Back in the days Before Child (BC), I was a light packer.
I used to travel a lot with my job as a journalist, and I took pride in needing nothing more than hand luggage for a trip of 7 days or less.
Travelling with kids, though? That usually takes a lot more space.
On top of the clothes, we usually stuff our cases with first aid supplies, books, gadgets, chargers, cameras, kid-friendly toiletries, swim gear, wetsuits… it’s endless. And hand luggage which used to hold everything I needed for a week away now tends to be full of stuff to keep Flea occupied for a long flight – iPad, chargers, comics, snacks…
But this weekend MoneySuperMarket challenged me to relive my youth and go off on an adventure – without luggage.
Did you know that around 25% of all travel insurance claims relate to lost or damaged luggage? That’s a lot of people arriving on holiday this summer without their suitcases.
Travel insurance is one of those things you hope you’ll never need – but as a parent, it’s probably my number one travel essential. We have an annual policy that covers pretty much every disaster I could think of, including unlimited medical cover. I never want to be in the position of arguing with a doctor about whether they can treat Flea for something or other. And just as importantly (almost) I never want to find myself worrying about whether I can buy a swimsuit should my luggage get lost… why not check out the MoneySupermarketSite to pick up a deal on travel insurance for your trip?
So how did we cope?
Actually… better than I expected.
We landed in Tenerife and the first bonus of no luggage was whizzing straight through the airport and skipping the line at the taxi rank. Result!
We checked in at the H10 Conquistador in Tenerife, and a quick stop at the hotel gift shop to get kitted out – we bought swim shorts for Flea, sunglasses and a sun hat for me, and some sunscreen. 50 Euros all told. Job done, we borrowed some towels from the hotel, and settled down for a couple of hours R&R poolside.
Monday morning, we were up bright and early to take a cab to Siam Park, which was recently named the World’s #1 Water Park by Tripadvisor. Now, it has to be said that Flea is a HUGE fan of water parks. HUGE. We had been given pre-purchased tickets (57 euros) which was a huge time-saver when we arrived – the queue to buy tickets was enormous!
First stop for this luggage-less pair was the souvenir stand where we bought a rash t-shirt for me (20 euros), and two pairs of wet shoes at 8 euros each – a bargain to stop scorched feet on the hot ground (I know, I know, you’re weeping for us at the very prospect, right?)
Siam Park is spectacular – I’ll write a full review in a separate post – but suffice to say there’s plenty there for kids of all ages and if your kids are fans of things that are fast and high, they won’t be disappointed.
The park’s biggest ride, Tower of Power, is sadly only suitable for over 14s, but we went on EVERY other ride there was, at least once. Flea’s favourite was the Jungle Dragon ride, which involves steep drops, dark tunnels and a general lack of dignity for those over 30.
Of course, being us, there were one or two minor incidents – we got stuck halfway down one ride involving me clambering off our inflatable in a pitch black tunnel and trying to un-jam it while Flea yelled, “Mummy, WHAT ABOUT ME?” and another ride where you have to ride in groups of four, and I fell face first into a man’s crotch. Not a man I knew, I should add (family motto: dignity at all times).
Anyway, be sure to take hats (we picked one up for Flea at the gift shop for just 1 euro), plenty of sunscreen and towels. If you have a bag or purse with you, you can hire lockers for 5 euros a day, plus a 5 euro returnable deposit.
After a full day of water slide madness, we headed out for Tapas, which is a harder job than you might think in Tenerife – eventually, we found Embrujo, which serves a range of decent tapas and has nightly entertainment.
Tuesday morning, we headed off to the spectacular El Teide National Park, a weird moon-like landscape which has been host to countless Hollywood movies, including Star Wars. The park is a winding, steep 90 minute cab drive (80 euros) from Playa de las Americas, and it’s probably worth hiring a car and exploring for the day – there are loads of places to stop and admire the scenery. It’s hot, though, and there aren’t many places to stop, so make sure you venture into the park with plenty of water, sunscreen and hats. Although it can get a bit breezy when you’re high up. This is perfect for amazing family photos like the one above *cough*
We visited the El Teide cable car, which takes you to the highest point on the island of Tenerife for spectacular views, and an up-close view at the old volcanoes that form much of the park’s landscape.
A word of caution though – plan for this to be a long, hot, boring process. We booked tickets online (40 euros for both of us) to ride the cable car between 1 and 2pm, and arrived duly at 12.15pm. It took us an hour to get to the front of the “pre-booked Internet tickets” queue, and then another hour and a quarter to get from there to the front of the queue to get on the cable car. It was long, and hot, and boring and, frankly, if I hadn’t been asked to go there by MoneySuperMarket, I’d have given up and taken the cab back to the beach like a normal person. Half the queue is in the baking hot sun, and I really felt for elderly people who had to stand in the midday sun for hours on end. Not good.
The cable car takes eight minutes to get the top of the mountain and it’s spectacular, it really is. If you book a permit ahead of time, you can walk from the upper cable car station to the peak of the mountain, which I think must be just incredible – although the thin air is noticeable so it’s not for you if you’re (like me) asthmatic or anything like that.
By the time we had spent 20 minutes on the peak, it was time to come down – the last bus back to Playa de las Americas leaves at 3.30pm but given timings, we opted to take a cab directly back to the airport, to save any last-minute panics.
What we learned on this short trip is that a lot of what I pack in my luggage I could just as easily buy on the road, but that convenience does come at a cost, and at the expense of choice – would I necessarily choose to spend a day at a water park in a pink rash vest with disposable shoes? Not necessarily. But did it spoil the day? Absolutely not. Besides, sunscreen is 20% cheaper in duty free…
Some savvy hand-luggage packing goes a long way to making life easier if you are unlucky enough to lose your luggage. For starters, wear layers on the plane – t-shirt with shirt and jacket, long trousers, belt, hat, scarf… make the most of your body’s ability to carry stuff. Then here’s what we packed into our hand luggage:
- 2 t-shirts and 1 pair shorts each (plus a rash shirt for Flea)
- 3 sets of underwear each
- 1 iPhone/iPad cable and plug/adaptor
- iPad, pre-loaded with games, apps, videos
- Washbag packed with tiny free hotel shampoo/conditioner/toothpaste plus any medication needed (all in a clear plastic bag inside the bag, for speeding through security)
- Wallet including bank cards, driving license, and a Post Office Travel Money card
- Camera and spare memory card
- Mobile phone
- Passports, tickets (all other paperwork photographed and stored on mobile phone)
I think we passed our #MSMLostLuggage challenge with flying colours, if you don’t count the falling face first into someone’s lap disaster. But I’m telling myself, if nobody Instagrams it, it’s like it never happened, right?
Disclosure: All flights, accommodation and other expenses were covered by MoneySuperMarket for the purposes of this post.