…How we made our way to New Zealand and how I survived long haul travel with a 6 year old!
Obviously the toughest part of getting to New Zealand is, quite literally, getting there. You’re looking at an entire day (and night!) on the plane even with the quickest stop over, and most taking a lot longer unless you’re willing or able to pay mega bucks.
I had a bit of an issue when booking my flights to New Zealand, in that I didn’t know where I wanted to land! The central part of booking the dates we did was to arrive in time for the Mitre 10 (a NZ rugby league) Final. However the venue for that would be decided until 4 days before, by which time direct flights would be massively out of budget and possibly sold out so I took the decision to stop short, by booking flights to Australia instead.
And to be honest this worked out really well, not only did it give us a brief chance to spend some time in another country en route, break up the journey, and see Sydney based family, but it also saved us a fair bit of cash. When I was looking at direct flights to NZ the cheapest I could find was over £1,700 for us both, and that was with the lesser rated Chinese airlines (it was over £3,000 with the more premium companies), however I found flights to Sydney with Virgin Atlantic and Australia for £1,100. Flights between the Australia and New Zealand one way can be found for as little as £80 when booked in advance so even though we couldn’t get the best deals because we booked so late we still saved a lot.
TOP TIP: If you’re doing this stop over check out Latam Airways, they regularly fly the route, are really reasonable and the service was first class. Also look at booking two separate flights rather than a return, I don’t know why but every time I check it works out cheaper.
So our actual UK to NZ journey looked like this:
Heathrow to LAX – 3pm dept – arrived 6pm local time (2am UK time) – 11 hours
Stopover in Los Angeles – 6 hours
LAX to Sydney – 11.45pm local time dept – arrived 7.30am local time – 13 hours
Stopover in Australia – 8 hours
Sydney to Auckland – dept 3pm arrived 8pm local time – 3 hours
So in total, a massive 41 hours, 27 of them in the air, this is how we survived and had fun along the way.
To be honest I was starting from a pretty good point with Luka as he’s a really chilled out kid, and has travelled and flown a fair bit since he was little. But even so a journey that long (and that’s not including the fact we left the house at 8am to get the train to the airport) will get to even the best-behaved child (or grown up!).
So here are my top tips for surviving long haul travel with kids:
Relax the rules! I don’t mean let them run up and down the aisles screaming obviously but I did let Luka use his tablet and the seat screen as much as he wanted to, to play games, watch movies and watch the route the plane was flying. I’m not a screen Nazi at home but neither would I let him use it for hours on end and so by relaxing the rules I ensured no tired tantrums about him putting it down and it kept him entertained.
Look out of the window. We probably spent as much time on our flight to LA peering out as we did watching the TV. We tried to spot polar bears over Greenland (yes I know that would be basically impossible but it kept us entertained), and loved looking down at Canada and the USA to spot different landmarks
Pack snacks. The food was nice on the flights, and to be fair they brought around plenty of snacks but as any parent knows, kids will always get peckish at the most inopportune times so by having some crisps and sweets on hand it meant no grumbles from the little dude.
Consider in-flight entertainment. In the months leading up to our flights there were a few movies Luka wanted to watch but I knew that they were either on the flight film list or I could download them to his tablet so I saved them up. It gave him something to look forward to on the plane and amused him for a few hours.
Take a night flight. This is not always easy at all to plan but our flight times really helped us. Because we landed at 2am UK time in LA Luka had managed a bit of sleep, at least enough to see him through our LA stopover. Then our 13 hour flight to Sydney was an overnight flight so with lights down and quiet it was easier for Luka to get more sleep in. Landing in Australia in the morning was great as it was the start of a new day and we were too excited to feel tired, and then finally by not getting to NZ until the night time we were able to get straight to bed for a full nights sleep and awoke with absolutely no jet lag!
Help them sleep. Nope, no giving them sleeping tablets and wine, that’s frowned on apparently, but do your best to make them comfy. I bought Luka a child’s eye mask and neck pillow which really helped him to switch off in comfort, and as Luka always falls asleep listening to his audiobook at bedtime, I put it on through his headphones and off he went to the land of nod.
Spare seats? Ask to use them. Lets face it, for most of us average Joes, flying first class to anywhere, never mind the other side of the world, is probably out of rather out of budget, so we’re stuck in economy, and while the seats did have a decent amount of room it’s a lot more comfortable to be able to spread out. So if you see a spare row there’s no harm in asking if you can swap.
Get some good travel toys. An ideal travel is compact, lightweight and fun for hours. Our very favourites are these reusable doodle cards, there are so many of them that we used them constantly on our journey to, and around NZ and we still didn’t get to the end. We also love our magnetic snakes and ladders, a pack of cards, and card monopoly.
Pack a lucky dip bag. This was probably my most successful trick for making our journey go smoothly. Before we headed off I picked up some little toys, sweets and stickers from Poundland and popped them in a little tie up bag. When Luka got bored on the plane, I let him take something out of the bag to amuse him. In fact I was so successful we got to NZ without having emptying the bag!