For many new parents, the pitter-patter of little feet significantly changes the way they travel.
You might not be able to image yourself getting away again, but despair not, because as every parent knows, kids grow up awfully fast. With a little forward planning, you too could be packing up your small people and exposing them to new sights, sounds, tastes and experiences that their little brains will absorb like sponges.
Many families stick to beach holidays in the early years – one-stop holidays with kid-friendly sleeping, eating and entertaining options. But if you’re feeling like branching out a little further, a European family holiday could turn out to be the trip of a lifetime for the whole family, and for all the right reasons.
When it comes down to it, most kids have the same basic needs wherever they may be in the world. Here are some thoughts on ensuring that these needs are met so that the whole family has an enjoyable holiday.
Somewhere to sleep
Consider choosing a base camp for a week at a time: for example, a villa in Provence, a farmhouse in Tuscany or an apartment in Paris. By taking the time to get to know the neighbourhood, the kids will soak up the atmosphere but still have a temporary home environment that feels familiar. It’s also a lot less stressful on the whole family than moving to a different hotel and/or city every other day.
A cruise holiday is a variation on the same theme – just think of your cruise ship as a floating home base. It’s such an easy way to visit multiple destinations without having to stress about transport, hotels or meals, and the ships themselves are basically floating amusement parks.
Something to eat
Visit the local markets, eat in local restaurants and encourage the kids to try the local dishes – you may find yourself surprised by what they’re willing to have a go at. Don’t assume that snails in garlicky butter are as unappealing to your children as they are to you. And if all else fails, you can always fall back on those two globally-available staples: fries and pizza. Relax… they can catch up on their vegetables when they get home.
Something to do
Do your homework before your holiday starts. The internet is home to countless lists of family-friendly things to do in Europe – your personal travel manager can help you find what’s right for you. Hop-on, hop-off bus tours are a great way to get your bearings in a city, giving the whole family an overview of what’s on offer. It’s also a great way to have a sit-down if little legs (and longer legs) are becoming weary, often with the added thrill of an open-air, double-decker bus ride! Allow each child to choose one activity or attraction to visit, and they’ll feel more involved in the decision-making.
Most European cities have beautiful outdoor spaces, so grab some local goodies and have yourselves a picnic… but keep an eye out for “Keep off the grass” signs, particularly in Paris, where “pelouse interdite” is taken very seriously.
Take your time: allow an extra half-hour for children to count the Spanish Steps, take selfies holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa or watch the canal boats go by in Amsterdam.
Children are great conversation-starters anywhere in the world, forging connections that reach across cultural and language barriers. Be sure to strike a balance between sightseeing days and days where there is no timetable. If you give the kids a chance to just be kids in a new place, they’ll be making new friends in no time flat, plus they’ll come home with a better understanding of their wider world.
For more inspiration and advice on your next family adventure, ask your local personal travel manager or find one here.