life is all about!