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When to Take Kids?

So my husband and I have usually been the drop the kids off at G&G on the way to the airport type. Our kids are now 8 and 10 and are asking to be able to come with us. We were supposed to go to France in April which didn't happen, and want to do one more adults only European trip summer 2021 before we start taking kids, but I'm really doubting if that will happen. Our kids are pretty great travelers, and I'm starting to wonder if we should think more about, when we can travel again, to start taking them with us. I love travel planning and would be willing to do this. I posted this in the England forum because that is the first place we would go. HP studios and castles! Thoughts? What worked for you and didn't?

Posted by
11 posts

Take the kids, you won't regret it! It obviously will be a different type of trip since you are now adding in two more people to accommodate, worry about, add in their opinions on what they want to do, etc. But that is the added fun and excitement you will enjoy.
We took our kids to Italy when they were a little older (15 and 17) but that was only because we couldn’t afford it any earlier. To this day, they say that that first European trip got them started on traveling overseas and not being afraid to do so. They have since been overseas numerous times to Europe including Gambia, Africa and Scotland and my son took a trip with his friend to Germany as soon as he graduated from high school. He has been to Iceland, France, Italy, Portugal and a few more I can’t remember.
Make them part of the planning process and get their opinions, but you will do most of the planning. They will take it all in and get to see how this whole thing works. THAT is the most fun of all.
Good luck!

Posted by
4004 posts

Why do you want it to be an adults only trip? We've been taking our kids with us since they were born, I couldn't even comprehend the idea of leaving them with their grandparents. Travelling with them has always had its challenges even now when they're 15 and 13. They can walk and carry their own stuff now but the frustrations are more about fighting rather than logistics.

It's not always been short haul holidays either. We took them to New Jersey and New York when the youngest was two and I can't recall any problems. What does have to change is what you do whilst you're travelling. Gone were the days when we could spend evenings dining out and drinking in bars (that's now creeping back however) but that's part and parcel of having kids.....you have to make sacrifices.

What you may find is that you'll discover great places oriented towards children but where you can also indulge the inner child in you. I recall a fantastic science 'museum' in Rome set up solely for kids but the sheer unashamed joy on the dad's faces as they get to play with all the equipment, building dams and making pipelines in the water section or the variety of other science museums with equally fun and interesting interactive displays was amusing to observe. Plus there are all the theme parks, playzones etc where you can abandon all sense of adultness.

At 8 and 10 your children are perfectly capable of travelling well and enjoying what England has to offer. Castles, forts, ancient monuments, medieval houses etc can all be enjoyed equally by children and adults alike, they're just viewed through different eyes and minds. The only difficulty you'll have is deciding on where to narrow down your visit.

Posted by
800 posts

Thanks Steve! I am looking forward to seeing the wonder on their faces and hopefully having them fall in love with what I love about traveling in Europe.

Posted by
17082 posts

I think the fact that they're asking to go should be worth a lot of votes in favor of taking them.

Posted by
800 posts

Acraven, I am started to think about that too. We didn't take them when they were younger because they wouldn't remember it and we wanted some time for ourselves as a couple traveling without the hassle that really young kids bring and no memories. Plus, the grandparents loved time with them. But now they are engaged and interested so I'm thinking it might be time.

Posted by
51 posts

Absolutely take them. Our first European trip with kids was to London (at about the same age). That is a great place to start since there is something for everyone there and no stress over language. Much will seem somewhat familiar to them, since American television (especially PBS) often features British dramas/histories.

Since that trip, we have traveled to Madrid, Rome, Paris, Normandy, Lisbon, Amsterdam (and returned to London 3 times) with the kids - sadly, our Scotland trip was canceled due to COVID. In most of these places, we rented flats and made day trips as well as enjoying what our base city had to offer.

Do the Tower of London, HP studios (reserve in advance and work out the trains), lots of museums (many free) ideal for short visits. Eat at the Crypt of St. Martin in the Fields. Maybe another day trip to Bletchley Park, Windsor, Hampton Court, or Oxford? A tour of Parliament (reserve in advance), the Cabinet War Rooms, the free Ritblatt Gallery at the BL to see the manuscripts and Magna Carta?

Feeling sad since my December trip with my London-loving daughter will not happen this year either.
Enjoy!

Posted by
727 posts

What time of year are you considering?

Posted by
2744 posts

When my children were 11 and 14 we took them to Spain and they loved everything except the museums. On that trip we hit the highlights, Madrid, Toledo, Segovia, Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada, and Merida. In France we only went to Lourdes.

Posted by
800 posts

jamieelsabio - did they say why they didn't like the museums? My husband and I are museum people, and my kids do pretty good with them, so I'm wondering how we could keep the museums but make sure the kids still enjoyed them without becoming museumed out or bored if there are a lot.

Posted by
885 posts

I took my my two daughters to Europe, starting when the youngest was approx. 10 years old, but I took them one at a time. (My then-husband wasn't crazy about travelling... more of a home guy). For example: I did talk with my 10-year-old daughter about where we were going (France; Paris, Normandy, Mont St. Michele; another trip: Alsace, Loire valley, and Paris) and we looked at Rick Steves videos and books together in preparation. We learned a few French words together and practiced together at home. I took my other daughter to Italy twice (when she was approx. 12 & 14) and she LOVED it! Can you imagine being a 12-year-old kid from Covington, Louisiana, turning a corner on a busy Florentine street and seeing the Duomo rising up before you??!! Those trips as girls no doubt inspired their love of travel; years later they each spent a semester abroad and felt comfortable doing the travel planning for groups of friends who took long weekend jaunts throughout Europe. I also encouraged each to develop her travel skills as we were moving throughout Europe. What is our train number (look at ticket)? Which track is our train departing from (study departure board)? Where is that track (look around train station)? It became a wonderful game. Also, on the ground, we negotiated how to spend our time; generally we spent equal time shopping and visiting museums!! They loved the food (gelato! crepes!) and being astounded at every turn (Westminster Abbey! The Eiffel Tower!) Even though my daughters are very grown up now, we continue to reminisce about those trips, what they experienced, and how much fun we had together. They also continue to be very understanding at my missing Christmas and/or Thanksgiving if that's when I can get good plane fares and time off from work to jet off to Italy once again....! Final note: My youngest - who I took to the Louvre, the d'Orsay, the Van Gogh museum, the Museum of the Resistance (in Amsterdam) and much more... has become a highly regarded professional Museum Educator. So you never know how these early travel experiences will become part of their lives... but they will!

Posted by
318 posts

Some of my most profound, indelible memories are from trips my parents took me and my brothers one when I was around 8 to 12. I was very lucky to have grown up in a foreign service family, so we not only lived overseas (which is to say, outside of the US as US citizens) but it was standard practice for summer and winter holidays to be spent in Athens, London, Bangkok, Kenya, Hong Kong, and other wonderful places. They made getting out of one's comfort zone and finding oneself lost in the midst of a foreign culture entirely normal, welcome, and exciting. I've had an insatiable wanderlust since, and am extremely grateful my upbringing and early life experiences instilled that in me.

Having said all that, there are also countless old family photo albums packed full of pictures of my (to me, hilariously-dressed) parents carrying me and my brothers around on trips I can't recall us taking, doing things I have no memories of. My first ever passport, issued to me when I was a toddler, had to have extra pages stapled in because it was so full of stamps and visas from places I was way too young to even know I had been to. So for my sake, there was no point in ever taking those trips. For my parents' sake, though, they still looked like they were having a blast on those trips, despite having to lug us little ones around.

And even though my brothers and I can't remember so many of those trips, they still make for great stories at family gatherings to this day - my parents, telling us the hilarious stories explaining why my older brother seems to be terrified and crying in every photo with a Santa Clause, or Disney character, or mime or costumed street performer; how I'd disappear from sight in the airport in Jedda because I'd found a group of pilgrims on the other side of the terminal who'd feed me exotic and strange foods I still can't get enough of today; the silly things we'd get up to in this place and that, all in these far-flung and fascinating settings.

So I can certainly see the value of waiting until a kid is sure to remember things for their own memory's sake. But the photos and the stories told by my parents about trips pre-dating my own memory make for lasting memories themselves. My brothers and I might not be able to tell those stories from a first person perspective, but they're still great stories when we're just third person characters in them, as told by my parents. And I can tell they're priceless memories to my parents. My own recollections of trips before I was 10 might be vague or foggy, but all those countless times since where my family has been together and my parents have been able to tell us our own stories and fill in those details for us have been wonderful.

Even if your kids are too young to remember the trips themselves, you can have a wonderful time sharing your own memories of the trips with them years from now.

Posted by
95 posts

We took our kids to London and Paris when they were 10 and 12 and it was one of the best trips ever. There are some great books out there about fun things to do with kids in some of the major cities and we used them to find some interesting different things to do that we wouldn't have ordinarily done. It also forced us to slow down and experience the city more than rushing around from site to site. It was fun for them to go into the local markets to find snacks. We even spent a rainy afternoon in Paris at a shop where you can pay to rent games that you then hang out and play and have snacks. It gave us a different perspective on the cities and I would definitely do it again. I also got them to help a bit with the planning of activities - they got to pick things that interested them. If your kids are Lego fans, one of the best days we had in London was when we went to Lego Windsor instead of Windsor Castle. The Harry Potter walks and studio tour are amazing as well. We also split up a couple of times when they had different interests - my husband and son went to the Imperial War Museum while my daughter was more interested in other things, so it also gave them a little time apart too. And never underestimate the power of daily ice cream breaks! Oh, and a side effect of the trip - my daughter became a confirmed travel-aholic. She has become a big fan of international travel and is continually saving up for the next trip (she's an adult now).

Posted by
800 posts

Thanks so much everyone! My husband and I met as students at Alnwick Castle and we haven't stopped traveling since. Its probably getting to be time to show our kids how to travel.

Posted by
885 posts

Each of my kids was always responsible for her own luggage. They each helped choose a rolling carry-on suitcase, and also brought their school backpack (book bag) which went under the seat in front of them. We made lists of what to pack, and discussed weather, events, etc. as we packed. They even each carried their own hanging "dop kit" with their hair ornaments, etc., and 3-1-1- bag with shampoo, etc. However, I personally packed quite a well-packed small arsenal of meds, both prescription and over-the-counter. After a semi-scary bout of one child's virus/dehydration in Honduras, I've learned to take any meds that they (or I) might possibly need, including for "turista," colds, wounds, allergic reactions, etc.

Posted by
5895 posts

You’ll see so much wonder through the eyes of your children! We had to drag our grandchildren,11 and 13, out of the British Museum as they loved it so much. They enjoyed Paris but they loved London! Have fun planning with them.

Posted by
2744 posts

They never said, but my guess is it was the art. They were good about it, but they couldn’t get out of the Prado fast enough. They enjoyed all the historical aspects of the places we went and just liked seeing things outside of a museum. They thoroughly enjoyed the Alhambra, the Segovia aqueduct and Alcazar, the theater in Merida, castle and windmills at Consuegra, and the cathedral in Sevilla. They also loved the bullfight we took them to at a small town outside of Toledo. My daughter, the youngest child, enjoyed the one matador so much she took off after the last fight just to get his autograph and we had no idea where she was for a few minutes. When she was a little older she and my wife went to London and she loved it. We took her back a few years ago now that she’s an adult and she still loves London.

Posted by
970 posts

We did not take our kids to Europe, but are hoping to take our granddaughters when they are a bit older. They are both preschoolers, but I just found out that their neighborhood elementary school teaches French starting in third grade.

Posted by
153 posts

Absolutely take the kids! I took ours for the first time, which was also MY first time to Europe, when they were 4 and 7. We met my husband on a port stop during his deployment. After that we were all hooked, and the kids always went with us and we never considered leaving them behind. Then again, we never left them with grandparents even for trips here in the US.

Even on that first trip, the kids tried new things (grilled calamari) and found they loved it.

We have taken them to Portugal (first trip), Italy, London, Scotland, France (numerous times), Germany and Austria. Each trip was a success and the kids are now in their mid-late 20's and still remember things from even that first trip. The best part of all the traveling though, is that they do it now on their own. In college even, both of them did study abroad terms. When our son was done with his, our daughter flew over and they traveled all over Europe for several weeks. They were in a hostel over Christmas, so we Facetimed with them. Yes, we missed them, but I love how they were eager to travel together, etc.

We still invite them on some of our trips, if it works out for everyones schedules. We were due to all go to Iceland this summer, but that got cancelled of course. We have rebooked for next summer, and our sons gf is coming along. She has never been to Europe, so I can't wait to show her!

I remember when I was about 6, my grandparents went on a trip around the world for 2 years, never coming home once during that time. I remember being at the airport when they flew home, and then the stories and photos they shared. I am glad that we were able to offer that to our kids at a young age.

Posted by
17082 posts

I adore art museums, but I don't think I'd have been much of a fan at 8 or 10 (though no doubt the rare child is).

A lot of museums have undergone major redesigns in recent years to make them more engaging for visitors of all ages. Add in newer museums that were never stuffy, and I think you'll easily be able to find options that please your entire family. The list just may not include you and your husband's #1, #2 and #3.

Two places that come to mind are the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford (should you get to those cities). The Pitt Rivers is an old-style museum with stuff in glass display cases, but it is full of intriguing things from non-European cultures. What kid wouldn't be interested in shrunken heads?

My museum visits in London have been heavily focused on art and decorative arts (which would probably be no better for kids, though I believe there's a fashion gallery at the V&A, and certainly the jewelry is stunning). The British Museum is an obvious possibility, but I must warn you that it was mobbed on my two visits last year. If you hit it while there are COVID-related capacity controls in place, I'm sure it would be a lot easier to get around. Otherwise, try something that's not on the ground floor. It's huge, though, so it would be important to check out the museum website ahead of time to work out a plan of attack.

London Walks does many walks every day (though I guess not right now). You should easily find things of interest to all. I know there's at least one Sherlock Holmes walks and more than one Beatles Walk. The walks are 15 pounds for adults, 10 pounds for seniors and 5 pounds for children. It's great that you don't have to book the walks ahead of time, so you can respond to the weather and peoples' energy levels. When business returns to normal, you'll be able to download the walk schedule from the website. I think the summer schedule doesn't show up until shortly before they shift off the winter schedule--maybe on May 1?

Posted by
1106 posts

I’ll be the contrarian and say no, wait until they’re teens at least. You know your family better than I do, but they’re still too young to know much about Europe and have probably studied very little about it.
Is it a great way to learn? Maybe, but it’s also an expensive way to learn, you’ll have to pay close attention to accommodations and realize the entire trip revolves around the kids.

I think I’d do one more adults trip and let the kids be kids and play.

Posted by
800 posts

Dale - thanks for your thoughts. Our kids actually are pretty good on Europe for their ages and having never been because we watch RS together, archeology shows together, and talk about our trips with them and discuss what they see in our scrapbooks. The expense was another reason. We have to feel they are getting enough out of it to justify the expense.

That being said, I am excited to show them what Europe has to offer. Depending on the state of things though it could be a couple years out. Thanks all for your thoughts. I have been to London and England many times and am already thinking of what I'd love to show them.

Posted by
2566 posts

We’ve taken one or both of our granddaughters to Europe several times since the age of 8. They both loved it and remember most things from their first trips. We discovered kid audio guides and paper activity guides in many museums and historical places we visited in and around London. Sometimes we made our own scavenger hunts by visiting a gift shop first and buying a few postcards of things we’d like them to find and see on our outings. We had them read some children’s and YA books (to supplement their Madeline in London childhood favorite). We had them look at musical and play snippets on YouTube to choose some theater to go to. We had them choose some kid friendly walking tours. If they saw an interesting park or needed a break we watched them interact with other kids and bought ice cream or a drink before we moved on. We have had some wonderful trips with them, the most recent being last summer in Italy—they are both high school aged and won’t be traveling with us much longer. Make some good memories with them now when you are able to travel again.

Posted by
311 posts

Take the kids!

We started traveling with our 2 youngest when they were 11 and 12 because that's when we could afford it. By that time, our oldest was in college and couldn't come with us (schedules never matched up), but we are planning a giant all-family extravaganza for as soon as we can travel safely.

We love traveling with our kids. My husband and I did a lot of domestic and international travel B.K. (before kids), just like you, so we felt like we knew what we were doing once we could resume long flights. Our trips are different now, but just as rewarding. We don't do art museums; after one attempt through the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, (fortunately with free admission because the kids lasted about 20 minutes) we have abandoned THAT as a fun family outing. But our kids will do pretty much anything else. They've loved seeing old buildings (castles, palaces, "everyday" dwellings), shows (theater, flamenco, concerts -- especially in unusual settings), walking tours, pretty much anything we throw at them.

They love eating. My son is disabled and tires easily, which has forced us to slow down, and we have found that slower is much more fun for all of us. So we take time to stop often, have a snack/juice/coffee/ice cream, we linger over meals and people watch, we do lots of aimless walking, and we have learned not to overschedule.

We also have learned to rent centrally-located apartments with a balcony, terrace, or some kind of outdoor access/view so that we don't feel bad about heading back to the apartment for a mid day break if we need it. We can have a sit outside, people watch, and still feel like we are "there," and catch our breath before we head out again.

We were supposed to have been in London for a week earlier this year, obviously rescheduled. On my list of things to do were: Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, West End theatre, tea at the Wolseley, Sunday roast at Blacklock, a performance at the Globe (this might be a yawner for 8/10 year olds), Hampton Court Palace, an evening at the races (find the event schedule and look for a meet close to London; we were going to go to Fontwell Park), jazz night in the crypt at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, British Museum, Fleming museum, Speaker's Corner on a Sunday afternoon, St. Paul's, Borough Market, a couple of London Walks tours, lots of eating at ethnic restaurants, lots of wandering around time.

So, definitely take them. Your kids will learn so much; they are like sponges. I can't tell you how often my daughter comes home from school and tells me about something she "learned" with the class that she already knew because she went to the places the teacher was talking about. Just this week they were covering the Golden Age of Spain and she was able to say, "Hey, I've actually SEEN Fernando and Isabela!" And riding around the DC metro last time we were there, she looked at me and said, "The metro's fine, but it's no Switzerland." She is already talking about doing a study abroad program in a year or two.

You can't beat education by experience.

Posted by
800 posts

DebVT - Thanks for the encouragement! Maybe it's the art? Summer 2019 we took the kids to some of the NP of CO/UT and they did great. Even in the small museum attached to Mesa Verde, but it was archeological, and our family loves archeology. I think we could easily make that work. We love HP, and I know the kids would love to run around some castles, go for some walks (we do a lot of hiking), and see some archeology! I can work with that. Thanks again to all!

Posted by
311 posts

Yeah, art is a tough one. To really appreciate it, I think you need to know the context, which is hard enough for adults, let alone kids.

We did have one success, and it's a strategy I would use again. I wanted my husband to see Picasso's "Guernica" when we were in Madrid; I had seen it myself on a previous trip and found it so powerful. So I had my daughter (then age 13) research the painting and its history before we left on the trip. We went to the Reina Sofia, trekked right up to see "Guernica," she actually got something out of seeing it, and we were able to wander....slowly.... out through some of other galleries. Total visit: 45 minutes, no one unhappy. And with Spain's generous discounts (disabled, disabled companion, student), we paid I think 10 euro for all of us. Win win.

I meant to add the London Museum to my list of sights to see with our kids... if yours love archeology, check it out.

Have a fantastic trip when you can finally go!

Posted by
2483 posts

I would agree. Travel with them. At home I started my daughter at the MFA at about 2 1/2 years old. I just let her pick out what she liked and go where she liked. She was drawn to statues at that time. We are very much a history oriented family and it was clear she was interested as well. We started her with the outdoor museum sites (Plymouth and Sturbridge Village) at a similar age. By the time she was 10 she had developed her own interests. At age 10 she was fascinated with a massacre site in Virginia, trying to piece together the location of the buildings, etc. That's something I was not interested in so I was fascinated by her interest. At 9-13 she traveled domestically with me while I did historical research or confirmation for books I was writing...and she enjoyed it. So...my opinion is to take them, but don't force them to be interested in the alleged premier pieces. Let them find their own interests...bring your iPad and discover more about what they are interested in, in the moment. Then there were a couple of years when she wasn't interested in traveling with her mother until I forced her to Europe at age 15, and she didn't stop until until she settled down herself (although her in-laws are in UK and Australia, so she will never really stop). So, again, do it while you or they can as it will expand who they are. And 8-10 is a great age to really start because they still like you, behave well in public, and think you are very smart! LOL

Posted by
109 posts

@JL 9am Mon

Perhaps you need to think laterally, outside the square. Take the grandparents with you.

My daughters and daughter in law and sons tell me they take us with them because they love us. Experience tells me that it is because we have a bigger luggage allowance, they can leave the children with us and send us with them to places they find boring. I usually have a good time with the grandchildren.

My youngest granddaughter’s favourite movie was The AristoCats cartoon film and she became infatuated with the Eiffel Tower. In 2018 she was 3 and a half so allocated a day to take the regional train from Laon into Paris with mum, dad, and little brother and me. I enjoyed the slow train through places I otherwise would not have ventured to. Took one of the tourist bus tours and spent some time walking in the gardens Champ de Mars. Took them on the Metro and instructed her dad and mum on how to use the Metro. Afternoon at Montmartre. Recently suggested that I take her back to the tower. She remembers it well but has moved on to The Great Wall of China.

My youngest grandson was incubated in Italy and northern France. Loves pasta, pizza, and escargot. Obviously, no scientific correlation but travel has not been detrimental to his development. He also received the family initiation for all children of a Bali trip in his first 6 months.

Travel or vacation is a bit like the lemon, suck it and see. Like Edith try hard to have no regrets. Try your best to satisfy your children’s dreams.

Stay safe. Give your children a big kiss and reassured them that you love them.

Regards
Ron

Posted by
800 posts

TD - while we do travel with my MIL without the kids, we can't take my parents. And frankly, I wouldn't want to plan a trip for 8 people. Too many. But the 4 of us is definitely doable.

Posted by
4285 posts

I lived overseas for 9 years when my kids were growing up, 5 years in Saudi Arabia and 4 in Germany.

My Son was 5 and Daughter 11 when we first moved to Saudi Arabia. My Daughter absorbed every place we visited and was at the right age to take in history, culture and art. My Son doesn't remember much from his travels prior to the age of 10.

I suggest waiting until your kids are over 10 years old before taking them overseas.

Posted by
1034 posts

Please allow the kids to take you on the next journey.
Please allow for them to experience at least one food market.
Please allow for them to experience shopping for a blouse/shirt outside of a tourist zone. Clothing makes a great stylish longer lasting souvenir along with the benefit of the shopping experience.
and
Please take a walk through a park and bring a picnic!

Let the ability to create wonderful family memories commence on your journeys!

Safe travels.

Posted by
2483 posts

Regarding a young child not remembering the trip, remember or not, I am sure it influences who they are or will be. Their response, brain development and feelings are present at the time, and that certainly has an affect on a person's development. Otherwise, why bother to even speak to a child until they are eight...because they won't remember anyway? And certainly, it will help your development as a family unit.

Posted by
7279 posts

Both of Wray’s posts are so exactly right, and so very wise. My family moved to Paris when i was 4, we traveled all over Europe very often and i remember it all very well. I also remember the emotional connection and the sense of being part of a happy family having one adventure after another. No age is too young imo.