Visiting Europe with kids? Taking the kids across the pond can be daunting. However, a little preparation goes a long way. Our Special Needs TravelingMom has put together a list of tips to help get the whole family prepared to experience the culture, food, and language of European destinations.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Allianz Global Assistance (AGA Service Company) and I have received financial compensation.
European Destinations Are Full of Culture and Fun
Visiting European destinations with the family may seem like the trip of a lifetime, but it can also be daunting. You may be wondering, “How do I prepare the kids for these new and exciting European destinations? What will we do to keep them invested and engaged on the trip?”
The kids may be nervous as well, concerned about going far away from home, new languages, new foods. But don’t let these fears stop you from going! With a little planning and preparation, a European trip can be enjoyable for everyone and a lot less National Lampoon’s European Vacation.
Engage Kids with Children’s Programs
Many European destinations that may not at first glance appeal to children actually often offer great programs to get them engaged. I wanted to visit the beautiful new Titanic Belfast Museum but hesitated. My children, at 5 and 7, were a little young to understand the events of the Titanic.
I was so happy to find Titanic Belfast offered something called the Family Trail. It is a scavenger hunt-like adventure, finding things throughout the museum while also working in age appropriate facts on the Titanic.
Many cultural and historical attractions offer options to engage young visitors. The Louvre offer private tours for families. Disney Cruise Lines offer family friendly excursions during their Northern European stops, such as glass painting in Saint Petersburg. Check your destination for options available to keep the kids engaged as you enjoy iconic European destinations.
You Gotta Try New Foods Cause They Might Taste Good
One of the best things about a trip to Europe with kids is trying the flavors of the different cultures. It’s a great time to introduce kids to new dishes and broaden their palettes.
As Serendipity TravelingMom Dee learned when they visited Spain, parents need to prepare kids ahead of time. Talking about foods kids might find on the trip or showing them videos or photos online will excite them to try the dishes.
Preparation for trying new foods is especially important if you are a fellow special needs parent. I bring snacks I know my son will like. When he tries something new, we reward him. We have learned to recognize when it’s just not going to happen and let it go for everyone to just enjoy their meal together as well.
Get Kids Involved in Planning
Involving the kids in the planning process gets them excited and invested in the trip. Says Geek Traveling Mom Jana Seitzer, “Let them help plan the itinerary. If they’re invested, they’ll have so much more fun!”
“On our recent trip to Norway, everyone picked activities so that no one felt as if they didn’t get to do what they wanted,” she adds.
Older kids may know of a place they want to visit at your destinations, such as Garden Geek Traveling Mom Julie Adolf’s teen daughter. While visiting her father’s native Switzerland, this avid Sherlock Holmes fan chose to visit Reichenbach Falls, a must see for any Holmes lover.
Younger kids can help plan as well. We pull out the globe to show them where we are going and then I give them kid friendly choices for our European destinations. I pull the activities up online and we talk about them. Then I let them choose one or two depending on the time we have. Kids will be excited about the itinerary when they help plan.
Let Kids Be Kids for a While
One thing I’ve learned in my years traveling as a special needs mom is the importance of both downtime and of letting kids burn off steam. This lesson holds true for my non-special needs daughter as well. They are a lot more receptive to my museums, castles, and battlefields if I work in a park or two to let them just be kids. There is only so much being still, listening, and paying attention they can do before they need a break.
We visited an awesome pirate playground is in Northern Ireland. It is across from the sea and within walking distance of the flat we usually rent. I promised the kids a stop here after a day of tours and sightseeing. It helped them release all the energy from the day and allowed everyone to get some fresh air. Parks or green spaces are fun wherever you are. Look them up at your destinations to give the kids something to look forward to, get some exercise and burn energy.
Culture Lessons in Europe with Kids
European destinations not only offer beautiful and interesting places to visit. They offer the chance to begin learning new languages and about other cultures. Most kids love the chance to learn words from another language and their young minds are like sponges.
Serendipity TravelingMom Dee Dean says “Do a little foreign language prep before heading to Europe, especially with teens. Most people in other countries don’t expect perfection. They do love it when you make an effort to communicate in their native tongue.” Age appropriate apps or flash cards for younger kids are a great way to brush up on the language of the countries you will be visiting.
Travel Hack TravelingMom Dia Wisley Adams also advises to research the beach and sun bathing customs where you will be visiting with children. Depending on the country, beaches or even hotel pools can be clothing optional. Do your homework so you can make the best decision for your family with no surprises.
Peace of Mind for European Destinations
After investing a lot of planning time, money, and vacation days in a trip, you want it to go off without a hitch. Most vacations do go as planned, but life happens – as we learned from our sick kiddo.
My son came down with strep throat right before we were to leave for a trip. Unfortunately, we had to take him to a doctor, who diagnosed the strep. He was in no condition to travel. We had to cancel our trip until we knew he would be well enough to travel. Unfortunately, we had not purchased travel insurance. Not only were we home with a sick kiddo, we also lost quite a bit of money on the nonrefundable portions of our trip. We should have purchased travel insurance, such as the policies offered by Allianz Travel Insurance. Among many other things, illness of an immediate family member confirmed by a doctor visit is covered under their policies. We could have saved a lot of money and a lot of heartache.
After that unfortunate incident, our family became big believers in travel insurance. One purchase from Allianz will cover you for the entire year, which is pretty amazing. They offer four annual products to meet different coverage and budgetary needs. Things Allianz Annual Premier covers include cancellation, interruptions, baggage delays, and emergency medical and dental and emergency medical transportation. Emergency medical coverage is so important when you aren’t covered by the country’s national health plan. Trips to European destinations can be a huge investment on many levels, so consider protecting that investment with travel insurance.
Ready to Take Off For Europe
European destinations can mean experiences, education, and memories that last a lifetime, and with some preparation, it can be a smooth and enjoyable trip for everyone. What is your favorite European destination with kids? What prep tip would you add?
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