Local Family Shares Tips for Traveling Abroad with Children
Europe is often considered a “grown up” vacation of museums, art, and culture. However, after spending three weeks traveling through Germany and portions of The Netherlands, The Czech Republic and Austria, it’s easy to say that Europe can also be a wonderful family adventure.
That said, there are a few things we learned along the way that could smooth some of the logistical bumps we encountered this first time around! Below are some tips for traveling with your own family “across the pond.” Some are things we did, and some are things we wish we had done!
-The key here is to do what I say, and not what we did. We had all of our things packed in carry on luggage, and did not check any bags. Next time I will pack the bulk of our things in check on luggage with the exception of medications, toiletries, and an extra outfit in a carry on bag. Seriously, the hassle of having to check your bags and wait for them on the other end pales in comparison to carrying tons of weight on your back, your kids bag looped around one arm, and your tired kid in the other arm.
-Of the many well thought out and crafty activities I brought to entertain my kids on the flight, all they ended up using were their headphones to plug into the movie screen on the back of the seat in front of them. Whatever. Twelve hours of Coke, Biscoff cookies, and La La Land for me and Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them for the boys? Yes, please.
-Security, customs, and passport checks, oh my! Getting through the airport was easily the most challenging part of the entire trip. Just know that this part can be stressful, and to plan LOTS of extra time. This would be a great time to have kids listen with their headphones to books, podcasts, music, etc. while waiting.
Where to Stay
-We used AirBnB for our lodging. (When booking on AirBnB I was careful to try and book with “SuperHosts” who have passed certain requirements.) We were not disappointed! In fact I would say this was one of the reasons our trip was so successful. We rented entire homes and apartments. The owners generally lived nearby or on another portion of the property and were happy to point out the best restaurants, shops, bakeries, and attractions nearby. It’s nice to have a locals perspective of the area.
-If you plan to stay in some of the bigger cities, you could avoid using a car altogether and utilize the amazing public transit system.
-If you are staying outside of main cities it is best to rent a car or van. It’s a good idea to have or rent an actual GPS that is not dependent on a cell signal.
-When entering another country from the one you rented your car in, you may have to pay a toll. Don’t try to just keep driving when you see people pulling over, just because you do not understand the sign. If you didn’t stop at the border to pick up your toll pass, the nice young police officer just past the border will be happy to point out your mistake and let you know that your $20 toll is now $200. Just saying.
What To Do
-With 1,000’s of years of history, Europe does not lack for things to do and see. Outdoor activities-visiting castles, hiking in National Parks, playing at the beach and exploring cities work well for families. When little legs got tired, we enjoyed going on boat and hop on/hop off bus tours.
-Allow for downtime. We thought the playgrounds in Europe were AMAZING. It was interesting to watch our kids interact with children who were local and realize that play is a universal language unaffected by culture and dialect. In some ways, the experiences we had during “downtime” were some of the most rewarding and enjoyable of the trip.