Christmas travel with kids: how to ace packing and limit your luggage

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Travelling overseas with kids at Christmas
Packing for a return back to Singapore from your Christmas adventure can prove a little challenging (thanks, Santa)... here's how to avoid being whacked with a huge excess luggage bill at check in!

You know the drill: Christmas travel time has rolled around and you are ditching a tropical Xmas for a Christmassy overseas adventure, BUT you only have so much luggage allowance to bring back all the goodies. If you are travelling overseas with kids at Christmas, chances are the grandparents have gone a little overboard on the stocking fillers, you’ve probably bought too many bargains in the post-Xmas sales, and, let’s face it, you really did need to bring a year’s supply of your favourite chocolate back with you. The result? A fat expense at the check in counter or wails from the kids when you have to turf out the set of encyclopaedias a ‘helpful’ rellie bought them. Lucky for you we’ve aced this ‘jetting off at Chrimbo’ malarky, so we’ve put together some helpful tips for managing your post-Christmas packing without you ending up spontaneously combusting with stress…

GET THE KIDS ON BOARD
Santa’s wish list: it’s all fun writing the thing, but when your kid is asking for a bike from Father Christmas, you’ll be the one having to bring it 10,000 miles across the world from your festive holiday: that ain’t happening. Sorry kids. Manage them (without them realising they’re being managed) into gift requests such as:

Experiences: Look up some of the coolest things to do in your holiday destination, and then book tickets for shows, theme parks, experiences or workshops that will really put the cool into Yule. Wrap up the tickets to open on Xmas day, or make sure the kids know Santa sorted it if the events are before Xmas morning (but wrap up a souvenir from Santa for the day itself) . Bringing the photos home is way easier than bringing back a dollhouse (which we did once… that’s another story).

Classes: If the kids have been bugging you to learn a musical instrument, flex their inner artist or try their hand at a spot of acting, book them a term of lessons and present them with something representative (but small!) and a voucher to open on Xmas Day. This year one of ours has ‘pony riding lessons‘ on her list to Santa. A small plush horse and a postcard of a pony with the deets it is then.

Cash or vouchers: Older kids are pretty keen on cold, hard cash, so maybe Santa would like to put some in their stocking this year for them to spend in the sales when they get back to Singapore. Likewise, if your child is itsy bitsy, get the grandparents to all chip in with some money you can use on something big in the new year. Little people are happy enough with teeny tiny stocking fillers anyway. Or even just the wrapping paper.

PACKING SENSIBLY BEFORE YOU LEAVE SINGAPORE
We know it’s a minefield, but it can be done. If you plan ahead, you’ll be checking in with not so much as a bag of crisps over your allowance…

Take what you intend to bring back: If you are heading to a destination where you don’t have to worry about relatives buying a ton of extra prezzies you hadn’t allowed space for, then buy all the gifts here in Singapore and dedicate a suitcase to them. Wrap them and pack them (when the kids are not around) and then ‘Santa’ will whack them under the tree on Christmas Eve. That way you will only need to repack them in the space they arrived in. Resist the urge to buy more stuff when you get to your destination! They (and you) don’t need it. And if you are going to rellie-infested waters, still use this trick, but leave a bit of room for return gifts.

Use your hand luggage allowances: Yes, people bringing those mini suitcases onto the plane with them are annoying, but be one of those people on your pilgrimage home. Most airlines allow between 7-12kgs of hand luggage per person. That’s a whole lotta chocolate bars.

Have the talk: We get that relatives are excited to see you and the kids, and may go a little OTT when it comes to presents. Send them a list of small things they can buy, and refer them to the list above. Make sure they run any ‘big ideas’ past you first. You totally have power of veto (unless they want to stump up money for excess baggage charges).

Ditch what you don’t need: If you packed a whole wardrobe of winter woollies and are not likely to need them again for some time, persuade a kind friend or relative back home to store them for you. Or in the case of kids, who are likely to have grown out of it all by next Xmas anyway, donate the stuff you don’t need to charity before you leave. It’s amazing how much room five puffa jackets take up – turf them out for the return journey and fill the space with cheese.

Post it back: We’ve done this before. The stuff we don’t need to bring with us straight away we box up and send via a boat across the oceans. It takes about six weeks to reach Singapore. Quicker, but way pricier, if you send it via plane. Make sure you keep the value of the goods under $400, or you’ll get whacked with GST and duty charges.

And if all else fails, have a credit card handy to deal with the excess baggage costs!

Like this story? Here’s more festive reads we think you’ll enjoy:
How to ace Christmas as an expat in Singapore
Countdown to Christmas with these apps and websites for kids
Let there be buffets! All the best festive feasts in Singapore
Our ultimate guide to skiing in Asia and beyond
Where to find Santa Claus in Singapore