real life

TRAVEL: How to survive an overseas holiday with small children ...

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My husband and I have just returned from a week in Paris with our two kids (7 and 4) and we need a holiday.  This was our first attempt at a proper overseas holiday with two children in tow and it definitely had its highs and lows.  We actually learned a lot about travelling with our kids that we’ll use on our next week away (to Berlin.  Aren’t we fabulous?  And soon also to be very poor!).  So, planning on taking your kids to Paris, or overseas to any major city destination soon?  Here are a few things we found out (mostly the hard way):

  • When feasible, take a train rather than a plane.  There are things to see outside the windows of a train.  You can often score a table on which to spread out all your kiddie books/toys/games etc..  You can break up the journey with trips to the food car and the toilet (the blue-liquid tinged, super-sucky toilet available on a train is fascinating.  Apparently).
  • Opt for an apartment with a small kitchen, if you can.  You’ll have a tad more space for everyone to get along in and, best of all, you’ll be able to cook.  Cooking may not sound like a bonus on an overseas holiday, but it’s a definite advantage to the survival of your children if you’ve seen a four-year-old turn his nose up at three night’s worth of $30 meals.  Also, a simple breakfast of toast, cereal and fruit prepared in a small kitchen gets everyone on the road fast.
  • Prepare to go the tourist route.  Kids love those round-town double-decker buses.  You will sit on the top deck with them, even if it is raining.  And, surprisingly, you will have a good time.
  • The mornings are for them, the afternoons are for you.  We found the days worked best for us if we tired the kids out in the morning doing something they wanted to do (such as the Luxembourg Gardens, or the Cité des enfants science centre).  In the afternoon, energy duly expended, we’d be able to wander through a museum without a security detail following close behind.
  • You will get a lot of mileage out of tiny toys, eked out.  A packet of toy cars and a Polly Pocket with slowly paced accessories got us through the Louvre.
  • Be prepared.  You know the drill — band aids, tissues, hand wipes, water and snacks such as fruit and muesli bars are key (hungry kids are whingey kids).
  • Think toilet.  If there’s one available, everyone goes.  Everyone.  No exceptions.  From someone who resorted to having her four-year-old son pee into an Evian bottle in the bowels of the Metro, you should trust me on this one.
  • When desperate, bribe.  For us, this came down to Nutella crepes. As the French say, c‘est la vie.

Allison Rushby is the Australian author of 11 novels in the genres of women’s fiction and young adult fiction.  In 2011 she moved to a small village outside of Cambridge, UK, where she is writing a travel memoir and blogging at http://www.keepcalmandcarryvegemite.com.  You can often find her procrastinating on Twitter at @Allison_Rushby.