A few years ago, we had travelled to Spain and Morocco, just hubby and me. We had consciously decided not to take our then 3-year-old daughter as she would not have enjoyed the road trip and frankly speaking, we didn’t want to be restricted with toddler in a stroller. We conditioned our daughter in such a way that she was more than happy to stay without us for 20 days at my parents’ house.
3 years later, we planned a trip to Europe, and this time we wanted our 6-year old to travel with us. We decided she was big enough to enjoy Europe and appreciate its uniqueness. Also, she had been introduced to some of the cities in her school, and we thought she would be excited to visit them.
While Spain was a hop on hop off trip, we realized that this could not be the case this time. It was not practical to be changing a city every day and checking into a different hotel every night. So, we zeroed in on 5 cities over 4 countries – Vienna, Prague, Salzburg, Budapest and Paris and wanted to stay for 2-3 days in each of them. After lots of research, we prepared our travel itinerary that suited our needs and budget. We booked our airline tickets. We never travel through travel agents or through travel websites, as we like doing things on our own.
We drove from Vienna to Prague to Salzburg and then back to Vienna. It was a beautiful experience for our daughter as she got to view the lush green fields, horses and cows grazing on the meadows, turquoise blue lakes, woods, etc. She was very excited to see groves of her favourite Christmas fir trees. We wanted her to experience the train journey too, so we took a train from Vienna to Budapest. She enjoyed a different train ride where they had an in-house TV and a toilet with cartoons specially for kids. We took a flight from Budapest to Paris, as our return flight to Mumbai was from Paris.
Kids are not much interested in the architecture (renaissance, baroque, classical or Romanesque). So, while you do oohs and aahs at beautifully maintained old buildings, they just see it as another building which in loose term translates to ‘BORING’! So, it’s important that you make them do something that interests them too.
While it’s exciting for them to drink crisp clean water from a roadside water fountain to seeing grownups in suits skateboarding to work and dining by the river, lake or sidewalk cafes, they need something more stimulating than that.
Take them to the nearby parks, river excursions, zoos, kids’ museums, etc. For example, we took our daughter to Schönbrunn zoo in Vienna, to the Lego Museum in Prague, salt mining village tour in Hallstatt, river cruise in Budapest and carousels in Paris. Also, she was actually delighted to see the Eiffel Tower all illuminated in the evening and the small version of Statue of Liberty.
Further to that, she was allowed to pick up one small toy from every city we visited. And, tell you what, she had a gala time choosing from a variety of toys in different stores.
What worked in our favour was that our daughter eats non-vegetarian food. While getting vegetarian or vegan meals is not that big a problem in Europe anymore, we still see very few veg options on the menu. In every city, as soon as we checked in, we would visit the nearby supermarket and horde milk, yogurts and fruits for our stay in that city. While my daughter has plain milk every day at home, I made a concession and allowed her to have chocolate milk once in the morning during the entire trip. With spring fruits in abundance and yogurt, I ensured she was having sufficient nutrition. We also carried theplas, sing-chanas, dry fruits and nuts, and bhakris for those small hungers.
Luckily, we didn’t get much cold throughout our trip. In fact, in some places, we experienced Mumbai summers. However, I dressed up my daughter in layers. So, she would be wearing a cotton vest, a cotton thermal vest and then her t-shirt. If she was still cold, she would be wearing her sweat shirt. In the hot places, she would not be wearing the thermal vest.
It was a beautiful trip. Kids are very well treated in Europe. For kids till 5 years of age, river cruises, train tickets, bus rides, entry passes are free. From 6 to 12-15 (depends on the country) years, they are charged half price.
We were worried about whether our daughter would walk (she is reluctant to walk even half a kilometre here). But she surprised us and walked as much as we did without protesting. She didn’t complain when there were late nights and similarly woke up excitedly early in the morning whenever it was required of her. She got soaked to her skin in the rains in Paris and didn’t complain once though her teeth were chattering due to cold.
So, I would say, have a little faith in your kids and travel to Europe!!