We will be traveling with our six and eight year-old kids for 6 months - split between france, spain and italy. Planning to each take one carryon size bag and small backpacks. Our kids are good travelers and are used to their small rolling suitcases, but we've never traveled for more than 1 month this way. Are we crazy??
Mary Anne, We on this board would all need a lot more information. For example, why are you going? Are you seeing family? Is this for business? Where exactly are you going? What kinds of things do you want to see? How well-behaved and patient are your kids?
There are two things that RS recommends for traveling with kids that I really can't argue with. And they go against everything that RS tells people otherwise:
1) Don't worry about taking too much stuff. Everyone in your trip will have a better time if they are enjoying themselves. It's ok to overpack in this situation.
2) Only one major site per day. Any kid under the age of 15 can't handle more than that.
Bottom line, I don't think you're crazy. This experience is going to have a profound affect on your kids for the rest of their lives. You're enriching their childhood far more than you'll even realize.
Having had kids this age (years ago), I think this is an awfully long time to travel with them at one stretch. And though they might have a good time or seem impressed with things at the time, it's unlikely that they will remember this experience much in later years. I think you're right to question whether this trip is too long for them (or you). You might want to read "One Year Off: Leaving It All Behind for a Round-the-World Journey with Our Children" by David Elliot Cohen to see what some of their experiences were.
Mary Anne -
Just double checking: Do you have the visas to be be in Europe for six months?
Thank you both for your thoughtful replies. My husband has been given a sabbatical and that is the reason behind our trip. We will be staying in apartments for generally 2-3 weeks at a time, and then traveling by train to our next destination. Six weeks in france, eight weeks in spain, eight weeks in italy. Our goal is to see some areas different from where we live (both rural and urban), see a few museums, hike/walk, relax together. It will not be a whirlwind, I hope, but it will be a time when the four of us can share adventures. Has anyone had a similar experience?
What a wonderful experience for the whole family. I think planting yourselves in 3-4 locations to really immerse yourselves in the different cultures is a good idea. Plus it will give the kids some stability. I will assume you are going to homeschool during your trip. You'll want to make time each day to do their normal school routine as well as checking out the local sights. Take longer day trips on the weekends. With plenty of time in each area you will have the opportunity to meet lots of locals and maybe even make some new international friends.
Good luck and enjoy the planning.
Be aware that if you, your husband and your children are not all EU citizens, you will need a visa to stay in the Schengen area for more than 90 days. After 90 days without a visa (that's total in all countries), you have to leave for I think 3 months before returning.
So you need to factor the time and costs of visas into your plans, as well as the cost of health insurance. If you are planning to stay 6 months and thus get a visa, you should expect to have to show proof of funds (bank statement) to cover all health, food, housing etc. expenses. In fact to get a Schengen visa (which I think you would need for more than 3 month visit) there is a minimum requirement for medical insurance coverage.
I wonder if a shorter trip might be more worthwhile - less hassle and you can focus on a few things. A month in each country would be more than enough to have a very special time.
FYI - info from the French tourism page. These rules are essentially the same for all continental EU countries. Again, the 90 days is the total time for all Schengen countries, not per country.
According to your nationality, time and purpouse of your travel you will require a visa for travelling to France. EU citizens do not need visas, nor do many other country's residents - including USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Israel for visits up to 90 days. Except for the citizens of a handful of other European countries, everyone else must have a visa. For getting a visa you need a passport (your passport needs to have at least 6 months until expiry), a ticket in and out of France, proof of money and possibly of accommodations, two passport-sized photos, the visa fee in cash and proof of travel health/accident insurance with worldwide coverage.
Well , I don't think you are crazy, but I think you should maybe organize your trip away from hotels and more into renting gites for a month at a time. You have 6 months, so I would not rush about too much.
Kids get sick , and they get tired and cranky , and a home base of a sorts is helpful for taking down days and doing nothing.
You can then lease a car and do many interesting day trips, with an occaisonal night or two in a hotel . you do have alot to think about, but planning trips is fun.
Kids don't need much, I have not met a little boy who is not happy to wear the same favorite t shirt and jeans two days in a row, good shoes, and their favorite toy and you are set.
Don't even bother to pack stuff like shampoo etc, make a trip to the stores when you arrive , they have all the same stuff.
Bring a good pocket dictionary, and crucial , a menu translater, even if you know a bit of a language remember not all dishes are literal translations.
It depends on the children. A lot of children can handle more then one major site a day. Our girls handle more then one and had a fantastic time. Their first trip was when they were 5 and 7. You have to make it fun. Find little tid bits about each place that you can tell the children. For example, when we were going to go to Westminster Abbey we told them that they would get to see the chair the Queen sat in when she received her crown. They each had their own small camera's that they were allowed to use. We took them to see a polo game at Smiths Lawn when Prince Charles was playing and they loved it and came home with one of the polo balls. It can be educational and stress free if you plan. Once you get to the area where you will be staying maybe consider going to a church and talk to someone there to find out about some children and your children could maybe play with a few times during your stay. I think if your children get a chance to be with other children a few times at each location it would help them. And don't worry about the language, children always finds ways to communicate with each other.
Hi Mary Anne,
You asked for our opinion. My opinion is : bringing a six year-old to Europe is not a good idea. A child of that age is not likely to appreciate seeing old buildings and museums and art. For a child at age six a better vacation destination is Hawaii, because a child can appreciate the things of nature there : flowers,trees, the Ocean, and seeing colorful fish from inside a submarine (from the west coast of the Big Island). And I think six months in Europe would be way too long for a six-year old child and an eight-year old child.
My kids were 7 and 9 the first time we took them, and they had a ball. Both of them still talk about it. The hiking, castle ruins, and zoos were definitely the standout favorites at that age. Oddly enough, art museums are both big with my kids -- my 13yo still talks about the National Gallery in London. We are doing it again for one month this summer.
Wow, I think that sounds great. How many kids get that sort of opportunity? They'll never forget it!
Given that you're staying in the same place for a couple of weeks at a time and don't seem to be too worried about cramming in lots of activities (unless I've made a bad assumption?), I'd bet they'll be fine. Maybe they'll miss their friends after a while, but they're old enough to send postcards and write e-mails (with some help!) and that will be fun for them too.
Lucky you! Enjoy!