Please sign in to post.

A Big Thank You

We just returned last night from our first family trip to Europe late last night/early morning. We went to Iceland(part of golden circle), France (Paris, Bayeux, Guedencourt), and Netherlands (Arnhem, Haarlem) by way of plane, train and automobile with two boys ages 10 and 8 over 13 days. It was a wonderful experience and it would not have been half as great without all the information/advice I gained not only through RS books but the individuals on this forum. I did not post a bunch of questions in preparation, but that was because I searched a lot of topics and found amazing information! I was reading and checking this sight nightly for months leading up to our trip. You guys had a response for everything I could think up from packing/ credit cards/ day tours/ driving in Europe/ reviews of hotels/ weather conditions/ strikes/ and most especially but really important to me, unknowing but very positive reinforcement that this was a great idea despite some pretty heavy push-back we were getting from the grandparents about taking their grand-babies over to "unsafe" Europe. I have become a little annoying to my friends now. Every time I hear someone is planning a trip to Europe I start with, "You know on the Rick Steves webpage there is this amazing forum where you can find out just about anything..."
So again thank you for all the time you put into making this an awesome place to learn about being a better traveler. Now all I have to do is figure out where we want to go next time...

Posted by
6633 posts

kbachtell, its great to hear feedback from people after their trip. Now you have to pay it back by replying to other folks' questions.

Posted by
408 posts

Would love to hear more details on your trip. What did your kids like? Mine are older but like hear what is fun and interesting for kids. Thanks

Posted by
4690 posts

What a great way to make lifetime memories with your family.
Thanks for the feedback!
I agree with Stan, now you can help others with their questions about all the wonderful places you visited!

Posted by
7597 posts

Glad you had a great time, and you've written a lovely message of appreciation. I really love how the positive reinforcement helped!

Welcome back. Your family is so lucky that you put all this time into creating such a fantastic trip for them. You really did your homework!

Posted by
115 posts

Stan-I will definitely assist others when I am able and I plan on being an active member of this community as it is awesome.
LA- I also plan on writing up some of my thoughts on our trip later this week as I really appreciated the input I found on this site traveling with kids in a way that was enriching for both them and us.
Kim-You were such a help in the weeks leading up to our trip and I can't thank you enough for all the information you posted about Paris. We were there when the trash strike/ RER C strike/ part of RER C shut down/ Seine crazy high/ start of Euros was ongoing in Paris. We still had a wonderful time and except for a little more walking on our part, our trip was unaffected by all the doom and gloom on the news. I felt much more confident going into that situation because I knew where to look up changes to train schedules (for when we took the Thalys to the Netherlands), the understanding that local trains will come just not as often, and a sense that people were going about their everyday lives and not huddled in fear in their apartments :) !

Posted by
1071 posts

So glad you didn't let bad news reports and the grandparents keep you from your trip. We went to Greece in 2014 and people would ask us why would we want to go there. I would counter by asking why wouldn't I want to go? Their answer always had something to with it isn't safe, the country is in a recession, well the news said, etc.... These were the people that should have been getting out more. Looking forward to seeing your report!

Posted by
11613 posts

Great to have feedback, looking forward to future posts!

Posted by
7597 posts

Wow, I'm impressed with your resilience and adaptability. It definitely was not easy to have a good time during that period. Good for you!!

And the funny thing is, I'm looking forward to hearing YOUR trip report, because my nieces, 7 and 10, will be here in August, and taking kids around town is something new to me!!!

Posted by
5006 posts

kbachtell, welcome to the family! And yes, we'd love to hear more about your trip. It sounds like you managed the keep your head when all about you were losing theirs (apologies to Mr Kipling) and, more importantly, keep your sense of humor. Happy travels!

Posted by
5 posts

Thanks for writing this. We are leaving next week for 16 days in the Netherlands (Haarlem & Amsterdam), Belgium & southern France. (hyself, my husband and our three girls 12, 10 & 6). My parents are worried about us taking the grandkids over there (and us, too) and I'm nervous about how all of it will go - trains, planes & automobiles, unfamiliar languages, etc. I've done most of the planning, so I'm hoping I've done all of my homework.
Reading about your positive experience was good for me tonight, as I'm starting to pack and feeling a bit anxious.

I'd like to add my thanks - this site has been so valuable for planning! I, too, will 'pay it forward' once we return.

Posted by
115 posts

Dear Iowa-kleins,
First off I am so excited for you and your family,it sounds like you are going to have an amazing trip and memories! I too planned most of (all) of the trip and felt incredibly anxious right before we were leaving and even the first couple of days. I think taking a family where you feel responsible for their happiness and well being and not just of yourself can really do a number on us moms.

I think it is great you are starting in the Netherlands. We stayed in Haarlem and loved it. Don't worry about the language there, even the cashiers in the grocery store spoke excellent English as soon as we answered their Dutch greeting with 'Hello". The Dutch people we met were incredibly friendly and helpful. To give an example, when we arrived at the Arnhem train station and then had to walk to our car rental place, we got terribly turned around (Google directions for cars are not the best if you are walking). Did I also mention it was raining? We stood under an overpass and I asked a teenage girl if she spoke English and if she could help us find a certain street. She looked it up on her phone and tried to send us that direction. We started walking that way, but we could tell that it wasn't quite right. 3 minutes later she comes riding up to us on her bike talking on the phone to her dad, whom she had called to get better directions for us (all of this still in the rain) and then he sent us on the right path and we arrived at our destination in less than 5 minutes. It was this type of cheerful helpfulness that we found all throughout the Netherlands.

In France at one RER train station my tickets weren't letting us get through the gate and I couldn't figure out why. One kind lady badged my whole family through with her pass. Then she and another lady looked through my tickets and helped me realize I had mixed up my RER tickets with my metro tickets. They were so helpful and kind and neither spoke ANY English. We did this with hand gestures, my broken French, universal words and many smiles. What I am trying to say is that people can be so kind anywhere if you are polite and patient.

Also, my trip did not always go according to "the plan" and occasionally I felt confused or unsure, but that was ok. There are people who genuinely will help you if you ask and sometimes those connections are what you remember with the most fondness after the fact.

Here is some experiences/ advice I had traveling with my boys. One of them crashed pretty hard from jet lag/ not feeling well/ homesick three days into the trip while in Paris. My husband got him a McDonald's milkshake and chicken nuggets (from the Champs-Élysées McDonalds no less) took him back to the B&B where we were staying and watched Ratatouille while the other child and I did the Arc D'Tromphe and the Orssay. First off my husband is awesome for doing this. But secondly it is important to realize that occasionally our kids just need to decompress more than we would like on a "trip of a lifetime". This child still had an amazing time in Paris, he LOVED Napoleon's Tomb and the Army Museum (he could have spent all day there) and French pastries. He really enjoyed our tour of the Louvre and getting gelato on the Ile Saint Louis. So just as your everyday life with kids sometimes gets turned upside-down because of how they are doing, so to can your vacation. As a mom I'm sure you've learned to roll with the punches and if you keep that attitude in Europe you will have a wonderful time! Let me know if you have any questions especially in regards to Haarlem or France before you leave. It is totally worth the anxiety you are feeling right now, I wish I could go back next month!

Posted by
20 posts

kbachtell - what a great report! Netherlands is super easy as a first place to land (well, maybe except the UK, language-wise!). We've always traveled with our kids, which makes an entirely different trip. We have 2 "only children" (they are 14 years apart, so we've only really had one at a time on a trip, except the year I learned I was pregnant with #2 FOUR DAYS before we were to leave on a tour of the breweries of the Czech Republic! - so 13 yr old and fetus/morning sickness). Not what I expected in my 40's but there ya go.

I try to get my kid involved with planning, as I do all the other planning (hotels, tickets, etc) so that they will be interested in what we're doing. #1 was interested in King Arthur, so we did all that stuff in the UK. I found out after we got to Germany last week, that #2 had done a report in his German class on something called Hanger 7 in Salzburg. I'd never heard of it, but we asked passers-by and looked at a map, and rode a bus from the old part of the town to the Hanger. It was actually kind of interesting (all kinds of "power toys," e.g., F One race cars, planes, helicopters, etc owned by Red Bull). I love the architecture, and the building design was incredible.

My husband was the one doing the push-back on the safety situation in Europe. I read here as well that things were fine, and I kept trying to reassure him. And of course, things were just fine. We were last in Munich probably in 1997 or so, and it was just the same; tons of tourists, no scary people or "hoards of immigrants" (heavy sigh on the last part).

So glad y'all had a good time!

Posted by
5 posts

Kbatchtell - thanks for this reply! I'm feeling better already. :) It will be important to remember to roll with the punches when we're there. I read all of your reports - even though we're not traveling to some of the locations you visited!