You’ve packed and prepared and today’s the day the you fly. You wake up before your alarm and there’s a million things running through your head after a nervous night’s sleep. Have I packed my toothbrush? Where’s my fragrance-free deodorant? Is my luggage within the weight limit? Where’s my passport? What time is check-in? ...Stop! Take a deep breath, focus, say Bismillah, and start your day.
Get, set, go
19. When should I change into my Ihram clothes?
It’s essentially a choice between entering Ihram at home before you set off or on the flight before you reach a Miqat point. If you want to change outfit on the flight, be mindful that you’ll have to carry a lot of hand luggage which isn’t easy to handle when you have kids to hold too. We flew with Saudi Arabian Airlines, and there were basic arrangements for brothers to change but sisters didn’t have a dedicated space. I didn’t want to take a risk with the toilet cubicles so I made my intention for Umrah and wore my outfit from home, carrying a lightweight spare abaya just in case.
20. How can I keep the kids busy on the flight?
We had a morning flight that was 6 hours long so there was lots of awake time! We took an iPad for each of them and downloaded lots of new Islamic games and apps which they were super excited about. Seeing as we only get them out when we go away, this also keeps their effectiveness up! Some lovely Instagram sisters also recommended buying a couple of small, cheap toys and introducing them over the trip to keep the excitement going which really worked. The airline staff had given out little activity bags to all the kids with a few simple colouring bits and bobs, and they became our most prized possessions over the next two weeks!
21. Are we nearly there yet?
Encourage a few breaks here and there, especially to rest their eyes and have a stretch. Remind the older kids what a special journey they are on, and recite Labbaik with them to keep them focussed. The inflight screen systems often have a map with a flight tracker, and we checked ours regularly to see how far we’d travelled and which countries we were flying over.
22. Are the queues at Jeddah really as long I’ve heard?
I’d been warned this wait would be around two hours and it wasn’t far off. So prepare for it by taking extra food and snacks as it’ll likely be close to your next meal time. If you have little ones (and are taking hand luggage anyway) then perhaps consider taking a Trunki for them to sit on. We had our regular cabin case which we lay flat on the floor and two kids could easily sit on that. Many people were even sat on the floor as the queues moved at slower than snail pace! Go to the loo before you queue - you’ll be there a while!
23. We made it to Makkah!
Alhamdulillah! It’s almost an hour and a half drive to Makkah, that’s on top of however long it takes you to get through and out of Jeddah airport. By the time we checked in to our room we’d been travelling for almost 18 hours. I’d had visions of getting the kids to bed as quick as possible and then taking turns with Hubby to perform our Umrah that night, but after the mammoth journey it just wasn’t sensible. I had to rest to be able to handle the kids the next day, so I crashed out with them and we planned to go in the morning. I can definitely say it was the best decision as I had so much more energy and focus.
24. Will my kids get lost?
In sha Allah they won’t. But it doesn’t hurt to take a few simple precautions. Once you’ve got your bearings, pick a meeting point just outside the Haram. There’ll be lots of hotels or shops with distinctive names or signs so choose one and explain to your kids to come and wait there if they ever get separated from you. On the walks to and from the hotel, we would always aim to take the same route and after a day or so, we’d let the kids direct us so we knew they’d been paying attention to where they were going.
25. ICE ICE baby...
Write out a lanyard with your contact details on it for the kids to wear whenever you go out. Include your name, international phone number and hotel name. They can be worn around the neck, or safety pinned on so that your child can show it to someone if they don’t find an English speaker. Point out police and security staff, in particular the colours of their uniform, so they know who to go to for help.
26. Joint at the hip?
The girls are old enough to know when to stay put however Baby likes to explore as soon as you let go of him, and we thought this may be an issue during salah. For a couple of months before we went, Hubby took him to Jummah salah each week to get him used to the jammat, however he gradually got so used to it and would confidently run around the mosque while everyone was praying! The simple solution was a Wrist rein that we picked up from Mamas & Papas, that went around his waist and our wrist, just to keep him close by for those few minutes.
Let’s make Umrah
27. Repeat your intention
So you’ve entered Ihram at home or on your travels many hours ago and perhaps your older kids have too. For your little ones then, it’ll definitely be helpful to get into a focused frame of mind. Give them a shower, help them with wudhu and change into a fresh outfit. Recite Labbaik and make a short dua in English so they know what a special thing it is they are setting off to do.
28. What’s the best time to make Umrah?
Bearing in mind we visited during the busy winter period, the best time for us to make Umrah was after Isha salah when it was cooler and less crowded. We started our first Umrah after Asr salah and found it quite difficult to make tawaf with the girls. We took breaks after two or three circles which timed with Maghrib and Isha, and it ended up taking almost three hours to complete. The second time, we started after Isha and completed all seven circles in one go with relative ease and in well under an hour. Stay towards the outer wall of the tawaf area where there is plenty room to avoid the pushing crowds.
29. Which gates should we go through?
The current building work on the ground floor means that access is only given to those making Umrah. Those in Ihram can enter via a set of doors marked “Ihram” which take you down a cordoned pathway on a direct route to the Ka’aba. Follow this and you will be separated from all other worshippers which actually keeps the area closest to the Ka’aba free from worshippers who want to sit and reserve a prayer spot!
30. Can I stop and have a break?
Yes! During our first Umrah we stopped three times. The girls were getting a little overwhelmed with the crowds so we would come out of the tawaf zone and have some Zamzam water or snacks. It is much better to rest when you or your kids need to, rather than pushing on and making the experience more tiring.
31. How easy is it for kids to walk Sa’ee?
The first floor Sa'ee area has very wide paths so it is relatively easy to walk along without facing crowds. On the second floor however, it is quieter and very easy to hire a wheelchair with a guide to push you all the way. It’s very organised, the price is fixed and it is very useful for little ones! Little Miss and Baby sat on a shared chair and enjoyed the ride, and Big Miss insisted on (and managed MashaAllah) walking the whole way with the grown ups. I’d say definitely hire a chair for any kids under 6, it’s a longer walk than Tawaf so if they’ve walked that, they will probably need the rest.
32. What do we need to pray during Sa’ee?
Apart from the dua for Mount Safa and Mount Marwa there are no specific duas we came across, but along the way we had a variety of topics to chat about. As the little two were riding in the chair, Big Miss was my walking buddy and after talking about the story of how ZamZam sprung, we also recited various short duas and talked about the meanings of them too. She was very curious by this point, obviously pumped up on adrenaline, and the chat soon became a full-on Q&A session! Brush up on your English translations so you can keep the interest going.
33. We’ve completed our Umrah!
Mubarak! You'll probably be exhausted by this point but try to make a little effort to celebrate it - it’s a big deal so take time to soak it in and hype it up for the kids. We ventured up to the top floor into the open air where the atmosphere was chilled out and people were sat around relaxing. We got close to the glass fence, took some selfies for memories’ sake and enjoyed some Zamzam and snacks. Back at the hotel we also had a room service midnight feast and broke our personal best for latest bedtime at 2am, what a way to end the day!
So now you've completed your first Umrah, it's time to get into a daily routine and make the most of your valuable time in the Holy Lands. The next and final part takes you through your remaining days in Makkah, planning and visiting Madinah, and lots of extras to make your Umrah as exciting and as memorable as possible for your kids. Coming soon in sha Allah x