What we took with us
…(and what we bought when we got there)
I’ve really pondered over whether to do this post, but then in conversations with friends I realised we all pass on tips and share knowledge of great products all the time – and they can be really useful. So take from this what you will and give it a swerve if it’s not your bag (‘scuse the pun). Packing for a family, and remembering what worked last time (and what didn’t) can mess with my brain.
The detail is sometimes in the small things, for example SPF – when we went three years ago, I only packed one sun lotion, assuming we’d get more there as we needed it. But with two kids allergic to an ingredient in most brands, we spent a small fortune in Manly chemists on a daily basis (they don’t do 3 for 2 like we get in the supermarkets here, plus the exchange rate made it eye-wateringly pricey).
In addition, I over-packed last time. We didn’t touch half the clothes I took with us. With a stop-over in Hong Kong, I really didn’t want to be grappling with huge amounts of luggage on the trains, (whilst herding the smalls to make sure nobody gets left behind!) So like I say, this is my persona lessons learned, including in-flight skin saviours – take what’s useful if anything.
Packing light, but with bulk bought UK-based essentials:
Manly is well-known for it’s laid back cool. Whilst dressing up is the order of the day for work in Sydney, or an evening out – we were doing neither this time. So out went any shoe that wasn’t practical, out went anything remotely warm (long sleeves, long trousers/jeans) and instead it was all about lightweight clothes for layering – homemade sundresses with a breton for cooler days for the girl and I, a beach cover up from Coco Bay for me plus a mid length skirt (this one – Marina from Hush – was my most worn item without a doubt) and two pairs of shorts and lots of tees for the boy. The husband, as usual packed in a similar vein to the boy. My sister does after all, have a washing machine (!) Flip flops were the only shoe packed (because they still fitted from our summer, otherwise get them there) – everyone wearing their one pair of trainers for the flights. Ditto sweatshirts for the air-con on the flights, and just in case of a cooler day once we were there (and for HK) Job done.
I packed super-lightweight stripy hamman towels (one in the feature image) from Cornish company Sea Salt, which in the Aussie heat dried in minutes (truly) I did notice you can get these all over Manly, including in the budget chemists, so it could be something to pick up over there.
I did take enough shampoo to sink a battle ship, in the knowledge that it’s far cheaper here and it would all get used, given we’d be in and out of the sea every day (ie it wouldn’t be coming home with us again, so much less weight for the return leg) Plus Kitty uses Curly Ellie as it’s the only shampoo that I’ve found that deals with her curly, fine hair, so I took that with us. Ditto suncream (but I found a far superior one there – more later) I also packed Mrs White’s Unstung Hero to keep the mozzies at bay…easily the best repellent I’ve found for our sensitive skin, DEET and chemical-free, I’ve often avoided a single bite or sting when wearing it, and it’s skin friendly for the kids too. Available here (but note that it’s in a glass bottle so I wrap inside something in case of spillages)
The lovely Kayleigh at the Beauty Lounge in my home town told me about a fab SPF that would likely suit my incredibly pale skin but allow for some tan to build up and she was right – so I took that with me too; It lasted most of the holiday, I ran out two days before we left, so next time I’d take two bottles. Pricey, but so worth it – zero burn but a light golden tan, which for me is nothing short of a miracle (below) so that’s my tip for any fellow pale girls out there. I also packed my own Dermalogica, but little did I know that at Gatwick airport there’s a really extensive range of beauty brands in duty free now, not just the usual suspects – Dermalogica included. So I’d stock up there in future. Ditto Origins for their impressive tinted moisturiser as recommended by UK cult beauty columnist Sali Hughes which at factor 40, gave me enough coverage during the day and rescued tired skin after a late night too many.
So, now to what we bought there:
Everything else pretty much, we bought when we got there. I mean, come on, you’re not going to pack surf wear essentials when you’ve got so many options over in Manly are you? So the kids bought their rashies and board shorts in Surf, Dive, Ski (surf wear for kids is also an immensely welcome and practical Christmas pressie) I headed to H&M over in Sydney for some budget beach sundresses that you don’t mind getting suncream on. My sister bought us the most useful gift ever – our beach shelter. It was invaluable (and has made it home with us – coming to a Whitstable beach near you this summer) and unlike umbrellas, it’s firmly anchored and doesn’t blow away the minute there’s a gust of wind. You can buy them here (they also do a gazebo style) and I noticed other brands have jumped on board too.
– Byron Bay Beach Shelter, can be put up in various configurations
Sunny Life do a practical wipeable beach bag which should be big enough to carry the beach essentials for the whole family. The youngest’s investment piece with her spending money was one of their amazing inflatables.
Bag from Sunnylife – now in the UK too
Coming back to sunscreen…so we ran out of our supply (predictable) but I wasn’t convinced by its coverage in the hottest sun in any case. We discovered SUN BUM (image above) – a Californian brand that I haven’t as yet been able to track down here since we got back (other than at ridiculously over inflated prices via Amazon) 0- so I’ll be asking my sister to send me a load over as it’s amazing. Once we switched, the kids skin was comfortable, no hives, no nasties, just delicious banana-smelling smalls, with zero burn. We are truly converted and all currently weeping that their cool down after sun has now run out back at home.
Special mention for really pretty clothes for little girls and babies, Aubrie Australia is a local brand and you can buy online too here.
Hand Luggage and In-Flight Skin Saviours
Having now done countless long hauls with the kids in tow, I can safely say you don’t need much. Kitty, our youngest who’s life motto is “more is more” did over pack her little wheelie onboard suitcase, and had to bail some stuff out. But all you need, regardless of age (I think) is:
- a decent pair of headphones designed for smaller heads
- a fully loaded kindle
- coloured pencils (these are good from muji)
- a colouring-in book and plain paper
- a neck cushion and eye mask
- a change of pants, and a sweatshirt
- a pack of cards and/or a small game such as Top Trumps or Dobble
- an empty re-useable water bottle (to keep the smalls hydrated, a friend who is ex cabin crew said to just ask them to fill ’em up. Those titchy cups they hand round are a massive spill hazard and hold about a thimble worth of water)
My In-Flight Essentials
- my in-flight uniform is a lose pair of trousers, (the aimie jogger from Hush doesn’t feel like I’m straying into Waynetta territory, and maintaining some sense of style to boot) layered with a breton and a cosy sweatshirt or a versatile knitted wrap like these from Love Molly
- I decanted my usual cleanser, toner and moisturiser that will last the flight, the stopover and the next flight. Remember some cotton wool pads and tissues too. I have tried pre-loaded cleansing wipes aimed at flight travel but personally I find they strip the skin leaving it feeling stretched. Using my usual products is a no-brainer
- I also pack a Dermalogica hydrating face mask (their multivitamin power recovery masque is good too, a bit strong for my skin with too much use but alternating them can be really effective) As soon as the lights are lowered, I clean my face and whack this on for the remainder of the flight plus loads of lip balm. Just before we land I remove it and put the tinted moisturiser back on and hand on heart I feel vaguely human. Either pack sample sachets, or the hydrating mask comes in a 60ml tube and is therefore less than the 100ml limit
- DVT socks – so attractive, but not worth risking flying long-haul without them
- Kids calpol and nurofen singles, you just never know when a headache, sore throat or fever will strike, better to be prepared and these get through security
- Plasters, lip balm, babywipes. hand sanitzer
- Empty re-useable water bottle
- Decent headphones, a fully loaded kindle and the all important chargers
So that’s a round up of how we get from A to B as a family, when it involves many planes (and trains and automobiles)
If I had one regret, it’s that I didn’t stock up on my Aesop favourites whilst there – we just ran out time. And that I didn’t take my hairdryer as my diffuser didn’t fit my sister’s. Curly hair + Oz humidity = scary 70s barnet.
My final Aus-trip related post will come up next, what we did with the kids in our Hong Kong stop over, and what we wish we’d done differently.
Thanks for reading.