Thank you for such a great book! Not only did it help me put the trip together, it convinced us in the first place that we needed to go!
Just returned from a 5-week trip to Europe and I used your book extensively to put our trip together. I traveled with my three kids to Germany, France, Italy and London. We rented a car, stayed in apartments, stayed local, and had an amazing time. I thought you might like to see the blog we kept while traveling: www.tothecontinent.blogspot.com.
Thank you for such a great book! Not only did it help me put the trip together, it convinced us in the first place that we needed to go!
Our family of five has now arrived in the Tarn area of France, after 5.5 years of planning and saving. We (my husband and I) are enjoying fantastic wine, a gentle pace of life for a while, and we are all enjoying the Orangina, Nutella, and Chocolate Mousse. (It really does taste better over here...) We are meeting interesting, friendly people, and are learning about this part of the world and ourselves...
That's how Joy Stang, from Saskatchewan, starts off her blog, called It's Just Joyous. This is a blog I recommend to everyone interested in traveling the TYKE way, because Joy, her husband, and three kids so completely epitomize our philosophy of making the Big Trip happen. Check out the older entries, which describe the family's planning and preparation for living in France's Tarn, then continue with the more recent entries that describe what it's like to put your kids in school in another country, and really live someplace else.
Joy emailed me today and said, "My husband and I particularly like your phrase "living deliberately". It quite perfectly sums up how we have chosen to live to save to come here, and how much more deliberately we will be setting up our lives in Canada upon our return, so that we may return here again. (And again, and again...)"
Read Joy's blog. Be inspired. Take Your Kids to Europe!
It's always a kick to finally "meet" someone who's known you for 15 years, unbeknownst to you. Margery Wilson of SkySteward is just such a person. She read TYKE for the first time about 15 years ago, and had these kind words to say in her blog on February 22, 2010:
Here at Skysteward we like to say “How you travel says a lot about you.” Let me tell you about two women who helped me find first class travel on a shoestring budget.
Cynthia Harriman and Nan Jeffrey are two moms who gave me great advice and shaped my travel life. I feel like I know them, and their families, but – we have never met. They each wrote books that are so unique and useful that I want to share them with you.
Take Your Kids to Europe: How to Travel Safely (and Sanely) in Europe with Your Children, by Cynthia Harriman, is one of those books that has much more than what you would think by reading the title. Yes, this book will help you if you are planning a trip to Europe with the kids for two weeks this summer. What if you want to run off to Europe for two months, six months, a year? Few of us dream of taking such a daring trip, but when we do the pre-trip arrangements alone are boggling. With this book you will be able to make your to-do lists and get going.
Let me list some of the aspects of your trip that this book addresses: getting your kids out of school for an extended period of time (a biggie!). How to create a budget (another biggie). Ways to take care of your home – from arranging to pay bills, to leasing it out to doing a homestay trade. Once in Europe, Harriman promotes the idea of purchasing a vehicle to use during your stay, and she provides details on purchase and sales. She provides unique sightseeing ideas, ones that are of special appeal to children and teens and which I have not seen in other travel guides. There are many practical suggestions from how to help kids adapt quickly to their new home-away-from-home, how to keep teenagers engaged in the trip, to preparing picky eaters for culture shocks — like the pizzas in Italy that come with clams AND shell on top.
My other mom friend, Nan Jeffrey, wrote Adventuring With Children: An Inspirational Guide to World Travel and the Outdoors. Nan does not “take vacations” – her family lives a life that includes extended, real “adventures.” She and her husband travel to places such as Morocco, Spain, Bali, Nepal, and New Zealand. They sail, bike, hike and drive while living for long stretches in distant lands with their kids. This book gives you practical advice on traveling with infants, toddlers and teens. Nan’s kids have adventured from the time they were tiny tots.
As you might expect, this book does not cover how to dine out at 5-star restaurants. Adventuring with Children is about life lived close to the ground, living “like a local” during your stay. Nan provides excellent advice on choosing tents, gear and clothing; safety; activities while traveling and when settled in a location for a few weeks. She shares her own packing lists, and they are short. Nan explains how to make do with less. One of the most invaluable reads is her personal stories of medical and laundry needs. Any traveler can use these. And anyone traveling with an infant will find Nan’s advice about diapering while traveling valuable.
Although Nan is the one you want to consult if you are planning to spend a few months sailing with a toddler in tow, her advice will be of great value even for a few days trip to a tame location.
The longest trip I have ever taken with my children was a one month trip across Europe with one of my daughters when she was 8 years old. We had train passes, and went from England to France, Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland. We carried a tent – one that Nan Jeffrey recommended – although we did not need to use it often: I discovered when traveling with children people are extra caring. For instance, in Switzerland we were preparing to set up our tent when the camp owner handed me keys to a hostel building that he had just closed for the winter season. Inside were two floors of heated rooms with beds, bathrooms and showers. He charged me the same price as our tent site. I discovered he had a gruff persona, but I surmise his grandfatherly heart was touched by seeing my daughter preparing to tent camp in the rainy chill in the shadow of the Alps.
The advice I garnered from Cynthia and Nan made my travels doable on a tight budget. I successfully signed my daughter out of public school and took her education on the road. (A few years later, from 5th – 11th grades, we moved completely from public school to homeschool, and part of our decision was based on the success and freedom we experienced during our European journey. And a big part was due to knowing successful a successful homeschooling mom likes Nan.) I can attest that traveling is a great education for kids. There is nothing like learning geography first-hand. Meeting people in other countries, learning languages, understanding differences – these are only some of the valuable lessons gleaned while on the road.
Whether you are taking your kids for two weeks to Europe this summer, or planning to pull up stakes and live the vagabond life for a long stretch, these books will be wonderful reads. I predict Cynthia and Nan will become your inspiration and friends, as they have been mine.
After Margery posted her blog, we started exchanging emails; now I'm looking forward to taking our new-old collaboration to the next level, by joining her to do a radio podcast next week. What fun!
TYKE reader Genevieve P. from Ottawa recently sent us a report from her family's travels in Ireland in the summer of 2009:
Our daughters are 7 and 9 and we took them to Ireland last summer for two weeks. We did not know what to expect and it was a real test, but it was fantastic! We all had an amazing trip and we were amazed at the things our daughters were interested in... we all learned so much and got to see amazing places and things. Although we often hear that kids are too young to 'waste' money on taking them to Europe, we could not disagree with that more. It opens their eyes to the world which you do not get at all from textbooks that bore you all through high school about places you cannot relate to. They talk about it with the same excitement that they talk about Disney World (which says a lot!)
I'll start with the great places:
Smaller castles not in guidebooks were often our favorites. We wanted to see a lot of places so the admission at some of the biggest castles were very expensive for the time we spent there ... we did see them anyways! And getting a tour of a smaller castle was much better than seeing a bigger one on our own. The kids did not grasp everything the guide was saying but we would explain it to them afterwards.
-Viking Splash Tours was the tour we wanted to take but you had to book in advance so we missed out. They were forecasting so much rain that I did not want to do the tour in pouring rain, so I tried for the day of and it was always sold out.
-We did see Riverdance which was amazing
-Dublinia and the Viking world - just ok
-Guinness Storehouse - very impressive, the kids even liked it although we did not spend too much time reading all about the beer... the building is impressive... in the shape of a glass of Guinness, with the top floor being the foam.
-Grafton street for shopping, grabbing a bagel, seeing street performers. Lots of restaurants on the streets that run off Grafton so lots of selection
-Impossible to park in Dublin and especially overnight... best to get a hotel with parking or else you only have a couple options at about 50$ per day and not even close to your hotel.
-The kids loved going on the street tram as well, so we did take a short ride
-Rock of Cashel - a must-see for kids and adults... tours are starting often and are pretty short so worthwhile
-SS Dunbrody - one of the highlights of the whole trip to be inside a replica of a famine-ship. They even had people in costumes doing a mini-play in the ship. We really got a good appreciation of the famine and how devastating it was. The kids loved this.
-Blarney Castle - yes we kissed the Blarney Stone but it was not a highlight and not worth waiting in line for... we only waited 5 minutes but were told it is usually half hour to an hour wait... would skip it. The grounds are very nice though. And since we got there 30 minutes before it opened, we stopped at the grocery store in the city center 100 feet from the entrance. We then ate our picnic breakfast on a bench and had a lovely conversation with a few people that lived there... and my kids barely understood a word they said (love the accent!)
-Fota Wildlife Park... ok... but only if you have not seen many zoos before... I think I have seen enough giraffes... gosh we even saw some at Disney's Animal Kingdom! Yes, the kids liked it, but not worth a day in Europe as far as parents are concerned.. we have zoos at home. And this was an expensive few hours!
-Driving through the Wicklow mountains was not that impressive and the kids were bored.
-Kilkenny Castle... visiting hours are short and the castle is hard to find. Beautiful castle though, although I wish they had guided tours
-Needed to drink a Kilkenny in Kilkenny... wow, found a great pub for dinner. Langton's. A must-see. We ate dinner, left to walk around, and came back to listen to live Irish music and have another pint. The kids loved it as well... very impressive place, but make sure you walk around the whole pub... it is huge! And so impressive... lots of fancy rooms in the back.
I am not a beer drinker but decided I needed to drink beer in Ireland. In one of the first small towns we stopped at, my husband ordered a Guinness and asked what lighter beer they had for me... Budweiser and Coors Light is what they suggested... that is what the locals drink we were told... but they sold be a Harp's finally!
–Kildare. National Stud and Japanese Gardens. We all enjoyed it but was not what we expected. Tour was necessary to understand the business of many baby horses... and I was happy it was child-friendly as well. My kids did not understand everything and it was ok... a teenager would chuckle the whole time. Had a nice time.
-We were going to see Fungie the Dingle Dolphin, but we are happy we did not book ahead as it was a foggy and windy day ... there was no way we were going on a boat.
-Muckross House, Gardens and Traditional Farms . We all enjoyed this and even did a horse and buggy ride. The kids were impressed with the room for Queen Victoria, and realizing that their rooms are more comfortable than how royalty would live then.
Stayed at budget hotels which were decent, but the worst one was in Limerick... a chain like Quality Inn, with a park for kids and a pool, activities, etc... I thought it would be a nice treat for one night... but it was the worst night of our trip... and now I understand why hotels in Europe are not very kid-friendly! People with kids seem to have no idea of respect needed in a hotel! Kids running down the halls every five minutes, kids playing in the play structures and yelling until 11pm, just complete mayhem.
We understand why many other hotels do not want us with kids! Even at over $200 per night for a basic room, our most expensive night, we realized that even if we have kids, we do not want to be around people with kids at night... we travel all day and need to sleep at night! Other thing we found out which is not kid-friendly is that most hotels with pools have dedicated hours that are adult-only swimming. And it was usually from 7pm to 9am... the only time we were in hotels and our kids were not allowed to swim, so a waste of money to book a hotel with a pool with our travel schedule. Although, I realized why after seeing how kids go completely nuts in hotels over there:) Jury's Inn were a good deal.
Kids are wonderful, but being with them for 24 hours straight for two weeks is a lot, so my husband and I each gave the other one a half-day break in Dublin... the peaceful half day was wonderful for each of us, and managing by yourself with two kids for half a day is not bad...
Ok, this is a highlight... I was just reliving my trip... I think Europe will be on our agenda every year! 2011 will be Italy!