Traveling with Children
Always a joy, often confusion, a bit of frustration, a few moments of “why did we do this,” and then perfection again. Traveling with children, especially throughout Europe or any foreign country, takes a bit more planning, organization and a lot of flexibility. Following are some tips to making your trip memorable.
If possible, get a hotel with a pool (an indoor pool in the fall and winter). Every afternoon we would return to the hotel and take a swim and relax. This turned out to be great for everyone and a priority in picking a hotel if available. This goes without saying that this is a must in the summer but a great treat in the fall, spring and winter if it is an indoor pool.
After a long discussion our daughter settled on collecting certain things; a doll from the country and a patch (available in any tourist shop) and beautiful rocks. She spent hours looking for the right doll that she could add to her collection with the budget we had given her. Other times she took to finding the rock; in a garden or a store.
Train, Plane, Taxi, Boat
Our main source of entertainment was a notebook to write and draw in and colored pens. Jean would draw Zoe pictures of the local buildings, castles and scenery and she would color it for hours. This way she was building her own coloring book designed especially for her. As she got a bit older (7) she started to draw the buildings herself and loved to spend hours with us in a cafe drawing a church or statue.
Visiting castles, museums, abbeys
Our daughter was mesmerized with the audio tours available at most historic site. We found that when she had her audio tour she happily walked through the cathedral or castle listening to every word and we were able to do the same. Surprisingly this also translated to live tour guides. The key was to get up close and personal and make her feel like they were talking to her. She loved every minute and learned interesting tidbits such as; “Budapest is great, because you can live in Buda where the nicer homes are and work in Pest where the jobs are.”
Finding the Petite Train in each village you visit
Most villages throughout Europe have a small train that takes you and your children around the village or town. It provides a wonderful adventure for them and a great view of the entire city for the adults. If a train isn’t available go for what my friends call the “old lady bus,” which are the open air buses that will give you a tour of the city. Another great alternative.
Find the Parks
Your first task is to find the parks nearby and when they are open. These become necessary respites for everyone including yourself. Bring a book and relax while your children play.
As an adult I often avoided going into tourist offices as I wanted to explore on my own. With a child this is a must. Peruse the stacks of brochures on interesting things to do and find out about an alligator park, a water slide, a doll museum or other attractions you wouldn’t think of going to visit. They often can be the best hidden treasure you find.
Book longer stays with kids clubs
Renting a house is great but you will still be the entertainment. When possible book a week in one place where there are activities for kids. Throughout Europe there a variety of groups renting condos and apartments in the mountains, beaches and rivers with kids activities. Many holiday villages also have kids camps and activities for the week – so ask the hotel you book at if such activities exist. Check out Pierre Vacances in France and Nouvelle Frontiere. When this isn’t possible try to stay at least three days in one location and vary cities with beaches, mountains, and rivers where kids can just play.