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Tag Archive: South Africa as a Family

10 Things You Should Bring on Long Flights With Young Kids

This list of 10 items to bring when you travel with kids is a MUST-read from an experienced traveler! Some of these are probably things you've never thought of before!

As you all know, we recently flew to South Africa and back, with three kids in tow. We flew Delta from Atlanta to Johannesburg, South Africa — a 15-hour flight each way!

The longest flight any of our kids had been on was a 5-hour flight, so I was a little concerned how they would do — especially since they were quite nervous about the flight.

As a result, I tried to do the best I could to prepare well for the flight. We learned a lot about flying with kids, and I wanted to share 10 things you should bring on long flights with kids. Or, at least 10 things we found were very helpful to have:

10 Items to Take With You on Long Flights

1) Backpacks for Each Person

We packed backpacks for each person with a change of clothes, Dramamine, socks, a neck pillow, a blanket, a few activities, snacks, headphones, and a few other items. This made it so nice for everyone to have what they needed with them. It also simplified things since every one was responsible for their own items.

2) Wet Wipes

One of my readers recommended this and it turned out that these were a lifesaver. We used them to wipe off our seatback trays, wipe down the video screens, wipe down dirty hands and mouths, and even to clean up a big bloody nose one child ended up having.

10 Things to Bring on Long Flights With Kids

3) Extra Clothes

We had all of the kids pack an extra pair of clothes and socks in their backpacks, just as a precaution. We ended up not needing the extra outfit for anyone (gratefully!), but I was so happy to have them just in case.

We also had everyone bring a sweatshirt and wear very comfy PJ-like clothes for the flights. You want to be as comfortable as possible when you’re going to be on a plane for that long!

I had the kids take off their shoes as soon as they were all situated in their seats and put on comfy socks. This helps your feet circulate better and is just more comfortable, too! I also brought slippers with rubber soles for me to wear and loved having these on during the flight.

4) Dramamine

It’s possible we may have stocked up a little too much on the Dramamine, but I didn’t want to take any chances seeing as I had thought I’d be just fine without Dramamine on my January trip to South Africa and quickly discovered I wasn’t quite so fine.

We discovered that Dramamine actually sort of hyped the girls up, unfortunately. But it was perfect for Silas. And Jesse and I took some for the middle part of the flight, too, so that we were able to sleep and our upset stomachs were quelled.

10 Things to Bring on Long Flights With Kids

5) Good Headphones

Good noise-canceling headphones were such a lifesaver. We brought a pair for each person and they were each a different color.

The kids not only loved having their own color-coded headphones, but they were great for listening to music and watching movies. Plus, they wore them to cancel out the noise so they could sleep.

6) Neck Pillows & Blankets

If you’re going to try to sleep on a plane, having a great pillow can make all the difference. This is my favorite travel neck pillow and it’s the only thing that allowed me to get hours of good sleep on the plane.

You have to fuss with it a little bit to get it situated just right and I propped a blanket up on it to help give me a little extra support, but if you get it just right, it’s SO comfortable.

You’ll get a thin blanket when you board a long flight, but it’s still nice to bring your own — in case you are really cold or to serve as an extra pillow. I love this blanket especially.

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The girls being silly before our flight took off! 🙂

7) Eye Masks

Eye masks are another must. You never know what the people around you will be doing — they might have their light on for most of the night (as did the lady sitting next to Silas) or their TV or iPad might be shining right in your line of sight.

Eye masks helped our kids be able to fall asleep and sleep more soundly. By the way, they usually give them to you for free on longer flights.

8) Snacks

We found the food to be fairly decent on the plane, but it was nice to have some extra snacks for one of the meals that was less than appetizing. Plus, it was a nice treat to enjoy when the flight was feeling especially long.

10 Things to Bring on Long Flights With Young Kids

9) A Sense of Humor

Do not try traveling with three kids on over 30 hours (total) on planes without a complete sense of humor. Laugh at everything you can laugh at — including yourself!

On the first flight, the last hour or so was grueling. The kids hadn’t slept much (more on that in a bit), everyone was so ready to be off the plane, and I was just tired of trying to redirect and correct bad attitudes.

I tried to come up with anything and everything we could to laugh about and distract ourselves from the fact that we had been on a plane for over 14 hours. And it helped make those last 60 or so minutes not drag by so slowly or painfully.

10) Lots of Patience & Empathy

You’re going to need lots of extra doses of patience to survive a long flight with kids. So pack as much as you can to bring with you. 🙂

I tried to get extra sleep ahead of time and come to the flights with very little expectations other than that we would make it to our final destination in one piece. I also went into the flights remembering that my kids were scared and anxious and that this would probably play into their attitudes… and it did.

So when they were reacting in an irritated way, I tried to remind myself that, yes, those attitudes were not good, but I needed to give extra grace to them because they were stepping way outside their comfort zone in this. So instead of correcting them as firmly as I may have in another situation, I tried to ask them questions like, “How are you doing?” “How are you feeling?” Because I knew that more than stern correction right then, they needed love, empathy, and reassurance.

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Since this was our first big trip with kids in tow, we learned a lot. Here are three of the most important lessons:

3 Things We Learned

1) We needed to set boundaries ahead of time. On our first 15-hour flight, we sort of had an anything goes attitude. I just wanted to survive and I was happy with our kids doing whatever it took to make it through with decent attitudes.

The problem was that I didn’t set any boundaries ahead of time: like on when they needed to have lights out and movies shut off. So because we didn’t have boundaries set in place, they just wanted to watch movies for hours. Which meant that they didn’t want to sleep. And this made for very grumpy kids.

On the way home, we set the boundaries ahead of time, reiterated them, and took away the headphones and we turned off all of the electronics during a long stretch of the nighttime. This worked SO mu

ch better and the kids actually ended up sleeping well and the flight went very smoothly.

2) Delta has different rules than South African airlines. I don’t know why I assumed that an international flight with Delta would be exactly like it was with South African airlines, but I did. And I quickly learned that wasn’t the case.

When I flew South African airlines in January, they had a “blackout” time during the night — I’m not sure what it was officially called, but for what felt like 10 hours, no one was allowed to turn on their overhead light, talk above a whisper, or do anything other than sleep, quietly get up to go to the bathroom, or watch a movie or read on a device.

I wrongly assumed it would be the same on Delta. So I assumed it would be no problem at all for our kids to fall asleep and stay asleep for at least 8-10 hours.

Instead, Delta had no such “blackout” time and many people had their overhead lights on all night — including one lady right next to Silas — and people were constantly up, talking, congregating around the restroom, and so forth.

It wasn’t incredibly loud, but it was quite distracting for my kids and kept them from being able to sleep as much — especially on the first flight since they were already so nervous.

3) Always double-check your seat when you leave. Oh how I wish we had done this! My bag with all my medicines, vitamins, supplements, my contacts, my glasses, and deodorant didn’t make it out of the airport with us when we arrived in South Africa. And it made the first few days of the trip especially hard as we had to try to track down replacements for the can’t-live-without items.

We know that I had the bag on the plane and we think I possibly left it under the seat. I didn’t double-check as thoroughly as I usually do (probably because I was just so ready to be off the plane!!) so we’ll never know.

(The airline checked multiple times and didn’t find it on the plane, so we’re not sure what happened to it. But had I checked thoroughly around my seat before deplaning, I may have found it and saved us a lot of headache in the beginning of the trip.)

10 Things to Take On Long Trips With Young Kids

What tips and tricks would you add to my list? Anything I forgot or any other questions you have about the plane rides? I’d be happy to try to answer them, if I can.


Our First Day in South Africa… not at all what I expected!

Our First Day in South Africa... Not What I Expected!

Someone snapped this photo on the first day of our trip to South Africa and it aptly depicts how I was feeling when I got up.

It had been a hard morning…

  • I lost my really important bag with my medicine, supplements, glasses, and contacts at the airport. (They never found it and we can’t figure how or where it disappeared.)
  • I had been up for a few hours in the middle of the night with very cranky, jet-lagged kids.
  • I had tried to blow dry my hair and burned up the motor my blow dryer + flipped the breaker to a bunch of outlets.
  • I was tired, couldn’t see (because of not having contacts), and my head was throbbing because I didn’t have my allergy meds.

We finally all got out the door to our first destination and then Silas threw up.

Honestly, I was trying so hard to choose joy, but wondering if maybe we’d made a big mistake in coming to South Africa. I was so excited to be here, but it felt like everything was falling apart at the seams.

I decided that instead of being frustrated over things I couldn’t change or fix, I instead was just going to trust God and rest that He was going before me in this. And it was beautiful to see how the day ended up being so much better than I could have ever imagined!

Our First Day in South Africa

This was our first stop of the day. This picture might not look like much to you, but I could barely hold back tears when I walked into this workshop.

You see, when I was in South Africa in January, we had many discussions about the possibilities of helping the locals learn more marketable skills (most can’t think of jobs outside of being domestic workers or security guards or gardeners).

It was just a dream in January, now they have a real live work-working workshop, suppliers, trainees, and customers!!

And they have big, big visions of how this small operation might someday be a big scale operation making a huge difference in the lives of this very needy community!!

(This photo was taken just moments after Silas threw up all over the floor of this new workshop. Poor little guy!! Gratefully, we had plenty of wipes on hand + the South African equivalent of Gatorade and it wasn’t long before he was feeling as good as new! We think the time change and new foods just made his stomach out of sorts.)

Our First Day in South Africa

This is Peet. He is spear-heading the new wood-working shop. I wanted to stay and talk to him all day long!

I was so inspired and challenged by his passion, compassion, and vision. This wood-working shop is located in a very poor area of South Africa (Hammanskraal) and the long-term goal is to train and equip young entrepreneurs and provide a desperately-needed source of income for this community.

I wish you could have met Pete! He not only wants to teach South Africans craftsmanship, but he wants to help them develop a strong work ethic, a commitment to excellence, and an entrepreneurial spirit — three things that are not commonly taught or exemplified to the young people in this area.

As we left the shop, Pete handed me this beautiful tray that he had made especially for me. I was touched beyond words and cannot wait to display this new piece of South Africa in our home. It will serve as a constant reminder to me to pray for Pete and his family for God to richly bless their self-sacrificial efforts to make an impact in this community.

Next we went to Reagoboka. I’ll write a separate post about this whole experience after I get home because I don’t have enough wi-fi or time here to upload all the photos and write everything out right now, but suffice it to say, it was an absolutely incredible experience.

Our First Day in South Africa

There are no words to adequately describe the emotion that this picture and standing here invokes.

In January, we visited this center and I saw how all of these children were being taught out of a tiny little classroom. (They would rotate classes — one class at a time — in order to accommodate all of the children with the little space they had.)

The local chief had given them land for a new building and they had building plans, but there was no money, since every penny (rand) that this center receives from government grants goes to provide food and basic necessities for these children and the running of the center.

Each of you who bought a copy of Make Over Your Mornings the day it launched helped pay for the bricks and the concrete and the local labor and the classroom supplies to build this brand-new two-room classroom!!! And we got to unveil it to the teachers and children this week.

It. Was. Amazing!!! To think that all of us together are having a little part in making a BIG difference in this community of very vulnerable children — it’s surreal, humbling, and goose-bump-inducing.

THANK YOU for partnering with me to be the hands and feet of Jesus on this project!!! I wish you could have been there to share in the excitement and see and hear the gratitude they expressed to us.

Also, y’all: I’m just so madly in love with this country that my heart just might burst. The needs are so great, but there is so much hope and so many amazing opportunities for us to make a difference!

Our First Day in South Africa

This photo was my favorite from the first day.

My boy, Silas, was very nervous about this trip. He doesn’t do new or change or different very well. He’s shy. He introverted. And he would usually prefer to be right next to his mama when we’re in unfamiliar situations.

So when I looked over and saw this, my mama heart just about broke in two. These boys put their arms around Silas, held hands with him, and embraced him — like they knew he was awkward and shy and they wanted to make sure he felt welcome and one of them. It was beyond beautiful.

By the way, Lisa-Jo’s parents, whom we were staying with that night, were so, so amazing to not only help me track down contacts from an eye doctor here, but also the meds I needed (that was an interesting experience — Googling, talking to the pharmacist at the drug store, and having our pharmacist and doctor friends here help us figure out what would be comparable to what). I am so grateful — and it was so amazing to see the different ways that God provided so that I could get what I needed so I could function well on this trip!

We Made it To South Africa (+ how to follow along with our trip!)

Kathrynne woke up yesterday morning and said, “I can’t believe we’re flying to South Africa today!”

I couldn’t believe it either!

I was a mixed ball of excitement and sadness and nerves. I was so excited that I get to go back to South Africa — I’ve been so ready to go back ever since I left! And I’m thrilled beyond words that I get to bring my family with me this time!

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However, I feel sad because Joy and Lisa-Jo aren’t going this time. I will miss those girls so much. But I’m super, super happy that my other manager and good friend, Brian, is coming this time.

And there’s some anxiousness that I feel, too. Mostly about how my kids are going to do on the flights and with the time change and with all of the newness all at once.

We Made It to South Africa

I usually am fairly minimalist when packing. I mean, I’m the girl who can pack for 8 days in a carry-on.

But taking my family halfway around the world and being gone for 8 days made me set aside my minimalistic packing skills and go more for the Have Options & Prepare Well mode.

Because there’s nothing like (2) 15+-hour-long flights with 3 kids to make you want to make sure you have options!

Everyone got a backpack for the flights + a suitcase that we checked. Mom got the last say in what they brought (“Yes, you must bring an extra change of clothes in your backpack. Trust me, a LOT of accidents can happen in 15 hours!”)

Oh and you can see the final stack of books I opted to bring here.

We Made It to South Africa

South Africa may not be ready for us, but we’re coming for you… right before boarding our flight.

We Made It to South Africa

The best part of our flight to South Africa? They gave us Milano cookies (my very favorite)!

The worst part? The kids only slept a few hours and they DIDN’T have wifi (despite the fact that they advertised that they did and I’d kind of banked on it to get a few projects done!)

Oh well! I got to sleep (thanks, Dramamine!) and read a book and it was nice… Aside from some bad attitudes coming from the 10 and under crowd.

I have decided that if you want a good test of your inner character, take 3 kids on a 15-hour flight. I had quite a few prayers going up for extra patience during that last hour when it felt like we were on the verge of imploding.

We made it to South Africa!

15+ hours later… tired, but oh so thrilled to be here in South Africa!! Our kids were especially excited to have their very first stamp in their brand-new passports!

(Oh and it was amazing how the kids could barely seem to keep their eyes open and had all sorts of bad attitude going on the last hour of the flight, but as soon as we got off the plane, they were fired up and ready to go again!! They just finally all crashed and fell asleep 30 minutes ago and we’re hoping they stay asleep for a good, long time!)

We spent the evening with Lisa-Jo’s parents — eating, talking, laughing, and playing Bean Boozled. Tomorrow, we’re headed out to one of the communities where Take Action is ministering at. I’m so excited to get to go back and see the progress that has been made since I last visited!

We Made It to South Africa!

We got our very own South African scarves, courtesy of Lisa-Jo Baker’s parents — who are so graciously hosting us right now.

Isn’t my scarf absolutely the perfect color?? I love it!!

Also, I’m grateful to be sharing this South Africa trip with these two guys (my wonderful husband, Jesse, and my business manager, Brian), both who gave up a whole week of their lives and flew halfway around the world because they believe so passionately in what God has called us to be a part of here in South Africa!

What You Can Expect Here While I’m Gone

In case you are wondering, my wonderful assistant, Meg, will be sharing great deals here, answering comments, and posting on Facebook. I’ve been training her to take over for me this week and she’s already been doing an AMAZING job!

If you want to follow along with our trip adventures, be sure follow me on Instagram. I’ll likely be posting there most consistently.

I also discovered tonight that the wi-fi may, indeed, be strong enough for me to do a quick video on Periscope each day. You can watch tonight’s video here. And then download the Periscope app and search for MoneySavingMom to follow the rest of my scopes this week.

I also plan to blog at least every day or every other day to get you a peek into what we’re doing and learning and trying. No promises, but I’m hopeful I’ll have a chance to check in and post at least a few times while we’re here.

Thank you so much for your prayers, your encouragement, and your excitement about this trip. It’s truly a dream come true to be here with my family!

Why We’re Taking Our Kids to South Africa

This is an inspiring article on traveling to South Africa as a family!

Next Tuesday, Jesse, our friend and my manager (Brian), and our three kids will be getting on a plane with me to go to South Africa.

To say that I am excited would be an understatement. Honestly, I am ECSTATIC!

I left part of my heart in South Africa when I traveled there for the first time earlier this year and I’ve been hoping and dreaming about getting back there ASAP ever since I came home. I love the people, I love the food, I love the climate, I love the culture, I love the local team from Take Action that is serving and ministering there.

Why We're Taking Our Kids to South Africa

So, as soon as I got home, we started talking and praying and thinking about the possibility of our family going together to South Africa. I wanted to introduce Jesse and the kids to the beautiful country and people there.

Because the truth is, I could talk and talk until I was blue in the face about how amazing my trip was and how it had forever impacted me, but I knew that the only way they’d really get to understand why I fell so madly in love with South Africa was for them to actually walk on the soil, meet the people in person, and have firsthand knowledge of South Africa.

Why We're Taking Our Kids to South Africa

So we started talking about dates. We started seriously considering it. And we began looking into the costs and what a trip like this would entail.

We had some honest conversations with our kids about it because we knew it would be a big deal for them. It would require some major stepping outside their comfort zone and it would mean facing their fears of long flights.

While they are all apprehensive about the trip, we feel like the timing is right and this is going to be a life-changing trip for us and our kids. We’re leaving on Tuesday, September 29 and will be returning on Tuesday, October 6.

We’ll mostly be in the Pretoria area and yes, we are going to get to SEE THE CLASSROOMS THAT YOU ALL HELPED BUILD!!! {I’m not sure, but I might just be a wee bit excited about that part of this trip. ;)}

Why We're Taking Our Kids to South Africa

Many of you have asked for more details as to why we’re going as a family and why we’re taking our kids and I wanted to try to fill them in for you by sharing three of the reasons we decided to travel to South Africa with our kids…

#1. We Want to Challenge Our Kids to Step Outside Their Comfort Zone

I would be lying if I said our kids aren’t scared about the trip. They have a lot of fears going in — just like I did when I got on the plane earlier this year for that 18-hour flight.

They are scared of being in an airplane that long (gratefully, we’re taking a different route this time and the flight is only 15 hours instead of 18 hours!). They are scared of flying over water for so long.

They wonder what they people will be like. They worry they won’t understand what people are saying. They wonder if they will feel out of place or awkward.

We’ve been able to have a lot of great conversations as a result. We’ve talked about what to do when you can’t understand someone’s accent or don’t know what they mean when they use a certain word. We’ve talked about how to respond if something makes you feel awkward.

We’ve also worked hard to eliminate as many fears as possible: showing them pictures of South Africa and the people we’ll be meeting, talking about my experiences there, talking about the things I especially loved, having them watch YouTube videos of what international flights are like, and planning the trip in a way that we’re balancing out the hard stuff (like seeing poverty) with fun stuff (like going on an Elephant Interaction Trip — how cool does that sound??).

While I am quite certain there are going to be awkward moments for all of us, we are excited for our kids to have the opportunity to jump outside their comfort zones and face their fears. I think this trip will be something that will forever change them as individuals.

Why We're Taking Our Kids to South Africa

#2. We Want Our Kids to Experience a Different Culture

One of our greatest hopes is that our children don’t grow up being stuck in an Americanized bubble.

We can show them pictures of other cultures. We can read books about other cultures. We can watch movies about other cultures. We can even meet people from different cultures here in the U.S.

But I think there’s nothing that can quite help you break free from the American bubble then just actually stepping onto another continent, walking alongside the people there, and experiencing their life firsthand.

We don’t want our kids to think inside a box. There is so, so much we can learn from other cultures.

We want them to see that there is a very big world out there — of needs, of ideas, of different ways of doing things. Our hope is that this trip will help to expand their horizon and broaden their perspective on life.

Why We're Taking Our Kids to South Africa

#3. We Want to Inspire Our Kids to Be Givers

This is our biggest hope with this trip.

The first time Jesse and I traveled outside of the U.S., it was to go to the Dominican Republic. We came home from that trip forever changed.

We saw how money could make such a big difference — and how far a little bit of our money could be stretched there. We were inspired to dream big dreams and pray big prayers. Most importantly, we recognized that by continuing to live simply, it would allow us to give more generously.

Our greatest desire is to raise kids who are world-changers. We don’t want our kids to be content with the status quo. We want them to realize that their lives can make a big impact.

When I came back from South Africa, Jesse and I committed to pay for the operating expenses for the Take Action ministry in South Africa. It’s been such a blessing for us to give in this tangible way.

We want to make this giving real to our kids. We don’t want our giving to just be something that Mom and Dad do, but we want our kids to catch a vision for how their money and resources can make a difference, too.

Have you ever traveled internationally — especially with kids? I’d love to hear your tips and suggestions for us as we prepare for this trip. We would also so appreciate your prayers, especially that my kids would have peace, not fear, going into next week.