As much as I love living in Sussex, getting away to spend time en famille is such a treat. Goodbye, Sussex; Hello, Summer Holiday. There’s just one small issue to deal with first: packing. In my experience packing for four is a total nightmare.
Holiday Pile of Doom
I usually start in good time, collecting bits and pieces up to a month before leaving, but that’s where it ends. The Good Intention Pile turns into the Holiday Pile of Doom. A couple of days before leaving we have a pile of random stuff resembling a car boot sale with a loose summer holiday theme in the corner of our bedroom. The actual packing mission is then a very unfun rush of late night shops and frantic suitcase stuffing. Let’s just say that travel activities to keep children happy during flights, airports, the midday sun and long, late, leisurely (*hollow laugh*) dinners are less considered than they perhaps should be. Have you tried to take an overtired 4 year old out for dinner at 8pm in another country? Or a completely over excited sweet filled 6 year old on a plane? You need a strong game plan to keep them vaguely civilised. Take it from someone who’s learned the hard way.
When the founder of Timeout Bags got in touch a couple of weeks before we were due to fly, I jumped on the chance to trial their busy bags. The timing couldn’t have been better. A bag tailored for each of my children? To keep them busy – and importantly quiet – in the plane (and beyond)? Hell, yes!
A handful of days before we left two sturdy drawstring bags turned up packed with lots of activities: crafts, colouring, snacks, toys… put in your mind the most impressive party bag designed for your child’s age group and you’ve got the picture. I instantly knew the girls would love them. All of the wins for none of the effort.
I sat with my youngest daughter, aged 4, during the flight. Once strapped in she was headfirst into her Time Out bag. First up snacks. Thank God for the jelly sweets (organic, too). I’d totally forgotten to bring something to chew on for take-off. Tray, face. As I said, these bags are put together by a Mum Who Knows.
Next, she pulled out a little fairy doll. To her amusement, the doll had no knickers on. The shameless fairy went flying around our seats as the Little One made up lots of stories about what the fairy would get up to on holiday. So cute. And fab to see her using her imagination rather than inanely painting virtual Hello Kitty nails on her iPad.
We did some stickers and a maze together, read Daddy Pig Hangs A Picture (you know the one) and practised her writing in a tiny unicorn secret sketcher.
In front, sandwiched between her Dad and Nan, the Big One was scratching art using stencils and building Lego-style Blocks. It couldn’t have been a more peaceful scene from our seats. The girls were genuinely absorbed and happy working their way through their packs. I got to eat my EasyJet snack box and read a few pages of Grazia in peace. No one judged me for slinging fully charged iPads and headphones at my children for once. No one screamed. No one kicked any seats. We even had compliments about how beautifully behaved our children were on the flight.
Time Out Bags vs The Nanny Bag
As we were on holiday with my parents, the Time Out bags had stiff competition. My mum’s famed for her formidable organisation skills and abundant supply of children’s entertainment. Whenever she’s with us she delights in bringing her Nanny Bag, which would put Mary Poppin’s bag of tricks to shame. Throughout the holiday, delights and surprises emerged from the Nanny Bag including LOL Surprise Dolls, unicorn comics, Zoggs swimming toys, Mister Maker craft packs, Chupa Chups lollies, Peppa Pig wet wipes and tiny unicorn handbags with Euros and Haribo inside.
The girls loved all of their treats but also kept going back to the Time Out bags too. We played games of snakes and ladders by the pool, made aqua bead shapes in the shade and did plenty of colouring.
On the way home, I sat with the Big One who made a necklace with minimal help and practised reading with me. Another successful flight with no bored, grumpy kids. Time Out Bags: Thank You.
150 out of 10
I asked the girls what they thought about the bags when we were all packed up in our car at Gatwick:
“I loved it”
“150 out of 10”
The Little One adored the commando fairy doll and The Big One’s fave activity was the box of Lego-style Blocks.
And me? The bags were a total win in my eyes. They contained plenty of things that the girls could do by themselves and with us too. Having a bag of readymade activities made packing for the girls carry-ons a cinch; more importantly, they kept boredom at bay.
The Gift That Keeps On Giving
We’re off for a weekend away at Center Parcs soon and I’ll be slinging the Timeout Bags into the car. They’re already on the bottom of the next packing pile of doom along with a couple of books that I’ve been meaning to read for an age. If only the rest of the packing could be so straight forward.
If you’d like to cheat your way to some peace and quiet on holiday, easy packing and win at in-flight entertainment for your little ones, Time Out Bags are available from www.timeoutbags.com or Amazon starting at £9.99. A proportion of every sale is donated to Changing Faces. We were kindly gifted custom made Tiddler and Minnow packs for review via 365 Magazine.