Have you ever dreamed of traveling through Europe with your children? Host of The Parent Report radio show, Joanne Wilson decided to make her dream a reality. Here, in the fifth of a six part series, Joanne shares tips on how to go about planning what sites and sounds you’ll take in while “Traveling Europe with Kids”!
Congratulations. With your flights, travel arrangements and accommodations now booked, you’re on your way. Now the real fun (and work) begins! It’s time to read and research your destinations so you’ll have a very good idea of what sights and attractions you’ll want to check out.
Pick up books at the library, talk to your travel agent, go on the internet, watch travel shows and talk to friends. It’s amazing how much information you will find before you arrive that will help you plan your adventure.
The Devil’s in the Details
Once you’re in Europe, you’ll have different customs and languages to deal with. Even the phone system is a little different and all of these things can make planning your day of sight seeing a bit challenging. Fortunately there’s a lot you can do in advance and on the home front, so that you’ll have less work and more time to play in Europe.
Once you’ve researched the many different activities available to you and your family, it’s time to sit down for another family meeting. This is a vital component in planning the activities you’ll undertake in Europe. As I mentioned before, the last thing you want to do is drag your kids around Europe. Really the only way to minimize this is by allowing them some say in the activities. For one child it may be a day trip to a theme park, or for another horseback riding in the Alps. Maybe Legoland is a must, or Stonehenge. Maybe visiting a medieval castle or war museum is exciting. Get your kids opinions so that you can plan a balanced trip that has something for everyone, including parents! Just as you wouldn’t want to spend most of your European holiday at Euro Disney, your kids won’t be interested in spending their days touring wineries. The key to success is in the balance.
Once you’ve found that balance, create a day-to-day itinerary that you can live with. Don’t over pack each day. We found one main activity per day was enough. If you have the energy you can always find something else to do, be it a little side trip or just sitting back and enjoying a gelato at a sidewalk cafe. Also leave some time and days completely open so that you can allow yourself to make your own discoveries. Some of our best days were the ones that were unplanned, where we just simply discovered our own little corner of a city or town.
If you know what museums you will be visiting, consider reserving your tickets in advance to avoid the lineups. Same goes for the trains. Most require reserved seating, and most of that reserved seating can be done in advance through your travel agent. Believe me, this saves a lot of time. When we arrived in Amsterdam we learned that we needed to reserve our seats to Paris and that required a 2 hour wait at the train station…had we done this in advance back home we would have saved ourselves a long and tiring wait.
Language and Customs
Every country has it’s own customs and you’ll want to read up on these in advance. For example, it’s considered quite rude to not acknowledge a shopkeeper when entering and leaving small shops in France. A simple “bonjour” and “merci, au revoir” goes a long way in creating good relations and making your trip enjoyable.
Sometimes North Americans can be viewed as rather boorish. I’m sure this is unintentional and can be overcome by learning and respecting the customs of your host country. It also leads to fonder memories because people treat you with respect when you treat them with respect. In fact, they’ll go out of their way to help you when they see that you are at least attempting to converse in their language (not to mention that this is a great lesson for kids)!
We are fortunate in Canada in that most of us have at least passing conversational French, but in Italy the entire family made a point of learning at least 10 to 20 key phrases in Italian. Many people said this was unnecessary and that may be true, but I can’t express enough how appreciated it was that we tried our best to converse with Italians in their own language.
At minimum the key words and phrases you should have a handle on in the language of each country are:
2. Good bye
3. Thank you
5. May I please have….
6. Where is the ……..
7. How much?
And always, always carry a pocket dictionary and phrase book, the phrase books are important, and often just as vital as is a dictionary.
Now that all of your plans are in place, you may soon be in Europe, and in the final installment we’ll explores ideas on how to keep your children safe while “Traveling Europe with Kids”!
Check out our final post and others in our series ”Traveling Europe with Kids”.
Adapted from The Parent Report Radio Show. Any advice or information contained herein should never be a substitute for professional and/or medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. For more information please review Terms of Service.