TRAVELING TO EUROPE WITH 3 SMALL KIDS

Old Apr 18th, 2008, 12:40 PM
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TRAVELING TO EUROPE WITH 3 SMALL KIDS

we have traveled as a family quite a few times before, but not to europe. in may, we will be traveling to UK (london and edinburgh)and Italy (rome)[and maybe Paris - but not sure].

i am ready for another stressful 2 1/2 weeks longs trip, but would like to know if any of you have ideas on how i could keep my sanity to the fullest level.

my kids are all boys ages 8, 5 and 1.

thank you!
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Old Apr 18th, 2008, 06:59 PM
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Dainty - Unless all your previous travel has been to Disneyland, etc., I don't think you'll find too much difference in your stress.

Some ideas:

1. pick up the "This is..." books (they have Rome, Paris and London). They are kids guidebooks written back in the 60's and updated.

2. make flashcards with words and phrases in Italian and French. Practice and play games with the older boy with them. Let the other boys try to say the words also. Whenever one of them says "merci", etc. during the trip, give them a sticker. Each sticker is worth X amount of money. On the last day of the trip, add up the stickers and let them pick out a souvenir for that amount of money.

3. read out of guidebooks to them and let them pick out one place to visit in each location. Even if it's "McDonalds", it will be their contribution to the trip.

4. try not to plan more than two sightseeing activities each day. This will allow time to recoup, etc. As it will give you a good amount of "free time" each day, you can compensate for a "bad day" when the kids are tired and cranky.

5. if you're on a limited budget (and don't have extra for lots of little souvenirs, etc.), bring some toys from home and keep them hidden in the suitcase. Then when the kids get a bit out of sorts, bored, etc., bring one of the toys out.

6. do picnics. Pick up groceries at the local markets and head to a local park. Look for areas where the local kids are playing - perhaps your kids could share a sandlot, etc. with some local children.

7. do a little research on the sights you'll be seeing and make note of some of the odd and unusual stuff. When you go to that site, bring up the odd facts you found out. This is great for the historical sites that can seem a bit boring for little kids. Look for facts involving kids to give them some perspective.
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Old Apr 22nd, 2008, 09:17 AM
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thank you toedtoes!

I appreciate that. I'll do just that.

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Old Apr 23rd, 2008, 12:04 AM
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Hello dainty, you might want to post on the Europe Forum also. You will find that a lot of Fodorite's will have additional suggestions to help you have a good time in Europe. May Fodorites have taken their children to Europe and so can share their experiences and thoughts with you.

And certainy toedtoes has offered a wealth of wonderful ideas.

But if you want ideas regarding activities and places to visit the Europe Forum would be a good source of information.

For example, in Rome, taking your children to the Borghese Park would be a good way to have a lovely and relaxing afternoon, a place that Roman families often take their children to, especially on Sundays. Best regards.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2008, 02:35 PM
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<<Many Fodorites have taken their children to Europe and so can share their experiences and thoughts with you.>>

and some of us even live here. and with small children. and survive to tell the tale.

but I wouldn't advise London, Rome AND Paris with kids the age of yours. depending on the time of year, I'd try to factor in a holiday as well - perhaps a beach or a stay on a farm - what about a gite in the french countryside or a villa in Umbria.

that way, you might even enjoy London and Rome!

regards, ann
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Old Apr 24th, 2008, 08:26 AM
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"i am ready for another stressful 2 1/2 weeks longs trip"

Why do it, then? I am not one to talk, since I did much the same thing with my youngsters in tow, but never to Europe. It's so expensive nowadays, it's a shame to dread going to Europe.
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Old Apr 24th, 2008, 11:06 PM
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Im not dreading to go to Europe. They're actually the reason why were going there in the first place. I jst knw in my mind that its gonna be a stressful vacation once again( just like every year). I just thought maybe other people can give their opinion as to how they manage travelling there with their kids..

So, Mambo - any ideas?
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Old Apr 25th, 2008, 12:43 AM
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I'm Spanish, have two young kids and have been travelling with them all around Europe.
I also think that going to Roma and Paris is not the best thing to do in summer time, as it's very hot and the nicest museums and monuments will be crowded. Still, if you keep considering Paris, one thing I do with my partner is that one of us go to the Luxemburg gardens park for a morning or an evening with the kids and the other one visits the Louvre or the Orsay museum by its own. There is another very nice museum, the Rodin's one, with a lovely garden full of rodin's sculptures where kids can play for a while. NOt far away from Paris there is the Asterix park. YOu can easily reach it by train. Less crowded and much cheaper than Disneyworld.

In France, why not considering visiting Strasbourg, Colmar and the Alsace region? Less hot and very nice countryside, specially if you take a trip to the black forest and Freiburg, in Germani, at less than one hour from there. And you could also visit Bassel, in Switzerland.
Another very nice region in France is Brittany, with perfect landscapes, very nice ancient towns and cities and a calm and relaxing way of life. There is a huge variety of beaches and nice hills in the countryside, perfect for hicking even with young kids.

In Rome you will also have to stand high temperatures. Villa Borghese is a good idea. And you could take the train and go for one day to Ostia, to the beach,-many middle class roman people pass their holidays there-. On your way to Ostia you could stop early in the morning to visit OSTIA antica, a very old roman town in ruins which is really magical, my kids loved it! ...and they will be happy to go to the beach afterwards!!

But going whith kids to Italy, I would prefer going to Tuscany and stay in a farmhouse not very far away from Firenze, so you can combine this very nice city with it's wonderful landscapes. Much better than Roma in summertime!!

From your list, the only place that is perfect with kids, specially in summer, is London. Lovely parks where you can go and have picnics+ lots of activities for the kids at the museums and temperate weather.

Whith kids I will add some days by the beach, in the French riviera or in the Spanish Costa Brava (but avoid LLoret or Blanes!! go more to the north): very nice landscapes and calm sea in both cases: in the French one, you can also visit the Gorges du Verdon, and from the Spanish Costa Brava you can visit Barcelona in a one-day trip.


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Old Apr 26th, 2008, 04:57 AM
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We are Americans who have been living and working in England for the past 3 years. Our children were 3 and 4 when we arrived and are 6 and 7 now. We've traveled all over the UK and Europe and just returned from Egypt and Jordan.

Your kids ages are more spread out so that might be harder, but I'll give a few ideas that work for us.

- We often get a kids book about the area we are visiting ahead of time (even just from the library). When we went to Rome and southern Italy we got a book called 'You Wouldn't want to be a Roman Gladiator' and a book about Pompeii which was a story based on the letters of Pliny the Elder. Because they are kids books, the kids are interested and it gives them information ahead of time. Our son was 5 when we went to Pompeii and he literally led us through Pompeii. He recognized the crack in the oven at the bakery in Pompeii and recognized other bits from the book. When we went to the museum at Naples he told us to 'slow down' because we were 'going to fast and making me miss stuff'.

We've done the books for lots of places where we know we'll be seeing lots of historic sites.

- We almost always do picnic lunches. Our kids love it and it lets them relax and not worry about behaving perfectly in a restaurant. It is cheaper also and we know they will have food they like. It lets us take in the natural surroundings, and works out especially well when we're hiking somewhere and just aren't near any restaurants or shops.

- We try (if possible) to rent a self-catering place in a central location and do day trips from there. Then we can come back at a reasonable time, the kids can go to bed, and we can relax. We aren't stuck in a hotel room together so we don't have to worry about waking them up. Sometimes this doesn't work if the locations are too far apart.

- Many (most?) of the museums in London are free. The British Museum is great...Natural History museum...and others. Most have areas for kids so we make sure to mix those areas in. Others have mentioned the parks in London as well and everything is connected with the tube. Kids in general are free on the tube.

- Our kids have water bottles with straps and they carry them on all of our trips. This has worked out really well since we never worry about them being thirsty and they don't complain about needing a drink. Since they have straps they just through them over their shoulders and we don't have to worry about them getting lost.

- I always carry snacks in my camera bag/backpack so if we are a bit off schedule with meals that they have something. I carry some nutritious snacks plus some small sweets/candies which can also be used as an incentive if needed

- In Paris, our kids loved the catacombs the most. They also thought it was very cool that we were right underneath the Eiffel Tower at the time the lights were turned on. I didn't know that they initially flash for 5 minutes or so before staying on for the night.

- In Rome, the kids pretended to be statues on all the old pedestals. We also had gelato most nights so they looked forward to that. There are tons of fountains in Rome and both our kids love fountains.
- If you plan to visit the Vatican make sure you book ahead otherwise the line to get in can be hours long (especially in the summer).

Hope that helps!
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Old Apr 26th, 2008, 11:07 AM
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As a resident of the Loire Valley with two young children if you can make it to Paris spend 2 nights and then perhaps consider heading to the Loire Valley for a more relaxed stay. There are so so many chateaus with shows for kids....think medieval costumes, bike riding along the flat paths plus it is much less expensive than Paris. In London I love taking my young children to all the museums we always go back to the Natural History Museum for a full day. I love the Radisson Hotel in Mayfair they offered a family room with two bathrooms it was just a wonderful stay. You can have a look at my site for activities for kids its an itinerary planning site www.myweekin.net
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Old Apr 29th, 2008, 09:16 AM
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see_the_world7:

thank you! thank you!

That's really informative. I will go the library and do just that.

I would also like to ask you a few more questions if possible, but I would rather ask privately cause it has nothing to do with this thread anymore (just basic "what to see/do" in UK now). If you don't mind, would you please give me your email address? you can email me at [email protected]

Thank you!!
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Old May 1st, 2008, 03:12 AM
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Hi dainty,

I think ages of your boys would work perfect--8yo and 5yo are old enough to get involved in planning (without teenage angst/sulking ;-) ) and can help carry their own bags.

May should be a good season to travel to all locations--not too cold, not too hot. Make sure you get your two older kids rain ponchos--it's so much easier to carry and wearable than umbrellas.

About London, good suggestions about museums. I would also add Regents Park and Princess Di Memorial playground (though gets quite crowded on weekends) on a sunny day. Not sure how many days you have, but Hampton Court Palace is easily accessible by train, also good guided tours by guides in historical costumes.

I presume you'll need a light folding stroller for 1yo. You should request to gate-check, though you might retrieve it at a luggage carrousel (instead of immediately when you get off the plane) in some cases. Many--if not most--of London underground stations have stairs though I just carry the buggy--not really a problem with two adults. With 3 children, I recommend booking a car service from the airport.

You can find small supermarkets like Tesco Express or M&S Simply Food. Good place to stock up on snacks, water, breakfast items etc. Does your youngest one on formula or baby food? European formulas are different brands--you can find them in Boots or Superdrug in UK. Nappies are the same as US.
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Old May 1st, 2008, 01:06 PM
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thanks W9!

i actually wan't planning on bringing a stroller. i think it'll be harder for us if we bring one. however, i have a baby carrier for my 1yr old and hopefully, it'll work just fine. he's not on formula as well. i still nurse him - so i guess that's even better, huh? however, my other 2 kids drinks PLENTLY of milk. wondering if the milk there taste the same as here in the US?
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Old May 2nd, 2008, 07:11 AM
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Dainty,

If you can still carry around the baby in BabyBjorn-style carrier, that would be the best option. (Ah, I miss those days...) Even better you don't have to worry about bottles and formulas! Breastfeeding is quite common here. (Well, I once travelled with a breastpump and got curious looks at the airport X-ray.)

Milk here tastes pretty much the same, usually comes in three varieties: full-fat (a bit richer than the US), semi-skimmed (1-1.5%), and skimmed. Basically all pasturised (maybe with rare exception to unpasteurised milk you might find at a farmers market).

I personally like European yogurts much better than the ones in the US--so much creamier (even the low-fat/non-fat versions) than "skimmed milk with thickener".
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Old May 6th, 2008, 12:01 PM
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When we started making long trips with our daughter at age 3, we set aside some time for her to make some choices as to what to do [she'd get 1 day for a week; 2 days for 2 weeks, etc]. Besides the above-suggested kids travel books, we'd go over the usual suspects [Fodor's, Frommer's, Loney Planet] and let her make decisions for "her" day. The choices were sometimes surprising, but always interesting. She'd really get excited and involved in the trip planning and, maybe best of all, we never got complaints about some of the more adult venues (museums, historical sites, et) because she knew she would have "her" day.

We found this worked really well for all of our trips, but was especially successful for trips to Europe.
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Old May 6th, 2008, 01:15 PM
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hi dainty -

we did a variation of what dfr said - on each trip, we found a "theme park" to visit.

some may turn up their noses, but our day at Parc asterix [just north of paris] is still a family highlight, as was the puy de fou near Cholet on the loire.

of course some might say that Rome is one big theme park, but possvily not if you're 8, 5 & 1.

google wil bring you up a full list.

regards, ann
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Old May 17th, 2008, 07:09 AM
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I'd rethink the stroller. You can get very lightweight folding 'umbrella' style ones.

The thought of having to carry a 1 year old all day every day for 2 1/2 weeks sounds awful to me. Kids that age are heavy - especially after 8 hours of carrying! Also the buggy (stroller) can carry the babies stuff for you too, like the nappy bag.

Also, it's useful to have somewhere for the little'un to sit/rest/sleep comfortably other than in your lap or on your back.

I think you'd find things easier with than without.
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Old May 28th, 2008, 06:59 AM
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What specifically do you think you'll find stressful? Perhaps knowing that would help people make even more good suggestions.

We used a backpack carrier for our 1 year olds. I loved it because they were generally happy up there and they'd just fall asleep when they were tired.

I always spent a bit more money traveling with kids that young than I did pre-kids and than I do now with a 16 yo and a 13 yo - taxis instead of local buses etc, better hotels.

We'd alternate kid things with adult things. A day spent in the Hermitage was followed with supper at Pizza Hut so everyone had something that day. After Gorky Park, the adults got their choice of restaurants.

We did fewer things than we'd do now.

We started learning about the location months in advance - the artists, the animals etc - movies set in the country.

Good luck. It will be fun.
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Old Jul 20th, 2008, 03:53 AM
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you are very brave and i salute you
dont go to great lengths - they wont remember anything
holidays with kids are a compromise and as long as you know that and canhave some trips later without them then it's no biggie
go to places where youd normally take them at home
parks lakes mountains and beaches
forget the museums
you can pop into a church or two for a few minutes for a bit of architecture but otherwise just concentrate on the scenery
they can play anywhere and you can appreciate the gorgeousness of the planet
dont worry about making culture vultures out of them
i dont know anyone who remembers anything about any holiday before the age of 13
'the world is about me' , isnt it...from their point of view
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Old Jul 20th, 2008, 01:10 PM
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I also would rethink the umbrella stroller. If I can remember that far back, they are usually cheap and therefore if lost, no big deal. It will take the load off to be able to pop the baby in the stroller sometimes.
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