I thought I knew what I was doing when it came to travelling with kids.
(I'll wait while you finish laughing at me.)
I think I can at least be forgiven for thinking that travelling with two children wouldn't be any different to travelling with one, at this stage of proceedings. After all, one is still inside me and not even big enough to cause me discomfort (in theory). But any time in pregnancy is unpredictable. Who would have known that the only time I've ever experienced pregnancy nausea would occur in the week leading up to the holiday, and the first week or so in?
Saying you know anything about travelling with kids is a bit crazy really. You can't know how they're going to be - they're all different, not just each individual but each one on a different day (same as adults are). The trips we've previously taken Abbey on didn't count in any way towards knowing how to best approach this holiday. She was younger on those trips, they were different types of holidays, even we were different parents in subtle ways.
And so it took us a few days to settle in to holiday mode. I think it always takes a bit of adjustment, finding a rhythm with the whole family there and focused on each other. Actually, this is the part I found the hardest. I like silence, I like being alone sometimes. Try that in a campervan with two others.
I guess you could say that the first step in the whole thing was to get over myself. Stop expecting people to leave me alone, and stop expecting so much of my girl. Just stop expecting.
It's then, and only then, that travelling with kids becomes fun.
That's my big new secret: the success of family holidays is all about parents relaxing. That doesn't mean having no boundaries or ignoring rotten behaviour. It just means being realistic about your expectations.
Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking our little girl is always tough. Abbey copes incredibly well with change, but we did forget that she could be a little homesick. She's brave but some situations are still overwhelming and scary. And familiarity is everything to a young child.
When we got our heads around having to help her a little more than usual through those first few days, we changed our holiday slightly. We started incorporating play time into our days: a stop at a park, some time in a cafe with toys, a run around in the autumn leaves, a swim - some time to just let her be made a huge difference.
|Stopping at a park isn't dull for parents with this backdrop. Beautiful Queenstown.|
|A stop at a farm for animal feeding and pony rides.|
|A run around in Rotorua (I took photos while holding my nose!) between drives.|
|A rocky beach was an opportunity to make rock-castles.|
|When the scenery of Doubtful Sound becomes a bit boring for a three-year-old, she finds the blocks.|
I think she had a pretty good time in the end.
More New Zealand photos and words to come...