Before moving to Germany, going anywhere new or unfamiliar was not something I enjoyed doing with the kids. Taking a 2 year old and infant on any excursion more than 2 hours away was not my idea of a good time!
Thanks to my husband, the man who never stresses about anything, and a forced change of environment and way of life (a new culture vastly different than what I’m used to), I have gained confidence in taking my kids to new places. It has not been quite a year yet since our move, but by the end of 2015, we will have traveled to 5 different countries, gone on numerous day trips throughout Germany, and successfully navigated trains, buses, planes, and car rides with tiny tots.
However, if you think that traveling with kids will be the same as traveling without, you are quite mistaken! I wish it were, but truth be told, it is not the same at all. Navigating through an airport with car seats, a stroller, diaper bags, suitcases, and tired, cranky toddlers is not exactly the same as navigating through an airport with just your friend or spouse and your personal luggage.
This post will give you an idea of how to make your family travels enjoyable for all involved- you can do it!
1) Throw away all pre-conceived notions of how your trip is supposed to go.
In other words: be flexible. Stop worrying. Just do it.
If you are a planner or “type-A”, this may be a bit difficult to do. If you are spending time and money to have an epic trip with your family, you want it to be perfect! We all want good weather, happy kids, and life-long memories, but if you keep your expectations high, you will more than likely be disappointed. Kids will get cranky, hotels will not live up to their claims, and it may rain the whole time.
The best way to make your travels enjoyable- despite setbacks- is to go with it! Cranky kids? Change you’re plans! Rest at the hotel or spend time at a nearby park to burn pent-up energy. Bad weather? Go to a museum instead of hiking, find a place to eat pastries and drink coffee, or, purchase an umbrella and walk around anyway despite the rain. Sketchy hotel? Either look for a new place to say (Trip Advisor for the win) or keep your reservation and laugh about it later.
Special memories are made when you allow yourselves to be spontaneous and flexible!
2) Ditch the itinerary.
This goes hand-in-hand with number one, but I thought it deserved its own point.
Definitely write down the places you would like to go and what you want to make an effort to see. However, I would encourage you to make a bucket list instead of a detailed itinerary. Of course, making the most of your time at any given destination is important, but not at the expense of being stressed or the trip too hectic to truly enjoy and soak in the moments and memories.
I will add though, that some destinations or places of interest need tickets booked in advance, have set tour times, or require advanced planning. That is ok! But give your family “wiggle” room around those times. Be conscientious not to book multiple tours or ticket reservations back to back. Allow time to have a restful lunch, expect potential travel delays, and give extra time at each destination for potty breaks, letting the kids run around before the next event, or enjoy local shopping.
Many of our trips have only included one “event” a day. When we went to Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, we ended up waiting nearly four hours from the time we bought our tickets to the next available tour (I will address this avoidable issue in another post…). However, we used our time to walk to nearby sites, went souvenir shopping, took a plethora of pictures, and ate lunch without the rush. After our tour, we went to the nearby gondola ride for something else to do that afternoon, but it ended up being closed for wind precautions. We ended up going back to our hotel, where we made dinner, played games, and drank wine. We were all exhausted, but even though we didn’t fill our entire day with sight-seeing and tours, it was a great memory made with family!
3) Let the kids have fun, too!
Often when planning our travels, we talk about all the places we would like to see and visit. However, don’t forget to include places your children would enjoy, too! Even if your kids are small (like our own- ages 2 and 1), having happy kids makes everyone happy. Truly it does. As a parent, there is nothing better than seeing your children laughing and playing: making their own memories!
Does your travel destination have a zoo, park, or beaches nearby? Make an effort to visit them, between your own picks of museums, cathedrals, or hikes. If it’s a nice day, pack a lunch with you and sight-see at an area that has a picnic area where the kids can eat and play.
Once you begin trip planning, you may be surprised how many fun things there are (for the parents as well) that are kid-friendly! You just have to dig a little deeper and research a bit longer. Remember, the best trips are when everyone can have fun, and not just being able to cross items off of an itinerary list.
Here in Germany, there are plenty of touristy sights to see like cathedrals or museums. When we visited Speyer, Germany, not too long ago, we visited the SeaLife Aquarium and got lunch there. After having a full belly and tired legs (the kids that is), we visited the “old” and traditional part of town where we toured a Cathedral, took a plethora of photo’s, and got ice cream at a small, local town fest. Perhaps nothing extraordinary, but we all had a great time while enjoying the local culture in various ways.
So there you have it! My top 3 tips for making your next family vacation as stress-free as possible and fun for everyone! Of course, I have more to say on topics such as: How to survive (successfully) a plane ride with toddlers, maintaining you and your kids sanity on a long road-trip, and how to pack your child’s suitcase when traveling abroad! I will save those detailed posts for a later date, and until then feel free to message me or comment below!