About hannahcity

Professional juggler - of working lawyer life, my family, baking, travel, the theatre and all things political. All views expressed are personal.

Packing for a long haul adventure


luggage photo

There are already 1000s of blog articles already about what to pack/take with on long flights, but here’s my essential packing items to add to the mix. NB you’ll need fewer toys/activities if it’s a night flight with no stopovers, but still come prepared as there is  always waiting time and the potential for delays so come prepared!

  • A separate little rucksack for each child (which they then carry themselves when possible) with their books and a few loved toys and new art activities for the flight.
  • My children sleep better with a favourite teddy or doll so I include mini favourites also.
  • Lego people for my older two and some Lego and “Happyland” people for my youngest. This is because I hope that toys involving imaginary play will keep them amused for longer periods!
  • Some new small toys (e.g. Lego people or card games like “snap”, “Dobble” or “Uno”).
  • Tiny pots of play doh and cutters also work well for day flights.
  • Stickers, scratch art, sticker/mosaic art, small colouring books with a pencil case of different writing/drawing options.
  • Usbourne “I Spy” books. When we fly I like giving at least one child the “I spy at the airport” book. There are also others which might be relevant (e.g. “I spy on a roadtrip”, “I spy at the seaside”) for other parts of your journey.
  • The above list can be adapted for road trips also, but I’d recommend giving each child a clip board so they have something to lean on in the car. In it you can include various different kinds of paper and stickers and provide each child with a pencil case as well.
  • In my own bag, I pack a change of clothes for everyone for the flight, toothbrushes, pyjamas for the children, long-sleeve tops for the flights (it can get cold!). I also pack “arrival” clothes, e.g. shorts and t-shirts for the children if we are going to be somewhere incredibly hot. These are put in colour-coded (different for each child) packing cubes for the children’s clothes in my hand luggage, so I can quickly and easily find replacement clothes when they get wet/thirsty.
  • Baby wipes, child ear plugs and eye masks for all. A friend of mine says she buys new cute kids’ eye masks every time they fly to make sleeping in the air more “fun” for the kids, which I think is lovely.
  • A decent picnic in the airport before the flight is a good idea, as I find flight food is rather hit and miss with my children. I think some airlines do “kid-friendly” meals which you can order and interested to hear what they are like (unfortunately can’t use them myself as my kids would need a vegetarian or fish option, and the kids’ meals don’t let you choose this).
  • Spare warm socks for all. I take my kids’ shoes off on long flights and put warmer socks on them. At the end of the flight I change them into clean socks.
  • I pack a lot of snacks! I take water (which I buy at the airport), as you can be waiting a long time for it to come around and my children always seem to get thirsty  at the wrong time! I also pack marmite rice cakes, apples and other fruit, cucumber, pepper and fruit bars). On a good flight, especially at night if they sleep, none of this gets eaten, but it’s an excellent back-up to have.
  • I’ve always been provided with blankets on our night flights and cope with those, but if your child is particularly sensitive to new environments, I’d suggest packing an oversized muslin and using that as a blanket, with the airline’s one over the top for warmth.
  • Nappies. My daughter is toilet trained but usually wears nappies at night time. On a night flight she wears a nappy for the entire flight and I have at least 2 spare ones. On a day flight she no longer wears one, but as you can’t always get to the toilet as quickly as usual if you’re worried about a pre-schooler having an accident don’t feel bad about using nappies on the flight. I used to tell my daughter that we had special “aeroplane” nappies just in case, but regularly took her to the toilet so they weren’t used.
  • With younger children/babies, take anti-bacterial wipes so you can confidently put their food down on the tray table.
  • Just before a night flight, I change all my children into their pyjamas (or tracksuit bottoms and a long-sleeved top for day flights) and clean their teeth. With my 3 year old I’d also try and follow our usual bedtime routine if possible, e.g. read a favourite sleepy bedtime story. However, experience has taught me that if your night flight starts 7-9.30pm the children will likely be so excited that they will stay awake for the first 1-2 hours. This astonished us the first time it happened but now I am ready for it, and try and keep them off the screens/their tablets until they’ve slept. On a later flight (e.g. 11pm or the middle of the night) in my experience the children thankfully fall asleep instantaneously.
  • I didn’t have this for almost 8 years, but I now swear by our Pockit-GB buggy. I bought it new for £99 and it’s changed our life. It’s so small and light that you’re allowed to actually take it onto the plane as hand luggage, which means no long walks at the other end or in transit without a buggy. It made a ridiculously long journey and 7.5 hours in Singapore airport significantly easier.
  • Pack 1 small lollipop per child in case their ears start popping a lot. I’m not convinced the lolly helps that much but the excitement it creates is a great distraction!
  • I pack myself some mini “treat” toiletries which I use at the end of the flight to feel human again, including some cleansing wipes which I use mid-flight as needed. Face moisturiser at the start and end of the flight also helps!

Coping with delays

action architecture blurred background building

Photo by Nubia Navarro (nubikini) on Pexels.com

Our 20+ hour journey to Thailand ended up involving some delays so the return leg unfortunately took over 30 hours. We may as well have flown to Australia!

It really was surpringly fine though, astonishingly. Rather than whinge lots about it (which I would definitely have done pre-children for sure!), Mr R and I put a brave face on and told the children we had 7.5 hours to “explore Singapore” and have an adventure. Which we certainly did.

We became one of the last of 1000s of people to get a Singaporean stamp in our passports. We visited the world’s largest indoor waterfall at Jewel, during its second day being open. We chatted to local shopkeepers and shoppers and learned (a small bit) about life in Singapore. Our children made brilliant artistic creations at a shop in the mall at 11pm-midnight, oblivious to the time (with the long flight home delayed until 3am, we figured “why not?”). We blagged our way into the first class Qantas lounge.

We finally got onto the plane at 3am with three happy (and two asleep) children and somehow passed +13.5 hours together in economy, much of it with them asleep.

For us the – extremely long – journey became a significant part of the adventure. 7.5 “stuck” in an airport with three small children could have been horrendous but instead undoubtedly helped to make our holiday adventure extra special!

Round the world we go

Our addiction to adventurous travel has returned!


Last year we visited Thailand with our three children (then 2, 4 and 6) E, J and L. It was so incredible that we returned there this April. We also have further “round the world” adventures planned for later in 2019 and beyond.

The place we just visited is remote to say the least (in the Phang Nga province, 25 minutes north of Khao Lak). Getting there involved indirect flights followed by a long overland journey. But once there we had 5km of unspoilt natural beaches to explore. It was paradise.

“Are you mad?” friends uttered before we left. “2 flights / 20 hours+ to get there, and with small children?” they cry. “Are you sure you don’t fancy staying in the UK or going somewhere closer with an all day kids club?” others stammer.

Even the nurse at our GP appears to be in on the idea that one should Never Go Anywhere Exciting Or Far Away With Children. Last year, when considering what immunisations we needed, she sternly asked – no informed me – that we “presumably would not be partaking in any local street food whilst away”. Amused I calmly responded that we most certainly would be, but that we’d be careful with our choices. The look she gave me was so disapproving that I may as well have said I regularly beat our children.

This year, we returned to see the same nurse for some follow up/new vaccinations. She looked at me, sighed and asked critically whether I was “planning on making these trips a regular occurrence?”. I smiled demurely (unusual for me) but firmly said that we would be. After a further and prolonged sigh, she agreed that certain vaccinations with a 25 year shelf-life (Hep A) were worthwhile. I left feeling irritated and unnecessarily criticised: it was not about the cost to the NHS etc but simply disapproval that we should take our children so far away. It felt like she would have preferred we go to a huge family-friendly European/American package resort, or self-cater somewhere more local.

I am very fortunate. Mr R and I have travelled extensively together. Before that, I had an incredible 6 months travelling on a round the world ticket when I was 25 and backpacked most university vacations (after 6-8 weeks of “temping” to earn my fare, as I paid for all these trips myself). I want to share with my children the experience of travelling off the beaten track as much as we can, whilst doing so in an environment that is extremely comfortable (more for me than them!) and safe. I want them to walk on silky white sand beaches. I want them to snorkel in water warmer than bathwater and see incredible marine life. I want them to try food they’d otherwise not even see, let alone taste. I want them to leave their North London (lovely) bubble and understand how privileged we are, but also that difference is not always so different (I love the Thai expression “same same but different”. Works in so many contexts). I want them to shop in local markets, soaking in the smells of eastern foods and spices. I want them to see so much beauty but also the poverty and reality of life outside our immediate world.

On a selfish level, I sometimes worry that I’m doing this just because I want to relive my backpacking adventures and pretend I’m not actually approaching 40. Or that our rose-tinted version in posh hotels is no different to any other family holiday. Or that my obsession with finding the most perfect, isolated and idyllic white sands and turquoise waters has gone too far. All of which are probably completely accurate, but my desire to share my love of travel with my children is also extremely real. With no complaints as yet from the children or Mr R (other than my travel addict perhaps getting out of hand when I suggest three such trips a year) our adventures look very much set to continue. And I for one cannot wait.



Hannahcity returns!

Some of you may remember some great postings back in 2013 which I unfortunately had to remove.

A lot of time has passed but I’m now writing again. Please check back very soon for some posts about a return to round the world travel with Mr R and our children, plus life as a working mum and as a family of five.

beach blue car combi

Photo by Nubia Navarro (nubikini) on Pexels.com

Potty training tips

I wrote this for some friends and thought it would be useful to also post it on here…

Of course you know your child best so adapt/don’t use/etc as you see fit – what works for one child won’t work for another!
1. Potties – one per floor and one per bathroom (depending on your house layout). We also ended up with a garden one so I didn’t care if it got muddy etc! Tried loads of different ones and in the end found the Boots own brand one the best (Ikea also wasn’t bad, Pourty was a us a total waste of money although we know others who swore by it). What works will depend on their height/weight etc although  for boys you have to just make sure they’re sitting quite far back and penis down otherwise it gets messy! (and be careful as they get up from the potty to hold onto it, as the only real accidents I ever had was when my eldest got up without my remembering to hold on and the potty went flying! They are flimsy rubblish things!)
2. Pottette and liners these are great in the early days when you go out, for car journeys and also at people’s houses. Well worth the money. For girls or smaller children you’ll find it particularly useful more long term as it doubles as a travel toilet seat.
3. Kid’s toilet seat – we bought these and had one per bathroom. You’ll need these hopefully after a few weeks of using the potty (see below). Also took it with us to people’s houses if we were there the whole day etc. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tippitoes-Toilet-Trainer-Seat-White/dp/B00180V7SK/ref=sr_1_1?s=baby&ie=UTF8&qid=1403115217&sr=1-1&keywords=toilet+seat We only needed these for a month or so as our eldest was then able to sit on the toilet unaided.
4. Flushable toilet wipes
5. Antibacterial toilet wipes (for cleaning out the potty!)
6. Lots of pants/knickers – either get E/S to choose their own, or choose some you think they’d like. I just went for various plain coloured John Lewis ones. Get 15-20 pairs if you can as it’ll make washing easier.
[When you go out, take lots of pants/knickers with you and also spare clothes. Also take one of 1-3 (your choice), 4 and 5.]
8. Treats – our eldest was very happy with raisins. My middle son needed chocolate coins or buttons. Whatever works for you but it will be useful so have something ready to use. I figured a few days of ludicrous numbers of raisins or chocolate buttons wouldn’t do any long-term harm (just mean more potty trips…!). 
9. Pirate Pete’s potty adventure – or the girls’ equivalent
10. Stool for the sink and the toilet. 1 per bathroom. Ikea has some which are ideal.
11. Nappies – for longer travel, naps and sleeping these are useful if you toilet train at a young age. I called them “car nappies” and “sleeping nappies” as I’d heard some children get funny about this and I wasn’t willing to have to clear up a wet cot/car! Don’t even think about naps/nighttime unless your child is dry for a couple of weeks at night first, as this is physiological/hormonal and they may not be ready to be dry at night for a long time. We used pull up nappies for this purpose.
Are they ready?
For quite a few months (4?) before I stuck my sons on the potty pre bath every night. While it was running we read Pirate Pete together. I edited it slightly as I didn’t want to focus on accidents, just the positive side of potty training and how grown up and clever Pirate Pete was. My sons both loved choosing a potty for Pete and for him, and pants for them both from the pictures. They then started consistently using the potty each night to do a wee.
Other signs:
Awareness –  used to tell me whenever he did a wee/poo during the day.
Enjoyed/fascinated by the potty.
I also cut back my oldest son’s night-time cup of milk – originally because he was leaking out of his nappy but also because I knew it would make toilet training harder long term.He has his milk sometime between 5 and 6 with or after his tea. Has made absolutely no difference to when he needs milk/breakfast the next day. My middle son wasn’t toilet trained until 33 months so no longer had any drinks after his 5pm dinner which made things easier.
What I did
The day before:
Showed my son his new pants. Explained that he was a big boy now like Pirate Pete and that he would get to wear his pants the next day and that he would not wear a nappy anymore during the day (just a sleeping/car nappy as needed).
Day 1
  • after breakfast I took my son’s nappy off him, explained that he was a big boy now like Pirate Pete and that he was going to wear pants all day instead of a nappy. I got him to choose which colour he wanted to wear.
  • I then explained that every time he needed a wee or poo to tell me and we’d get him onto the potty. For every successful wee/poo he’d get a star for his reward chart.
  • I didn’t put him in any clothes other than the pants as it’s much harder to get them onto the potty in time in clothes. Important to wear pants/knickers though as then if they have an accident they will be more aware of it as it’s less comfortable.
  • All day I made sure he drank lots of water (makes everything easier as then they have to go!) and had plenty of fruit and veg.
  • Rather than wait for him to tell me when he needed to go (which you can do to some extent with an older child), I made him sit on the potty every 15 minutes. This was difficult as it interrupted his play. I encouraged this by reading him stories when he sat on it (mainly Pirate Pete) and/or giving him a toy to play with as he sat, praising him lots and if he resisted, giving him raisins to eat (you could use the treats as a reward instead of stickers – we found the stickers worked really well as they were a novelty, just see how you go).
  • Also followed his lead as he started telling me when he needed to go. Sometimes this was a false alarm but I still praised him.
  • Whenever potty was used, I showed him the contents and praised him lots
  • I didn’t bother generally washing his hands after using the potty at this stage, as I thought it was too much for him to take in.
  • At bathtime I got him to sit on the potty pre-bath, post-bath and also post-story just before he got into bed. This is my long-term (ongoing!) prep for dry nights one day (we do have some dry nights now but not enough yet to attempt to be totally nappy free!). If they say they need to go during the bath just get them out temporarily then put them back in again.
Whether to continue to day 2 will depend how the day went. My son was dry all day so I knew he was ready.
Day 2
Mum actually did day 2 on my behalf so there were a couple of accidents but they were because my parents were a bit slow getting him to the potty!
Exactly the same as day 1
Day 3
  • The same as day 1 but longer gaps between when I would get him to sit on the potty. I started to go with him much more as to when he needed to go, which worked very well for us. For my middle son, he was much older and able to hold it in for many hours if he wanted to, so I had to make sure he drank lots so that he got used to going to the toilet regularly!
  • I did though make sure he went to the toilet before and after meals, before a journey and before bed (and we still do this now). Because it was from now on more led by him it did mean the occasional accident, but there weren’t many (and some were my fault, as at this stage I needed to remember he could really only go 40 mins to an hour without needing the toilet – this is very age dependent, my middle son at 33 months could manage 4+ hours during the day if he wanted to!).
  • Washed his hands every time he used the potty. He enjoyed this a lot so for him was an added incentive to use the potty
Day 4+ – went out lots, taking the pottette in a plastic bag and the other items listed above. Made sure he went very regularly when out. 
A few weeks in: 
I decided I didn’t want to have to use the potty anymore (as it’s a pain to clean out etc) so moved to the kids toilet seat. As my oldest was so young I had him sitting down for a long time (easier to transition from potty and also he was too short for a long time to stand) but with my middle son we went straight to standing up within a week of being toilet trained.
A few weeks after that: 
I realised if my son sat sort of straddling the toilet (legs v apart) he could manage without a toilet seat. And to this day we’ve never needed one which makes going out much easier.

General tips:

  • for naps, cars and at bedtime, I used to put his pants over his nappy. I don’t bother with this anymore but he liked it as he still felt grown up despite wearing a nappy. Also meant when he woke from a nap I could whip the nappy off quickly and he’d be ready to go, saving me time. I soon started using pull-ups (pampers easy ups) as they were more like pants and also meant at night if he needed the toilet once ready for bed I didn’t have the hassle of getting a nappy off.
  • Be prepared to spend the first few days at home – makes things much easier
  • Tip potty down toilet when full. Use anti-bac wipes to clean it. Isn’t actually as bad as you think it’ll be!
  • Always keep the potty close to you for the first few days rather than in the bathroom. When they say “wee wee” you normally have seconds at this age to then get them on the potty before there’s an accident.
  • Make sure you take all your “equipment” with you when out. The pottette can have 3 of the liners on it at once which is helpful, as means you’re ready for a few toilet trips in succession.
  • When you go out and/or they are wearing clothes, put them in clothes which are easy to take off. Friends found dresses easy for girls. For boys avoid jeans and go for tracksuit bottoms/etc so it’s nice and quick for you to pull them down.
  • Don’t be bashful about using potty/pottette in public. It’s for a very short period and not a big deal to sit your child on it next to the swings for example or on the kerbside when you have to stop the car.
  • Despite using “car” nappies we gave up after a bit. My sons really didn’t want to use them and instead always insisted we stop the car and they use the pottette so they were always dry. We now only use them if we’re driving somewhere at night when he’d usually be asleep, or for long motorway drives in case we’re not able to stop in time and he needs to go.
  • I have heard stories about children not wanting to wear nappies for their daytime nap and/or trying to drop the daytime nap once toilet trained. This did not happen to us or close friends though but wanted to warn you! (that’s why I think it’s useful to explain “sleeping nappies” so they don’t worry about needing the toilet while napping etc).
  • If there’s an accident, just say “oh dear” etc at first and don’t make a fuss. Clear it up quickly and move on. Once things are more established though do make a bigger deal – it’s worth your child understanding that accidents are a hassle for them (as they interrupt playtime if they then need to get cleaned up and clothes changed) and a hassle for you.
  • For poos, I taught my sons to stand up and “touch toes” afterwards. This made and still makes wiping him much much easier. We still generally use washlets unless we’re out as they’re much kinder on his skin than toilet paper.
  • There will be false alarms when they say “wee” and then you sit them on the potty and nothing happens. And other occasions when they need to go 3 times in 10 minutes. Just let them guide you here however frustrating it is. We had 1 nightmare car journey once when my oldest insisted he needed to go and we sat kerbside with him for 15 minutes. Thankfully he hasn’t done that since though!
  • Once a boy is tall enough to stand – when you’re out he can always stand on your feet to use a toilet if no stool is available.
  • Poos – loads of people have issues here. We didn’t so I don’t have anything to say other than make sure they eat lots of fruit/veg and drink lots so they don’t have a choice but to go.
Finally, only 1 of my friends also trained their child at 22 months: apparently it is very unusual these days. Most people seem to do it 2.5+ for girls and often closer to 3 for boys. So if it doesn’t work don’t be disheartened, just try again in a few weeks or months (just not in the 6 weeks prior to a baby’s arrival as there’s too great a risk they will then regress. Better to then wait until the baby is a few months old). But it is worth trying as hard as you can this summer to sort it all out – I have so appreciated only having 1 child in nappies and it was a pleasure being able to leave the house without a changing bag/etc.