Here is a list of our tips and tricks we used while traveling for six weeks in Europe with three kids aged 9,6,2.
- Pack light. We used one bag ( it’s actually two joined together). Each person had a Kathmandu travel cube containing three outfits. We washed every three days. On the way over our bag weighed 20kgs. On return it weighed 32kgs. We could easily separate it into two to fulfil airport luggage requirements. Find the Burton wheelie double decker here.
We organised most of our accomodation through vrbo and airbnb. It all turned out really well. We chose apartments that had good feedback and reviews and whose owners responded professionally to my emails and questions. We travelled during Summer so we booked 6 months in advance. Most places required a €100 deposit and the rest when you arrive.
I would really recommend booking a hotel for an extra night if you arrive early off a flight or are leaving late at night. Most places let you check in after 2pm. It’s a long long wait if your flight gets in at 5am and you have no place to lie down. I know it’s the cost and not getting full use of the room but it is so worth it with kids. We did this on our last night as our flight was at 10pm. Instead of walking around a city from 10am we got to rest, shower and be fresh for the flight.
Keep a journal. Cooper way of journaling was through this blog and Pepper kept a written journal. She would draw pictures most days and write about her experiences. It’s a great thing to look over and remember her holiday. I made her journal from lots of different pages I’d found online. ( we used an A5 folder with dividers for each stop) She filled out city information and added postcards, supermarket catalogues, tickets and her own photos.
Have rest days. It was really important for my family to have some low key days in amongst all the sightseeing and adventuring. It’s easy to get caught up in doing too much because you are in Europe, but it’s not worth the tantrums and over tired kids. Other days one parent would stay home while the other went out then swap in the afternoon.Some days we just hung out at home.
Get the kids involved in the planning. We spent months reading many books on Europe and learning about the places we would be visiting. I loved seeing and hearing Woody when he first saw the Eiffel Tower after months of reading about it. I loved hearing Pepper practise speaking German in Mittenwald after practising at home. I loved that Cooper could visit the Tower of London with his Poppy to see himself the dungeons he had read about.
A word on jetlag.
On the way over from Melbourne to Dubai (14 hours) on arrival we were all shattered. We had a nap and then seemed back to normal. It helped that the sunrise was at 5am and sunset at 9.
The next flight two days later to London had us arrive at 7pm local time. We had dinner and off to bed. Waking up at 5am was fine as it was light and off we went.
Coming home we flew without a stop over. ( we had 2 hours to change planes in Dubai) We left London at 10pm and arrived in Melbourne two days later at 5am. Flights were actually great.
We got home at 9am and all slept until 4pm. That night Woody was awake at 12,2,4 with everyone then up at 4 for the day.
I have no idea what the answer is to avoiding jetlag when you have three kids who are all sleeping differently and a toddler who then naps most of the day to be up all night.
Just go with it. Be prepared to be eating weetbix at 1am and answering questions of why it’s dark at “breokfist”.
And just tell yourself when your eyes are popping out of your head its all been worth it!
We used Covemore Travel Insurance who with a premium covered Coopers Cerebral palsy (4 limbs) and seizures.( he’s only had 2 since his newborn days). They are really strict though and if he’d had hospital admissions or more seizures/meds they wouldn’t cover. Some of the countries do have medical reciprocal care though. Australia needs to do something here as there are companies in the UK who of course cover severe disabilities for travel.
We also have a pretty good medical kit but sometimes things pop up. One night Coop had a huge fever ( he was boiling and talking strangely most of the night) he was complaining of a sore throat. At home I’d just let him ride through it but we had a flight the next day and I needed antibiotics to just kill the infection. We were in Italy so I popped into a chemist with Coop and after she examined him and we had a chat he got a course of amoxicillin. It’s not a given that they give antibiotics over the counter, but it saved us a clinic visit and I knew he was safe having had them before. ( FYI it cost €3 which is about $5AUD some markup we have here!)
We booked our hire car in the UK through Sixt. ( we drove to Legoland and Wales) We paid a deposit and then the rest on arrival. The excess etc really confused me but basically they freeze an amount on your credit card incase of damage/accident. Make sure you check your travel insurance as most cover this excess if you had to pay it out.
A word on toilets.
When you are out and about traveling there are always going to be toilet stops with three kids. In all the countries we visited public toilets required a payment to use. ( €.50 or £.50 per adult). They have an attendant and we found them all to be spotless. Some cities also had male Urinals in the street. Trying to find an accessible toilet was another story though. Heaps of toilets were underground too. All of the train station toilets had turnstiles that a wheelchair user couldn’t even get through. We did see a lift to an underground toilet in Italy though!
As for nappies/wipes/creams they are readily available in all supermarkets and small grocers. They are cheaper than Australia with brands such as Pampers, Huggies etc.
If anyone has anything else they need to know please feel free to shoot me an email or respond in the comments.
Linking up today with other adventurers #sundaytraveler!