There are so many of you who dream of visiting Europe, but as soon as you start growing your family, those dreams get pushed aside and replaced with excuses that turn Europe from an alluring desire to a stressful disaster. I understand this feeling because I felt the same way, but I knew I couldn’t encourage families to travel if I wasn’t willing to take the first step (or, in this case, flight). I’m happy to say that I’ve gone and conquered Europe with my husband and three-year-old son, and in this post, I’m going to give you everything you need to do the same!
1. Tips For Flying
Be sure to pick a morning flight. If you leave in the morning from the NYC area (or East Coast in general), you will be in Europe by evening their local time. This means you can go to bed right away and wake up the next morning without having to worry about starting your trip with jetlag — the worst with kids! Personally, I can’t sleep on the plane very well, so whenever I try to travel at night, it leaves me and my toddler pretty uncomfortable and miserable, and it’s never fun to start a trip off cranky and tired.
If flying in early, book the hotel for the night before so you can relax in your room when you arrive and not have to roam around until your check-in time. Most hotels regular check-in time is 3 p.m., and that won’t work if you arrive early in the morning. Sure, you can wing it and arrive early to your hotel with your fingers crossed, hoping that they have a room available and will give it to you early, but what if they don’t? You won’t have fun sitting in the lobby with cranky kids for hours!
When you are choosing where to land in Europe, pick one of the hubs such as London, Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, or Lisbon. These locations make it easy to take a train to another European city and will minimize your flight time. Exploring Europe by train is so much more fun and affordable — and a trip like this is all about spending time together and making memories.
2. Tips For Layovers
It’s ideal not to have a layover, but if you must, do it in a city that is out of season for fewer people on the plane and in the airport. Schedule the layover after the shortest possible leg of your trip so you are less tired. London is a great option for a layover city. It has an easy-to-navigate airport with clearly marked signs pointing you where to go for your connection.
Also, try to make layovers fun instead of stressful! You set the tone for your kids.
3. Tips For Travel Prep
A few days before you head to the airport, check online to see if your seats on the plane are the same as they were when you booked the trip. Oftentimes, airlines change planes affecting your seating assignment. This happened to us, even though we had prepaid for our seats to Portugal, and we ended up in different seats next to the bathroom — the one seats that should always be avoided! Check your seats to know what to expect and make changes a few days before if necessary.
Before you travel, hit up TripAdvisor online to create a “Trip” for each city you are visiting. You will want to add to your map all the points of interest, shops, and restaurants you want to visit. This map will be handy once you arrive at each destination. If your trip is designed by Olegana Travel Boutique, you will have the bonus of us customizing your “Trip” for you with lots of suggestions based on our first-hand experiences.
And finally, here is a European packing tip…be sure to include an adapter for electricity (not one but several!) And if you want to use higher voltage products from the US like a hairdryer or straightener, you also need a converter. Your kids will most likely use screens during your family travel adventure, and the last thing you need is a dead cellphone or tablet because you forgot the necessities for your chargers!
4. Tips For Hotel Stay
Make sure you’re staying at least three nights in one hotel before jumping to a new location. When you are constantly packing and unpacking, checking in and out of the hotels, and running to catch that train, you are in transit all the time and don’t get to enjoy and experience the destination. Travel is more about being present in the moment and making memories then it is checking off a list of must-sees or to-dos. Try to remember that when scheduling your hotel stays, especially when you have children, the best thing you can do to keep them less tired and confused is to embrace slower travel. Make time to breathe, listen, and indulge in the sights around you. It’s not about passport stamps, it’s about lifelong memories!
My final tip is to just go! Don’t wait for your kids to be 5 or 15 or 25 to explore Europe. And for sure don’t wait until retirement. There will always be an excuse to find, so just go! Go for a week or a month or a weekend. It will be the best thing you have ever done as a family. I promise you that.
Anna Fishman is the owner of Olegana Travel Boutique and plans incredible, unique and authentic luxury experiences around the world for couples and families based on her first-hand experience of traveling through 25 countries and visiting over 200 luxury hotels and resorts all over the world. Anna promises you a stress-free travel planning process with an easy to follow itinerary that will save you a lot of time and energy so you can relax and escape to your own paradise where you will feel at ease that every detail has been thought out and taken care of exclusively for you. Olegana Travel Boutique is a five-stars rated travel agency, a member of Travel Leaders Network, Destination Weddings and Honeymoons Association, Adventure Travel Trade Association and is featured on The Knot and NJMom.