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Suggestions for a first trip outside the US for 5 and 7 year olds?

Suggestions for a first trip outside the US for 5 and 7 year olds?

Feb 10th, 2010, 07:41 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 17,223
A tip if you do proceed with taking the kids overseas. We always bought them hardbound blank books at teacher supply stores. They are thinner than a typical journal, so maybe 1/4" thick or so. Anyway, the kids took colored pencils and they each had their books and each day they would write what they did and of course draw. Now, over 10 years later, those books are so much fun to go back through. Plus, at the time is is fun to see what the kids think the highlight of the day was compared to our own views.
mms is offline  
Feb 10th, 2010, 07:56 AM
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There's two other great books about travelling in England with children. One is by Melanie Wentz called 'Once Upon a Time in Great Britain', and the other by Frank Barrett called 'Where Was Wonderland? A Traveller's Guide to the Settings of Classic Children's Stories' Both have great suggestions.

Before your visit you could watch all the movies like Doctor Dolittle, Mary Poppins, The Railway Children, The Jungle Book, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan (probably the Disney versions so they can sleep at night), etc.
rickmav is offline  
Feb 10th, 2010, 08:07 AM
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Taking the kids overseas is a fine idea. There are thousands of places that would be great for a family trip, but my personal recommendation would be to rent a place in the Dordogne for a week, then a few days in Paris. The Dordogne has myriad attractions for kids: caves, canoeing, castles to name a few. And Paris, IMO, is a kid-friendly city if you do your homework ahead of time and know where to take them. Get them involved in the planning and let them make some choices about what they want to see and do.
StCirq is offline  
Feb 10th, 2010, 09:11 AM
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your kids are definitely old enough to take overseas. We took our kids to England when they were 5 and 7. It was such a great trip, and they still remember it and talk about it almost 4 years later.

Some of the things we did to make the trip a success - we rented an apartment in London for a week rather than a hotel. the apartment allowed us to spread out more, eat at home rather than in a restaurant for every meal, and do laundry! We only scheduled one or two things per day, and tried to mix up the transportation methods. We rode buses, boats, trains, cabs and the tube. The kids got a kick out of all of this, since they don't get to ride those types of things in Houston... We got them involved in planning ahead of time - watched movies set in London, DK makes great sticker books of various destinations, that can get them familiar with the sights, they looked through travel books with us, etc. There are lots of travel books and websites out there which highlight kid friendly options - the Fodors book noted above - "Around London with Kids" was a great resource. We did split up once or twice - I took the kids to the Imperial War Museum, while my husband went to the Winston Churchill museum (can't remember the name).

Travelling with kids that age is lots of fun - you will see familiar places through a completely different perspective. And you will be surprised at how much they actually enjoy things that you do. One of their favorite things that we did was Kensington Palace, looking at Princess Di's dresses. Not b/c of the dresses, but b/c they shared an audio guide, and enjoyed figuring out which button to push to hear about the different rooms, etc. And I still remember watching my 5 year old chase ducks in one of the parks. It was hilarious!

Have fun!
CStoneTX is offline  
Feb 10th, 2010, 09:36 AM
Join Date: Apr 2003
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Fodor's isn't always so . . . enthusiastic when it comes to traveling with children! I've been pleasantly surprised reading this thread. You've been given a ton of great advice.

There have been so many book recommendations I hate to add one more, but if you were hoping to take in an art museum or two I have a great book for you! How to Talk to Children About Art by Francoise Barbe-Gall. It has great advice in general but then it specifically covers 30 different paintings and how to talk to children ages 5-7, 8-10, 11-13 about them.
BKP is offline  
Feb 10th, 2010, 10:23 AM
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The first time we took our boys to Europe was when they were 18 months and 3 years old and we took them to Amsterdam, Bruges, Brussels, and Paris, driving between cities. Most people we spoke with thought we were nuts. Well, next month we are going to Paris and London (they are now 4 and 6) so you can imagine how our first trip went!

I highly recommend Paris as a first trip for the kids. It is littered with the most wonderful parks and playgrounds (places we never noticed when travelling there on our own) and the French people were absolutely wonderful with our kids - they have such a genuine affection for children.

Here's a link to my 2006, on location, trip report if you'd like some details on things the kids liked about each city:

john127 is offline  
Feb 10th, 2010, 10:30 AM
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Oh, and I STRONGLY disagree with the poster that mentioned your kid's won't appreciate art at their age. My four year old couldn't wait to see the paintings from his art books and was even able to spot Monets and Van Goghs that he was unfamiliar with, just by the style. Children can learn at an early age, if exposed, how to act in a museum or church - they need to be engaged but are certainly capable of understanding what they are looking at, if only to appreciate the beauty. Having said that, your trips to such places need to be relatively brief because children tire of simply walking around quickly. Afternoon breaks are key while sightseeing.

Also, I HIGHLY recommend renting an apartment if you're staying in one place for more than three nights - the kids will have a sense of "home away from home" and the kitchen is invaluable.
john127 is offline  
Feb 10th, 2010, 11:32 AM
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RaleighLaura, what do you girls like to do? What do you and your spouse like to do? I suggest planning a trip with the girls' interests in mind. For example, if they are already into fashion and shopping, you can't beat Paris.

We took our sons on their first trip to Europe when they were 5 and 7. We traveled through the Alps in Germany, France, Austria and Switzerland. As a family, we enjoy the outdoors and hiking. The boys loved (and still love) trains, funiculars, gondolas, etc., so the transportation aspect of touring the Alps appealed to them. We also visited castles as they liked knights and the medieval culture. I knew they would have little interest in shopping or visiting lots of cathedrals and art museums at that age thus, while we did some of that, we didn't spend days and days doing so. I wanted the boys to have a great first trip to Europe so they would be enthusiastic about returning. Since then, we have toured England, Wales, Denmark, Norway and Sweden, and have been back to France, Germany, Sweden and Denmark. Our sons can hardly wait for the next trip. they love going to Europe. I create itineraries that my husband and I want to do but that also includes activities for the boys such as playgrounds when they were younger and this past summer (they are now 12 and 14), the Nike and Adidas stores in Paris.
padams421 is offline  
Feb 10th, 2010, 12:27 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
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I echo the point to go where you want. Having said that, we've traveled extensively with our high-spirited girl. The highlights were:

the Dordogne -if you choose this, definitely post again about this area and kids, as there are many many great places off the tourist map too.

Croatia - Very laid back, lots of transportation choices, cheap, apartments with kitchenettes easy to find. We thought Bol had a good balance of playgrounds/beach/coffee shops.

We did not have a great time in Florence, but now that I've written that down, I'm sure others will chime in about how their family had a fantastic time there. Although discussing David with her was a moment I'll never forget!
christycruz is offline  
Feb 10th, 2010, 12:57 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
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My personal rec on first time with kids would be England, Ireland or Italy.

England & Ireland because, as was said earlier, easy on the language, lots of castle ruins (these appeal to children because they can climb, run around), familiarity with childrens literature (Harry Potter, Peter Pan, Beatrix Potter).

Italy because its wonderful, my kid's personal favorite. Again, familiarity - this time with food - is a good reason to go. My son ate Proscuitto & Melon and Pasta Bianco (plain pasta) for almost every dinner for 2 1/2 weeks. I didn't mind and he loved it. My kids loved Venice & Tuscany. We were there in the summer - they loved the pool at the agriturismo.

I would take them to see what I wanted to see, within reason. I myself have a hard time in a museum for more than 1 hour or so, so I'd try to limit that kind of touring to my "must sees". Other than that I recommend outdoor activities- like swimming (yes, we swam in the ocean in Ireland), hiking in the Dolomites or the Burren, the aforementioned castle climbing. On all our trips we only deliberately went to two "kid" things - Legoland (for only 1 hour before it closed for the day) in Denmark and Madame Tussauds in London. The adults had a good time there too. Other than that my kids liked all the things that we did.

If your satisified that they'll handle the trip over okay, then go, you'll have a great time no matter where you end up!
AtlTravelr is offline  
Feb 10th, 2010, 01:16 PM
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We took our kids to Europe when they were 5 & 7 and it worked out great. We rented an apartment in one location for our entire 1mo stay, and explored the local area, took day trips, and also several overnights. We used Garmisch in the Bavarian Alps as a base.

A couple of things that worked well for us.
- we didn't try to make it an adult oriented trip. We skipped most "adult" museums, but searched out local children's museums or hands on science museums rather than art galleries.
- definitely rent an apartment as a base.
- alternate days were "stay local/take it easy" days. Local playground, town swimming pool, hiking in the hills, etc. No long drives or trains, no hard touring schedules
- every destination (small town, big city) we made it a point to find a kids playground. It became a family game to find a playground every day & compare them.
- do the same kind of things you like to do at home, but in a foreign country - find a library or bookstore and schedule kid quiet time reading, go to a movie (we saw Pokemon in German and kids loved it, not knowing a word of German), berry picking, etc.
- know your kids and their limits
- pay very close attention to meal/snack times. Kids can melt down fast, so if you push it and are late for meals you can kill a whole day.
J62 is online now  
Feb 10th, 2010, 04:25 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 105
Fodorites, I'm so appreciative of your replies!

Thank you so much for these tips and ideas. I'm going to talk to my husband and narrow down some of the possiblities, and then we can figure out the "where". I loved the suggestion of renting an apartment in a central city or town as a home base (we do agri-tourism around here, and have been to wonderful farms- see carolinafarmtours.org)and exploring the city one park/playground/kids's museum at a time.

I'm sure this will not be my last post for help with my "hopefully" trip, so I'll keep following the thread if you have further suggestions.

Again, my thanks to each of you!
RaleighLaura is offline  
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