I’ve calculated that since my children started travelling with my wife and I, we as a family have travelled nearly 5 million kilometres.
That’s a lot of airline meals, and a lot of experiences!
There are three things that I particularly like about travelling with your kids:
- Giving your children the opportunity to travel as a family in different countries is one of the greatest gifts you can give a child. You give them the precious opportunity of opening their eyes to different cultures and languages, different attitudes and diets. Using my words, I like to refer to this as the “internationalising” of the young!
- Spending extended periods together as a family is to be treasured. Too often in our busy lives we can overlook the chance to spend this quality time together, and being away from home means that there are less distractions for all of us to head our separate ways!
- I love introducing the children to history! Travelling through Europe allows you the chance to open their eyes to exciting stories all around you. When my children were 10 and 12 years old respectively I remember taking them to see the Bayeux Tapestry in France. I thought that this could be a little heavy for them, but at the end of learning all about William the Conqueror and his invasion of England, when we exited the museum they both asked me if we could re-visit it on another day. Never under-estimate the mind of your young.
But there are a number of ways when travelling around that can make your life very much easier for you.
I always advise my travellers that the more times you move on your holiday the more likely you will have a mutiny! A constant flow of one or two night stays is a killer to your holiday, even though when planning your trip it sounds achievable from the comfort of your home. Slow down and see more by staying longer in each place.
Only take enough luggage that you can all move with unaided. You will always have to move with your luggage through airports, train station etc. so no matter what the age of your children keep the sizes of luggage and number of extra bags to a minimum. Also for their hand luggage ensure that either it has rollers/wheels on it, or can go on their backs. With hand luggage a common mistake is to overpack! Only take some spare clothes and books/games for the hand luggage, and only enough that it’s not too heavy for them to carry – they have to be able to carry their own bag. Dad won’t thank you if he has to carry three back-packs and a child while pulling two suitcases!
Ensure that everyone wears comfortable clothes, that aren’t too restrictive. There are children’s menus available but before selecting this option just check online what this contains! Nowadays there is plenty of entertainment on a plane, so just let them enjoy it! I’ve seen many kids gorging themselves on fresh orange juice – after many hours of flying the result of this is not attractive after the acid build-up in their stomachs!
More than ever Security should be at the forefront of any concerns. My approach was always to put in each of the children’s pockets a card with our hotel details, mobile phone numbers, and enough cash for a taxi. This goes as well for the parents – I’ll never forget thinking I had lost my wife in the changing room of a department store, and she had no idea of where the hotel was, let alone what it was called! Of course if they all have mobile phones then this problem is minimised.
The one thing that I have never enjoyed and have avoided with my family – large crowds! Once we went to a fireworks display in Paris and there were nearly one million people present. The sheer volume of people can be frightening and is particularly unsafe if anything goes wrong. Now with terrorist threats this is more so than ever, and we steer well away from these places.
You mustn’t under-estimate your children and what they are going to get out of the things they see. What is amazing is that on a visit with you, they will see something completely different to what you see. For example, at a market place, you will see the ripe Epoisse cheese from Burgundy, whereas your child will have his eyes on the musician next to the cheese-monger. When you make a visit even to a church you will see the beautiful stain glass windows but they may see the Hunchback of Notre Dame climbing through the rafters above! Your children are sponges for learning and they are the luckiest kids alive as you are planning on travelling with them to open their eyes to new experiences and other worlds. There’s nothing more exciting than that!