Travelling with Kids — “When it all goes wrong!”

We seem to be a magnet for things going wrong when we travel! Not that every trip is a disaster, but we seem to have our share of bad luck when we are travelling internationally. Our first experience was in Fiji when I was 8 months pregnant with number one. We travelled to Fiji for a wedding and ended up missing entire ceremony and half of the reception after falling down a little flight of stairs. The little imp then played possum and it seemed an eternity until he moved again. Needless to say that was an awful scary time, until we finally got to listen to our baby's strong heartbeat on a monitor in hospital in Naviti.

Next up was a trip to the Gold Coast where on the night before we departed to come home we received a call informing us of an ash cloud from Puyehue Volcano in Chile, which had drifted to between NZ and Australia, and that our flights were cancelled. This ended up circling the world 2-3 time and we eventually made it home with Air New Zealand 10 days after our original return date.

The most recent trip was to Australia then Vanuatu. Day 2 of the trip, Wayne stood on some coral, doing this best David Hasselhoff impression. He was rescuing our boys and friends children from a wee rip their kayak was in. The kids were all wearing life jackets but were heading out of the lagoon into the stunning blue Pacific Ocean! Wayne had a small cut on his foot, and whilst we were told to "keep an eye on it" we never gave it another thought until he turned terribly ill with a massive blood infection about 7 days later. It was a very scary time for us all, and seeing how fast his health was going downhill, was just awful. After consultation between the expat Dr, and our insurance company it was decided to Medi-evac him hospital back in NZ. The hospital facilities in Vanuatu are dreadful, and 3rd world at best, so this was definitely the best decision.

This was our 3rd international trip gone awry in only 6 yrs! But we have learned a heap along the way. The first and biggie being INSURANCE INSURANCE INSURANCE. It is so reasonably priced but is absolutely vital! Our phone bill alone from dealing with Wayne's injury in Vanuatu was over $1500. The insurance company booked return tickets, arranging the medical care for Wayne on his return, and most invaluably provided us with a 24 hr nurse on call on the phone for all of our medial questions. Wayne returned by himself to a wheelchair at the arrivals gate, taxi waiting, medical staff on standby, hospitals briefed, it was an easy tradition and very reassuring to be at much better medical facilities. Our bill from the ash cloud and trip extension was over $5000. This was due to needing additional accommodation, meals, hire car extension, and new air tickets due to swapping airlines needing to return to run our business. In my opinion you can not go without insurance should you travel with littlies. Even if the insurance is needed for the adults, the peace of mind for the other parent and for the family as a whole is just vital.

My 2nd piece of advice is to not be afraid to ask for advice and help. This was especially important in Vanuatu, where we made the wonderful Holiday Inn Resort Vanuatu management aware of our situation. The team were superbly helpful and sympathetic to our plight, offering help with the kids (6, 5 and 1), efficiency when we needed paperwork and passports etc scanned back to NZ, and anything I needed for Wayne was a smile and a moment away. Vanuatu is a bit dodgy and very 3rd world, so the local advice and knowledge meant we could be kept safe with a great ex-pat doctor, proper taxi drivers etc. We also had the benefit of wonderful friends who were so thoughtful, concerned and helpful. They certainly took the edge of our anxiety and were always a phone call away! Whilst stuck in Australia with the ash cloud we kept extending and re-extending our stay, the management team rearranged rooms so that we could stay put and were extremely flexible with regards to checking out times. Even at airports and the like, don't be afraid to ask for help from a kindly face if it all gets too much!

My third piece of advice, especially true for me, is that I found I had to take a step back, take a big breath, sort my headspace out and then take on the challenges with a smile. Yes I can say goodbye to my very ill husband as he flew home for hospital care, yes I can look after 3 little boys by myself (especially in a beautiful resort :) ), yes I can fly internationally with 3 little ones, I can cope with customs at each end with exhausted kids suffering from a severe case of cabin fever, yes we can manage our business from a far with the help of others in the short term, yes we are together, we are safe and we can do this!