The Parent (Child, Luggage) Swap

I’m home! Alone. And not because I misplaced the children (again).

We decided to maximise the children’s stay with their relatives by using our latest family travel manoeuvre, which I’ve decided to call The Parent Swap after rejecting a long series of names that – believe it or not – were actually worse. I’m also thinking of trying The Swap on the children and jet lag problem at the suggestion of a genius friend (hi IJ!), especially after realising it can save us serious money.



Using The Parent Swap So The Children Stay Longer

The Parent Swap involves – I’ll just say it because you won’t guess – swapping parents. To give our children a nice, long stay, they journeyed out with the first parent (me) and will be coming home with the second parent (A), leaving a period of overlap in the middle where the whole family came together to share the diseases each party had picked up in their separate locations.

Previously, we’d sent the children with the stay-at-home parent (me) for an extended visit, with the work-at-office parent (A) dropping in for a shorter period, but this a) doesn’t work as well now I’ve got a job outside the home, and b) never allowed A the pleasure of handling both children at once on a long haul flight. He’s looking forward to it, I just know.

Using The Parent Swap To Tackle Jet Lag In Children

The idea with this is to give everyone the same length of stay, but staggered by roughly the amount of time it takes adults to make a functional recovery from jet lag – say three or four days.

The first parent would go off ahead and adjust to the new time zone whilst scouting out the destination, setting up accommodation, and giving stunning first impressions to any friends, relatives, or hotel/restaurant/tour staff we may encounter throughout our visit.

The second parent would follow with the kids, then hand them over to the first (recovered) parent until everyone was on the new time zone. Same on the way back, except swapping parents for fairness. Although you wouldn’t have to swap. I won’t tell you how to divide your parenting duties.

Of course, this works best if the trip begins and ends somewhere nice and safe and unchallenging, and not somewhere it would be a big problem to single-handedly wrangle young children whilst the other adult sleeps/scarpers off home.

Using The Swap To Save Money 

The Parent Swap saved us hundreds of dollars on our Christmas visit, by taking three-quarters of the party out of the peak travelling period in each direction, whilst complying with the annual leave requirements of each adult. This meant more to spend on coffee (for my solo leg), wine (for my mum time), and future holidays (with the leave we still have).

Outside holiday periods, money can still be saved by booking all flexible passengers for less popular times or days.

The Child Swap

We may also consider splitting the children – letting the easiest/most enthusiastic traveller start first and finish last, or just staggering them slightly in the name of dividing to conquer. And… to… give them one-on-one attention from each parent.

The Luggage Swap

We took full advantage of our recent swap by loading the child-free parent up with as much luggage as possible. Things like gifts, souvenirs, odds and ends that Grandma accidentally left behind on her last visit, and no-longer-relevant items of travel kit all shipped with the parent who wasn’t toting the small people, as did all adult reading materials, because, well, let’s face it.

Our streamlined luggage collection. Not visible: extra-large suitcase, toted by someone who didn't have to travel with children.

Our streamlined luggage collection. Not visible: extra-large suitcase, toted by someone who didn’t have to travel with children, and books for grown-ups, ditto.

Booking The Swap Holiday

The only slight hitch (not counting the obvious sole-charge-of-two-children, or the less obvious husband-left-rubbish-in-bin-and-dirty-laundry-in-basket) (which probably should have been obvious, come to think of it) was that we had to book each itinerary separately, and websites generally freaked out at the idea of an apparently-unaccompanied two-year-old.

It took a real, live human to understand that we were planning to supervise our children, we were just assigning different supervisors to different legs of the journey. Many thanks to Qantas for sorting this out cheerfully by phone. They were able to put everyone’s tickets on hold to ensure (before booking and payment) that we could all travel on our selected flights, book our “unaccompanied” minors, and then link all the bookings appropriately at the end.

Travel Insurance Warning

If you’re planning to do this, make sure your family travel insurance plan will remain valid if you’re not travelling together on each leg of the journey. More help with family travel insurance fine print.

Completely Unrelated Announcement

I thought my Things We Learned The Hard Way tag was getting unnavigable, so I created an index page: Tips For Travelling With Kids. The comments section is open for anyone who wants to link their own advice.

But if you’d rather kick back with me and drink wine, I hear Piemonte won’t give you hangovers! You can’t say I never pass on anything worthwhile.

(A is also taking expressions of sympathy and encouragement.)