How to travel to Europe with kids

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Introducing children to Europe is a great way to give them an experience of other cultures. But there are a few things you might want to know before packing up your kids for an overseas vacation. We bring you Carol Weston, a writer and advice columnist specializing in girls. (She's also taken her kids to Europe and lived to tell the tale.)

How to travel to Europe with kids

A European vacation can be an excellent way to create special and lasting memories for every member of your family. Here are a few tips to help it go smoothly:

  • Consider your children’s interests when selecting a destination.
  • Create a mix of daily activities. Balance your interests with an activity your kids will love—even if it’s not your first choice.
  • Don’t overplan. Set a reasonable pace and slow down to avoid getting over-tired.
  • Involve your children in the decision making process. Let them choose an activity or where to eat — reserving “veto power” of course.
  • Look for opportunities to connect an activity with what your children may learn at school, helping bring history to life.
  • Explore the local culture, food, music and traditions.
  • When packing, remember less is more. You can always pick something up that will also serve as a great souvenir.
  • Be prepared for the long plane trip.
    • Bring activities that will keep your children occupied.
    • Have dedicated travel animals so you don’t risk losing their favorite stuffed animal permanently.
    • Pack medicines and extra underwear in your carry-on, in case your luggage gets lost.
  • Give each child a disposable camera so they can take pictures of the things that interest them most.
  • Teach them about foreign currency. Give them a set amount for them to manage as they want.
Transcript

DENISE: So you're thinking about taking your kids to Europe at some point and you need some advice? Hello there I'm Denise Richardson, this is howdini.com and we've got that advice for you from our special guest Carol Weston who's the author of many books including Girl Talk. But here's a fun one, the fiction series starring the young and trepid traveler Melanie Martin. Hello, so parents are saying you know I'd love to take my kids on a big trip, but it's like three kids, two kids, maybe they're eight to twelve or eight to fourteen. Where do you start? 

CAROL: Ideally I think it's great if you can think what are your kids interested in. If your kids love Greek myths, go to Greece. If you're kids are learning French, go to France. If your kids love Harry Potter and this is your big chance to let them see England and London, you know I think, unfortunately Europe is expensive, but other than that I think that Europe is a great place for kids. So instead of just going to Disney World and Epcott, see the real thing.

DENISE:  So now you've selected the possible place or places. And Traveling 101 with these youngsters. Where do you start with that?

CAROL: It's really about mixing and matchin, for instance when we went to Holland, we love art and we knew that our kids would love art, but they wouldn't love art all day long. You know you have to mix it up with going to the park and maybe taking a carriage ride with the horses. You know doing some of the touristy things that you don't end up doing at home but are really pretty great. Or in Amsterdam visiting Anne Frank's home, taking a paddle boat ride. In Spain seeing a flamenco class, going to a bull fight. These things are very eye-opening for kids and making sure the kids get to pick a little bit of what you're doing. We'll hand them the Frommer's and say we have veto power, but where do you think we should eat tonight? 

DENISE:  And packing is you know...you don't wear half the stuff you take.

CAROL: Right less is more. You always want to buy a little bit when you get there anyway. And when our kids were little they had designated travel stuffies because once they brought their two favorite stuffed animals and they left them under the bed and that was a disaster. So, you can have certain little stuffed animals and be sure you bring enough on the plane, whether it's fresh underwear that will get them through because yes luggage can get lost and that can be sort of a disaster. If your kids are really little you always want to have crayons in your purse, a ball, a deck of cards. All this stuff doesn't take up any room and it can buy you a whole lot of happiness if you're waiting in line.

DENISE:  And that whole education about different kinds of money and putting a value on the money. It really is a mathematical lesson. 

CAROL:Right you can give each kid 5 euros or 10 euros and let them blow it themselves rather than feeling like you're always arguing with them about every candy bar or whatever. I also think that if they don't, if they're not old enough to have their cameras, disposable cameras are great because one kid might just one to take 10 pictures of pigeons. And you know what? Let them. Letting your kids enjoy the wonderful places that they go to, so that it's not just you at a breakneck speed. Sometimes less is more. If it's just you and an adult you might just want to get as much covered as possible. With kids you have to give them some down time, but I wouldn't necessarily go back to the hotel. Just in a park and getting a gelato in Italy and watching the Italians. 

DENISE:  It's interesting that you mentioned that whole food thing because you're eating in a different culture and some kids are really picky eaters. Well I'm not going to eat that, I don't want that, I don't like that. So how do you get them to just taste because that's what you want them to do. Just try it.

CAROL:Well I would say make sure there aren't too many slow, langorous candlelit meals. But once in a while you can even hit a chain because they'll be interested to see how it is different. How, yes it is a Burger King or McDonalds but wow it's so different. But mostly eating on the street if it's a safe place is really fun for kids. Speaking the other languages, having them ask for it, say gelato. Oh mom I can't say that. Try it say gelato. Try it. And then suddenly your kid asks for an ice cream in Italian and feels like they're really learning something. 

DENISE:  And the best part about travel is the education about so many different kinds of people. Thank you so much for Melanie Martin.

CAROL:Thank you.

DENISE:  And Carol Weston you're an angel thank you for being with us.

CAROL: Thank you Denise. 

meet theexpert
  • Carol Weston

    Carol Weston Author, Girltalk Carol Weston has authored many books and has also been the “Dear Carol” advice columnist of Girls' Life since 1994. Newsweek calls her a “Teen Dear Abby.” Carol has been a guest on The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and The View. more about this expert »

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