Olive oil flavoring in Tuscany
For those of you who know me personnally, you know that I am NOT a fan of staying home, or have some have so lovingly stated, I have “ants in my pants”. For years BC (before children) I (and then my husband and I) travelled often both in the US and throughout Europe. Once the kids came along, I thought my days of travelling, especially to Europe, were over for a long time. Thankfully that was not the case. A little planning can make travelling to Europe with kids of all ages can be as great as travelling without them.
So how do you do it? Here’s a few tips that can help you have an enjoyable trip with kids of any age.
- Start small. Pick one location with a lot to do. Kids, especially the little ones, require a lot of “stuff”. Lugging that stuff between several stops for a night or two at a time can be wearing. Focusing on one location, like a big city, will give you the opportunity to see the highlights without having to move around a lot. Almost every big city will also have nearby day trip locations that will allow you escape the big city without having to lug your luggage. If you still want to see more than one city or country, then it is imperative to…
- Plan ahead. Unfortunately winging it is hard, especially if you are travelling in high season which is during the summer, spring break or any school holiday. A little research goes along way in making sure your trip is as family-friendly as possible. Dinner at a 5-star restaurant, probably not, but maybe lunch there is an option with little ones.
- Decide how you want to travel. Do you want to plan everything yourself or use an organized tour? Travelling independently allows you flexibility but you are also on your own. Running to catch a train last minute is a lot harder with strollers, suitcases and little ones in tow. If you go it alone, book your hotels, planes and trains ahead of time and allow plenty of time to get there. Consider family suites or connected rooms to give you more room to spread out. Rail passes are great but book your seats ahead of time so you are all sitting together.
What about a tour or cruise? Gone are the days when tours were only for old people or school groups following sweaty tour guides holding big flags with hordes of tired travelers behind them. Today, many small-group, family oriented tours offer a great way to see Europe without having to worry about logistics. Picking your location is as hard as it gets and the tour guides do the rest. Travelling with family focused tours like Adventures by Disney or Tauck Bridges not only give you easy access to highlights of the top spots, but can, in many cases, give you unparalleled access that you just can’t get travelling on your own. On a recent Adventures by Disney Viva Italia itinerary, stops not only hit Italian highlights like the Spanish Steps and the Vatican, but arranged for a private Sistine Chapel visit with only members of the tour (think 40 people instead of 1500). Other irreplaceable highlights included an unscheduled stop at the American Cemetery outside Florence just as it was closing for the day. Members of the tour then got to participate first-hand in the flag lowering ceremony and hear the cemetery manager describe the battles that led to Tuscany being freed from the Fascists.
Family tours also offer the opportunity for some couple time with organized “kids nights” where kids get some time away from their parents while parents get a few hours to themselves for dinner or a wine tasting.
Pasta making is fun for everyone!
An organized tour does still require stops at various hotels. If the thought of packing and unpacking three or four times per trip is not for you, a European cruise may be the lowest maintenance form of family travel. Several cruise lines of various price points, including Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian, and Princess, offer ocean-based cruises which skirt the entire European continent on different itineraries throughout the warmer months. River cruises, such as Amawaterways, Viking or Avalon, allow families to experience Europe from its rivers making it easier to visit major cities without long bus rides from ocean cruise ports. Adventures by Disney has even partnered with Amawaterways to create family-focused Danube River cruise itineraries. These cruises allow you to traverse the Mediterranean, experience the Norwegian fjords and bike through Amsterdam while only unpacking once per cruise.
3.) Relax and go with it. Travelling with kids can be unpredictable. Ice cream stops are a must and some museums or highlights will be missed, but so what? Will your 7-year-old remember the Louvre? Probably not. Will your 7-year-old remember splashing around in the fountain outside the Louvre? That’s more likely; and it’s certain that you will never forget it. Kids have a way of making the most curmudgeonly hotel employee smile and offer you an excuse for ordering that dessert or riding the carousel.
4.) Let someone else do the work. Use a travel agent! Yes, you can spend countless hours researching the best price on that hotel or trying to figure out the best way to get from one location to the other, but why? Your efforts are best spent enjoying the time with your family, not figuring out what to do now that the French rail employees have declared a strike (and they will, especially on Fridays in the Summer!)
As Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Travelling with your kids, either near or far, will instill in them a sense of adventure that no other experience can replicate. Let us help you give this gift to your children. Contact your Favorite Place Travel specialist today to get you and your family on the road.