Holidaying overseas with kids

Examinations are on most parents' minds in October and November. For some, their kids complete their school examinations earlier, and the holiday mode begins sooner with accompanying demands. As parents we want best experiences for our children in their formative years to sustain long term family bonding and togetherness. We want to give them good memories of unwinding family fun after the stress and scolds of the concluding school year. For working parents trying to balance demanding work schedules and leave considerations, this work-family juggling during holidays is already challenging with one or two kids. But what if you have more?

Taking care of the entertainment needs of today's kids in a boisterous holiday mode can be a hair-raising time, even more so if you intend to travel overseas. The onSponge team interviewed a couple who has four kids ranging from pre-school to P3 to obtain perspectives that could prove useful to our onSponge parenting community for planning such a holiday with kids.

onSponge: For the benefit of our readers, please provide a brief introduction of your family.

Gavin: I am Gavin, and my wife is Sylvia. We are in our early 40’s and have been married for 17 years. We have four kids, aged nine, eight, six and two. I always get asked if our son is the youngest of the lot, but actually, he is the second child amongst three other girls.

onSponge: I understand that during this school holiday period you are taking your kids on an overseas trip. Have you travelled overseas with your kids before?

Gavin: Yes, we have travelled with our kids before, and have been to Canada (Vancouver), Perth, Sydney, Phuket, Malaysia and Bintan. However, this will be our first long (>three hours flight) with all four kids as the other major trips have been before the youngest was born. We have always gone on free and easy, self-drive holidays as it is more young family-friendly

onSponge: What are some of the planning considerations involved for such a trip with children?

Gavin: I think the biggest consideration has to be the budget, as we are a large family. Secondly, logistics – we need at least two bedrooms to accommodate the brood, as well as a MPV to ferry everyone around. Amongst Sylvia’s considerations also is the airline and the type of entertainment available to keep the kids occupied during the flight. Most of the trips abroad have also been with other family members as well, so the accommodations and transport for the bigger group also needs to be considered. This trip, we are travelling with my in-laws as well, so it is going to be a full house in the MPV that we are renting.

onSponge: Where are you going, and what made you select that destination?

Gavin: We are going to Melbourne this time – we only started planning for the holiday pretty late, perhaps early Sept, and most of the tickets to other destinations were not available on the dates that we could travel. Sylvia originally wanted to bring the kids to Disneyland in LA, but with the air ticket prices being so exorbitant, we had to settle for something more practical.

onSponge: An overseas holiday with kids can be much more expensive than one involving adults only. What kind of extra costs, if any, would you expect in this regard?

Gavin: We have always travelled with the kids, so it is hard to answer this question. But in general, with younger kids, we prefer to stay in a full serviced type of accommodation with basic kitchen facilities, so in a way, this may translate to higher costs. In any case, the women of the household don’t take favourably to budget accommodation, so our accommodations must have a minimum standard. The plane journey is also given much consideration…keeping kids in enclosed space for more than an hour deserves considerable attention…so we normally go with airlines that have a better entertainment system…. Thus more expensive. We will be flying SQ to Melbourne…quite a relief to the wife.

onSponge: Please share some of your children's pre-holiday perspectives about the trip.

Gavin: The children have not been to Melbourne before, so they are not quite sure what to expect. Most of the attention is on the airplane trip, as this is the main thing that they can relate to. The older two kids are in the midst of their exam preparations, so there has not been much discussion about the holiday.

onSponge: What do you hope your family to take away from this trip?

Gavin: We just want to spend quality time together. Hopefully the kids get to know and appreciate more about nature and a chance to acquire more general knowledge. More importantly, it is the time to bond and relax.

onSponge: Do you have any advice to give other parents who might be thinking of taking an overseas holiday with their children?

Gavin: Always try to plan and book early. Holidays with young children should be a free and easy one. Package tours are just too hectic. Never be too ambitious in scheduling. We should keep to relaxed and flexible schedules… maybe target one major attraction/activity a day.