“Are you CRAZY???”
As I’ve said, I really hear that a lot, therefore it must be true. This past summer we decided, since it was potentially B’s “last” chance to travel with us for awhile, to take a big, BIG trip to ITALY as a family. With backpacks. With a 4 1/2 yr old, and a 14 month old. We visited 4 cities in 14 or 15 days and came home exhausted, but happy. We borrowed just about every penny and it’ll take us about 3 years to pay it off, but it was absolutely worth it. And, yes, we learned a bit more about travelling with Kids.
1. Travel EARLY! It would have been far easier to travel with Boo BEFORE he was able to walk, as we had with Tt to Paris. BUT, c’est la vie – we weren’t going to NOT travel just because we had little ones. We bought and packed 2 umbrella strollers (the super cheap ones). Even though they both COULD walk, didn’t mean they WOULD for 8+ hours a day.
2. Again (and again?), something for everyone. It was kind of hard to find things for Tt throughout Rome, Florence, Venice and London, but somehow we managed even if it was to find the ONE toy shop in town. He’ll never forget the Colliseum (of course – there was fighting there once!), the girls got to do some afternoon shopping every day in every city, Husband got to see some art galleries and we ALL loved the beaches in Lido (Venice). While I would have enjoyed an hour long afternoon latte each day, I’ll just have to catch that when I return ;-).
3. Mix it up. Like our roadtrip to San Diego, and another trip I had taken to Paris 10 years ago, it seems to work great to mix it up – and in this order – big, stinky city first, smaller shopping town second and gorgeous beaches last. Ahhhhhh. We “accidentally” found Lido in Venice (via Expedia) and it was definately THE highlight of our holiday.
4. Work your flights. We started out with flights around $9,200 for all 6 of us (yes, they charge something for under 2 yrs). They were on hold, but then I did more research and found flights for $8,800 or so if we left from Seattle. I figured it was a free nights hotel stay, so why not save a bit. When I told the travel agent about the flights, she did more research and came up with separate flights (return Vancouver-London Transat, return London-Rome BA) for $7,000 total. Next time I’ll really work the internet, then take whatever I find to my travel agent to make sure the flight is “good”. She just comes up with the cheapest things she sees, but once she knew I was working it, she worked a bit harder too. Our flight times/days changed off and on, but we were flexible within a day or two.
5. Beware the European Hotel in your budgeting… I had a pretty well-researched budget going into this trip, and Husband had given me a specific overall “allowance” (then I added about $2,000…). That said, I didn’t realize that travelling with more than TWO people adds to every single hotel cost. (We weren’t staying in any one city long enough for apartments, etc). We ended up having to get 2 rooms in almost every city, PLUS pay an “extra person” fee in one room (Boo didn’t count in the other). It sure adds up when you’re not expecting it, but fortunately the savings in airfare covered most of the extra hotel costs.
(this was the one hotel all 6 of us fit in one room – we paid dearly for it (Lido, Venice), but it was a nice change and big and roomy for the boys to run about)
6. AND BRIBES still WORK! Tt again was allowed one new toy (again, around $5) every day. He found little Gladiators in Rome, Knights and a mini-soccer ball in Florence, double-decker bus and one of those guards with the funny hat in London – mostly little plastic figures that he collected and played with every day. It kept him entertained throughout the trip, and the only other “toys” we had to pack going was his blankie, a stuffed shark and a pad of paper.
(‘scuze the fuzzy pic…)
7. Plan on being in the hotel. With really small kids, sometimes the hotel room IS the holiday. To Tt nothing else really mattered but having time to run around and play in the hotel, as opposed to being told to “behave properly” amongst traffic, art galleries and unfamiliar places. And Husband always appreciated a nap – good thing we always had two rooms, one “quiet” and one “play”!. We spent at least 2 hours every afternoon before dinner just relaxing.
8. Two words – RED EYE. We took a red eye that left Vancouver at 9pm on the way there and it was smooth sailing. Boo fell asleep before takeoff, and Tt, B + A slept on each other in another row almost the entire way. Bliss. The way back was not a red eye, and it was miserable for Boo. (Note – airplane creamers in a bottle cannot be substituted for a bottle of “real” milk. Lesson learned. Lap thrown up on. Noted.)
ya, I have no photos for that one.
9. Cameras for everybody! They might not be big photographers, but sometimes that one or two shots they catch are great and memorable. Plus, it means even the “trip photographer” gets to be in a few pictures! Tt took up a camera a few times and it was hilarious. Some trips I even buy a few waterproof disposables to hand around.
(even a 4-yr old can catch some real memorable moments!)
10. Save a gem for your last night. Every time a holiday is about to end, we really just want to get HOME, NOW. A few times now we’ve treated ourselves to a really nice hotel on our last night, and it sure makes the wait to get home soooooo much more bearable. Nothing like a nice hot shower in a gorgeous, comforting bathroom and a fluffy fluffy clean bed to end a trip on a high note. Our last night was in London and we sure enjoyed the airport hotel – Sofitel – at Gatwick.