One mum, two kids, travel plans and avoiding jet lag

I must be nuts. At first I didn't think so but others have said it, repeatedly, and now that I've crunched some long-avoided numbers I'm beginning to believe that it's true. 

I have decided to take our two youngest sons overseas for the July school holidays - on my own. Mr Guide can't take any time off work and the teens are committed with studies so it's just me, Mr 8 and Mr 5.

48 hours and 50 minutes. That's how long it will take from our 6 am departure time from Sydney today (Thursday) until we arrive at my cousin's home town in Croatia's east, sometime around 11 pm tomorrow (Friday).

Now - Emirates flight - Sydney to Dubai, sometime after breakfast
OK, so now I'm on the plane, looking across at my two, bright eyed little first-time-overseas-travel enthusiasts who have eaten their breakfasts and are sifting through the contents of the activity travel packs I made for them. With only a few hours of broken-anticipation-sleep last night and 4 am arrival at the airport this morning, I'm already in need of another coffee. I have a gut-dreading suspicion that the boys' excitement and energy is not going to last 48 hours and 50 minutes and I hope I'll be calm, patient and filled with enough peace and love to deal with potential meltdowns without having one of my own. 

I have weighed a lot of decisions and planned everything that needs to be planned down to the minutest detail. There also is plenty of stuff that doesn't need to be planned - we will play many days by ear. 

This whole holiday was a big decision to make. The kids hadn't been overseas before, we had some savings, I was longing to catch up with family and cousins I haven't seen in over a decade and this trip would coincide with holidays that my mum and brother were also each taking separately - we will all be in the same place for almost a week - plus I just really, really, REALLY wanted to go. Mr Guide and the teens updated their Skype and Viber accounts, promised to feed the dogs and clean the house before we got back, and sent us off with their blessings.

The biggest planning decisions were based on our budget. We had some holiday savings, though limited. We could have knocked a dozen or more hours off our travel time by going a little more directly to Croatia (via Singapore then one of a number of European cities), however, these tickets cost almost $2,600 return compared to $1,500 return to Paris. As a week in Paris was in the planning pipeline following our time in Croatia, it made sense to get our return tickets via Paris and use smaller, local and (most importantly) cheaper flights within Europe. It also meant that we added 12-15 hours to our travel time but saved a total of $3,300 on airfares.

Once I had decided to go with the return airfares to Paris, the rest of the holiday fell into place. Whilst searching for airfares from Paris to Zagreb, Croatia's capital, I came across cheap airfares from Venice to Paris one way for 46 Euro each (about $65 AUD at the time). Venice is a short ferry trip from Croatia and is a city I've always longed to visit. I re-crunched some numbers and checked my mum's and brother's schedules and then Venice was added to our itinerary.

Schedule for avoiding jet lag and meltdowns
So I have planned our 48 hours and 50 minutes of travel to go like this:
  • Sydney to Dubai - 14 hours 30 minutes flying time (day time - I'll enforce a nap time half way)
  • Dubai stopover - 13 hours & 40 minutes (afternoon/evening/night - activities planned to keep the boys awake)
  • Dubai to Paris - 7 hours & 20 minutes flying time (overnight - hopefully sleep will come easily following activities in Dubai)
  • Paris stopover - 8 hours & 30 minutes (day time - lunch and walk around following overnight sleep on plane from Dubai. Also, now we are in the one time zone for our whole holiday)
  • Paris - Zagreb - 1 hour & 50 minutes (late afternoon - quick flight at 6pm)
  • Zagreb - we arrive at 7.50 pm and will be picked up by my cousin, then about a 3 hour drive to his home town (he reckons he can do it in 2). We'll have a good night sleep and awake feeling refreshed! (ha ha ha ha ha)
We'll then have 11 nights in various places in Croatia, 3 nights in Venice and 7 nights in Paris. 

Absolutely minimal luggage
The other thing I've had to consider is the fact that my kids may be utterly exhausted and I will most likely have to manoeuvre the boys and luggage, so we are travelling with 2 overhead sized bags which slot into each other (which I've checked in for this flight) and my handbag which is the only thing we currently have on board. We're leaving an Aussie winter for a European summer so we're dressed in layers which will have to come off in Dubai and fit in my handbag. These are our only warm clothes for the trip. However, I have packed 6 pairs of pretty shoes for myself without a sneaker or thong/flip-flop in sight!

Watch out Croatia, I've hired a car!
The final consideration is getting around within our various destinations - Paris and Venice are easy for public transport and walking, however, Croatia is a little trickier as I want to play each day by ear and have the freedom to throw ourselves into potential new-found interests and adventures, so I've hired a car. It's manual car which I'll pick up from my cousin's home town and drive around Croatia, through Bosnia-Herzegovina, down to Split then up to Pula where I'll leave it as we board the ferry to Venice. I'll be driving on the right hand side of the road (in Australia we drive on the left) and my right hand instead of my left will be on the gear shift. I've done some research - various blogs and numerous comments in travel forums all hit home the same message - you must have NERVES OF STEEL (what was it my cousin said about 2 hours instead of 3 to his place??)..... I'll think about that later.

End note: The flight went quite well. The boys did have a sleep on the plane and my carefully planned activities were put away very quickly in favour of watching movies on the screens in front of them. Otherwise - all good! I'm coffeed-up and happy!!

Next stop - Dubai!
Julia xo


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