Travelling with kids is an amazing experience for parents as well as children. It’s a huge privilege for children and teens to travel internationally. Along with opening their mind to different cultures and ways of life, it creates a world of learning opportunities and shared memories for the whole family. With that said, international travel with children is not without its share of stress. As any parent knows, even going to the local park can be a herculean task… especially when you have more than one child along for the ride. When venturing further afield, especially abroad and on a coach that often spends a fair amount of time on the road, that task can become even more challenging.
You might be wondering which are the best places to travel with your family. Across Europe, there are many destinations that are family friendly. Depending on your budget and preferences, you may opt for a family holiday in winter, to see the magical Christmas markets, for example. Or, you may find that a summer holiday in the southern part of Europe is ideal for beaches, sunshine and nature. Expat Explore offers a wide range of tours to suit just about everyone – have a look at our European multi-country tours for some holiday inspiration.
If you’re wondering how to survive your travels with minimal stress, while making the most out of each minute spent on the road, these useful tips are sure to help you plan a trip that is unforgettable for all the right reasons…
Plan your trip together as a family. Good holidays are made even better when everyone gets input into where to go and what to see. Sit down as a family, and discuss your assorted interests and ideas for the holiday. Let each member of the family choose something that they want to do – whether that is a place, food or activity to try.
Be clued up on the culture. It is essential to know what to expect from the food, language and general events of each place you will be visiting. Europe is filled to the brink with rich, diverse culture, cuisine, history and people. It can be a bit of a shock for parents and kids alike if no one is prepared for this diversity. Doing a bit of homework before you leave is a great idea – look at websites or travel guides and discuss the places you will be visiting as a family.
Be strict and set firm rules. Remember that you will be travelling with other people on the coach – many of whom are single or exploring without kids. Make sure that kids are well-behaved on the coach and off it, set firm rules for limiting noise, complaints and behaviour, and keep them busy enough to not get bored easily. This will ensure that everyone has a good time – your own family and fellow passengers.
Pack smart, be organised and make sure they dress the part. When you overnight in a different destination every other night it requires unpacking, organising and repacking. Keep it as light as possible and make time to plan how you pack. Remember that your children will have to carry their own bags when you’re on the move, so test and try before choosing a suitcase. It is also essential to consider the climate. If you are heading off on a winter escape, for instance, kids will need ski suits in the right size, along with snow boots and other gear suitable for their age. If you’re travelling to Europe in summer, however, you will need appropriate clothing such as swim suits, sandals and sun hat. It’s also very important to remember to take sufficient medical supplies. First aid supplies or medications may not be readily available or the same as the country you are from. It might even be worth consulting a health care practitioner four to six weeks before departure to discuss your travel plans.
Breach the language barrier. Teach your kids a few simple travel phrases. Explain the route and teach them which languages are spoken in different areas. Keep them informed and encourage interaction among fellow passengers and people they meet along the way. Kids take to languages a lot easier than adults, and will enjoy learning a few basic greetings in other languages.
Keep an open mind. Europe is very open-minded and liberal – more so than most countries. Drinking is allowed from the age is 16 in some countries, and in certain places such as the Netherlands, smoking marijuana is tolerated. Adverts and billboards may be a bit bolder than what you are used to, kissing in public is the norm and you may see some things that you don’t see at home. Be prepared for a lot of questions from your mini explorers, and do your best to keep an open mind during your travels.
Keep them entertained. Allow children to bring a few things from home – a special toy, reading books, portable music player or other ‘quiet time’ activities. Make activity packs to use when on the road for long periods. These can include different packs for colouring and drawing, puzzles and games for instance. On free days get active by considering activities like hiring bicycles, going skiing or hiking. On Expat Explore coaches, DVDs are provided along with on-board ablutions, making the trip far more comfortable than a regular bus.
Keep them safe. Make sure they have the name of the hotel or your tour leader’s information – preferably written on an arm band. Consider modern parenting tools such as alarm packs, which trigger an alarm when you lose sight of the child. Have set rules on what to do if you are separated and do your best to keep your eye on them at all times.
Take advantage of rest stops. Rest stops may be few and far between on longer journeys, and may not last very long either. Let kids run around when you stop so that they use up any pent-up energy, and take advantage of the stop to refuel and recharge your own batteries as well. Happy parents equate to happy kids, after all, and when you are relaxed, you will be far better equipped to deal with excited children after hours on the road.
Encourage kids to keep travel journals. Consider giving your child a cheap digital camera and a journal to use for their travels. Kids can take their own photos of their experiences, write down what they see and do each day and create scrapbooks that will be enjoyed long after you return back home.
Travelling with kids needn’t be a hassle. By doing your research and being prepared a trip to any destination will be the highlight of your family’s year! If you’ve international adventures with your children please let us know what your experience was like and what tips you would recommend for parents travelling to Europe. We’d love to hear from you!