-- Rented House --
I would highly recommend picking an area to visit and
staying in one place for a while. We rented a house
in France for five weeks (in a tiny village of 1,400
people), cooked meals at home and got to know our neighbours.
We joined in on the neighbourhood 'boules' games, shopped
at the local market, etc. By the end of 5 weeks we were
bumping into acquaintances and stopping for coffee.
Our little son took part in the local carnivals, we
joined the library and really had fun. Life in France
became routine and our son flourished within that routine
even if it was foreign to him.
-- Build Excitement
-- We really surprised our daughters when the oldest
was nine, the youngest almost 7. My husband and I planned
a driving trip to Florida but kept it a secret from
the kids. We packed their suitcases while they were
at school but left their backpacks for them to pack
themselves on departure day. Then we woke them up at
five o'clock in the morning (still dark outside), hugged
them and told them to get dressed because we were all
going on a beach holiday far away. They could not believe
their ears. What excitement! We had so much fun.
-- Safety First --
Parents travelling with young kids should prepare a
note (preferably bilingual) that has information for
the police or anyone who may find a lost child (pin
note to their jacket or put it in their pocket) and
the (older) child should be prepared with what to say/do
if this situation occurs.
-- Hotel Breakfast
-- Save money on kiddie breakfasts. I always find a
bit of extra room in the mini bar for small containers
of milk, yogurt and cheese sticks. The corner bakery
provides fresh bread and rolls. This way we can all
have basic breakfast in our hotel room. Saves time and
money and, most important -- this is much, more nutritious
than most bought breakfasts. For those who must have
their AM coffee, make that your first stop once you
leave your hotel.
-- Browse Cyberguides
-- Use the internet to browse the tourist board offerings
with your kids. Use the sites' search engines to find
highlights for their age group and let them do some
pre-planning at home. For example, Holland has Madurodam
-- a miniature city complete with tiny canals, windmills,
and 50,000 lights that come on at night. Our 11 year
old found it and loved it (for further information about
this attraction, go to www.goholland.com
and key "Madurodam" into their search engine).
-- Kids Australia --
Just a quick note to let you know that there is a whole
website in Oz dedicated to things you can do with kids
in Sydney: You can find it at: www.sydneyforkids.com.au/.
Their Family Fun section is updated weekly and has all
the events for the coming fortnight, with venue details,
costs, ages etc. See: www.sydneyforkids.com.au/family_fun.htm.
This site is fabulous for anyone with kids, travelling
or not, who are looking to spend time in Sydney.
-- Meet People --
Europeans love children! People on the Paris Metro always
talked to our son and played games with him. Everywhere
we went people were incredibly friendly. Be prepared
-- your little ones will attract many more people than
you would have met if you were alone.
-- Cultural Immersion
-- When we travelled to Europe we never brought shampoo
and toothpaste from home for our young teenagers. Instead
they were allowed to choose a local brand at a local
drugstore (usually it was Colgate in a French tube,
etc.). They also liked to bring some of these "cool"
tubes back as gifts for friends at home. A bit of cultural
-- French Launderettes
-- Travelling with kiddies doesn't have to mean lugging
huge suitcases. It means packing less clothes with more
stops to do laundry. I recommend Margo Classe's guidebook,
"Hello France -- Best Budget Hotels in France."
Not only is the hotel information so helpful but each
major city or town in her book also has both a supermarket
and launderette listing which mammas will love. What
a great help! See: http://www.HelloEurope.com.
-- Bathing Suits
-- Always bring bathing suits, yours and theirs', no
matter where you go. They will always come in handy.
-- Food -- Bars,
restaurants and food stores in different countries in
Europe close at different times and you don't want to
be caught with a screaming, hungry child. Stock up on
little non-perishable snacks and drinks and carry them
with you at all times.
-- VCR Happiness --
For long car trips we swear by our portable VCR. It
is worth every penny we spent for it. Besides the stories
the child watches on his own, we try to buy discs that
contain some sing-alongs so our toddler is not isolated
in the back seat. This way, the whole family sings along
together and the times goes by easily (well ... not
perfectly easily but much better than when we didn't
have the VCR).