Sunday, August 17, 2008

Grand European Tour - with child

Once again, we have been on holidays. This may seem rather excessive to some, but I always say everyone makes their own choices in life. We live in a small house, only have one car and live well within our means. We choose to spend our money on travel. Others make other choices and that's their choice. Plus, if we didn't travel, we'd hardly ever see any of our family or friends. So this trip was a trip around Europe to see friends scattered around the continent. We were in France, Switzerland, Germany and The Netherlands. Only Italy was missing for the classic Grand Tour. We took our car and did around 3720 km or 2310 miles. We were gone 16 days in total. Sounds a bit insane to most people, but the trip went exceedingly well. No major meltdowns along the way, we saw and did lots. Some tips if you think you are crazy enough to try it yourself.

Our daughter was 19 months old for this trip and still takes a long nap every day. So we tried to plan most of the driving to happen over this nap so that she didn't get too bored. Children nowadays are so strapped down into their seats, it's hardly a wonder they get bored, despite all the distractions. When I was a kid, I could move around, change position, fight with my sister and stretch out for a nap which helped make long journeys easier. As we went through the trip, we saw that so much driving would never have worked without these naps. So if your kids are past napping, I'd reconsider so much driving. Maybe some things like DVD players or such would help keep them occupied, I couldn't say at this stage.

We tried to break up 2 days driving with at least 2 overnights in the same spot. That way there wasn't a constant packing and unpacking of stuff, plus some consistency in location. The longer you can stay in one spot, the better. And other than one major drive of 6.5 hours (which took 10 hours with breaks), the most driving we did on any one day was 3.5 hours.

Accept the fact that you are going to explore a new town via its playgrounds and parks.

Packing was tough, but we went as light as possible. G and I shared one suitcase and laundry had to be done along the way. Having a super-light and small travel tent for Lena was good for packing. Everything we packed, we used, but even so, the back of our little hatchback was full. In fact, G was the only one who could properly pack it. Anytime I tried to do it, it was piled too high to see out of the back window.

We took a cool bag that we kept stocked with both things Lena liked for snacks and things for lunch for all of us. This saved us both time and money by not stopping in a cafe or restaurant to eat or being forced to buy expensive food from the highway gas stations.

For goodness sake, don't forget whatever blankets, lovies, teddies or dollies makes your child feel secure. Lena is pretty easygoing, but with all the changes in location and new people, she was very attached to her blanket and her "nu-nu" (dummy/soother as she calls it) during the time. I was a bit worried at first with her having them so much, I thought she would become too dependant on them even after the trip. However the day we came back, she hardly needed them at all. Having them at her beck and call during the trip offered her a good deal comfort.

If you are interested in a rough picture of what we drove, check out this link of our driving route.

Once again, thanks to everyone we stayed with and good to see all of you.

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