When it comes to traveling, just like parenting, it feels like everyone always has an opinion that they cannot resist from sharing with you. Most of those are things like:
“You’re crazy for wasting an amazing trip like that on little kids”
“You know, jet-lag can ruin your vacation”
“You know, Disneyland is a lot closer”
Well, if you haven’t yet guessed, I’m here to throw some travel advice your way and unlike what the cashier at the grocery store will tell you, my advice will actually help and encourage you to have an awesome trip (you’re welcome). Having just returned from nearly a month in Europe, through 5 countries with our 4 kids (ages 7, 5, 2, and 5 months) I can tell you that taking your kids to Europe is a trip you’ll never forget. Here are 5 things that I wish I had known before we left:
1. Europeans LOVE kids.
So many times, Europeans get a bad rap about always being rude, but when it comes to kids this is so not true. I was blown away by how welcoming everyone was of our big family and how kind and accommodating they were to the kids. From the bakeries that would sneak cookies into our bag for the kiddos, the waiter who took the kids into the kitchen to sample a fresh batch of homemade ice cream, and the countless people who offered up their seats on crowded public transport. Granted, our family is large (especially by European standards), but it was so refreshing to be so welcomed by the locals because of my little ones!
2. If you only research one thing, make sure it’s the playgrounds.
It’s relatively easy to figure out the main tourist attractions, but European playgrounds are simply mind blowing, and often overlooked by tourists. They’re so cool that you could easily make a trip dedicated entirely to visiting parks and playing, though you likely won’t. Unlike the typical playground from America that is built with safety and lawsuit avoidance in mind, most European playgrounds are made with adventure and playing as the main priority (imagine that). Whether that be racing down a 40 foot tube slide, or flying down a zipline at the top of a peak in the Swiss Alps, one thing is for sure – European playgrounds are AMAZING!
3. Family hostels really can be great.
Forget the picture in your head of the typical youth hostel packed with hippie co-eds, family hostels really are amazing. You get the comforts that you would find in a hotel, but without the stress of feeling like you always need to make sure your kids are super quiet for the neighbors ( ‘cuz the neighbors kids are jumping on their beds too). It’s also a great way to get to know travelers in your same situation from all over the world. Most are amazingly affordable (we stayed in this castle hostel for just over 60 Euros for 6 or us), and include breakfast. We wish we’d known how great they could be so that we could have booked more of them (saving us tons of money and stress).
4. It’s great to go to adult attractions, just do it at a kids pace.
There’s no reason that you can’t visit the Louvre, Buckingham Palace, and the Berlin Wall, but make sure that you do it at a kids pace instead of your own. This will likely mean seeing less and seeing it faster (unless your children are amazingly patient and like to read every sign and plaque). To make sure that everyone leaves happy at the end of the day, make a list of the top thing that you want to see and do them first. That way when you’re kids start getting tired, you can end the day happy knowing that even though you might not have seen everything, you saw the things that were the most important.
5. Avoid public transportation at peak times.
Public transportation and kids are rarely a match made in heaven. Not only are you dealing with the stress of figuring out the transport system in a new town (and often a foreign language). but then you have to worry about your kids as well. Do yourself a favor and simplify things a bit by avoiding crowds on top of that. If you’re kids are young, someone will likely offer you their seat, however, skip the stress and at peak times, visit a bakery for a yummy treat instead!