In 2004 Hubby and I took B, A and a 4-month old Tt to Paris for one whole week. It was fantastic! And, naturally, we learned a bit more about travelling with KIDS.
1. Show them where you’re going. When it’s far away, it can be difficult for Kids to realize quite where you’re actually going. We took the time prior to going to show them where we were going and to talk about a bit of the history.
(Fly RED-EYES! Both our recent flights to Europe we left YVR at 9pm, and the kids ALL slept the whole way over – ahhhhhh.) (Ask for a bulkhead seat if you have a basinette-sized baby – you have somewhere to put them while they sleep. British Airways even had a basinette to put Tt in)
2. Give them a bit of history. Because Paris has just so much history, I knew we would end up at the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and a few other places for sure. I put together a little “handout” with just 2 or 3 interesting facts about each thing. Keep it short – better they learn a bit then think the entire vacation is a bore. (The boys will be different – by virtue of homeschooling they’ll be using travel as school, whereas for the girls it was meant to be a break from school/work).
(Turn a chore into fun galore! We made a “going up the hill” drama for a regular hill we had to climb to get to a Metro. It was funny and silly)
3. Don’t bother trying to see EVERYTHING. If it’s that great a place, you’ll go back one day. And if you don’t, oh well. There is so much we could have seen while in PARIS, but we chose to try to see one or two things each day, which I had pre-researched. This allowed us have “empty” time to relax and walk aimlessly a little bit each day, when we’d find a few unplanned treasure spots.
(We decided to learn calligraphy during our trip – it kind of fit in w/ the “old” aspect of Paris. We bought little leather-bound books and a pen while we were there.)
4. Keep each persons interests in mind. I purposely tried to find 1 or 2 things for each of our personal interests. For B it was the Catacombs (I stayed “up” on land w/ Tt enjoying a cafe au lait – see? Something for everyone ). For A it was a mall (yes, we went all the way to Paris to walk a mall…). For Husband it was a Park to relax (and nap?) in. For me… well, just being there was for me.
(We took a few sketch books with us – everyone HAD to draw, even Daddy, which of course made it all very, very funny…)
5. Mind the stairs. Tt was only 4 months, so there really wasn’t a whole lot to consider on his behalf. He was content to sit in his stroller, I managed to breastfeed whenever he needed (did I get nasty french glares? who knows, who paid attention, who cares) and other than the first night there was little time-change lag. The one thing we DID plan for was carrying the stroller… THERE ARE NO LIFTS when you need them in Europe. We took only a small easily collapsible umbrella stroller and got the hang quickly of grabbing a side each and just hauling up and down stairs to the Metro etc.
6. Learn a bit of the Language. Well, I did happen to remember just enough French to get us by, but when my French failed me and we got some grotesque raw steak for dinner, we just laughed and went with the flow. What can you do? I tried teaching the girls/Husband a few words, but to no avail.
7. Do at least one thing “special”. For us, this was a Lunch cruise on the Seine. It was pretty pricey, but we got to dress up (with some of our new things we’d bought!), have some great food and see the City from a new angle.
(While doing that one thing special, I learned not to get upset if everything doesn’t go to plan… We arrived with our tickets only to find they wanted to charge full child admission for Tt, who, obviously, wasn’t even going to get a chair much less eat… We just paid it and let it go, as getting overly upset and arguing would have just ruined the experience for all of us)
8. Allow for mis-haps. Take it all in stride. If you get stressed, the kids get stressed. When we left, we’d left an important document at home. Fortunately we’d arrived at the airport 3 hrs early and had enough time to RUSH a cab home. B and I had to break a window to get in (longer story), but I refused to be stressed and we just laughed. As we were waiting to take off, Tt pooped. Huge. All over. And I couldn’t get up because the “seatbelt” sign was still on. Disgust, sure, but then laughter.
(As part of our “something for everyone” approach, we treated the girls to a day at EuroDisney! Although it wasn’t sooo nice as our California park, it was a fun, fun day.)
9. Allow for Rest. We purposely didn’t plan much for the first day, assuming we would be tired, would want to sleep in and recover a bit. We also tried to have some “downtime” in the hotel each day. It seems such a waste to spend precious time abroad sitting in your (tiny) hotel room, but it was worth it to reduce Husband crankiness!
(We all appreciated a little mid-day down time. SURE, we could have seen more if we’d just GO, GO, GO, but I think we enjoyed what we did see that much better with lots of rest)
10. Pack extra clothes – for just about everyone. On our flight over, we SHOULD have packed: extra jammies for Tt (he pooped all over his); extra top + pants for Momma (he pooped all over mine); relaxing “airplane” clothes to change out of once we landed so we could feel at least a little bit fresh; and those small rollup slippers for each of us because even though it’s carpeted, 2 hrs into an 11 hr flight the floor is just plain gross.