Europe with the kids

I grew up thinking that Europe was not a destination for children. Among the main reasons, my parents went and left my sister and me (7 and 5, respectively) with my aunt, but they took our brothers of thirteen and fourteen. Another reason is that you must walk a lot in Europe, most hotel rooms are quite small plus you visit many museums – not always kid-friendly.

   
  
 
  
    
  
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   Juker Farm, in Jona, Switzerland, is an adventure farm for children and adults with a fruit and vegetable market, labyrinths and an apple orchard, among others. Fliegen means to fly in German. Photo: Bruny Nieves

Juker Farm, in Jona, Switzerland, is an adventure farm for children and adults with a fruit and vegetable market, labyrinths and an apple orchard, among others. Fliegen means to fly in German. Photo: Bruny Nieves

Old World Travel 

Now that I am married to a Swiss, that I live here and have a son that we take everywhere, I realize that most of these beliefs are influenced by New World expectations and in trying to find what we are used to in new destinations. Who during a trip to the Old World has walked into a McDonald’s, preferred a Sheraton chain hotel, complained about too narrow streets or only chose destinations where people speak Spanish or English? Here are some activities and suggestions, based on real experiences that hopefully inspire you to discover the Old World with the family!

   
  
 
  
    
  
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   Try to get them to sleep during the flight. Your destination will probably be in a different time zone, so when you land, your body and clock will show different hours. Photo: Bruny Nieves

Try to get them to sleep during the flight. Your destination will probably be in a different time zone, so when you land, your body and clock will show different hours. Photo: Bruny Nieves

A carry-on, your best ally

Regardless of the airline, crossing the Atlantic Ocean takes a minimum of eight hours. Depending on your final destination, you might need a stop over.  

When packing your suitcases, keep in mind the carry-on will play a key role on the plane and the stop-over.  They might show movies on the plane or you might have your Tablet, but carry as well playing cards, snacks, games, comics, a change of clothes, a favorite toy, etc.  Involve kids in the packing process, especially for what they will use on the plane. We have even taken boxes of Lego for my son to build with his dad during the trip!

   
  
 
  
    
  
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   Looking for a carry-on for my son, I found Trunki; a total hit that makes everybody smile, from parents and children to the safety personnel at airports. It can also be pulled while the kid sits on top, comes in different colors and with stickers. Photo: Bruny Nieves

Looking for a carry-on for my son, I found Trunki; a total hit that makes everybody smile, from parents and children to the safety personnel at airports. It can also be pulled while the kid sits on top, comes in different colors and with stickers. Photo: Bruny Nieves

Something for everyone

Review a travel book, a map, a tourist web page or talk with friends who know the destination, but you must study well, and in advance, the place you plan to visit. That way you will understand the best way to travel it with children. I would recommend that you don’t overload days with activities and to strive for a balance between what everybody likes. You will find inspiration in every corner, specially with those little eyes filled with curiosity that take everything in.

   
  
 
  
    
  
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   There are high speed trains, with separate bedrooms and full service restaurants. It is easy to move from one city to another and they even sell tickets with special rates for those who choose across the continent travel. Photo: Bruny Nieves

There are high speed trains, with separate bedrooms and full service restaurants. It is easy to move from one city to another and they even sell tickets with special rates for those who choose across the continent travel. Photo: Bruny Nieves

Choo-choo train

On my first trip to Europe I walked so much that I lost five pounds, and trust me,  I was not dieting.  Whether you choose a tram, the Metro (or city train), a funicular or a bus, they are perfect for kids to get a little rest while they are  entertained.  It is also an option to travel from one country to another. Once they offered me a nine hour stop over at the airport; I chose instead to travel by train from Frankfurt to Zürich, what took only four hours and was more scenic and entertaining that a wait at the airport.

   
  
 
  
    
  
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   This park, full of fantastic sculptures, was designed by Swiss artist and architect, Bruno Weber, and is located in Spreitenbach, Switzerland. Photo: Bruny Nieves

This park, full of fantastic sculptures, was designed by Swiss artist and architect, Bruno Weber, and is located in Spreitenbach, Switzerland. Photo: Bruny Nieves

Inside a storybook

Walking old streets you find details that can start a story or help talk about history: building facades with gargoyles; teeny-weeny doors; the year in which a house was built written on its portal; a shoe brush on the floor by a house’s main entrance; or baskets held by chains and used to transport keys from the top floor down. Examples are infinite; the architecture on these old town centers is so ancient that it feels like walking into a storybook.

   
  
 
  
    
  
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   My son loved these portals in Cevio, in Ticino of Switzerland, because they had his height. Photo: Bruny Nieves

My son loved these portals in Cevio, in Ticino of Switzerland, because they had his height. Photo: Bruny Nieves

Thematic trails

In Switzerland, hiking is a lifestyle. Trails are identified by difficulty level and timed perfectly; it is easy to choose which one is better for a hike with children. You can also choose a thematic trail, for example: the Heidiway, inspired by Heidi, the title character on the famous Johanna Spyri novel. I remember the TV Heidi cartoons from my childhood and the song that went: "Grandpa, you tell me …”

   
  
 
  
    
  
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   This trail is in the city of Mainfeld; it takes the children through the places that inspired Heidi's story. Photo: Bruny Nieves

This trail is in the city of Mainfeld; it takes the children through the places that inspired Heidi's story. Photo: Bruny Nieves

The best days

Besides the Disneyland entertainment park in Paris, you find the original Legoland, Parc Astérix, Parc du Petit Prince, among others. I have a friend who once organized a trip with her kids around Germany’s entertainment parks, where they have over a hundred! My husband and I are not entertainment parks lovers, but the two days my son spent at Europe Park, the biggest in Germany, were in his own words, “the best in his whole life.” 

europe with kids park dejavutravelpr

Farm to table

The farmers market is the best way to show children what it is like to live from the land and try new foods and from the region. Those who work the tables always give away samples to visitors. You can also buy cheeses, breads, sausages, olives, fruits and vegetables; for a later snack or light lunch.

   
  
 
  
    
  
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   The markets are normally held twice a week. They are most crowded on Saturdays; like this one in Neuchâtel in the French part of Switzerland. Photo: Bruny Nieves

The markets are normally held twice a week. They are most crowded on Saturdays; like this one in Neuchâtel in the French part of Switzerland. Photo: Bruny Nieves

Squares and parks

Whether they are squares designed for children or in sculpture parks, they always find where to play, climb or amuse themselves. And, during the summer, the fountains at small parks work are used as swimming pools.

Do you see? There is no need to postpone your trip to Europe until the kids are big or you find somebody to care for them at home for at least two weeks. Embrace the adventure of something different!

   
  
 
  
    
  
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   The medieval town of Gruyeres, is not only known for its cheese of the same name, but also for crafts made with straw. Photo: Bruny Nieves

The medieval town of Gruyeres, is not only known for its cheese of the same name, but also for crafts made with straw. Photo: Bruny Nieves


Conscious travel practices:

1. Use public transportation.

2. Respect nature.

3. Learn about the region’s fruits and vegetables.

4. Support local artisans.


europe with kids 10 dejavutravelpr


europe with kids 11 dejavutravelpr