Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Our home in Uganda - Homestyle Magazine

Earlier this year the amazing team at Homestyle Magazine asked if we would open the doors of our home in Uganda to their readers. Of course, the answer was yes!

You can read the beautiful story and see the images here. 
But if you just want to see some of my favorite photos of our home, I've popped them down below for you. Much love, Helen

Monday, October 21, 2019

Our family is moving

Lately we’ve been a little quiet on social media and that’s because we’ve been processing some big life decisions! Namely, our family is moving back to New Zealand this Christmas.

Why? Three reasons:

1) We found out earlier this year that our son, Maz, needs to have open heart surgery for multiple issues he has with his heart/lungs. This was a surprise for us and really hard to hear. We’ve been thinking lots, praying hard and weighing up the different options for months. Finally, we ended up landing on moving back to Auckland, New Zealand - indefinitely.

2) Both of our jobs recently offered us roles back in NZ starting Jan 2020. Tim has accepted an offer with Tutapona that will see him as the Vice President of Global Programs for Tutapona. He will be overseeing the Country Directors/Project managers in Uganda, Iraq and Lebanon as well as developing Tutapona’s Australasia funding base. I will be working part time at Tearfund leading their Creative Team and still doing humanitarian photography/storytelling.

3) All up, we’ve been living in Uganda for a total of 6 years. If we were to include Dubai, it’d be 7 years overseas. Not to mention that Tim and I both spent the majority of our childhood years overseas (him in Africa and me in the USA and Australia). Both of us noticed when we went home this Christmas that things were maybe starting to “shift” in us. Can I be really honest? The wear and tear of living apart from family and our community back in NZ was taxing us. The challenges of living in a developing country that was not our “home” were starting to show. Higher than healthy stress levels, irritations over little things and building frustration. Neither of us would ever want to leave Uganda bitter or resentful. So we accepted these promptings as little signposts that perhaps a change was coming. We want to leave how we feel now. Deeply grateful, in love with this country and her people but also excited for a new chapter. Not burnt-out or cynical. Just a feeling, backed up with many heartfelt prayers that our season here is coming to a close and the timing feels right.

How are we feeling?

Mixed. Really mixed. Sad to leave the country that has given us so much. Our babies, dream jobs, an unbelievably rich in friendship community. Our beautiful home, a fabulous school, a wonderful church and a lifestyle that means daily in-person chats with your besties is a given. Weather that delights us and a perspective on poverty that haunts us.

Also, super excited to have our families and close friends in NZ get to know our kids and to be able to make everyday memories together. Excited for good food, malls, and beaches. Excited for a change but grateful we get to keep the biggest part of our lives in Uganda – our work. Excited for the next chapter.

Tim will be back in Uganda twice a year and I’ll be back about once a year. That feels really good to have down on the internet in black and white.

Talk soon,

*Photos by Candice Lassey* 

Monday, September 9, 2019

7 FAQs about being a Humanitarian Photographer and Storyteller

Over the past few years I’ve been receiving a reasonable amount of messages from people that would like to know a bit more about humanitarian photography and storytelling as a career. I love hearing from you - what an honour! During this particular season of life though, it’s hard to reply to every single one in depth like I’d like to – so here goes! My attempt to answer the most frequently asked questions via blog. Please feel free to reach out if there is anything else I’ve forgotten!

1. How did you get into humanitarian photography/storytelling?
I remember having an interest in photography as young as 7 years of age. I used to feel like something couldn’t be fully remembered unless it was captured – frozen forever in time by the click of a finger. By the time I reached high school I’d had a few more of those, “have to grab it” moments and so decided to take photography as one of my options. It was there I learnt the art of using a film camera and developing my own images in the Darkroom. I graduated from university 14 years ago with a Bachelor of Communication Studies majoring in Public Relations and Advertising Creativity. At first, I did fashion, beauty and lifestyle PR for agencies and worked in both New Zealand and Dubai. Then, in 2010 my husband and I moved to Uganda and I worked “in-house” for the first time. I found the experience so rewarding and loved getting to know and focus on one brand.

During that season in Uganda, I met two people that changed the course of my life forever. Firstly, a former child soldier called Ivan, and secondly, my sponsor child Whilifred. When I got home to New Zealand I began volunteering with Tearfund/Compassion and a year later was offered the Media and Communications Manager role. Just before I started, I did two six week hobby courses on photography that were really significant in teaching me about the digital age of capturing images.  I had switched from fashion weeks to famines and am forever grateful I did.  

2. How did it all begin?
My first day on the job for Tearfund was 8 years ago in Kolkata, India. I was there to meet with some of the 2 million kids in our care through child sponsorship and to meet with an organisation doing undercover anti-trafficking work. The next week, my boss had a family emergency and had to race back to New Zealand. Before she left she looked me up and down and asked if I would be willing to go into Bangladesh to capture some stories and images for Tearfund’ s next campaign.  I said yes. The next day I found myself on a flight to Dakar where I landed into a country that was mid coup and swarming with UN peacekeeping troops before being driven 8 hours into the depths of the jungle.  In Bangladesh I showered with a cup and a bucket, slept in a house with no door at the entrance or to my bedroom and was the only white person some of our 30,000 micro enterprise beneficiaries had ever seen.

That first trip was the beginning of what would be the adventure of a lifetime. Since then I have had almost every immunisation on the planet for every possible tropical disease. I’ve travelled to 37 countries and worked for over 50 incredible NGO’s, charities and non-profits both photographing and interviewing the people that benefit from those programmes. My work has taken me to some of the most challenging environments documenting famine, refugee settlements, post war environments, child sponsorship, micro-enterprise, trauma counselling and disaster zones. My job is to bring the amazing work of these organisations to life.

3.How did you jump from working in–house to going freelance?
After three years at Tearfund, Tim was offered a job back in Uganda. I was grateful to work out an arrangement where I would stay on with Tearfund/Compassion part time and work from the field. This is still my arrangement to this day. Being based in the field meant having a lot more opportunities to travel (cost effectively) thrown my way. It also caught the attention of the Integral Alliance (a network of 27 aid and development agencies). A couple of them started contacting me to see if I might have capacity to photograph/tell stories for them. I did! After working for about 10 different NGO’s I decided I should probably get a bit more professional and set up a website. Over the last six years living here in Uganda it’s been incredible to network with a huge range of incredible organisations – most of whom are looking for help to bring their work to living colour. Because I am someone with a Western eye that lives locally here in Uganda, the organisation doesn’t have to pay $1500-2000 in flights just to get me to the location. I mainly travel to Africa/Middle East and there is so much work to do that I take on about 1 in every 3 jobs offered.

4. What do you shoot with?
I own a Canon 5d and Canon 6d and shoot with both most trips.
I own a 24-105mm Canon lens, 50 mm Portrait Canon lens, 16-30mm Wide Angle Canon Lens and a 70-300 Tamron telephoto lens.

PLEASE KNOW, I am the most low-tech photographer you will ever meet. I don’t own a flash, reflector, ND filters or any fancy equipment
. I’ve used the same camera for almost 5 years and the last time I bought a new lens was 2 years ago. I do this for a reason. It’s because I want things to look as real as possible. I don’t want to manufacture or over compensate for what is naturally there.  I don’t want things to feel fake, overly posed or overly edited.  I want to fly under the radar wherever I go just a small backpack.

5.Advice for anyone wanting to get into this line of work?
  1. Hone your craft. I did two six-week night courses at a university for two nights a week and it was the best investment I ever made. My lecturer taught me how to solve the technical problems I’d been having and that honestly set me free when I first started out! Even to this day I am consciously trying to get better year on year and take active steps to do so.
  2. Study/Learn something wider than just photography. It would be a rare NGO/non-profit/charity that would be hiring a  full time “photographer” in-house. They would probably be hiring a Creative Manager or a Communications Specialist in which case photography might be one of the core competencies. Next to photography, I’d say that being a good writer would be top of the list for many of these organisations.
  3. If you only want to go freelance consider having a ‘core’ business ie:family photography and then doing humanitarian stuff on the side to relieve pressure.
  4. Give of your time. Find a local NGO in your community that might benefit from having a gift of some complimentary photography. Start there and if you like it, perhaps try offering that to a smaller NGO overseas that you have an existing relationship with.
  5. Consider living in a developing country – this has been huge for me. The cost of flying a Westerner from the USA or Australia to a developing nation is astronomical. It helps a lot to take that part out of the equation.

6. What’s it really like?
I’ve suffered near burnout, got pneumonia, gained weight, lost weight, got more wrinkles and grey hair than I should and had a lot of sun damage done to my face. I spend myself, but I do it for a cause I believe worth spending myself on. What keeps me doing this kind of work is primarily my faith in a God that asks us to be his hands and feet on the earth. A God that cares deeply for this heaving mess of humanity. I’ve never taken one photo or story for granted and I am in a constant state of prayer in the field as I try my hardest to bestow dignity whilst showing tremendous human need. am forever grateful to be used to raise awareness and much needed funds for those that truly need it. There’s nothing I would rather do. I am humbled beyond belief to be entrusted to do it.

7. Does it pay well?
No. If you want to get rich, this is not the field to do it. I work for charities that have to account for every single dollar that goes out the door. Not only that, but I WANT every single dollar possible to go to their beneficiaries who need it far more than me. I have tried really hard to find a personal balance for me where I feel like I’m being paid a fair wage for the work I’m doing (and it’s worth it to be away from my kids) whilst also feeling like I’m not ripping anybody off. But then, why settle for cash when joy is on the line.


Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The work day I'll never forget

Recently, I challenged myself to try and think of the three humanitarian photography assignments I've done that have impacted me the most. The ones I could never forget. The ones I want you to know about too.  Here’s one of them.
In March this year I was invited by Medical Teams International to photograph their work with the Red Cross in the hospitals within the refugee camps of Tanzania on the borders of Congo and Burundi.

On one of the days I 
spotted through my lens a little boy and his mother in line waiting to see the Doctor. They stood out to me because of the beautiful way the Mum was holding his lifeless little body. She had such a tenderness to her. Through an interview we found out that her three year old son was very ill, unable to walk and struggling to breathe. After seeing the doctor and being admitted to the wards, we later found out he had severe malaria and pneumonia and his treatment began. 

We moved through to the Women’s Ward and I saw 9-year-old Kentia. She was lying on a hospital bed while her mother wept over her frail body. She shook rapidly, her eyelids barely opened and when they did her eyes would roll back into her head. My colleague Angela later wrote, I found myself desperately praying that the medicine entering her veins through the IV drip would work faster — no child should suffer this way, and no mother should have to watch it.” We learned from the nurse that she had been struck by a severe case of malaria.

Later that same afternoon as we were leaving I noticed another very sick little girl about 8 years old on an oxygen tank. As we left the camp that night, I was scared not knowing if these children would make it through the night. In the morning, I could hardly wait to get back to the hospital to check on them all.

As I walked into the paediatric ward the first thing I noticed was that the 3 year old boy from yesterday was now sitting up! Later that day I even saw him outside drinking water from a soda bottle all by himself. The 9-year-old girl whose mother had been weeping over her was now sitting up too, her recovery was slower, but progress was being made. I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

And then I looked to my left and there lay the other sweet little girl from yesterday. She now had her eyes closed and her mother and her Aunty were trying to feed her whatever they could. She was attached to oxygen and it wasn’t looking good. All of a sudden, she started making a noise I’ll never forget and the next thing I knew the Dr placed his hand gently on my back and whispered it was time to go.  I held myself together until I walked out into the sunlight and then I completely lost it. Sobs came up from the deepest place they possibly could. I’ll never forget that moment.

Once I had composed myself, we decided to go check in on some of the mothers that we had spoken to in labour the day prior. I walked in the door, was given a pair of gumboots and told to head into the labour room.  And within minutes I watched twins come into the world.

The twins were a surprise. The mother had no idea. I took two short iPhone videos while I was there. One shows the twins a few hours after they were born and one shows the traditional way a Mother leaves the hospital with her newborn baby.

It’s hard to wrestle with both the tragedy of death and the celebration of new life within 10 minutes of each other, but I guess that’s the business end of hospitals. Just when this world seems ruined beyond repair, a baby is born.

Before this hospital and the many others now in the camps were there, lives that could have been saved were lost for stupid reasons like medication for malaria wasn’t available. Now, that is not the case. If someone gets a treatable illness like malaria or pneumonia, they have a good chance of survival and the drugs to help them. The good news is that incidences of malaria have dropped by 30% globally. In addition, the number of under-fives dying from pneumonia has decreased by 47 percent. This is thanks in part to the incredible work of organisations like Medical Teams International and the generous support of people like you!

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

An open letter to my neighbor - the 3 things you've taught me

I remember the day we first met. You and I were both Mum’s of new-borns. You walked into a playgroup I was attending and we hit it off. You mentioned you were looking for a place to live. My neighbour’s house was available. You moved in within the week. And life’s never been quite the same again. You’ve taught me so much about what healthy community can look like.  You live it.

Before I came to Uganda I had a wonderful circle of friends in New Zealand. I had a close-knit family and felt deeply attached to both. Then I came here and all of that was stripped away as we flew mile after mile to the other side of the earth to start a whole new life.

Shortly after I arrived, I remember expats (foreigners like me living in Uganda) talking about the importance of community here. I remember rolling my eyes imagining their weird little commune life. They used words like “fellowship.” I just wanted to be someone’s friend like a NORMAL person.

You were the same. Normal. Nice. And we both needed each other and appreciated the friendship. At first it was for dinners as a couple, then dinners as a family and other such "official" invites. Fast forward 3.5 years  there's not been an official invite since. In fact, I think your kids were at my house every single day this past week – at least once. Usually twice. Did we arrange it  - unlikely? Were they welcome – absolutely!

You’ve showed me that community means doing every-day life together with people that want to do every-day life with me back. It means being vulnerable to share about all the aspects of yourself from your love life to your work life to your failures as a parent and your hopes for the future. It means engaging wholeheartedly with each other to the point where you celebrate their success and deeply feel their losses. It means stopping what you’re doing to rush to the aid of a friend who needs support. I call it the Red Cross effect. Us girls can mobilize anywhere in three minutes. It means surprise birthday parties and endless inside jokes. It means fire pit dance parties and dropping off meals.

Do you know what you’ve taught me Courtney?

  1. My house doesn’t have to be perfect. I clearly remember when you first started coming over I felt like I had to make sure the house was in tip-top shape. I fluffed the cushions and lit the candles even if it was for a casual playdate. That stopped on about week 4 of our friendship when I couldn’t keep up anymore and you clearly couldn’t care less. I put my hand on my heart and promise I’ve never cleaned up for you since. Last week you helped me kill a rat in here while our kids ran buck wild and the house looked like a jaguar was on the loose pulling everything from the shelves.
  2. People are lonely.  Take a risk, invite them in. I had no idea what I was missing. 
  3. Community gives space when needed and comes around when the time is right. It is respectful. Thank you for modelling that. And for having a supernaturally high capacity for interaction with your neighbour.
PS: I still don’t like the word fellowship. But community…. Now that I like very much. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Denizen Magazine - Heroes Edition

It's not everyday I get published in Denizen Magazine. Ok, it's never happened before. But this month, I was honored to partner with them for their Heroes issue and do a beautiful story together on 5 heroes I've met. 

The people you’re about to read about haven’t solved a medical mystery. They haven’t discovered a new planet or paid for a hundred heart operations in India. They’ve just survived. Despite all odds and beyond all common sense or knowledge. Their resilience is inspiring. Their resolve breath-taking. Let me take you to the front lines of some of our planet’s most challenging places. There’s some heroes there I'd love you to meet.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

The reason I'm choosing to go 40 hours without food

Six months ago I met a girl I’ll never forget. Her name was Edna. And what she told me is precisely why I’m choosing to go 40 hours without food.

“I was 8 years old and at school in South Sudan when the soldiers began to shoot bullets. People were running. I remember seeing many people had died. There was lots of blood. People were floating in the river. I kept asking myself, why do people do things like this? My older sister, brother and I ran home to try find our parents and three younger siblings. They were not there. We had to run. After three days we reached Uganda and were registered as refugees. My legs were swollen. My parents weren’t there either.  We were all alone, we didn’t know anyone. There was no one that could build for us a house. Our parents loved us so much and had taught us how important school was. Soon after we sold our food rations to pay for school fees. One day we introduced ourselves to World Vision. They registered us and gave us food. By this time I had gone four days without food. I wanted to die at that time. World Vision then built for us a house. We now also have a foster mother who keeps an eye on us. I don’t know where my parents are.  The war has separated us. I do not know whether they are alive or dead. I like playing in the playground (installed by World Vision) near to my house. I like learning about maths and science. When I grow up I want to be a pilot.”

When Edna told me she wanted to be a pilot I asked her if she wanted to go play with me. That day she’d been wearing a blanket and so went out into the field behind her house and shot these.

I think her story stuck with me so much because she reminded me of my own daughter. She even looked like her a little bit. My Mama arms just wanted to wrap around her and hold her so tight. I wanted to buy her new clothes and cook her healthy food. I wanted to read her a bedtime story and sing to her as she went to sleep. She told me with such despair in her voice about how they have to eat the same thing every single day. She cried telling me about how her Mum used to give her meat and fish and vegetables and she has not had that since.  Her Mum and Dad love Edna and her siblings so much - I could tell by the way they held themselves and the way they spoke.

I hope and pray that Edna and her siblings will one day reunite with their Mum, Dad and three younger siblings.  And while they wait, be encouraged that there are some really wonderful organisations like our friends over at World Vision trying their best to help unaccompanied children like Edna find their feet. 

On a much wider note, I want you to encourage you that step by step, year by year our world is improving. In the last 20 years alone there has beenhuge decline in the share of the world’s population living on less than $2 a day. It used to be 35 percent in 1987 and now it’s under 10 per cent. Though our planet still faces huge challenges, we have made tremendous progress.
It is the least I can do to go 40 hours without food this weekend and support the Youth Ambassadors and World Vision staff I worked alongside to bring this story to life through this years 40 hour famine.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The First Hello

For the last 15 months of my life, I’ve been following the stories of three Ugandan Mums from from pregnancy to the first birthday in a photo journalism assignment I’ve called, T
he First Hello.
The idea came about because Compassion (also known as Tearfund in New Zealand) had recently launched a “Survival” program that comes alongside mothers in developing countries in the first five years of a child’s life. Traditionally, child sponsorship has always started at 5. However, it became clear that a reasonable portion of kids were not even making it to 5! The Survival project intervenes from the early stages of pregnancy to ensure vulnerable mothers are being given the correct nutrition, the right medical care and the support of the local church to help them on the other end. This assignment was my attempt to bring that to life.

As I kicked off the assignment, I couldn’t help but notice that the average Ugandan woman has 6 children. In New Zealand, our average is 1.9.  In Uganda there are about 1.3 nurses or midwifes for every 1000 people.  In New Zealand we have an average of 11 for every 1000 people.  Uganda’s neonatal mortality rate is 38 deaths per 1000 live births, which means it is among the highest in the world. In New Zealand we’re down to 3.8 deaths per 1000 live births. To put that another way, a new-born baby in Uganda is 10 times more likely to die than a NZ born baby. I believe our job is not to deny the story, but to deny the ending.

The First Hello helped me break down the divide I’d created in my mind between me and them. It showed me the common humanity we all share. I found them to be Mum’s just like me with kids just like mine. And I discovered there’s really no difference in what we want for our children, only in what we can give them.

Mama Juliet. Having not had the opportunity to go to school, Juliet met her husband Edward at a young age. They got pregnant soon after and had little to no money to their name. A member of a local church helped register them into the
Compassion program. Juliet gave birth, by herself, inside a local hospital after a nurse had suddenly gone off duty. I remember waiting for the call. It was fun to feel like a midwife waiting for my three Mums to give birth so I could race to the hospital.  It’s also been beautiful to watch Juliet’s love for her daughter grow. “I am so much in love with my daughter Christine,” she told me. “Maybe it’s because she’s my first born? I love my husband too, but he annoys me whereas she cannot annoy me.” Juliet made me laugh when she said, “I’ve heard that white women don’t feel pain when they give birth? That you have schedules for napping and you get mad if the baby doesn’t follow it!?”

Mama Kate.
Kate’s Mum died at 14 and for many years she endured awful abuse at the hands of her stepmother. By 16 she was forced to drop out of school. By 17 she was pregnant.
The man Kate met as a teenager eventually became her husband. But after two kids together he left her for another woman. When I met Mama Kate she was in a bad way.  She was not able to afford to put her current daughter in school full time and providing regular food was difficult. The baby came at 41 weeks and when I came to see her she told me that she was so happy that Compassion had come alongside her and paid for all of her hospital costs to have Pamela. After seeing Kate’s confidence grow over the course of the year, and the help Compassion was providing for Baby Pamela,  her ex-husband came back to her and he’s been a transformed man ever since. By 6 months Kate had begun selling fish to make a little money to support her and her three kids.  Today you’ll find her learning about income generating activities like beadwork and handbag making most days.
When I asked her about what she thought of white women and Motherhood she said, “Westerners seem to really rush with everything. They have a lot to do. They have to get it done. We do what we do in a relaxed way. For them, everything is now, now. For them it has to be exactly that time (Fairly confident she was not so subtly talking about me). I hear that white people, by the time they give birth have prepared in every way for their babies and they are just waiting for the baby to come. They get a room for the baby, they decorate it specifically for the baby ,they get the baby it’s own bed, toys and clothes. I don’t know if I can ever be like that. But that’s how I would have liked to have done it.”
Mama Rahuma.  Rahuma was the youngest of 7 children and because of money, was forced to drop out of school at 13. At 20 she married her childhood sweetheart but the money they made meant they were only able to cook once a day. When she found out she was pregnant they both strongly considered an abortion. Around that time some members from the local church told her about the Compassion Survival program and she registered for it. After almost 56 hours of being in pain, Compassion stepped in and demanded and paid for a C-section to save the mother and babies life. Baby Faith is the apple of her parent’s eyes. She is adored and treated like a princess. When we met up on Faith’s first birthday she told me, “The best thing about this year is that we are alive and our child is too.” Today Rahuma is a better mother than you could ever hope for. She’s learning how to make books and fix shoes. She makes her own Vaseline and is patient and strong.  

Compassion’s Survival program helps children and their mothers to survive those crucial early years. The program teaches mothers how to read and write, how to calculate, what proper nutrition looks like and how to be a positive parent. Many of the Mothers in the program have gone through domestic violence and have exhausted all financial opportunities. They feel discouraged. This program encourages them that they can indeed make it and they can thrive. Compassion keeps their family together with a simple but crucial intervention.

I’ve visited and engaged with a lot of development projects over the years in a wide range of different contexts. I’ve seen desperately needed aid, food and water handed out to victims of natural disasters and I’ve seen the steady flow of support that can come from a self-help savings and loans group. I’ve also had the opportunity to think hard about the question, what can we do? I believe one of the best ways we can engage is through child sponsorship. It’s not sexy, it’s not fast, it’s not new. But it works.

At the end of the First Hello assignment on the girls first birthday’s I wondered what to give them. But deep down I knew the answer about 11 months and 29 days prior.

On each of the babies first birthday’s I handed them a card that asked if our family could be their sponsor. Our kids will now grow up with these kids. And it’s great that Baby Christine, Baby Pamela and Baby Faith have been sponsored. But the reason I’m writing this blog is because I need your help to ensure all their little friends in their Survival projects are sponsored to. You can sponsor a child by clicking here if you live in New Zealand OR here if you live anywhere else.

As a Mum to three little kids myself I feel sick when I think about kids around the world who don’t have access to the same things mine do. Simple stuff like food, clean water and medical care. That’s not ok with me. And I think that’s why I love child sponsorship so much because it gives a child their childhood back. It says to a kid living in poverty, don’t worry. Don’t worry about your schooling, your food, your medical care anymore. We have your back.Poverty comes to steal to rob, to kill and destroy. It tells a child you will never get out of this. Child sponsorship is one very important antidote to that. It says, NO. Not on my watch. I see you. I hear you. And I might not live next to you or even in the same country as you, but I’m going to play the long game and walk with you until you graduate school and can go off on your own.

Today I’m asking you to give childhood back to a child who likely won’t have it otherwise. Not only is there really strong independent research that backs Compassion’s specific model up, but I’ve personally visited countless Compassion projects the world over and have seen the impressive results first hand. 
You can sponsor a child by clicking here if you live in New Zealand OR here if you live anywhere else.

Thank you! xo

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Top Ten Tips for Travelling with Toddlers on Planes

Dear friend,

A few months ago our family (2, 3 and 5 year old kids) experienced what can only be described as a travel experience from hell. Need a recap? Here’s a little video we made. Suffice to say, I vowed to write a blog to help anyone else that finds themselves in the air with little ones, because flying with toddlers is not for the faint of heart. Our family has racked up hundreds of hours in the air and so I hereby lay out my top ten tips for travelling with toddlers for your perusing pleasure.


1. Allow more time than necessary. Oh the fights I have had with my husband because we cut things too fine in traffic to get to the airport. Oh the stress and sweat I feel when I have to re-pack bags because they are overweight and the lines are building up behind me. Oh the drama when we have to shuffle and stop, shuffle and stop our way through the airport because we are pushing three trolleys and there’s only two of us.
2. Pack smart and weigh before you go. Common sense you’d think? Not the case apparently for a shopaholic like yours truly. Tim has legitimately put UN sanctions on me because of the number of times I have broken the rules.  We now have to weigh every single piece of luggage before we go to the airport to ensure we are not overweight. He begins this process days before we travel. He permits only five pieces of hand luggage total (despite the fact that technically we could have ten).  He requires one hand luggage carrying all changes of clothes/diapers and one hand luggage requiring all toys. Pyjamas are in colour coded bags (ok, that’s my influence) and changes of clothes are in other ziplocks. I love me a ziplock.
3. The wagon. We have three toddlers five and under. It is a nightmare to transport our tired bodies and their squirmy ones, plus our hand luggage through airports at midnight.  Not wanting to purchase a ridiculously large stroller that would fit three children, our friend introduced us to “the wagon”. Don’t ask questions, just buy one now. It’s accepted as a stroller on all airlines, is perfect for throwing copious numbers of children inside, is light as a feather and works wonders for corralling children in an efficient manner. This is our one


4. Invest in an Inflatable Bed. The single most useful invention made for children on planes is the Inflatable Bed. We bought ours from Amazon and inflate them for our kids to sleep on. Simply blow it up, stretch a blanket over it and watch your kids sleep well for hours. I researched this is a lot - this is the best value one I found that does the job.  
 5. You can never have enough snacks. I don’t know if it’s because we travel through Africa and the Middle East and the snacks aren’t quite to their taste or if our kids start acting like bears coming out of hibernation but I can never have enough snacks. I legit bring a small cooler bag on board.
6. Consider Melatonin Drops for Kids  - We use a natural sleep remedy for the kids when we change time zones if they are struggling (of if we are struggling). I can highly recommend this one. Sometimes it helps to use it that first night in the new country too. Also, on the plane consider putting all the kids in diapers overnight so you and they don’t have to go up and down to the toilet. We use these ones. 
7. You can never have enough wet wipes. I wipe down arm rests, remotes, tv’s, hands, feet, faces. Trust me on this.
8. Make sure you order a kids meal. Apparently, this isn’t guaranteed if you book your own tickets online. Make sure you request it before you fly as then their meals come earlier and are kid friendly.  
9. Bring mini trash bags with you. I am telling you right now that the trash situation gets out of control on flights. I do not know what possess airlines to wrap every single item possible in plastic but I can tell you that having mini trash bags to dump all the junk works wonders.
10. Bring empty (leak-proof) water bottles on board, then fill them up asap. Every time you get served a drink or meal, put the water into your kids water bottles so they don’t spill those stupid flimsy plastic cups on the people sitting behind you and their laptop or phone. (this has happened to us. Twice).  Our favourites are Camelbak.

BONUS 11: We love it that our kids have these awesome books sold by My Flight Log Book. It means whenever we take a flight we give the book to a steward who gives them to the captain and then the kids have a record and fun note to look at when they're older. 

Have I forgotten anything? Love to hear your tips, tricks and hacks! 

Happy travels friends!