The South Africans guide to booking an Umrah; a detailed explanation on how to do-it-yourself.

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Until recently, people have come to realise just how simple it is to book your own travel without the assistance of agents. With the use and help of online guides and blogs (even facebook posts with information on how to do-it-yourself), traveling on an Umrah has become considerably inexpensive (depending on the hotel that you opt to stay at). You can seek advice on pretty much everything online, and booking an Umrah should also be one of them.

Some people are still reluctant to book an overseas trip for themselves, including an Umrah, but if you have all the correct documentation in order and print out everything for easy reference, you can’t really make much of an error. If you’re still feeling skeptical, ask someone who has been to look over everything for you.

I understand that older parents might feel nervous to travel on an Umrah without having formal ‘agent documentation’, but if you print out everything for them and try to include as many notes and points as you are able to, they will have no trouble on their trip.

I’ve used our experience as a guide to assisting you in booking your own Umrah. Whilst my experiences might differ to yours, this is just a guide to aid you in becoming more confident to book yours.

Please accept my apologies for any errors in the article and please bring it to my attention. May we all benefit.

Step 1: Book your airtickets online. I definitely recommend trying to book your tickets as soon as you are able to.

To my knowledge, there are 2 specific airlines that South Africans prefer traveling on when performing an Umrah; Saudia and Emirates. We decided to travel with Saudia as it was a direct flight into and out of Jeddah to Johannesburg.

There are two options: Firstly load the Skyscanner app on your mobile device, or check on their website if you’re not familiar with apps. Input your dates and number of passengers. It will give you the cheapest option or quickest option (quick meaning no stops).

A hypothetical example of flight bookings is listed below. Skyscanner.net gives you the option of seeing which days there are direct flights into Jeddah (using Saudia):

Skyscanner.net gives you the options of the cheapest flights and the fastest flight (meaning no stops). See example:

This is a quick tool to use to gauge prices on airfare before proceeding to the airline websites.

If you know for certain that you will only fly Saudia or Emirates, proceed directly to their website to book. Once you get a rate on the airline website, you may get that quote reduced by inquiring the rate via a Flight Center agent. They guarantee to beat any online quote (exception of Skyscanner) by up to R50 per passenger.

Remember to input all member numbers on Alfursan or Skywards to earn miles for your flights. Whilst the Alfursan program doesn’t give you much back on miles, it can score you additional luggage if you fly enough with them, so start earning points even if this is the first time that you’re flying with them.

The bulk of your time is spent in transit if you’re opting to fly with Emirates even if it is a really great airline. For an Umrah specifically, I like to take the quickest flight into and out of Jeddah to avoid any additional travel time or jetlag. This is especially helpful if flying with children. There is also Salaah facilities for men and woman on the plane and an announcement is made for the Meeqat. The one bathroom is also slightly larger so it makes changing and wudhu easier.

We flew in their economy class cabin and our tickets cost us roughly R7800 per adult (the kids fees were slightly less) and these were booked directly online via their website.

You are able to select your seats and meals once you have a reservation number.

We highly recommend that you check in to your flight once the function is available online. My mother-in-laws Business Class ticket was downgraded to Economy as the return plane had 2 broken seats from Jeddah. The other passengers had checked in online, so basically their seats were safe and guaranteed. The management were very apologetic and assisted in generating a refund on the ticket and compensating us all with additional seats so we each had more space on the flight.

These flights included the internal flight between Makkah to Medinah at no additional charge HOWEVER we decided to not take that sector and we opted to drive to Madinah instead – huge mistake! We only realised later when trying to check in to our return flight to SA that our entire reservation had been cancelled because we did not utilise the one sector! We were advised to contact the local Saudia office and they said that it could be changed, however at a penalty. Mohamed needed to go in to the office to make the amendments to ensure that our flight would leave as scheduled from Jeddah (and not from Medinah as per initial itinerary). The gentleman at the Saudia office mentioned that this is a common mistake that many people have made, and some families have lost out on their return flights and have had to stay on and book another flight just to return home. Make a decision as to whether you want to go through the aggravation of multiple flights (consider the travel time to the airport, checking in, waiting to board, the flight, waiting for luggage and then the trip to the hotel) or a direct taxi to your hotel in Medinah.

Saudia also has a new policy on luggage weights. Economy class passengers are allowed 2 pieces of luggage at 23kg each. This excludes Zam Zam which is not counted for as your weight. You are also allowed to take a carry on piece of luggage with you. I recommend that each person carries one in the event that you require to bring back and fragile items on your return.

Step 2: Apply for your Visa at least 3 weeks in advance. Visas are usually processed in 10 days, however busier seasons might mean a delay in your Visa arriving in ample time. You require a copy of your airticket, your passports, a recent passport sized photograph and your original yellow card for vaccinations. Ml Laily may be contacted via WhatsApp or telephone call. He is based in Mayfair, so make arrangements to have all the documents delivered to him. He is very reliable and efficient, and he is also most knowledgeable on how best to perform and Umrah if you need any additional advice. Once your Visa is ready, he will notify you to collect it. He will maintain correspondence on WhatsApp during this time to keep you updated on the progress of your Visa. The cost of the Visa is R1500 per person.

Ml Laily also arranges the first leg of transportation for you from Jeddah to Medinah/Makkah. The approximate cost of the transport (based on 7 people with luggage in a Hi-Ace) is R2200. “For those who are traveling on an Umrah visa land in Madeenatul Munawwarah, there is no need to pre-reserve transportation. If you land in Jeddah, the first land transfer is mandatory through a registered Saudi Transportation company. This is due to the distance between Jeddah and either Madeenatul Munawwarah or Makkatul Mukarrahmah as the authorities would not want to have pilgrims stranded”.

Advice: Our luggage arrived at least 45 minutes after we disembarked. We were nervous that our transportation would leave us and it took us some time to figure out where we were actually meant to meet the company. Once you get out of the airport, turn right and walk up a very steep ramp. From the top of that ramp you will see buses and large combis. Go down the incline and ask one of the gentleman in uniforms to assist you. We waited around 20 minutes (although they said it would be 5 minutes). The transport was a large Hi-Ace and they loaded all our luggage quickly and with ease.

I would assume that they would be waiting with a sign at the exit of arrivals, but I can’t assure you that they would. Don’t panic and just follow the instructions above and ask around. Again, please remember to make a copy of the company details that Ml Laily will give you with the Visa and to show the security the name of the company so he may call them.

Contact details: Ml AR Laily

What’sApp or call – 084 690 0786

Twitter – @ar_laily

Step 3: Begin to arrange your accommodation.

This step requires far more detail as it’s really important to select a hotel that falls within your budget and is as close to the Haram as you are able to afford. If you are traveling with an elderly person, and if you are able to, there are a range of hotels that are located right in front of the Haram. This are generally pricier than the ones that are on the side or back streets.

Seek advice from people who have performed an Umrah previously to gauge what their experiences have been with the hotels that they had selected. It’s always great receiving first hand advice from people that you know versus an online search engine and they also are able to share their experience of their Umrah with you. I always found that those conversations almost excite and encourage you for your trip, and often the most valued advice is shared.

Personally, going through a Mall to get to your hotel is a huge distraction for me, so I preferred something on the outside, even if it meant having to cross a small road.

We booked our accommodation through the loyalty service offered by Travel Loyalty. This requires an entirely separate post which I will get to insha Allah soon after I publish this. Travel Loyalty is not a booking agent, or a travel scheme/timeshare. Zaheer sells you an online ‘card’, which allows you to receive discounted bookings, member benefits (depending on your status/tier) and accumulate points that may be used towards future holidays.

Zaheer loaded me as a Diamond member (this is the highest tier on the Hilton Honours program) which meant that I was privy to affordable rates at any Conrad or Hilton Hotel in Saudi (worldwide, but Hilton and Conrad specifically for this trip). Without going in to too much detail on the Travel Loyalty program on this post, we selected the Conrad in Makkah and the Hilton in Madinah for our accommodation on our Umrah.

If you are nervous that your booking has not gone through, or that you might not have a booking, make contact with the hotel directly on email at least 2 weeks before traveling. Ensure that they respond and know that you are arriving. This is especially helpful if you are not using an agent and doing this all by yourself. Because I was listed as a Diamond member on Hilton Honours, I received a call directly from the hotel whilst still in SA to ask what time I would be arriving so that they could plan for my arrival.

Our main reasons for selecting these hotels, with the Loyalty program being the main reason, briefly:

Conrad, Makkah:

  1. Proximity to the Haram (4 minute walk to King Fahad Gate). If you are upgraded to a Haram-view room, you will be able to see how the crowds gather during the day and before Salaah times so you are able to work out the times that you plan on going to the Haram. King Fahd gate (79) is used as the main entrance and this was in direct view of our bedroom and lounge.
  2. Wheelchair access – There is a ramp down the back entrance, and across 2 streets until you reach the Haram. There is either a small flight of stairs to climb to the top or you may use the incline to get up by wheelchair. The Hotel also offers you complimentary use of their wheelchair throughout your stay. You may request it on your App (this is the Hilton Honours App) or upon check-in. There is a fee for loosing the wheelchair (680SR) so try to take good care of it.
  3. Executive Lounge access – This will be explained in further detail on my next post, but to briefly outline the benefits: All day drinks (hot or cold beverages), small snacks (sandwiches), cake, pastry and dessert and dinner (served hot). This was the benefit that we appreciated the most during our stay; to be able to walk in from the heat to a cool and peaceful lounge and to not have to wait for food!
  4. The newness of the hotel: I really liked that the finishes were modern and contemporary. The Conrad group of hotels are also noted to have good service and this was displayed throughout our trip.
  5. The amount of points that we were able to accrue during our stay on the Hilton Honours program meant that we were going to bank it towards a future holiday! We scored over a massive 100 000 points on this stay alone!

Hilton, Madinah:

  1. The accrual of points on the Hilton Honours program. Our brief stay of 4 nights (2 rooms, one of which was upgraded to a Junior Suite) banked 48 541 points. Other than this, I wouldn’t necessarily book this hotel in a hurry.
  2. This Hotel offers value for money; a 4 night stay totaled 5386SR for 2 rooms (King Deluxe Room + Twin Junior Suite). That worked out to R19 045 for 7 (5 adults and 2 children) people for 4 nights!
  3. The proximity is close to the Haram for men, however other Haram ‘front-line’ hotels have a better proximity for woman.

Have a look on Booking.com for pricing comparisons. If you are not already a Hilton Honours member, sign up for free to start earning points on these stays. It won’t be as much if you were a Diamond member (also excluding all the benefits of being a Diamond member), but it is a great kick start to earning and spending points once accumulated.

If the hotel group that you are staying at has an App, load it and get interactive. You are able to view your confirmation numbers, rate, and even request items before your arrival in most instances. On the Hilton Honours App, you may even request an Upgrade which gets sent directly to the Hotel.

Step 4: If this is your first Umrah, you will need to get vaccinations done and recorded on a yellow card before you leave. Yellow fever is required and Meningitis is a recommended additional. The vaccinations are quite expensive, so remember to budget accordingly. They are valid for life, so this may be counted as a once-off expense provided that you don’t loose your card!

We had ours done at Dr Nazmeera Gani in Houghton at Dr YM Essacks practise. She charged us R4800 for 2 adults and 2 kids for the 2 vaccinations. I suggest that you look around at alternatives for pricing, but the amount above serves as a guideline.

Remember to submit this card for Visa purposes and we recommend having it stapled to your passport so you don’t loose it whilst traveling.

Contact:084 870 1835

Step 5:  Print out all documentation and make a copy of your Visa and passport. Remember to keep a copy in one of your carry on bags and in your handbag.

  • Print a copy of your airticket
  • Print a copy of you passport
  • Print a copy of your Visa
  • Print a copy of your accommodation
  • Print a copy of your vaccination card (this is also helpful to keep in case it may be lost, our doctor may fill in a new one with the details from the last record).

The 5 points above are essentially ALL that you need to do to book an Umrah by yourself. Once the above have been paid for or finalised, you may begin your packing and preparing yourself spiritually for this trip.

I’d like to run through a few points first before discussing what to pack, so please read through and try to absorb as much as you are able to, or print out this post so you may make notes on this article for usage at a later stage. This article has been targeted at traveling with young children, and/or if you have a family member that might require some assistance (wheelchair).

We traveled as a family group on Umrah with our 2 children, aged 6 and 7 at the time. My mother-in-law (who needed some wheelchair assistance), sister-in-law and niece accompanied us. We split our rooms into my complete family, and my in-laws sharing one room. We made the booking under my name so I was able to maximise the points accrued during the stay on my Hilton Honours card.

We didn’t give much thought to a few things when booking, but when we look back at it, we might have altered the following:

Makkah first, or Medinah?

People decide on different reasons on which they prefer to visit first. Seeing that this guide is specifically aimed at performing an Umrah with children, the opinion will differ to a couple or older families traveling. We chose to travel to Makkah first without giving it much thought. However, we realised that when you travel with kids, it’ might not be the optimum choice.

Consider the following before you decide to travel to Makkah first:

  1. What is your travel time into Makkah? Are you in transit in any other country, or what time have you left home to begin this journey? If you are reaching Makkah after 1130pm, it’s already placing too much stress on your child/children and this can drastically affect the quality of your Umrah (and so too, theirs). Even though we landed fairly early in Jeddah (7pm), it took us over an hour to retrieve our luggage and then another 30 minutes or more to locate the transport service that was arranged when booking our Visa and then a further 1hr30m to reach our hotel. Our children coped well through the flight, the wait and transport into Makkah. Whilst they were excited to see the Kaaba, the rest of the Umrah was extremely difficult on them. We highly recommend considering booking Madinah first only if traveling with young children so their Umrah and yours is relaxed.
  2. The second thing to consider is the day/night that you decide to fly into Makkah. We arrived on a Thursday night. We didn’t take into consideration that Thursday is the start of the Saudi weekend. Just getting into Makkah itself took us over 30 minutes. The Haram was filled to capacity and even at Tahajjud, people were already seated outside. We definitely recommend avoiding traveling in on a Thursday or Friday night especially if you have younger kids. (Please feel free to correct my judgement at any stage, and accept my sincere apologies if I am incorrect in my thinking, however this is based on my personal experience, and I am sharing this with my readers so they may understand the best times to travel with children and to help their kids optimise the time and enjoy the moment of seeing the Kaaba for the first time).

How to travel between Makkah to Medinah:

Our Saudia airticket included the internal flight between Jeddah and Medinah (departing 13.25pm). At the last minute we decided to book a taxi instead, to avoid the process of traveling to Jeddah, checking in luggage, boarding and flying, reloading luggage and making our way to the hotel. At the time, it made sense that one 4 hour trip by car (priced between 650SR to 700SR) was easier on us than having to travel by plane. We didn’t consider that our entire flight itinerary would get canceled because we didn’t check into our Jeddah to Medinah flight.

Before booking the internal flight, work this out with your family what they would prefer doing. Boarding a flight meant having to leave out hotel early, make sure that our luggage was packed properly as it was still a flight (also bear in mind luggage restrictions) and still pay for transport to Jeddah airport from Madinah (roughly 150-200SR – depending on size of vehicle). For us personally, taking a taxi to Madinah made far more sense.

A taxi may be arranged by requesting one from the hotel (they are usually higher than what you would pay if you requested one yourself) or summoning one from the side streets. We were given the details of Jabir who runs a taxi service between Makkah to Madinah and back again if he is able to find a client. He is reliable and safe to travel with. He is pleasant and got us to Madinah in just over 4 hours. He also has wifi + car charges in his taxi (plus!). Simply WhatsApp him if you are not able to make calls within Saudi and he responds promptly.

Contact Details: (driver) +9665026048993/(Jabir; arranges transport) +966502604899

How to effectively utilise the space and luggage allocations:

If you are traveling on Saudia, you are allowed 2 pieces of luggage weighing no more than 23kg each. This allocation applies to children too provided that they are in a paying seat. If you are clever about it, you may take a fold-up bag and put it into your large suitcase. The fold-up bag may be used to bring back any dirty laundry or extra Zam Zam that you have filled yourself into bottles. Remember to take duct tape with you and/or ziplock bags to avoid any spillage that may occur. You are only allowed one box of Zam Zam at the airport per person, and if you feel like you might require more, taking your own back with you is the only option.

Many people ask the hotel to purchase Zam Zam for them. Whilst it may be done, I’m not certain on the legalities of transporting it. You are not allowed to purchase any additional Zam Zam at the counters at the airport as they are allocated at one per air ticket.

What to pack for your trip.

We left Johannesburg on an 11am Saudia flight to Jeddah. We decided to make the intention on the plane almost an house before we reached the Miqat (points where you put on ihrām, the pilgrim’s garment made up of white cloth and make intention for ihram and Umrah).

My husband wore the bottom piece of his ihram from home (with his shorts under). He wore a Kurta over. He bought the ihram from Ahlan Wasalan in Fordsburg along with a belt that had a compartment for money. When it was time to go into ihram, all he needed to do was remove his shorts and kurta and wrap around the top piece of the ihram.

I had to change my son as he wasn’t comfortable with leaving home with Ihram on, let alone removing his underwear! We managed to do this on the plane and I fixed the bottom bit of the ihram with a large pin for him.

We spent a total of 6 nights in Makkah and 4 nights in Madinah.

1) Packing for a female: Abayas and under clothing.

For this trip specifically, I decided to take a lot of my older abayas which I had purchased years ago (when the trend was Swarovski crystals!) and haven’t had much of a chance to wear them since then. I would wear them over 2 days (a full day and then for breakfast) and pack them into a bag, along with fruit, money (lilaah) and sweets or snacks and give them away. At the end of the trip, I returned home with only 3 of my old abayas (which I call my Hajj abayas because they have zips, are front closed, and easy to slip on and off from Poetry in Fordsburg) and replaced the ones given away with newer styled abayas. In total I had given away 8 abayas which was sufficient for the 10 day trip. If you don’t intend on giving away any of your abayas, then a total of 9 to 10 abayas is sufficient for the time away (provided that you are not intending on purchasing more during your stay).

I always try to keep the clothing that I wear under quite minimal due to the extreme heat. For this reason, I purchased 2 sets each of Woolworths Lightweight tights and Woolworths Lightweight tops in black to wear under. Essentially, I should have purchased at least 5 sets as they were so easy to wear. I have decided to pack these away and wear them strictly for Hajj or Umrah.

Another really great set of underclothes are Nike Runfit shorts if you have front closed abayas. I find them extremely cool and if worn with a pair of socks and shoes, you won’t be able to see your legs/ankles. I also like gym wear range of tops from Cotton On as they are lightweight and wash well.

I also bought black slip dresses from Woolworths but these could only be worn with abayas that closed in the front. They were cool and comfortable, so consider these if you aren’t packing any front open abayas.

In total, I packed 2 pairs of running shorts with 3 gym tops, 2 black slip dresses, 2 sets each of the Lightweight tights and tops from Woolworths, a pair of black pants that were elasticated on the waist, a pair of black Culottes and roughly 5 vests that were loose and not stretch (the stretch ones ride up whilst the loose ones stay down or tuck neatly into your pants/tights. I would have like to have taken a pair of jeans especially for the abayas that had a front opening and for the times that we went out in the evening.

Underwear may be washed and left to dry in your room daily. Use your discretion on how many sets you require but try to avoid underwire bras as they tend to get uncomfortable in the heat. 5 pairs of socks will see you through your entire trip with washing after every use.

2) Packing for a female: Shoes.

I almost always have an issue with shoes when I travel. It is the one thing that I overpack, and hate to wear the same shoe daily. In this case, I purchased a pair of Flossys a day before leaving because I trusted the reliability of them from owning a pair previously. I also took along a pair of Green Cross sandals with a single velcro strap which I wore mostly in the evening. If you have problematic feet, invest in a good pair of shoes that you are comfortable in and able to walk properly with. I really found value in the Flossys and they were most convenient when going for salaah. They are also small enough to fit into a shoebag and most especially, they are light weight. I took 2 pairs of sandals that I used in the room (I could have taken one and that would have sufficed). I didn’t consider my shoes getting misplaced, and essentially a third pair would have been recommended to take with.

3) Packing for a male: Kurtas, under clothing and shoes

My husband prefers to wear shorts or pants with a zip under his kurta as he prefers not to carry a bag daily. If you have running shorts, pack those too as their lightweight and wash easily if you’ve run short of trousers. We recommend packing the exact number of Kurtas as the days of your trips as washing those and letting them dry is time consuming, unless you opt to use a laundry service.

If you generally wear something under your kurta, we recommend Jockey branded vests as those are lightweight and cool. If you have ones that have a short sleeve, it prevents you from sweating. There’s no real need to pack socks, other than for returning home should you opt to wear a tracksuit on the plane. (Pack socks if your husband likes to perform his (non-Umrah) tawaaf with socks).

Mohamed also wore a pair of Flossys throughout the duration of this trip (exclusion of state of Ihram). He actually took 3 pairs with and alternated between the colours! They are incredibly comfortable and easy to slip on and put back when going to read salaah.

Remember again to pack a full set of clothing including underwear, socks and shoes that may be kept aside in your luggage so you may travel with clean clothes.

I have covered all of the above quite extensively in my Hajj post. Please refer to it for advice on what toiletries to pack.

4) Packing for children: General clothing.

If your children are younger, their clothing tends to be small and light weight and doesn’t take up much space in your luggage. I packed a set of clothes (tights, shorts and sleeveless tops) for everyday of the trip for my daughter and similar for my son. I also took the exact number of pajamas for the stay. They would often wake up and go for breakfast with their pj’s under their abaya/kurta. It went into the laundry bag after so they had a fresh set to wear that evening. Because you are not limited on space (unless you are planning to shop a lot), you are able to take enough for everyday of the trip with minimal washing in-between. The added luggage allowance comes in handy especially when it comes to how much to pack for yourself and children.

In addition to their basic items, I also packed a full set of clothes to wear when we returned back home. They are most comfortable in tracksuits when we travel. I didn’t take these out to wear during the trip and left them in my carry on luggage during the trip.

Even though you are traveling to a country that experiences warmer weather, it does tend to get cooler in the hotels. Remember to pack a lightweight jersey or jacket.

5) Packing for kids: Snacks.

Before we left, the kids and I got together to pack their favourite snacks. We bought larger/normal sized packets of everything and emptied smaller portions into self-sealing cellophane packets. They even put stickers on theirs. Once we settled into our room, I showed them where I packed them and reminded them to take 2 packets with them everytime we went for Salaah or for a walk; one was for them to eat ad the other was to give away.

If you remember and are able to, pop into Makro and buy a few smaller sweets that come in wrappers to give away – to kids and even to adults. They really appreciate it and often the sweet helps to keep the children distracted whilst their parents are busy with ibadah.

If you’re planning on taking any crisps with you, try to take them in a tin, or put all the packets into a throw-away plastic container to avoid them getting squashed in your luggage.

Your needs will vary if you’re staying at a hotel that allows self-catering, but we didn’t find the need to take pre-cooked food along.

6) Packing for kids: Bag with activity – important.

This was the most important thing that I packed on this trip. Each child took a sling bag (which were their madressa bag/s). I took them to a toy store and allowed them to each choose an activity book that they liked. They were also allowed to choose a new set of colouring pencils and pens. I love the activity books at Lilliputs which have sections to colour and stickers are included.

In that bag, I packed a pack of tissues, the Hotel card with the address and contact number on it (when we checked in), a small notepad for drawing and the items above. They would take it with them everytime they left the room and to the Haram and that kept them busy. They used this bag every single day of our trip and would spend over an hour keeping themselves busy with it. It was an immense help and if your children are still into drawing/colouring or stickers, you will appreciate the extra hour that this allows you.

7) Spiritual packing: What books/kitabs/devices.

I kept reading material to a minimum. I knew essentially how I wanted to pray and I keep all my resources on easy to access notecards/sheets. If this is a first Umrah (or even your second or third), I highly recommend that you purchase a copy of the two listed here and keep them away for safe keeping once you are done with it. The first is ‘The Ultimate Guide to Umrah by Abu Muneer Ismail Davids’ and the second, a compilation entitled ‘Beautiful Duas’ available from 072 378 6231. I read the Beautiful Duas almost daily, and it covers every single thing that you are likely to ask for or make dua for. The guide on Umrah is easy to understand and is broken into categories.

If you don’t manage to get a copy in time before you leave, get once at the book shop by the Movenpick in Madinah. Its located on the outside corner of the hotel just outside the side entrance. Its 35SR and I highly urge you to get a copy for yourself and one to gift once you’re back. If you’re able to bring back a few copies for resale, send me a message and I’ll promote it for you on this post and my facebook.

My husband likes to read off his Kindle and he also has his own copy of ‘Beautiful Duas’. The Kindle shouldn’t require charging for the duration of the trip.

If you have been asked to make dua on behalf of someone, please try to print out their message and keep it in your daily bag or store them in your memo pad on your phone. In fact, once you have made an intention to go, you should begin writing your own duas down and ask friends and family to send you theirs. I saved everything on my phone and read it almost every opportunity that I was able to.

8) Medication.

I’ve learnt to just take an entire medical bag along with me when I travel irrespective of how much space it takes up in my luggage. I always land up using it for someone, even if it’s not my own family! My essentials:

  • Panado or any other similar pain killer (Disprin, Panadol)
  • Calpol or Panado syrup for kids (anything to reduce a fever)
  • Corenza (I always take 2 the minute I start to feel as if a flu/cold might be setting in)
  • Anti-vomit and diarrhea medication (just a card of each/a few sachets should suffice)
  • Primulot if you are planning on delaying your menstrual cycle
  • Ointment for bites/scratches
  • Plasters (take along a box with different sizes
  • Allergex liquid + cream
  • Demazin or similar for hayfever
  • Any anti-inflammatory tablet (especially helpful if you have back problems when traveling)

I forgot to repack my medical bag and needed to purchase a cream for minor skin irritation for my daughter because she developed some sort of rash that was either related to food or the heat. It cost 86SR at the pharmacy! It’s best to take certain medication from home.

Remember to also pack sanitary pads as a precautionary.

Traveling with children:

If you have not performed an Umrah with your children or child before, this guide will be especially helpful for you. Whilst taking children is hugely encouraged, it can also be extremely challenging – but only for some part of it.

First and foremost, please ensure that your children are vaccinated. Ask your practitioner, if they haven’t already suggested it, for the meningitis vaccine as well. A reader mentioned that she knew of a child who was hospitalised for weeks in Jeddah after catching Meningitis. So rather budget accordingly and ensure that your children have received the additional vaccination as they are so susceptible to picking up diseases.

I loved that we were able to share the experience with our children especially from them hearing us talk about our Hajj, to them learning about the holy sites in Madressa. It was however exhausting to perform the actual Umrah as we chose to go to Makkah first, which meant an entire day of flying, a few hours of waiting and then to travel by car to Makkah. Although they were quite resilient, the travel time wasn’t ideal for them, and we felt worse for what we made them endure.

As listed above, we advise you to travel to Madinah first, and then to Makkah solely if you have children traveling with you. You may consider the alternate if your flight is earlier in the day, or you have one child with you.

The actual plane ride for us was easy. Our children usually sleep on planes after they’ve played with their ipad. We requested a child meal for them so their food comes out first and is child centered. Our children loved their meal onboard and even asked for more!

We encouraged them to sleep as much as they could especially because we knew that we were going to have a late night.

I packed an extra set of under clothing and abayas/kurtas for them, including underwear in my carry on luggage. Remember to also pack wet wipes (unscented for the first flight if traveling to Makkah first) and keep them close by. Our son wore his Ihram from the Meeqat so he stayed up pretty much all of the time since putting it on.

Once you arrive at your hotel in Makkah and check-in, ask the hotel if they have a wheelchair to loan to you. Prams are not allowed on the mataaf or at Safa Marwa. Even if you have only one child, be absolutely certain how you want to perform your Umrah as 7 rounds around the Kaabah and the distance between Safa and Marwa will literally finish you if you plan on carrying your child. Rather put them on a wheelchair and spend your thoughts in Ibadah. If your hotel does not have a wheelchair, you may purchase one from the pharmacy and leave behind for someone else to use once you’re done with your entire trip. You may also pay one of the guys who push the wheelchairs but please note, they are extremely fast and for them it’s just business so they won’t slow down or go slower if you ask. A reader mentioned that she put a spare phone in her childs pocket as the wheelchair guys are so fast. Also note, that if you choose to use a wheelchair, you are not allowed to take it onto the mataaf, so you might only use it at Saee which is just as sufficient. Perhaps consider parking it off and leaving a few items on it so people are aware that it belongs to someone while you perform your Tawaaf. You may pick it up again before Sa’ee

The rest of the trip was at their pace. Each of our kids took their own bag with daily and as mentioned above, filled it with snacks and their activity book. We would find a spot on the staircase or anywhere in good view of the kaabah and let them colour or draw while we were busy. I also encouraged my son to write in a journal (which he got bored with soon after), and perhaps this idea might work better with girls. Also, make them aware of giving out Sadaqah and give them their own set or notes to hand out and encourage them how to give it, being discreet.

We also worked out the best times to perform the tawaaf was at 1230am and 645am on the mataf with kids. At 645am, the sun is not yet up fully so you get ample shade. We would proceed directly to breakfast after and have a good sleep until Zohr (I would use this time to go to the shops if I wanted to). Another good way to gauge the crowds would be to watch the live feed on your room tv. We would see that after Asr usually was the busiest so we would avoid it then.

Please also ensure that you don’t allow your children to drink any liquids before their inter-cities trip. The bathrooms are awful and are all low toilets. In the absolute event that you need to use one, make sure you take a bottle with and try to remove their clothing before they enter the toilet.

In Madinah, you will see how many of the children play outside the masjid. Take your drinks and snacks daily and find a spot where they can play and eat. Once they are bored, take a walk around and point out the minarets to them and perhaps relay a story if you know of one. I encourage my son on trips to take pictures so we spent some time fine tuning his angles etc. Turn it into an enjoyable memory for them and let their mood guide you. It’s impossible to take your daughter for Salaam, so you will need to take turns with your husband so he is able to sit with them while you go. Remember boys are not allowed inside the womans section with you, so rather allow your son to spend his time with his father instead.

Also remember to visit the 99 Names of Allah exhibition in Medinah. Although they won’t be able to read most of it, they will enjoy the break from the Haram and the visual aspects of the exhibition.

The key to ensuring an Umrah that make your kids ask to go back on, is to ensure that they enjoy every minute of the experience. Even if it means a promise of ice-cream after a Tawaaf, or to buy the light-up ball that they saw other kids playing with in the Haram.

Checklist:

  1. Remember to get the correct vaccination and to supply your yellow card when submitting for your Visa. Make a copy of the card and keep that at home (in the event that you loose your card, a Dr may re-enter the information on a new card).
  2. Print out all documentation as sometimes you might not have access to your phone for confirmations emails or numbers.
  3. Remember to print out your medical insurance issued by your Medical Aid, or check with your credit card whether you have insurance if you pay by card.
  4. If possible, print out the hotel name in Arabic if you plan on taking a taxi/have not made transportation arrangements. The taxi drivers tend to get a bit confused, so instead of getting frustrated or relaying the wrong information, go onto the hotel website and have a look under the ‘contact’ section. You can switch the language to Arabic and print that address out. It seems like an awful lot of work, but it might or might not come in handy.
  5. Pack all clothing that you want to travel back with in a separate bag/packet. Include everything (undies, socks and/or shoes).
  6. Remember to pack a pair of sandals to wear in the hotel room.
  7. A sling bag or small backpack for your child with his activity items.
  8. Spiritual items; books and dua lists
  9. A few larger packets of individually wrapped sweets to give away to people/children.
  10. Remember to take a card from the Hotel and slip this into your childs bag in the event that they get lost.
  11. For Zam Zam: Duct tape, bright large stickers or labels with your name and telephone number. Top Tip: Put all the boxes together and plastic wrap them at those machines right next to the Zam Zam collection office outside Jeddah airport. In that way when they come out, you can just collect one full package instead of individual boxes. Remember to still put your name or brightly coloured sticker on the outside. If possible, put something around all 4 sides as it really is a mission to spot your box among the hundreds that come out on the carousel!

I hope to continue this article with 2 other posts; The Ultimate guide to booking holidays using the Travel Loyalty program and An in-depth guide to Makkah and Madinah. *

I would appreciate all your input if you’d love to add to this post on what your packing essentials for an Umrah are, or how did you book your own Umrah.

May this benefit all, remember my children in your duas, Ameen.

(Please give me some time to compile the next two articles that I have intention on putting together. The first is a detailed explanation of the Travel Loyalty program, and the other a guide to Makkah and Medinah which will include hotel selection, shopping advice and food).

35 Responses
  • farzana essak
    May 2, 2017

    Lovely post jzk although not travelling with my kids at the moment left them at home with my mum im not so brave travelling with kids im reading ur post in turkey as we about to leave for umrah in the morning jzk

    • Naqiyah
      May 3, 2017

      Thank you for your comment Farzana.
      Insha Allah you have a good Umrah. Please share your experience or any tips that I might have left out on this post once you’re able to.

  • Shanaaz
    May 3, 2017

    Thank you so much Naqiyah! Your article is super informative!

    • Naqiyah
      May 3, 2017

      It’s such a pleasure Shanaaz. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  • Azraa
    May 3, 2017

    This post was simply outstanding and very informative. Keep up the great work looking foward to your future posts

    • Naqiyah
      May 3, 2017

      Thank you Azraa for your comment. I’m so glad that you enjoyed reading this!

  • Zee
    May 3, 2017

    the best thing someone recommended to me was to carry a small spray bottle, fill up with Zam-Zam and use it to keep cool during tawaaf!
    we used Uber to travel from Madinah to Masjid al Quba and then later from our Madinah hotel to the airport. so much cheaper and easier than bargaining with local drivers!
    extra sawaab tips:
    buy bulk packs of tasbeehs from the shopping centers and hand out in the Haram.
    keep 1 riyal notes in the outer pocket of your bag and hand out to beggars/cleaners as you enter or leave the Haram.
    many people fast on Mondays and Thursdays so get some laban and dates and hand out before Maghrib.

    • Naqiyah
      May 3, 2017

      Thank you Zee for your tips, your input is so appreciated!

  • Yusuf
    May 3, 2017

    Slm
    Currently in madinah

    We did many umrahs before first to madina with kids and its the first time we did makkah first with 4 kids
    My personal experience is that its easier to do makkah first
    Between waiting for a flight to madina or using a taxi by the time u reach madina everyone is totally out.

    We got to makkah around esha, relaxed for a while and started umrah around 11
    It was all quick and easy

    Also going to madina first you always have that slight anxiety of when we leaving for makkah

    Makkah being a city that is busy 24/7
    Going there while you have the energy and reaching
    Madina afterwards allows you to recharge yourself
    So you dont go home exhausted

    This trip madina feels more peaceful than normal

    Will update if we have any issues when we leaving

    • Naqiyah
      May 3, 2017

      Shukran for your input Yusuf. You were fortunate that you arrived in Makkah around Esha. The downfall was that we only reached our hotel after 12pm due to luggage delays etc. I definitely feel that Madinah is more peaceful to visit after Makkah, but I think I might still try to experience Madinah first on the next trip so I have a proper comparison. I would love to hear any thoughts you have once you’re done so please feel free to comment back here again. Hope you and your family have a safe return.

  • Nazreen
    May 3, 2017

    Wonderfully written. Easy to understand and exactly what I needed, as I’m also planning a DIY Umrah, for 5 adults and a toddler. You have actually lessened my research, Jazakallah. May Allah reward you for your efforts in this life and the next Insha’Allah Ameen.

    • Naqiyah
      May 3, 2017

      Ameen! Thank you for your kind duas.
      I am so glad that you have enjoyed this post, and most especially able to draw from it and plan your own trip. Let us know how it went and perhaps submit your own tips once you’re back. Safe travels and Insha Allah traveling with your toddler is pleasant.

  • zainab
    May 3, 2017

    Shukran. Useful tips for hajj as well.

  • salma
    May 4, 2017

    Loved this article. Your generosity with advice and kindness to share comes through so strongly. May Allah reward you for this. LOVE the photo of Sa’eed!
    Last trip was in 2011, and that was my first Umrah ever. Reading this post evoked strong emotions of my Umrah … agree that Madinah first is practical especially when you have kids with. Faizal and I did Madinah first and for us adults, it was a blessing to then travel to Makkah and perform Umrah thereafter.
    Eagerly waiting to read the subsequent posts. Allah accept your Umrah and let you guys return many times again insha Ameen x

    • Naqiyah
      May 10, 2017

      -Ameen!-
      Do you remember the note that you left (on Bin Dawood paper) in my Umrah book? Subhanallah, that kitaab has been for Hajj and many Umrahs!
      I am so appreciative of your support and thank you for reading this post. The next post is up, and insha Allah, the next should follow in a week!

      • salma
        May 15, 2017

        LOL.. Bin Dawood paper.. they sell EVERYTHING but plain paper!

  • anon
    May 5, 2017

    R1500 for Visa. I thought visas were free and according to Saudi laws you have to have an agent represent you?

    • Naqiyah
      May 10, 2017

      To my knowledge, visas are not free however I am not a travel agent, so I might be hugely wrong. You don’t require an agent, we, like many others have traveled without one with no issue. It’s saved a lot of money and taught us how to travel wiser 🙂

      • Hajra Vahed
        May 13, 2017

        Currently, the first visa in the Hijri year is free. The R1500 is actually the MOFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) fee charged by the person arranging the visa on our behalf as only “agents” are allowed to arrange visas on our behalf via the Saudi Embassy as opposed to obtaining visas on our own for travel to other countries.
        If you decide to perform another Umrah within the same Hijri year a 2000 Saudi Riyal visa fee is charged additional to the R1500 MOFA fee ..that could set you back about R9500 to obtain a visa.

  • Haseena Patel
    May 5, 2017

    Haseena Patel

    Wonderful read. Makes me look forward to my first ever Umrah InshaAllah, Ameen in the near future. As are revert reading this you have helped allay a lot my fears in preparing for Umrah so JazakAllah for that NiQi. Please can you tell me if I can purchase the 2 Kitaabs you mentioned from anywhere in SA. Will definitely be using your tips when hubby and I prepare for my first Umrah.

    May Allah reward you for your efforts InshaAllah, Ameen.

    • Naqiyah
      May 10, 2017

      Masha Allah Haseena!
      I am a revert too, Alhamdulilaah, so I understand your fears and your hopes of having a fulfilling Umrah.
      The duas kitaab may be purchased in SA. Simply contact the lady with the details listed in the post. Unfortunately the Umrah guide needs to be bought in Madinah. If anyone brings in a copy and lets me knoiw that they have one for sale, I will make contact with you, insha Allah.
      All the best and please do let me know how your Umrah went and insha Allah, you will perform your Hajj soon!

  • MA Hendricks
    May 5, 2017

    Dear Brother
    Shukran for your detailed information.
    Just a question.
    Can any Haj/ Umrah accredited travel agency apply for umrah visa ( with you booking own airtickets and accommodation)
    Salaam
    Ameen

    • Naqiyah
      May 10, 2017

      All for the pleasure of Allah!
      You need to go through an agent for Hajj, however you don’t require an agent to book an Umrah visa for you. See under Visa for more detail. Ameen.

  • Farida Khan
    May 6, 2017

    Fully agree, there is no need for an agent for Umrah. Nine appointed agents for South Africa that we forced to use. Just another money making forced system. They make it impossible for the poor to visit the holy land.

  • Sulaiman
    May 9, 2017

    Shukran for this informative article.
    I was under the impression that you can only apply for a visa through an agent.
    Agents then require you to book your flights and accommodation with them.
    Please clarify.

    • Naqiyah
      May 10, 2017

      Only a pleasure Sulaiman,
      Having traveled without the assistance of an agent, I can assure you that we had no hassle. As the article states, we arranged our visas through the assistance of Ml Laily, and we arranged the first leg of the transport due to us arriving in Jeddah with him as well. For more clarification, look under Visa for more details.

  • Fathima
    May 10, 2017

    Slmz JazakAllah for the informative article, inshaAllah planning on going in July holidays by when will u post the sexond and third article

    • Naqiyah
      May 10, 2017

      Thank you for your comment. Insha Allah you will have the full set of articles to read over by next week, enough time to book before you go!

  • Ismail
    May 16, 2017

    Fabulous Article.

    All Niqi readers, contact Universal Travels(info@unitravels.co.za or http://www.unitravels.co.za/contact) , quote “NIQI” and get 5% discount on the Visa.

    • Zaheera
      August 6, 2017

      Slms Ismail.

      We are also looking at making our own umrah bookings. Are u able t assist with just getting our visas?

      Jzklh
      Zaheera

  • S
    June 13, 2017

    Jazakallah for this informative guide. I would love to go for umrah with my kids but have been too nervous. This made it seem not too bad alhamdulillah.
    Please could you let us know what snacks you packed for the kids.

    • Naqiyah
      August 7, 2017

      It’s a pleasure. I’m glad that you have found this guide to be useful.
      I packed all of their favourites. I made little packets which were easy to pop into their bags daily and they got to choose and help me pack them. Sweets, gums, nuts and raisins, etc

      • Abdurouf
        September 24, 2017

        Slm. Shukran for all the advice. When you did Visa application, did the Saudi Embassy not want the proof of payment for the accommodation? Will appreciate feedback as I am busy planning my DIY Umrah trip.

  • Naeema
    September 20, 2017

    Thank you Naqiyah. This post is so informative. Going for Umrah in Nov. Travelling with 3 elderly peeps in a group of 7. May Allah make our journey easy and most importantly Allah bless you for all the help. Ameen. Remember me in your duas.

    • Naqiyah
      October 9, 2017

      Ameen. That is wonderful to hear.
      May the trip be easy on the elderly. I’m so glad to hear that you found this post helpful. Do remember my children in your duas. Safe travels and do send through any tips you might have picked up that aren’t included in my posts.

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