Get well soon dad!

It’s hard to put into words how the past few weeks have affected us all, but we are so grateful for your visits and we want to keep you posted. My dad has been battling with a brain infection and after weeks of treatment (including an operation, medication and rehabilitation) we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and I can safely say, he is now recovering in hospital.

The impact of knowing one of my parents is sick at the other side of the world has been brutaI. All of a sudden the chance of losing a parent while I’m too far away to be of any use has switched from a possibility to a probability and the realisation is terrifying. I can only describe my state as being paralysed with fear while I waited for news from one side of the world to reach the other and the narrow window between England waking up and us going to sleep or vice-versa has felt like an instrument of torture.

We never committed to being here for the rest of our lives and considered this an a wonderful opportunity to relive the experience of living in Australia that Ste and I enjoyed ten years ago, this time with our children. Australia is such a beautiful country that has welcomed the five of us with open arms and opportunities to lay the foundations for future generations of Fitzpatricks to enjoy a life in the sunshine. We have made some amazing friends that have turned our new city into a home and the time we have spent together over the past two years has created memories that we all will treasure for the rest of our lives. But is that enough?

I keep reminding myself to ‘live in the moment’ and not let my imagination project me so far into the future, it makes my head spin. But I can’t help it. I’ve been so lucky to have been unconditionally loved as part of a strong community of family and friends that at times like this, I just want to be back in Manchester with our team again.

I am so happy for anyone who can throw themselves into an international move and stay focussed on the positives, because there are so many but I’m finding that increasingly difficult at the moment. I look up at the brilliant blue sky and feel thankful for another warm day then wish my mum was here to feel the sun on her face too or feel overwhelmed with joy as I watch the kids paddle for the first time unaided in the sea, then feel my heart sink that there’s no-one else here to share it with. Every Christmas, every kids birthday, every new milestone reached or performance completed, every fear overcome and memory made is both wonderful and regretful in equal measure. People say “at least there’s video calls these days” and yes, we are very grateful for the improvement in the ability to stay connected but events soon lose their luster when you have to wait a day to explain them.

I am so grateful for the doctors and family members in Manchester that have cared for my dad and got him back on track with his health and I only wish I could have been there to help. Though I’ve checked flights more often than I’ve checked the weather recently, the reality is it is so expensive for us all to fly to England (around $7k) and the only alternative is that I go alone and leave Ste and the kids, but the thought of being so far away from them gives me so much anxiety I could vomit. For now at least we are out of the proverbial water and I can breath a sigh of relief. By the good grace of the universe, we have been given a second chance to enjoy time with my dad and everyone else back in England, how we choose to use that time is the next big thing we need to figure out.

I prefer to keep the blog a place people can visit to share in our positivity and adventures so I don’t want to go into too much detail but for anyone that is considering a move down under, please consider the implications it will have on you not only now but in the future too. It’s a morbid thought but all the sun in the world won’t make up for the feeling of losing someone you love when you’re miles away. It certainly has put the chances of us staying in Australia back into question again. I state of limbo that I wouldn’t wish on anyone!

Love from Leyla

Moving to Melbourne – our most frequently asked questions

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have this blog as a space where people from around the world can get in touch with me with their questions about the emigration process and I’ve made some very good friends along the way. It’s become an absolute blessing to be able to help people facilitate their move and what’s really special is seeing them make their dreams come true when they land. It’s also given me a good handle on what it is that people want to know either before they make the decision to leave their home country or after they’ve arrived so I’ve put together a list of the most frequently asked questions I’ve had.

How did you chose a location?

Just an hours drive south east from Melbourne city is an area cushioned by crystal blue sea and filled with coastal cafes, rare restaurants and wineries known as the Mornington Peninsula. The region is also the place we chose to settle when we left Manchester and after almost two years of acclimatizing, it is starting to feel like ‘home’.

People often ask us why we chose to bring our children to live in this part of the world, probably because Australia has a similar land mass to Europe so the possibilities of where  we could have settled was immense. But having spent a year traveling Australia in 2007, both Ste and I knew that  there was nowhere else on the planet we would rather raise our children.

Before we left the UK, we would spend hours on YouTube watching little films about the Mornington Peninsula “ooo’ing” and “aaaah’ing” at drone footage over sand and surf while the kids shouted “oh can we do that?” as we watched people swim with dolphins, run on beaches and – for me – sit outside wineries enjoying the locally made beverages! It had to be somewhere really special for us to leave England behind because despite the usual complaints we had about the cold weather and dark days of winter, we were happy. It wasn’t ‘broken’ so I didn’t feel a need to ‘fix it’, which meant for me the move had to be an enhancement of the wonderful world we’d already spent our lifetimes creating.

Cue a very good friend of mine that came into my life when we lived in Hawthorn ten years ago – Dayna. Dayna told us how beautiful life on the Peninsula  part of Melbourne is and how it’s a perfect place to raise a family. We knew we wanted to live near the beach (there’s no point moving from one urban area to another, right?) but the practicalities of house prices along the coast were completely unattainable the closer to the city they were. Traveling down the coast and away from the CBD, house prices seemed to decrease slightly so it made sense to us to head that way and rent a home in an area that would be affordable for us to buy in one day. That was if we chose to stay.

How did you find a place to live when you first arrived?

We rented through Air BnB for four weeks, which allowed us just enough time (by the skin of our teeth!) to acquire a job, a long term rental and furniture to fill it with. I wouldn’t recommend shipping furniture as the thousands of pounds that it costs to do it, plus the price of renting somewhere furnished while you wait for the cargo to arrive (which takes around three months) will potentially cost more than buying it after you arrive. If you don’t want to buy brand new there is Gumtree, local Facebook pages and the usual free ads filled with everything you will need to furnish your new home when you’re here.

What about the cost of living?

I can’t speak for anywhere else in the country as I can only go off my own experiences and that’s of Melbourne, but it seems to me that the ‘Australian Dream’ consisting of coming over here to improved job prospects, smaller commutes to work leading to an improvement in family time and owning a house with a pool near the beach, is very much over. With the prices rising as quickly as they are at the current rates, becoming a home owner in this city is moving further and further from our reach and I suspect that of the majority of people who move to Melbourne now.

Jobs prospects on the Mornington Peninsula are very much dependant on your vocation, but for the majority of people, working means a commute to the city and a three hour round trip. For us this has meant Ste’s working days have increased in their duration and he no longer has as much time to spend at home as he did back in Manchester (which could be a good thing for him some days!) It’s definitely fair to say the added longevity of days for both of us plus the loss of support from family that used to allow us time-out together now and again has definitely impacted on our energy and stress levels! See Seek.com.au for jobs advertised throughout the country.

With a growth rate of approximately 16% per year, the house prices have increased dramatically since we arrived in Melbourne in 2016. We chose to rent as we weren’t sure how long we would be staying here but if we had bought a house when we landed, it would have cost us a huge portion less than the same house would cost us to buy today. The average house price in Melbourne really differs between suburbs but the median of the city is estimated at $826,000, which is almost three times the average price of a house in Manchester.

It sounds phenomenal (and it is) but when you compare that to the average annual household income of both cities (Manchester is estimated at $41,000/£24,000 and Melbourne at $81,000/£47,000 according to the 2016 Census) you can work out for yourself if you think the higher prices here are in proportion to the higher wages. The cost of living came as a massive shock when we landed and found ourselves paying over three times the price in rent for a three bedroom home as our mortgage payments were on a house of the same dwelling size in Manchester. A great place to compare prices of houses throughout Australia is RealEstate.com.au.

According to website Numbeo.com, the cost of food is also an average of 32% higher in Australia than it is in the U.K with bread averaged at 80% more costly and simple salad items such as lettuce a whopping 100% more expensive. Utilities such as internet is up 70% and the cost of your average monthly train travel ticket is up over 30% also. The price of petrol is the only thing we’ve found to be cheaper at 33% lower, which helps with the larger areas of land you have to travel to get from one place to another though the cost of buying a car is estimated at over 20% higher.

How about schooling?

We’ve found a lot of differences between the school systems in the two countries, but for us the main one with three children aged five and under when we arrived, was the age that school starts in this part of Australia. In England the age a child starts school is the September following their fourth birthday, whereas in Victoria children are expected to start school the year they turn five. The school year starts in January with the six week summer holidays encompassing Christmas allowing families to make the most of the beautiful summer sunshine and the year is divided into four terms, with no half term holidays.

Before primary school starts, kindergarten is where children can go for two years from age three, but the first year is not supplemented by the government and costs around $2,000 for five hours per week. For us this means a lot of money as we have twins to pay for so it is up to the individual to work out if it’s an affordable option for them. When a child turns four (depending on their visa type) they may be eligible for some support to help with the fees, which is around the same amount but gives them 15 hours of care. In England, all children are entitled to 570 free hours of childcare per year, which is usually taken as 15 hours a week for 38 weeks from the term after a child turns three. This is obviously a massive difference to take into account when budgeting for a move down under with young children. See here for more info.

I think I need to also mention the size of schools here. I can only speak from my own experience, but I have always found the primary schools in England to be fairly small with most activities taking place within the class room. Primary schools here in Melbourne remind me of British high schools due to their immense size (Ariana’s school has over 700 pupils) with facilities such as sport, art, science and language departments. We have been really impressed by the school we chose for our daughter and the opportunities to learn and play it has given to her but I do worry that navigating such a huge space from such a young age could be overwhelming for some kids.

There is also a real sense of ‘trust’ within the community as some schools here in Victoria have little to no security at their perimeters. Gates are wide open all day, sometimes leading onto busy highways and anyone can walk in or out without the need to ask for permission. This has been a massive shock to me and I have worried a lot about the problems this lack of protection of the kids that this system can bring but I’m learning to live with it!

Another element to the school system worth noting is the Victorian state government’s ‘No Jab No Play’ policy that came into place in 2015, which prohibits the enrollment of unvaccinated children in Victorian childcare services (not including primary or secondary schools). The extra vaccinations on top of the British schedule for a child moving to Victoria includes Chicken Pox and Hepatitis B. Failure to comply with the law will result in not only a refusal of education but to any potential financial support from the government also. For more information visit avn.org.au.

Missing home

If you’re lucky enough to have lived a life filled with family and friends, there’s no doubt that starting a new life in a foreign country will leave you feeling a loss like grief at times. There’s so many wonderful ways to keep in touch with everyone via social media and apps, but nothing compares to having the familiarity only a family can bring particularly when raising young children. I feel really lucky to have lived all my life without experiencing emotions such as loneliness and loss until now, and that certainly is an element of emigration that seems to be sticking around.

We had the over optimistic notion that we would be able to visit England regularly after we moved to Australia, however the cost of flights for our family of five means we need to save around $800 per month to make an annual visit. You can figure out from there, even if we want to do it bi-yearly, we’d still need to save $100 per week, which just isn’t do-able at this stage in our lives. You can see from our blog posts here and here that we did make the trip in October last year and how wonderful it was to be reunited with everyone who’s made such an effort to stay in our lives since we moved away but the grueling journey and financial hit has meant that we can’t do it again for a while. Saying goodbye to people for potentially another two or three years is heartbreaking to do and it’s the same financial burden for family and friends to visit Australia too.

How easy is it to make friends?

Making friends is something that needs to take time and I would really recommend getting established in a community that makes you feel comfortable being the first step. From there, it’s easy to meet new people either through work or the kids schools and hobbies and we have been really lucky to have met some wonderful people over the past couple of years. There is so much to do here in Melbourne and everywhere we go is so child-friendly, we have had so much fun with the gorgeous families that have come into our lives and having a support network again has made us feel more at home than ever before. Most of pictures in this particular post were taken at one of our favourite places here in the Peninsula – The Briars, which is just one example of the endless activities available for families to enjoy.

So, I’ve tried to answer some of the questions I’ve been asked most regularly here and I hope it can be of some help for some of you that are considering making the move to Melbourne. I’m always happy to answer questions through here and my facebook and Instagram pages, so please feel free to send me a message if there’s anything else you’d like to know. I’ll add to this list again very soon.

If you found this post useful, you might like more from our new Emigration page (linked in the title bar above) and please share this page with anyone you think could benefit from the information.

Love from Leyla

Considering a move down under?

It’s easy to forget that we’ve moved to the opposite end of the earth now our lives here have settled into a routine so similar to the one we had back in the UK that I’m often startled when I hear an Aussie accent! If I stay in the present moment, life is good and the new home we’ve created here in Melbourne is nothing short of wonderful with a lovely village and great schools, fantastic friends that we love and can rely on and a beautiful beach right on our doorstep. Yes, all of the boxes we drew up when we dreamed of our new lives down under have (hypothetically) been ticked!

So why is it that sometimes I feel like I’ve hit a wall? Why do I spend some days counting the hours until my British friends and family wake up so I can contact them (nine hours feels like a really long time when you’ve got something important you want to share!) and why does everything (even the good stuff) just feel a little bit empty?

It’s safe to say we weren’t prepared for the emotional burden a move overseas would bring, particularly as we compared it to when we lived here previously (without children was a whole lot different!) As we’ve raised the kids in two countries, we can’t help but compare life over here with what we had back in England and there’s a good chance I might be driving myself a bit mad in the process!

I know your time is precious and I am always very grateful for your visit so I mostly try to share the good vibes through this blog but as so many people have been asking about what life is really like here as they are considering making a similar move, I feel I have to share both the ups and downs too or it will be disingenuous. I’ve spoken to lots of people who are here from the UK and I think it would be useful for me to share our common complaints with those who haven’t made the move yet but are considering it. Don’t get me wrong, we are so grateful for the opportunity to be here but it has to be said that there are things that have come as a big surprise! They are:

The distance! When we first envisaged our lives in Australia, we thought we’d be able to make a trip back to England every year but flights are so expensive we’ve worked out we would need to save about $600 every month just to afford it. When you also add in the cost of family flying out here to visit us, the total sum of spending a few weeks together every year is astronomical and completely unattainable if we want to a) live and b) eat. The journey is also incredibly grueling, not only for children but for adults too. Our parents are in their sixties and 24 hours in the air plus stop-over time and journeys to and from the airport mean a few days is needed either side of the journey just to recover from the jet-lag. There is also a new friend that comes with every visitor in the form of an elephant in the room – that dreaded thought that even the wonderful time you are spending together will soon come to an end and (even though no-one wants to mention it), the fact is that you will soon be saying some heart wrenching goodbyes.

The location! It’s so hard to choose a place you want to spend the rest of your lives if you’ve never visited the country before and yet the majority of people that get in touch with me have never set foot on Australian soil. I think the media do a good job of selling the Australian dream to us Brits and the pictures posted with beach backdrops only further seduce us into making the move with the hopes of attaining the big house with the big pool by the beautiful beach. However, even visiting for a holiday would only make you fall in love with the place even more so it’s difficult to gauge a true indication of how you’ll feel when ‘real life’ sets in. I’d say doing research and talking to people who have moved to those areas is a great idea. There are heaps of Facebook pages dedicated to Poms Down Under and websites such as Bob In Oz are really helpful too.

Family support! I didn’t realise how much I relied on my family for support (physically and emotionally) until we were alone at the other side of the other side of the world. It came as a huge shock to not be able to call round to see someone after a bad day or ask for help when I was too ill to manage the school run or just to watch the kids be loved and listened to by people other than ourselves. Regardless of how close you are to your parents, it’s important to bear in mind that the time you get to spend with your loved ones is not infinite and watching them grow older on video calls and during bi-annual visits could make you question if you’ve made the right decision every single day. Also, can we just take a minute to appreciate babysitters! There’s a lot to be said for spending quality time together as a family but there’s also a lot to be said for having time alone as a couple while the kids are with their grandparents too (*sob!)

The climate! If ever you’ve wished for sunshine all year round, the thought of life in Australia really appeals. Even here in Melbourne with its seasons, the winter is short lived and after a few months of cooler weather convincing the kids to wear coats rather than layers of sun screen and hats, the prospect of swimming in the sea after school or spending the weekend camping at the beach is never far away. One thing to consider however is that us Brits take access to Europe incredibly forgranted and even though the rain really gets us down particularly in the North, the ability to fly overseas and experience new countries and cultures is very different to living here in the southern hemisphere. Also mosquitoes – can I just say YUK! I’m dreading them and their bites keeping us awake at night as soon as the weather warms up again! The only little menaces I will put up with losing sleep over is the kids!

Work permits and Visas! Australia only allows entry to people who have a skilled occupation and are between the ages of 18 and 50. The list of occupations in demand changes every year and it was slashed by 200 in 2017, however there are still around 400 on there. We found employing a Migration Expert invaluable and checking websites that do online eligibility tests really useful too. The Australian Immigration Office is a great place to start.

Finding work! If you are open to moving to any part of Australia, it may be worth doing a quick job hunt to see where your vocation is in the highest demand and then heading there! Seek is a great website to start from and you may be able to get in touch with prospective employers who could be willing to offer sponsorship to the right candidate, saving you heaps of time and money. We found salaries around a third higher than what is typically on offer in the UK, but it’s important to note that the cost of living is higher too. Although petrol is a lot cheaper, food definitely isn’t and mortgage/rent could be excessively more (our rent is 4 times the cost of our mortgage payments per month back in the UK). Because the weather is milder there’s a lot more fantastic activities you can do outdoors with the kids that cost next to nothing, but if you want them to have hobbies be prepared to factor in those costs too (those ballet and football classes suddenly seems less important when they’re costing hundreds of dollars every month!)

Finding property! Now we have the internet at hand, searching for a place to live before heading over here is easier than ever. We found Real Estate a great help in gauging house prices in different areas both for sale and to rent but if you don’t want to commit to a property until you get over here and drive around the areas working out the neighborhoods and transport links (highly recommended) renting a short term stay through Air bnb is a safe place to start. We rented a house for the first four weeks of our adventure, which was a great way to base ourselves while we searched for somewhere more permanent. I have to say it’s important to be aware of the property market over here though. As we were homeowners in the UK, we didn’t necessarily have the references the estate agents wanted from previous landlords and Ste didn’t even have a job when we first arrived to put down on our application but we persevered. The rental market here is SO FIERCE we’ve even heard of houses going up for auction and rented to the highest bidder and people have to be willing to put up six months rent in advance just to secure a home. It’s brutal to say the least and was probably the scariest aspect of our move over here. As for buying a house, property prices in Melbourne have sky rocketed in the past few years due to a combination of high demand and limited stock pricing many families completely out of the buyers market. A median priced house is now over 7 times the average households annual earning capacity.

IMG_3350-1 (Medium)Covering costs! The price of visas, flights and the cost of living until you find work (if you haven’t come over here with a job already lined up) will go into the tens of thousands. Even if you pay the hundreds in fees to ship your belongings over here, it’s worth noting that your furniture will take around 3 months to arrive so it’s not necessarily feasible that you’ll be able to wait for beds to sleep in and a sofa to sit on. The chances are that you’ll need to scrap your belongings and start again – exciting at best but expensive at worst! Ikea and Gumtree will very likely become your best friends but take it from us and be prepared to buy your cars from a dealership – the laws over here are not the same as they are in the UK with ‘Buyer Beware’ being a motto we’ve had to learn the hard way!

Health care! This is something we didn’t spend much time looking into, I’ll be honest. So used to the good old NHS and the comfort having free health care for you and your family brings, it’s not something that was in the forefront of our minds. However, a few weeks into our lives over here and the kids needed to see a doctor so $80 later, we had only paid for the consultation then had the prescription to pay for on top of it too (fill your suitcase with Calpol before you leave!) ‘Bulk Billing’ is a phrase to look out for if you need a doctor as care at these practices is free and you can visit any surgery unlike in the UK where you are tied to the one closest to home. The vaccinations program is also more intense than what kids are expected to have in the UK too, with schools and childcare providers apparently reserving the right to deny access to your child until proof of a completed schedule is provided and any family support (if you’re entitled to it) can also be reduced/denied. Private health insurance is costly as is ambulance cover, which is an absolute essential. If you’re lucky you may qualify for Medicare, which is government funded help with medical costs dependent on your household income.

Banking! To open a bank account in Australia you need identification such a passport, drivers license and an Australian residency address. You’ll need to build up credit ratings before you can apply for credit cards or overdrafts and you will incur foreign exchange transaction costs when moving money from the UK to Australia.

IMG_3361-1 (Medium)Education! Australia does not have a national curriculum like in the UK and the education each school provides is set by the individual state. The quality of schools really varies so it’s really important to get to know the area and speak to locals to work out which one will be the best fit for your child. Public schools are free for those on a Permanent Residency Visa though be prepared to pay for books, excursion fees and school dinners. It’s also worth noting that school doesn’t start for children until the year they turn 5 with the option of ‘holding them back’ until the following year if their birthday falls between December and April. Until then, the only compulsory education is 4 year old kindergarten, which runs for 15 hours per week and is chargable. The terms are super long here too, with no half-term break as we were accustomed to back in the UK with the longest summer holidays falling during the Christmas period (which we loved as it meant daddy was off work to spend time with the kids too).

Having said all of that (as negative as some of it sounds!) we would never trade the opportunity that we’ve been given to experience living in another country as a family even if that’s for a short time or for the rest of our lives. The winter is upon us now here in Melbourne and although the temperature has dropped to below 10 degrees some days, the rain is rare and the kids are still enjoying the outdoors lifestyle we made the move over here for in the first place. Every day here feels like a new adventure and there is so much to see and do, I feel like we could spend our whole lives exploring and never get bored. There is so much beauty in this part of Australia that we’re now lucky enough to call ‘home’ and the overall positivity in everyone we meet is contagious. What I can promise you is that you’ll never know unless you give it a go so if you are considering a move down under this has to be one of the most wonderful places in the world you could ever end up.

What are you considering before making a move to Australia or what do you wish you’d thought of before you left? As always, we would love to hear your thoughts.

Love from Leyla

Tips on travelling with tiny tots

I never thought I would be as surprised as the day we found out we were expecting twins again in my life, but the day we travelled from Manchester to Melbourne, is on equal par in terms of shock factor. I had spent nights lying awake thinking of ways to distract them during the 24 hour flight, bored people senseless about how worried I was when they asked how I was feeling about the journey and spent more time researching travel toys to take with us than we spent completing the visa application. And it was all unnecessary. The kids were brilliant, in fact, I think it was probably me that asked if we were “nearly there yet?” the most as our Airbus crossed the world and I have honestly never felt as proud in my whole life of our little brood. So, as it’s holiday season for a lot of you right now, I wanted to share the things we learned about travelling long haul with a young family.
Photo 21-03-2016, 18 06 59 (1) (Medium)Photo 21-03-2016, 18 00 33 (Medium)

  1. Prepare them in advance – as Kian and Kaira had never been on an airplane before, we spent the last few months running up to our flight pointing to every airplane in the sky and explaining that people were flying to their holidays like fairies/birds/Superman (*insert whatever they’re into) and showing them pictures and films of our past journeys so the knew what to expect. They were really excited by the time the day came and we were finally on our way to the airport.
  2. Enlist an extra pair of hands if possible – for long haul, this could be particularly beneficial. For us, it was a last minute decision to ask my mum to fly to Australia with us, primarily to help get us established on arrival but to give us a lift with the kids on the flight too. I had scenarios running through my mind like what would happen if Kian and Kaira were asleep on our knees and Ariana needed to go to the toilet or if the twins had meltdowns during our connecting flight or if it was really busy and everyone ran off in separate directions (none of which happened by the way!) and in the days running up to us leaving, it gave me such peace of mind knowing that the adults wouldn’t be outnumbered by the little ones on our journey!
  3. img_5938-1Photo 21-03-2016, 19 20 04 (Medium)Dress for comfort – I searched for clothes that would double up as blankets, shoes that were as comfortable as slippers and even packed the kids pyjamas to signify bedtime when we needed to. I found an oversized cardigan that I could wrap around me or throw off if I was too warm and dressed the kids in layers too, so I could adjust their temperatures as and when needed. For the adults, I thought it was really important that we had shoes we could slip on and off so we didn’t need to bend down to put them on in a hurry and a sports bra was a must for me. Our girls like to dress the same anyway but I would recommend it to anyone travelling with kids as it’s easier to distinguish them in a crowd and for those around you to know you’re together.
  4. Online check-in – save time and stress with this one! We flew Emirates to Dubai then Quantas from there to Melbourne so could use this handy service both times. It was such a relief to book seats near the toilets and toward the back on the plane (where it’s sometimes a bit quieter) before we got to the airport. Photo 21-03-2016, 18 20 32 (Medium)
  5. Take your pram – I umm’d and aaaa’d about this one but I’m so glad we made the decision to check our pram in with the luggage at Manchester. As we were weighing in our suitcases, we were given some huge plastic bags to put our pram into and then we had to take it to a separate counter to be put onto the plane. I can’t advise this without telling you that by the time our Mountain Buggy Duo got to the other side of the world, it had two flat tyres and a suspension bar missing and after an hour of arguing with the ground crew when we landed, we were given an address of somewhere we had to take it to get it repaired. You can imagine how annoyed we were without a pram and two tired toddlers at the time but I’m glad we have it with us now.
  6. Handy hand luggage – I made the mistake of taking makeup with me in my flight bag and the hassle as we were checking it in because it wasn’t all in little plastic bags, delayed us while we waited for everything to be scanned and rescanned. I didn’t even look in the mirror on the plane, so it was a waste of time for me but if you do want to take liquids like foundation and lipgloss with you, pack it all into sealed freezer bags before you get to the airport or save yourself some stress by packing it all into your suitcase and buying anything essential (like deodorant) when you are through customs. The most important things in our hand luggage were our books, passports, toothbrushes and paste (again can be purchased at the airport after check-in), socks, antibacterial wipes (I used them on the arm rests, TV’s and remote controls), hand sanitizer, eye masks, silicone earplugs, spare T-shirts, snacks, the kids comforters, dummies with clips, nappies and wipes.Photo 22-03-2016, 06 12 45 (Medium)
  7. Hand luggage for the little ones – I put a lot of time into figuring out ways to occupy the kids and not make too much mess on the flight and was pretty excited when the time came and we sat down on the plane and I could show them the individual bags I’d put together for them. I found some handy little bags in Primark (two princess ones and a minion bag) and filled them with a fully charged iPad each with their favourite apps on and a bunch of stuff from Amazon and here is what they loved (the text in pink are links!):

GruffaloActivity10bks

Activity books – There such a vast range of these available for a great price, whether you grab them at a supermarket or online, your kids will be entertained for hours! We love anything by Julia Donaldson, so when a very good friend of ours gave these to Ariana before we left, we were really pleased.

spiderman headphones

On-ear headphones – These are a must for any parent with young kids if they have tablets, in my opinion! Ours love having their own consoles with their favourite apps to play on and we love the silence while they enjoy a little screen time, which was particularly useful during the flight. More on the kids favourite apps here.

51+TYjEs+2L._SY300_Magnetic sketchers – Our girls are really into princesses at the moment so we chose Frozen for the girls and Spiderman for Kian who has been a bit obsessed with him since. We still play with these now, so for a few pounds they were well worth the money.

232149066See through pencil cases – We packed individual pencil cases for the kids into their separate bags and as these are see-through, they really helped the kids looking for the colours they wanted without tipping everything onto the floor.

563093_1000_1_800Crayola Pip Squeaks – These are short and super washable so with a quick baby wipe, hands and tables were clean of any evidence that a toddler scribbled anywhere near!

61J+h6efugL._AC_UL320_SR272,320_Colour and Sticker books – Our kids are pretty obsessed with stickers so these kept them going for ages!

pTRU1-21416599enh-z6Crayola Colour Wonder –  I wish these had been around when I was a kid and limited to my Etcher Sketch (showing my age there aren’t i?!) They come with their own marker pens that are completely clear until applied to the special paper, meaning no mess on anything regardless of how hard the kids tried to doodle on each others faces!

81mb+7+IfvL._SL1500_Brainbox Wikki Stix – Although a little too fiddly for the twins, we popped a pack of these into Ariana’s hand lugagge bag and she absolutely loved them. They’re bendable pieces of wax coated string that can create any shape imaginable and used several times so we could sit and make bracelets, cats and little fairies out of them to occupy the time.

Photo 22-03-2016, 06 13 20 (Medium)

If you are off on an adventure this summer, I hope these items give you an idea of what take on board for your little ones. If things do get a little stressful at times, distractions with a little walk around the cabin, handing out snacks (don’t forget to pack the kids drinks bottles with lids that you can refill with fresh water from the cabin crew!) and pointing out of the window works wonders and the in-flight entertainment should give you peace of mind too. Ideally, if you can time your flight to suit the kids sleeping patterns, it really will help too. We chose a night flight so Ariana, Kian and Kaira were exhausted and slept as we crossed Europe.

…and if all else fails, there’s always Piriton 😉

There’s more on our flights on previous posts here and here. Have a safe flight!

Love from Leyla

Take a walk with us through the city

Another busy few days have passed and it’s hard to believe that our new life in Australia has been underway for almost three weeks. If I sit and think about the security we left behind to travel across the world to have no home, no income and no family around us for support, I wonder how it’s possible that we are all still smiling?

It’s just Melbourne. The sun shines, the sky is blue (most of the time) and the option of taking the kids for ice cream and a splash in the sea isn’t just an experience limited to our annual holiday. The world feels like a different place after 6 months of battling to get hats, coats and gloves on the kids just to nip to the shop for a loaf of bread or the only entertainment being stuffy playcentres and all the germs that go with them that we were so used to back home. It feels good, it feels free and it feels like we’ve done the right thing – so far, that is.

IMG_5173img_7697 IMG_5684IMG_4070 (Small)After lots of searching, we have been really lucky to find a lovely house to rent so we’ve been really busy furnishing it for the past few days. I have to admit, we did underestimate the cost involved with setting up home again and the list we had to take to Ikea with us yesterday filled two sides of A4 paper. It’s not just the big things that we’d accounted for like a new sofa, TV, washing machine, fridge freezer and cars but the cutlery, crockery, bedding, towels and small electricals that even had a shopaholic like me hyperventilating at the till. I’d guess we’ve spent around $20k to get established again and it’s gone faster than the kids can empty a packet of Tim Tams. It’s scary, but it’s hopefully going to be worth it in the long run!

IMG_4319img_7693img_7695img_7699img_7710What we’ve loved most is watching the bond between the kids grow stronger than ever. Whether it’s the amount of space they now have to play (indoors and out) or the twins development which seems to have come on in leaps and bounds, but the age gap between them seems to have shrunk and they are playing so much better together and (dare I say it?) actually enjoying each others company more than I ever thought possible. Anyone who knows how much I used to worry about how introverted Kaira used to be needs worry no longer either as she has blossomed from a delicate little bud that took in the world from my knee to as vibrant a flower as her brother and sister and is now often the first to try something new, including a kayak ride into the sea recently (I know, I couldn’t believe it either!)

img_7696img_7694img_7698However, as the days pass, the dread of my mum leaving has been mounting. It’s been so good to have her here for more than help with the kids, but as a huge moral support to me so far from out of my comfort zone. I can’t even begin to imagine how I’ll feel when she’s not here to run around with the kids or to sneak off for a little lunch with me. It’s another massive hurdle I have yet to overcome but it’s all part of the process, I suppose. Ste and I have even managed a couple of date nights and a little trip to the city while she’s been here, so here’s a little film of the fun few hours we spent child-free! I can only compare the excitement I felt as we approached the city by train to our wedding day. It was an emotional event to be back in the city that we’ve thought so much of over the past few years and the high rise buildings, beautiful food, designer boutiques and hidden laneways didn’t disappoint.

As I chased Ariana back into the house after a particularly giddy water fight yesterday, she yelled “I never want to go back to England mummy, I just wish my friends could come here!” and whether that was just the tickles that I was giving her talking or genuine happiness, it gave me a sense of relief as the kids settling in here is the most important part of this journey. Only time will tell whether Melbourne is the place that we will call home for the rest of our lives or if this has just been one hell of an exciting (and expensive) adventure.

Love from Leyla